On Developing a Positive Relationship to Suffering

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It’s been a long while since I have written a blog post. I happen to be developing an e-course on “Living a Sacred, Fulfilling Life” and it seems that Life has been providing me with ample opportunities to move through my own curriculum.

One key idea in that curriculum with which I am being at this moment is transforming our relationship to suffering. As the Buddha realized, it is natural that, as human beings, we experience suffering because having that experience comes along with the grasping/desire-seeking parts of us that are hard-wired after millennia of human evolution. And as a means of coping, we have developed a resistance to the suffering caused by unfulfilled desires.

Even if the resistance automatically comes up, this does not mean that we do not have a choice as to how we react to that resistance and thus, to the suffering. We can begin to transform our relationship to our suffering such that it begins something positive from which we can learn.

So my mantra right now is: “May my suffering bring clarity and lead me back to my truth.”

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On the Nature of Recovery

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Today, I dragged myself to the “Heart of Recovery” Buddhist 12-Step group at the Berkeley Shambhala Center. I was resisting going, but with the encouragement of Jon, I just committed to showing up. I am glad that I went because I had a profound realization: I’ve been so focused on resisting and controlling my addiction that no energy was being devoted to my recovery. It was like I was in limbo in my war with myself.

In a text called Cool Water, by William Alexander, he talks about recovery as being a gift that is revealed to you. This made me think of all the ways I have expended energy on curbing my addiction rather than focusing that energy where it counts most: on my Self. I realized that recovery isn’t just about stopping an addiction. It’s about recovery of Self. It is about experiencing the same aliveness, clarity and vibrance inside of myself that I am beginning to experience without the haze of addiction.

All of a sudden, being in recovery wasn’t such a bad thing. In fact, it suddenly became a good lifelong process for recovering and awakening my Self. …

On The Value of Doubts

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Last night, as I sat with the continuing distress I have been experiencing the past few days, I was reminded of something:

Friction is the result of resistance. Stress, like friction, is the result of resisting to Life as it is.

When I remembered this, I relaxed a bit and breathed in the doubts about where my life is and where it is headed. I realized something else:

Doubts lead us to certainty.

When we can relate to our doubts as teachers, we are cued back into what really matters to us. They put us in the space where we are compelled to be reminded of what is most important.

The Price of Transformation

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I continue to be gripped by the irrational fear I have of abandonment. I want to let go of this fear. And yet, I’m clear that I’m holding on because doing so allows me to hold on to the sense of Self that I’ve created for myself over the years. We forget that identity is malleable, and in many ways, a function of the choices we make to survive in the world. That is the irony of identity. We construct a sense of who we are as if it is real; yet, to grow, we must let go of our hold on who we think we are in order to move towards another level of being.

Holy wisdom holds that we cannot serve two masters. We cannot hope to become the person we wish to be if we cling desperately to who we are. Eventually, we have to let go.

The price demanded of us for complete and total Transformation is all of us. …

True Bliss

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In five days, I’ll be going on a much-needed retreat, and sharing that experience with someone for whom I care very deeply. The entire situation is set up to deliver a memorable four days that could leave me walking on air.

Yet, as I shared with Noah, my intention for the weekend is not the feel-good feeling of having done some good work. The feel-good eventually wears off, and I look for the next feel-good “fix.” Rather, my intention is for Clarity, for being completely and fully in the present in such a way that I am free from the conditioned, unconscious ways of the ego.

This is where water as a metaphor for emotions is an apropos one. The waters of the surface churn or remain calm depending on the weather, or current circumstances, of our lives. Yet, when the water is still, and the mud and silt of living settle, we can see straight down the clear waters to the very depths of our being.

So it is that true Bliss is not about the short-lived feeling of euphoria; rather, it is about Clarity that elevates us above our human being to the truth of who we are.

What Works

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Noah and I were talking last night about the intensity of this astrological period and the concomitant upheaval it has promised. Conjoinings and squarings of various heavenly bodies has resulted in breakdowns in multiple aspects of our lives. I asserted, as I have on this blog, that suffering is a function of our resistance to reality. We resist reality often times because we simply are not willing to admit that something is not working. It almost feels like it’s easier to stay stuck because we are at least familiar (if not, comfortable) with the crap in our lives.

Accepting that “This isn’t working for me” is an act of courage that brings us back to reality. And in accepting, we are able to clearly see what can work for us.

Undivided

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My best friend and I continued a conversation today about our underlying beliefs about relationships, communication, conflict, etc., and how those inform and shape how we interact with others, especially in romantic relationships. The conversation got me thinking about how different our inner experiences – our thoughts and emotions – can differ from the reality we experience in the physical world.

Yet, if anything that my practice has taught me, it is that the task isn’t to somehow control our emotions nor is it to manipulate our outer reality to our making. For neither of those things is ever truly successful. Rather, our task is to allow the turbulence of our lives to settle so that we can see clearly that our inner and outer realities are two sides of the one life we experience. And in that brief moment when we truly experience our own life, … truly dwell in that perfect present moment, … we discover finally that we were never truly broken nor disconnected. We discover that what is inside and what is out there are all the same thing. …