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TOPIC: Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information?

Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 27 Dec 2010 06:21 #827

at whatever level this Mike Monson thing might be at, there has been an expanded volume of experiences that can be "handled." What I am most interested in, of course, are those areas of experience which I can just barely, maybe, deal with without turning the light of awareness off and hiding away, or those areas which still evade light entirely.

Now, dealings with my second wife, the mother of my kids, I have to admit, have me flummoxed most of the time. I'm rarely able to be open and intimate and vulnerable to my feelings around her and that area is a fruitful one for growth and insight.

Now, today. My wife Bec and my two kids and I travelled from Modesto down to Orange County, CA to try and spend some time with my sister, my brother, various nephews and nieces and grand nephews and nieces and cousins first and second.

And, in spite of my seeming sincerety to do EVERYTHING right and to plan for all possibilities, it turns out I managed to find experiences in at least six areas just today that left me embarassed, sad, hurt, humiliated and petulant. I may, in the next post, go into more detail about all this (I still wonder how much personal info is appropriate here) but for me so far at least the main lesson learned was that living, participating in real life willing to be open and connected even with a degree of strong insight -- is NO guarantee that things won't end up just ... sucking.
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 27 Dec 2010 14:37 #828

Mike, when these things happen what do you do about it? Practice-wise, I mean. In my experience things sometimes do really suck. One thing I've learned this past year is to slow down and observe a lot more. Patience isn't talked about much as a method to alleviate "suck-iness" but I find it to be one of the very best skills to develop. It's easy to become your own worst enemy just by reacting too quickly, taking a position, trying too hard.
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 27 Dec 2010 17:01 #829


Mike, when these things happen what do you do about it? Practice-wise, I mean. In my experience things sometimes do really suck. One thing I've learned this past year is to slow down and observe a lot more. Patience isn't talked about much as a method to alleviate "suck-iness" but I find it to be one of the very best skills to develop. It's easy to become your own worst enemy just by reacting too quickly, taking a position, trying too hard.

-cmarti

Yes, patience ... having no agenda, slowing WAY down and making a bit of an effort just get lighter and stretch more and more open to take in the unexpected and sometimes shocking or traumatizing feelings and events.

What certainly happens to me a lot is if I get surprised and then hurt by people and/or events at first I protest and try to somehow think it all away.

This doesn't work.

What does work is to get to a place of total acceptance of the new information, which is great, because a new intimacy is then possible.

A lot of the info I got yesterday was that the people I thought were close to me didn't seem so close all of a sudden and I made some people angry, very angry, and it looks like they had good reason.
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 28 Dec 2010 03:30 #830

"And, in spite of my seeming sincerety to do EVERYTHING right and to plan
for all possibilities, it turns out I managed to find experiences in at
least six areas just today that left me embarassed, sad, hurt,
humiliated and petulant. .. for me so far at least the main lesson learned was that
living, participating in real life willing to be open and connected even
with a degree of strong insight -- is NO guarantee that things won't
end up just ... sucking."

This really is the razor's edge of practice, isn't it? It lets loose every last worm in the can, of our beliefs about suffering, about success, about control, about being right, about what is evidence of correct practice. It has taken me years to understand Trungpa's critique of 'spiritual materialism' as not being limited to people's penchant for collecting spiritual 'stuff'-- books, thankas, statues, or teachings, techniques, empowerments, status. It includes a lot of expectations we brash new-world types took in with our pablum: that a practice should improve our lives, that if we're strong enough practitioners we will prevail over all circumstances, never err, and be universally acknowledged. That the 'end of suffering' means being oblivious to challenge, difficulty, opposition-- and our just plain 'not suiting' some of the folks we encounter.

'The Buddha's enlightenment solved his problems, not yours,' is one of those things that sounds true, sounds useful-- but seems to me to be pretty misleading as it winds up being understood.Siddhartha's enlightenment didn't keep him from ever getting sick, having some of his disciples run amok in various ways, being hated by some segments of his society, and eventually dying of quite prosaic causes. It just changed how he understood and dealt with these events-- far as I can tell from the written record.

