To me the spiritual path seems largely a process of letting go – first of the expectations that this life is the be all and end all of existence, then of the expectations of samsara working out, then of the expectations that our happiness comes first, then of the expectations that everything is as really happening as it appears, then of the expectations that everything is as ordinary and impure as it appears.
If we want to feel free, it is time to let go. Stop elaborating. Stop grasping. And when I think these thoughts, I feel tremendously relieved as I don’t have to make something unworkable work, and can instead abide in the beautiful, relaxing Dharma minds of love, compassion, wisdom, bliss and emptiness, Tantric pure view, hanging out with holy beings who are already here day and night. This is what refuge really means to me.
One of life’s little challenges
However, I wrote this first bit after a peaceful meditation, and now my plane to Heathrow has been delayed indefinitely, possibly even cancelled — so I need urgently to think it out in the field as well…
For right now I am feeling rather attached to the happiness of this life wherein planes are supposed to go on time, in which case this delay is very annoying.
I am attached to samsara working out – “All those other lucky people whose planes are not delayed, ‘Zones 1, 2, and 3 now boarding for Salt Lake City!’, they must be feeling great around about now, life is working for them, why not for me, why didn’t those airplane people figure out they needed this part earlier?!”
I am attached to my own happiness over and above the happiness of the people waiting (surprisingly patiently) around me, who didn’t even seem to raise an eyebrow when the announcement was made, whereas I was thinking, “Oh b****** hell, poor old me!”
I am attached to the idea of a real plane missing a real part that is being flown in on another real plane from a real city called San Francisco, and then real people have to replace this real part in monotonous real time, all of which real time I am really having to wait around, not able to just rest and be, really wanting to leave this crowded airport and go to real England NOW.
Plus, this place is grimy, it is not a blissful Pure Land at all – full of fast food, tired looking people, stuffy air, screaming kids, grubby carpets, and no Tantric Deities or celestial mansions in sight.
I’ll let you know if and how I turn this around in the next several hours. I know I can and will probably have to because it is no fun being stuck here otherwise. That’s the whole point. The grasping is what is causing the pain, not the situation, which has no existence from its own side. Only the grasping is the problem.
Refuge is deep, deep relaxation. We can let the Three Jewels take over. We can surrender to Dharma experiences that are guaranteed to lift the mind and make us happy; to omniscient, blissful, unchangingly supportive friends, the Buddhas; and to Sangha, many of whom have already figured these things out and would be very cheerful waiting here in the airport.
Two hours later: Thoughts so far …
As I was walking around this ever-changing, dreamlike terminal, I remembered that this is all coming from my own karmic seeds and doesn’t exist outside my mind; there is instant relief in that thought. Why would I expect anything different, I created the causes for these appearances to my mind, no one else did. Also, whatever they are, they are not inherently any more good or bad than any other appearances, it just depends what I make of them.
And I’m already getting thought aid from suspected emanations functioning as Sangha Jewels. A couple of tweens have been hogging 3 out of the 4 precious plugs for the last 3 hours playing a mindless video game so I was in danger of (a) running out of computer juice and (b) getting annoyed with them, also not conducive to the happiness of this life. But then a charming young couple offered me one of their chairs and their plug, “That’s got to give you some peace of mind, right!”, and we have all just agreed that “it is what it is”, and, as the bloke said, “There is no point grumping about it, it won’t change anything. And there’s definitely no point getting angry with those poor guys at the counter.” A kid just said, “Dad, I’m bored”, and his dad replied, “Things go wrong, you have to get used to it.” A South American Catholic nun was asking me what had been said in the announcement and she looked serenely full of patience when I told her, even though she is now going to miss her connecting flight. A lot of people are finding solace in their gadgets, some in their books, one guy chuckling opposite me at a comedy show, others chatting and joking around – the kindness of others keeping them entertained. Maybe this is the best hangout in town!?
We were given a $19 voucher for food and, samsara’s pleasures being deceptive, that free money burned a hole in my pocket as I felt I had to spend it on a rather large pizza, the only place that was still open, and I really don’t need pizza right now, I already had potato wedges while waiting earlier. But in the line I met an enthusiastic British Airways plane technician who told me that last week the same thing happened and people were put in hotels for, get this, TWO days, while they waited for their aircraft to be fixed with a landing light. Our broken part is more complicated, something to do with the nose (not) going up; so he cheerily told me that he hoped it wasn’t even longer a wait this time as people are missing connecting flights, missing cruises, missing big events … and he is quite right. I can afford to “miss” two days in England, I can spend them in a hotel if needs be. I am not exactly in Iraq right now fleeing for my life from ISIS. Looking around, I can see an old man trying hard to get his head comfortable, and the woman opposite me said, “I wish he had a pillow.” My compassion is kicking in and that is protecting my mind.
