“The saying ‘gaining is delusion, losing is enlightenment’ has very practical value. In our ordinary human life, we are always trying to fulfill our desires. We’re satisfied only when all our desires are met. In Buddhism, though, it’s just the opposite: it is important for us to leave our desires alone, without trying to fulfill them. If we push this one step further—gaining is delusion, losing is enlightenment [italics in original]—we’re talking about active participation in loss.” Page 153 of Kosho Uchiyama’s Opening the Hand of Thought
I think some of this means to not resist. It’s kind of like the bible saying, “If someone asks for your shirt, give him your cloak, too.”
Non-resistance is tough when life sucks. Those $400 repairs to my transmission will really be $700. The $400 quote was for parts. Which they don’t have yet.
What if your only desire is to not be broke?
Right now, my only desire is to cry.
The Three Poisons are greed, anger, and delusion. (Translations may vary.) The delusion I keep running across is the belief in stability. I see people everywhere saying that something is “the same yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever.” Politicians act like it is still 1955. Of course they make bad decisions: When their brain hasn’t been updated in 59 years, how relevant can their choices be?
Things have been tough lately. My husband’s sponsor and therapist have died. My car had $1,700 in repairs last week and still needs another $450 worth. Even the TV is having issues. I could panic and say the world is coming to an end (or perhaps just mine).
You start out with delusion, a mistaken opinion. Then you get greedy. “If I had this thing 10 years ago, perhaps I could have this related thing today.” When life does not cooperate and the denial bubble bursts, then comes the anger. (The stages of the grief process are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Screw with someone’s denial and watch the anger spew.) It is all so logical. “If A was true 10 years ago, A is still true today.” The problem is that A went away and never looked back. You may never see A again. The stability was always a fantasy, completely delusional. Perhaps it was a necessary illusion; perhaps not.
What the past few weeks have shown me are the advantages of being minimalist. I have been deliberately going fewer places and spending less money. This has made it much less difficult financially to deal with the current crises. Greed is anti-minimalism. Life has not been fun lately, but I refuse to make it unnecessarily complicated. I started being more minimalist a year or two ago. It is now paying financial and serenity dividends.
Things are rough right now. Barry’s sponsor died last Saturday. Today, I found out that his shrink died. The guy was jogging, had a heart attack, and died. It is a total shock for everyone that knew him.
My car is having serious issues. It has been noisy lately, but had been running fine. It actually started running strangely on the way to the mechanic. It’ll cost over $2,100 to fix. Are you kidding me?
My TV sent out a spark last night. Not good.
Impermanence is real. There is a Zen saying: “Gaining is delusion; losing is enlightenment.” I have the feeling I’m about to learn what that really means.
I am determined to face the reality of my life with no buffers. That is what Zen is about to me.
Something happened last night. I went to a different location for the blessing, the house of a woman visiting her daughter in California. The house had a peace I haven’t felt since I-don’t-know-when. Frankly, it radiated a warmth, love, and acceptance I have never felt in any church anywhere. While there, I thought, “Wow. There is so much healing and loving we can do before death.”
I still need help in cleaning my house, but I have found my inspiration. I have been looking inspiration for some time now. I hadn’t even known what I’d been looking for. That peace is available. With Barry’s sponsor’s death and the drama going on all around me, I have been just coping for a while. I had forgotten that peace existed. I doubt that I’ll ever be willing to live without it again. It’s one of those things that, once you get a taste, you can never pretend you never tasted. It was like going home emotionally and spiritually. No matter how bad things get, I know that this state is accessible. It can never not be there. It never went anywhere. I just got lost.
“As you continue to breathe deeply, you may begin to visualize some kind of constructive action. At first, it’s just a thought, but as time goes on, it becomes more appealing. Before long you really want to put all those newspapers in the recycle bin. But don’t give into the urge right away. Instead, keep breathing slowly in and out. The longer you do this, the harder it becomes not to take care of the newspaper. When you can’t stand it anymore you are ready to proceed.” One Thing at a Time: 100 Simple Ways to Live by Cindy Glovinsky
To some degree, this is how I live my life. I have to allow ideas percolate and motivation accumulate in order to have enough to keep me going. I have to feel like I can’t not do something. Then I am unstoppable. If something merely seems like a good idea, it is highly unlikely to ever get done.
My problem or issue with American consumer culture is that there are tons of outlets for urges, thereby dissipating all of them. That way, they never build up to a point of feeling urgent. The best intentions are forgotten with everything else that needs to be done that day. People get accustomed to having every urge satisfied and then there is no urgent need to do anything at all. Justice is easily ignored when every craving is fulfilled.