As to whether your encounters with unvarnished, difficult reality is 'too much information'-- it's a welcome counter to any tendency we might collectively have to get too abstract and idealistic, focus too much on the ecstasy and forget the laundry. In short, to fool ourselves.
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 28 Dec 2010 14:35 #831

Yes, Kate! It's all about how we react, isn't it?
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 28 Dec 2010 16:12 #832


"This really is the razor's edge of practice, isn't it? It lets loose every last worm in the can, of our beliefs about suffering, about success, about control, about being right, about what is evidence of correct practice. It has taken me years to understand Trungpa's critique of 'spiritual materialism' as not being limited to people's penchant for collecting spiritual 'stuff'-- books, thankas, statues, or teachings, techniques, empowerments, status."[emphasis mine]

-kategowen

One thing I've noticed about the hardcore dharma scene is that although there is a movement away from certain visible pieces of spiritual materialism (books, thankas, statues, robes, Asian names and titles, etc.), there is a lot of spiritual materialism in the form of states, stages, attainments, techniques, etc. This is something I've noticed in myself as well as others at different times...



"What makes me enlightened? Well, I can get cessation at will. I can access all eight jhanas, PLUS another five pure land jhanas. I can do all of this while dwelling as the Witness. I can get Nirodha Samapatti. That makes me at LEAST an anagami."

Identifying with that stuff is just as bad, if not worse, than clinging to external forms. It is possible to learn to do all of the things I mentioned above, and yet remain a self-centered, emotionally reactive person. Learning to dissolve the sense of self through practice is fine and all, but it doesn't always work to dismantle the habit patterns of clinging and reacting in ways that harm ourselves and others. It seems that the first step in really dealing with our situation is being dreadfully honest with ourselves about the pitfalls and limitations of spiritual materialism in all its forms. It's more easily said than done.

-Jackson
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 28 Dec 2010 16:31 #833

Yes Kate and Chris and Jackson.

This experience on Monday was and has been very difficult for me and so far it has clouded this trip and my ability to enjoy it as much as I could.

So, why?

I mean, I start with the knowledge that I don't HAVE to be suffering, but, still, I am, and, so, it has to be because of some false idea or misunderstanding in my mind, some "set up" that makes it inevitable and irresistible in the face of these specific events.

And, in this case, it's not just one thing, but a kind of convergence ok several elements at once.

This really is the razor's edge of practice, isn't it? It lets loose every last worm in the can, of our beliefs about suffering, about success, about control, about being right, about what is evidence of correct practice. It has taken me years to understand Trungpa's critique of 'spiritual materialism' as not being limited to people's penchant for collecting spiritual 'stuff'-- books, thankas, statues, or teachings, techniques, empowerments, status. It includes a lot of expectations we brash new-world types took in with our pablum: that a practice should improve our lives, that if we're strong enough practitioners we will prevail over all circumstances, never err, and be universally acknowledged. That the 'end of suffering' means being oblivious to challenge, difficulty, opposition-- and our just plain 'not suiting' some of the folks we encounter.



Most of it, I think, is in this passage I just quoted from Kate's post. Even while experiencing the wonderful freedom of anatta, while doing so, I was also sowing the seeds of suffering because, while doing so, I was getting these ideas about "me," about how advanced I was becoming, about how wise I must be (which means I should 'prevail over all circumstances') and it hurts, it really does, to start to get a big dharma head and then have something happen that shows that me that I am truly just as big an asshole as always -- if not worse in some ways.
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 28 Dec 2010 17:23 #834

So what to do now?

I'm not sure. I know I'm practicing with this and getting some insight. Can't be avoided.

What I'm looking at or for now is how to change my approach slightly to once again find a way to make "me" not such a big f'ing deal. To make myself and my ideas about myself not such a big target. Is this something I can make happen, or is it just something that hopefully will happen naturally from continued practice?

I know that I don't care much for acknowledgement of my "skills" from established spiritual institutions and I don't want to be a teacher or a leader or a writer or have any real spiritual authority in the world, but -- I seem to want SOME people to think I'm cool and somewhat special, and, I seem to desperately want my own expectations about myself and my behavior and my place in the world to be met.

We have four dogs and one cat. Two of the dogs we found homes for during our trip. I asked a longtime neighbor and friend to watch the two dogs and one cat remaining in our house. I just put water and food bowls outside with tubs of new food to keep the bowls full. All I wanted her to do was keep the bowls full. That is it. She expressed dismay that the two dogs and one cat would be cold. So, I agreed to keep the back door unlocked so she could let me in and out. She seemed fine with this arrangement and I know her as an incredible lover of animals. I also knew that she loved my dog and cat.

So, the night before the trip Bec's mother decided she couldn't take one of our dogs, Which meant I'd need my neigbor to now feed three dogs and a cat. I texted her this news, she seemed fine. I told her not to let one of our dogs in the house at all because he would mess it up.

At six the next morning, the morning of our trip, we found out that the other dog sitter was backing out. So, we left four dogs and a cat. I and my kids both assured Bec it would be no problem. Our friend loved animals and would be cool with the extra dogs.

