July 19 Update:
I’d feel a bit of a hypocrite if I didn’t note that soon after I wrote this I had a instant brain-melt. This is the humor of karma. I am happy to report, however, that I was in observer mode and while melting was also fascinated by all the physical ‘symptoms’: shaking (especially my hands), aching gut-approaching nausea, red flushed face that was hot to the touch, and shortness of breath. It all sorted out quickly and maybe the awareness facilitated that. As always, the journey continues.
Thirty-five years ago I became a Buddhist. I followed the dogma for a couple of decades but after 2002 I went my own way; however, there are some practices that are for a lifetime, Buddhist or not. The Brahma Viharas is the number one practice I still work on, every week if not every single day.
The Brahma Viharas are sublime expressions of love.
There are four focus areas:
- Loving Kindness (Metta)
- Empathetic Joy (Mudita)
- Absolute Compassion (Karuna)
- Equanimity (Upekkha)
They are all difficult but Equanimity is, for me, the hardest. Staying calm when the mind is going the opposite direction is tremendously difficult.
To help with that there are these steps:
- Accept and Allow
- Physically Relax
- Let it flow, let it move through you.
- Let go of identifying with the feeling.
- Be patient, it’s going to take awhile.
- Don’t let the ego get involved and add extra drama.
There is much written about about this all over the web from more learned scholars so please search and learn more about it from them if you’re interested in all the complex details.
I once asked my son to give me a hard time so I could use that in order to practice the steps. He said, No. 🙂 But, no worries, because life always offers plenty of situations for practice.
Now, more than ever, with so much turmoil and unknowns facing me I rely on this practice daily. It is probably obvious to others when I miss a day. And I do miss days because it’s easy to get caught up and forget to be the observer. It’s almost a contradiction – staying present while in painful moments.. how do you both stay present and detached?
Diving into Buddhist concepts and practices can be overwhelming due to their depth and breadth – the more you learn the less you know. Sometimes a very simple story can be the best explanation, such as this:
Note: Ignorance is one of the Three Unwholesome Roots. Poisons to your health and happiness.
Even if you know you’re in the midst of chaos, confusion, physical or emotional pain, being aware that you’re in the midst of it can help. The more you practice being the observer the easier it gets. The ignorance lessens.
Understanding Impermanence is extremely helpful, as well. When something is wonderful we want to hang on to it. But nothing stays the same. Life moves on and so must we.
The political chaos will also change, this turmoil will eventually pass. Keep in touch with your Metta, Mudita, and Karuna … stay the High Road.
You can actually live with those very difficult emotions when you realize they’re like the stormy weather, here only temporarily. I recognize that’s much easier said than done, believe me.
If Buddhist stuff doesn’t strum a chord with you perhaps something more scientific, like this:
Or maybe this one:
We are surrounded by so much right now that it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is there. It may not resolve the way we like or want but that’s another problem for another day.
“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”