Welcome to Mondo Samu - Questions and Answers about my self-work.

Mondō: "questions and answers"; a recorded collection of dialogues between a pupil and teacher.
Samu: Work service; meditation in work.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Thank you, Thay!

I started yesterday off giving my daughter a box of 120 crayons (and there is little in life more exciting for a child than that!) and then going for coffee near home.  At the coffee shop she drew pictures for the employees, each of whom always treat her like a princess.  We went home to prepare for her belated birthday party, and while cleaning out the coolers we rescued a little tree frog who spent the day in the bushes outside our house in a meditative pose.

Tremaine, the tree frog, Meditating on life.
We then spent the entire day at the pool for her 5th birthday party.  We had many friends and family around and I spent most of the time in the pool with a handful of 5 year old kids alternately attacking me, then "saving" me, from getting swept away on the "lazy river" tide pool (I guess is what it is).  It was a great day of family and friends and FUN! 

Then I mowed our yard as soon as I got home and we had family story-time before bed.  What a GREAT day!  I'm writing about it because there were two things that were very significant about the day for me.  One was that I was extremely mindful the entire day.  That kind of mindfulness is really wonderful.  To experience it all day, and to be aware of it, was just amazing.  For many, it may sound crazy that I'm even writing about something so utterly mundane.  For some it will make perfect sense.  And for those of us who have lived with obesity, it will sound like a dream.  If you're thinking "So what?!  I am in the present moment with my kids every day and play with them at the pool all the time!" then KEEP AT IT!  Good for you!  Many people live their whole lives without being fully aware of how wonderful it is.  If you're of that obese group, and you've excluded yourself from family fun because of size, self-image or simply lack of energy, then I would urge you to read "Savor" or ANY book by Thich Nhat Hanh.  The simple, clear wisdom he delivers is life altering.  It was for me anyhow. We zip through life so much, so fast.  It is nice, for me, to be learning to slow down, and pay attention. 

The second thing that was so amazing about this day was that 1 year ago, I would have complained all day long about being outside in the 100+ degree heat, would not have budged from beneath the meager shade of the tables umbrella.  I would NEVER have gotten IN the pool.  I would have been mindLESS all day and miserable.  Oh wait...I did....I did exactly that, this time last year.  We had her party at the same pool last year and I was miserable inside, outside and couldn't have been any less so to be around.  Now, one year and 105 pounds later, I'm so different in so many ways, and the day was absolutely amazing! 

And to think...a little bald guy in a robe started all this for me by instructing me to stare at an apple, while eating it mindfully, and see the universe within it.

So thank you Dr. Cheung, for your wisdom.  Thank you Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Buddha before you, for your simple, elegant, eloquent teachings and flicking the switch on in my head!

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Fist Full Of Water

I visited a couple of dear friends last week, for a few days, and I was amazed by how a certain theme seemed to run through the weekend.  What was supposed to be a weekend at a friends house, turned out to be a weekend overflowing with interwoven lessons all tied together with a common Dharma theme.  It was a little odd, and yet not at all odd, and it really effected me greatly.  I thought I might share a little about it here.

These friends are both Christians, though each follows a different path to their connection to the "Kingdom of God".  They also have kids.  They've chosen to provide their kids with a foundation in their Faith, but that has turned out to be a real challenge for one of them.  Without getting in to it too openly in this public forum, suffice it to say that they are at odds over this to a degree and want to resolve it, but have been struggling.  It doesn't matter why, the point is that they have this struggle and it's not getting resolved.

Add to that, a few other challenges.  We have a mutual friend who's lost in life and is creating challenges for himself and others due to his own dukkha.  We discussed work related problems that my friend is facing.  We discussed all manner of things.

The thing that struck me as so interesting, and compelling, about all this is that early on in the weekend we were discussing some people we know who are addicts.  In discussing how they've found God through recovery but now just seem to struggle with addiction to God, my friend mentioned how these folks we were discussing get caught up in their "White Light Experiences" where they "See God" and then spend their lives clinging to and chasing that.  He speaks with authority on the subject, I'll leave it at that.

We talked about how they seem to lose themselves in their religion rather than getting the point of it.  His point was that a lot of new Christians come to the religion in their lowest times, and they have some sort of religious experience (such as "seeing God") and then they spend the rest of their lives - or until they eventually "get it" - trying to cling to that experience.  Since we were talking specifically about addicts who find religion at the time, I agreed and said that I see the same thing in Buddhism.  I see a lot of Buddhists who experience an "enlightenment" moment, and then spend years trying to get back to that in their practice.  I said that they "have that moment, and then grasp and squeeze it" (this was how I conveyed attachment to him) until it runs through their hands like water, rather than cultivating the conditions for those moments to happen more often and learning from them when they do.

This theme, whether regarding addicts or workers or marriage, recurred over and over throughout the weekend, and in to the following week.  Each of these things that came up, ended with the realization that the person in question (sometimes one of us) was squeezing a moment of clarity rather than being present in that moment and learning from it.

I had the great pleasure of spending time with each of my friends individually over the course of the weekend, and was able to practice deep listening with them both.  Through that, and some mindful walking with them, I was able to witness my friends wife express her challenge verbally and openly and arrive at a solution which she credited me for helping her to see.  I didn't really do much, except listen and give her back what she had said to me, but in a slightly different way.  My advice essentially amounted to "You already know what you believe, you just need to stay connected to that in this situation instead of going in to it as if you are looking for what you already have!"

It was so beautiful and I felt privileged to be a part of this process for her. It remains to be seen if the solution will be effective, but at least when I left them they were both aware that they are aiming at the same target and had a new way of trying to work together to get there. Initially they were at a complete disconnect, feeling they were travelling in different directions.  When I left, mostly through deep listening, they were talking openly to each other about the matter and felt very connected.  Amazing.

Since I returned, we've spoken some more about the other issues that came up during the stay regarding some of our mutual friends and the challenges they face.  Also about the challenges those friends challenges are causing the two of us!  And again this theme of squeezing to tightly to what we want came up.  Both that we are grasping tightly to the outcome we want for our project, squeezing tightly to the idea of our friend as he once was rather than as he is now and to our desire for things to be other than they are seeming to be.

I guess all of this is really just a long winded way of saying that I was greatly enriched by watching the Dharma unfold over the last week, and being able to be keenly aware of suffering, of attachments and how they cause said suffering, and that letting go of those attachments leads to the cessation of that suffering.  It happens like this all around us, all the time.  It was a treasure to be so awake to it!

I feel as though I've only rambled here and not expressed my thoughts well, but I hope they've been of some use for you.  This quote from Thich Nhat Hanh came to mind often over the weekend as I thought of the interconnected nature of all these things:
"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realizes it is water."