So about 2 p.m. I texted my friend to let her know that there was another dog there. In her text back she was livid. Basically, how dare I now ask her to "care for" five animals when the original agreement was three? "never again, I deserved a phone call, Mike. They are staying inside." I tried to text her twice at that point with apologies and apeesement, with no reply. That night I tried to call her and left her another submissive sorrowfull, taking-full-blame voice mail that she didn't reply to.

So, it cast a pall over our trip, it was humiliating to see how badly I'd handled things and how much I'd misunderstood my relationship with my neighbor, it was awful to think that five animals were shitting in my house for four days straight, and, it is NEVER fun to be chatised (especially when i can't seem to figure a reason why she shouldn't be angry).

I know this probably all seems super mundane (!) but it is my life.

There is more stuff as well having to do with my expectations about how my family I was visiting would receive me but that is for later maybe.
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 28 Dec 2010 18:45 #835

Okay, we are slow to leave our hotel this morning so I have more time to post :)



Note: we are lucky to have landed in southern California during one of those rare, just after the rain and the wind clear clear clear times. In the view outside our room from the sixth floor, the sky is huge, the light brilliant and we can actually see the snow capped mountains in the distance. We've been spending time in the south orange county beach cities and it is just gorgeous.



Anyway, I am the youngest of four kids. ten years separate me from my oldest sister. None of us siblings are very close. But, I don't seem able be at peace with this. we are all on facebook together so for the first time in years I am able to get a sense of what they and all their children and grandchildren are up to. I try to connect and get closer by posts and texts and phone calls. They seem interested so I cooked up this idea to take myself, my new wife and my two kids that they have rarely seen down to the OC for a visit. Since this is my daughter's last year before going off to college, I really wanted to chance for us all to connect.



But it was strange to just let them all know I was coming, when I was coming, and that I'd like to see them. I was hoping for some kind of message from all of them sounding excited and proposing times and places and ways we could all get together. As the trip got closer and none of this happened I was forced to send kind of bashful messages trying to basically, invite ourselves over. This proved complicated and I sensed roadblocks at every turn.



Man, I'll admit it. I was HURT and disapointed. I did manage to see my sister and one of her sons for lunch. Today we will see my brother for lunch (he is a different story). I'm not acting out at all, but the urge to do so is playing out constantly under the surface. I won't go into a lot of detail cause it's too boring and complicated but, clearly, me and my family coming down for a visit is clearly NOT the exciting event I'd thought or hoped.

No one is to blame, this is just how life has progressed to this point. And my feelings of regret, hurt, longing, etc. are vivid, you know?

Talk about the 'razor's edge.' For me practice is to let go and stay intimate with all experiences and feelings as they come up with as much a sense of surrender and disembeddng as I am able. It's funny, but it is easier to do this with the family stuff as opposed to the neighbor/dog thing.



Anyway, working with all of this with surrender and intimacy is so rich and exciting. Sometimes when you lift up a rock, there is just a little dirt, and sometimes when you lift up a rock there is a brand new, unexpected world teeming with activity.
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 28 Dec 2010 19:01 #836

Mike, my suffering seems not to just come from the "me" construct but from expectations that end up not matching the reality. We tend to build sand castles of these expectations and then either reify them and turn them into "must have" dreams or into total avoidance/fearsome nightmares. The reality seldom matches the expectation, either for the good or the bad. I've been through that a million times and it continues to happen. So I know how you feel and grok what you're going through.

Here's to lifting those rocks!
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 29 Dec 2010 03:08 #837

The opportunity/challenge of our gnarly lives is that here is where practice-- and we-- are REAL. Or not.

Sitting on my chair or cushion, challenged only by whatever my mind throws up by way of memories, obsessions, anxieties, is like having training wheels on my first bike. Calling on the skills I've learned doing that, when the sh*t is flying thick and fast at the fan-- that's a whole 'nother dimension. Call it the dimension of reality. That's like fleeing for my life cross-country on my stump-jumper. [Except the 'death' at issue is just that of being fully alive, conscious, awake--FUNCTIONALLY. Or defaulting to the status quo of drifting haphazardly and dazedly through my 'one wild and precious life.']

