winds of joy, light at my feet

From Bodhidharma Anthology by Jeffrey Broughton: Entering through practice – equanimity

The second entrance to the path is through the practice of following conditions or (Red Pine) adapting to conditions.  

(S)entient beings lack a self and are all whirled around by conditions and karma; suffering and joy are to be equally accepted, for both arise from conditions.

When life throws up these dust storms that blind me or the days grow darker and darker, my support circles point to the light at the end of the tunnel.  I understand that in their love for us and their wish to speed up the journey through the dark or bumpy parts, they’d like us to look into the distance and grasp that this experience is impermanent.  However, it’s a risky process which can carry us too quickly away from the reality of what is right here.

The light at the end of the tunnel is actually more useful when it shines right here in tunnel at my feet.  

Bodhidharma’s teachings suggest that we are vulnerable to being swept away by the winds of joy and the dust storms of suffering.  To attach to each one unduly makes no sense because the conditions that created them are not sustainable.  (Oh yes, I can definitely continue to make myself miserable but that’s not the same misery I started out with.  Check it out for yourself!)  To reject either unconsciously is dangerous because this creates a loss of intimacy with ourselves and others.  To become confused about the origins of them is pointless because the causes and conditions lie in an intricate and oft-times tangled web of action and reaction.

Unmoved by the winds of joy*, one is mysteriously in accordance with the path.

Now you may thank that this reduces you to zombie-like blob, careening off the walls and lamp posts of your path.  At their extreme, all statements are untenable and likely false.  To be unmoved is to be steady in the experience of joy, to be connected deeply with it.  So deeply that there is a spaciousness that arises which can contain the entire spectrum of variability in each joy, sorrow, contentment, pain, love, and anguish.

The adaptability we practice is not to the great brush strokes of impermanence.  It is to the rhythmic variation in the winds of joy and woe.

Auguries of Innocence
William Blake 

It is right it should be so:
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know
Through the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.

*”Winds of Joy here may refer to the eight winds or eight worldly conditions.  For a brilliant story read here.

ceasing the conditional

Waiting patiently has never been my strong suit.  After I laid down the larger viridian circle, I panicked at the tone which to my eyes ground into the neighbouring sap green with the ear-splitting sound of colliding metal.  Luckily, I was distracted away before I could “fix” anything and when I returned the wide swath of eye-ache had softened.

The capacity to simply pause or to attend without acting – wu wei – is a tough skill to cultivate.  I’m starting to see, however, that it is the heart and soul of the Third Turning of Wheel in practising the Second Noble Truth.  To realize the truth of the cause of my suffering requires me to step back from the sensations that drive me to act impetuously.  It’s a hypnotic process and I can really feel it in my breath.  Well, I can feel that I’m holding my breath as I fall into a desperation to “get it over with.”  The Second Noble Truth however is not just a recognition and clarification of what causes and sustains suffering, it is also the first step to the breaking the links of the damaging cycles.

Thich Nhat Hanh says that the Third Turning of the Wheel can be summarized as “When I’m hungry, I eat.  When tired, I sleep.”  Practice is not just the recognition and knowing of the roots of my suffering but also cultivation of the appropriate response.  Hungry -> eat.  Tired -> sleep.  These are good psychological tactics; we only ever restrain a bad habit but it helps to have a good one to fill the space left behind.  I can tell when I’m hungry or when I’m tired… mostly.  And usually “cranky” points to hungry or tired anyway.

The tough practice is with the more fine-grained sensations that underlie “disappointment,” “uncertainty,”  “loss of faith,” or the Big One, “breakdown of belief systems.”   Usually it goes something like “when I’m disappointed, I shut down.”  Or it may be “when I’m uncertain, I push your buttons.”  Or “when I lose faith, I wipe the hard drive clean.”  And this Big One: “When my belief systems breakdown, I want you to fix it.”

Realization of the cause and maintenance of suffering is in the willingness to wait in that space between “I am <fill in the blank>” and “I <fill in the blank>.”  But I want to push it further (No!  Really?).

Cease the conditional.

“I am disappointed.”

“I am shut down.”

“I am uncertain.”

“I am pushing your buttons.”

“I am losing faith.”

“I am wiping the hard drive clean.”

“I am feeling a breakdown of my belief systems.”

“I am wanting you to fix it.”

“I have laid down a swath of viridian.”  “I am walking away.”

Let’s see if that works.

Thank you for practising,