Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday's Mud Bath

Yesterday was a day when you could wear a Spring coat and feel the sun on your back.  We met friends at a little Italian place tucked away in the corner of a downtown plaza and  feasted on grilled vege and pasta and then took to the streets.  We wandered and chatted and passed a Saturday afternoon in the most pleasant of ways.  When they headed for home to rescue their dog from standing cross legged by the door we browsed in a favourite book store and I ended the afternoon by snagging a "just like new" copy of "The Dhammapada" translated by Eknath Easwaran. 

Here is a quote from the beginning commentary that felt appropriate for today:  "Nothing in it (the world) happens by chance -- not because events are predestined, but because everything is connected by cause and effect.  Thoughts are included in this view, for they both cause things to happen and are aroused by things that happen.  What we think has consequences for the world around us, for it conditions how we act."

I am thinking about this quote not only because it is a very good basic description of karma but it is a good thing for me to consider in light of how the day went.  It started off fine, with a sit and some household chores, a nice walk on the ocean path with my partner.  The sun was shining and the path filled with Sunday strollers and their 4 legged friends (egads there was even a ginger cat on a leash!)  One of us was feeling grumbly (and I won't mention names) and that's where the conversation headed.  By the time we got home I was feeling grumbly too, perhaps doubly grumbly as my efforts to cheer fell flat.

Now that should have been the occasion to regroup or let go but it seems that dark little cloud of a mood gathered.  It didn't really take much to send me into a funk, thinking of all the things that weren't turning out as I'd like.  And it was interesting to watch the momentum of the darkening energy.  It seemed larger than warranted like it had some origin somewhere deeper that was waiting to surface.  And I find it's a tricky thing.  It is unpleasant so what do you do? Are you pushing it away at this point or are you letting it go?  Is it possible to just let go or do you have to wait for it to run it's course and pass of it's own accord.  Was I hanging on to the misery just because that's what I do sometimes?  Is it an a habitual tendency of mine?  Is it the little self just engaging in a some drama to stave off boredom?

In the end the quote from the Dhammapada reminded me to be careful about how I use my mind, to be more vigilant.  My grumpy thoughts "were aroused" by things that happened, as the Dhammapada pointed out, but then my subsequent thoughts "could cause things to happen", a little domino effect.  It reminded me that feeling grumpy was really a kind of sloppy, lazy response to someone else's grumpy thoughts.

Both of us fell into wrong view by allowing our mood to be determined by situations that were happening out there in the world.  You know those little things that influence your mood.  Our real estate plans were not turning out as we'd hoped, house fix up's and work projects not progressing as quickly or smoothly as hoped for.  There's always something, if you want to see it that way.  Or you could say, as the Dhammapada points out "nothing happens just by chance" and a bigger picture is playing itself out.  Perhaps the timing is not right for what "I want" right now or perhaps this is an opportunity to learn a little more about perseverance.  Maybe it is an opportunity to practice acceptance of what is rather than insisting that the universe comply with my desires.  Here is one of the big causes of suffering, the gap between what is and what we want.  Now of course this never means that we should collapse ourselves into inaction but it does offer us an opportunity to look at what we're  doing and contemplate our next options.   So as I head off to find a cup of tea I will think about this line from the verse on the elephant from the Dhammapada: "Be vigilant, guard your mind against negative thoughts. Pull yourself out of bad ways as an elephant raises itself out of the mud."

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