Working with our life

Accepting the conditions of existence means first of all admitting our vulnerability to them. When we realize that the givens of life – no matter how ferocious – are not penalties, but ingredients of depth, lovability and character, we can let go of the belief that we are immune (or need to be). “That can’t happen to me” or “How dare they do that to me” changes to “Anything human can happen to me and I will do my best to handle it”. The strength to handle challenges, in fact, is directly proportional to how much we let go of entitlement.

David Richo, How to be an Adult in Relationships

Being grounded today

photo.JPGThe mind can still slip away at the speed of a thought and without giving a moment’s notice. This means that we have to choose something useful to bear in mind – and to put some effort into staying with it – in order to keep to the fore an object or theme that supports clear, empathic, or stabilising states of mind. One of the fundamental ways of bringing the mind into the present moment is to focus on how we sense our own body. This bodily sense – that is awareness of the sensations and energies that manifest in the body – is something immediate that we can contemplate. It gives us ground and balance. It gives us the sense of being where we are. Although this may seem basic and obvious, much of the time we are not grounded in where we really are. Instead we are ‘out there’ in a world of changing circumstance and reactions to that, without having a central reference.

Ajahn Sucitto, Meditation, A Path to Awakening

Who we truly are

I had a nice conversation yesterday on the challenge of finding purpose within,  in a world which has lost many of the traditional  places or containers which used to supply meaning in the past. It is a challenge all through life, and it comes down to having some degree of comfort  in our sense of who we are and where we are at this moment. In other words, as Winnicott says, “we gather the personality together from within”  by developing a  capacity to be at ease with an interior “formlessness and comfortable solitude”, without being afraid,  or needing to fill the space with objects and distractions. In this way we unlearn a lot of the messages which come from our restless society or from the wounds of our own history:

To know this spot of inwardness is to know who we are, not by surface markers of identity, not by where we work or what we wear or how we like to be addressed, but by feeling our place in relation to the Infinite and by inhabiting it. This is a hard lifelong task, for the nature of becoming is a constant filming over of where we begin, while the nature of being is a constant erosion of what is not essential. Each of us lives in the midst of this ongoing tension, growing tarnished or covered over, only to be worn back to that incorruptible spot of grace at our core. Regardless of subject matter, this is the only thing worth teaching: how to uncover that original center and how to live there once it is restored. We call the filming over a deadening of heart, and the process of return, whether brought about through suffering or love, is how we unlearn our way back to God.

Mark Nepo,

Noticing life, moment by moment

For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour.

What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general

but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.

Viktor Frankl

Purpose and meaning

MM7214050704_3323“Happiness,” Helen Keller wrote, “is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” In a society bent on individualism, the insight bends the mind a bit. But think a minute. To realize what great stream of life flows in us, to discover who and what we are and then to give ourselves over to the energy and drive of it for the sake of the world at large has got to be the greatest personal insight in life. Life can be pleasant and privileged and prestigious. But that is not enough. The truly happy life, the philosophers tell us, is about activity. Not just any activity. Not just activity that keeps us busy or has the appearance of importance. The truly happy life is about activity that gives a sense of purpose to life. It is, in other words, activity the intent of which is to do good –  to go beyond our own interests and claims-to the needs of the world around us. If we ever want to be happy, then, we need to move beyond the level of simple material satisfaction to the development of the spiritual dimension of what it means to be human. We not only need to find out what we do best and do it to the utmost. We need to ask ourselves again why we were born.

Joan Chittester, Following the Path, Finding Your Purpose

Bringing the mind back

As I live my day, I always try to have a contemplation going – whether I’m talking to people, riding in a car, giving teachings, or eating.  This can be as simple as bringing my mind back to the thought “May others be happy” at every opportunity. Or I might focus on selflessness or how to help someone who is ill. That power of intention helps me turn confusion on its ear and enjoy my life.  When self-absorption arises, I use the precision of my morning meditation to turn the energy inside out. I find that the more I do this, the less worried I feel. Each day is an opportunity to sharpen and deepen the conclusions I’ve drawn in my morning practice.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Ruling the World