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Thread: The pain of practice

  1. #1

    The pain of practice

    I’ve been really struggling to formulate this question. Sometimes I have answers, or bits of answers, but they float off and slip away and I'm left none the wiser. And when I read back through it there are bits that scream answers out at me (“Goals! Expectations! Grasping!”) and other bits that are ripe for a “Zen semantics” take-down… and it makes me feel as if I should go straight back to Buddhism 101. But what I know at a theoretical level has become awfully cloudy on the cushion, so I’ve tried to just put something on paper and hope it makes some sense.

    I have for the past couple of years noticed that whenever I increase my practice (or indeed do other things to ‘improve’ how I live) I become considerably more aware – and afraid – of my immortality. I’ve left it too late. I should have done all this sooner. Panic. More panic.

    At an intellectual level I’ve got a pretty good awareness/understanding of impermanence (hard to avoid as a Buddhist, really) but when, for whatever reason, my practice drops off I find myself able to co-exist with this truth quite happily. But as soon as I start to sit regularly, or try to eat better, or exercise, or make an effort in another area of my life I find myself horribly aware of my own end hurtling towards me, and of how insignificant it all is in the long run anyway. I’m going to die, who knows when, and I’ve left it too late to do… er… whatever, and in 100 years it’ll all be irrelevant anyway. A horrible horrible fear of time running out (and I’m only 42 ) combined with a nihilism/fatalism that really doesn’t seem like 'me'.

    And it is so painful! More painful, in fact, than the pain that (Buddhistically speaking) I am supposed to be feeling when I don’t face up to truths about the nature of existence. It hurts less to sit in front of the TV and eat crisps and wish I was a thin PhD black belt and guitar virtuoso than it does to get up and do something ‘better’ and get smacked in the face by the gut-churning fear that perhaps none of it matters anyway or that there’s no point if I’m going to pop my clogs one day anyway.

    So what on earth is my motivation for sitting with this pain? At times like this even the dull gnawing suffering of constantly wishing things were different seems to be a lesser suffering compared to the acute pain I experience when I’m practicing and ostensibly, on some level, happier with things as they are.

    I’m not even fully sure what I’m asking here. I think: why do I find it MORE painful once I start to move in the right direction? And why, WHY, do I choose to continue down the path and not just go back to the familiar dull dissatisfaction of everyday dukkha?

    Ouch.

    Gassho,
    Libby

    sattoday

  2. #2

    The pain of practice

    It seems to me that in either scenario you describe you "face up to truths about the nature of existence." What you do with that knowledge, how you choose to behave in light of this knowledge - is up to you. Eating crisps and being a black belt virtuouso are not binary opposites - in delusion there is enlightenment and in enlightenment there is delusion - they are one and the same. The seeds of one exist in the other - just as seeds of virtuosity exist in eating treats and fear/hurting can also be present in individuals who pack every living moment with self improvement activities. What I'm trying to say I guess is olease try to soften the oppositeness of the choices you describe and be a little easier on yourself! There are days when I will sit zazen and practice karate kata for hours and days when I will eat stinky cheese, French bread and drink red wine like Zorba the Greek. It's all part of the same deal.

    Sitting with pain and angst is not something to be muscled through. Peeling away the layers of the existential onion takes time - build up your resilience gradually, and have a few crisps when the urge seizes you!

    I'm reminded of a bumper stick I saw recently: "eat right, live healthy, die anyway" - while the body is just a collection of bones, fluid and other stuff that we live in for awhile, it is a good idea to care for it somewhat so that our spiritual journeys have a good platform on which to stand. Practice is the rent we pay for the space we inhabit ....

    Deep bows
    Yugen


    sat2day
    Last edited by Yugen; 12-22-2015 at 06:41 PM.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Libby View Post
    I think: why do I find it MORE painful once I start to move in the right direction? And why, WHY, do I choose to continue down the path and not just go back to the familiar dull dissatisfaction of everyday dukkha?
    Hello Libby,

    This is a good and deep question, I will try and share my understanding why we choose to continue of a path that "seems" to be causing us more discomfort or stress. Just like the body, the mind too requires a form of conditioning. If we have negative thoughts, we need to work at dissolving those negative thoughts - they don't just fall away by saying, "ah I see you negative thought, now go away". Say you take up a physical sport, this new sport is going to require you to condition your body ... so at first your muscles are going to be sore and tired. This is no different with the mind.