A part of the further reaches of insight practice is inquiry: the rote, on-cushion question of 'who am I?' never did much for me. However, seeing that I was being [fiercely!] 'inquired of' by people in my life who had issues with me-- THAT was practice on the order of 'hair's on fire.' Facing down someone [and seeing just how much 'equanimity' I really have when it counts] who wants to know 'just who the hell do you think you are?!'-- that's inquiry with teeth. And immense potential to change everything.
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 29 Dec 2010 06:51 #838

First, it is past 10 p.m. on Tuesday, the end of a long day. I've been doing a lot of driving, and constantly trying to figure out where to go, negotiating with wife and kids on what to do next, etc. Lots of opinions, etc. After a strange visit with my brother and more driving I seemed to go out of my comfort zone while trying to find a movie theatre in Irvine. I got way stressed and acted like a jerk to Bec and Drew. I've been just about completely diminished and all my thoughts that I was somehow cool or particularly successful at dharma practice have been dashed. I've been reduced to a bundle of irritating nerves.

(The great green earth is the gateway to liberation)

Now, I see one thing here. I know how to practice and how to go through a day with some peace. I've done it, I'll do it again. This practice requires a lot of surrender and a lack of choice. I have to be open to anything and at least suspend my personal ambitions moment to moment. So, when I plan a trip like this with a definite agenda and many many ambitions, what I do is, basically, stop practicing, you know? I suspend the practice in order to indulge in my specific desires, and, while practicing, I turn a blind eye to this huge, non-practicing activity that is going on simultaneously. I think this is a good learning and tells me that more surrender is always necessary, there is no escape from the suffering from self-centered clinging.

I want to be free, I really do.

I'm left completely baffled by myself and my family situation and I guess i'll just have to be baffled for as long as I'm baffled.
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 29 Dec 2010 15:17 #839

Maybe you can be patient and just be with what happened for a few days. Be patient with it and let whatever "solution" there is bubble up naturally. Assuming, of course, that any of these kinds of sticky wicket family issues have "solutions."
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 30 Dec 2010 15:40 #840

Speaking of life and stuff and such, Mike -- I had another run in with the demon called substance abuse last night. I won't go into detail but it might be the worst thing that can happen to a human being short of death, which it can, of course, lead to. It is a monster that inhabits and poisons the mind so that the poor host is unwilling even to admit the presence of the beast. It changes people and it ruins lives and relationships.

I'm saying this because the only way I have found to deal with this monster with any effectiveness at all is truth and patience. Truth because you have to face the f*cking thing head on, and with unflinching honesty, about what it is and what it does. Patience because doing that might take years. Or more years. Or decades.

This is practice down to the bare bone, with no flesh and no meat.
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 30 Dec 2010 15:50 #841

People afflicted (possessed, really) have to find their own salvation. No one else can do it. No... one... else. They cry foul. They lash out. They blame jobs, they blame family, they blame circumstances. That's all bullshit. They have to look inside, reach some very deep and essential core, and find out exactly where the problem comes from. It is, IMHO, akin to an awakening moment.

So I've been thinking about this issue for some time now, and THIS list has recently struck me as a kind of spiritual practice:

Step 1 - We admitted we were powerless over our addiction - that our lives had become unmanageableStep 2 - Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanityStep 3 - Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood GodStep 4 - Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselvesStep 5 - Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongsStep 6 - Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of characterStep 7 - Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomingsStep 8 - Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them allStep 9 - Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or othersStep 10 - Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted itStep 11 - Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that outStep 12 - Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs
/rant
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 30 Dec 2010 18:34 #842


...had another run in with the demon called substance abuse last night. I won't go into detail but it might be the worst thing that can happen to a human being short of death, which it can, of course, lead to...

-cmarti

I won't go into detail either--being a publicly viewable forum & all--but I want to say that I completely agree with you on this. Every last word of it...
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 30 Dec 2010 18:37 #843


So I've been thinking about this issue for some time now, and THIS list has recently struck me as a kind of spiritual practice...

-cmarti

Have you ever read One Breath at a Time?
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 31 Dec 2010 04:19 #844

One of the most cogent, as well as compassionate writers on the subject of addiction is Gabor Mate, in In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts--
http://www.amazon.com/Realm-Hungry-Ghosts-Encounters-Addiction/dp/155643880X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1293768295&sr=1-1

"I believe there is one addiction process, whether it manifests in the
lethal substance dependencies of my Downtown Eastside patients, the
frantic self-soothing of overeaters or shopaholics, the obsessions of
gamblers, sexaholics and compulsive internet users, or in the socially
acceptable and even admired behaviors of the workaholic. Drug addicts
are often dismissed and discounted as unworthy of empathy and respect.
In telling their stories my intent is to help their voices to be heard
and to shed light on the origins and nature of their ill-fated struggle
to overcome suffering through substance use. Both in their flaws and
their virtues they share much in common with the society that ostracizes
them. If they have chosen a path to nowhere, they still have much to
teach the rest of us. In the dark mirror of their lives we can trace
outlines of our own."

