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Lions Roar : September 2005
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2005 2 5 FOR SOME OF US, rebellion is a way oflifefrom the start.For others, it is not until they start meditation practice that they real- ize how much there is to rebel against. The Buddha described his path as going “against the stream.” To me, this suggests that living a spiritual life and cultivating a mind that is free from suffering is an engaged act of rebellion. For the past fifteen years I have been deeply involved in the inner and outer rebellion of the Buddhist path. Prior to my spiritual quest, I rebelled blindly against everything and anything. Then the practice of meditation and the path of nonviolent revolution, as taught by the Buddha, gave me the guidance to understand, for myself, that which is to be defied and that which is to be embraced. It takes great effort and perseverance to cultivate liberating awareness and break our addiction to conditioned, reactive tendencies. However, anyone with the desire and intention to do so can successfully walk this path. Society’s status quo consists of a life filled with chasing pleasure and running from pain. Those who become dissatisfied with the status quo realize that what they are looking for will never be found in the material world; it can only be found by changing their expectations and attitudes. This is a hunger that only spiritual practice, in the form of present-time investigative awareness and a compassionate relationship to all forms of pain and suffering, will sate. My experience of anti-establishment Buddhist practice is twofold. I believe it takes a deep commitment to both meditation and social action. This is simultaneous cultivation of wisdom and compassion. Meditation is in many ways a form of rebellion. It is a retraining of the mind by the mind, something we naturally resist. To sit still and investigate the truth of one’s mind-body interactions doesn’t make sense to most people, and is certainly not supported by soci- ety. Our search for freedom and meaning is hindered by the many thoughts and feelings that arise, for we are conditioned from birth to stay busy and never really question the nature of life, death, and happiness. We are told that we should be happy, and that if we are not happy there is something wrong with us. But the Buddha point- ed out that life is naturally filled with both joy and sorrow. We can choose, one moment at a time, to redirect our attention to the present experiences of existence. The transformation of our perspective can only be done in the here and now. Through medi- tation practice we can learn to rest in acceptance of the way things are, training our minds to be present with life as it is, not the way we wish it to be. Meditation allows us to see our conditioned tendencies and helps us to excavate what is underneath our reactive patterns. Through meditation practice, we see that there is the pain in life that is unavoidable, and then there is the extra suffering we create for ourselves. If something is pleasant, we want more. When it passes, dissatisfaction arises because we can’t hold onto it. Sitting with what is, we rebel against our attach- ment and aversion. The conditioned mind wants to cling and resist; letting go is an inner revolution against these ten- dencies. This is the path that leads against the stream to the freedom of the other shore. During meditation, we need to be friendly and gentle with ourselves from the start, because meditation is already difficult enough without criticizing ourselves for our inability to stay focused on the present experience. Remember, we are attempting to access the natural wisdom and compassion of the heart; kindness and care toward the difficulty we experience will uncover the heart’s innate compassion. With this cultivation of present-time awareness practice, we begin to understand the nature of existence. We see how every breath that arises passes, that everything that comes into our awareness leaves, and that nothing is solid or permanent. Thus we begin to understand the truth of impermanence and see how we have been out of harmony with the constantly changing nature of all phenomena. We start to understand that we have been creating difficulty for ourselves through our unrealistic expectation that we can resist the law of constant change. Mindfulness reveals the unsatisfactory nature of all imper- manent phenomena, which cuts to the core of our conditioning. This is why the Buddhist path is so revolutionary. We are being asked to rebel against our deepest survival instinct. This means accepting that grief and pain are a natural part of life. While counter-instinctual, this is the path to freedom. True happiness lies in understanding and accepting the truth of impermanence, while training the mind and heart to respond with kindness to the painful experiences that life inevitably brings. Going Against the Stream Meditation is a practice of inner and outer rebellion that liberates us from individual and social conditioning, says N O A H L E V I N E . And the most revolutionary act is to renounce seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. ILLUSTRATIONBYMARGUERITESANDS