2023-01-12-Gil-Dharma of Challenges (4 of 5) Personal Responsibility
10:10AM Jan 13, 2023
So, to continue the topic of the dharma of challenges we will be challenged in this life. That's that's a certainty. And how do we meet it? How does the dharma help us with it. And so, building on last week, the fourth kind of meaning of dharma is dharma as teachings. And so for Buddhist teachings of the Buddha, and so how can they be a resource of support for us and our challenges? One of them is to orient us in a direction that's effective and meaningful. And to kind of take in the teachings of the Buddha, maybe in their fullness. And to see, sometimes you have to, it's not necessarily what's predominantly taught. But the, the, the overall kind of foundation for what's being taught there. And so there's two things that stand out to me that when I read the suttas points to a very important direction, in which to help us in times of challenges or this challenging life. One is I'll start with a metaphor, because then maybe what I'll say will, kind of the more understandable, less protests. And that is that if a person is an athlete, and say they're going to do a very important, they're going to run a race. And it's important race for them, and they need to be kind of at the very top physical ability to do this. So in the hour before the race, that person is going to take responsibility for how best to be ready for the race. And they're going to be very focused on that. And very intentional. And so if they need to do something, they'll make sure that that can be done. Some of that is warming up, some of them might be doing gentle runs, doing very doing the very thing that they're going to be doing at the race, but doing it kind of slowly warming up a little bit faster and faster, getting the body kind of limber and ready for it and the system going. And, but they're taking responsibility, they're not asking their trainer to run for them. If they need to kind of set their mind in a certain state that might meditate or do something, maybe they even take a nap, or maybe they just do something like I don't know, clearly takes them their mind off the race. So that they're much more can relax more deeply and not be kind of caught in some tension around it. And so they're very intentional, and they're taking responsibility for doing the thing that will take their mind off the race. So the the athlete is taking is really taking responsibility, more than maybe anybody else. They're not kind of looking at the weather every, every five minutes. You know, you know, thinking about the weather, weather, it's not particularly good, and maybe it'll get better and, and they're just, you know, or they're not kind of going around complaining that the track is not as even as they wish you could be. And they're going around kind of to everyone say, Look, this is not right. And no one can do anything in such a late time. But you know, if it's important to go and complain, they don't do that they take responsibility for how they're going to show up, getting themselves ready. So what we find in the teachings of the Buddha, is that that the orientation that he has, it can be a little bit like getting ready for life. And, and taking responsibility for ourselves to get ourselves in the right frame of mind the right capacity, the right skills, the right strengths, so that we can engage in life fully. And it's and so there's a distinction here that I think is useful. The distinction of seeing the dharma, dharma practice, as that part of life where we're kind of preparing ourselves for life. We're loosening ourselves up, freeing ourselves up, getting limbered up getting ready, getting wise understanding ourselves in a way that only we can take responsibility for. When we're in the middle of a challenge, then the challenge has its own dynamics that we have to take care of and do and address. But in terms of the dharma of the challenge, a big part of that is taking responsibility for our end of it, how are we participating. And so, you know, so like, I can imagine that if a racer was racing along, and, and some fellow racers next to next, next running next to him, and says something really mean just to kind of trip up view, during the race, you don't count on then go argue with the person and tell them that they let's, let's have a meeting and talk about this and work it out. If you're in the race, you just kind of take responsibility for yourself in order to kind of kind of manage with your feelings so you can do the race. When we're in the world of challenges with their people and arguments and difficulties, we take care of the difficulty in appropriate way. And sometimes I do have the conversation with people do say terrible things to people. But what's important to remember is that dharma is always kind of taking responsibility for how we are to see what we're contributing to the challenge to see how we're contributing to our own suffering and distress around this, even though the other person has caused a lot of distress, that dharma has found by really centering here, and finding out what are we doing and finding the freedom here. So that when we are in the race of life, if we are in the middle of the challenges of life, and what's going on, we're in a good place, to be able to do that effectively. And honestly, and clearly and, and do what needs to be done in it. Not to avoid anything, but to really be able to come from this place of freedom and generosity and kindness and non stress. So you find this tremendous emphasis on, it's kind of a very strong, individualistic teaching, that the Buddha gave this kind of really take responsibility for yourself, so that you can care for others. It's not an individualistic culture is very collectivist and connected to people and what's going on. But there's something we have to do here. That's what the dharma practice is found, to big degree. We do it together with other people, we're