Jun 10, 2013
Notes: Fran shared at Sangha from Pema Chodron Omega weekend Retreat in Rhinebeck, NY
Hello all, On Friday, June 7, I shared with our Sangha some of the teachings which I gleaned from an amazing weekend at the Omega Institute with Ani Pema Chodron. Here is some of what I shared. I hope it is as helpful to you as it has been for me. Please understand that everything here is almost directly quoted from Ani Pema and she should be given full credit. Fran Pema Chodron May 17-19, 2013 Omega Institute The Marks of Our Existence I.Impermanence and Death Impermanence: everything that comes together falls apart. This is a fact of life. Can you imagine your vulnerability (tenderness/ability to love) as a source of strength? When we avoid the hard things (discomfort) we are avoiding life itself just as it is. Strength is not a bubble of safety or putting on armor – it is opening to the discomfort, developing the courage we naturally have. The more we try to protect ourselves from pain the weaker we become, the more fragile, the less alive. Embrace vulnerability! How open are you to the inevitabililty of change? ** Expecting stability, certainty, security in a fluid world is a set up for disappointment and unnecessary suffering. YOUR preconception of how something is going to go... the permanent view we tend to have – cuts us off from being there as life actually unfolds. Be curious about how life unfolds and be there, be alive in the process. So what do we do when the rawness comes up? Send unconditional acceptance and warmth towards that pain vs: criticizing yourself. So it's not: it's their fault it's my fault it is sending kindness and acceptance to this painful time. And then see what happens! You are uncovering the flexibility and fluidity of your mind. The reason we have suffering is there is a discrepancy between how we assume the world is and how we find it actually is. So when our understanding matches what IS, we don't have that same anxiety = wisdom! II.Egolessness The impermanence of ego, of self. But it isn't as if there is a self that exists and then ceases to exist. The slippery part is that it never existed to begin with. We all carry a strong sense of “me”. It feels permanent. It feels separate. We live in a me and a non-me experience of life. There is no permanent fixed separate self BUT there IS ongoing experience. Our senses are ongoing, our thinking is ongoing. That is not being refuted or denied. (Pema: I was SO glad to hear that!) But this fixed sense of me, grasping - we freeze and fixate we have views and opinions, biases, prejudices, a strong sense of right and wrong. - we FREEZE our senses and experience into something very definite - like when our minds say “it is like THIS” or your partner says “it is like THAT”. Vs: Egolessness = the fluidity, the dynamic, the unpindownableness of me - there is not fixed permanent self. This is a shift in how we perceive ourselves and the world. Am I exactly the same as I was when I had breakfast? All this time I am experiencing senses, thoughts, emotions...it does not stay the same. The fact that it all changes means the ultimate possibilty for freshness, creativity, always dynamic, alive. We meditate - “trying to achieve a state of okayness” - which doesn't exist, BTW! Instead: open to the fullness of being alive. You DO feel whatever it is, but it doesn't define who you are. We are constantly changing. Practically speaking: the barometer of ego – to tell when we begin to fixate and grasp we experience it as CONTRACTION notice when you want something or push something away. * it is accompanied by a feeling of contraction. Shenpa- Tibetan = attachment – a feeling of being hooked So when you have that sense – CONTACT that feeling of contration, of ego experience the feeling and then EXPAND rather than pull back... move toward, lean in rather than tighten.... loosen you don't have to find ways to contract (the felt sense of shenpa) – it will happen! You “just” have to notice. It does get easier. So then what do you do? Expand! Some possibilities for expanding: *open your arms wide! *Smile (things you do physically can change your frame of mind). *Notice your body is slumping and tense, so sit up! Change how you are holding yourself. *Open up your sense perceptions- LISTEN intently this takes you out of your narrow I am in this frozen moment and allows you to flow again. A sense of returning home and a natural state. *Exaggerate the sense of contraction and then RELEASE *send kindness and warmth to yourself as the contracted, fearful self “Place the fearful mind in the cradle of loving kindness.” Chogram Trungpa Rinpoche *Breathe You go from the log jam in the river to letting things flow again. Open your state of mind. So notice the contraction. Then expand. The main thing is being really honest with yourself. With anything that is hard, use it as an Opportunity. FEEL the contraction. Start with the rawness. Then try experimenting with expanding. Then instead of an obstacle to your awakening, it becomes the means. Fundamentally we are all good and do not need to be fixed. Tim Olmsted Saturday pm Finding where we are contracted and opening up THIS is the MIT! All the teachings are in the service of that. The thing is we are not opening up to something else. It already exists- our basic goodness- we don't have to create it, but rediscover it. III. Suffering Ani Pema's talk comes from Trungpa Rinpoche “Suffering becomes the path” There is a tendency to avoid suffering, ours and everyone else's. kinds of suffering Physical – illness, joints, teeth, etc, no part of the body is spared this is shared Mental not getting what you want, getting what you don't want Collective – ie NYC 9/11 people in war countries. Being born Jewish