This is why, I believe, religions frown upon “dissipation” in its great variety of forms. Living a meaningful life is difficult in a sensual wonderland. Reducing the number of objects of attention is liberating and clarifying, as long as one does not proceed to live in an artificially-created tiny world that impacts no one. That’s the danger of monasticism. I appreciate Thich Nhat Hanh because he is a monk that lives in the real world. That balance is tough to come by.
I think this is why motivation is so hard for me to come by lately. I have gotten rid of so many things that there is little accumulation of anything. Hmmmmm……
“Samadhi has had many translations, among them concentration or single-mindedness. It is the place where there is no discrimination between you and zazen (subject and object merged).
I like Uchiyama Roshi’s translation of Samadhi as Right Acceptance. The deep acceptance of life as it is in each moment. This acceptance rests deep in our bodies. This acceptance allows us ease and the ability to patiently receive all that is happening both universal and particular. This acceptance really allows the self to settle into the self. The word settled is so evocative of the type of groundedness and stability that aligns with Samadhi.”
I need some Samadhi. Barry’s sponsor just died. Eventually, we will all be “grounded” in the sense of being put back into the ground. The groundedness spoken of is the opposite of living in my head, swirling in shame (which is just the flip side of pride). It sounds like humility, which comes etymologically from the Latin (?) word meaning “earth.” Acceptance is where it’s at. Not where I’m at, but where it’s at.
“This is called jijuyu Samadhi – the manifestation of simplicity.”
Something is Working.
Tonight I realized I forgot an appointment yesterday. I instantly felt shame. It is no wonder I forgot something because my brain has been overloaded.
Then, I thought, “Wait. How can I help myself feel better, seeing as I cannot fix the problem at this hour? I know: metta practice.”
Later, I did some metta and felt better. No need for shaming myself or an analysis of the shame.
I think I might truly be Buddhist now. I may have crossed some sort of threshold.
I have been overwhelmed lately. Dealing with Barry’s sponsor’s impending death has created an internal emptiness I was not prepared for. Also, my computer updated itself, thereby making internet access impossible once again. I took it to the store I bought it at (because I had forgotten how to uninstall updates). They showed me how again and I also wrote down the key for my anti-virus software.
I went home and un-installed the last couple months’ worth of updates. My computer hasn’t worked this well in, well, months. I did not have a virus. I’m contemplating un-installing all the updates I can. Every last glitch has come from a Microsoft update, as near as I can tell so far. Every. Single. One. Wow.
Yesterday reminds me of a saying by a favorite Christian lady evangelist: once you’re in over your head, it doesn’t matter how deep you go. Life contains many things that a person has no control over, but much of the drama we deal with is manufactured for someone else’s profit. It can take some thought and discernment to figure out how much in life is inevitable versus how much we can avoid simply by making more conscious choices (like driving less when gas prices spike, or taking public transportation).
This is where simplifying one’s life clarifies issues. Getting rid of stuff has made my real needs so much more obvious. I can look at problems and see what I can and can’t do. Death? Not much I can change about that. Computer questions? Go to Staples. Too many commitments? Do some cancelling. Spider webs in hard to reach areas? Where’s the broom?
Impermanence is real. Security is not. Barry’s primary sponsor is on his deathbed. We just replaced the garbage disposal. You can’t rely on even the tiniest details. Anything you commit to is decaying already.
I’ve been thinking for the past few months about hospice: being a volunteer someday, using my listening skills, etc. I had no idea Dave would be so close to dying so soon.
The ironies are sharp. Barry was diagnosed with stage four cancer six years ago. Dave was diagnosed with cancer (stage ?) about a year ago. Barry was sitting next to Dave’s bed. Dave looked comparatively robust, even lacking consistent consciousness. Barry probably doesn’t tip the scales at 140 pounds anymore. This horrendously skinny person could outlive this bigger guy by a couple years. I’ve been emotionally preparing for Barry’s death for years. This has to be a shock to Dave’s wife.
Madison Avenue’s values are so empty. I can’t go online without seeing at least as many commercials as watching TV. For products that contribute nothing to people’s quality of life. The mask has been ripped off. What’s behind it? Nothing, as near as I can tell. Only the mask is “real”, hiding a hungry ghost.
The other day, I could not get online at the local café. The last thing I had done online was to “update” my computer. I think it erected some sort of firewall. To try to fix the issue, I “restored” my computer to basically undo the last significant action, the “critical” update. Voila. I could get online. In other words, the “critical” update made internet access, and therefore the usefulness of the laptop itself, impossible.
What is the lesson? I think it was Mark Twain that said something like, “It’s not what you don’t know that causes you problems. It’s those things you know for sure that just ain’t so.” To be functional, sometimes you need to undo some of the damaging things done to you, even and especially, by trusted sources.
I have been learning how to prevent and deal with trauma. We could all spend the rest of our lives trying to undo the damage done to us and others. Perhaps that’s what we’re here for today.