Of all the writers I've read on the subject, this author does the best job of actually 'being intimate'-- in Hell.

Once it is pointed out so eloquently, it is plain that addiction is a clumsy and unavailing attempt to treat serious pain; and that any 'treatment' for the addiction is going to have to reckon with the pain. It's going to have to-- first, work better than the addiction; and then, second, be wholesome and sustainable as a part of a healing life. What Mike said earlier about addicts being significantly less naturally insulated from the shocks, demands, and terrors of our lives-- is absolutely accurate, I think.
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 31 Dec 2010 14:47 #845

I appreciate the book recommendations. So... I just ordered them both.
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 31 Dec 2010 16:37 #846

Okay, we are all back home.

Clearly, I got overwhelmed by a lot of old old family-of-origin feelings and it will take some time, I think, before I have some perspective.

I think that I do have some dharma abilities that allow me to get to cessation, and to have some wonderful, intermittent times of peace and insight. However, as a person, there are still a LOT of areas of delusion and clinging and discrimination that are stronger than my current level of practice. Way stronger.

This is very good to know. Possibly the biggest lesson isn't in the specifics of the stuff I'm dealing with but in knowing that, always, just around the corner, something is coming for which I must be prepared for with as much complete, open, empty, readiness as possible. The relative specifics are important but no where near as important as maintaining that ready attitude and always being on the look-out for the creepy, insidious, and sometimes irresistible pull towards delusions and clinging.
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 31 Dec 2010 17:45 #847

That sounds to me like a very mature position to take, Mike. Thumbs up!
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 31 Dec 2010 17:45 #848

I'm toying with the idea that we first learn to experience cessation within a very limited scope of experience. Perhaps this is why the old commentaries recommend cultivating jhana first in some instances. Letting go isn't so hard when things aren't so bad in a given moment.

I think that once we learn the skills that lead to cessation, we can start expanding our awareness to include areas of our experience where there is still a lot of clinging. This is why body-focused practice has been so beneficial for me lately. Really listening to the body is a great way to discover old patterns that continue to cause me trouble, and I am able to apply my prior training to these areas in order to allow them to be dismantled.

I don't know if that helps, but yeah... there's so much more room to grow!!!
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 01 Jan 2011 00:34 #849

I have to confess that my 'path' has turned into an unplanned meander to... wherever I find myself when I think to look. Often, it's at the bookstore, discovering that anything I have ever believed, can usefully be turned on its head to teach me a thing or two. Today, for instance:

"We do not see and we do not hear those who suffer, and what is terrible in life goes on somewhere behind the scenes... Everything is quiet and peaceful, and nothing protests but mute statistics: so many people gone out of their minds, so many gallons of vodka drunk, so many children dead from malnutrition... And this order of things is evidently necessary; evidently the happy man only feels at ease because the unhappy bear their burdens in silence, and without that silence happiness would be impossible. It's a case of general hypnotism. There ought to be behind the door of every happy, contented man someone standing with a hammer continually reminding him with a tap that there are unhappy people; that however happy he may be, life will show him her laws sooner or later, trouble will come for him-- disease, poverty, losses, and no one will hear or see, just as now he neither hears nor sees others." Anton Chekhov,"Gooseberries"-- epigraph for The Book of Calamities: Five Questions about Suffering and Its Meaning, by Peter Trachtenberg [which jumped into my hand off the remaindered book table]

Today, I wonder if the Bodhisattva path isn't a case of 'I didn't jump: I was shoved!'-- that something dreadful makes it clear that there IS no extinguishing of suffering for oneself alone. And that thinking one has 'arrived' there [the cessation of personal suffering] is evidence of being enmired in the deepest suffering of ignorance.

Part of the reason I consider Ngak'chang Rinpoche to be my root-teacher, is that he has described the Bodhisattva as 'the Awakened-Mind Warrior' whose 'irritation at the suffering of beings is known as compassion.' No floating in a little personal puddle of immune blissfulness; no sitting with folded hands when there are things that must be done.
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 01 Jan 2011 16:16 #850

Wow, great Chekhov quote, Kate. Thanks for posting it here.
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Unbecoming a person, or, change changing changed changes, or, too much information? 02 Jan 2011 17:35 #851

the BG interview with Ken McLeod is right along these lines, too:

http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2010/12/bg-201-pragmatic-buddhism/#comments
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