More thoughts inspired by the desert, a place where we notice our thirst. As the original story tells us: “Tormented by thirst, they complained to Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out into the desert?’ “. We try to quench this thirst in numerous ways. However, the Buddhist tradition tells us that we need to come to a direct and felt understanding of a basic truth of human nature, which is the ultimately unsatisfactory nature of the contingent realities we encounter every day:
Desire full stop is always the desire of the Other.
It’s crucial for all of us to find a practice that will help us have a direct relationship with groundlessness,…a practice that will enable us to touch in with the transitoriness of our thoughts, our emotions, our car, our shoes, the paint job on our house. We can get used to the fleeting quality of life in a natural, gentle, even joyful way, by watching the seasons change, watching day turning to night, watching children grow up, watching sand castles dissolve back into the sea. But if we don’t find some way to make friends with groundlessness and the ever-changing energy of life, then we’ll always be struggling to find stability in a shifting world.
Pema Chodron, Living Beautifully
photo Karl and Ali
A little more on wandering in a desert or going through a barren or difficult period in our lives
Not knowing what to do is just as real and just as useful as knowing what to do.
Not knowing stops us from taking false directions. Not knowing what to do, we start to pay real attention. Just as people lost in the wilderness, on a cliff face or in a blizzard pay attention with a kind of acuity that they would not have if they thought they knew where they were. Why? Because for those who are really lost, their life depends on paying real attention. If you think you know where you are, you stop looking.
Is it the bowl that rolls around the pearl,
or is it the pearl that rolls around the bowl?
Is it the weather that is cold,
or is it the person who is cold?
Think neither cold nor heat — at that moment, where is the self to be found?
Dogen (1200 – 1253) commentary on Dongshan’s (807–869) koan “Cold and Heat”
Spring has started early in Ireland with some days very mild, blossoms already on the trees and daffodils in full bloom. However, everyday is different and today is forecast wet and windy. A weather that is always in motion, hot and cold…
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche said “there is no cure for hot and cold”. He meant that our lives have periods of good things and bad, things may go well but we still have self-doubt. Our minds seem to be always in motion – a succession of thoughts and emotions, good intentions and petty thoughts, kindness followed by self-seeking.
Pema Chodron used the phrase to encourage us not to struggle but rather relax into life as it is. In this way, we not only can stop the complaining that goes on in our mind, but also be pleasantly surprised by what the weather of a day blows into our lives:
The way to dissolve our resistance to life is to meet it face to face. When we feel resentment because the room is too hot, we could meet the heat and feel its fieriness and its heaviness. When we feel resentment because the room is too cold, we could meet the cold and feel its iciness and its bite. When we want to complain about the rain, we could feel its wetness instead. When we worry because the wind is shaking our windows, we could meet the wind and hear its sound. Cutting our expectations for a cure is a gift we can give ourselves. There is no cure for hot and cold. They will go on forever.
We like to think that we are in control and directing things…
Let go of all your assumptions
And the world will make perfect sense
In Buddhism, a definition of faith is the ability to keep our hearts open in the darkness of the unknown. The root of the word patience is a Latin verb for “suffer,” which in the ancient sense meant to hold, not to grasp but to bear, to tolerate without pushing away. Being patient doesn’t mean being passive. It means being attentive, willing to be available to what is happening, going on seeing, noticing how things change. When we aren’t wishing for something to be over, or when we aren’t freezing around an idea about what it is we are seeing, we see and hear more. We notice that nature has cycles, that each day is not the same length and quality, and that darkness passes. The meaning of life, the real purpose of our presence here, is being attentive, being willing to go on seeing and keeping our hearts open — not just for our sake but for the sake of others. We make ourselves available to life, opening our hearts to the passing flow of it, knowing we will blunder and get it wrong but sometimes right.
Tracy Cochran (with thanks to make believe boutique)
We cannot always control what happens in a day, but we can control how it affects us:
Just like a drop of water on a lotus leaf,
or in the same way as water on a red lily does not stick,
so too a wise person does not get hooked by
the seen, the heard, the sensed
The Buddha, Jara Sutra: Old Age