Encountering Amma

AmmaI just returned from a retreat with  Amma: Woman, being, avatar, spiritual leader, lover! She is completely present. My husband Orlando, and I went together.  From the moment we arrived, there was happiness everywhere, a feeling of joy and shared anticipation and a lightness, despite the lines and intense organization. Amma hugged us separately and together and kissed us and gave us a Hershey kiss wrapped in a rose petal.

I could see that Amma is a being beyond my comprehension. Her path of hugging everyone is completely original and loving, and in the culture of India, somewhat subversive.

I decided to stay for her whole retreat to enter into her path of devotion. The more I was in the space with her, the more her mystery grew. I lined up for my hug and then I sat transfixed watching her with one person after another, in love with each. Each hug she gave to each person became my hug, too.

“Happiness is an option” say the T-shirts that Amma followers wear. Since the retreat, I have awakened feeling that way.

 

Enter: Our Demon!

Attributed to Mahesha, India 1570

Rustam Kills A Demon, Attributed to Mahesha, India 1570

Many of us go into practice thinking it will allow us to magically shed all unwanted feelings and attachments. Yet, our obsessions and addictive thoughts often seem to intensify on the cushion. It takes time to realize this is the gift: facing our demons.

When we dive into our problems and obsessions, gradually the impulse to escape gives way to the desire to investigate. We experience curiosity, interest and a feeling of discovery. We see the nuances and can let go of the cliches of being overwhelmed, wronged or victimized.

Then we can see the universality of our experience. We notice that we have this suffering in common with others.

“Face the terrible, face it boldly. The hardships of life fall back when we cease to flee before them.”  Vivekananda

Magnificent Consent

From The Rebel by Albert Camus
028At a Vispassana Retreat, teachers Eric Kolvig and Brian Lesage illustrated the equanimity practice with a passage from Camus.
One must accept the unacceptable and hold to the untenable. This magnificent consent, born of abundance and fullness of spirit, is the unreserved affirmation of human imperfection and suffering, of evil and murder, of all that is problematic and strange in our existence. It is born of an arrested wish to be what one is in a world that is what it is.
Thus from absolute despair will spring infinite joy, from blind servitude, unbounded freedom. To be free is, precisely, to abolish ends. The innocence of the ceaseless change of things, as soon as one consents to it, represents the maximum liberty. The free mind willingly accepts what is necessary.
Painting by Orlando Leibovitz

Don’t believe me

 

Don’t blindly believe what I say.

Don’t believe me because others convince you of my words.

Don’t believe anything you see, read, or hear from others, whether of authority, religious teachers or texts.

Don’t rely on logic alone, nor speculation.

Don’t infer or be deceived by appearances.

Do not give up your authority and follow blindly the will of others.

This way will lead to only delusion.

Find out for yourself what is truth, what is real.

Discover that there are virtuous things and there are non-virtuous things.

Once you have discovered for yourself give up the bad and embrace the good.

The Buddha

Things are such…

Painting: Orlando Leibovitz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things are such, that someone lifting a cup,
or watching the rain, or petting a dog.
Or singing, just singing
Could be doing as much for this universe as anyone.
Rumi, translated by Daniel Ladinsky

Born and Enlightened on the Full Moon

Vesak – the full moon festival honoring the signal events in the Buddha’s life, is celebrated by millions around the world on the full moon in May, taking place this year on May 24.

The outstanding events in the life of the Buddha took place on full moon days. The Buddha was born on a full moon day. His renunciation took place on a full moon day. His Enlightenment, the delivery of his first sermon, his passing away into Nirvana and other crucial events occurred on full moon days.

For Buddhists, it is an opportunity to reflect on our personal spiritual development and to make others happy. Statues of the Buddha are bathed, an act symbolizing purification. In addition to reflecting on the teaching of universal compassion, many Buddhists to take vegetarian meals on this special day.

 

Then I Found Everyone…

 

Painting: Orlando Leibovitz

Doing as others told me, I was blind.
Coming when others called me, I was lost.
Then I left everyone,
myself as well.

Then I found everyone, myself as well.
  Rumi

Something You Are

Peace is not something you wish for

It’s something you do

Something you are

And something you give away.

John Lennon

The world will freely offer itself to you

You do not need to leave your room.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
Do not even listen, simply wait.
Do not even wait, be still and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you
To be unmasked, it has no choice.
It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

–  Frantz Kafka

Metta and the Benefits of Metta

Lise Meitner and Nuclear FissionThe Pali word metta means loving-kindness, friendliness, goodwill, benevolence, fellowship,  and non-violence. Pali commentators define metta as the strong wish for the welfare and happiness of others. Through metta one refuses to be offensive and renounces bitterness, resentment and animosity of every kind, developing instead a mind of friendliness, accommodation and benevolence which seeks the well-being and happiness of others. True metta is devoid of self-interest. Read more…