Saturday, December 6, 2014

Tis the Season

At this time of year, hope takes center stage. Children draw up lists of presents they hope Santa will deliver. Everyone who lives north of a certain point hopes for a picturesque white Christmas -- enough snow to make it pretty but not enough to make travel dangerous or require strenuous
digging out. Family members hope that other family members will like their gifts, that the sweaters will fit, and everyone will behave themselves. Singles hope for an invitation.

Hope is all around.

Buddhism says the best gift you could give yourself is to give that up.

Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron describes hope as an addiction to the idea that things would be better if they were somehow different. That keeps us from seeing and working with things as they are, which is the only way we actually can create change.

"Abandon hope" is one of the lojong, or mind training slogans.

“Abandoning hope is an affirmation, the beginning of the beginning,” she writes. The hope we’re giving up, she says, is the idea that we could “be saved from being who we are.”

“Without giving up hope – that there’s somewhere better to be, that there’s someone better to be – we will never relax with who or where we are," she writes in When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.  When we do relax and look around without a judgmental eye, we begin to see what is there, to realize that we are sufficient and the world is not out to get us. Life becomes workable.

Abandoning hope relies on a foundation of impermanence. To give up the hope that things will change for the better, you need the refuge of knowing that things will change, whether you want them to or not. The bad news and the good news about impermanence are the same -- things will change.  If you look around at where you are and realize you don't want to be stuck there forever, you can be assured that it won't stay that way forever -- it's already changing. What you do in this moment influences what that change will be. 

Ani Pema notes that hope is the other side of fear, and that pairing is the root of our pain.

“In the world of hope and fear, we always have to change the channel, change the music, because something is getting uneasy, something is getting restless, something is beginning to hurt, and we keep looking for alternatives.” 

If instead we stay with the feeling of discomfort, get to know our true selves, we can find confidence in our basic nature and our ability to be ourselves in the world. We can identify the source of the discomfort, rather than escaping it or covering it over, and work with that. 

The practice of meditation is based not on how we would like things to be but on what is. We often do not have a proper understanding of what we are, of what we are actually doing. From the beginning, spirituality should be concerned with the actuality of who is involved in the practice. In the Buddhist form of meditation, we try to look at the perceiver of the universe, the perceiver that is self, ego, me, mine.
—The Sanity We Are Born With: A Buddhist Approach to Psychotherapy by Chögyam Trungpa

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