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Lions Roar : January 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2010 40 body, regarding his own acts with doubtful side-glances.” Meditation is one thing we know that does work. When we meditate there is nothing else in the world, and whatever we have is enough. 2. If You Are Alive, That’s Good; Lower the Bar In any predicament you can notice that you are alive. Con- sidering the vastness of the universe, this is an unlikely event and you can rejoice and take delight in this occurrence. Hap- piness is not really related to having a bank account; if it were, most of the world would be doomed to being unhappy. I have a friend who, for reasons mostly unrelated to foresight, drew her money out before the financial crash. I also have a friend who saw it coming and made money from it. I have another friend whose investment adviser put all his money in Bernard Madoff ’s Ponzi scheme and presumably lost it. I asked this last friend what the symptoms of money loss were, and he left a voicemail: “Well, I have a previously unsuspected interest in cooking and in fixing up the kitchen. And sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and my left leg is twitching. That’s about it.” When you really look at what your situation is, it is not what you might have thought. My friend who lost his “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before,” said White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. Not wasting the crisis might mean finding happiness with- out having to change the outer circumstances. If we are at risk of being blown up, well, today is a good day to be happy. If we are poor, the same. If we now have to drive little cars like they do in Sydney or Paris, well, what’s wrong with that? The beginning of being fine is noticing how things really are, and in my case this comes from having a practice, from meditating, from noticing life without blame or outrage, or fear, and if there is blame, outrage, or fear, noticing that with- out blame, outrage, or fear. With such noticing, compassion enters. 1. Life Is Uncertain, Surprises Are Likely Consciousness works by making maps, and there is always a gap between our maps and the territory of our lives. A sur- prise is a landscape feature that was not on my map. I have an idea I am one kind of person, with, say, a bank account, but it turns out I am another kind of person, without a bank ac- count. Surprises are common and an indication you are alive. I grew up with people who remembered the First World War; it started in August, 1914, and everyone thought it would be over by Christmas. Instead it led to a century of wars. Wars do that. At the time, that was a surprise. After the war there was the influenza epidemic—another surprise that took millions of lives. There have been positive surprises too. Vaccines were invented, banishing polio, saving my life, and antibiotics, also saving my life. Our representations are fragile and based on poor data. The mind assigns value to events, saying, “This is good,” and “This is bad,” but the values we give things are usually just arm-waving and scrambling about. The world is truly unpredictable in its consequences and our reactions to events are also unpredict- able, even if we have a deep meditation practice. We can make an ally of surprise. Meditation methods are not intended to make the world predictable, but they provide a space in which we can have our reactions without fighting with ourselves. And in the end, meditation resets the maps and opinions to zero. It overcomes the problem of James Joyce’s Mr. Duffy, who “lived at a little distance from his John TarranT, roshi, is director of the Pacific Zen institute. he has a Ph.D. in psychology and teaches at Duke integrative Medicine at Duke University Medical school. he is the author of Bring Me the Rhinoceros and The Light Inside the Dark. PHOTOBYLAURENJONES