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Lions Roar : May 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2012 56 try to make anything happen. Then I tried to not try to make anything happen. A strong feeling arose of—what a joke. It occurred to me that I was fighting something. I felt frustrated and my shoulders got tight. Then I saw an opening and I went for it. It was as if the arising and falling and the noticing what was arising and falling and the struggling with what was aris- ing and falling collapsed under its own complexity. Then there was a feeling of stillness and simplicity. But that changed too. JUDY LIEF is a Buddhist teacher and the author of Making Friends With Death: A Buddhist Guide to Encountering Mortality. Seasons of Awakening JOAN SUTHERLAND In our yearning for enlightenment, we might hope that it’s a state of unfluctuating perfection that solves the problem of the constant change that roils our lives. But if we see what we’re doing as awakening, something that unfolds over a lifetime, we understand that each of us is somewhere in the middle of a long walk through varied terrain. Then our task is to stay alive to the changes in that terrain and to trust the path as it appears before us, rather than try to impose our map on it. There are seasons in awakening. The winter of awakening is crystalline in its purity. The snow, which has been called Guan- yin’s cloak, covers all distinctions, differences, and defining char- acteristics in unbroken white, and the gaze relaxes. This is the wisdom of equality; it’s bright, and a little cool. Then, if we let it, spring comes with its exuberances and pro- fusions, revealing the warm wisdom of differentiation. Now the distinctions between things, and the particular beauty of each thing, are important. If in awakening’s winter we love everything equally, in its spring we love each thing for itself. Both winter and spring are part of what’s true, as are summer and autumn in their turn. In welcoming awakening’s seasonal transformations, we discover a greater truth that shows us a new way of trusting the very change we once thought a problem. Awakening has its ebbs and flows, too. People often get wor- ried or discouraged when nothing seems to be happening in their spiritual life. But because something isn’t apparent in our conscious awareness doesn’t mean it’s not happening at all. When the field appears fallow, we can learn to trust what’s going on underground, in the dark, invisible to us. In fact, it’s essential that along with the lightning comes the quiet dark, when radiant bursts are taken in and made part of the whole. We can learn to trust the relentless stripping of winter as much as the bursting buds of spring—as do the plants, taken down to bare root and then blossoming again. To agree to all the seasons and tides of awakening means that we are always walk- ing the Way: while there are times we won’t understand, there are no detours, no causes for disappointment. Though sometimes obscured by clouds, there is only the rising dawn, long and slow, that we walk within. JOAN SUTHERLAND, ROSHI is a teacher in the Zen koan tradition and the founder of Awakened Life in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Blindsided ELAINE SMOOKLER I first realized I was having serious issues with my eyesight when I found myself stranded on stage while performing as a comic M.C., warming up the audience for a local Goth band. At the end of my set I cued the music, the lights went off, and my world went black. Really black. I had been bumping into things and struggling in the dark for years, but I didn’t think much of it. It seemed better not to. That night, as I stood on stage, surrounded by a treacherous tangle of wires and equipment, with the band playing full on, only inches away, I did the only thing I could think of: I got down on my hands and knees and crawled off stage. Fortunately, this audience had seen it all, so for them it was just business as usual. Photos from“Young Me, Now Me”