Running around, looking for my Buddha nature

I’m up early. Before the crack of dawn. I love it. I feel energized and excited about a new day, about being alive and having the opportunity to contribute, learn, and receive.

I get dressed and make my tea. Green tea. Yum.

Then I hear the alarm on my phone go off. First softly, then loudly. I rush toward the sound, I don’t want my husband to wake up. It gets louder, the closer I get to the bathroom.

As soon as I think I am getting close, the sound fades. Shoot! So where is it? I don’t want it to go off next to his ear. I feel relieved to hear it again, in the kitchen. That makes sense, it must be on the counter, where I made my tea.

And again, as soon as I think I am close, the sound subsides. No! My husband worked late last night and needs his sleep. Where is my phone?!

The sound increases, in the dining room. I look around, more frantic now. Nothing to be found nowhere.

Then it dawns on me. My cell phone has been in my pocket the whole time.

My alarm sounds like ocean waves rolling on the beach: softer and louder with each wave coming in and fading away. The precious thing I was looking for, was right there in my jeans all the time.

It made me think of a story Pema Chodron tells in “When Things Fall Apart”. It’s about a woman who’s sent out into the world with only a coat. She ends up destitute, with no means to support even her basic needs for survival. She complains about her poverty. Her coat goes to shreds, and in the hem she finds diamonds. Plenty enough to sell and support her.

That woman is me, running around, looking for my Buddha nature, my Christ essence, my basic goodness. All the while, I’m stuck in my anger, fear, jealousy, and judge myself for having these feelings.

I hope there comes a moment where I realize that I had Buddha nature all along, buried in my hardened heart. The place where I stop, connect, and celebrate my innate compassionate nature. Where I acknowledge my love, care and gratitude as “enough conditions to be happy”. Where I see my happiness and suffering as expressions of our shared humanity.

Our shared humanity with people I like, and people I don’t like. People who think and vote like me, and people who do the opposite. People whose words and actions are in alignment with my values, and people who speak and act in ways that conflict with my dreams for our world.

I imagine that when I am grounded in my own goodness, I can offer my insight to help others see theirs. To help them pause, take a breath, and smile at life.

I think that thàt is the best gift I can give to others.

Buddha of suffering

“If when I die, the moment I’m dying, if I suffer that is all right, you know; that is suffering Buddha. No confusion in it. Maybe everyone will struggle because of the physical agony or spiritual agony, too. But that is all right, that is not a problem.” Shunrya Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

Image courtesy to Robert Boni: Shunryu SuzukiBuddha of suffering.

I feel so relieved when I read this quote. There are just many Buddha’s, not just the peaceful one. Buddha of confusion. Buddha of stuckness. Buddha of anger and fear.

Being on a path of mindfulness and compassion doesn’t mean that we feel happy, peaceful, and open all the time. Even Thich Nhat Hanh writes about moments of anger and sadness in his life. Being on a path of mindfulness and compassion just means that: being mindful and compassionate of all that arises. Our sadness, our fear, our anger, our jealousy, our depression. Embracing all feelings with love and care, no discrimination. Using our experiences to really understand what it means to be a human being. “Oh, this is what anger looks like. This is how it feels in my body. These are the thoughts that come with it. These are the impulses that grab me.”

Usually we aren’t in this space of openness. We have an aversion to our unpleasant feelings. We want them to go away, and we will go to great lengths to get rid of them, yelling, slashing out, blaming included. Or, we have an attachment to our pleasant feelings. We want to be happy, peaceful, calm all the time, and we hate it when these feelings disappear. Or, we are deluded and ignorant of what’s going on inside us. We zap our time away, drink, drug, sugar coat our experience, or lose ourselves in mindless reading, talking, gaming, watching television.

Aversion, attachment, delusion, the three causes of suffering according to Buddhism.

The less we can stand our feelings, the less able we are to connect with people and situations with openness. Instead of being penetrated by our feelings, and standing our discomfort, we look for a scapegoat, someone we can blame for our suffering. We want to make them wrong, hoping this will make our experience better. We are unable to observe clearly and truthfully, and start creating enemy images in our head.

If we want to connect to the reality of life, we better learn how to accept our feelings. Then we can separate our pain and suffering from the trigger, and look deeply into the causes of our suffering. We might have wrongful thinking. We might carry emotional trauma. We might have unmet needs. When we stand our feelings, we can see the causes of our suffering, and we can connect to the beautiful, precious, universal needs underneath our feelings. Then, and only then, can we make requests that enriches all life.

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