Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Buddhism, Kirtan, and Yoga, Om My!

One thing about life...It is always an adventure. You never know which way the wind is gonna blow you, and often the wind blows you right back where you started.

I went from walking in a  new yoga studio trying to find a way for us to find peace amid the personal chaos we are experiencing in life, to becoming acquainted with a dear friend of Billy’s and our playing and singing kirtan along with her; (for the uninitiated, a kirtan is a mantra sing along; traditional mantras are sung in a call and response manner, bringing an intense healing and feeling of peace. It does just  that and then some,  my friends..I strongly suggest it to all of you. That’s my shameless plug to check out Yoji and friends the next time we play. ;)

This new journey of mine feels like an old journey...Seems I have been traveling this path in some form or another for as long as I can remember.

 I have always been drawn to Hinduism and Buddhism. I have meditated in the past, taken yoga classes,  read as much as I could about Eastern thought, and still continue to avidly read and relish everything I can get my hands on. It feels as if my path is leading toward Buddhism ultimately, but to me, it is all part of the same goal; finding peace within and without, and giving selflessly and compassionately to others, while treating all I meet with lovingkindness. I know, sounds tough, right?

Selflessness is a difficult place to reach, as we are all egocentric to a degree. Becoming selfless means to truly let go of all attachments and accept that we all suffer. We must learn to accept that fact and let go of all of the suffering we have experienced and accept it as part of the lesson we are here to learn.

 To be mindful means to live in the here and now. The past is gone, and the future is unknown. Mindfulness means savoring each and every moment; from waking to a beautiful sunrise, to knowing when you are brushing your teeth, “I am brushing my teeth”.  It doesn’t mean not thinking at all of future plans, it simply means not dwelling on them.  The best path to mindfulness is through meditation, which is something we all should take time to do every single day. It’s amazing what we allow to control our lives, and yet we never take a moment to quietly contemplate who we are and where we are going. Meditation forces this on you; it gives your soul a much needed break.

In meditation, one has to be mindful. I concentrate on my breathing to try to keep myself intent on the moment;  I want to be mindful, but it doesn’t help that my mind is in constant overdrive, it makes meditation ever so much more interesting. In Buddhism they call it “Training the Puppy”; my mind is definitely the Jack Russell of puppies without a doubt. I feel like I am constantly offering him treats to come back, sit, and stay. Things like, “Did I feed the fish? Oh yea, I did. Hm. Do I hear the cat in the litter box? I have to remember to change his box today”...Your mind will do everything and anything to show you it’s the boss if you let it. The trick is controlling that pesky puppy, gently, and with love.

What I have learned so far?
 I’ve learned that our shared reality is this: we all suffer. No one is immune. It’s been our human condition since the beginning. We as a species have tried to explain it in a million different ways in order to understand it; Suffering, Original Sin, whichever name it goes by, we have tried blaming it on everything from karma to the wrath of the gods. Suffering happens, and yes, it sucks. Some people get a relatively low dose of suffering handed to them, and others lose their loved ones in an earthquake.  Acquaintances of mine just lost their 21 year old son in a dirt bike accident.  And even with my knowledge that everyone suffers, I sat here this morning, crying like a baby, trying to accept it, and secretly thanking the gods that my own children are safe and sound…but I know it could just as easily have happened to me. It does make the letting go of the lesser aspects of suffering easier; broken hearts, job losses, don’t seem so bad in comparison. Yet I know it’s our nature to try to explain why it happens, especially when the loss of a child is involved.

Rather than explain it, I think we are just supposed to accept it and let it go. Accept that suffering exists. We have to have compassion for those who are experiencing the loss, and comfort them in their grieving, while also accepting that this is part of life; the yin and yang of it all.  Yet it’s difficult when we are over our head in it. Think of how the people of Japan are trying to make peace with their suffering right now. Think of the mother crying for her son. But that acceptance is a necessary goal if we are to be free from the pain suffering brings.

Buddhism allows one to come to the gradual understanding that to accept and know we all suffer, that it is an eventuality, sure as death and taxes, means finding ultimate bliss and freedom.  One of my favorite Dalai Lama quotes says it best:
“If you have fear of some pain or suffering, you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it. If you can, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot, then there is also no need to worry”
I can’t change my future, and I can’t erase the past and present hurts and sufferings, but I can learn to accept that life is going to bring hardship in some manifestation or another. I can also take the time to celebrate the incredible beauty and joy that makes up a day; every single day holds joy and promise. I am going to do just that.
Embrace joy…love one another…and share your light. Namaste. ☼

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