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TOPIC: The Universal, Magnanimous Mind

The Universal, Magnanimous Mind 01 Mar 2012 18:55 #5696


I think there are a couple layers of discussion getting muddled here.
1) When people say "God doesn't give you more than you can handle" what do they really intend or imply?
2) What beliefs about how the world works does that normally-used suggestion entail?
3) Do those beliefs line up with our own experiences as dharma practitioners/contemplatives/etc. at various levels of experience?
eta: 3a) Does our reaction to those beliefs point out other beliefs that we hold, that may be just as unfounded/unknowable/dogmatic?
4) How do we bring practice to difficult times, such as sickness, death, accidents, etc.?

-ona

cool

1) I'll admit it implies that we can handle things even if we, for a moment or longer, think we can't. And, I guess for theistic people, it must really mean that God is presenting us with stuff, but never TOO much.

2) Either that there is a God that is giving us stuff as some kind of learning experience, or that all of us are really capable of getting through things if we adopt certain healthy practices/attitudes

3) Yes and/or no. It is certainly true that using dharma-related practices combined with really hard stressful times -- not only can things be "handled" but they can all be turned into fodder for insight and some incredible levels of intimacy. (I certainly learned that on a much deeper level on Monday)

4) My practice is basically paying really close attention to feelings, thougths, events, etc. using various methods (mostly just by staying as openely aware as possible all day and by doing vipassana) so I think the thing to do with sickness, death, accidents is to do my best to continue paying attention -- no matter how uncomfortable it gets.

On Monday I really did consider telling my boss back in SF that I couldn't handle (!) the work and that the boss was just too horrible, etc. and just leaving. I considered other escape scenarious as well. I even thought that the pain/discomfort was "too much." However, with help from all of you and some co-workers and my wife I really did manage to practice with all those feelings and things are VERY different now. I'm even having some really nice moments with the "mean" boss and I'm really seeing his humanity and his struggles and how I can help. And, I know that he is appreciating my efforts.
I lot of time these past two days I am in and out of some real rapture and heightened appreciation for colors, smells, etc. (this will change)

So that absurd saying "god never sends you anything more than you can handle," while completely false, is also, almost entirely true.
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The Universal, Magnanimous Mind 02 Mar 2012 14:27 #5697

"So that absurd saying "god never sends you anything more than you can handle," while completely false, is also, almost entirely true."

Because.... you can actually "handle" everything ;-)
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The Universal, Magnanimous Mind 02 Mar 2012 15:49 #5698

"Because.... you can actually 'handle' everything ;-)"



Reading this statement, my mind throws out all sorts of reason why it isn't exactly true. Surely there are events within the realm of possibilities which I would not be able to handle, right?



At the same time, my experience tells me that experience in itself is not toxic. It might be so painful that my nervous system shuts down, causing me to black out. But pain leads to suffering only when we are unwilling to have our experience fully. This is SO much more easily said than done. I can say with confidence that at this point in my life, I am not beyond all aversive reactions (this almost goes without saying).



Again, regarding the "God does not give us more than we can handle" statement, the part that bothers me is the idea that an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God would intentionally bring problems to our lives, even if for the sake of spiritual growth. Such a God would certainly be able to choose a different way for people to grow which didn't involve suffering. The fact that God would choose this situation for his/her/its creation makes wonder why loving devotion is expected. This argument is nothing new, of course. But it's still relevant. Somehow, what is meant as a comforting statement (much like, "Your loved one is in a better place now") turns out to be largely unhelpful most of the time.



How much more helpful would it be to say, "You're hurting right now, and I wouldn't expect anything less. You can get through this, and the way through is to turn toward it, to feel it. It may not seem like you can handle it, but I believe we are all more capable than we realize."
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The Universal, Magnanimous Mind 02 Mar 2012 15:59 #5699

" Surely there are events within the realm of possibilities which I would not be able to handle, right?"

I firmly believe we simply do not have a choice. What comes our way is what comes our way. We don't get to choose what we experience, so in a very deep way, we can "handle" anything. I think it is extremely powerful to think this way, act this way, BE this way.

Of course, that's my version of the conundrum we've been throwing around here this week. We all get to choose the way we "handle" our experience ;-)

I like where Mike Monson got to this week in regard to being able to handle everything, btw.
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The Universal, Magnanimous Mind 02 Mar 2012 16:38 #5700


...

At the same time, my experience tells me that experience in itself is not toxic. It might be so painful that my nervous system shuts down, causing me to black out. But pain leads to suffering only when we are unwilling to have our experience fully.

-awouldbehipster

I agree, Jackson, and it is true in my own experience. To experience something like grief in utter embracing purity is almost bizarrely beautiful. When (as is common) the experience is rejected rather than embraced, it turns into a more agonizing suffering. And when (as is also common) the further stories are added (I don't deserve this! Those bastards! I hate them! People will think I'm a fool! or whatever) it becomes even worse.

It seems to me that through practice one works backwards through these levels. By trying our best to embrace our experiences just as they are without rejecting them, slowly the stories are seen not to be the same as the experience, disentangle from it, and then start to drop away. And then gradually the rejection of the experiences themselves starts to drop away and we start to see that we can be with "difficult" experiences in a very different way. I think it takes a good bit of courage, because we instinctively want to run away and hide from painful things, and can't imagine that if we can find the courage to step into the pain, it will, in time, lose its power.

Thoughts?
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The Universal, Magnanimous Mind 02 Mar 2012 16:54 #5701

Yes, I think it was terrific to see how willing Mike was to face his difficult experience (way to go, Mike!).

I guess one thing I was trying to get across was that while my experience shows me I've never had feelings I could handle, the mind is quite good at coming up with a grand list of experiences I wouldn't be able to handle well, if at all. That doesn't make the thoughts true.

It can be difficult to trust our experience, rather than our thoughts. Thoughts are experiences, too, if we learn to see them that way. Most of the time, people treat thoughts as though they are what they say they are, rather than what experience says they are. In other words, experience is king.
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The Universal, Magnanimous Mind 02 Mar 2012 16:59 #5702

"I think it takes a good bit of courage, because we instinctively want to run away and hide from painful things, and can't imagine that if we can find the courage to step into the pain, it will, in time, lose its power. Thoughts?" -Ona

I agree. I think of courage as both opening-to and moving-toward experience. It's not being without fear; it's being open to fear, and approaching both the fear itself and the feared experience. We tend to habitually close ourselves off from experience when we move toward it, and open only when we feel safely removed. Opening and moving toward (i.e. courage) is radical, as it runs counter to our reactive/samsaric conditioning in the most fundamental way.
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The Universal, Magnanimous Mind 02 Mar 2012 17:54 #5703

You guys (Ona, Jackson) are making my case


I'm not saying we all have to "handle" experience in any specific way. We all handle things we experience differently. We do, however, have absolutely no choice but to experience our experience, so it's a matter of HOW, not WHAT.

And by accepting experience and not avoiding it, we can get better at being with experiences that may be uncomfortable and painful, even really, really painful, but that ought to be our goal as practitioners because it fosters presence and compassion.

And yes, everything we experience is our experience. I'm not saying otherwise. Face it all.

Make sense?
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The Universal, Magnanimous Mind 02 Mar 2012 18:13 #5704

Chris, yes! - it makes sense.
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The Universal, Magnanimous Mind 02 Mar 2012 18:20 #5705

Crap, we're all agreeing about things again.
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The Universal, Magnanimous Mind 02 Mar 2012 18:21 #5706

@jackson - I like the "radical openness" way of discussing. It is radical, because it takes "being with" so deep it's hard to imagine.
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