    Because we have or/are living a life of delusion and do not see the causes and conditions of our life, that when we stop (sitting) and truly see life through and through just as it is, it can be hard and overwhelming. But the more we practice, the more me face, the more we accept, the easier and more fluid life becomes ... just like the body learning that new physical sport/activity. I feel the key during this process of patience and kindness to oneself. Give yourself positive feedback for taking these steps and walking this path ... it can be hard at times, but knowing you can do it helps along the way. =)

    I hope this rambling has helped ... it sounds like you are doing just fine, so keep at it, share, learn, and grow. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    #sattoday

  4. #4
    This is just your ego talking. Your being is eternal. As far as practice, find your own rhythm and comfort level. You took 40 years to build an ego, so it may take awhile to observe it totally. Start your day smiling 😊 at simple things like the air, water, plants, animals, sun, moon, stars, your heart, lungs.....
    Outdoors if you can.
    We are all just like you, learning to see through and let go of delusion.

    SAT today
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

  5. #5
    Hey Libby,

    I've shared some thoughts similar to these, so let me assure you that you are not alone at all in your practice, and I don't think there are any clear answers, so your distress (inherently) is nothing to be alarmed at. (I think so, I am young and inexperienced.)

    Now, I'll, if I may, go all fortune cookie on you for a minute; these ideas have helped me when I encounter similar thoughts...

    When waves form in the ocean, there is no discernible distinction between wave and ocean. The wave is clearly visible, yet its nature is not. Every other particle in the ocean has some influence, no matter how small, on that wave, and the entire accumulation is what led to the illusion of there being a wave separate from the ocean. Yet when we sit with the waves and examine them, we see there are no waves, only ocean. The wave is to the ocean what a person (or anything, including the ocean) is to the universe. From the big bang, or creation or what-have-you, to today, every particle in existence, via gravity or radiation or DNA mutation, has influenced you. You are just a wave, and that's a beautiful thing, because it means you are at one with the universe. No, you are universe. So to worry about your death is to worry about the universe ending, which is impossible if we define the universe as all that exists and ending as non-existence. Regardless of what happens to the body called Libby, Libby will be okay, for all is as it is meant to be with the Libbiverse.

    As for choosing to continue down this path... There is no choice. You have no choice. In fact there's no distinguishable you to have or make the choice, and even if there were, there is no path. The "path" is merely your manifestation unfolding itself. Religion is no more inherent to you than the language you speak, it's a hiccup, a cultural accident manifested by your geographic location, culture, and availability of information. You = you = universe = shunyata. "The Tao that can be spoken of is not the eternal Tao, the Name that can be spoken is not the true Name."

    That's why shikantaza (which I have a crazily difficult time with) "focuses" on shunyata, or nothingness, emptiness, or boundlessness... no focusing.

    I hope this helps, pardon the myriad contradictions and please keep in mind I'm just a young, silly practitioner.

    Gassho, Dylan, Sat today.

  6. #6
    Hello,

    "Knock, knock.

    Who's there?

    Answer to the question . . .

    Answer to the question . . . who?"

    I don't know, Libby.

    But, what IS is Life before birth, living Life (as human experience) and Life after dying.

    What a blessing to worry. It's always a good day.


    Gassho
    Myosha sat today
    Last edited by Myosha; 12-23-2015 at 07:24 PM.
    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

  7. #7
    Yes, you are going to die. All of us will, in the coffin, in the ground, ashes to ashes

    Same if you stay on the sofa eating crisps or write a great novel or build a giant financial empire or become Czar of Russia ... dead dead dead.

    At the same time, we do not quite believe in death. Nor do we believe any moment is ever wasted. So, it is okay.

