Posted by: Upāsaka | 04/07/2020

Ingratitude

Today was my wife’s birthday. I don’t speak about her much anymore as there’s not a lot of change to report nor would it be uplifting or inspiring to do so. I have created heavy kamma with her in this life and I must have done the same in past ones as well because I can’t make sense of the hatred that never seems to lessen. Unless I am the least perceptive person ever to have been born (which is, I suppose, a distinct possibility) I can’t fathom how I do anything to deserve the unending scorn of this person.

Today for example I wished her happy birthday on multiple occasions (even when her first words to me were an insult), bought her a birthday cupcake and bagels to make the cake I had ordered an even bigger surprise. No thank you. No gracious acceptance. Instead, she complained that I only thought of myself on her birthday. So, after I had arranged a video call with her family I gave up. I went downstairs and wished her a happy birthday.

And, now, despite quarantine she and my kids have gone to a beach to celebrate. What am I looking for but writing this? I’m not sure but it is much harder to find balance within these four walls than it normally would be. This is my kamma however and to expect otherwise is foolish.

What I have to do is learn to be content with doing my best to practice Right Resolve in every situation. And when Blake or praise come my way I can see them as inconstant and just let go.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 04/05/2020

Right Intention

I have been getting progressively more upset and resentful of the limitations imposed by quarantine. I’m unable to workout in the way I’d like, to pursue the Kenpo and kickboxing training I had started in earnest and to find the solitude I feel I need. I have been at this long enough, however, to know that what I needed to do at this point was sit with this and v let it sort itself out.

During my meditation it slowly came to me that the element that was lacking and what was causing my suffering was simply the wrong intention. Why was I doing these things in the first place? What good is working out or martial arts if they aren’t being undertaken out of mettā and pañña? Whether these can be done out of these intentions may be another question altogether but I was clearly not even inclining the mind in that direction.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 04/03/2020

Times Are Tough

Bravery-Seneca

Times are tough and,  in all honesty, I only expect them to get tougher. Right now, blinded by the strange circumstances and stress of the COVID pandemic, it is easy to forget that we still have a climate racing towards catastrophe and an economy that will soon be in a full recession or depression. Knowing that, I think it’s it’s important to ask myself what I truly need to be happy?

I was texting with a bhikkhu friend last night who mentioned how glad he was to be a monk at a time like this when people like me stand to lose everything. As painful as that sounds, however, what is really mine anyway? These things, this apartment that I rent, these children who I love, feed and dote on — none of these are mine, they are uncertain and are subject to change at any time. I have no control over this. What I do have a modicum of control over and what I can develop is my attitude to these things. I can find an inner refuge that remain unaffected by the vicissitudes and that, more than anywhere else, is where I should put my energy.

May we meet the ripening of our kamma with bravery and wisdom. May we remain untroubled in the midst of catastrophe.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 04/02/2020

Mettā in Action

So, I posted the above in my lobby this morning. It feels equal parts vulnerable, dangerous and dorky but I really do feel it is necessary. People are sick and dying. People are afraid and alone. There are older people in my building who have to walk up twelve flights during good times. Now they have to worry about catching coronavirus and drowning in their lungs alone.

So, it took a little self-persuasion but what would it mean to practice mettā when one has no real fellow feeling? What good are words reduced to oneself in the dark if they don’t transform our hearts and change our behavior?

So, after meditation this morning I wrote up the note above and taped it in my building’s lobby. Still, I’m not a complete trusting rube, the number’s masked.

Be well everyone!

Posted by: Upāsaka | 04/01/2020

Happy Uposatha – Likes and Dislikes

Ajahn-Chah-Likes-DIslikes

I have decided to do what I know is necessary and for my long term benefit and put the focus on practice and contemplation for this observance day. I have become increasingly preoccupied with physical conditioning and my workout and training routine to the detriment of my Dhamma practice but I intend to change that today. Before I allow myself to do any workouts today I have determined to spend at least an hour in meditation. In addition, I will try to use any spare time to listen to Dhamma talks and read suttas and commentary. I have been focussing on the inessential when I should be focussing on the essentia.

May your uposatha be fruitful!

Posted by: Upāsaka | 03/30/2020

On Food

And indeed at each meal there is not one hazard for going wrong, but many. First of all, the man who eats more than he ought does wrong, and also the man who wallows in the pickles and sauces, and the man who prefers the sweeter foods to the more healthful ones, and the man who does not serve food of the same kind or amount to his guests as to himself.
– Musonius Rufus, Lecture XIIIB on Food

Since quarantine began in earnest I’ve been trying to eat one meal a day. And, although I’ve been largely successful on terms of frequency I have to admit that I have been allowing the craving to get the better of me. Not only do I eat large quantities but I have been binging on sweet foods as well. Clearly, I am not taking the Lord Buddha’s advice to view food as if one were wearing one’s own son’s flesh.

I don’t have much more to say on this account but simply wanted to confess my failing and make the commitment to do better. May we all be mindful of how we eat.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 03/29/2020

Admirable Friendship

My Post (40)

This morning I took a remote Kenpo class with my teacher Sifu Jack Shamburger at 4am and was left with a feeling of great respect and admiration for the man. Knowing that I’m unable to take any other classes later in the day due to my small apartment and abundance of children, he gladly agreed to this time. For his friendship and kindness I am truly grateful.

