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#1577 - Monday, October 6, 2003

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  • Jerry Katz
    Issue #1577 - Monday, October 6, 2003 - Editor: Jerry ... MAITRI-Cultivating Unconditional Friendliness to Oneself by Pema Chodron Friday, 9.26.97 San
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 7, 2003
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      Issue #1577 - Monday, October 6, 2003 - Editor: Jerry

      MAITRI-Cultivating Unconditional Friendliness to Oneself
      by Pema Chodron
      Friday, 9.26.97
      San Francisco
      Maitri is translated in a lot of ways, maybe most commonly as
      "love," but the way Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche translated it
      was "unconditional friendliness" and in particular
      "unconditional friendliness to oneself."
      So I teach about maitri a lot. In fact, sometimes I think
      it's the only thing I teach. I also teach about compassion a
      lot, but actually compassion is a form of maitri so this
      unconditional friendliness to oneself, it seems to be what
      most of us do not have.
      This is very interesting because there was a conference in
      Dharamsala with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and it was with
      Western Buddhist teachers.
      Sharon Salzburg, who's a teacher of western insight
      meditation, was talking to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and
      explaining how in teaching in the West one of the things that
      teachers always encountered was how widespread it was that
      people were very hard on themselves. That when the teachings
      were taught in a traditional way, sometimes they simply
      didn't communicate because we were so good as a group of
      people at taking whatever we heard and turning it against
      ourselves. For instance, there could be some excellent
      teaching on the difficulty, the pain that comes from ego
      clinging and that teaching could be taught in a very
      traditional way and then people could hear it, and somehow
      people could come out feeling bad about themselves. Instead
      of feeling inspired or uplifted to heal themselves, they'd
      come out feeling bad about themselves.
      She was explaining this and His Holiness the Dalai Lama
      stopped her and said he didn't know what she was talking
      about. She tried to keep explaining that people have a low
      opinion of themselves. There's a lot of self-criticism,
      self-loathing, and things like this. And somehow, still he
      didn't really seem to understand. So he went around the room
      and asked all the Western teachers if they knew what she was
      talking about. And, of course, everybody knew what she was
      talking about.
      When it had gone all the way around, he said, Well that's
      very interesting. There is a difference between the Tibetan
      people, that he knows so well, and the people of the West.
      This would be called, in terms of what I'm going to talk
      about tonight, lack of maitri, not having maitri.
      So often when I teach on this subject it gets misunderstood
      as meaning something like self-indulgence. One time, somebody
      came to Gampo Abbey to do a program there who had read The
      Wisdom of No Escape, which was the first book that I wrote.
      She came because she liked the whole emphasis on making
      friends, developing an unconditional friendship with oneself.
      We were into the second day of sitting, sort of late
      afternoon, and at one point she just stood up and stretched
      her arms and made this very loud yawn, and laid down on the
      floor. I was sitting in the front of the room as the leader
      of the meditation. I'm sitting there, and of course you would
      never know by looking at my face that I'm at all noticing
      what's going on (audience laughter), but I'm thinking in my
      mind, "What in the hell is she doing?"
      Afterwards I asked her what she was doing, and she said, "You
      know, I just took your words to heart." She said, "My back
      was hurting, and my knees were hurting, I was having a
      difficult time. So I was just friendly to myself." Then I
      realized I had to stress the teachings on discipline some
      There was a story about the Zen master Suzuki Roshi. This was
      a situation where his students had been sitting and they were
      3 or 4 hours into a very hard sitting period, a sesshin. The
      person who told the story said every bone in his body was
      hurting, his back, his ankles, his neck, his head, everything
      hurt. Not only that, his thoughts were totally obsessed with
      either "I can't do this, I'm worthless. There's something
      wrong with me. I'm not cut out to do this." It was
      vacillating between those thoughts and "This whole thing is
      ridiculous. Why did I ever come here? These people are crazy.
      This place is like boot camp." His mind and body were just
      aching. Probably everyone else in the room was going through
      something similar.
      Suzuki Roshi came in to give the lecture for the day and he
      sat down. He started to talk very, very, very slowly and he
