Shamatha Retreat with Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche Portugal, 13th May
Precious teachings tonight, bringing so much to work with at the very end of the Shamatha retreat. So many of the stories that JKR shared in a short session of one hour got me thinking in many directions … I’m not sure if i can formulate most of them in a comprehensive way, but I need to put it down in writing (typing on my phone as the thoughts are already slipping away), at least some of them.
It really felt like I needed to hear some of the stories he had to say right here and right now. The main issue was very much connected to my challenges, especially in these last few days.
Rinpoche was talking about dependence and how we are slaves to our bodies, the five senses and the resulting emotions.
Often, we are completely under their control instead of it being the other way around.
Let us begin by taking a very obvious example, an alcoholic and his dependence on alcohol.
Consider the bottle, a glass container which has a liquid with a certain percentage of alcohol – in itself it is neither bad or good. It’s just a bottle containing alcohol.
If we take the man on the other side, he is just a man.
It is his “relation” to alcohol, his dependence, that constitutes a problem, once he feels he “needs” the alcohol and the thought of not having it is utterly disturbing to him.
This is how we recognize attachment, neurotic attachment to an object, person, concept etc. And our attachment is closely linked to our ego.
Our modern society is literally filled with things that aim to distract us from two things: a deeply rooted feeling of loneliness and a well hidden sense of boredom.
Most of the things we do in our every day lives, we do in order to avoid the deep felt loneliness or boredom. Either to avoid them by distracting ourselves from looking into them, or to make ourselves feel numb, to numb the suffering or restless feeling which they cause us.
This is why the practice of sitting (meditating) is so important for our well-being. Our feelings and the chaos connected to loneliness and boredom are not going to disappear unless we learn to sit with them. By learning to sit, we learn to observe our mind with honesty and with kindness.
Not making any emotions that occur during the meditation into our “enemies” and not indulging in them either.
By accepting the feeling of loneliness and boredom, we learn to accept ourselves, we befriend ourselves and we do not indulge into activities aimed to “cover them up”.
We start slowly. Each minute, or even each second spent sitting is a great progress.
One second not spent running away from the deeply routed pain.
One second more, spent being kind to ourselves and feeling the tightness in our bellies softening up.
Sitting with our emotions is the most constructive activity of not doing anything, so to speak.
Because it helps us to befriend our own self and practice kindness to ourselves, in time it helps us to be better to others as well. It reminded me of what Chogyam Trungpa says in “Shambhala, The Path of the Warrior”, that with the practice of meditation we learn to center ourselves and sit with any kind of emotion. With this practice we build gradually immense strength, we are firmly sitting in our saddle, so that no matter what type of disturbing emotion arises, we are not thrown off our saddle.
It seems to me that the first step here is honesty. Being honest with ourselves and being honest about what we are looking at. Being honest to recognize our patterns, our destructive behavior.
I find it breathtakingly beautiful and deeply inspiring when I can witness such honesty. There is amazing strength in the act of truly embracing our core vulnerabilities and insecurities. It requires tremendous courage and persistence, and witnessing that we are capable of such beautiful strength gives us even more motivation, self-confidence on the path.
I think this feeling of loneliness is something we can all identify with, if we are prepared to start uncovering the layers under which we are hiding.
Layer by layer…
All these layers are obscurations to our mind, covering up what ego wants and doesn’t want. And ego is very good at doing that, self-preservation by deception.
We are all masters at sweeping the dust under the carpet, because we are afraid to deal with the dirt. We are scared of getting our hands dirty.
I wonder if we are afraid of more pain or if it is simply a feeling of not being able to face what is at the bottom of the pit. The loneliness, the boredom … All the negative thoughts that manifest from them, feeling inadequate, not good enough, isolated, …
How tricky they all are into disguising and wearing make up, manifesting as over confidence or control freakish behavior… But no matter the disguise in which they appear, paradoxically we all have these same deeply rooted feelings of loneliness.
In this, we are also connected, but we fail to see this on a deeper level or even on an intellectual one.
Instead of constantly asking for “input” from outside to further delude ourselves in our own narrative and to appease the insecurities, instead of feeling inadequate or alone, constantly seeking validation and praise, wanting to be *heard*, *understood*, *accepted*, *loved*, we simply need to learn to sit with it and recognize how in itself we are all interconnected.
We need to accept ourselves before we start blackmailing others by saying “I’m like this, so you need to accept me as I am or…”… We wouldn’t need to use this IF, had we we accepted ourselves ti beguin with.
Honestly accepting ourselves is really vital.
I love the definition of mindfulness: non-judgmental self-awareness. Those few words are very self-explanatory, straight to the point.
It is with the practice of Shamatha that we learn to accept ourselves and transcend the limitations and obscurations of what we think is reality.
The reality we perceive is a concoction of our ego, or to be more concrete, our wants and needs. Most of the things we perceive in our own reality are in connection to us and our needs. If it wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t get upset or experience disturbing emotions. A person is a person. They become bad or good only in relation to our needs and expectations, or how they succeed to fulfill them or fail to do so.
Love, or what we call love, is a perfect example. In its pure form love is not connected to me or what I want. Loving a person means wishing them to be happy.
But because my reality is based on “me and my needs”, most times when we experience love its tainted by our expectations … Because we yearn for someone to further indulge us in our major cover up, to play along with the farce for a while. That is not love. That is not happiness. Happiness is a permanent state of being.
How can happiness depend on anything outside of ourselves? That would make it by definition impermanent. And everything that is impermanent is bound to cause us suffering, at some point.
So then, happiness (enlightenment) is what is already there. We can’t create it (this would also imply impermanence), it’s already there, covered up with all those layers. We are just wearing 20 t-shirts at a time.
With the practice of meditation, we SLOWLY learn to be with ourselves. Even this is amazing in itself, because it means we don’t hastily act on our emotions or “act out”, causing suffering to others, with our words and actions!
By learning to sit we are already practicing compassion. On ourselves and so, on others.
With time we develop a sharp eye that recognizes the cover ups and faces them. This in itself is a great act of courage.
With the practice of meditation, we learn to be patient with ourselves. Even on the simple levels, when a pain occurs in the body, an itch, we negotiate with it, with kindness and patience. “I will scratch you in 5 mins …”. Then in 5 min the same negotiation takes place and before you know it, you don’t need to scratch the spot, as the sensation has moved elsewhere. Everything changes moment by moment and we learn to observe it in the simplest way. We learn not to be slaves to our bodies anymore. Not to be slaves to our emotions.
We slowly remove layer after layer and we can experience the space that comes with it.
The lack of needing to rush out and numb the pain.
We connect with our own potential for goodness.
Each time we inject our painful spots with acceptance and love, they soften up a little bit, we experience moments of grace and beauty.
This is the remedy for the feeling of loneliness and boredom.
Connecting with our true nature, our potential for good, for love, …
In the end, once we peel off all the layers, we uncover what is already there at each moment, ready to be experienced inside us, the grains for happiness are always with us. The true nature of our mind , unobscured and free of fear, the Buddha nature, is just waiting to be uncovered, it is already there.