20230110-Gil-The_Dharma of Challenges (2 of 5): The Importance of Action
10:14AM Jan 13, 2023
The following talk was given at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California, please visit our website at audio dharma.org.
Hello, everyone again, I greeting you from the inside retreat center. Here in Redwood in Santa Cruz County. Right now I don't think it's raining. It was in the major entryway highway to Santa Cruz, this entry into Santa Cruz side of it was blocked with big landslides yesterday. Kind of dramatic at times here or miss area.
Usually lots of landslides.
But we've been safe here at IRC and comfortable and
nice to be here.
And nice degree, all of you on YouTube get a little taste of the retreat center here and you don't see much of it now. But maybe at the end of it, I can we can zoom out and show you that more of the meditation room. So this week, the series is on the dharma of challenges. And it's following last week, where the week was on the question and the topic was what is the dharma and now offered five different meanings of the word dharma. And, and so I'm building on that. And now how each different meaning of dharma can be an approach to how to work with practice with challenges we have. And this is still laying down a foundation. So it's not getting to details. But the foundation of a series now as we go along here, on working with challenges and particular ways of working with it. And I'm kind of a little bit not sure exactly how this is going to unfold over the weeks, I know but hoping that it's a bit of a journey into a kind of deeper, deeper connection to oneself around this topic of the challenges we have of being human beings.
one of the meetings that I talked last week about the blood dharma is these dharma as action. And there is a places in the ancient texts where the Buddha is called a teacher of action, that come about and or in his teaching, is it teaching of acts of action kamma bhava. And kind of related to the word Theravāda, with the same thought at the end. And so a teaching of action. And there's one way of understanding the dharma and even understanding inside practice, that it's a practice of action. It's a acting, there's a doing we do that involves insight, practice meditation. And it's sometimes it's useful to emphasize that it is an action is it doing. Because otherwise, sometimes we don't recognize we are doing something. And sometimes they have language in this tradition of not doing anything, just allowing it just being and, but there's a way in which they'd also said to me, if we stopped doing it, we do a lot of we're busy in the mind and very active, and we choose to stop it all. And be still, there's a way that's also doing the doing of stopping. And then we do that we don't stop our life. Life continues. And there's all this vitality. So if you're sitting in meditation upright, then there's action involved in being present for that posture present here for this. If some people practice, you know, doing just radical kind of letting go of all the normal doings of the mind, in the body, just the still, but there's still the doing of being aware of that to be is the doing of action, the action of awareness, that maybe we're not doing, but it's being done, it's actually happening is happening. And the reason why I would like to emphasize action in relationship to challenges is that when we're challenged by life, in simple ways and deep, deep ways, that the challenge part of it, something inside of us as as sprang into action, we've been activated in some way. Or maybe we find ourselves thinking a lot about and trying to figure out the problem. So perhaps we're physically activated in some way, and we want to run away or want to attack something because we really something is wrong. Or we want to shut down. I kind of, sometimes my kind of default of when I'm challenged, is the ostrich approach the challenge, kind of like sticking my head in the, in the sand, kind of like, pretending it's not there. Some people's default is to attack, you know, get angry and blame some people, it's run away and shut down. All kinds of things. And those are all actions. And some people, the common thing is to spin out in the box, and projections and fantasies and ideas, what if, or what could have been or what did. And all these are kind of actions. And and so we're already doing something. And it turns out when we're really challenged, it's often it's very good for the heart and the mind and their whole psyche. To feel like we have some agency that we can do something and we can act as if it were the challenge big challenges, you know, challenges squared, or the challenge on top of challenge is when we feel it's too much, because like giving up, it's hopeless. And the feeling of hopelessness is one of their great, or helplessness is really one of their great, maybe the greatest challenge within challenges, feeling giving up or feeling there's no no opportunity to do anything. And in the dharma, there's always something we can do. And, and maybe we can't do something to fix this challenge. But we can't find where we have some agency. What can we do here? What can what can we how can we act. And I remember many years ago, I talked to a woman, she was going in for major surgery, and she's had a lot of had a lot of surgeries. And then one more time. And I taught her to do on a kindness medication. And after