bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

Tag: christianity

when your meditation practice is a disappointment

Do you ever feel like your practice is letting you down? I do. Sometimes I feel like I’m just dialing it in – a getting-it-done-to-say-I-did-it sort of thing. A chore. Sometimes I’m super bored, especially when I’m sitting for long periods of time. Sometimes my mind scatters in a gazillion directions and then returns to focus: scatter-return-scatter-return-bored-return-antsy-return-blah-blah-blah-return. Sometimes I get really hungry and can’t stop thinking about cookies. Sometimes I don’t think I can sit another nanosecond but I do. Sometimes I don’t think I can sit another nanosecond and I don’t.

Sometimes I sit in meditation and nothing happens and then I wake up in the middle of the night with what I call a “spiritual brain dump,” receiving some sort of revelation that helps me better understand the world as it is. Sometimes I see and talk to Jesus; we hold hands or hug. Once he told me to keep chanting “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.” (Jesus loves Buddhism. He’s so Badass.) Sometimes I feel like I’m floating but I’m not. And sometimes, not often, I see gorgeous colors and patterns – colors I’ve never seen in real life. And it’s wonderful.

I’ve been meditating formally for 7 or 8 years, consistently for 5 or 6, and I’ve got to say, for me, it’s 90% relaxation, boredom, and stick-to-itiveness. The 10% of wonderful that comes through makes it all worth it, as does the self-awareness that seeps into existence when not in formal sitting.

If Forrest Gump were bu-curious like me, he might say, “Meditation is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” When you meditate, try to release expectations and trust that you’ll get what you’re supposed to get. Going into meditation with a particular outcome in mind can lead to the following:

1. Disappointment. Last time you meditated you felt buzzing all over your body. It was awesome. You felt like you were finally “doing it right” (ha) and are eager to get back to that feeling of full presence again. But this time you drop in and wait for the buzz, and you just can’t get there. You’re bummed.

2. Frustration. Since you’re not achieving the particular outcomes you’d intended to achieve, you are convinced you must be “doing it wrong.” In actuality, the only thing that’s getting in the way of your practice is your expectation that it should be something else. Remember, whatever happens, that’s what’s happening. The whatever is the sweet spot. Just eat the chocolate, Forrest.

3. Limitation. While the buzzing (or blue lights or numbness or gap) may be totally captivating, by wishing and willing yourself a return visit to those places, you are limiting yourself to those experiences and perhaps closing yourself off to other experiences that could serve you in ways you never imagined.

4. More limitation. Setting expectations for your practice is giving in to the human brain’s need to constantly create metaphors that spin out of the familiar. We can only describe objects, feelings, and experiences based on objects, feelings, and experiences we already recognize. Expecting to experience something you understand may be the ultimate limitation. Opening up to a pure wonder may allow you to experience that which you cannot explain and never could’ve expected. The Kindgom of Wonder is home to mysteries and colors and sounds and wisdom infinitely deep and wide, so try to notice when you’re hoping or expecting a particular experience or outcome and loosen up your grip on it.

And after all this is said, just as a wandering mind is a crucial part of meditation (if the mind doesn’t wander, we live in the now and meditation is obsolete), so, too, is expectation. It helps us better understand the nature of our minds and our habits, leading to a fuller awareness of self. So when we notice that we are engaging in disappointment, frustration, limitation, and more limitation, we can open up to the greater mystery by cutting the cord between our practice and our expectations.

Headshot Vanessa 3

Blog post written with love by Vanessa Gobes. Vanessa is co-founder of Chrysalis Meditation Center in Winchester, Massachusetts, a place where people can develop or deepen a spiritually-based mental health practice. Located 15 minutes north of Boston, Chrysalis supports people of all ages, genders, races, abilities, and incomes in their journey to peace. To learn more about the programs offered at Chrysalis, visit http://www.insidethechrysalis.com.

god wants you to be happy. that’s all.

