Monday, January 5, 2009

The Doorway In

This mixed media piece is textured with some tissue paper and medium underlying the acrylic paint.  The Buddha is painted over an abstract background of  magenta and acid green with some Asian script stamped on.  No matter how I worked with this Buddha he always came up looking sad.  I tried to make him happy but he was having none of that.  He seems a fitting companion to the writing that follows.

In Buddhism they talk about the 3 poisons (or passions if you prefer): greed, hate and delusion.  As humans we experience them all but it is said that we each have a predisposition toward one.  

For years I wandered around the edges of  a Buddhist practice.  I was what could  jokingly be referred to as  a "bookstore Buddhist" reading copious quantities of  books on the subject.  I did some Shambhala training and sat with them for a while but nothing really clicked.  And then 2 things happened.  A woman who ran a Feng Shui store where I sold some of my art started telling me about a monk who had come to live in town.  When I met this grandmotherly monk I was smitten.  She was human, she was compassionate, she was full of wisdom but still I sat on the fence instead of diving in to her weekly sitting group.  

Then IT happened.  (If you'd asked me , at this point in my life, I would never have said I was an angry person.  After all angry people go around shouting and kicking doors right?).  Then one day my neighbour did something (and I don't need to go in to the details).  It involved the damaging of property that belonged to me and a loss of something precious to me (privacy) but there were deeper layers to it.  It pushed some real buttons of vulnerability in me.  I was enraged.  Because I had some acquaintance with Buddhist thought I could watch myself and what was plain was the deep personal suffering my anger created.  I was agitated, I was unhappy and I spent a lot of time thinking about the unpleasant encounter and  what I could do about it.  My neighbour and I behaved like 5 year olds for a couple of weeks until one day I realized the buck needed to stop somewhere and it was going to be with me.  It was through this experience that I learned how much anger lived inside me, how certain circumstances caused it to flare up.  I could see it as a deep form of suffering.   

And so I began my Buddhist practice in earnest by visiting my Zen teacher for the first time and asking "how do you work with anger?"  That was 4 years ago and I have joked over the years that my neighbour brought me to practice.  And my teacher has said "really you should thank  your neighbour.  She is a Bodhisattva".

So my doorway in to practice was anger.  And I have done lots of work here in the trenches of anger and of course as my teacher would say "practice is ongoing.  There is always more work to do".  So while it can be painful to look at what we get up to, whether it manifests as  greed, hate or delusion or some form of combo order.  (I'll have a full order of anger with a side of delusion, hold the fries).  This is the compassionate side of suffering. It helps us see what we are really up to and if we are willing to take that difficult and honest look at ourselves we can transform this poison into something precious and helpful.  Anger when we work with it transforms to compassion.  Greed transforms to generosity and delusion (or confusion) transforms to wisdom.  So if you've heard that old saying that your greatest weakness is really your greatest strength, it's true.   You can find the truth in this through the transformation process of working with your passion.  So are you a greed type, an anger type or do you live in a state of delusion?

The first step,  like in AA is awareness, acknowledging what we do.   My teacher always says this takes courage.  It's not easy to look poison in they eye.  The next is to work with "our stuff".  At first we might only catch ourselves at our greed, after we've eaten the 3 pieces of cake and feel kind of sick, but as time goes on we get to catch ourselves in mid bite.  The next time we might see the arising of greed as we think about the slice of cake in the bakery window.  Not that there's anything wrong with cake (personal favourite tofu cheesecake if you're thinking of sending any) but it's always about our motivation.  Am I using this cake, this cup of coffee to stuff down some feelings, to comfort myself?  What are we getting up to?  And it is only with that kind of awareness that we can sit through the craving, the temptation to say the angry thing and make a choice.  Then we are truly free, free from being battered about and run by our emotions.  This is where our work lies every day.  So my wish for you is that you become a spiritual alchemist  in your life lab transforming that base metal into gold.

No comments:

Post a Comment