surgery, she told me, Gil, that was so helpful. Because in the past, I felt once I'm on a gurney, and they're laying there waiting to go into surgery waiting in the hallway rushes waiting, I feel helpless, like my life is in the hands of someone else, and I just can't do anything. But now I felt empowered, particularly if there's something I can do, I can do loving kindness. And she felt so engaged and so empowered, or Keisha had her agency back at this crucial moments in her life of going into surgery. So you could define what we can do in a situation and learn we don't have to be helpless. Even, you know, when it's time for people to die, that that is not necessarily a time to give up, there's a time to let go in a healthy way, which is also an action. And if we learned the value of letting go, then it's an action which is inviting, we appreciate doing it, we see the value of okay, now I can let go of so many concerns and so many things. Now, there's an opportunity to do something else here. Not to be kind of snowed under, covered over with that the helplessness and hopelessness, even though the person might be dying, you know, that's kind of a challenge or crisis for some people. But if it's happening anyway, then a dharma practitioner finds what action can I engage here that meets this nicely. And so one of the actions that we do in mindfulness practice, meditation, for example, is the choice to sound, do not do. So in our physical body, we choose not to move the body too much within reason, you know, maybe have to move it, if it's uncomfortable, but to be still for a period of time, we might have a choice to still some of that thinking mind that there are some of the things we think about, that we realized, you know, I've done this a lot. I don't need to do this anymore. And so there's a healthy, appropriate way to say, I stopped. I'm not doing this. That is an engagement of our agency of our choice, all we can do. And there are things we can't have choice about stopping and we have to learn to practice with that. And so for someone who's doing mindfulness meditation, one of them doings, one of the actions we use is to meet it with attention needed with investigation, meaning with curiosity to be present here. And, and that's something we do that sometimes I think sometimes people under value, the action of showing up for our experience, okay, here I am with it that's taking agency that sent you have something to do, we're not helpless, when we bring attention to something the and sometimes what we can do is, is the present for the experience of challenge, but learn how to be present for it in a useful way. And one of the ways is to realize when we're challenged, the more challenged we are probably that's a, it's a way of saying it sometimes the challenge is we see it out there. Maybe it's like an object. It's objectified somehow. But I propose that the bigger the challenge is, the more we're activated with our thinking mind or an emotional mind or fear or anxiety or concerns. And, and that activation is something which you bring attention to. But to bring attention to it in a careful way to explore and discover where am I activated? What's a lie? What's activated here? And where does it feel most right? To bring the attention? Where does it feel most it within it, where where within this how I feel is most grounding, most centering, where and how I'm feeling now I'm feeling so agitated, so unstable, Is there someplace where it feels pleasant, enjoyable to have the attention. And so I remember yesterday, when we had some trouble with the technology and making it work, I sat down and I was little bit more activated, more energized,
spinning a little bit than I usually am. And I sit down to do that YouTube. And, and so as I sat there, I brought my attention to the, the gray I was energized, a little bit agitated. And where it was most pleasant was in my arms, there was a flow of energy there, of, you know, usually my arms, I don't feel that strongly when I meditate the upper arms. But now there was a flow of energy there that was part of the activation. But actually it felt kind of nice that flow and liveness and tingling there in the upper arm. And so I wanted to be present for how I was. And but I wanted to also be present for it in a way where I wasn't going to spin out more in the thoughts and the ideas and the concerns, but to but to be present for it in a way that entered into it in a way that allows for a deeper connection or settlements or, or having a calmness in the middle of the storm. And so finding that place where it was pleasant for more than sometimes too high to high bar to find, but to find where it is. Feels a rightness to it. And I love this idea of where is the rightness what feels right. It feels like the given how challenging it is and what's going on, given it most and feels like the right place to be present be Senator be attentive to me. And and that I find to it just asked that question and gives us is beginning to take on agency, I can do this I can do something. So the dharma has action, that the Buddha was a teaching teacher of action. And we're learning how to act, to engage to do in a way that is freeing that's brings peace that brings a sense of well being. And, and that path to that goes through can go through learning to feel confident in our capacity for agency. Even if we can't solve the challenge. We don't