Monday, November 24, 2014

The Four Unpleasant Truths, and a Kicker

Home, and we don't know what is causing this shortness of breath.  But we know I have a well-functioning heart, and no blood clots and don't have a strange lung disease brought on by my Rapamune.  I have yet to get a pulmonary function test, which they prefer to do outpatient.  We have a maybe:  maybe my breathing is impaired by having smoked a pack and a half a day for thirty years. And I grew up smoking passively in a household with two smokers.

But wait, this isn't fair - I quit in 1988.  It was hard, too.  I thought my lungs cleared up when I quit.

Karma isn't fair, but it's just.  All the time you smoked, it was damaging your alveoli.  Bad karma, bad.

But today is another day.  I was sitting doing the multiple eyedrops for post- and pre-cataract surgery and enjoying Tricycle Magazine, when I read this, in an article called The Present Moment.
No one denies the potential benefit from learning to calm or focus the mind, but many Buddhist teachers worry that an approach may be easy and give immediate benefits and yet risk discarding essential elements in the Buddha's teaching.
Wait.  I actually had a little dose of MBSR years ago, as part of a course in overall healthy living taught by my health club.  It did not just risk discarding the teachings - it carefully explained that it had nothing to do with religion.  It was about you feeling better and living longer.

A secular meditation practice is almost never sustained, and I'm here to tell you why.  Because sitting still doing nothing opens you up to reality, and that's the last thing most of us want.  Why is that?

This is a truth abundantly restated on the internet, which has enabled us to complain a lot verbally and visually. And in fact, it's religion - a restatement of the Buddha's First Noble Truth, the truth of dukkha, the suffering inherent in life.  So let me continue in this vein with my Four Unpleasant Realities.

1.  Life sucks.
2.  It's your fault that it sucks.  (a) You think it shouldn't, and (b) you keep trying to evade all the suckiness with distractions, positive thinking, and scotch and soda.
3.  There is a way to bring the volume of suckiness down a bit.
And here's the assignment -
4.  The way is a complex, sustained effort to meet the suckiness face to face, and change the way you act.

Huh?  What?

This was really funny when Tom and I came up with it at the breakfast table an hour ago, but it is not amusing me so much as I write about it.
And there I stopped writing a week or two ago, and got distracted by the second cataract surgery.  Such is old age that I forgot about this draft until now. And I am again stuck with the subject.  Because nobody wants to hear about The Eightfold Path and behave themself.  So I'll cut to the executive summary, which is sometimes expressed like this ~

Sorry about all the black.

But it's true.  And the founder of the Zen I study, Dogen, said that when you get that, you've got it:  life is impermanent. YOU are impermanent.  Not only will you die, but you have no idea when you'll die, today, tomorrow, after you print out your to-do list.  And that goes for everything and everyone you love.  Get that, and you'll be motivated to be with the moment you've got.

So, it's Monday.  Did you need this on Monday?  Yes, probably.  I know I do.


  1. We all need a Monday to need this! Good one, Gran'!

    1. Thank you, Lynette. I'm so glad someone appreciates tough love.

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  3. In the process of adjusting expectations on the path, one thing keeps popping up REGARDLESS of health. If you are not good in your skin(i.e. love yourself), and excuse your failures then no amount of faking will work. Meditation will allow you to see where in thoughts you get distracted, and misidentify your pure self...before living got in the way! Pure self is seen most commonly just before death, when you finally release all expectations that burdened you all throughout life. If that is not something to work towards, then I do not know what is.