    Just understand that birth-and-death is itself nirvana. There is nothing such as birth and death to be avoided; there is nothing such as nirvana to be sought. Only when you realize this are you free from birth and death.

    ...

    There is a simple way to become buddha: When you refrain from unwholesome actions, are not attached to birth and death, and are compassionate toward all sentient beings, respectful to seniors and kind to juniors, not excluding or desiring anything, with no designing thoughts or worries, you will be called a buddha. Do not seek anything else.


    Shobogenz-Shoji (Birth and Death)
    http://www.zenki.com/index.php?lang=en&page=Shoji

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    Last edited by Jundo; 12-22-2015 at 08:14 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  8. #8
    Hi Libby,

    I think there is a process of fear and grief when the boundaries of Self begin to dissolve. We may reflexively recoil from the perceived lack of structure, when the framework we are used to, begins to change. It can seem like the solid bottom dropping out from beneath us.

    It reminds me of the first time I put on flippers and went swimming out into the ocean a little further from shore. Everything was groovy, beautiful, free and fun, but then I looked down and suddenly realized the water was so deep that I couldn’t see the bottom. On top the water was sparkly with sunshine and blue as it had always been, but suddenly I was aware of this deep, cold, grey abyss beneath me! There was a moment of panic and a very real sense of falling, before I realized that the water was still holding me up. Nothing had changed in those moments except my perception.

    Life is life, and the truth doesn’t change whether we sit on the sofa or on the zafu. The choice is yours in every moment. Good luck un-knowing what you already know!

    I don't see The Path as something we step onto and follow, or step off of and back into ‘the regular world’. I think of it more as the path being made by your very own footsteps as you meander through the world. It forms as you go along. This is why it’s so hard to see ahead. ‘Where does my path lead?’ Take a step and find out. ‘How do I move forward?’ Only one way: from exactly where you are right here and now. ‘How do I know which way to go?’ Look behind you to get a sense of which direction seems to work out best, and which lead you into swamps and quagmires before. Read the signs left by other travellers. ‘But I’m tired of walking, I just want to rest!’ That’s okay too. Move on when you’re ready.

    This pain you feel, are you sure it’s pain? Maybe so. Maybe it’s a new sensation that you just don’t have another word for. Maybe you are seeing more, feeling more, experiencing life more deeply, and this intensity is being perceived as pain because it’s a little overwhelming. What if you sat with this ‘pain’ and just let it be what it is, without attaching a value to it either negative or positive. Hold it with an open hand, breathe with it, allow it to be what it is, and allow your questions to settle around it. What does that feel like?

    About motivation: you may have answered your own question when you mention going back to Buddhism 101. This is a good instinct. Whenever I’m confused and lost, I return to the Four Noble Truths. Everything is there. Add in the Bodhisattva Vow and it’s hard to not find motivation and inspiration.

    Bumbling along beside you, please pass those crisps over here,

    Gassho
    Lisa
    sat today

  9. #9
    Excellent discussion all around. I have been where you are Libby. Awareness can easily drive one to the extremes of hedonism and fatalism. having the balance of the middle way will lead to equanimity but it is not the simple balance of a set of scales, more the balance of spinning a basketball on the finger where numerous actions and events intersect.

    Perhaps the question is not how to sit with pain, but to acknowledge that it is no different from sitting with pleasure - both are delusion.

    Gassho
    Sat
    Marc Connery
    明岩
    Myo̅ Gan - Bright Cliff

    I put the Monkey in Monkeymind

  10. #10
    Wow, thank you all so much. The time you have taken to respond so thoughtfully is incredibly appreciated and there's so much useful stuff in there that 'speaks to my condition' (as the Quakers say). Don't really know what to say beyond that at the moment. Thank you

    Except that I've realised my whole post makes me sound really quite miserable when actually I'm generally a really pretty chirpy person (which is maybe why the discomfort jumps out at me at times). So yes, please visualise me as quite contentedly munching my crisps and wishing things were different

    Deep bows
    Libby
    sat today

  11. #11
    Kyotai
    Guest
    I couldn't possibly add anything better then what has been written above. Thank you for sharing your experience and posting your question.

