Day 27 – Practice, Practice, Practice
It takes a brave and confident person to sit down and really examine their mind. Not everyone is willing, in this lifetime, to figure out the recipe of emotions that make up their ego and then figure out ways in which to practice so as to change for the better.
Normally, it seems to me, the people who are willing to face themselves openly and honestly are people who have gotten to a stage where they feel they can no longer take the suffering going on in their minds that they put themselves through everyday. That’s what happened to me anyway. I had lived for so long allowing my mind to reign free over my life that I got to a point where I just couldn’t suffer any longer in the same mindless way I had been before.
This is not to say that I look at myself now and love every aspect of me. There are definitely negative things about my mind that I find hard to face and admit. The great thing is, though, that the more I recognize the negative aspects of myself, take note of them and figure out how best to counter act them, a sense of openness and freedom is generated when they arise that grows as I practice. And practice is the key.
Robina Courtin said in today’s Zencast that she would rather know murderers who were willing to sit down and examine their mind and then make small changes to improve their lives and the lives of others than know someone who was neither good nor bad and who does nothing to change or improve their mind. While this seems like an extreme statement to say I can understand it and find it encouraging. She is saying that no matter what we do in our daily lives, no matter what practices we master or fail throughout the day, the important thing is that we get back up and we try to make change, no matter how small, to ourselves and those around us.
This makes me think of a post my friend wrote on Facebook the other day saying that he wishes he did more to make this world a better place. Now this guy is a very kind and open person who does his best to make people feel comfortable and happy in his presence. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad word said about him or heard him say a bad word about others. He is a loving husband and amazing father to his two children. So, you can imagine, I was shocked that he felt he needed to make the world a better place. Of course, I could understand what he meant especially in light of all the tragedy we see unfolding around us daily in the world. Yet, he got me thinking about how helpless we can feel in the face of all the problems of the world. We often feel paralyzed over what ‘little old us’ can do to make this world a better place when there is a mountain of suffering all around us. Yet, there is so much powerful work we can achieve simply stepping out our front door in the morning that it seems delusional to ignore all the great things we do and can offer on a daily basis to ourselves and the world.
For example, you can get up in the morning and choose not to tell yourself you look tired and feel like crap. You can look at yourself and say hi to yourself. You can tell yourself you love yourself. Already you have made the world a better place by not adding to the number of people who hate and berate themselves daily and then take that out on the world around them. You can also wave to your neighbours as you leave the house in the morning. Build up that sense of community around you that so many people feel has been lost leaving them fearful of the people they live closest to everyday. Even a simple smile at someone you know, or don’t know, can create a tidal wave of love and compassion that spreads throughout your community because you took the time to make someone else feel valued for the day. They in turn will be happier to return the favor to those they come in contact with.
These ideas, while so simple, keep me grounded in the fact that our deluded sense of independence in this world, our focus on the negative ‘I’, only perpetuates our aversion to others and the world. This in turn perpetuates our ego, the negative ‘I’, that seeks only to protect itself at any expense to others.
The first part of this podcast on ego and fear made me stop and think about how I was hiding from my practice by deluding myself into thinking that I was practicing really hard, when in reality I was more often than not taking the easy steps of having love and compassion for those it was easy to have love and compassion for. While this was difficult to acknowledge and hear, the second part of this two-part podcast gave me the confidence and hope to keep learning more about my own mind and keep practicing, knowing that no matter how often I fail in my practice, simply sitting down to do it is what makes the difference in the world.
Thinking about this I want to be open and honest and face myself, so here are the negative emotions that I have been recognizing in myself recently:
- Fear – This is the base emotion I seem to function from proving how strong my ego continues to be.
- Aversion – When I feel fear, for me, the easiest thing to do is to run away or do something that separates me from the ‘other’.
- Anger – When I can’t run away or separate myself and instead have to confront that which I’m fearful of my full-blown anger appears.
- Low self-esteem – I don’t feel worthy of myself or others and then when I meet someone I think is better than me my pride kicks in, in order to push down and hide the fear of not being good enough. I then use anger to attack myself and others in order to feel stronger and more powerful than the person who made me feel so inferior to begin with.
I’m fearful right now of publishing this, of putting it out there. It’s difficult to honestly and openly face the uglier parts of ourselves. However, we must remember that these parts are the ego driven, negative ‘I’ parts of ourselves. They are not who the positive ‘I’ is. They are not who I really am, but are symptoms of my ego. When I realize this I relax and feel happy to share my delusions with you in the hopes it will help you to understand your own delusions and be brave enough to face them without fear.
This makes me think about driving to work this morning (which was an ego driven fear fest if ever there was one – seeing a pattern here?!). A tree caught my eye, just off the highway, and I pondered the emptiness of the tree. I thought about how the leaves were really a combination of (in my simple, non-scientific mind) water and earth and minerals, all combined together to create these green forms that help to create the oxygen that I breathe into my lungs, which again are formed from water, earth and minerals. Therefore I am the tree and the tree is me. Yet, I am nothing and the tree is nothing. Together we are connected and together we are empty, not in the nihilistic sense of a vacuum, but in the interconnected sense that we need all the connection of these different parts to exist. Without them we can’t be created, therefore, the ‘I’ that I believe is me everyday cannot exist. The ‘I’ that I am is also the tree and the earth and the water and the minerals, and anything else that makes us what we are. Until I can live this truth I cannot fix the problems of this earth for I shall always be an ‘other’ that I fight against, because I am fighting the ‘other’ I am also fighting against myself.
I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone but me, but it blows my mind in that stars bursting across my chest, huge smile across my face way that helps me to feel the star matter from the big bang in my being and proves there is no past, present or future, but just what is.
If I can take that into my meditation I’ll be doing better than I was yesterday. If I can meditate tonight after not doing that for 2 days I’ll be doing better than yesterday. If I can take all of this into my car tomorrow morning as I drive to work and keep breathing into my chest rather than mouthing off to the drivers around me – drivers who feel so separated and attached to their negative ‘I’ that they would drive into my lane in such a way that could kill me – then I’m doing exponentially better than yesterday (don’t hedge your bets). Yet again, if I can simply finish this post and keep breathing I’m already making the baby steps that are the catalyst for all of my practice to come and that is the perfect place to be.
#deepdive – 3 days ago I meditated for a good 10 minutes and the experience was amazing. I had an out-of-body experience that enabled me to recognize ‘the shell’ that is my body. I felt connected to everything around myself and felt an affinity to the idea of taking care of my shell in order to be able to live my best life.
On a side note: I was putting my water bottle down on my desk in front of a statue of the Buddha that I brought home from my favourite place on earth, Bali, and the water bottle hit the Buddha on the head. He toppled onto his front and slid off the table hitting another side table, which in turn smashed the back of his head into fine grain. Bits of the statue also flew across the room. I cried out ‘Oh no’ in that attached way we have a tendency to do. Then I took a deep breath, stood up straight and sat within myself for a minute. I thought about attachment and then picked up the Buddha. The front of his face and body were still intact. The only part of the statue that was damaged was the back of his head. So, I put him back on the table and though ‘oh well’ to myself.
There’s a lesson in that somewhere – maybe it’s the lesson in attachment. Whatever it is… such is life. Bring on the change.
Another side note: Sympathies go out to the Anderson family whose daughter was found dead in Japan (my sympathies go out to all families that have lost loved ones in the natural disaster). She lived the last moments of her life heroically, making sure all the kids in her school were picked up by their parents before cycling away on her bicycle. She is a wonderful symbol of someone with immense love and compassion and a physical representation of the lessons taught in this Zencast. Rest in peace Taylor, you are missed.