November 2014 Graduate Meeting

Videos for this meeting:
Getting off the Hamster-Wheel of "Never Enough" by Tara Brach [5 min]
Happiness part 1 by Tara Brach [20 min]

   So, how can we achieve inner contentment? There are two methods. One method is to obtain everything that we want and desire - all the money, houses, and cars; the perfect mate; and the perfect body. The Dalai Lama has already pointed out the disadvantage of this approach; if our wants and desires remain unchecked, sooner or later we will run up against something that we want but can't have. The second, and more reliable, method is not to have what we want but rather to want and appreciate what we have.
           - from The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler

    I’ve gotten over being surprised that my internal life isn’t more smooth and peaceful than it is. I think I imagined, when I began meditating, that I’d become much more tranquil than I am. In the years since I’ve begun teaching Buddhist Concentration and Mindfulness meditations, I’ve often had students ask me how it feels to be peaceful all the time. I am eager to tell them that although I think I am wiser about the decisions that I make, and generally kinder, I am not peaceful all the time. By temperament, I am somewhat dramatic, and personality doesn’t change. I remain a passionate person. What happens in my family and what happens in the world are both important to me. I can’t imagine not being cheered by good news or saddened by bad news. I wouldn’t want it otherwise. I feel alive when I know that I care, that things matter. Although it is true that feeling cheered and saddened need not necessarily upset the mind’s balance, for me—perhaps because I startle easily—they often do.
    Still, I consider my meditation practice a success because of one crucial and definite change in me in the thirty years since I began. I now trust that even when what is happening to me is difficult and my response to it is painful, I will not suffer if I can keep my mind clear enough to keep my heart engaged. I know that my suffering begins whenever my mind, for whatever reason—the enormity or the suddenness of the challenge, its own exhausted state—becomes confused. In its confusion, it seems to forget everything it ever knew. It tells itself stories, alternatively angry (“This isn’t fair!”) or pitiful (“Poor me!”) or frightening (“I can’t stand it if things aren’t different!”). No inner voice of wisdom (“This is what is happening, it’s part of the whole spectrum of painful things that happen to human beings, and you can manage”) can make itself heard to soothe the distress. I continue to suffer, stumbling around in stories of discontent, until I catch myself, and stop, and allow myself to know, and deeply feel, that I am frightened or confused or disappointed or angry or tired or ashamed or sad—that “I’m in pain!” Then my own good heart, out of compassion, takes care of me. It all happens when I am able to say to myself (I honestly do use these very words), “Sweetheart, you are in pain. Relax. Take a breath. Let’s pay attention to what is happening. Then we’ll figure out what to do.”
           - from Happiness Is an Inside Job: Practicing for a Joyful LIfe by Sylvia Boorstein

    Back in seventh-century China, the Third Zen Patriarch said that to live without anxiety about non-perfection" is the key to genuine happiness.  We don’t have to get rid of our shortcomings before we love ourselves.  Seeing non-perfection as part of our shared humanity, we don’t have to take our flaws so personally, although we can take them as a gift to learn from. While granting ourselves forgiveness takes patience, as we practice lovingkindness, we plant the seeds that will flower in their own time.
    Embracing the totality of who we are means having compassion for our difficult-to-accept aspects. What we're doing is pulling out the second dart talked about in Step Four: When we're angry, not getting angry at our anger; when we're afraid, not being afraid of our fear; when we're jealous or petty, not getting caught up in condemning ourselves. Of course you'll make mistakes, but you don't have to throw out the baby with the bathwater. With understanding and compassion, let yourself be just as you are. Forgive yourself as you'd forgive someone else who is trying to do the best they can.
           - from Awakening Joy: 10 Steps to Happiness by James Baraz & Shoshana Alexander

Closing Thoughts

     One of the most satisfying feelings I know – and also one of the most growth-promoting experiences for the other person – comes from my appreciating this individual in the same way that I appreciate a sunset. People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you can let them be. In fact, perhaps the reason we can truly appreciate a sunset is that we cannot control it. When I look at a sunset as I did the other evening, I don’t find myself saying, “Soften the orange a little on the right hand corner, and put a bit more purple along the base, and use a little more pink in the cloud color.” I don’t do that. I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds.
           - Carl Rogers

First I was dying to finish high school and start college.
And then I was dying to finish college and start working.
And then I was dying to marry and have children.
And then I was dying to get the next promotion, complete the next big project.
And then I was dying to retire.
And now, I am dying...
And suddenly realize I forgot to live.
- Anonymous –