    Gassho, Kyotai
    sat today

  12. #12
    What a great thread, thanks Libby for asking your question and everyone for their replies. I can go from Supreme Oneness with the Universe to sick of myself and my hamster wheel in 60 seconds flat, but as said in the wise posts above, it's all delusion... it does get easier to ride the roller coaster with practice... "oh yes, this again, no big deal."

    Gassho,
    Sierra
    SatToday

  13. #13
    Might we contemplate the verse written on the 'han'?:

    "Great is the matter of birth and death
    Life flows quickly by
    Time waits for no one
    Wake up! Wake up!
    Don't waste a moment!"


    Gassho,
    Anshu

    -sat today-

  14. #14
    Hi,

    If one is dealing with a psychologically fragile individual, there might be more worry about someone facing such angst, sense of nihilism and such. I do not sense that in what you wrote, and you seem quite strong and resilient. So, I advice you to just be with these feelings.

    Our Buddhist Way is not "nihilism." There is some Profound Home which transcends and embodies life and death. We also say that our way is not "eternalism", because all is beyond change or no change, time or no time ... and we are thus cool with the every ongoing flow of change before our eyes (and our changing eyes too).

    Here is a Koan for you:

    There really is no difference between sitting on the sofa eating chocolate cake vs. eating veggies and exercising. There is no death, and the long and short of lifespan is just a measure of the mind. Every moment of time contains and expresses all moments of time. Getting up off the couch or staying, living or dying, all the same. There is no "long" vs. "short".

    On the other hand, best to eat healthy and exercise, because it will leave you healthier and tend to let you live longer and stronger. Though death may be like a dream, no need to rush it!

    All of the above true at once.

    There is no difference between playing video games and building a rocket to mars, doodling and writing the great novel of the century. Nothing can be wasted. There is nothing in the universe which is fails to fully express the universe, no place in the cosmos that is not the center of the cosmos. There is no place to go for every instant is Total Arrival.

    On the other hand, since nothing can be wasted, might as well do something that calls to your heart and leaves your life and this world better, and the road starts underfoot.

    All of the above true at once.
    So, maybe for the New Year, get off the sofa, put down the chips and do that project you always meant to do.

    I happened to see this story today from South Korea ...

    South Korean "mock funerals" seek to ease life's stresses

    Tuesday's service drew 16 people. Before they climbed into their coffins, they listened to a lecture on life and death, watched a TV documentary on a woman dying of a cancer saying farewell to her family, and wrote their own wills.

    "I'm so sad. I feel sorry (to my family) that I didn't do anything on my third wedding anniversary and missed a party at my daughter's kindergarten," said Kwon Dae-jung, one of the participants, choked with tears.

    Many who join the mock funerals seek relief from the stresses of modern life in South Korea, whose suicide rate tops the developed world. There is widespread tension, especially among young South Koreans, over highly competitive college entrance exams, job searches, long working hours and widening inequality.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/south-ko...ifes-stresses/
    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    Last edited by Jundo; 12-23-2015 at 07:01 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  15. #15
    The Little Duck

    By Donald C. Babcock

    Now we are ready to look at something pretty special.
    It is a duck riding the ocean a hundred feet beyond the surf.
    No, it isn’t a gull.
    A gull always has a raucous touch about him.
    This is some sort of duck, and he cuddles in the swells.
    He isn’t cold, and he is thinking things over.
    There is a big heaving in the Atlantic,
    And he is part of it.
    He looks a bit like a mandarin, or the Lord Buddha meditating under the Bo tree.
    But he has hardly enough above the eyes to be a philosopher.
    He has poise, however, which is what philosophers must have.
    He can rest while the Atlantic heaves, because he rests in the Atlantic.
    Probably he doesn’t know how large the ocean is.
    And neither do you.
    But he realizes it.
    And what does he do, I ask you. He sits down in it.
    He reposes in the immediate as if it were infinity—which it is.
    That is religion, and the duck has it.
    He has made himself a part of the boundless, by easing himself into it just where it
    touches him.
    求道芸化 Kyūdō Geika
    I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

