So much for Love & Light

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“The problem is that we tend to seek an easy and painless answer.  But this kind of solution does not apply to the spiritual path, which many of us should not have begun at all.  Once we commit ourselves to the spiritual path, it is very painful and we are in for it.  We have committed ourselves to the pain of exposing ourselves, of taking off our clothes, skin, nerves, heart, brains, until we are exposed to the universe.  Nothing will be left.  It will be terrible, excruciating, but that is the way it is.”  Chogyam Trungpa in Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

Our Search for Meaning

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treed jen

Jen in a tree near Mt. Fuji. Photo by Tzing

“Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a “secondary rationalization” of instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which will then satisfy his own will to meaning. There are some authors who contend that meanings and values are ‘nothing but defense mechanisms, reaction formations and sublimations.’ But as for myself, I would not be willing to live merely for the sake of my ‘defense mechanisms,’ nor would I be ready to die merely for the sake of my ‘reaction formations.’ Man, however, is able to live and even to die for the sake of his ideals and values.” — Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning

How many of us are on that path that can be ours alone versus following what has been laid out by others with very different backgrounds?  Do we feel a queasy sense of hypocrisy and dissatisfaction with ourselves and our lives, or can we be confident that we are giving it our best shot this time around?

Deep down, we know why we are here.  If we are confused about that, there are no doubt layers of conditioning to work through, but we have to be honest with ourselves about the messages we get from our body-mind-spirits and feedback from the environment, which is not “random,” nor so wholly apart from us.

Sometimes we are so debilitated that it is hard to hear any voice of inspiration or imagine what meaning could possibly exist.  In my own life, I have gone through excruciatingly long periods of apparent stagnation and difficulty, but when I came to have faith that I do have a purpose and that nobody else can do my job, and that furthermore, following my heart will benefit all beings immeasurably, even my worst suffering started to seem like more of a teacher and less of a punishment.

We could play the role of the skeptic and say that such talk is verging on a delusion of grandeur, but when we consider that, as compassionate humans, we cannot be happy unless everybody else is happy, we should see our absolute obligation to at least make the most of our own existence!  It is frightening take on this responsibility, and there is no telling where it might lead.  I’m getting better at trusting that it’s worth the risk.

Om gam ganapataye namah!

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sri nerd ganesh

Greetings, everyone!  Thank you for visiting my blog.  I hope it will contribute in some way to true happiness and freedom for all beings.

Ganesha is here to get us off to an auspicious start.  He blesses beginnings and is often said to be the remover of obstacles.  Our material on this blog will address many issues that tend to be seen as hindrances:  sickness, physical limitations, modern worldly commitments, relationship complexities, change and loss, character flaws, habits or addictions that appear to get in the way of our practice or ability to live fully…  They say the trick is to regard the “problem” as Ganesh himself, giving us the chance to behold it with greater respect and allowing for the possibility of learning and growing from it with humility and gratitude.

In this photo Ganesh is looking quite studious, and in fact he is said to be Intelligence itself.  We could all use more of that!  Or perhaps I should just speak for myself…  Well, even in his case, this lesson was hard-won as is illustrated by the following story, a version of which is often told by my teacher:

Shiva (Ganesha’s father) was needing to go out to perform some godly duties and didn’t want to leave his wife, Parvati (Ganesha’s mother) unattended.  He asked Ganesh to guard the door and be sure not to let anybody in.  As a test, he came disguised a few different ways and was very pleased to find Ganesh unrelenting in this task.  Shiva then felt reassured that everything was taken care of and was gone for quite a while.  Upon arriving back home excited to see his wife, he found that Ganesh refused to let him in!  No matter what he tried (entreaties, subterfuge, force…), he could not gain entry.  In a fit of frustrated fury, he sliced the boy’s (human) head off.  Needless to say, this did not go over well with Parvati and the homecoming festivities were further delayed.  Eventually they found an elephant, and Ganesh was outfitted with a new head.  After that he learned to get to the heart of the matter and not take things so literally (or seriously).

It’s astonishing to see how easy it is to develop fundamentalist attitudes and adhere to them even when they don’t apply.  We see this happening in the yoga world all the time when we hear a certain instruction meant for a particular person in a specific situation and we turn it into a universal rule and try to impose it on everybody.  Without understanding that the external posture is there to serve internal processes that can lead to open awareness and end all suffering, we try to cram our bodies into forms fabricated from fantasy and inflict more suffering on ourselves and others.  We then waffle to the opposite extreme, telling our entire social media network that this style of asana is injurious, nonsensical and definitely not meant for me…  We are forgetting its (and our) ultimate purpose (and potential).  Even the best technique will fall short unless we take it in, digest and assimilate it in a way that is appropriate for us.  It is far more challenging to look at our individual circumstances critically and use our own capacities to respond creatively and adaptively to them…

This brings me to Ganesha’s ears, which are quite large for divine listening.  Listening (with any of our senses) brings us into the present moment and our unique reality.  Rehashing the past, dreading or hankering after imagined scenarios in the future, and tugging at our experience right now wishing for it to be other than it is (or as other people tell us it ought to be) are all recipes for distraction and dissatisfaction.  When we listen (be it to our bodies, other beings or our environment), we can act in skillful or even enlightened ways that ultimately benefit us all.

We all want to be happy and discover the real cause of happiness.  The more I study various long-standing and apparently legitimate practice/wisdom traditions and interact with those who have truly immersed themselves in them, the more convinced I become that this goal is realizable and not some New Age magical thinking.  When we inquire deeply and sincerely, guidance comes, whether we see it as such or not.  May we explore together and find our own ways.  May we perceive bumps in the road as little jabs from the tusk of Ganesh and continue on the path with a more open heart and better sense of humor!