Sunday, June 28, 2015

In the Middle of Here and Now: On Practicing the Main Points


The next tenet gets at the heart of how I turned a corner in a troubled relationship and I'm trying to do the same with other problems:
This time, practice the main points.
I'll admit I needed a different translation, because my first thought about this was, "what time?" Turned to and found something that made more sense: "Practice what's important now." The brief explanation helped a lot as well:
"What's important right now is the level of attention you can bring to what you are experiencing. Nothing else really counts."
I turned to Judy Lief's great series on the Tricycle website next. I highly recommend you read that entire post. The whole thing resonated deeply for me, but two sentences in particular stood out:
"Loving-kindness is not just a warm fuzzy add-on, but it is the very core of the Buddhist path. Too much focus on self-improvement can make us even more self-centered, while what we really need to cultivate is greater love, compassion, and sympathy for our fellow suffering beings."
It brought to mind my favorite book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I'll leave it to you to read the synopsis of that fable-ish tale, but one moment of the book is particularly pertinent:
"Sullivan sighed, but he did not argue. 'I think I'll miss you, Jonathan,' was all he said.
'Sully, for shame!' Jonathan said in reproach, 'and don't be foolish! What are we trying to practice every day? If our friendship depends on things like space and time, then when we finally overcome space and time we've destroyed our own brotherhood. But overcome space and all we have is here, and overcome time and all we have left is now. And in the middle of here and now, don't you think we might see each other once or twice?'
Sullivan Seagull laughed in spite of himself. 'You crazy bird,' he said kindly."
According to that book (which I first read when I was a pre-teen and that has informed a lot of the adult I've become), love is the highest and hardest skill to practice. I know that book is a huge part of why I was primed and ready to think about "loving-kindness" as the core of my adopted religion.

Lief's advice for applying this slogan will be helpful since I struggle with loving-kindness:
"Loving-kindness begins simply, with connection. Notice in your interactions the ways in which you are continually connecting with and disconnecting from others. What draws you out of yourself? What causes you to pull back?"
So that's what I'll be working on. Until next time, namaste and all that.

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