Friday, November 14, 2014

Tricycle dharma talk: Free from Fear When we are not fully present, we are not really living

Bird 1Our greatest fear is that when we die, we will become nothing. Many of us believe our entire existence is limited to a particular period, our “lifespan.” We believe it begins when we are born—when, out of being nothing, we become something—and it ends when we die and become nothing again. So we are filled with a fear of annihilation.

But if we look deeply, we can have a very different understanding of our existence. We can see that birth and death are just notions; they’re not real. The Buddha taught that there is no birth and no death. Our belief that these ideas about birth and death are real creates a powerful illusion that causes us a great deal of suffering. When we understand that we can’t be destroyed, we’re liberated from fear. It’s a huge relief. We can enjoy life and appreciate it in a new way.

When I lost my mother, I suffered a lot. The day she died, I wrote in my journal, “The greatest misfortune of my life has happened.” I grieved her death for more than a year. Then one night, I was sleeping in my hermitage—a hut that lay behind a temple, halfway up a hill covered with tea plants in the highlands of Vietnam. I had a dream about my mother. I saw myself sitting with her, and we were having a wonderful talk. She looked young and beautiful, with her hair flowing down around her shoulders. It was so pleasant to sit and talk to her as if she had never died.

When I woke up, I had a very strong feeling that I had never lost my mother. The sense that my mother was still with me was very clear. I understood then that the idea of having lost my mother was just that: an idea. It was obvious in that moment that my mother was still alive in me and always would be.

I opened the door and went outside. The entire hillside was bathed in moonlight. Walking slowly in that soft light through the rows of tea plants, I observed that my mother was indeed still with me. My mother was the moonlight caressing me as she had so often done, very gentle, very sweet. Every time my feet touched the earth, I knew my mother was there with me. I knew this body was not mine alone but a living continuation of my mother and father, my grandparents and great-grandparents, and of all my ancestors. These feet I saw as “my” feet were actually “our” feet. Together my mother and I were leaving footprints in the damp soil.

From that moment on, the idea that I had lost my mother no longer existed. All I had to do was look at the palm of my hand, or feel the breeze on my face or the earth under my feet, to remember that my mother is always with me, available at any time.

When you lose a loved one, you suffer. But if you know how to look deeply, you have a chance to realize that his or her nature is truly the nature of no-birth, no-death. There is manifestation, and there is the cessation of manifestation in order to have another manifestation. You have to be alert to recognize the new manifestations of one person. But with practice and effort, you can do it. Pay attention to the world around you, to the leaves and the flowers, to the birds and the rain. If you can stop and look deeply, you will recognize your beloved manifesting again and again in many forms. You will release your fear and pain, and again embrace the joy of life.

The Present Is Free from Fear

When we are not fully present, we are not really living. We’re not really there, either for our loved ones or for ourselves. If we’re not there, then where are we? We are running, running, running, even during our sleep. We run because we’re trying to escape from our fear.

We cannot enjoy life if we spend our time and energy worrying about what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow. If we’re afraid all the time, we miss out on the wonderful fact that we’re alive and can be happy right now. In everyday life, we tend to believe that happiness is only possible in the future. We’re always looking for the “right” conditions that we don’t yet have to make us happy. We ignore what is happening right in front of us. We look for something that will make us feel more solid, safer, more secure. But we’re afraid all the time of what the future will bring—afraid we’ll lose our jobs, our possessions, the people around us whom we love. So we wait and hope for that magical moment—always sometime in the future—when everything will be as we want it to be. We forget that life is available only in the present moment. The Buddha said, “It is possible to live happily in the present moment. It is the only moment we have.”

Bird 2The Here and Now

I have arrived, I am home
In the here, in the now
I am solid, I am free
In the ultimate I dwell 

When we come back to the here and now, we recognize the many conditions of happiness that already exist. The practice of mindfulness is the practice of coming back to the here and now to be deeply in touch with ourselves and with life. We have to train ourselves to do this. Even if we’re very intelligent and grasp the principle right away, we still have to train ourselves to really live this way. We have to train ourselves to recognize the many conditions for happiness that are already here.

You can recite the poem above as you breathe in and out. You can practice this poem when you drive to your office. You may not have arrived at your office, but even while driving you have already arrived at your true home, the present moment. When you arrive at your office, this is also your true home. In your office, you are also in the here and now. Just practicing the first line of the poem, “I have arrived, I am home,” can make you very happy. Whether you are sitting, walking, watering the vegetable garden, or feeding your child, it is always possible to practice “I have arrived, I am home.” I have run all my life; I am not going to run anymore; now I am determined to stop and really live my life.