have to give up are finding a way to be present and alive in a way that we feel like we can do something and we don't have to feel helpless. So it might be interesting today as you go through this, that you explore this for yourself that you know if you feel challenged by things First look and see, recognize, if you're you've been activated and you are already acting, you're already engaged. So it might be like, you know, it's just hopeless and helpless, and I'm a disaster. That's an action. That's a doing. So see when you're challenged what you're already doing, and find one or two things, or both, what you can do instead, that gives you a healthy agency to do something appropriate here. And the second is to be more present for how you feel challenged. But to feel where does it feel most right? What aspect of your psychophysical experience, maybe even it's kind of pleasant in the middle of this very unpleasant event that's going on? Or where does it most commonly, to connect to it. And maybe it's an exercise today, you don't want to choose the most difficult challenges of the day. But maybe there's some small challenges that it'd be interesting to explore this with. And so thank you. And little bit aware also that, yes, last week was a foundation for this week, and what's coming. But in fact, the last week of the year, of 2022, are talking about right after it has also made a very important foundation for what's coming prequel for it. You didn't listen to it, you might want to go back. So here, I am an IRC. So thank you all for being here. And I thought I would take a couple of minutes here. Just to introduce you to our wonderful retreat center, we have enough, can you zoom out, we see the home that additional.
And then again, I see that takes a I don't know there's a delay between going from our computer to zoom to YouTube. It's longer than the delay when I go directly to YouTube from AMC. And so I don't know if you can look at the windows, but we have wonderful redwood trees just outside. And now we have this wonderful hall or on the second floor of the building. And when we moved into this building, bought the building, and it was unfinished. It was an old constructed kind of unfinished space up here. And we walked into the space up here we all felt this is the place of the meditation hall. And it was like it had had that presence here. This is it. And now it's it now it's a meditation hall. And we have a few people here who live here and you've been involved with IRC for a long time. I wonder if any of you would like to come and introduce yourself to the YouTube community? Partly because you're very important for this wider IMC community. You're part of what supports it all and keeps it all going supports me and anybody I know as you kind of out of the blue but being invited to come and say hello, yes, a little upset saying hello, this Powell is managing director of our retreat center and the longtime practitioner and they trained not to be a teacher. That's what she was here for balls, weaker training.
Morning everyone. I'm really happy to be here at IRC with some of the many many volunteers that help make IRC happen. There are people who reside here who take care of the building and all of the retreats and all the people who come here to volunteer and then there are just hundreds of people who volunteer from the park. And then I'm here to make sure that we have good volunteers and somehow sitting here makes sure that we have online retreats that happen or webcasts that are happening or retreats. So just wanted to acknowledge all those people and say that volunteering here is really great joy thank you
we shall brace
Joe Serling is in a restaurant here, here before when he first opened up, just recently returned to do another round.
Thanks, everybody. That's pretty good introduction, I can't think of anything more to add. I'm really glad to be here I just moved in two days ago. I'll be in the kitchen probably a lot. And I love being in there
introduction slide into
here, it's the same day. And she's been here now for about nine months. And a wonderful member of our community has been working hard. The admin side of it all and the housekeeping side of it all and then return that comes down here a smile when I see me.
For those of you who couldn't hear me as I was walking out, I was asking for my introduction. I am thankful to be here. The first time I walked into this retreat center almost a year ago was February 2022, the walls use of compassion. And that's something that's definitely very, very present. And I continue to feel that during my time here. So I hope you all have a great afternoon, morning, evening, wherever you are. Thank you
Hi, everyone, again, me and I've been here for almost three years and throughout the pandemic. I was away for a month or a retreat. And just feel gratitude do for this place. And it brings me a lot of joy to think you are the circle of IRC community is Browder and all over the world
Yeah, so much, much love. Thank you
so thank you. And thank you only interested in your shell and there's a new year helping some people out here some people come here to volunteer and help and some people come here to practice and people come here to teach and all kinds of things that go on here. and wonderful and wonderful to share this with you and and someday maybe some of you will come here and practice with us. Thank you