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Lions Roar : March 2017
when all the conflictual, messy, and ambivalent aspects of themselves feel inescapable. Our anxiety and restlessness and irritation mark the boundary of what we’re willing to accept. It’s precisely when those feelings are “successfully” excluded as “not-me” that we set the stage for spiritual bypassing—for using spiritual practice to avoid addressing important personal issues. Spiritual Bypassing Buddhism isn’t about creating a comfortable little mental oasis for yourself. BARRY MAGID on staying with the very feelings you came to meditation practice to escape. MEDITATION IS ABOUT moment-to-moment aware- ness, but what about all the things you are not aware of? What if there are aspects of yourself that consistently remain out of your awareness, unremarked and uncon- scious? Are there clues in your life suggesting that might be the case? Like Sherlock Holmes, we must recognize the importance of the dog that didn’t bark in the night. The dog didn’t bark because it was his master, not some stranger, who was out- side committing the crime. What is all too familiar can be what we fail to recognize. What we take for granted about our meditation practice may be what keeps it within a narrow comfort zone, languishing in the shallows of quiet, calming attention to our breath. What would happen if we stayed with precisely those feelings we came to meditation to escape? The problem is we can get rather good at creating com- fortable little mental oases for ourselves, and these become what we call good meditation sessions. That’s why I usually tell students to pay more attention to their bad meditations, The benefactor practice as taught by meditation teacher John Makransky deepens our capacity both to receive care and love and to extend them to others. In this practice, we call forth and visualize our benefactors, those who love us and care deeply for us, whether they are living or departed— a mentor, close friend, teacher, therapist, or even a beloved pet. These benefactors surround us with their vast reservoir of compassion and gently hold us in our grief. CHERYL A. GILES is the senior lecturer on pastoral care and counseling at Har- vard Divinity School and a practitioner of Vajrayana Buddhism. PHOTOBYTIMDOSE The problem of bypassing is not confined to the dissoci- ation from our emotional problems and needs. What we can also bypass in our meditation is the reality of our own essen- tial perfection. Caught in the duality of “good” versus “bad” meditation, we miss the simple fact that in being right here, right now, nothing is missing, nothing is hidden. The bark we don’t hear may be the signal that nothing is wrong after all. BARRY MAGID is a psychoanalyst and founder of the Ordinary Mind Zendo in New York City. He’s the author of Nothing Is Hidden: The Psychology of Zen Koans (Wisdom). ♦ LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2017 65