Sunday, August 31, 2014

You Hold the Antidote

During a nap today, I dreamed that a certain breed of venomous snake was killing many people. I discovered that my blood contained a natural antidote to the snake's toxin, and this antidote could be extracted and shared.

In Tibetan Buddhist iconography, the snake is often a symbol of aggression and its destructive power.

The venomous snake is running wild through our world today, breeding out of control, biting people and injecting them with the toxin of aggression. The poisons of anger, hatred and violence are destroying human lives in untold numbers every day, in every part of the world, and in some places the violence seems to be reaching epidemic proportions. 

Every human being has within them the antidote to the poisons of aggression and violence. No matter who we are or where we come from, deep down in our blood there is the same wish for peace, for happiness, for well-being, for harmony. 

There is a great responsibility carried by those who have recognized that we hold within us the antidote to the poison of aggression and violence that is burning down our world. We must do whatever we can to share that antidote with others. We begin by cultivating and nourishing within ourselves the seeds of peace, and sharing that peace with others, one person at a time. It starts with each of us, and it ripples out through our interactions with everyone we know. 

It may not seem like we can do much when we look at the scale of violence that is happening in the world. But to the person next to you who is bitten by the snake and suffering, it doesn't matter how many other people have been bitten in places near or far. They just need one person to show them the antidote that already exists within them. 

They just need you. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Return to Silence

How can I speak to You, when You are not separate from me?
I want to pray to You, but prayer would be distance,
someone smaller praying to someone bigger,
requesting admission into the vast open arms of the Other.
My mistake was to believe I was somewhere else.
It has felt like that until now.
I know the pain of feeling small and separate from You.
The torment of little "me" and all my tiresome stories,
constricting like a boa around the neck of my own fictional self.
"Let this curse be lifted." That would be my prayer,
but I don't know how to pray to You, or if prayer is even possible.
For just now, when I grow very still, very silent, then prayer
seems beside the point. In this stillness, this silence,
You are already here, and the one who would pray to You
is nothing other than You. Prayers are only words, after all,
and in Your presence words fly away. They dissolve
and lose meaning. Where words were, there is only This.
But even "This" is a word, a mistake, a label
with which "I" try to contain "You," the Limitless.
And so the only form of prayer that seems authentic
is to remain silent, to rest in stillness, not asking for anything.
For only then can my prayer be answered.
Only through silence is the one true Word ever spoken.
Only then can I see that "You" and "I" were never two, never apart.
The small, tragic story of "me" is a dream, and I am a dream figure.
You are the One dreaming. Let me awaken within the dream.
The little, separate "me" is a figment, just the boa of mind's habits
constricting around a non-existent center within empty space.
May the snake let go and relax into freedom and peace at last.
Never let me forget that these dream eyes are Your eyes.
This dream body is Your body. These dream feet are Your feet.
But now I am praying to You again, recreating the illusion of distance,
where there is none. You are here, now. It is This. Only This.
Let me return to silence, and hear what You are already saying.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

On Meditation and the Future of Humanity

Do you find it unpleasant to be alone in a room with your thoughts for just 10 minutes, with no smartphone or other distractions to keep your mind occupied?

Apparently, most people do.

A recent article by Kate Murphy in The New York Times examined how excruciating it is for the average person to simply be alone with their own thoughts. Citing a study published in the journal Science, involving 11 experiments and more than 700 people, Murphy writes that "the majority of participants reported that they found it unpleasant to be alone in a room with their thoughts for just 6 to 15 minutes."

Even more alarmingly, in one of the experiments, "64 percent of men and 15 percent of women began self-administering electric shocks when left alone to think."

I ask you to pause for a moment and consider the implications of that: A vast swath of human beings find it so incredibly unpleasant to be alone with their own thoughts that they will resort instead to shocking themselves with painful electric currents simply to have something — anything, even something unpleasant — to redirect their attention.

Most of the time, we don't have to go to such extreme lengths to avoid introspection. That's because we never bother to go there in the first place.

As a society, we've become masters of staying busy all the time, always distracted and plugged in and entertained. We never have a moment to think, and when we do, we are programmed to reach for a familiar device or an activity or an experience to fill up the empty space.

"Our habitual tendency is to always be busy, doing something, changing something, or cultivating something," says the 17th Karmapa. "Therefore when somebody asks us to just relax, to just be natural, it is very difficult for us to actually understand how to do that."

Watch your mind closely the next time you step into an elevator and the door closes. During those 20 seconds of in-between space, in which nothing much happens, how strong is the impulse to reach into your pocket and check your mobile phone? Or is it already in your hand?

Murphy speculates that the reason we find it so unpleasant to be alone with our thoughts is because, given the opportunity, our minds tend to veer towards darkness: we begin to ruminate on our worries, our frustrations, our fears, our doubts and existential questions. Left to our own devices, we begin to make contact with our shadow, and our shadow is naturally something we experience as unpleasant because it is (by definition) composed of all the things we don't want to think about.