When we practice breathing in and we say, “I have arrived,” and we really arrive, that is success. To be fully present, 100 percent alive, is a real achievement. The present moment has become our true home. When we breathe out and say, “I am home” and we really feel at home, we no longer have to be afraid. We really don’t need to run anymore.

We repeat this mantra, “I have arrived, I am home,” until it feels real. We repeat breathing in and out and taking steps until we are firmly established in the here and now. The words should not be an obstacle—the words only help you concentrate and keep your insight alive. It is the insight that keeps you home, not the words.

The Two Dimensions of Reality

If you have succeeded in arriving at home, truly dwelling in the here and now, you already have the solidity and freedom that are the foundation of your happiness. Then you are able to see the two dimensions of reality, the historical and the ultimate.

To represent the two dimensions of reality, we use the images of the wave and water. Looking at the dimension of the wave, the historical dimension, we see that the wave seems to have a beginning and an end. The wave can be high or low compared with other waves. The wave might be more or less beautiful than other waves. The wave might be there or not there; it might be there now but later not there. All these notions are there when we first touch the historical dimension: birth and death, being and nonbeing, high and low, coming and going, and so on. But we know that when we touch the wave more deeply, we touch water. The water is the other dimension of the wave. It represents the ultimate dimension.

In the historical dimension we talk in terms of life, death, being, nonbeing, high, low, coming, going, but in the ultimate dimension, all these notions are removed. If the wave is capable of touching the water within herself, if the wave can live the life of water at the same time, then she will not be afraid of all these notions: beginning and ending, birth and death, being or non-being; non-fear will bring her solidity and joy. Her true nature is the nature of no-birth and no-death, no beginning and no end. That is the nature of water.

All of us are like that wave. We have our historical dimension. We speak in terms of beginning to be at a certain point in time, and ceasing to be at another point in time. We believe that we are now existing and that before our birth we did not exist. We get caught in these notions, and that is why we have fear, we have jealousy, we have craving, we have all these conflicts and afflictions within us. Now if we are capable of arriving, of being more solid and free, it will be possible for us to touch our true nature, the ultimate dimension of ourselves. In touching that ultimate dimension, we break free from all these notions that have made us suffer.

When fear loses some of its power, we can look deeply into its origin from the perspective of the ultimate dimension. In the historical dimension, we see birth, death, and old age, but in the ultimate dimension birth and death are not the true nature of things. The true nature of things is free from birth and death. The first step is to practice in the historical dimension, and the second step is to practice in the ultimate dimension. In the first step we accept that birth and death are happening, but in the second step, because we’re in touch with the ultimate dimension, we realize that birth and death come from our own conceptual minds and not from any true reality. By being in contact with the ultimate dimension we are able to be in touch with the reality of all things, which is birthless and deathless.

Practicing in the historical dimension is very important for our success practicing in the ultimate dimension. Practice in the ultimate dimension means being in touch with our no-birth, no-death nature, like a wave being in touch with its true nature of water. We can ask metaphorically, “Where does the wave come from, and where will it go?” And we can answer in the same manner, “The wave comes from water and will return to water.” In reality, there is no coming and going. The wave is always water; it doesn’t “come from” water, and it doesn’t go anywhere. It is always water; coming and going are just mental constructions. The wave has never left the water, so to say the wave “comes from” the water is not really correct. As it is always water, we cannot say it “returns to” water. Right at the moment when the wave is a wave, it is already water. Birth and death, coming and going are just concepts. When we are in touch with our no-birth, no-death nature, we have no fear.

Bird 3No Coming, No Going

For many of us, the notions of birth and death, coming and going, cause our greatest pain. We think the person we loved came to us from somewhere and has now gone away somewhere. But our true nature is the nature of no coming and no going. We have not come from anywhere, and we will not go anywhere. When conditions are sufficient, we manifest in a particular way. When conditions are no longer sufficient, we no longer manifest in that way. This doesn’t mean that we don’t exist. If we’re afraid of death, it’s because we don’t understand that things do not really die.

There’s a tendency for people to think that they can eliminate what they don’t want: they can burn down a village, they can kill a person. But destroying someone doesn’t reduce that person to nothing. They killed Mahatma Gandhi. They shot Martin Luther King, Jr. But these people are still among us today. They continue to exist in many forms. Their spirit goes on. Therefore, when we look deeply into our self—into our body, our feelings, and our perceptions—when we look into the mountains, the rivers, or another person, we have to be able to see and touch the nature of no-birth and no-death in them. This is one of the most important practices in the Buddhist tradition.

Finding Solid Ground

In our daily lives, our fear causes us to lose ourselves. Our body is here, but our mind is all over the place. Sometimes we plunge ourselves into a book, and the book carries us far away from our body and the reality where we are. Then, as soon as we lift our head out of the book, we’re back to being carried away by worries and fear. But we rarely go back to our inner peace, to our clarity, to the buddhanature in each of us, so that we can be in touch with Mother Earth.