And this is a perfect opportunity to practice that experiment explained here. In Eight Steps, it says that we can focus on the gold of people’s Buddha nature, their limitless potential, rather than their faults, which in any case are the faults of their delusions, not them (including those tweens! Their real nature is limitless compassion and freedom, not adolescent self-absorption!)
Buddha compared our Buddha nature to a gold nugget in dirt, because no matter how disgusting a person’s delusions may be, the real nature of their mind remains undefiled, like pure gold… Whenever we meet other people, instead of focusing on their delusions we should focus on the gold of their Buddha nature. This will not only enable us to regard them as special and unique but will also help bring out their good qualities. ~The New Eight Steps to Happiness p. 82
Not focusing on others’ faults for me also includes the faults of people seeming just ordinary. If we know about Tantra, we can see their Buddha nature as already actualized. I am therefore surrounded by very unordinary Heroes and Heroines, Tantric Buddhas, and am a Space Goer myself.
Latest announcement (now shortly before midnight): the plane with the part has just left SF (just left?!!!) and will be here at 1am. Heigh ho. Then it has to be fixed. People actually chuckled — they must be Heroes and Heroines.
Next installment is here.
I really have enjoyed these articles you’ve recently written and especially this one on grasping. It looks like my day is often filled with glitches and undesirable things and situations. Over years of training, I’m beginning to realize that the people aren’t undesirable; and when like your example of being delayed a few weeks ago while traveling to the East coast also happened to me, I realized how the people and situation were not separate from my mind. Then amazingly, I noticed some people being very considerate and patience where years ago a similar situation evoked cursing madmen at the airport. I need to improve on my practice a lot still but progress is happening. I look forward to peace pervading our world. And I am so grateful we have people working in that direction. Thank you Luna!
I so treasure this one. So practical and frank! I remember one of my teachers saying it is not so much about being Vajrayogini as becoming Vajrayogini, again and again. And you so clearly showed a very common example of how this is done. Thanks for the encouragement and reminder.
I love this post! It’s always helpful to hear about sangha trying to use dharma in ‘regular’ life. Thank you!
As a teacher of mine once told us in class, “in emptiness everything is possible” impute the I on tantric bliss and have fantastic ride home you space goer you! Loved the piece! Thanks!
Love you posts!
Thank you so much Luna! Serendipitously, I had a similar experience today! I forgot my cell phone at home and had no access to music all day. Usually, I listen to music and have dharma minds flow in gently as I enjoy the good feelings and offer it to spiritual guide at my heart or use it to self-generate. With no access to music, I had NO access to those good feelings and found myself falling short of accessing the usual dharma minds. Everything seemed excruciatingly painfully ordinary, the sound of traffic on the road, people talking on the street, the noise of the subway, sirens. I seemed to have no access to Geshla at my heart and self-generation seemed like a far cry out 🙁
I seem to be relying too heavily on good feelings from externals for my dharma practice during meditation breaks. While I do try and transform adversities into the path, this ‘adversity’ was quite unexpected and I was very much unprepared.
Do you have any advice on accessing good feelings when everything seems blah and mundane and painfully ordinary? Do you think a bliss boost would help kick start dharma minds in such a situation?
Not ms. LK, but let me try…
Every sense awarenes – not just pleasant – are manifestations of bliss and emptiness. Every crying baby, every honking horn, every dirty litter box, every sewer stink, every ugly person, every pair of white socks or khaki pants… all manifestations of. Bliss and emptiness. If that’s not working right away, offer to. Guru at heart at first. We offer everything: objects that give rise to attachment, hatred and confusion.
Try this now and then, so next time you don’t have your regular tools, you still have something. It worked when I rented from the ‘cat lady’ with six cats and a stinky house.
It worked. 😉
Perfect! Thank you Shigye. Refuge is always at hand in terms of bliss and emptiness, indeed!
I am so sorry, I feel your pain. A frequent reminder of Samsara’s pleasures.
I heard that same story from American Airlines 4 yrs ago. While in Washington State trying to get back to La.
bless a real test of patient acceptance 🙂 just as there is room in the sky for a thunderstorm, but not a plane for you at the moment 🙂 so there is room in the vast space of our mind for a few painful feelings 🙂 they will pass like dark clouds and a beautiful blue sky will manifest in time and you will reach your destination 🙂 with a clearer understanding of patient acceptance 😉 how to solve our human problems blessings Geshe-la xxx