supported by each other, were mirrored each other and but this kind of emphasis on what are we doing here? What's our contribution. And then when we do that, another part of the teaching, which is phenomenal. And I think in the modern world, we're learning how important it is for many circumstances. And that is, the willingness to feel pleasure in the Buddha's teachings is very, very focused. Now we're both taking responsibility for what's happening, but also understanding that what we do conditions us, what we do creates habit, what we do creates an environment, that then conditions conditions us. And if we do things which are unhealthy, that kind of creates an unhealthy conditioning within us. And we're more likely to kind of feel off and when we feel off, we're more likely to do unhealthy things. And so, in taking responsibility for ourselves, the idea is to find what conditions us positively do that to do the things that create a good environment for yourself. So that that influences us. And it's not being pollyannish it's not be coding over and pretending that there isn't difficulties and suffering. dharma practice is the opposite of that. It's really being honest for what's happening and showing up. But in doing so, how do we be present for this, all this so that the way we're attending the way we're being with our experience in ourselves, is has a positive influence on us, is a positive conditioning. So if we show up with stress, if we show up resistance and anger, if we show up with with, you know, greed for something that's going to condition us in ways which are not really helpful and long term, we have to kind of condition but if we show up to difficulties with and sometimes rather than showing up with positive states, the best we can do is show up with the absence of the negative ones. We show up without giving into anger. We might be angered, we will give into it. We don't complain, we might be greedy, but don't get into it. So it doesn't, it's the giving into into participating. That is what we're the conditioning is.
So, so a big part of mindfulness practice is to be mindful for what's happening. But we can carry along with us that awareness, that mindfulness of the present moment, we can't carry it baggage with us. Where there's as little complaining, a little fear, little stress or big going on, or little kind of sense of duty and pushing and trying hard or expectation or wanting it to be different all kinds of conditioning, things we do, that are reinforcing something which is not so pleasant for us, not not beneficial for us doesn't prepare us for the race. But can we learn how to be mindful, even have great difficulties, so that how we're mindful is satisfying, how mindful has a positive influence on us, even if all that is it's not a not a minor thing is we can be aware of what's happening with clarity. We're clear and open and available for what's there and we can't some summon up kindness, we can't summon up compassion, we can't summon up generosity or, but it does feel good to just kind of step forward openly and be aware. Yes, that's a good conditioning. So it can seem like a big burden, to be involved in a practice, that we have to take responsibility for ourselves in it, and that it's a central feature. And it can seem like somehow not a realistic spirituality, to start being conditioned by what's pleasant, the enjoyable. But it turns out, that, that is a path away, of preparing ourselves for being in this world in a very realistic way, in a beneficial way, in a full way that we are not prepared, preparing ourselves, if we show up with complaining and anger and fear and distress, and that kind of clamping down giving up. There's all these things in mind does, that we give into or allow for. And it's a phenomenal thing to be beginning to reclaim a certain kind of personal power, a certain kind of personal strength, where we don't succumb we don't collapse. And we don't give in to things which are unhealthy for us and unhealthy for the world. And out of that grows to Lotus and muddy waters. If the all the complicated difficulty of our life, the ways in which we're caught up in, in attachments and clinging and, and unhealthy behavior, rather than seeing it as being unfortunate, it's the compost from which can grow the lotus and, and how and becomes compost, if we don't participate in it, if we don't grow it, but allow it to kind of settle back into the soil and decay and, and support the growth of something quite beautiful. So that's, you know, the dharma is also teachings. And this is I think, some of the central teachings from the Buddha that I think can challenge us can enliven us can give us a directionality for being with challenges, that begins this process of showing up for challenges with a certain kind of personal strength, personal agency, that that is so important and challenges is when we don't have agencies when we feel helpless and hopeless, that really has a powerfully negative conditioning for us. And the dharma says you're never helpless because you can always show up and bring practice to it. Even if you can't change what's going on, even if you do all the preparations in the world and you're at your peak shape for the race, you might still lose the race. But boy, was it good to show up and be present to do the race in the best state that we can be in. Maybe that's what's the winning, not the literal winning of the race. So thank you. And may you look at today, as you go through the day, look and see about how the state of your mind how the state of your reactivity to what's going on in the world, how you participate in anything you're doing, how you might be conditioning yourself. It has a, What influence does it have on your state of being your state of mind? Just study that, and maybe to really get into that study, have some conversations with people about how this works for you. So thank you, and we'll go back and have another challenge tomorrow.