in 1936 Germany Unique personal suffering something that triggers your propensity we have a conscious or unconscious tendency to not want to deal with it. The Buddha taught that the cessation of suffering comes from relating and embracing and not avoiding. Liberation (enlightenment) well being and happinesss are found in the midst of suffering, not by getting rid of it. All the methods we use to avoid suffering atually prolong it. We use many things as a bubble to keep us from feeling the fullness of suffering – and at the same time we miss the fullness and joy of living. You can begin to notice your tendency to move away from suffering – you are the only one who can do that Bubbles: drinking, addiction, overeating, oversex, workaholic, spiritual, shopping, fitness If you haven't been with your suffering, you tend to be highly critical of other people's bubbles, stuckness, acting out. Criticism of other people is a bubble itself. You disapprove of it in others because you don't want to see it in yourself. It makes our hearts feel closed. If I bring to consciousness my tendency to avoid suffering, I will see it is very much like the contraction. This feeling of being small, separate cut off me, very finite me. If you really let yourself feel the pain of that contraction, this is a way of embracing suffering. The teaching isn't GET RID OF the contraction– that is self agression – that is thowing out your richness with the rubbish. It IS about transforming it, shifting the energy, and your focus – realize you have a choice to stay contracted or to open up. the teaching is to come to know really well our tendency to try to avoid suffering. That effort is equal to embracing it. Know it intimately, be conscious of it, feel the pain, get tender, open up to others. Open to fluidity, impermanence, change. If this brings you to greater compassion and connectedness, that is a meaningful life. Impermanence is the MIT – incredibly important Keep this as a constant tumbling around in your head all the time. Ponder Impermanence. Be aware and mindful that nothing lasts. IV. Peace Peace is a fact of life, as much as impermanence, death, egolessness and suffering. It's not that we endure all those things to get to peace. They all contain the peace in them. Other names for this: open awareness enlightenment *Awake Awakened mind/heart infinite dharmakaya we are not talking about “cured” peace – which is something you do to escape the chaos of your life – like an Omega weekend- it's a good thing to do but it is not... Peace = being free of fixation (contraction) The ways to access this Peace (free of fixed mind and fixed heart) is the expansion practice main distinction between Peace and cured peace – with Peace, there is no escaping – it can be found in the MIDDLE of chaos, just as liberation can be found in the midst of chaos. It comes from jumping in, taking the leap. The wisdom of no escape. How to access freedom from fixed mind meditation – a direct hit – opening to it all without calling it good or bad ie: if a sound spirals you down to depression or up to giddiness, then OPEN to that = Peace without fixation, without concept. This peace is not earned – it has always been here and will be forever and ever and ever. Sound smell etc tune you into what has always been here. They are finite but doorways to the infinite. A portal to Peace- NOT separate from life. We can be open to the rawness. The more we are with our immediate experience, the more open the portal. WhatEVER you are feeling, remind yourself - “Just feel THAT”. Peace – everything is an opportunity for opening to awakening. Open to life unfolding as it unfolds, open and curious. Shantideva Closing Chant And now as long as space endures And as long as there are beings to be found May I continue likewise to remain To drive away the sorrows of the world. Lojong Absolute Slogans = dealling with the infinite - meditative aids to help connect to the infinite 1.Regard all of this as a dream like a walking waking dream 2. Examine the Nature of Unborn Awareness. - well who's dreaming? This pulls the rug out from #1! you could take time to ask who's giving this talk? Who is that? Is that me? It's not me but it's not NOT me 3. Self Liberate even the Antidote if you feel you've gotten realization, let even that go. Relax in the open question. Do not look for the final answer, so drop even the sense of the realizer and realization. 4.Rest in the Nature of Allya return to the natural state, but if THAT becomes your persona “I am the spiritual one” Om shanti – this can become a costume, or a mask- I am the one who is “always open, always in the natural state” then in the post meditation experience... 5.Remain as a child of Illusion If you think you've achieved and it builds up your ego, take it into your every day life and it will make you honest. It's in life you find how open/closed you are. Open to your contractedness, to not being the perfect grandmother, open to that heartbreak Peace – everything is an opportunity for opening to awakening. Open to life unfolding as it unfolds, open and curious. “Place the fearful mind in the cradle of loving kindness” Trungpa Rinpoche what do you do when you spiral into it's THEIR fault- Shantidiva- in the Way of the Bodhisatva Don't act, don't speak- remain like a block of wood be with what is coming up for you. We always have to work on our part and what gets triggered. Fixed mind – wanting things a certain way = security EVERYONE has this propensity but we are not doomed to it. 72 year old, how to go into next few years...work with fear in everyday life, with impermanence, egolessness, groundlessness. TRAIN in opening toward it. But how do you work with the fear? Sit with it, let yourself go and feel the contraction.