Today's dharma talk still has the Matronly head spinning!
The Priest announced the topic of the day as busyness and being too busy! Now, that had the Matron's immediate attention in a sort of Self Help Primer sort of way because the first day of fall semester is tomorrow, her children are running amuck with the-end-of-summer restless energy, the house a mess and her dog a henchman sent by the Devil.
So she is SO busy her head might explode and she hasn't had much time for your blog! (sorry!!)
The Priest, a mama with teenage boys, confessed that she was afraid sometimes of being tossed away by external circumstances on a daily basis -- tossed from meditation or prayer and finding herself driving to ball games, doing the dishes, making the beds.
Now, since Mortality has been sitting on the Matronly shoulder for awhile, she thought how entire lives can be tossed away by external circumstances!! She imagined her life as if it was over, and wondered: what was at the heart of that life? What evidence is there of it? Think for a moment how tossed away we are, daily. How much time is there for tending the center of self, the soul or heart? For making meaning? Why, she realized her one wild and precious life (thanks, Mary Oliver) was largely spent on things that suddenly seemed trivial, like all those hours weeding and sweeping!
Then there are the people who have no choices, whole countries where lives are just tossed away, blip, by external circumstances like poverty, disease, war, and politics. That made the Matron angry and of course, instantly guilty for tossing away the incredible luck she'd been given.
But, the Priest complicated the Matron's instant commitment to mediation, Art, Literature, centering of Self, Good Deed, all that. The Priest reminded us that the busyness of life is absolutely necessary. If we don't tend to the details of our lives ---preparing healthy food, doing laundry, driving the children and taking time to talk to them -- things fall apart.
Don't pay the mortgage, change the oil in the car, remember to buy the gift? Don't make the time to sit on the couch and just hang with your teenager? The end result is the very thing Buddhism sets out to end: suffering. People suffer when they are behind in their bills, when there are no clean clothes for work or food to pack lunches. People suffer when their relationships deteriorate.
The Priest paused to observe how complicated we are, we humans. Not only do we have all this stuff to own and attend to, we have our emotional lives, our family lives, careers to consider, a nation to run, global warming to consider. We're busy!
We're here. We're required to show up, attend the party, and clean up afterward.
The trick to not being 'tossed away', said the Priest, is to practice living like this line from a Zen koan:
"Holding up the moon while sweeping."
Finding what's divine within ourselves doesn't need to be limited to a meditation cushion or a pew. In fact, that understanding would severely restrict how much time we have for the divine --we're too busy! Find the divine and be so guided while sweeping, washing, cooking, cleaning and talking to your children
Wouldn't that be nice, thought the Matron! She'd like that and she thought you would, too. She was ready to stop right there and get all groovy with her short drive home.
But wait! Just when things seemed all Peace and 1967 Love&Happiness, damn if they didn't get complicated! Someone asked: "What is the task is unpleasant? I mean, I'm driving and it's rush hour and I just want to get home!"
Or the dog pooped in the kitchen and your five-year old stepped in it?!
Even the challenges -- ESPECIALLY the challenges was the answer. Meet the unpleasant with reverence and respect; that's your life, at the moment. Why sully it?
Ouch, thought the Matron.
Another complication from the room: "But when I embrace a negative emotion or task, I find that I'm not really revering it or treating it with respect, it's just that I embrace it thinking it will go away faster. I still hate it, I'm not transformed."
The Priest smiled and told us about fear. She said that when fear pours through her, she has learned -- after all these years of study and practice -- to genuinely welcome Fear.
The Priest: "When my blood goes cold or the terror over a child comes, I just smile and say, 'welcome old friend, my most intimate acquaintance. The thing I love about you is that every human shares you, we're all together.' And suddenly, Fear has a lot less power."
Mortality, one of Fear's biggest corporate contributors, snickered from his perch on the Matron's shoulder . But the Matron's been at this Zen thing long enough to know that death is what we're all actively working toward, whether we think about it or not. And the duality of life and death is something Buddhism challenges.
Holding the Moon while sweeping. The cessation of suffering is the end-game, the goal, the big trophy. Duality -- a misguided belief that sweeping and divine are different or life and death are different --- is one of the big time causes of suffering.
So the Matron plans to just smile and say: "Hello there Fear! One of the few friends here for an entire lifetime."
Holding up the Moon, while blogging! She feels you holding right along with her.