      said, "The difficulty that you are experiencing now. . ." And
      that man was thinking, "will go away."
      And he said, "This difficulty will be with you for the rest
      of your life."
      So that's sort of Buddhist humor.
      But it is also the essence of maitri. It seems to me in my
      experience and also in talking to other people that we come
      to a body of teachings like the Buddhist teachings or any
      spiritual path, to meditation in some way like little
      children looking for comfort, looking for understanding,
      looking for attention, looking somehow to be confirmed. Some
      kind of comfort will come out of this. And the truth is
      actually that the practice isn't about that. The practice is
      more about somehow this little child this I, who wants and
      wants and wants to be confirmed in some way.
      Practice is about that part of our being that, like that
      finally being able to open completely to the whole range of
      our experience, including all that wanting, including all
      that hurt, including the pain and the joy. Opening to the
      whole thing so that this little child-like part of us can
      finally, finally, finally, finally grow up.
      Trungpa Rinpoche once said that was the most powerful mantra,
      "Om Grow Up Svaha."
      But this issue of growing up, it's not all that easy because
      it requires a lot of courage. Particularly it takes a lot of
      courage to relate directly with your experience. By this I
      mean whatever is occurring in you, you use it,. You seize the
      moment­ moment after moment­ you seize those moments and
      instead of letting life shut you down and make you more
      afraid, you use those very same moments of time to soften and
      to open and to become more kind. More kind to yourself for
      starters as the basis for becoming more kind to others.
      One time when I was a child, I was feeling very upset and
      angry at one point. I think I was around seven or eight. And
      there was this old woman, who I later become very close to.
      But the first time I ever met her, I was walking down the
      street kicking stones with my head down, and I was feeling
      very lonely. I was basically feeling that nobody loved me
      very much and that people weren't taking care of me. So I was
      walking along angry at the world, kicking stones. And this
      woman said, "Child, don't let the world harden your heart."
      And I always remember that. It was the first real teaching I
      received, I think. It's still a teaching I remember. And in
      terms of this teaching on maitri, this is really the key.
      People's lives, through all of time, have had a lot of
      difficulty in them The Buddha's first teaching was that there
      is suffering in life, If you're born as a human being ,
      there's suffering. At the very least, there's the suffering
      of illness, of growing old and of death at the end. Not to
      mention that the more you love are able to open, there's the
      suffering of not getting what you want and of losing what you
      do want. Just some inevitable sufferings.
      Nowadays, this is an especially difficult time in the history
      of this planet, Earth. it's a difficult time. And in times of
      difficulty, people get very frightened. Often when I'm
      teaching a lot of the questions are that people ask about
      just the subject. People inevitably say, "Yes, but it's
      dangerous, it's getting more and more dangerous just to walk
      down the street. We need to protect ourselves."
      I think the point is when our lives are difficult, in small
      ways or large ways, when we're going through a lot
      emotionally, or when difficult things are happening in our
      environment, do those things cause us to become more uptight
      and afraid. or do those very same things, when the teachings
      are applied, soften us and can open us?
      To me, this is how I practice and this is the most important
      thing. You never know what's going to happen to us. In any
      day of our lives you never know what's coming. That's part of
      the adventure of it actually, but that's what makes us
      scared, is that we never know. And we spend a lot of time
      trying to control it so that we could know, but the truth is
      that we don't really know.
      Really, I think a lot of people, like children, you're
      wanting some kind of practice that's not going to take you
      into anything uncomfortable but at the same time you want the
      practice to heal you. And it just doesn't work like that.
      The question is how do you relate when things are
      uncomfortable? That's really the question.
      As far as I'm concerned, in terms of spiritual path, that's
      the main question: how do you relate with the difficulties?
      How do you relate with the feelings you have and the
      situations you find yourself in?
      This particular teaching on the Four Limitless Ones, on
      maitri, compassion, joy and equanimity is really a teaching
      on how to take the situations of your life and train­
      actually train­ in catching yourself closing down, catching
      yourself getting hard, and training in opening at that very