Sometimes I read something so darn pretty I just need to share it:

“God’s will for you is perfect happiness… Your joy must be complete to let His plan be understood by those to whom He sends you. They will see their function in your shining face, and hear God calling to them in your happy laugh…

For this you came. Let this one be the day that you succeed! Look deep within you, undismayed by all the little thoughts and foolish goals you pass as you ascend to meet the Christ in you.”

This is from Lesson #100 in a spiritual text called A Course In Miracles​, a modern day interpretation of Jesus’ teachings. To be honest, I never thought Jesus was for me. I was so turned off by Christians baptized in judgment and anger and righteousness, that I let the behavior of fear-minded strangers sever my innate curiosity surrounding Jesus. I thought Jesus was scary and separate and kind of mean.

The Buddha on the other hand, with his placid face and round belly, was much more inviting. His followers didn’t judge. They didn’t recruit. They didn’t stick swords in each other or picket abortion clinics or look my little boy in his sweet brown eyes and tell him he’s going to hell. (This actually happened to my son last week and it was shocking, especially because it was his great-grandfather who said it.) So for these reasons and many others, I turned my back to Jesus and invested years in Buddhist studies and New Age – and I began to find myself.

You can imagine my surprise when, one day while rummaging through the Eastern Philosophy stacks, I closed my eyes in contemplation and discovered Jesus rummaging with me. A few weeks later he sat with me while I chanted Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. Then he hovered over me while I explored past lives under hypnosis. He held my hot hands in his during Reiki classes. I didn’t invite him to join me on those occasions, I only invited The Love. But Jesus came along with The Love because, as it turns out, Jesus IS The Love.

Jesus and I are only in the newlywed phase, but he seems to have my back *regardless,* which, again, surprises me because I can be such a beast of a person. During my weakest, most vulnerable moments, when I’m about as cuddly as a crocodile, I close my eyes and he’s waiting there behind my lashes, drenched in light, arms open wide, taking me in like a lonely baby bird, petting me and comforting me and loving me, all patience and forgiveness and humility and assuredness.

He must see something in me that’s precious and beautiful, something that’s worth his effort. I wonder how he recognizes that beauty so easily, when it’s so hard for me to see it in myself. I wonder why he has such faith in me, even when I’m not always so sure about him.

And then I read something like Lesson #100 in A Course in Miracles. And I understand a little more.

He’s rooting for me not because I’m special but because he’s rooting for all of us. Come on, kids! You can do this! I know all that suffering is hard to feel your way through, but trust me! Just TRUST ME! Happiness is yours today if you just open your heart! You are made to succeed and this is the day you can do it!

And with this I know that Jesus isn’t just a cameo who appears in the suffering. He is permanence itself. And permanence is happiness. Reliable and intimate. He is campfires and belly laughs, sunshine and dragonflies, cherry tomatoes and fists full of dirt, newborn babies and wrinkled old hands. He is there in it all, living it up in our joy, taking a little break from our burdens and woes.

I don’t know if Jesus is the *only* path to salvation. Who am I to make such a definitive statement? But I’m learning that he is *my* path because he’s the one who keeps showing up for me, without judgment or anger or righteousness.

There’s another line in A Course in Miracles: “It is God’s Will that He has but one Son. It is God’s Will that His one Son is you.” Me. You. My happiness. Your happiness. It’s not about recruiting or sermonizing or even being right. It’s just about us feeling the happy *regardless.*

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

Please share if you connect to the message.

http://www.vanessagobes.com

love this

engaged whatever

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It’s funny how some words pop spontaneously into your vocabulary and then you start saying those words all the time.  For months.  For years.  It could be a a saying – Gag me with a spoon, Cool beans, Shut UP!, Seriously?  Really?, That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout, etc. For me, it was a word.  Last year I was using the adjective “engaged” a lot.  Random, I know.  It’s not a hip saying, but that word got stuck in my craw and I was inserting into sentences at least once a day for about 6 months.   And then one day I was reading something – an article, a book, I can’t remember – by Thich Nhat Hanh about “engaged Buddhism” and thought, “Oh my God!  That’s my word!”

