Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Curiosity, Acceptance & Nurturing

"May I develop complete acceptance and openness
to all situations, and emotions, and to all people.
May I experience everything nakedly, completely
without mental reservations and blockages.
May I never withdraw from life or centralize onto myself.
May my heart be laid bare & open to the fire of all that is."

Reginald A. Ray
    Our acceptance & openness needs to INCLUDE the MANY daily random accidents, screw-ups & irritants like stubbing our toe, dropping, spilling & breaking things, losing keys / wallets / phones, burning & ruining meals, crazy random digital errors, loooong 'holds' on the phone, near impossibility contacting health-care providers, trades people & most companies ... We REGULARLY encounter a LOT of situations that very easily annoy, frustrate, irritate & anger us, even if / after we feel we've successfully 'dealt with' (fully processed) the real biggies in our life ie past major traumas.
    But our acceptance & openness ALSO needs to INCLUDE ongoing inescapable major traumas like chronic pain, prolonged disability, incurable illness & death of loved ones, friends and our self! These can & do cause "shipwrecks" - at least one of which is pretty much guaranteed if you live beyond 60. Do see : https://mindfulnessforeveryone.blogspot.com/2013/07/361-beyond-stress-management-resilience.html

    Aversion to all that we fear / dislike / can't control is common & understandable, but is at best only a short-term band-aid. Clinging & chasing after things we like, think we need or must have is also common & understandable, but easily becomes obsessive eg addictions, and there are many "entrepreneurs" to feed our hunger to escape (see the 2023 miniseries "Painkiller" on Netflix). But it's a meaningless delusion to see our identity just a meat-machine that avoids undesirables & chases after desirables. "The one who dies with the most toys wins" is desperately simple-minded.
     Our ONLY WORTHWHILE OPTION is repeatedly remembering our true nature and repeatedly embodying it by BEING a NURTURING PRESENCE to others & the environment no matter how annoying, great or persistent the challenge. This is simply being natural, true to whom / what we are - like birds flying in the air and fish swimming in water. 
    We see great nurturing when parents really know their children and spend quality time with them by providing all that they require to optimally express their natural talents and mature into healthy, balanced, self-sufficient, caring, intelligent, pro-social adults. 
    Nurturing has NOTHING TO DO WITH stuffing them full of candies & fast food; indulging them with as much screen time as they want; throwing money at them to blow shopping online or at the mall; buying them all sorts of toys & clothes - there is no quality time here - just spoiling and creating helpless, hopeless, miserable perpetual infants. The worst fear of wealthy parents is their kids "growing up to be assholes." This fear easily becomes a reality if parents don't have the wisdom & energy to spend quality time with their kids.

    EVERY stage of life has its own challenges. During our youth, we try so hard to learn and become competent & competitive to get by in this fast-moving world. During our middle years, we try so hard to establish a career, a home life, have & raise kids, pay our bills, maybe even live a little, put a bit of money away for retirement ... During our later years, we're dumbfounded that life went by so fast; if we're fortunate enough, we can help raise grandchildren; again, if we're fortunate enough, we have the inclination to devote our time & energies on NURTURING our own & loved ones' spiritual maturation / evolution of consciousness, rather than wasting our time wallowing about our progressively declining physical & mental health.

    “… for each & every one of us, we have circumstances in our lives that are chaotic, out of our control, outside of the box of what we think of as practice. And that is actually your deepest practice.
    The Buddha talked about this precious human birth. It’s precious for all of us, it has the most exquisite balance of dukkha (challenging situations) & easefulness. We’re not so overwhelmed by suffering that we’re lost and drowning, or we’re not so lost in the pleasure, either. It’s got this balance that keeps us needing to find a deeper happiness and having the resources to look.
    This birth the Buddha talked about as the precious human birth is rare and it’s precious. And it’s precious for all of us, even those of us who don’t have the conditions in our lives to go on many or any retreats.
    There’s something about practicing with the chaos of life, & the realities of our difficult, complicated relationships & situations that we’re faced with in day-to-day life that can move us very deeply and force us to feel things we might not otherwise feel. It also helps us see that it’s good to be alive and in the world and feel it and really land in this human experience fully and recognize it as a shared thing.”
 Cara Lai https://www.dharma.org/cara-lai-dharma-talk/