      point, or softening. In some sense reversing a very, very old
      pattern of the whole species, which is a pattern of armoring
      ourselves. It's sort of like the essence of the whole Path is
      in that place of discomfort and what do you do with it?
      I was thinking that that every time we speak or act it always
      leaves us with some kind of feeling. Sometimes that feeling
      is elated and feeling like things are going well, that things
      are good. Sometimes it leaves you feeling kind of miserable.
      Life's like that, it goes one way then the other.
      For instance, after this talk tonight I'm going to feel
      something. I'm going to go out of here and, I don't know if
      I'll actually be talking to myself about it, but there'll be
      a feeling that it went or it didn't go well, or whatever. So
      what? Either way, the main point is what do I do with that?
      What do I do with that?
      When I said about us coming to spiritual things like
      children, so many of us think that if we come to a spiritual
      discipline or start to meditate, it means that everything is
      going to be OK. Like every talk I ever give is going to be
      this raging success. Or whatever. Everything you ever do for
      your kids or with your parents, your husbands or wives, at
      your jobs: everything is going to be a rose garden. Maybe
      this sounds kind of trivial to say that. You say, "That's not
      Deep in our hearts, deep emotionally, we all feel somehow
      that it ought to be like that. We're always feeling like we
      did something wrong. It isn't like that that. It just goes up
      and down. Maitri has a lot to do with a kind heart, but kind
      heart towards what?
      Kind heart towards the completeness of our being. That means
      if I go out of here tonight with a heavy heart or feeling of
      disappointment that instead of it spiralling into something
      like depression, or destructive behavior, or it can spiral
      into me yelling at everybody I meet in the rest of the
      evening, kicking cats.
      Somehow we don't just allow ourselves to feel what we feel
      and leave it at that. With some kind of kind heart or big
      space toward it. Personally, this is how I have been training
      for a lot of years. It adds up to a feeling that this life
      that we have is not so bad after all. It has all these smells
      and textures and climates, and emotional ups and downs.
      There's some sense. . . I don't know– I think what it is for
      me, personally, it's this sense that grows and grows that
      we're all in this together. How we relate with what comes
      towards us is our path to enlightenment. That's how I was
      taught and that's how I really feel about it. But that
      doesn't mean that everything is rosy.
      Enlightened people, as far as I can see, from the ones I've
      known, they have mood swings. Someone was talking about their
      Japanese Zen teacher. Whenever they would ask him how he was
      doing, he would say "OK." So finally, one day the student
      lost their temper and said, "Roshi, it can't be that you're
      always OK! Don't you ever have bad days?"
      And Roshi said, "On good days, I'm OK. On bad days, I'm OK."
      It's not easy, you know, to practice this way. What you're
      doing is you're really changing yourself at the most
      fundamental level. It seems to be that as a species, the
      human species, that it's programmed in the genes that when
      things are painful, we want to get rid of it. And the other
      side is that when they're delightful, we fear losing it. This
      kind of practice addresses this kind of pattern, this
      deep-seated pattern. It's shaking it up a little bit, turning
      it around a little bit.
      If you don't think that's revolutionary, it's revolutionary.
      It's extremely difficult to do and it takes a lot of courage,
      but it changes you very deeply. The way it's been expressed
      to me that made a lot of sense to me is it's how the species
      can evolve from being stuck to being unstuck. From being
      uptight and stressed out and being mostly self-involved with
      our own pain to becoming open-hearted and compassionate and
      really there for each other.
      These teachings on the Four Limitless Ones, and on maitri,
      are very much about tapping into the resources that we
      already have. In terms of this quality of maitri, Buddhist
      teaching always say that these qualities are inherent, that
      they're not something that we have to develop or import. That
      somebody else has it and we don't. It's actually there, but
      the courage comes in to tap into it and then nurturing it.
      With maitri, it's beginning to contact the feelings of good
      heart or love or appreciation or gratitude or any kind of
      tenderness: beginning to acknowledge those kinds of feelings
      in our lives. Even tiny moment of good heart, like you're
      cold and you get warm, or you're very hot like we've been
      these few days and you feel a cool breeze: just small things
      like that when you feel some sense of relaxation or gratitude
      or appreciation all the way up to large things: beginning to
      really notice these things.

