Friday, August 5, 2011

A Malpractice Suit

Here's the beginning of my Japanese style garden

"We can make the light of mindfulness a searchlight for encroaching evil that we imagine dwells within us; this is what the habit-mind often does.  Or we can make this mindfulness the light of lovingkindness, gentle and hospitable.  Experience can be known and met warmly.  Dwelling in the glow of relaxed, loving acceptance, the chill is warmed, the strain unwrenched, the grasping released." -  from Insight Dialogue by Gregory Kramer

When I read this the other night it reminded me of something I've been doing a lot of lately.  "Mindfulness", just being aware of what is, has been getting tangled up with judgment.  Now judgment being a strong contender in the ring, it tends to go quite a few rounds and bashes me upside the head good many times before I stop wobbling around. So instead of dispassionately seeing what my mind habitually gets up to, I have been holding what I observe, against myself.  "Oh, there's fear, (not again, I'm so tired of this) and there's timidity (I need to stop being like that.) and the commentary continues.  Instead of using practice to grow wisdom, my practice can easily become just another measuring stick that I hold up for myself.  "Officer, arrest that woman for malpractice."

A little close up ( you need a break from all that reading)

The mind is a crafty conniver.  It can rework anything into it's favourite flavour, even if the flavour is nasty, and chewy and bitter.  The Dalai Lama was surprised to hear that Westerners often feel "not good enough".  And apparently we will use just about anything, including our Dharma practice, to fulfill this prophecy.  But noticing what we're up to is the point at which we kick judgment out of the ring on a technicality.  He was never invited to this event in the first place.  Maybe we don't actually kick him out, he just slinks away like a monster in a nightmare, when we turn to look at him.

And so this is  where my practice has been lately.  It's a strange little macrame hanger that I've been using to tighten the noose.
Here's me wondering if I should have bought a houseboat instead

And the antidote is to lighten up a little, to back off on the intensity, to relax the body and remember that the point of practice is not to "fix" anything.  The point of practice is to learn how to just be, to grow in wisdom and compassion and kindness and that starts with our inner life.  Maybe we need to ask ourselves first, "am I kinder to myself than I was 5 years ago, more compassionate, less angry?  Because if we can't offer that to ourselves, chances are we can't offer it to anyone else.  "Self, are you listening?"  "I knew you were."


  1. This is a really lovely post to read. "The point of practice is to learn how to just be." Beautiful. Also I like your picture and am a fan of the birks-&-woolly-hat combo :)

  2. Lovely post! Calms me to read this, so full of the wisdom that I needed to hear just now! Reminds me to just embrace life as it is and to just be with what is... And your garden is so soothing as well...

    Love the quote by Kramer, especially: "Experience can be known and met warmly." I will post that little phrase where I can see it daily!

  3. Thank you Carole. That was lovely to read just before bed.

  4. Thank you for this- I need this reminder, as I sometimes use that same measuring stick!

  5. Amazing how that carrot gets used as a stick, isn't it? This is your very best post. I really feel the gentleness in it even as you point out the harshness. It is a good reminder for me this weekend. Deep bow, my friend.

  6. anna- thanks! and I had a little chuckle, yes birkies but that is my mop of red hair, but you were on to something, the bag is a felted one from Nepal.

    mystic- I think we all need to hear this sometimes. And Kramer's book is interesting.

    Carole- Hope it contributed to a restful sleep!

    Sharmon- That darn stick. We should toss it in the fireplace this winter?!

    Genju- Have a great weekend and thanks for reminding me of my gentleness. And I like that, carrot as stick!

  7. Beautiful garden and gentle reminder in this post. I like the idea of looking back 5 years to see how far we might have come in the 'just be' process...kindness to ourselves goes a long way...thank you.

  8. Good point. 5 years back...I'm not sure. In the past week I've realized I was categorizing into good and not good sooner.
    Love the beginnings of your garden.

  9. your garden is beautiful. and i adore that houseboat. YES!

    to me even asking myself if I am kinder now than 5 yrs ago is a sort of beating myself up. Comparing me to me. I seem to go in cycles for just about everything rather than some straight lined improvement. I also do better when I dont compare myself, even to myself. But I get what you mean.

  10. Blue Sky- thanks for the kind words and this work is a work of a lifetime, unlearning old habits, so it does make sense to look at the big picture, doesn't it?

    Leslie- yes, it is about catching ourselves before we go miles down the old good/not good hiway.

    suki- thanks and somehow I could imagine you on a houseboat! You know you are right about "comparing me to me". It is a fine line between seeing how we're doing and if we need to adjust our course and using it against ourselves. I agree, tricky business.

  11. *BLUSH*!! But lucky you, with such beautiful hair!

  12. Instead of using practice to grow wisdom, my practice can easily become just another measuring stick that I hold up for myself. "Officer, arrest that woman for malpractice."

    oh, ain't it the truth?! we just tire ourselves out whipping the measuring stick out at every opportunity... talking to my dh a few days ago about the 'crafty, conniving mind' - the whole obvious ridiculousness of its ploys; if one door doesn't open, over to the next one it goes. i mean, it's so absurd...

    so here we are, lightening up... yes, yes...

    that is a mighty nice houseboat.


  13. anna- no blushing required!

    lynne- it does get ridiculous and why does it take so long to notice sometimes?? yes the light is coming on!

  14. Carole, That was an interesting post as usual. I also love you little Japanese garden.

  15. "The mind is a crafty conniver..." Oh, yes... been there too. But I like your 5 years back reference point to go on... I can honestly say yes to being more compassionate & loving with myself, and thus with others. But there's always room for improvement, isn't there? ;o) Your Japanese garden has a beautiful tranquil feeling... great start! Look forward to seeing your finished garden.

  16. "... the strain unwrenched, the grasping released." This idea has been kind of a pivot point for me lately, like coming back to the breath again and again. Helps me "let go" of thoughts and meet each new moment afresh. And I feel a sense of urgency behind it...

  17. It is so wonderful to read , that one is not alone with these thoughts and fears of not being good enough... thank you for sharing your wise words :)

  18. I have been reading more and more about Zen and mindfulness--- which is easier to read about than to practice-- seems to be an ongoing process for me... but I keep at it... your posts help.

  19. Eva - thanks for stopping by and leaving the footprints of your kind words!

    Tracy- I always feel your kindness and compassion in your post. And I think while we are alive there is always room for improvement. My old Zen teacher used to say, "we are fine just the way we are and we can do better." It can be hard for the mind to wrap itself around this seemingly contradictory statement but really this is what I hear you saying.

    Kris- I relax just hearing your words, "the strain, unclenched" yes! and for me that starts with the body, all that holding and clenching.

    Michele- It's true, it's so easy to feel like it's just us, like everyone else has their act together but the truth is if you experience it, I probably do too (and all other humans).

    layers- your posts and your living space and your art always speak of tranquility to me. And for every human who is interested, it is an ongoing process.

  20. Today I'm thinking a lot about the fear and timidity thing... knowing I'm even afraid of peace and stillness at times.

    "... open to your own experience of doubt. Don't hold back. No ground. No walls. No reference. Totally open." says Ken McLeod.

    Walking this path really takes courage. And I'm appreciative of your sensitive posts and comments— wonderful reminders, guide posts along the way.

  21. I really enjoyed this post.
    Your last paragraph about 5 years ago is a good reminder for me.

    "Maybe we need to ask ourselves first, "am I kinder to myself than I was 5 years ago, more compassionate, less angry? Because if we can't offer that to ourselves, chances are we can't offer it to anyone else."

    I love your red hair in that photo:)

  22. Hey that really is a very cool house could the brain resist.

    Love it.