Sunday, August 24, 2014

Being Present: On All Dharma

Yes, it's been a while. All the energy I'd been devoting to this blog got sidetracked into a class I was taking - a great class that was interesting and that will serve me well professionally. Every week I looked at this blog, took a deep breath, and pulled out my homework instead. For those of you who've been reading Lojong Ruminations steadily, I'm sorry for the long silence. The class is over and I'm back for now,

Now, onto the new tenet...

It's a short, simple slogan this time:
All dharma agrees at one point.
My journey with lojong has taught me to reserve judgement until I've read the commentaries and given my brain a chance to mull it over, and this time was no different. From, I got a succinct summary:
"Presence is the one aim of all practice instructions. Forget about measuring your achievement and rely on the single question: Can I experience what is arising right now?" (Source.)
A good starting point, since being in the moment instead of worrying about the future or the past is part of what brought me to this religion. Turning to Tricycle, I found a bit more depth. Lief posits that this tenet is about how we judge ourselves and others in our application and pursuit of Buddhism.
"There are a lot of trappings in the realm of spirituality. Some teachers have many followers and others only a few. There are all sorts of costumes, titles, and robes. Teachers compete for students, and students evaluate teachers and sanghas by all kinds of criteria. Sometimes one style of Buddhism becomes trendy for a while and then fades out of fashion. Cultural and gender biases abound. People speculate on how enlightened this teacher or that may be, and look for signs of official recognition, status, and power. So what should we look for in a teacher or a sangha?" (Source.) 
Since I have neither sangha (I've tried a couple of groups in this area, but none felt like a good fit.) nor teacher, unless you count my few Buddhist friends who occasionally make recommendations for readings or the authors of those readings, I have had to be my own sangha and my own teacher. This means I'm left thinking about how I measure myself.

When I measure myself, I think about how I feel/act/think now versus four or five years ago when I first found the writings of Pema Chodron. I know I've become more myself in that time, more comfortable in my skin, more in tune with who I want to be/am as opposed to who others expect me to be. I also know I have a long way to go. The ideal I have in mind is based on what I see from non-human animals. Whenever I see a squirrel or an owl or a crow or even my cat, I can tell the squirrel/owl/crow/cat is completely in the moment. If the squirrel is hungry, it eats. If the owl is tired, it sleeps. If the crow is curious, it investigates. If the cat is happy, it purrs. And it is that ever-present way of living to which I aspire.

Lief suggests a way to become more aware of what is happening when you've stepped away from the present:
"As you go about your day, try to pay attention to the points when your solid sense of separateness is provoked. Notice the thoughts and sensations that arise with reactions such as defensiveness and territoriality.  Pay attention to the thoughts and sensations arise when something has drawn you out, beyond your self-absorption." (Same source as above.)
So that's what I'll be doing this week. Until next time, namaste and all that.