As we learned from the events of this past week, we get what we get… and, oftentimes it’s not what we want. In his weekly (Insight Meditation Communtiy of Berkeley) dharma talk, Awakening Joy (Parallax Press, 2012) author and Buddhist scholar James Baraz shared an alternative to the often habitual contracting that arises in response to the unpleasant experiences in our lives. He offers up a timely step that one can bring to practice – one that involves a more conscious opening to experience.
The Buddha taught that mindfulness has four foundations – the second is said to be “noticing vedana”. Vedana translates loosely to the feeling tone of experience – the flavor of pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. The Buddha also taught that if we can shift from “the distancing ourselves of the unpleasant”, or “the grasping for the pleasant”, we can actually break the cycle of suffering in the wheel of dependent origination. Imagine that? In sharing the teachings, Mr. Baraz suggests that when difficulties arise, we learn to simply remain open to it and say, “Okay. Let me understand, let me grow, let me wake up, let me have a new relationship with this experience.” To not take it personally is a going against the stream practice that he believes can have profound effects.
BOSTON YOGA contributor and Founder of Returning Peace Seth Monk eloquently delivered a variation on this radical approach in a charge he posed in the wake of the election results and the sea of emotions that outcome delivered. His teaching reminds us of the ultimate gifts of practice and our ability to “right the ship from the inside” when we cannot change the unpleasant occurrences around us. After “digesting the situation, listening to all sides, feeling it all, and meditating a whole lot”, he came to this thought which he shared on his Facebook page:
Let’s make Trump great.
Let’s support him, be on his side, and guide him to make the right choices.
Let’s be with and not against.
Let’s show teamwork and togetherness and right the ship from the inside.
Let this be an amazing presidency, let Trump be the best president we’ve ever had.
Let’s help him be successful, and within that let’s also make our voices heard.
Let’s let everyone win.
We will make the biggest impact from the inside and our values will be better listened to when we are allies and not enemies, with and not against.
We complain and strain about our country being divided, so let’s bridge the gap ourselves.
Let us do what others in past years could not.
Let’s transmute the situation from our own empowered decision.
This might be brilliant, it might be crazy, but let’s join his side.
Let’s unite and through our unity make a difference.
Let’s actually make this country great again.
This reframe of Decision 2016 as a teachable moment reminds us of our options and of our opportunities for healing and growth in every situation. “Things are the way they are,” further counseled Mr. Baraz. “If we can do something about it, great. Do it. If you can’t, and this is how things are, then you have two choices. Either wish they were different and tie yourself into a knot of frustration and complaint. Or, somehow accept that this is how it is and ask yourself how can I grow from this? In this?”