  16. #16
    Eishuu
    Guest
    I really resonate with your post Libby. I struggle with this too - the fear of death or the fear that 'I' do not exist in the way I think I do. You've really put it into words well. I find it easier to cope with if I do more metta practise somehow or if my heart feels more open and less focused on 'me'. I've even stopped meditating for long periods because of it. It's eased a lot now. I don't have the wealth of experience of these guys but I would say from dealing with my own fear or terror at times that I've found it helpful to be gentle and kind with myself - not to try and push it, but to back off every now and then to digest things.

    Also, realising a bit more that 'I' am just a wave and the ocean is always there helps.

    Gassho
    Lucy
    sat today
    Last edited by Eishuu; 12-23-2015 at 11:26 AM.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Lucy View Post
    I really resonate with your post Libby. I struggle with this too - the fear of death or the fear that 'I' do not exist in the way I think I do. You've really put it into words well. I find it easier to cope with if I do more metta practise somehow or if my heart feels more open and less focused on 'me'. I've even stopped meditating for long periods because of it. It's eased a lot now. I don't have the wealth of experience of these guys but I would say from dealing with my own fear or terror at times that I've found it helpful to be gentle and kind with myself - not to try and push it, but to back off every now and then to digest things.

    Also, realising a bit more that 'I' am just a wave and the ocean is always there helps.

    Gassho
    Lucy
    sat today
    Yes, if such sensations are too much for you, then back off. Some folks are just more sensitive and fragile in the face of such fears. I would hesitate to guide someone at a distance in such case.

    I would advise you to find a teacher you can sit with live, and not at a distance, if you wish to keep sitting and the sensations continue.

    If it is just a passing thing, and you find that you can continue sitting without being overwhelmed, that is one thing. But if the fear of impermanence, or a negative dread of emptiness or losing oneself persists or is too strong, you should stop Zazen until you can work with someone in person.

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Yes, if such sensations are too much for you, then back off.
    Thank you Jundo ... I too feel this is an important point. Balance is key and if we find practice is too much, stop and get the support that is needed - practice is also seeing/knowing when we need a helping hand. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    #sattoday

  19. #19
    I hear you, Libby. That can be tough. We feel it more when we practice because we are allowing all those delusions to fall away. As to why we continue to practice despite this? I have found that once you are on this path, you can't ever really leave. It sticks to your bones! But I think that's a good thing.

    Sometimes when these delusions fall away, I tend to get a bit extremist, thinking about just abandoning all my "pointless" hobbies and enjoyments and just focusing 100% on practice. But, that's not really appropriate or healthy for a householder, I don't think. Like all things in practice, balance is good. We can enjoy all these "cosmically pointless" activities (that can bring joy to us and those around us), while still understanding their place in ultimate reality. Not sure if that makes sense.

    Ultimately, we touch more beings than we can imagine, so just practice good and do as little harm as you can. Let your legacy be a positive one. What else can be done?

    -satToday

    p.s. I've found volunteering to help others to be great medicine. Ultimately, nothing matters. Practically, everything matters. And remember that it doesn't matter how much you sit, or read about Buddhism, or know about Buddhism. As the Buddha said, "your actions are your only true possessions."
    Thanks,
    Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
    Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

  20. #20
    Thanks, Libby, for starting this lovely thread. Just ducky. Which reminds me of our theme song,.....

    "Row, row, row your boat
    Gently down the stream
    Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
    Life is but a dream"

    Sung softly, nestled on those Atlantic swells, our little flotilla of ducks all together.
    _/st\_ Shinzan

  21. #21

    The pain of practice

    Hi Libby,

    You are already dead. You have realized that death is unavoidable and this is wonderful. Now you can live in peace.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

  22. #22
    This is a good place to mention "Makyo" ...

