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Lions Roar : November 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2008 45 embrace the moment fully and as a friend. This person irritating me just wants to get through this life without too much suffering. This person, like all people, suffers in the same ways I do: Things don’t happen the way they want. Things that are dear to them don’t last. Things keep changing. They are “wayfarers through this round of existence,” and they suffer just like I do. There’s a line from the Buddha that may seem to discourage relationships. The Buddha says that everything that is dear to us causes pain. I didn’t like that when I first read it at the begin- ning of my practice, but after a while I realized that it’s simply an expression of the truth. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have rela- tionships. It doesn’t mean not to have things dear to you. It just means that in this life of change, we will lose everything that’s dear to us, unless that which is dear loses us first. Everything will change. It won’t be what it was, or it will no longer be what we wanted, or we’ll stop loving it and then we’ll feel bad about it, or we’ll love it so very much and something will happen to it, and then it won’t be available to us, and on and on and on. This life is full of getting used to losses. The only adequate response is to love fully and realize we have a precious short life. The teaching that everything dear to us causes pain has helped me to be more clear that I’m eager to use relationship as a practice. It helps me remember not to mortgage away any of my days by having a grudge or a grievance or making myself distant. That would simply cause a rupture in that steadfast, universal love that is so joyful. SYLVIA BOORSTEIN, Ph.D., is a co-founding teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and a practicing psychotherapist. She is the author of many best-selling books and a regular contributor to the Shambhala Sun. Not Knowing Is the Most Intimate BY JOHN TARRANT HAVING A MEDITATION practice is a way of fully entering your life, without reservation. When you meditate, when you sit and notice, without assessing how you’re do- ing, you show up for your life. In the moment of meditation, noth- ing is required of you. It’s enough to be here on the planet, to expe- rience a moment of presence, to fully honor the gift of being alive. And it is a gift, one that just comes to you. You don’t have to ask. If we don’t show up for our own life, we tend to ask other people to fill in the bits we won’t show up for. That makes it hard on them. So love begins with really showing up. And prac- tice helps. It’s a way of not dodging the difficult, painful bits. It’s also not dodging the beauty and the marvel of life, the won- der and our capacity to connect to others. Love starts there. But we make a few really basic errors. We sometimes have the idea that a relationship is like a machine, one we can fix if we put the right oil on it or replace a few sprockets. We also can think that a relationship is a matter of calculating the sums of good and bad, what we’re getting and not getting. If we start looking at other people as a gift, it helps us out of these traps. I have a teenage daughter and I’m close to her. You notice with a child that you show up without wanting a lot in return. It’s not an exchange: give this, get that. It can be like that in all our relationships, with lovers, teachers, friends, what have you. It’s not a trade. The word bodhichitta conveys want- ing to open our own hearts and minds because it’s good for the world, not just for us (but it is good for us, too). Bodhichitta is not esoteric; it’s a fundamental human experience. It’s part of the nature of mind. Relationship is not an event isolated from our spiritual practice. We’re involved in a relationship because we’re on our path. We have a practice and somehow our relationship has become part of our practice. It’s not something different from our practice. It’s not this thing over there that makes me happy so I can have a practice over here. It’s not the other thing that pays the rent or gets me laid. It’s part of practice. There’s a long arc to love, just the way there’s a long arc to having a spiritual practice. When you’re on that long arc, you don’t say, “I tried meditation once, and I didn’t get what I wanted, so it’s not right for me.” If you have a spiritual practice in your life, you’re actually showing up for your life. If your mind is restless and uneasy, you’re showing up for your mind being restless and uneasy. If you stop fighting it, stop thinking it should be different, if you allow a little bit of an opening— even just having compassion for your inability to have compas- sion—the donkey will start to turn toward home. You don’t have to be good at this stuff. You just have to have a little bit of turning toward it and it will start teaching you and giv- ing you gifts. It’s much better to do a spiritual practice really badly than not to do it. In fact, it’s much better to do a spiritual practice really badly than to do it well, because if you’re doing it badly you’ll probably learn something, so long as you keep doing it. A while ago my mother was dying. I traveled home, went to the hospital, held her hand, and sat with her. The next morn- ing she was still alive, so I did the same thing. Meanwhile, my sisters were negotiating with the nurses about oxygen levels, my father was trying to encourage Mom to stay in this world, to eat PHOTOBYCOREYKOHN NOV 40-47.indd 45 NOV 40-47.indd 45 9/3/08 12:35:30 PM 9/3/08 12:35:30 PM