Dharma Reflection #3

Up close and personal, not sure where to go…

Life goes by so fast I can barely keep up. I have dedicated much of my life’s energy to the work of being present for what is, yet I still find myself constantly looking forwards and backwards much of the time. I do believe that there is some benefit in engaging this part of my mind. I have found ongoing therapeutic value by a willingness to have a continued conversation with my past, alone and with others. By default, I find that this endeavor informs my present, and consequently, can cast of light of optimism on what lies ahead. This retrospective awareness appears to be a highly undervalued, or perhaps unmentioned practice in the current landscapes of Mindfulness practices and its many secular and Dharmic subsets.

Much of this became abundantly clear as I awoke this am into a new life. One that I frankly could not have ever imagined awaited me. November 18, 2018 marks my 44th trip around the sun. Living amongst the mesas here in rural Colorado, 30 plus miles from any traffic lights, big box stores, or Starbucks. In many ways, distant from a world I have known, and in some instances, crave.

Today our new home is filled with the presence of my lovely wife, and best friend, Shannon, our son Emmett, and brand-new addition Coyote James who has been her for just over 30 days. On this day last year, Shannon and I had dinner and spent the night in Redstone Colorado, just over the hill. During that trip, we got engaged. Our house was barely close to being finished, and there was no conversation about a baby. 365 days later. Here I am.

I have heard somewhere before that each time the Dharma is introduced to a new culture that it takes approx. 400 years for it to begin to have a significant influence. For somebody like myself, who feels like a beneficiary of the Insight Dharma tradition, I would say that we are at best, fifty years into this integration. According to legacy, we are 10% deep into seeing what holds for the Dharma as it collides with the American culture. This reality fills me with a mixture of overwhelm and optimism. One the one hand, we have a well-tested set of practices that without a doubt appear to have tremendous benefits for those who practice them, at least that’s what the neuroscience folks are now realizing. On the other, much of what has been handed down, exported or perhaps stolen comes from a primarily monastic setting. The lay practitioner has a vague sketch of what a Dharma informed life looks like, and five precepts that are also not entirely clear, let alone, nobody seems all that committed to following. Not to mention, here in the states we have a plethora of Buddhism(s) that tend to hold a variety of views, philosophies, ethics and dogmas that make for a difficult and challenging transition into life here in the Trump era of 2018. It can easily make feel like “what the fuck was I supposed to do again”?

To even hint at the idea that there is a path, is insanely misleading. The idea that you find a path of Dharma and just proceed onward, with the directly clearly laid out, makes for a daunting and unrealistic metaphor. It’s seems more as though, you have been handed a dull machete and stand at the foot of a jungle, and if you have it in you, you begin to chop away at the obstacles with very little clue as to what will arise, or where any of this is going. We each have to come to terms with what it means to practice in the world. Sila, Samadhi, Panna are non-negotiable aspects of the path, dare I say that word.

One thing I have said many times, and still strongly believe up to, and within this moment. The Dharma takes care of those who take care of the Dharma. Do what needs to be done. Trust yourself.

 

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