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Lions Roar : September 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2010 68 loin cloth, which was all he was wearing, and caused him to drop the wood. He fell unconscious for a time and when he awoke, he sang a song of loneliness and longing for his teacher, Marpa. at that point, he had a vision of Marpa riding up on a cloud, scolding him for losing heart and not realizing that he and the teacher were never separate. Filled with devotion, Milarepa went back into his cave to practice, and there he found—not flowers and a nice hot meal—but demons with huge saucer eyes. Mi- larepa tried to make them go away by making offerings to them. they didn’t budge. Milarepa sang a song of realization for them. they stayed. then, contemplating that ultimately these demons were the product of his own mind and were empty of reality, he roused his courage and rushed at them. Finally, they vanished. i think about this as i contemplate the goutweed. i’ve tried every way i know to get rid of it. i have used natural remedies and unnatural pesticides, which undoubtedly have affected birds and insects, but not the goutweed. i have dug it up and covered it with black plastic, so that no air or light can get through, but to no avail. sometimes, in warring with the goutweed, i feel like i’m Bill Murray in Caddyshack, battling the gopher on the golf course. if i manage to eradicate the weed from one part of my garden, it sneaks under the fence and reappears somewhere else. i have named a plot in my yard “goutweed Hill,” in hopes that the foul plant will accept my generous offer to reside there and stay out of the rest of the garden. Regardless, it continues to in- vade at every opportunity. no strategy seems to succeed. in an occasional moment of clarity, i realize that my relation- ship to the goutweed is like my relationship to a lot of things in life. i try to humor them; i try to seduce them; i try to eradicate them. But as long as i’m trying to hold on to my territory, some- thing fundamental is lacking. Perhaps i need to stay engaged with the goutweed. it has something to say to me. in fact, in a very odd way, i do appreciate it. its obstinacy, along with the general chaos of my life, helps keep me honest. the older i get, the more i realize that self-deception is the greatest obstacle of all. so i try to be grateful when my life brings me down to earth. the benefits of meditation are not illusory, not at all, but meditat- ing is not the only work to be done. the point of meditation and the Buddhist path is to uncover our inherent sanity and to help others, not to prop ourselves up. occasionally, we seem to need reminders in the form of failure and disappointment. in the midst of a chaotic scene at home or in the office, you spill a hot cup of coffee on your brand new tie. You find a black widow spider on your shoulder while doing the laundry. You stub your toe going out the door. those little things can wake you up, if you welcome the moment of awareness they bring. Be grateful to everyone. drop your trip on the spot, at least for a moment. wake-up calls can be a source of humor and relief. in daily life, there is room for chaos and color; there is room to care for others. there is room for loss, for joy, and gentle pride. the stuff of every day is the source of endless irritation and endless celebration. it provides constant opportunities to embrace life rather than to shun it. so here’s to the everyday reminders to truly be grateful to everyone. ♦