Again, this is sort of silly, but since I’m always looking out for signs and omens, I took this as one of those synchronicities and read a little more closely.  Engaged Buddhism is living life with your Buddha light turned on.  It’s walking and talking and working, knowing that you are a sacred being and behaving in a way that reflects that.  It’s applying your practice practically.  It’s employing mindfulness and gratitude with every breath, with every action.  But you’ve got to engage your practice to make it work for you properly.

For example, your Mr. Coffee is just a kitchen appliance.  It has knobs and buttons and carafe that holds liquid.  But when you plug it in, your Mr. Coffee reaches its full potential, providing a beautiful service that tickles each of your senses.  We humans are sort of like that.  We are full of potential, but once we plug in, or tap in, to the source, we can do a wonder of the great things.

I subscribe to Buddhism, though I haven’t yet taken refuge vows because I want to be as sure as I can be that this is the right commitment for me.  Each time I listen to a sermon or attend a class, I’m amazed to discover how beautifully my heart lines up with the Dharma.  I think I’ve been a Buddhist my whole life but just didn’t know what to call it.  When I take in the lessons I think, Yes, this is what I think, too.  Yes, I do that.  Yes, these are my intentions, too.  Yes, yes, yes!  

Buddhism works for many, like me, but for countless others the answers to life’s mysteries are found elsewhere.  As passionate as folks are about their mindfulness practices, you will never find a Buddhist missionary out there converting people.

The important thing is, that no matter what your source, in order to live your best life you need to plug in.   Your source might be religion or philosophy or family or school – we’re all so different, there’s no defining what the source is for an entire race of earthlings.  For many, at least here in America, the source is Jesus Christ.  If Jesus is the guru that speaks to you, engage Him in your heart.

This does not mean knocking on doors and telling people they’re doomed to hell unless they commit their lives to Jesus.  This does not mean falling asleep in the pew on Sundays.  This does not mean volunteering to lead the church youth group retreat.  These are all important parts of a church community.  But engaging the Christ light means something deeper,  something that can serve humanity even better and create real peace in your life.  I’m talking about breathing in Jesus each time you inhale,  I use the word Jesus, but I could also use the word Holy Spirit or God, source, Universe, energy, Buddha, Allah, Krishna.

We’re not just human beings.  We are spiritual beings.  Hiding under those layers of skin and bone is divinely perfect energy.  Look down at yourself right now.  Spread your hands over your chest and your belly.  A little piece of heaven has broken off and lives right under your hands.  This energy wants to be acknowledged, to be useful, to shine.  And it can, if you engage it.

Use whatever awesomeness inspires you.  If you want to engage but find yourself forgetting during the day, wear something that reminds you.  We wear engagement rings to remind us of our commitment to a significant other.  Maybe you can wear a ring to remind you of your commitment to yourself.  I wear a special necklace.  Or sometimes I wear my mala beads.  They help to remind me to feel gratitude, stop gossiping, smile at strangers, meditate, clean my house, give my time, be a better mom.  They remind me to tell people, “I am here for you.”  They remind me to engage my spirit and let it pull me in the right direction.

I’m trying really hard not to sound cheesy or hippie right now, just honest.  While there’s nothing I know about this world for sure, tapping into my inner Buddha causes a shift in me that feels real.  I attended a retreat last weekend and at the end a Buddhist nun blessed me by gently wrapping a scarf around my neck while holding my forehead to hers.  A surge of loving kindness flooded my heart and I started to cry.  It was beautiful.  This energy is a vibrant gem in each of our hearts.  When treasured properly through wholesome behavior and daily engaged practice, it will become a magnet that attracts goodness and, in turn, spreads that goodness to others.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

p.s.  As always, if you like this, please share it!  Many thanks and much love!

my first time with his holiness the dalai lama

I’m going to start off by asking you to not only read this article, but share it.  Facebook, Twitter, email, text, anything.  A bold way to start, I know, but these words have very little to do with my ambitions as a writer and everything to do with us…  you, me, them.  Us.  Oh, and there’s a lot of punctuation ahead, but just push your way through it, annoying as those little dots and curved lines can be.