    In Zen Practice, we have to be careful of certain games the mind will play during Zazen once in awhile ... including unusual visual and auditory sensations, brief periods of paranoia or panic, memories arising from deep down in our subconscious. We are not used to the stillness and quiet of Zazen, and it lets certain memories, emotions, fears and like psychological states rise to the surface ... or allows some things (spots in our eyes that are always there even though not usually noticed, background sounds) to be noticed that are usually blocked out by all the noise and busyness in our heads, senses and around us.
    The usual guidance on such events ... Observe, allow, let it go. If such events do not repeat so often, I would not worry.

    I link to my usual long posting on so-called "Makyo" mind tricks during Zazen ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...l=1#post134634

    There is a scholar researching some negative effects of meditation called the "Dark Night" project. However, it is my general belief that most truly extreme and powerful negative psychological and emotional states would arise from highly concentrated, intense, very long or focused forms of meditation seeking to give rise to unusual and radically altered mind states. The Shikantaza we sit is rather relaxed, "ordinary mind", low-intensity in style, so I believe that triggering truly extreme negative mental states is unlikely in the way we sit. However, one still needs to be careful for some particularly fragile or sensitive individuals.

    http://magazine.good.is/articles/whe...is-bad-for-you

    Gassho, Jundo

    SatToday
    Last edited by Jundo; 12-23-2015 at 06:45 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Shinzan View Post
    Thanks, Libby, for starting this lovely thread. Just ducky. Which reminds me of our theme song,.....

    "Row, row, row your boat
    Gently down the stream
    Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
    Life is but a dream"

    Sung softly, nestled on those Atlantic swells, our little flotilla of ducks all together.
    _/st\_ Shinzan



    Gassho
    Lisa
    sat today

  24. #24
    This has been such a wonderful read, thank you all again. Every one of your responses has given me a new perspective or angle from which to approach my experience and some responses in particular have really helped me get some clarity amid the emotional fog

    One thing I have already realised is that the pain I described may actually be a sort of overwhelm in the face of very intense love. I am a single mum and the fear of leaving my kids prematurely has always been there in the background. Practise brings this to the fore, I think. But actually your kind and thoughtful comments have enabled me to feel this intense emotion rather differently today. I noticed a few times that rather than feel panic I felt a surge of gratitude and joy that I have such precious beings in my life, and rather than fear my time running out with them (time in which to teach them every single thing I need to teach them, time in which to express every single aspect of my love for them etc etc etc) I felt the wonderful potential of every moment we do have together. This was quite a huge perspective shift. Still somewhat overwhelming, but much less negative and fear-filled. We shall see how that unfolds.

    I don't know where I would start responding to each of your comments in turn but suffice it to say these were really supportive and genuinely useful responses. They have also reminded me of the value of metta practice, which for some reason has dropped out of my daily routine recently. Time to bring that back, I think.

    There is something very special in a sangha whose members take such care to support each other's practice and I am so happy I stumbled across this little flotilla of ducks on the vast ocean swell

    Deep bows to you all and thank you for this fabulous discussion,
    Gassho,
    Libby

    sat today

  25. #25

    The pain of practice

    Libby,
    As you are discovering, a child's love is the most wonderful thing in the world. Let it soak into you like a spring rain. I aspire to a heart as playful and spontaneous as a child's.

    Thank you
    Deep bows
    Yugen


    sat2day
    Last edited by Yugen; 12-24-2015 at 02:10 AM.

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Libby View Post
    One thing I have already realised is that the pain I described may actually be a sort of overwhelm in the face of very intense love. I am a single mum and the fear of leaving my kids prematurely has always been there in the background. Practise brings this to the fore, I think. But actually your kind and thoughtful comments have enabled me to feel this intense emotion rather differently today. I noticed a few times that rather than feel panic I felt a surge of gratitude and joy that I have such precious beings in my life, and rather than fear my time running out with them (time in which to teach them every single thing I need to teach them, time in which to express every single aspect of my love for them etc etc etc) I felt the wonderful potential of every moment we do have together. This was quite a huge perspective shift. Still somewhat overwhelming, but much less negative and fear-filled. We shall see how that unfolds.
    One of the greatest gifts this Practice has allowed me is to be with my kids, savor the moment (even the hard ones), then be willing to let it go.