     Four wise teachers & authors immediately come to mind when I think of inspiring survivors of major trauma. I've quoted them all in my quickly searchable blogs:
    Amoda Maa : “Embodied Enlightenment. Living Your Awakening in Every Moment.” Reveal Press, 2017.
    Isira : "Buddha on the Dance Floor." ‎ Living Awareness, 2014.
    Gabor Matte“The Myth of Normal. Trauma, Illness & Healing in a Toxic Culture.” Alfred A. Knopf, 2022.
    James Finley : “The Healing Path. A Memoir and an Invitation.” Orbis, 2023.
    James Finley on the alchemy of transforming the lead of trauma into spiritual gold:
    “(After graduating from high school, I escaped from a lifetime of psychological & physical abuse by my alcoholic father by entering a monastery. But there) I was sexually abused by one of the monks – a priest, my confessor, who Merton thought very highly of - everyone thought very highly of this person. And I had a breakdown. I became extremely dissociative, paranoid.
    I worked (looking after the pigs at the monastery). … The boar walked out on the ice, and it fell through the ice of this little lake in the woods, and drowned. I felt as I was walking around, I felt I was unraveling, and that sanity was like thin ice over icy-cold black water, and it was cracking, and if I fell through, because of my trauma history, I might never find my way back again. So I left (the monastery). I didn’t tell the abbot what happened. I didn’t tell Thomas Merton what happened. I didn’t tell John Hughes, who was a psychiatrist. I just left.
    So here’s a lesson. How can we learn to be healed from all that hinders us from experiencing the steady strong currents of divinity that flow on & on in the bitter-sweet alchemy of our lives? The alchemy is just not how phases of happiness can unexpectedly become precipitously sad – it was frightening. Nor is it something so sad that can suddenly break wide open with liberation, like an unexpected gift, or love, or presence, or a child. It isn’t just the rhythm of darkness and light, or birth and death, or the rhythms of your life, the rhythms of my life. Rather, the alchemist of old were trying to turn lead into gold. And lead into gold is how do we turn the unrelenting, unforeseeableness of life, how can we learn to experience the steady strong currents of divinity that flow on and on and on so unexplainably, that brought me and brought all of you up to this very moment that I’m talking right now? How has this come to pass? And how can I learn to find my way to this groundedness that’s always there? And finding my way to it, how can I abide in it? And how can I learn to share it with others?
    So I’d like to end with a story. … This hermit heard a knock at his door, and when he opened it, it was a mother and a father with their little girl. And the parents apologized for intruding on his solitude, but said to the hermit, ‘As you can plainly see, an evil wizard has turned our daughter into a donkey. And we would like you to pray over her, so we can have our daughter back.’
    The hermit said, ‘I see. Come in, come in, come in.’ And he had them sit off to the side, and he asked the little girl if she was hungry and would like something to eat. She said she would like that. And so he was talking to her while he prepared a meal for both of them, and they sat down. And he asked her about herself – about things about her life and so on. 
    And as the parents were watching how lovingly he spoke to the little girl, and how attentive he was to her, they suddenly realized the evil wizard did not cast a spell on their daughter, turning their daughter into a donkey, the evil wizard cast a spell on them to believe that their daughter was a donkey. 
    And so when they left, they were so relieved and grateful, having their daughter back, and the little girl was so relieved because it’s very hard to be a little girl when your parents think you’re a donkey, especially if because you’re a child, and to avoid the confusion, you start believing it yourself. There’s like a shame-based, traumatized place within yourself, that you don’t know what to do about it. 
    The deep healing that that little girl and her parents experienced in this story bears witness to the deep healing that I hope we are exploring together here today.
    James Finley "Becoming a Healing Presence in a Traumatized World" : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eu97TxU7mW4&t=6s
Another glorious morning shines down on us ...

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