I’ll start by setting the scene.  My friend LB tipped me off that His Holiness the Dalai Lama would be speaking in Boston this fall, promoting The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics & Transformative Values at MIT, a non-partisan think tank organized in honor of HHDL’s vision to enact holistic education focusing on human and global ethics.

I eagerly bought two tickets for my husband and me and yesterday we were blessed to sit just 20 feet from His Holiness while he shared thoughts on religion, ethics, values and wellbeing.   I snuck the pic above with my iPhone, hence the crappy quality.  Anyway, here’s the story, peppered with my own interpretations and common sense applications of the day’s events:

JAMES TAYLOR:  An emotional opening act

We begin with Boston’s beloved James Taylor warming up the crowd for His Holiness, inspiring a thousand lips to curl up at the corners with his beautiful folk music, as he’s accompanied by BSO’s Owen Young on cello.  The playlist includes You’ve Got a Friend, a cover of I’m a Roadrunner, a folk version of Bach.  Fat tears roll down my cheeks as he sings Sweet Baby James.  I feel as if he sings this sweet lullaby just for me, as I had sung it for my own sweet babies each night as they fell asleep in my arms.

He nears the end of his set, “Shower the people you love with love…  show them the way you feel…”, a heavy door left of the stage opens and the audience breathes a collective gasp.  People rise to their feet, hands to heart center as the one and only Dalai Lama steps into the room, surrounded by crimson-robed monks and dark-suited bodyguards.  His presence alone inspires awe, love and hopefulness.  After a surge of clapping, the group sits down and JT invites his wife and daughter to the stage to join him in one last song before His Holiness takes over.  It is a lovely moment.

HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA:  Quotes, insights and paradigm shifts

His Holiness mounts the stage with his trusted interpreter, greeting fellow panelists:  Father Thomas Keating, a Cistercian monk and priest of St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, founder of The Centering Prayer Movement of Contemplative Outreach, and author of several books including Open Mind Open Heart; and Brother David Steindl-Rast, co-founder of The Center for Spiritual Studies, a center incorporating thoughts from Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish and Sufi religions, founder of gratefulness.org, and author many books including Words of Common Sense for Mind, Body and Soul.  The panel is moderated by Liz Walker, former anchor at WBZ News in Boston, now a reverend at Roxbury Presbytarian Church and founder of My Sister’s Keeper, a grassroots human rights initiative for women in Sudan.

Bows and friendly gestures are exchanged amongst the spiritual brothers and then His Holiness turns to us, his adoring fan club, bowing and smiling.  He begins our first lesson of the day:  The Biological Factor, linking science and Buddhism with our every day actions.  Always the gentleman, he delivers a message to ladies first…

He tells us that the most important thing one can do in life is mother affectionately.  Though we aren’t all mothers, we all have mothers, so everyone can understand.  As new human beings, the first thing we look for is nurturing love from our mothers.   HHDL says, “Right away, the newborn knows how to find the…  the…  the…  [Interpreter:  ‘teats’]  the…  [‘teats’]  no, the…  [‘teats’]  PIMPLE!  [‘NIPPLE!’]”  Laughter ensues.

Comedy aside, his point is perfection.  A good life begins with a loving foundation.  Love is the natural tendency, the biological tendency.  “Females have more sensitivity about others’ suffering,” he says in thickly accented staccato, “Not religious belief.  Biological factor.  Female should take more active role in this field.”  (Thunderous applause.)

I get it.  I understand it.  It registers.  BIOLOGY IS LOVE.  Same, same.  ((MC, I swear I actually hear HHDL say that and I’m snickering!))  He says that we need to teach children love, kindness and compassion the same way we teach children science.  The two are braided together to form the whole tightly-woven truth.  Without an intimate understanding of love, how can we understand our own biology?    His Holiness urges us to educate mankind about the science of loving kindness and about the science of happiness rather than leaving that responsibility to religion or by filtering love through the lens of any one religion.  Love is for everyone, believers and non-believers.  Science has caught up to what spiritually rich people have known for centuries.  Love is real, love is ethics, love is responsibility, love is mainstream.  And just to prove the point, one of the best universities in the world, MIT, is backing up that theory by opening The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics & Transformative Values.