      Apel Mjausson
      Live Journal
      Amaravati Revisited. Yesterday I went up to Amaravati
      Theravada Monastery north of Hemel Hempstead in
      Hertfordshire. By the time I arrived at the monastery the sun
      was setting and the light levels were getting pretty low. But
      I managed to take some pictures anyway. When I had taken
      these pictures I went to meditate in the temple. It is
      wonderful to be able to do that. There's such a serenity

      from Panhala
      The Night House 
      by Billy Collins
      Every day the body works in the fields of the world
      mending a stone wall
      or swinging a sickle through the tall grass --
      the grass of civics, the grass of money --
      and every night the body curls around itself
      and listens for the soft bells of sleep.
      But the heart is restless and rises
      from the body in the middle of the night,
      and leaves the trapezoidal bedroom
      with its thick, pictureless walls
      to sit by herself at the kitchen table
      and heat some milk in a pan.
      And the mind gets up too, puts on a robe
      and goes downstairs, lights a cigarette,
      and opens a book on engineering.
      Even the conscience awakens
      and roams from room to room in the dark,
      darting away from every mirror like a strange fish.
      And the soul is up on the roof
      in her nightdress, straddling the ridge,
      singing a song about the wildness of the sea
      until the first rip of pink appears in the sky.
      Then, they all will return to the sleeping body
      the way a flock of birds settles back into a tree,
      resuming their daily colloquy,
      talking to each other or themselves
      even through the heat of the long afternoons.
      Which is why the body--that house of voices--
      sometimes puts down its metal tongs, its needle, or its pen
      to stare into the distance,
      to listen to all its names being called
      before bending again to its labor.

      Mary Bianco
      NDS News
      A friend of mine discovered  bookcrossing.com at a local cafe. She found a book there.  It's such a great idea! Mary
      Strangers find the odd free book

      An Internet service called BookCrossing encourages readers to leave books where others can find them



      FAIRVIEW -- At 6 p.m. on a quiet Wednesday night, a copy of "Siddhartha" leaned against the doorway of the Reynolds School District office.

      A fluorescent note on the front of the book read, "I'm not lost. Read me."

      It was a board meeting night, and Renee Sessler picked up the book.

      "It would be good for me to read this," said the board chairwoman, as she tucked Hermann Hesse's book about the search for the meaning of life onto her stack of school board notes.

      The book had been discreetly and carefully placed where someone was bound to come across it. Inside the front cover of the book was a message that asked the finder to read it and post any thoughts about it at BookCrossing.com.

      The idea was hatched and the Web site started in 2001 by Ron Hornbaker, president of a Missouri software company. Its aim is to get people to share books and ideas through a global, online book club.

      The Web site says 167,000 members have released more than half a million books into the unknown. Members all over the world leave books in subways, mail them to strangers or strategically place them where passersby will see them.

      The site has spawned BookCrossing meetings and books that are written as people find them and add to them. The site lists "Official Crossing Zones," places more likely to host a left-behind book. (In Gresham, Mt. Hood Community College is one such spot.)

      Janet Mandaville, a 63-year-old Portlander, said she's released seven books between Oregon and Australia. She's found a book of Robert Frost poems.

      She affixes labels into the books with her personal message and an identification number so that finders can post their comments online.

      "When someone finds a book you get an e-mail that says, 'Guess where your book is now?' " said Mandaville, a retired technical writer." I just think it's such an incredible idea -- make the world a library."

      Wayne Standiford, 55, an electrician who lives in Condon, used the site to market a book he wrote about Vietnam. He dropped a copy of "Bury Me With Soldiers" at a radio station and mailed a second copy to Australia. The Australian recipient reviewed the book online and then freed the book at Australia's Vietnam memorial.

      "He gave me seven stars out of 10," Standiford said.

      For Sessler, the Reynolds board chair who found "Siddhartha," the book came at the perfect time. For the past few years, she has been exploring different religions, and the book's themes speak to what's been on her mind.

      "I'm reading it. I'm intrigued," she said. "I've been trying to ponder where I'm going to leave it. I wonder who left it at Reynolds and who they were hoping they can reach."


      Live Journal
      Have a bowl of tea
      And go away!
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