Web of ConnectionNewsletter January, 2017, Edition 5
Joy and Self Love
Many people have the misconception that Buddhism is all about suffering. While suffering is a truth that gets our attention, the goal of the path is to get beyond suffering, not to stay stuck in it. We take on a discipline such as meditation like an athlete would work through her pain in order to realize the gain. The point is not to dwell in the suffering but to learn how to relate to it in a way that leads to its release into joy. Lest we get stuck in the suffering, the Buddha also taught about joy as a necessary part of the path. In fact, joy is considered one of the factors of awakening right along with mindfulness, investigation, equanimity and the rest. It is one of the divine abidings that helps us to widen our perspective beyond our limited sense of self in order to progress on the path.
It is important that we understand what joy is and how it differs from the happiness that comes and goes with changing conditions. If we are dependent upon certain conditions to make us happy then we are caught in the "worldly winds" or vicissitudes of life. Like a roller coaster, our thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations will take us on a rough ride. But if we can tap into our essential nature which is luminous and bright, that's where the joy naturally flows. It is in the awakened mind/heart that true and lasting joy exists. As long as we are looking to something or someone else to bring us that joy, we'll never access it within ourselves.
While there do seem to be catalysts that open us to joy, they are not the cause in and of themselves. Communing with nature, playful abandon, entering stillness, spontaneous creativity, humor, and relating to animals - these are all activities that help to loosen the sense of "me" and the roles I take on. The resulting relief and relaxation that is felt is not something added from these external stimuli. Rather, they simply help us to access what we already have within.
In contrast to the lighter pathways into joy, the heavier emotions are potentially a more powerful gateway into our true nature. For example, fear, grief, loss, despair and and authentic vulnerability can carry us beyond ourselves if we are present with them consciously. If we push away these painful experiences or if we choose to numb out rather than feeling them, we lose the opportunity to go beneath the protective armor that imprisons us in the sense of self. But if we embrace these mind states without seeking to escape, transformation and release can happen, revealing the inherent satisfaction of our essential being.
It's not an easy process to stay present with what we habitually have learned to push away from, whether it's our own pain, that of others or of the world at large. The Tibetan practice of tonglen is one way of taking in this pain in a very direct way in order to transform it into compassion. As long as we feel overwhelmed by our own pain, this is not something many of us will want to do.
We have to start by developing unconditional love and compassion for ourselves. We need to see that the lack of self-love is the root of our suffering. I'm not talking about narcissistic, ego-driven, feel good affirmations we give ourselves or look to receive from others. Rather, what is needed is to know that we are completely whole and not lacking to start with, that our so-called problems and weaknesses are a result of the way we frame our experience. Sure, life brings all of us its share of pain, but by seeing things as they are, we don't need to suffer over what is happening. At times, we make mistakes and do stupid things. Can we recognizing that these errors arise precisely because we have identified with our false perceptions of self and other?
Waking up can be a long, gradual journey but possibly a short one too. As we take in this next breath, can we do it with kindness and acceptance of ourselves just as we are? Without demands or expectations, can we embrace all of what arises in this body and mind? Only then can we begin to accept and love others for who they truly are. When we see clearly, inner and outer merge without separation. Taking care of ourselves, we take care of all beings.
Retreat Brings Warmth and Joy
We had a good turnout for our New Year's retreat with sixteen people attending over a period of three days. Many thanks to all who participated and all who worked hard to contribute to it's unfolding. Retreats provide a wonderful opportunity for us to take time out of our busy schedules so as to commit to deepening our practice in quiet and stillness and in interactive processes. About half of the retreatants came from Denver while the others came from Colorado Springs with the exception of two of our friends who drove up from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Our aim is to stay connected by doing day long retreats once a quarter, alternating between locations in Denver and Colorado Springs. When we set our dates and venue, we will be sure to let you know so you can join us.
Continuing Events in the Web of Connection
Saturday Meditation and Inquiry
4:30-6:00 pm at Deer Park Learning Center
15 Columbia Road, Colorado Springs
Sundays Beginner's Mind Meditation Class
5:00- 6:00 pm at Sunwater Spa,
514 El Paso Blvd, Manitou Springs, CO 80829
Youth Mindfulness Class
Mountain Song Community School,
2904 W Kiowa St, Colorado Springs, CO 80904
Dates and time to be announced soon.
Vista Grande United Church of Christ
5460 N Union Blvd, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
Dates and time to be announced soon.
The Web of Connection is a Colorado Non-profit corporation. We will soon be submitting our application for our federal 501(c)(3) non-profit status which will mean that the donations that you make will be tax deductible.
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