Many people forget their own body. They live in an imaginary world. They have so many plans and fears, so many agitations and dreams, and they don’t live in their body. While we’re caught in fear and trying to plan our way out of fear, we aren’t able to see all the beauty that Mother Earth offers us. Mindfulness reminds you to go to your in-breath and to be totally with your in-breath, be totally with your out-breath. Bring your mind back to your body and be in the present moment. Look deeply straight in front of you at what is wonderful in the present moment. Mother Earth is so powerful, so generous, and so supportive. Your body is so wonderful. When you’ve practiced and you are solid like the earth, you face your difficulty directly, and it begins to dissipate.


Breathing in the Present

Please take a moment to enjoy the simple practice of mindful breathing: “Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in; breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.” If you do that with a little concentration, then you’ll be able to really be there. The moment you begin to practice mindful breathing, your body and your mind begin to come back together. It takes only 10 to 20 seconds to accomplish this miracle, the oneness of body and mind in the present moment. And every one of us can do it, even a child.

As the Buddha said, “The past no longer is, the future is not yet here; there is only one moment in which life is available, and that is the present moment.” To meditate with mindful breathing is to bring body and mind back to the present moment so that you do not miss your appointment with life. 

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, author, and peace activist. He lives at Plum Village, a meditation center in the Dordogne region of southern France.

For the original posting please make the jump here

"Ultimately, life is very short. Even if we live one hundred years more, that is still very short. We don't have time to hate anybody. We don't have time to judge anybody. So how are we going to spend the rest of our life from this moment on? This is a good question. 'How am I going to spend the rest of my life from this moment on?' We must realize that life is extremely short. It is like the snap of our fingers until the time we die. So we have to realize that ultimately there is nothing to gain and nothing to lose. Ultimately there are no enemies, there are no friends. There is not even any 'I.' From this moment on the only thing that matters is to live life from compassion, awareness, and wisdom." 

-- Anam Thubten, "Are We On the Right Track?" from "No Self, No Problem"

Via JMG: LA Galaxy Sign Out Soccer Star Robbie Rogers To Multi-Year Contract Extension

Via press release:
The LA Galaxy announced today that the club has signed defender Robbie Rogers to a multi-year contract extension. Rogers, an MLS veteran and former U.S. Men’s National Team member, joined in Galaxy in May 2013 and has made 30 appearances and 22 starts as a member of the Galaxy. “We are excited that Robbie will remain a part of our organization going forward,” LA Galaxy Head Coach and General Manager Bruce Arena said. “He has proven to be a dynamic player in our League and an integral part of our success this year. We look forward to his continued contributions in the years to come.” Rogers, 27, has made 15 appearances for the Galaxy this season in addition to recording two assists. After making the move to defense full-time with a start against Chivas USA on June 8, the Galaxy have gone 10-2-7 in all MLS competitions in which Rogers appeared, including MLS Cup Playoffs.
(Tipped by JMG reader Benjamin)

RELATED: Last month ABC green-lighted a sitcom based on Rogers' life. The show is tentatively titled Men In Shorts.

Reposted from Joe Jervis

Via Mountain Stream Meditation Center:

Often when we feel we don’t know, we want to do something right away. We want to impose our little intelligence on Reality. Without trust habit dominates. With trust there can be a willingness to not interfere, to not try to change things, to not manipulate them, to not push and pull at them. Instead we allow things to emerge. This opens us to the possibility of surrender and to the guidance of our more essential nature. 

~~Frank Ostaseski

Via JMG: Happy Purple Marriage Map

JMG reader Jay Sheckley has sent us an alternative map to the Wikipedia version posted here several times a week in recent months. Embiggen for the details.

Reposted from Joe Jervis

Flower of the Day: 11/14/14

“The phase of the journey that we call the ABC’s of Spirituality where we heal and transform the lower self involves becoming aware of the parts of ourselves that are denied or that we have not yet come into agreement with. This healing process has phases, and the first step is to identify these parts within ourselves. We go on following these steps until we enter the abyss of denied feelings. Here, it is necessary to learn how to navigate the dark waters of the ocean of fear, until all fear can be dissolved.”

Sri Prem Baba

Via Dialy Dharma

Life in the Present Moment | November 14, 2014

We’re afraid all the time of what the future will bring—afraid we’ll lose our jobs, our possessions, the people around us whom we love. So we wait and hope for that magical moment—always sometime in the future—when everything will be as we want it to be. We forget that life is available only in the present moment.

- Thich Nhat Hanh, "Free From Fear"