Sunday, March 25, 2012

Engaged Buddhism: Working with Aggression

Thic Quang Duc set himself on fire in 1963 to protest
the persecution of monks  in Vietnam.
The first time I heard the term "engaged Buddhism" I was immediately turned on by the idea. My punk rock sensibilities imagined bringing Buddhism to the streets. The whole image seemed at odds with itself. This was not about sitting in a cave, detached from the world, but about being an activist... ROCK 'n ROLL! 

But I have to admit that when I started researching it, I might have been disappointed to learn that engaged Buddhism is not all about standing up to The Man. Engaged Buddhism is not an excuse to use aggression for the forces of "good." Engaged Buddhism is the practice of working with aggression in the world.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Complaining Complainers Who Complain

Chogyam Trungpa said that irritation is the vanguard of basic goodness, or so I've heard from some of his students. In standard English, this means that when you find yourself irritable, you should stick with the feeling and not try to escape it by badmouthing your situation. If you you can be present with the raw feeling, without stories and justifications, you may be rewarded with an experience of the mind and the heart opening. You might see something beautiful... human... maybe even sacred.

I've had this experience a few times, where I'm walking down the street, trying to shake a negative emotion, hearing the story in my mind, and then something wakes me up. I see the bigger picture all of a sudden. Sometimes I have to laugh. Other times, I just shake my head in wonder. Unfortunately, there are many more times when I don't wake up and the negative emotion leads to complaints, stories, unnecessary conflicts.

We all get irritated and we all complain. We complain about traffic, about work, about our friends, about our lack of a friends... it seems like there is always something to complain about, even if it never solves anything.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Wax on Wax off

The other night I attended a talk with Lodro Rinzler, who was in DC on a tour for his new book, The Buddha Walks into a Bar. I was selling books while he signed copies and a woman came up to him and told him what a hard time she was having with her health and her family. She asked, "does it get easier?" He looked at her in a way that I knew he was listening with an open heart. "Yes, I think it does," he said.

I often think of meditation practice as a "two steps forward, one step back" situation. If we set our minds to it, we can develop a fulfilling practice with great discipline. This discipline can extend out to the rest of our lives so that we gain real insights and feel we are on the right track. Then something happens: we get hooked by our emotions, we lose our tempers, someone offends us, our sense of openness closes down and we want to tear our heart out and stomp on it…. or as I like to say, "the fit hits the shan."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

6 Ways to Approach Lust and Monogamy

Jeff Bridges (who is a Buddhist and a big fan of Chogyam Trungpa) did an interview with Tricycle Magazine in 2010. He described how he develops intimacy with the actors he works with, which leads to convincing performances. He discussed how his wife allows him to develop these deep relationships and how there is no sex involved, because then it would just get weird.

This interests me because I've often had a sad feeling about being in a relationship, since it seems like you aren't supposed to be curious about or attracted to anyone other than your current partner. Inevitably, I have been curious, and often this feeling made me feel like I needed to put a leash on myself and nip the whole thing in the bud.