|Stella Doro lily doesn't know it's too late to bloom. Note the sheltered ladybug.|
Salvation, if we can talk about it at all, is the end of ambition, which is when you become completely one with your experience. Knowledge becomes one with wisdom, which is called buddhahood or the awakened state of mind. You realize that you never needed to make the journey at all . . .My main practice is Zen, but with an interest in other streams. A year or so ago I bought "The Practice of Contemplative Photography," which includes some photographs by Trungpa Rinpoche, and that stimulated my interest in his work. Like Shunryu Suzuki, he is more difficult to understand than his American followers, but worth the effort.
Chogyam Trungpa, “The Human Realm,” in Transcending Madness: The Experience of the Six Bardos, page 258.
What these words remind me of is that I am perfectly what I am, what I was made to be by long and wide streams of karma, national, genetic, historical, environmental, and so on. In Zen we talk about "the self," or "the conditioned self." At one time I believed my task was to get rid of it. I did, I believed that, because it was becoming clear to me that my histrionic hypersensitive over-responsible and bipolar self was the source of my suffering. I remember Daniel Terragno asking me reasonably, "How could you do that?" I thought we weren't communicating very well.
You cannot not be who you are. Your brain and your butt are the shape they are. And you are okay. But (as many teachers have added), you still need to work a little harder. You may be OCD, but you can learn how to throw away a cereal box. You may be hypersensitive to criticism, but you can learn whose criticism to avoid or how to deflect it. It's bit by bit, inch by inch. There's always work to do
When I started a regular meditation practice, it was in a frenzy of fear that the cancer in my breast would kill me. This was irrational; it had been discovered on a mammogram at stage one. Nevertheless, I began doing a white light healing meditation you can find taught all over the world. From there I somehow moved into just sitting following my breath, then a lot of other practices. At this point in my life, I was also in torment with my alcoholic family, and they weren't the only people in my life driving me crazy. That was how I saw life then: they drove me crazy.
There was some truth to that. Some people are hard to take, and you should have a really good reason to spend time with them. Over the next couple of years I was going to leave behind several people who just weren't good for me. It was hard every single time. Now I am amazed that I ever tolerated them. But I didn't see the reality then. My reality was governed by an idea that I should like everyone, tolerate rudeness, cultivate patience, and enjoy pool parties. I mean, of course.
You know what? I like a genuine beach and a nice big body of water, as well as a creek and a waterfall. I hate swimming pools, chlorine, cold water. It's a matter of personal preferences. But I had to take swimming lessons and push push push myself to try and try harder - in the face of fibromyalgia pain - because, well, everyone said swimming was good for you. And I thought I should learn to like it. And certainly I had to go to my brother's pool parties because, well, he invited me. Though another thing I really don't like is being around people who are devoting themselves to drinking all day.
One of the things Zen says is that when you are enlightened, you will taste a cup of tea and know for yourself whether the water is hot or cold. It's a metaphor. You learn you don't like Carol, and you're cold when you're cold, and hungry when you're hungry. Other children of alcoholics may recognize the denial of ordinary needs that was enforced in my childhood.
I thought practice would teach me how to handle all the problems in my life back then. It has, including that some things can't be solved. Also, I often see more clearly now where the problem lies, and how it can be handled. This is hard for me to say, but there's actually nothing wrong with Carol, and I bet some people like her. She is what she is. I just - sorry, I just didn't like her. And don't miss her.
In short, what I am gradually approaching with practice is not universal joy but being aware. That includes, though it is not limited to, what you like and don't like, moment by moment. It applies to many mundane things that can add up to STRESS. It's very interesting how the little raft takes you far, but not where you thought it was going.
[In looking up the hot and cold thing, I was led to a dharma talk I think must be by Shinge Roshi, for those who want to think more about this.]