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.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


The world around me is getting undressed. Leaves and pine needles drop and swirl in the wind, bugs bolt indoors, blossoms freeze and shrivel. It all falls down. 

Falling pine cones in shifting wind smack the roof like a fist. Cold air squeaks through cracks in the boards, howling wind rattles screens. All day long, big black flies, light brown moths and creepily feelered assassin bugs drop off sills and screens, dead on the floor. The vacuum cleaner can't keep up. Stalks keel over. The garden is a cemetery. Light dims early and fast and gets reluctant to return as though it could have much more fun elsewhere. Everything is dying. I am self conscious about life, particularly mine. And its failures, all that's died.

You can see why this is spooky season, time for ghosts and devils and skeletons that dance. Time to placate kids with the sweetness of candy.  The hallowed evening, day of the dead, divali festival of light. Everything is dying or burrowing or flying away to brighter sun. We're done with harvest. We have to make do with what we got. We've lost our screening; what we didn't see has become quite clear  Fewer places to hide. The high hopes of Spring are laid low or packed away or left to die like bugs in all the newly woven spider webs meant to kill. 

Spring is hope: brighter, warmer, pregnant with every promise of glory days ahead. Hope is the wish for change to let you keep what you like or bring you what you think you will; fear the expectation that change will take away what you like or bring you what you don't want. The dying of the light, the plants, the animals, the warmth, who wants that?  Boo!

The Buddha said we have only two emotions, two driving energies: hope and fear. You can feel that right now when all the dying provokes so much fear. You see it firing up news and headlines: everybody loudly afraid of something-- gluten, immigrants, data mining. All arrows point straight to a pain in the ego.

Fear is the easier emotion to manipulate; it's what politicians and marketers so profitably sell. Fear is a turbo charged engine compared to hope. If you don't believe me, try sitting still and generating a thought that scares the hell out of you. Or just watch Fox News because that's exactly what it's broadcasting. Focus on what happens to your mind and body when fear strikes. Then shake it off or suck it up, and generate a happy heartwarming hope. Kinda carries you along like an old jalopy.

Hope is progressive, fear conservative. Hope to the left, fear to the hard right. Hope is action, fear reaction. Hope for the truth, fear what it will do to you. Maybe if elections were in May their input and outcomes would be different. That word says it all: May. Not a month that begins with No.

The Buddha saw hope and fear as so intimately intertwined, he taught that by abandoning hope--expectation and control, you automatically become fearless. But right now in this darkening, chilling time of diminished possibility and dead reckoning, unenlightened me thinks hope is all I have to conquer the spooky fears the blazes of October ignite. Om mani peme hung.

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

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