    We truly learn that each moment and experience is just its own shining jewel, but one that holds all time within it. There truly is nothing lacking, nothing more needed, than that one tick of the clock.

    But then kids grow older, and there is a mix of joy and sadness in that fact. Our way allows the changes to change, ends to end and new beginnings to begin ... and even though part of me is sad, there is also equanimity and joy at once.

    Further, even as the clock keeps ticking ... we do fill ourselves with something beyond all change though changing, without beginning and end and time.

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  27. #27
    Hello Libby,

    I have been thinking of you and this thread the past couple of days. It is a very important thread and I am grateful to everyone who has responded.

    I also experienced the fear you experience when my children were small and now it revisits with my grandchildren who I love dearly. The intense love you speak of is natural - though we must take care not to let it impact negatively because of the anxiety that sometimes accompanies the intensity.

    Three Christmases ago my daughter became seriously ill with a rare immune condition - it can be life threatening. My grandchildren were 3 and 6 years of age. I can not describe the feeling of sheer terror at the thought of 'separation' from a loved daughter and my fears for my grandchildren. Three years on my daughter
    is an inspiration in her way of coping with a difficult illness and my grandchildren are developing into caring little people with a degree of empathy for others well
    beyond their age.

    I don't believe I could have got through the past three years with any degree of equanimity without the healing nature of zazen. Zazen hasn't eradicated any of the emotions/feelings etc but has enabled me to be with that whole spectrum of emotions without falling into an abyss.

    I think what I am trying to say is that we will probably be defeated/discouraged if we expect zazen to eradicate emotions. Maybe it is possible for some to reach
    a point of 'no death - no fear' (Thich Nhat Hahn's words) but for myself I accept I have a long way to go and try to be at peace with the fact that I may never reach such a point of equanimity.

    Each stage of life presents a new challenge regarding the above so I try not to view the challenge as a huge difficulty or imperfection - something to be fixed and overcome - but all part of this joyous, mixed up path of happiness, sadness, fear and freedom from fear that we're walking together.

    Metta to all,

    Gassho

    Willow

    sat today

  28. #28
    Thank you Yugen, Jundo and Willow. Yes, the intensity of love and the fears and sadnesses that go along with it do indeed provide ever-evolving challenges.

    Quote Originally Posted by willow View Post
    Zazen hasn't eradicated any of the emotions/feelings etc but has enabled me to be with that whole spectrum of emotions without falling into an abyss.
    I think you have hit the nail on the head here, Willow. After many years of living in my head I am learning to experience and be with a whole range of emotions I tried to think my way out of in the past, for fear of being swamped by them. I am glad to hear your own experience is that zazen has supported you during what must have been a terribly difficult time.

    And Lisa:" It reminds me of the first time I put on flippers and went swimming out into the ocean a little further from shore. Everything was groovy, beautiful, free and fun, but then I looked down and suddenly realized the water was so deep that I couldn’t see the bottom. On top the water was sparkly with sunshine and blue as it had always been, but suddenly I was aware of this deep, cold, grey abyss beneath me! There was a moment of panic and a very real sense of falling, before I realized that the water was still holding me up. Nothing had changed in those moments except my perception." Thank you for these words.

    You know, I was hesitating about starting this thread but it turned out to be a wonderful decision

    Thank you all again.

    Libby

  29. #29
    Nindo
    Guest
    Thank you for this thread. I too know this "early-forties" panic that comes with increased awareness that our time is limited. Seems the best way to deal with it is to get to work and use time wisely, as you found with your children. (Of course, that is often easier said than done!) For me it was also a strong sign that I have to chose more carefully what I want to be involved in as a volunteer and which personal project to take up.

