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Lions Roar : January 2015
you might wonder, too. Maybe you’re bull poohing yourself. (Insert stronger term for bull pooh, if you wish.) Or maybe you’re using your meditation prac- tice as a tranquilizer. Either way, this probably won’t last forever. Sooner or later emotional upheavals will undoubtedly and undeniably crop up. Think about a garden in summer. Then think about a garden in winter. Where did all the foliage go? Where are all the fruits and flowers? If your medita- tion is like the garden in winter, and you think you’ve eradicated all the weeds of negative emotion, just wait for the spring. Turn your back for one minute and there will be thousands of weeds waving at you, mocking you. “We’re back!” There’s not a weed killer in the universe that will instantly vanquish these invasive thoughts and emotions. So until that magic weed killer does hit the market, the practice of meditation is an excellent tool to work with the poison of our emotions. It’s an ancient approach that’s still totally up to date. There are a number of meditative techniques that develop mindfulness and awareness. Most of them involve assuming a dignified or deliberate posture, working with the breath, and acknowledging thoughts and emotions as they arise. It sounds simple and it is—devilishly simple. The simple act of sitting in a dignified posture, identifying with the breath, and labeling your thoughts often seems sim- ply impossible to achieve. As we encounter the complexity of thought and emotion on the cushion, we may recognize that the seemingly singular act of meditation is actually an evolving experience. Meditators often call this “the path.” It involves dif- ficulties, challenges, and discoveries, like all good journeys. In my own experience, the first discovery I made on the cushion was that I was not my thoughts. Or to put it in posi- tive terms, I discovered space or gap between my thoughts. It was quite shocking. Having discovered that there was more to me than thinking eventually allowed me to see thoughts more clearly. That doesn’t mean I could do anything about them, but I could see them. And I could return to the breath, again and again. Because of the instructions I was given (to simplify everything into thinking, not giv- ing special status to emotions), I was able to also look at my emotional states of mind as part of my thinking process and see that the emotions were much less solid and less defining of me than I had previ- ously believed. Because I was also given the instruc- tion to not ignore my emotions, I began a rather painful process of relating with them, which is sometimes called “making friends with yourself.” This is the time when the three poisons show up in your meditation and make their displays and pitches. In your practice, you are making friends with all that! Quite a tall order. I spent most of one meditation retreat silently lusting after a man I had recently met. Many people have the passion retreat, where they obsess about someone or something they want. I also have had the aggression retreat, where I fumed for days over someone who had “wronged” me. The intense feelings of anger were shocking to me, but illuminating in another way. And I have had the ignorance retreat, where I ignored something looming in my life, trying to rest in some kind of manufactured peace, only to leave the retreat and realize my ignorance when I ran full tilt into what I was trying to ignore. I know this may sound odd, but these are the precious occurrences in life: discovering one’s preoccupations and self- deceptions, silhouetted in the open space of practice. Though they are often not appreciated as such, these are the golden opportunities. Through practice, we see how much we invest in our emotions and how much energy we give to them. We may also begin to see how small things, small thoughts, and small feelings, can grow into gigantic monsters that fuel hatred, traps that lure us, or foam pads that prevent us from feeling. As Sir Walter Scott wrote: “Oh what a tangled web we weave/When first we practice to deceive.” When we start to recognize that we are creating this jungle of confusion, the hard work of practice really begins. Meditation is a life long path of practice and—if not an endless journey— then a journey without a lot of immediate gratification. This is probably quite different than we imagined when we began. The naïve approach is to simply try to get rid of our negative you might wonder, too. Maybe you’re bull poohing yourself. and flowers? If your medita- tion is like the garden in winter, everything into thinking, not giv- ing special status to emotions), I was able to also look at my time when the three poisons show up in your meditation and VISIT TODAY AT LIONSROAR.COM ONLINE STORE SUBSCRIBE SHAMBHALA SUN The Poison Tree An Anger Meditation in 4 Steps How RAIN Quells the Flames of Anger 5 Mind-Training Slogans to Transform Anger The Angry Buddha The Enlightened Power of No Anger Wisdom Buddhadharma The PracTiTioner’s QuarTerly fall 2014 Meditation and trauMa • Was the Buddha ecuMenical? • Buddhist VieWs on aBortion Buddhadharma The PracTiTioner’s QuarTerly fall 2014 Why do Buddhists Pray? Who are we praying to? What are we asking for? Making sense of prayer in a nontheistic religion shambhala sun january 2015 26