HHDL continues, “Religion gives us practice of hypocrisy, because in reality [people] don’t care about the philosophy of teachings.  They have no firm connection about these basic values…  [We must] educate them through scientific finding and common sense for happy life, happy family,  happy community.”

His Holiness is telling us that he understands – religion teaches strict dogma and demands standards that are so hard to meet that most people give up.  We disconnect.  We stop caring.  We float through life without any solid foundation in spirituality or love.  We live our lives on the foundation of selfishness, of arrogance.  We do this.  You, me, us, them.  We.  We take things because we want them.  We buy things because we need them.  We waste things because we can.  We hurt people because we don’t think.  WE DON’T THINK ABOUT THE EFFECT WE HAVE ON EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE ONE AROUND US.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

His Holiness reminds us, “Each person can make a difference. [We] should not think of ourselves as helpless.  A worldwide movement first starts from individual.  First one.  Then your neighbor.  Then ten families.  Then a thousand families.  Share with more people…  more people.  Think more and keep enthusiasm to do something.”  (English is obviously not his first language but, trust me, no love lost in this room.)

“A lot of our problems are of our own creation,” he presses on.  Yes, yes, yes I’m thinking.  We’ve created an ocean of garbage.  We’ve destroyed forests.  We’ve hunted and killed animals for sport.  We’ve bought handbags made my 5 year olds in Vietnam.  We’ve eaten food full of chemicals wrapped up in slippery plastic bags.  We’ve done all of this without thinking.

“Ignorance is the opposite of understanding.  Investigate with a calm mind.  Know reality.  Think.  Then decide,” His Holiness gently impresses.  Think.  That’s all we have to start doing.  Think.  And this is something that each person can do on his or her own.  Just think twice before buying that case of plastic water bottles.  Think twice before leaving the house with the lights on.  Think twice before walking past a person on the street without acknowledging their presence with a smile.  JUST THINK.

These days, we adults are like toddlers in a toy store.  We pull everything out, cause chaos and disorder, push each other around, break everything then leave behind a mess for someone else to clean.  And like small children, we don’t think twice because we don’t realize we have impact.  We don’t realize we matter.  It’s just a plastic bottle.  It’s just a new car.  It’s just a rude comment.  It’s just a middle finger.

As a parent, I understand the frustration of having to sweep up after mischievous kids.  So I should have more understanding.  I should be thinking twice, no three times, before I make a mess.  Where was this dress made?  Do I really need to redecorate my living room?  What’s in a Swedish Fish anyway?  Could I be kinder to people who challenge me?  Could I stop engaging in gossip?  Because here in the grown-up land of planet Earth, my parents won’t be cleaning it up.  My children will.  And depending on the behavior we model, they can continue the cycle or they can start a new one.  There is no politician, no judge or teacher who has more power over the direction of this planet than a mother.  Each mother has an enormous responsibility to offer her children opportunities to THINK about their impact on this planet.  But in the end, it’s up to all of us to be better, to do better.

THIS WORLD REVOLVES AROUND YOU.  THEREFORE YOU MATTER.  EVERYTHING YOU DO… EVERY THOUGHT YOU THINK…  IT ALL MATTERS.

So now that you know you matter, what do you do?  Ignore the call?  Pretend it never happened?  Or do you join the wave of goodness?  Do you start playing the role of responsible human being?  After all, in a hundred years we’ll all be dead.  But our grandchildren will be here.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to train our children to make responsible choices and practice loving kindness by modeling that behavior ourselves?  How else will they learn?  Loving kindness is taught at home, not in school.  At least not yet. 😉

FATHER THOMAS KEATING:  Not your mother’s Father

Now, most of my friends are Christians, and regardless of your level of Christian devotion, I think you’ll be very interested in learning more about Father Thomas Keating.   If you love your faith and believe in God but are sometimes frustrated by the church’s narrow interpretation of the Bible, boy, have I got a monk for you.  If you are searching for a modern take on Christianity, Father Thomas is the just the 80 year old priest that will inspire you to connect fully and passionately to your faith.

