Saturday, January 29, 2011

We are all "me in the middle"

I was thinking today, while listening to Zencast and jogging, that different religious traditions have different ways of dealing with our human frailties and limitations. Christianity calls them "sinfulness" while Buddhism calls them our human condition. Every religion -- every spiritual attitude -- must come to grips with the heights of human potential, and the depths of human limitations.

I say we are all trapped in this fleshy prison, whether we want to be or not. We all must see through just one pair of eyes, our own, and experience life from an extremely curtailed vantage point, within a human body. We must do all sorts of things to take care of the body, which is very demanding of air, water, food, way too much sleep, and a safe and temperate habitat ... not to mention lots of other things. Then there's all the other baggage: the feelings and desires that drag us this way or that, the mind that never ceases its "mindless chatter," the aches and pains of the afore-mentioned body, the intellectual limitations of the human brain.

And then ... and then ... if we are able to survive all that, we have the privilege of growing old and then dying! So there! At one point, the Zencast I was listening to mentioned a hospice unit where a 95-year-old woman found herself, and she kept saying, "Why me?" (Smile) Sorta like, how did I end up here? Yeah, why, indeed.

Jack Kornfield was the teacher of today's Zencast (actually, I think the date it was recorded was last fall sometime), and I just love him. He touches on the deeply important problems facing humanity, he sees them, yet he can transcend them all and find that peace that surpasses human understanding. Here's a link if you are curious: Jack Kornfield, Zencast

One of the things he said was that in this life, there is unspeakable beauty, and an ocean of tears. His teaching that I listened to today was "Freedom" (part I).

Now, Buddhists say it is a great privilege to be born human. This, too, is echoed in other religions. We are convinced that we are special. Why is that again?

I am just as trapped in myself as anybody. I have been feeling some escalating stress, mostly self-induced, that is if anything due to a hectic schedule. When I get like this, I have even less control of my mind. That's a frightening concept, since it routinely runs rampant like an energetic toddler anyhow. But under stress, one of its favorite tricks is to play annoying music ... one song ... over and over and over. Today, it's Taylor Swift's "Today was a fairytale." It started the minute I awoke and hasn't left me since. So, all I can do is to just let it play. Play it again!

So this morning, I decided it was time for a good little run and a dose of Zencast, my best friend in stressful times. This is my way of coping. Other people might reach out to friends and so on, while still other people reach for the bottle, or pills, etc. I am not particularly social, and my biggest addiction, besides exercise, is to coffee. (I got some of that too this morning.) I enjoy people up to a point, and then I find them annoying. But I still love you all, anyway! Really I do.

So, here are the messages I am getting lately about my own path in my personalized fleshy prison, here. I already told you about blooming where I have been planted. That one continues to come in really loud and clear, and I'm trying to be obedient to the call. Whatever I am doing, really engage in it and realize that it all has a purpose, and meaning. Even squeegeeing the shower! Be patient, allow the moment to unfold, stop hurrying so much.

The other fairly new message is that my passion is to write, and this is also a right intention and desire as I understand it. So perhaps I can let myself off the hook of trying to save the entire world, and allow myself to pursue this passion without feeling so guilty about all the other social actions I am neglecting.

I do see my writing as a social action, though I have no idea what the outcome of it is or will be. But that is true of all action. We can discern whether our intentions and motivations are pure (as pure as possible), and our action is right with respect to the world that is within our view. But we can never guarantee the outcome. That is up to much larger forces. Thus the saying, "No good deed goes unpunished." Our actions may not have the glowing results we imagine. They rarely do. We may feel we are doing no good at all, or in fact are causing harm. So we cannot cling to a desired result, but be willing to learn and modify our actions based on experience as we go.

Another mention of hospice in the Zencast was about someone who worked as a nurse in an AIDS unit back in the early days, when it was often not successfully treated. He wanted to save his patients, these young men, with modern medicine, but soon discovered he couldn't. So for a while, he felt useless and was in despair. But he was also in the habit of praying for his patients, lighting candles for them (a prayer habit my husband shares). Eventually, he realized that perhaps his reason for being there was so that none of his patients would die without having someone praying for them. And if you think that doesn't matter, think about the wonderful Tibetan hermits living in isolation, practicing complete compassion for the benefit of the entire world. I think maybe they are doing much more good than many do-gooders. Just thinking of them, I feel a wave of positive energy.

Since we are all stuck with ourselves, we have to figure out where our self meets up with all of creation, and how we can best be a part of this beautiful, amazing existence. So I don't apologize for all the introspection I routinely do. Self-awareness and enlightenment go together. Such is my belief, no, I have to say it more strongly than that. I have experienced that as reality, in a larger sense. Our selves are the crude tool we must use to engage with the world.

My enneagram retreat is next weekend, already. I seek to be prepared, but that's such a trick, that we can forecast the future and be prepared for it! Everything is change, change is continuous, and we are also part of that changefulness. OK, I'm not sure that's a word, but you know what I mean.


  1. Oh Julie what a wonderful thing you are experiencing. I have been meaning to write a post... All I have so far is the fleeting thought, which, when it came to me, rang so true. I am finally relaxing into my life. And today, a beautiful day, as I was driving toward a graveyard and thinking about death, I realized that when that comes I will relax into it also. I am not feeling "losing control" as often any more, more often I am feeling "letting go of control;" what a wonderful feeling.

  2. That is amazing and wonderful to hear.


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