    May your life go well.
    Gassho
    Nindo
    sattoday

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by raindrop View Post
    It reminds me of the first time I put on flippers and went swimming out into the ocean a little further from shore. Everything was groovy, beautiful, free and fun, but then I looked down and suddenly realized the water was so deep that I couldn’t see the bottom. On top the water was sparkly with sunshine and blue as it had always been, but suddenly I was aware of this deep, cold, grey abyss beneath me! There was a moment of panic and a very real sense of falling, before I realized that the water was still holding me up. Nothing had changed in those moments except my perception.
    This really resonated with me. Thank you, Lisa! (And to everybody else's wonderful response.) While reading Libby's original post, all I could do was nod and think to myself, "me too, me too!" For awhile, before I connected with Buddhism, I jokingly called myself "an atheist who really wants there to be an afterlife"--the thought of dying, of not existing, terrified me. Hell (ba-dum-tss), it STILL terrifies me. But I've learned through zazen and mindfulness that I can examine that fear... and yes, I'm still afraid, but I feel that by planting the seeds/the habit of examining that fear, that the fear will eventually (maybe in a decade? 50 years? right before my death?) disappear to the point where I can REALLY enjoy my life. I'm trying to get in that habit now.

    Gassho,
    June
    #SatToday
    #SorryIHaven'tBeenAround

  31. #31
    Joyo
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by orangedice View Post
    This really resonated with me. Thank you, Lisa! (And to everybody else's wonderful response.) While reading Libby's original post, all I could do was nod and think to myself, "me too, me too!" For awhile, before I connected with Buddhism, I jokingly called myself "an atheist who really wants there to be an afterlife"--the thought of dying, of not existing, terrified me. Hell (ba-dum-tss), it STILL terrifies me. But I've learned through zazen and mindfulness that I can examine that fear... and yes, I'm still afraid, but I feel that by planting the seeds/the habit of examining that fear, that the fear will eventually (maybe in a decade? 50 years? right before my death?) disappear to the point where I can REALLY enjoy my life. I'm trying to get in that habit now.

    Gassho,
    June
    #SatToday
    #SorryIHaven'tBeenAround
    Hi June, I am sorry you have such a fear of hell. Being raised in a very strict Christian denomination, I too had the same gripping fear. However, I don't anymore, at all. What helped me is realizing there are many different hells (one for non-Christians, one for non-Catholics, one for non-Muslims, one for Catholics etc. etc. etc. ) and I realized hell is a place to put people who do not believe like you do, and it is, therefore, impossible to escape. This might sound cynical, but it just clicked in my mind that it's a man-made place. Even my husband, who is a Christian, does not believe his Buddhist wife and non-Christian children are going to hell. He thinks it's a bit of a joke when more fundamental Christians talk this way.

    Hope this helps. Sending you peace and metta.

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today

  32. #32
    Ahh sorry, I am not afraid of hell or even believe in it. I was making a bad joke of using "hell!" as an exclamation.

    What I'm really terrified of is non-existence.

    Gassho,
    June
    #sattoday

  33. #33
    Have heard that it's the ego that's terrified of non existence. Your natural state is peace and bliss. But , yes, if fear appears gotta deal with it and all fear is about death. But in a way fear has kept me alive. Real fear vs imagined fear?

    SAT today
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by orangedice View Post
    Ahh sorry, I am not afraid of hell or even believe in it. I was making a bad joke of using "hell!" as an exclamation.

    What I'm really terrified of is non-existence.

    Gassho,
    June
    #sattoday
    But why? Non-existence is release! How did you feel before you were born?
    Thanks,
    Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
    Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

  35. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by Kaishin View Post
    But why? Non-existence is release! How did you feel before you were born?
    Thank you... this is something to sit with!

    Gassho,
    Sierra
    SatToday

  36. #36
    Just a bow for this wonderful thread!
    Sometimes jumping in the deep seems way cool, sometimes you realise it is actually quite deep - I still remember well how the swimming teacher just threw me in, all those years ago... Either way eventually you float and then discover swimming isn't that hard at all. I'm still climbing back up the side of the pool regularly, but swimming gets more easy with every jump.

    Gassho
    Ongen

    Sat Today
    Last edited by Ongen; 01-07-2016 at 01:57 PM.
    Ongen (音源) - Sound Source

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