Monday, March 29, 2010

The Soft Spot

 I have something for you to chew on. Pema Chodron wrote, "No lasting happiness comes from being caught in this cycle of attraction and aversion. We can never get life to work out so that we eliminate everything we fear and end up with all the goodies."

Well, that's no fun now is it? The habitual predicament that humans are caught up in is to want only good things to happen and not bad. Of course we don't want bad things to happen, but wouldn't it be better to accept that they will happen? Just as good things will happen. That's the balance of life. The point being as long as we are caught in the paired extremes of praise and blame, hope and fear, pleasure and pain, fame and disgrace, you can't have one without the other. Just like you can't know hot without cold, you can't know calm without chaos. If we are to live a more balanced life, the effort is to not get caught up in the extremes. This is where the term equanimity comes into play. Cultivating equanimity takes work.

First thing that has to happen is to actually notice when you are being negative or holding on so tightly to a concept.

Second take a breath or two so that the awareness becomes mindful. Awareness is like the sudden interruption of the door bell or a dog bark. Awareness interrupts the brain and says "Yo, something's up". Mindfulness is actually deciphering what to do with the awareness. Mindfulness is the action. Third, don't separate yourself and think, "Only bad things happen to me". This clearly is not true. All humans know pain just as we all know pleasure. The way to cultivate equanimity is to stay in the soft spot if you will. It's not rigid and fixed. There's movement to go either way. You meditators out there know this and that's one of the benefits of the practice. We peel away the layers of protection to become more vulnerable, heart open souls. Some of you may say, "That's exactly why I don't meditate. I like and need my armor." Unless you are going off to war, leave your armor in a footlocker.

I am not sure how possible it is to live in our capricious world and not get caught up with hopes and fears unless you are a cave dwelling monk. However, all is not lost. We can work on coming more toward the center so as not to experience such extremes in our reactions. You may be saying, well that's just me, part of my personality. Um, not really. The jury is out and you actually can teach an old dog new tricks. Of course that old dog has to be willing. Our habits are just that, habits. You form them, you ingrain them and you can get rid of them too. Think of a habit as a muscle that has worked out a lot. If the habit is undesirable, try giving that muscle a rest and exercise some new muscles. I guarantee you if you dedicate as much mindfulness to your new, hopefully productive habit as you did to your old one, you will succeed. Awareness is key to staying in the soft spot. Connecting that you, just like everyone else, gets caught up in the cycle of pain and pleasure. We are all in the same boat. This is an incredibly insightful tool towards equanimity. Takes the edge off if you will.

P.S. Full moon on the 30th. Free gift giving when you share the moon!