Choosing a Path or the Path Choosing Me

Theravada Buddhist meditation is feeling more and more like the path for me. That is not to say anything negative against Mahayana, Vajrayana, or Zen Buddhism. I still enjoy several teachers from those schools and continue to learn a lot from them.

Next to Theravada I have the most affinity for Soto Zen, but overall I just feel most comfortable with Theravada, in particular Vipassana and Metta. All of this has been pretty confusing for a while, but I think it comes into focus when it’s supposed to and not a moment sooner.

“Be a lamp unto yourself.” – Buddha

Advertisements

Karma

I’ve been thinking a lot about Karma. I really don’t believe that karma is getting what you deserve. I don’t think you build up animosity in the universe like static electricity that’s going to come back and bite you in the ass for what you did. That’s about as immature as fundamentalist Christians who think God is going to punish you for every little sin.

Karma, as best I understand it, is simply cause and effect. I don’t think it’s a moral judgement or supernatural punishment or reward for anything. If you do destructive harmful things to yourself or others, the eventual effect is likely to be pain and suffering. If you do acts of kindness, you are likely to receive appreciation, a smile, or maybe just the satisfaction of giving yourself away on behalf of another.

I don’t think we should live our lives looking over our shoulder for karma to come creeping up on us to get even, but I do think that we should realize actions have consequences. The better understanding we have about how all of our choices affect everyone around us, the better choices hopefully we will be able to make.

One Quote That Changed My Practice

If you want to reach a state of bliss, then go beyond your ego and the internal dialogue. Make a decision to relinquish the need to control, the need to be approved, and the need to judge. Those are the three things the ego is doing all the time. It’s very important to be aware of them every time they come up.

– Deepak Chopra

In meditation we use mental noting to name thoughts and feelings as we observe them and let them go. This observation of ego has helped me to be more aware of my own ego while sitting and throughout my day. When thoughts, feelings, or actions arise I’m able to be the observer. “Oh, you’re wanting affirmation. You’re afraid of losing control. You’re judging them.” Simple observations shift our mindset and take our practice “off the cushion.”

~ Namaste

Double Belonging: Buddhism & the Christian Faith

Article from National Catholic Reporter. An interview of Paul Knitter about his bookWithout Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian. I highly recommend the book to anyone new to Buddhism or feel a sense of “double belonging” at this time in your life.

Confronting Painful Emotions

So, mindfulness and meditation isn’t all warm fuzzy feelings. When you dig deep, you often dredge up some real junk. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always manifest while you’re sitting and ready to deal with it.

More and more I see my ego at work. I see emotions before they rise and they’re not all pleasant ones. The longer I sit with them lingering in the air like unwelcomed guests, the easier it is to name them for who they really are.

“Your ego wants to be stroked again. You want to be in control again. You’re judging that person to make yourself seem better again. You’re really just scared of being alone again. You’re really just scared of being a failure again…”

At least I see them now, I remind myself. At least I can do something about them instead of acting on them. At least I can edit before I press send.

So I should see it as progress or maturity, right? Maybe, but it still feels like crap! I can’t apologize for having an ego or feelings. It’s part of what makes us human.

Now I need to go sit with them for a bit. I don’t expect to get rid of them, but I want to get to know them, to make peace with them… and myself.

Meditation Makes a Difference

Today my son did something that he knows not to do. He reluctantly came and told me that he needed help because he did what I told him not to do. In the past I’m ashamed to say that I might have gotten angry depending on the kind of day I had. I might have raised my voice or reminded him how many times I’ve already told him not to do that anymore. I might have fixed it but would have sighed, complained, and growled my way through it.

Today I just checked out the situation, realized what we needed to do to fix it, and asked for his help to get it done. I never placed blame, never got angry, never raised my voice, and most importantly never belittled him for making a poor choice.

I love him, and it’s really no big deal. I can’t undo what has been done, but I can do something about what I will do. These are changes that I have control over. Say what you will about mediation, but it makes a difference, even when we least expect it.

Metta Meditation

Metta is my favorite type of meditation and the one I find least distracting. I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much because intercessory prayer was always a challenge to me.

It wasn’t hard to know how to pray or to genuinely want people to get better when I prayed, but I was never quite sure of who was on the receiving end of those prayers, if they would answer, or even cared at times.

For whatever reason metta comes natural to me. It feels right; actually it feels good. Metta is compassion. It is meditating on a mantra rather than your breath or footsteps.

The most awkward part of metta for me initially was wishing myself well. You begin by saying:

May I be safe.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I live with ease.

Then you repeat that for someone close to you that you love:

May you be safe.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you live with ease.

Next you repeat that mantra for someone you encounter but may not know, like a waitress, a guy who jogs on your street every morning, or someone who works in the same building as you do.

Finally and most difficult you repeat that mantra for someone you have problems with, someone you may not get along with at the moment.

What happens with metta is that you learn to be gentle with yourself and others. You learn to treat people like fellow human beings, even those you may have problems with. You develop empathy for others.

I like to say each phrase on the exhaled breath. It’s important to put your full attention and intention behind each mantra. Mean what you say, or “fake it till you make it.” Eventually, you’ll find that you do mean it, and it will show up the next time you speak to a stranger on the street.

~ Namaste