This got me thinking about loyalty an friendship and just how important it is in our lives and on the Path. Most of us committed Buddhists will recognize the following verse wherein the Lord Buddha corrects the Venerable Ananda about the status of friendship with regard to the Dhamma:

Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life.

Upaḍḍha Sutta (SN 45:2)

Clearly, associating with good friends is of the utmost importance whether we’re hoping to accomplish mundane ends or to achieve final liberation.

May you all find what you seek and be guided by true friends along the way.

 

 

Posted by: Upāsaka | 03/28/2020

Gratitude and COVID

Gratitude-Emerson

This morning, I woke up late (around 6m) and felt completely off. Most the processing of this pandemic seems to be taking place just below the ordinary level of consciousness so my dreams and the interstitial space between waking and sleep are filled with fear, dread and fantasmagoric visions of hospital beds and ventilators. Suffice it to say that the allergies or cold I’m dealing with along with the underlying sense of anxiety gave for a rough start indeed. Luckily, I happened upon an email from Ajahn Achalo sharing his thoughts on the current situation. I’ve included part that struck me deeply below:

What I’m about to say now might seem a bit extreme. But I’m simply sharing some of my own genuine reflections. We monks train in thinking like this. I have already deeply considered, that if I should catch the virus and then have to experience a painful death. I truly intend to be thinking of the things that happened in this life that I am grateful for, even if I may be coughing and gasping for air. Even if my lungs fill with fluid and consciousness begins to fade. I am determined not to focus upon that. But rather to be grateful for this entire lifetime and it’s opportunities, even while it slips away. I am determined to remember the happiest and most auspicious occasions, and will be determined to continue my practice in the very next life. If I cannot breath, I will pass from this life with the mental recitation of ‘Bud-dho’ resounding in the heart and mind. At least I have this firm resolution and aspiration. This kind of determination and multi life perspective makes the illness seem less scary. I’m simply not giving it the power to overwhelm me. Someone recently asked me if I was scared of the virus and I replied. ‘No, the virus is scared of me!’ Now I know that this is quite a stupid thing to say! But I refuse to live in fear.

I apologize for the length but I feel it’s necessary. The power of gratitude is something I have noticed time and again and my meditation practice and daily life has always seemed to improve when I faithfully practice it. In fact, without it, I seem to be incapable of formally practicing metta at all.

So, with gratitude in mind I was able to light a lamp to chase away the inky darkness of a mind preoccupied with illness and contagion. Further, I intend to take up this practice of appreciation and gratitude both during my daily sit and as outlined by Ajahn Achalo above. I have been truly blessed in this life to meet with the Teachings of the Lord Buddha and just reflecting on how the Dhamma literally saved my life brings incomparable brightness to the heart and mind.

May we be grateful for our blessings and for the strength our curses have allowed us to exercise. May we ever practice the Dhamma until we achieve complete liberation.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 03/27/2020

Metta and Strong Medicine

Image may contain: text

We’re now hearing reports of people our age beginning to die with increasing frequency hear in NYC. My wife has had a tightness in her chest and shortness of breath for the last two or three days and is increasingly worried that she contracted COVID from one of her midwifery clients. Luckily, she has no other symptoms.

Since childhood, if anyone I love tells me they’re feeling ill, I begin to somaticize and feel it in a similar way. So, I’ve been feeling tension in my chest that worsens over the course of the day but improves with rest and sleep. It’s strange but that’s how it’s been.

In the midst of this, there is my wife has been more angry, more irritable and more contemptuous than usual  and I’ finding it harder to take refuge in the Dhamma and regenerate metta and karuna. Luckily, a kalyanamitta shared the passage above this morning and it knocked some sense into me.

In this time, what but all-out, unconditional love and compassion would be the right response? Am I a disciple or a dilettante? Do I want to make this life mean something or am I just wasting my incredible good fortune?

Wishing you all health and happiness.

 

Posted by: Upāsaka | 03/26/2020

Disdain in a Pressure Cooker

My Post (37)

Who knew that I’d be stuck in a tiny apartment with someone who holds only the lowliest opinion of me as a pandemic rages outside the walls of our tenement? It’s hard not to believe that the universe has a sense of humor at times like this.

Suppose any man shall despise me. Let him look to that himself. But I will look to this, that I be not discovered doing or saying anything deserving of contempt.

Shall any man hate me? Let him look to it. But I will be mild and benevolent towards every man, and ready to show even him his mistake, not reproachfully, nor yet as making a display of my endurance, but nobly and honestly, like the great Phocion, unless indeed he only assumed it.

For the interior parts ought to be such, and a man ought to be seen by the gods neither dissatisfied with anything nor complaining.

For what evil is it to you, if you are now doing what is agreeable to your own nature, and are satisfied with that which at this moment is suitable to the Nature of the Universe, since you are a human being placed at your post in order that what is for the common advantage may be done in some way?

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 11.13 (tr Long)

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