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Lions Roar : September 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN SepteMBer 2009 53 similarly, when we approach the spiritual journey with the attitude of poverty and unchecked dis- contentment, we collect instructions and practices, but despite possessing such spiritual wealth, we still feel insufficient. When one practice doesn’t pay off, we go to another. When that doesn’t work, it’s on to the next. eventually, we end up back at the beginning for another try. We spin in a circle that has no end, which is the very definition of cyclic existence, what is known as samsara. this is not a path to enlightenment but to deeper confusion. When will it stop? it goes on and on, in your spiritual journey and in your life, until you can transform your discontentment into content- ment: the state of being happy and at ease with what you have, and using it the best way you can. that is the practice of contentment, which, in itself, is a seed of enlightenment. as far as samsara is concerned, our dissatis- faction will continue for- ever if we let it. When we’ve truly dis- covered the happiness we are searching for and have found a genuine purpose to our life, tem- porary environmental changes do not have any disastrous impact. according to the wisdom of the historical buddha, true happiness can only be found within. outer conditions such as wealth and friendships can serve as supports for our happiness and as instruments to connect with an inner experience of joy, but if we see them as our only source of happiness, we are in deep trouble. instead, with a calm and clear mind, and with an attitude of kindness, we can acknowledge the re- ality of impermanence, which is simply that change is inevitable, and move forward with confidence. as we say in the West, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” to exercise our will is to engage the power of mind to accomplish our purpose. first we think, and second, we act. this coincides with the bud- dhist teaching that mind is the primary agent, the instigator of all actions. When mind is calm and stable, we can think more clearly and precisely, so when conditions are difficult and we must act, there are a few basic things we can do to support our decision-making. first, connect with your basic heart of sanity, calm your mind, and relax. then, within that, con- template what you truly desire and what your options are for accomplishing it. finally, translate that into action, step by step, with an attitude of kindness toward yourself and others. in this way, you can start to bring a sense of clear seeing and equanimity into stressful situations. sometimes our view of our spiritual path can be overly theoretical. from the buddhist point of view, there is no reality outside the set of experiences we go through every day. While our spiritual theories may be quite impressive, they can also be somewhat vague when it comes to practical mat- ters. We may be able to speak coherently about the enlightened nature of mind and all phenomena, but when it comes to our experiences of daily life, it can be hard to see the connection. to get to the reality of all that—to actually taste the pure nature of mind—we have to be open to all experiences of life, especially those we regard as negative. the MoMent of opportunity there are positive flashes of awakening going on all the time, in the midst of the ups and downs of our daily grind. We may be wishing for something more, or better, or wanting desperately to escape what we feel is a dire predicament. but whatever our situation looks like, there is tremendous value in simply being present with it. Why? because no experience ever repeats itself. each is a once-in-a- lifetime, singular moment that is as precious as meeting the buddha. this is our only chance not to miss the reality of being who we are and where we are, beyond all our speculations and theories. that is the whole process of the path and spirituality. There are positive flashes of awakening going on all the time, in the midst of the ups and downs of our daily grind. Whatever our situation looks like, there is tremendous value in simply being present with it. It’s been more than a year since I was declared free of the Big C. I continue build- ing Habitat houses to give something back to my com- munity. I collect my garden seeds and wait for the sun to warm Mother Earth. I bow and give thanks each morning as I see the sky begin to lighten in the east. I try to treat those around me with love and concern. I feel compassion for all who have to sit in those chemo rooms. I stand in awe and wonder at this precious gift of life. I sit in my medita- tion room. And I take out the garbage. Larry Haun Often what I have perceived as a difficult time has turned out to be exactly what I need- ed at the time. This insight has led me to take a step back in challenging situations and understand that something in this situation is going to be very valuable to me, although I may not know what it is yet. Understanding that the things we fear most may actually be our greatest blessings can be a wonderful path through these difficult times. Peter Cutler For further reading on Wisdom for Difficult Times, go to www.shambhalasun.com.