I am not your mother’s Father, are the words he does not say, but then again, doesn’t have to.

Father Thomas begins by talking about evolution, setting the tone right away.  The earth is fully populated and this, he considers as proof that the human species is fully evolved.  He challenges, “It’s time to look at the development of consciousness that is beyond biological.”  He goes on, saying that as spiritual seekers, we are constantly searching for union with God, as if God is the “Other”.

“There is no ‘Other’,” he says emphatically, “Everything is a manifestation of the source.”  In other words, we are already in union with God, we just need to awaken to it.  Our problem is that we, “want to become God on our own terms.”  (Yes, yes, I am with you, Father Thomas.)  He tells us we need to reduce our selfishness by serving others.  “We think satisfaction of our emotional needs is happiness, even if it’s brief,” but God is not brief, God is everlasting, so in order to become God, we must invest our efforts in activity that provides us with longterm clarity and peace.

My interpretation:  Stop behaving badly, stop treating our bodies like garbage disposals, stop being assholes to each other and stop disrespecting this planet.  The human race evolved so we could stop acting like animals.  And that’s just what we’re doing!  We are a temporary embodiment of holy spirit.  When we die and shed our skin, all of the bullshit drags our souls down.  Our souls want to rise!  We can elevate by honoring the beautiful energy within us by investing in the intangibles, discovering happiness, serving mankind.

BROTHER DAVID STINDL-RAST:  With gratitude for saying the words we need to hear

Brother David Steindl-Rast (WHOM I ABSOLUTELY LOVE!!!!!!!!) completes Father Thomas’ point by sharing a quote from Father Thomas Merton:  “GOD ISN’T SOMEONE ELSE.”  Wait, wait, wait.  Did you hear that?

GOD ISN’T SOMEONE ELSE.

The audience is awake.  We are all taken by Brother David.  He speaks, we applaud.  He speaks, we applaud.  He is wonderful.  He tells us that God is a mystery that doesn’t fit into the limited institutions that we’ve created to contain it.  He urges, “A non-violent revolution against power structure must be started in small communities.”

By revolution, he is telling us that NOW is the time that we can create a better future for the human race.  It has to be now.  (If not now, when?)  We have building momentum, maybe just a loving trickle at this point.  But by adding more mindful energy to the revolution, we can create a steady stream.  And then a flood.  Until we discover we are swimming in our new normal.  Welcome the Christians.  Welcome the Buddhists.  Welcome the Mulims, the Hindus, the Jews, the Sufis, the Non-believers.  Because regardless of our religious beliefs, science has proven something that we can all agree on.  LOVE MAKES EVERYTHING BETTER.

Liz Walker asks Brother David, “Are we guilty of failing God?”

He responds by bringing the conversation full circle, conjuring up an image of a mother at home with her baby, splattering food on the floor and misbehaving.  The mother doesn’t accuse the baby of being a failure.  She loves him and encourages him to do better.  Brother David tells us to do the same, “Look at the world with eyes of a mother and say, ‘You can do better.'”

“Write that one down!  Write that one down!”  My husband whispers as I scribble frantically into my notebook.

POST-GURU FEAST

Like any spiritual junkie, after the conference broke up, my husband and I find ourselves with a glorious high and a serious case of the munchies.  We walk over to Legal Seafoods and order a feast of salad and fish.   We pour over my messy notes and chatter excitedly about our own interpretations and moments of awakening.  We are wrapped in enthusiasm all the way home, where we joyfully embrace our children who have missed us all day.  And then, we pass out.  Because like any spiritual junkie, we cannot escape the crash.

So this morning, I write and think and meditate my way through my first spiritual hangover.  Hair of the dog.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa