Yours in the Dharma:  Essays from a Buddhist perspective by Sandy Garson

This blog, Yours in the Dharma by Sandy Garson, is an effort to navigate life between the fast track and the breakdown lane, on the Buddhist path. It tries to use a heritage of precious, ancient teachings to steer clear of today's pain and confusion to clear the path to what's truly happening.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

More Losar Advice for the Year Ahead

~Sandy Garson "Wordsmithing to attest how the Dharma saved me from myself!"

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Monday, February 08, 2016

Happy New Year of the Fire Monkey: Message from Dzongsar Khyentse

 Let Us Remember: A Message from Dzonsar Khyentse Rinpoche
Greetings to all who are celebrating the Monkey New Year,
Let us trust the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and let us trust the law of cause, condition, and effect. If we trust the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, we are still Buddhists even if we play mahjong, eat meat, drink alcohol, or chain smoke.
Let us be kind and considerate. Do we like other people to be kind to us? Well, other people also like us to be kind.
Let us be generous, not just with money or diamonds but with our time and space and information.
And let us always remember the Buddha’s words that samsaric endeavours never end and are mostly fruitless. So let us not stress out that everything needs to be completed. We never know what will happen the next hour. So let us make the most out of this hour and this moment. If we are having a cup of tea right now, let us have it as if it is the last one in this life.
Do we want to be rich? Then let us learn to be content.
Do we want to be elegant and beautiful? Then let us be polite, confident, and kind instead of thinking Versace and Dolce & Gabbana will do it for us.
Do we want other people to listen to us? Then let us try not to use harsh words, and let us always begin our conversation with a smile.
Do we want our next generation to be happy and successful? Then let us teach them a different meaning of ambition, wealth, and goals:
Let us not spoil our kids, because if we do, they will grow up feeling so alienated and depressed.
Let us not push them to grow up so fast.
Let us not make our kids think that winning a competition is so important.
Let us try to eat at home at least once a week.
And let us not over-shop and fill our houses with things we will never use for years and eventually discard.
But most of all, let us parents do what we teach. We can’t teach our kids to be polite, gentle and likeable just with words. We have to be like that ourselves. Even seemingly minute things, like not talking loudly in public or on the phone and not jumping a queue, matter. Just as we don’t want others to do those things, others also don’t want us to do them.
And let us learn to do unplanned, spontaneous things at least for an hour or two once a week, because even planning a holiday ends up becoming a stressful chore rather than a real holiday.
Most importantly, let us remind ourselves not just to read these things, but to do them starting from Day One of the Monkey Year.
And every time we find ourselves doing one or more of these things, then let us reward ourselves by taking a short nap, listening to some music, reading one or two pages of a good book, and telling ourselves that with this stepping stone I will become a fearless servant of all sentient beings.
— Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse

~Sandy Garson "Wordsmithing to attest how the Dharma saved me from myself!"

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Thursday, February 04, 2016

Deja Vu All Over Again

For a week now, I've been wondering what to write here, and every time I immediately evade the decision by clicking elsewhere to read the latest diagnoses of our body politic. I find the nonstop punditry of this primary season a fascinating lesson in the Buddha's first great revelation, the "wonder of wonders!" Shakyamuni had discovered how all of us see the world our own peculiar way, through the prism of our own individual experience and fear.

We all spin our own narrative to connect the dots of happenings and since everybody's making it up to suit their perspective, there's never an agreement on what's going on. Ever had someone tell you that blue gray sweater you're wearing is really purple? The traditional analogy is a group of blind people touching an elephant: one will describe it only as its tail, another as its trunk, another as its enormous foot. Nobody understands there's a bigger whole there, an elephant in the room.

The Buddha would also say we are like spiders spinning that narrative as a protective web around ourselves. The way a spider's web is there to kill prey that nourishes it, our web keeps out and mentally destroys what we don't like. That's the origin of what we call spin.
Reality is as bespoke as a five thousand dollar Saville row suit. 

Naomi Klein says the real reason the right has to desperately deny climate change because their world view is stuck on the Bible page that says man has dominion over all the Earth. He can do whatever the hell he wants. Now unfortunately these folks have been confronted by Mother Nature exerting herself to challenge that dominion with enough is enough. In fact too much already. They won't accept that they are not masters of the universe with total control of it.
Another great Buddha insight is you cannot clearly--see the bigger picture, if you are self-referential, aka ego stricken, vested in yourself instead of others. That includes your God who is of course the best God and lives by Vince Lombardi's rule: "Winning is not everything; it's the only thing." Check out all that monotheistic violence in the MIddle East and ask yourself why cultures of many gods remain relatively calmer.

I've had maddening conversations with a man who believes others who don't behave or have the priorities of himself and his ethnic group aren't worthy of help or attention. He's so vested in himself as a Jew and supporter of fellow Jews in Israel, he actually threatened to walk out of my house if I made a lamb and chickpea dish whose origin was Palestinian. Oh my. Growing up is when babies discover a whole world beyond their fingers and toes, beyond Mother. What matters is whether that discovery threatens or delights. What matters is you can't give peace a chance if you don't give others a chance to exist too.

According to the Buddha, we humans can't see clearly and are self-referential because we are duo-fueled. Spin our narrative web, the web of samsara, we run on hope and fear. These two emotions are inseparable, like samsara and nirvana, meaning you cannot have one without the other. Fear is not getting what you hope for or getting what you hope you won't--getting what you want and not getting what you don't want. Since it is often fear of losing what you already have, it's attached to the hope you won't. Hope is getting what you want, and not getting what you don't. Unless you're on a diet, it's  about gaining or holding what you already have, so it's attached to the fear you won't. Since we live on a see-saw constantly flipping between them all the time, how can anyone be calm and clear-eyed?

All of these lessons have been easy to learn in political primary time. All the fear being whipped up by right wing demagogues, making all those people hope to be saved by them, all the fear manufactured by the Clinton machine to make Hillary the greater white hope, the profoundly realized fears of the American people evolving into intense hope for systemic change that is propelling Bernie Sanders. All that Super PAC establishment hope that threats to its hegemony can be bought out and swept away, the fear it won't showing in the mounting vitriol.
Yes, even the Koch brothers have hope and fear. The hope for power, the fear of losing it...the quest for control, the fear of losing it. 

The same great wellspring of both hope and fear, of course, is change. Impermanence. Nothing lasts, nothing even stays the same very long. That's not just frustrating, it's scary; the unknown, uncertain, unpredictable. Change is going into darkness after the sunshine of seeming certainty and there's nothing like darkness to launch fears and hopes to make it through the night. That's why we have a lifetime of excuses for circumventing change, like "I'll get to it tomorrow", "Better safe than sorry", and  "The devil you have is better than the devil you can't see." The political term for this right now is "incremental." 

The political term for people who fear change is "conservative," for people who aren't afraid of it "progressive." People who live in fear hope for change; people who's hopes have been met fear change. Thus Bernie v Hillary, Trump v Bush, Black Lives Matter v Muslims go home. What the pundits say, what the editorial endorsements say and what Hillary Clinton promises are pretty transparent shows of and pandering to fear of change. The  establishment is terrified the status quo that's given them status will not be permanent. Up will come down. Elites will change. They will be, as we say, out of power. Obviously, they've never heard the Buddha's teaching that change is always underway and on the way. Nothing is established.

Academics have differing opinions about what's going on, but they seem to agree the establishment is too self-referential, vested and to terrified of change to see a pressure cooker is exploding. People under their thumb are mad as hell and hoping for change that is not incremental. Like Mother Nature, they are saying enough is enough, too much in fact. An interregnum perhaps, a revolution underway, the impermanence of impatience is erupting in volcanic bursts of molten anger and hope that's cracking the concrete underneath them... . 

"Something's happening here, and you don't know what it is, do you, Mr Jones?" Black Power to Black Lives Matter, Joe McCarthy to Gene McCarthy and Ted Cruz to Bernie Sanders, Paul Simon's old lyric: "I don't know a soul who's not been battered, don't have a friend who feels at ease, I don't know a dream that's not been shattered...." I don't want to be too self-referential or overtly political, but it does seem, at least on the Democratic primary side, we are witnessing the last battle of the original culture war: that violent clash between the consciousness raisers and the corporate fund raisers. The 60s was a clash of world views as Eastern thought entered Western minds. It's now embedded in many of them. Bernie Sanders looks like the last gasp of the 60s, one final attempt to upend me into we, and pass a torch that ignites younger generations to keep on keeping that amended vision.

Rethinking how the 60s brought us Zen and Dharma, yoga and Hare Krishna got me thinking the generation whose protests made it a crucible has never been acknowledged. Perhaps that's because corporate marketeers name generations as sales niches. What they call “the greatest generation” bought all their Harvest Gold appliances, Chevrolets and tract houses to make corporations great. Their kids, the Boomers, were so easily seduced by shiny shopping malls, dazzling stadium shows and Technicolor screens, so contentedly all-consuming corporate profits boomed. Now we’ve got complicated Gen X not sure if they want to shop til they drop so we quickly got Millennials who drop everything to shop for apps.

I am among the missing, the generation cropped out. As lost and culturally critical as the one born before World War I, my generation was born between 1928 and 1945—during the Great Depression and greater world war. Our cohort gave you Ben and Jerry, Gloria Steinem, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Martin Luther King Jr., George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Joan Ganz Cooney, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Brian Wilson and his Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, Hunter S. Thompson, Wendell Berry, Edward Abbey, Pema Chodron, John Kabat-Zinn, Andrew Weil, Lanford Wilson, Larry Kramer, Erica Jong, Alice Walker, Alice Waters, Marian Nestle, Jerry Brown, the murdered trio of James Earl Chaney and Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner, Jann Wenner, Adam Hochschild, Lorne Michaels, Bob Woodward, Daniel Ellsberg, John Kerry, Bill Bradley and Bernie Sanders.

Looking at those names, I see iconoclasts whose efforts continue to resonate through every aspect of American society. These are cultural game-changers who raised consciousness and rewrote the nation’s vocabulary: gonzo, organic, hippie, yuppie, feminist, dropout, sold-out, civil rights, folk music, spirituality, environment, holistic, sit-in, cop-out, wilderness, tofu, yoga, equality, Zen. They brought organic food, protest marches, Rolling Stone and Mother Jones, Sesame Street, Saturday Night Live, long hair for men, free clinics, community gardens, tie-dye, the perils of nuclear power, the existence of native people, women in the workplace, meditation, midwives, vegetarianism, Earth Day, ecology, clean water, cleaner air, skepticism of spin, alternative medicine, Watergate, Question Authority. Om

This was the last generation to be drafted to die for this country, the first to fight for women in the workplace and womb, the first to take up Thoreau and Gandhi on their idea of nonviolent warThis was the first group to declare a generation gap—for which a Boomer clothing franchise was named, the first and last until now to be mad as hell, the first to come up with Plan B for America. If you want to know more about it, listen to Bernie’s stump speech.

It is not surprising corporate America feels so burned. The first generation to get mass access to higher education became the first to loudly question, even challenge established wisdom, institutions, and advertising claims. We actually heard Eisenhower warn against the military/industrial complex and saw General Westmoreland hiding body bags in Vietnam to pretend victory for the nightly news. We saw live the assassination of JFK and saw it left dead in the water unsolved, followed by two more assassinations, a profiteer’s war in Vietnam and the cover-up of Republican criminality. Some blew whistles of dire warning about all the bells and whistles.

My generation linked the spiritual idea of NOW to the political idea of later generations because we figured out human life and Earth had limits. We fought to make others understand that. Well-exercised power also had limits: just because you could didn’t mean you should. It was the first time that Bible page dominion declaration was questioned. It is not surprising its loud questioning and protest made subsequent governments reduce the commitment to higher education and critical thinking. As silent Calvin Coolidge said when he did speak up: “The business of America is business.” That was the core of the protest then, and seems to be its core again now.

So I see Bernie Sanders campaign as the 60s last stand. It has reignited the original culture war between the sales forces of “Buy now, pay later”, ”progress is our most important product”, “better living through chemistry” and the tie-dyed brigades of “Say what you mean and mean what you say”, “no additives or preservatives” “give peace a chance”, and “we shall overcome.” His rhetoric echoes that revolution's motto: If you aren’t the solution, you are the problem, his popularity Neil Young's words: "I'm looking for a heart of gold", his message: we shall overcome.

As I also said earlier, l am human so I connect dots based on experience and fear.  I can't pretend to be his spokesperson, so I have no idea if Buddha would ever feel the Bern. But I do. This final attempt to fight for my generation before we flame out reminds me of  the key line of Lanford Wilson's poignant play about us, The Fifth of July: "Just because we didn't succeed doesn't mean we didn't try to make a better world for you."

Of course, a good Buddhists knows "better" is in the eyes of the beholder. And that is in fact what this election is all about.

~Sandy Garson "Wordsmithing to attest how the Dharma saved me from myself!"

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Don't take your expectations to lunch

A week or two ago, I read an exposé on vividly luscious food that magnetizes eyeballs in magazines and clicks on the web. Wd-40 and Microwaved Tampons: Secrets of Food Photography revealed the tricks of the booming food styling trade in which highly paid professionals brazenly manufacture charisma that makes us lust after prepared food. We salivate. We need it, want it right now. Ka-ching!

I'm sadly familiar with what honest cooks call food porn. Years ago, media plate preening, the nefarious make-up and manicure of food, made otherwise delighted catering clients question why my grilled meat didn't have the perfectly spaced black stripes of the grilled steaks pictured in popular magazines. They were so disappointed, I had to explain it was simply because I didn't paint lines on mine with India ink and a ruler. If my honey glazed fruit tart didn't glow like a 100 watt bulb, it was because I didn't varnish it--or my crusty breads. I could tell some of my clients couldn't tell if it was me or the magazines lying to them, but I reckoned disappointment had a lot less liability than death by varnished food.

That was long ago before I became a Buddhist taught to be wary of appearances. How tricky they are. This story revealed such new reality-defying deceptions as lipstick on strawberries, using shaving cream as whipped cream. Those uniformly firm burritos you see are stuffed with mashed potatoes, the glorious red glow on the roasted turkey on the cover-- totally raw inside, comes from artificial food coloring applied with a paint brush. The cereal isn't soggy because it's not in milk; it's atop soft stuff from a hardware store. 

Food stylists wanted to expose these deceits not to shame themselves but so ordinary people could make their own cooking look more impressive in the camera lens. I just got a catalogue that urged me to buy the featured plates and napkins so my table could be much more Pinterest ready.

Evidently food is not always picture perfect enough, sexy enough, not photogenic enough to be acceptable in our television age. Instead we are served images of thoroughly processed, artificial, tarted up and lethally inedible food. (There was an aside in the story about somebody swiping a finger through what they thought was whipped cream only to scream in disgust and spit the Barbasol out.) The most wildly popular food blogs are consistently those with the most pornographic and high styled photography, not those by the most knowledgeable cooks.

What makes this diet of deceit so lethal is that the only thing it nourishes is expectation. It leads us to believe what's on our home plate is supposed to look as impeccably glamorous as the Photoshopped, phony food version. And if it doesn't, woe to Mom or the restaurant chef or you who made it. What's wrong with you that your tacos are so messy? You don't glue tortillas together and stuff them with cosmetic sponges?

For tastemakers, food is no longer about nourishment and survival, even sharing the love. It's about the look that generates fascination, titillation and above all, entertainment. That's what most people now expect from a meal: the exhilaration of being in a fantasy. Just read restaurant reviews on Yelp! The common key ingredient for a rave review is razzmatazz; even if the food was fine, without showmanship the customer is profoundly disappointed.

I suppose this shouldn't be surprising. The American public is so addicted to entertainment, particularly escapist movies and TV, we everywhere conflate scripted outcomes with expectations for real life. Since we no longer separate actors from their assigned roles, the Terminator got elected governor of California not long after the Gipper got elected President and a TV star became Senator from Tennesee. The brash macho reality TV boss of The Apprentice has become front runner for the US Presidency because people like hearing him shout at others: "You're fired!" More than half the country thinks our troops should shoot 'em up and be victorious like John Wayne. My grandmother blamed my mother's death from cancer on my choice of bad doctors because in the movies people are heroically saved at the last minute and she wasn't. Everything including restaurant meals has to be airbrushed with sparkly Disneyworld excitement. The downside is the millions who need drugs to dose their disappointment in the relative drabness of reality.

I work in and with food, so it's easy for me to see how we are misled to disappointment by obsession with appearances. We suffer from "should", chasing these delusions of grandeur like foxhounds. They make us afraid...of not rising to the occasion, being good enough, not getting what we pay for.  We suffer from seeing as believing.

About the time I read those sickening secrets of food styling, I saw a headline about an Instagram teen sensation with 612,000 awestruck followers who abruptly cut her feed and removed her posts. It turns out that after a year of posing and preening and promoting, Essena O'Neill discovered social media "is not real life. It's contrived perfection made to get attention." She was tired of being phony. It was too much work. She wanted to find out what life was really like.

These stories turned into a genuine teaching moment for someone always trying to fathom the difference between appearance and reality. That's the essence of Dharma practice: distinguishing so we can hunker down with absolute reality, never to be fooled again. It's not hard to see how easily humans want to mistake fussily manufactured appearance--sexy virtual reality, for the real, far less glittery and less certain alternative. Wanting life to be the brass ring on every go round, we insistently bring ourselves nonstop suffering, debilitating angst over our seemingly intractable imperfections and inadequacies. We're so hooked on seeing is believing, we even berate ourselves in the kitchen when we are just trying to eat and the what we put on the plate doesn't look like what's on the page of Bon Appetit.

The promotion of food styling and the rejection of social media imagery underscored the Buddha's great insight, his main teaching that mistaking appearance for reality is what keeps us drowning in the ocean of Samsara, or if you prefer, spinning around and around into dizzy ignorance. He says we are already perfect with everything we need to be good to go; we don't need a look, just a little food from time to time. The Buddha wants to help us get over separation anxiety as we sort tamper proof truth from all the balderdash and leave the latter behind like a childhood toy. I reckon we can start easy without all the metaphysics and Madhyamika, simply by not taking Photoshopped expectations to lunch.

~Sandy Garson "Wordsmithing to attest how the Dharma saved me from myself!"

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Learning Curve

In preparation for a milestone college reunion, my classmates and I were asked to reveal life lessons learned after university ones. Oddly the questionnaire did not allot much space.  Even though I found this all seriously ridiculous, I did start to think about life lessons learned: stuff a university never teaches. And what rushed to mind were those squishy truths you sit on hoping to squash, the ones you learn the hard way because they won't go away.  Here are the ones I can still remember. 

The Dharma teaches that all humans absolutely have Buddha Nature, but life teaches Buddha Nature can be wickedly difficult to imagine in some of those human beings.

Mother Nature is a comedian: aging brings wisdom at the same time as short term memory loss.

Learn from mushrooms. Plenty of people and policies that look glossy good on paper are actually poisonous in real life.

Evolutionary change is possible to see. The absolutely hands down scariest, worst drivers on the planet are no longer in New Jersey. They are all in California. The information highway has obviously not yet reached there. Everybody treats the left lane as the right one for sashaying at bicycle speed.

We all come with a lifetime guarantee. Like those complex Wall Street default packages, nobody knows its actual face value. 

Trungpa Rinpoche said the greatest luxury in life is to sit still while so many idiots are mindlessly running in circles chasing phantom ideas. Mary Oliver says water is so discontent, it is forever moving on to another spot while a rock, a rock is content to sit still and soak up the sun. This is welcome inspiration now that air travel has become the most widely used form of government sanctioned torture.

Everybody wants to be an entrepreneur in the booming mistake business. Most of us who've passed through middle age wish we'd known back then what we know now, but nobody still back there wants to hear what we could tell them.

If product liability and tort law had been adopted when God created men, he'd have been out of business in less than seven days.

Those who have the status will inevitably go nuclear to protect the status quo. (And there you have domestic violence, monopoly capital, the Saudi royal family and the Clinton campaign.) 

The most terrifying word of this new millennium isn't ISIS or Al-Qaeda. It's should. Struggling to conform to some vague and probably passing corporate marketing idea of how you or events or others should be rather than facing how you and they actually are unleashes the most terrifying, cancer causing stress. Trust me: You are far less likely to be blown away by some bearded Arab asshole than by your own terrifying suspicion you aren't good enough.

What the hell! is never the wrong answer. 

Never pass a chance to drink bubbly. Celebrate everything all the time. What's wrong with joy?

Humanity is divided between those who define the word "share" as a noun and those convinced it's a verb.

The best thing that can happen at college is to make friends who continue to be faithful friends for life because they liked you before you had any power to affect their ambition.That's how you can trust they really just plain like you.

People who go on big ego trips usually stop at every available food fetish.

God's ways remain mysterious. I have no clue why as I age, hair has permanently fallen from my eyebrows and forehead but not my legs.

Don't crow too loudly about human progress, especially in this self-congratulatory technological age.The people of Jericho built a wall that Joshua tore down. The Chinese built a great wall against the Mongols who  invaded anyway. The walled cities of southern France did not keep out the Romans or Brits. Now our answer to immigration in the age of gigabytes and space stations is to build a 2,000 mile long wall along the Mexican border.

If you live long enough, your hips and thighs do get thinner. This is because your waist expands wider than they are.

We live in what may seem the worst of times but testosterone has always been with us. We may actually be living in the best of times yet because we have more available antidotes. The Dharma message of compassion and self-control has become contagious around the planet. Last year 10,000,000 less animals were killed for dinner because we are changing how we eat. More people than before have begun to connect cause to effect. 

Everybody wants longevity. But nobody wants to be around those of us who have it. 

Like flowers, human beings are heliotropes. We always seek and respond happily to sunshine and warm temperament.

It's so much easier to blame others for what happens to you than to look in the mirror to see how you did that.

Modernity is trying to answer Henry Higgins question: Why can't a woman be more like a man? Buddhism is trying to address the Buddha's insight that men need to become more like women.

Back in college, we all wanted to change the world. We didn't realize what we meant was we wanted to make the world conform to our idea of how it should be or could be. We didn't know then what I know now: it's so much easier to want to change the world than to change yourself. That hard slog takes real courage, wisdom and warriorship. It's a day job, a night job, tenured position you can't resign. But you are the only thing you have the power change. Btw: Change yourself and you've changed the world. 

And finally, I do hate to contradict the Buddha but some things are just not impermanent. People still need to eat real food and get plenty of sleep. People still want to get married and have kids. Your bladder still doesn't care that you want to sleep through the night.  To thrive human beings still as always need lots of love, attention, physical safety and nourishing memories. So keep giving generously. The life you brighten will be your own.

~Sandy Garson "Wordsmithing to attest how the Dharma saved me from myself!"

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Friday, January 08, 2016

More privilege than that .01%

On the eve of yet another birthday, I thought about how my life looked in all the forms I filled out through the years: name, address, age, marital status-- how the first and last of those stayed the same while the two details in the middle kept changing like a ticker tape, especially age. I just couldn't hold on to that.

Officially I have the name I was born with because I am an unmarried single female. But when I look back, I see I've actually been in a long term relationship, a very loving and committed relationship with a man I admire and adore-- even though he can't cook a thing.  We met two weeks after my birthday 28 years ago, so our anniversary is coming up and I intend to celebrate. 

Frankly, I was looking. Those were the days before e-Harmony,, Tinder and Photoshop, so the field wasn't all that wide. I jumped when a neighbor said she'd fix me up. She sorta knew this guy and thought I might like him. She'd take me to an Open House at 7. There would be tea and cookies and a chance to talk. What more could anyone in the boonies want on a sub zero January night?

Understanding. That's what did it, what sealed the deal or dealt the seal. Not the cookies. This guy I met that night understood me--all that crazy stuff twirling around in my head and the sad subtractions of my life. Yet he wasn't screaming and running the other way. No. He was willing to stand right beside me and take out all that trash. Basically he said: we can do this together, get you on the path with me to joy and ease-- for as long as it takes. This lifetime, the next, whatever. I'm committed if you are. 

I fell hard for that. I'd been born privileged in financial and social ways, but what he offered was a way bigger privilege: perfection. Nobody before had ever told me: "You're okay, just the way you are. You just don't know it yet because other people can't see it. But I can. You're absolutely perfect. You've got everything we need. With a little cleaning and polishing,  you will start to see that. I understand you, now you have to understand me."

Relationships do take time. And vast amounts of effort. They are more than a day job. But I have been committed because this guy is the best thing that's ever happened to me. He said right out straight: You don't have to run around seeking the truth; you just have to let go of your opinions.  I am so much more nimble now without all that carry on baggage.

This guy showed me how all the not best things that had happened to me, how that Himalayan high pile of shit could turn out to be the best fertilizer anybody could have for making joy and wisdom grow. If I could lay it all out, let it rot in the light and smell it stinking to high heaven, I would discover it was actually useful for showing me what to do now. I would see how rapidly moods, lifespans and situations change, how silly anger is because it only burns you-- whoever you're angry at can't feel a thing, how getting some thing shiny you always wanted doesn't make it all better. That shininess wears off.

He taught me to throw out adverbs and adjectives like good, bad, ugly, pretty, fast, slow, even short and tall, because they were just my own insubstantial and ephemeral opinions of the moment, and more opinions were on the way. Besides everything is constantly morphing so how can it be permanently all good or all bad? What happens when a 6' man stands next to a 5' woman? You say the man is tall, right? But what if a 7' man comes up behind that six footer? Then who's short and who's tall? He showed me how to see what's really happening by just looking directly out it: no adjectives, no opinions, no shoulds. Definitely no should be. That was a real tripper-upper.

In other words, here's a guy who takes out the trash!

When he says I have to look my best, I now know he's not talking about the dye job, getting rid of the wrinkles or getting some power clothing with stiletto heels. Buddha is saying I have to look.. well... like White Tara: smiling, bright with the light of wisdom, white free of the stains of fear and lust and envy and anger, palm outstretched to manifest an open heart.

When I got into this relationship 28 years ago, I was pretty ordinary. It didn't take much to knock me over.  He said I should start by learning to be strong enough to stand straight when the waves of samsaric trouble roll over my ankles, and work up to withstanding blows as high as my knees. He taught me that most of those waves of pain and sadness came from inside me: I kept re rolling things that happened a long time ago when I really could not longer do anything about them and need to put them in the trash. He taught me that by paying keen attention to what is actually happening, not what I want to happen or fear has happened or overlaying what happened three years ago, I could be surfing waves higher than my head--although there wouldn't be that many any more.

The most incredible thing is he doesn't lie. He's been absolutely right and true all along.  Yes! A guy who doesn't insist on making things bigger than they are, but actually says it's all insubstantial, doesn't matter squat.  A double win because, as I said, he's got trash removal down pat.

Okay, there is one teensy weensy problem in the relationship. He's really big on staying awake. He doesn't like daydreaming and sleeping--things I am so good at. They are an old habits and hobbies. He keeps telling me to wake up. He's set an alarm. Wake up!  Wake up! And I'm like: Yeh sure, at what time?

~Sandy Garson "Wordsmithing to attest how the Dharma saved me from myself!"

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Sunday, January 03, 2016

What's Going Around

~Sandy Garson "Wordsmithing to attest how the Dharma saved me from myself!"

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.
Click here to request Sandy Garson for reprint permission.
Yours In The Dharma 2001-2010, Sandy Garson Copyright 2001-2010 Sandy Garson All rights Reserved