Thursday, December 24, 2009

Down at the Roots

Yesterday was an intense day of practice, starting with half-day retreat with Gil, and continuing throughout the day.

Only a few minutes into the first sitting, I was hit with intense sensation in the stomach, again. Heavy, burning, scratchy . . . I gave it all my attention. By the time the bell rang, my whole insides were one big mass of pain.

Gil's short talk was about the Buddhist idea of 'mula', or roots. Here are my notes:
An important aspect of meditation is how, through the act of sitting still and keeping our mind of the breath, we get to see aspects of ourselves that we don't normally see. It is important to relate to what is happening with interest and curiosity. Looking to cultivate equanimity, balance and wisdom. 
Importance of getting to deeper motivations/structures that keep on operating underneath, and influence our lives in a profound way. For that we need to not spend too much time on surface issues, and instead look at root/core that keep operating, and that may be hidden from us, if we do not bother looking.
Most common roots quoted in Buddhist texts are greed, hatred and delusion. But there is a fourth one, just as important, particularly in our Western culture, and that has to do with our relationship to self, i.e. self-image, attachment to self, self understanding. Westerners tend to place lots of emphasis on personal psychological aspects of self, but one needs to go deeper, and approach self from more universal angle.
Need to consider how to meet activity inside and hold it in a useful way, with clarity, and equanimity, while supporting the mind as it gets quieter. Sometimes there is an urge to turn back, and give importance back to surface issues. What is wonderful about vipassana practice is that it is not about digging, but rather looking directly at what is happening, so that we do not limit ourselves with what is at the surface. 
During surface activities, one should raise the question of what else is going on? For this, one needs to stay quiet long enough.
"Become ruthlessly rootless" - Gil Fronsdal
The pain in the stomach, that keeps visiting, belongs to roots territory, for sure. Driving home from the retreat, I could feel it still, as I navigated the heavy traffic from Christmas shoppers. Frustration towards  clumsy driver ahead of me, ended up in stomach also. Surface frustration, root pain, became one and the same, and in process surprised me with unexpected insight. Pain in the stomach, that I carry around in the subterranean layers of my being, is in the frustration-hate-anger family. I felt it so clearly during that moment in the car. Later as I went about my day, I took it with me wherever I went, swimming, talking with family, at the grocery store, cooking. All day, I held it, with great compassion. Old part of self turned on itself.

5 comments:

  1. "Most common roots quoted in Buddhist texts are greed, hatred and delusion. But there is a fourth one, just as important, particularly in our Western culture, and that has to do with our relationship to self, i.e. self-image, attachment to self, self understanding. Westerners tend to place lots of emphasis on personal psychological aspects of self, but one needs to go deeper, and approach self from more universal angle."

    So very much appreciate this. Gil's so right about the overemphasis on personal psychology - which is definitely something we get from society. I remember at some point about a year ago, several months after breaking up with a long term girlfriend and becoming disillusioned with my job, realizing that all the self understanding in the world - understanding every last detail about "my role" in the broken relationship, or "my place" in the organization I worked for, just didn't do anything. It was just another story in the making - and an effort to feel some control - and not getting me any closer to really awakening to this life.

    Oh, and I know that stomach stuff all too well - just a few Sunday's ago, I sat through two sitting periods and a walking period at the center with this ball in my stomach. An old friend for sure.

    Bows,
    Nathan

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  2. Thank you, my friend. You relating to my story, and sharing yours, within larger context provided by Gil, gives me so much joy.

    Deep bow - may you be happy, and well, and at peace, and at ease.

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  3. Oh Yea, frustation with drivers...you know that is such a great time for me at least to practice mindfulness.

    Though I have been known to still throw a bird or two. LOL

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  4. So many opportunities to practice! Aren't we lucky? :)

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  5. In my humble opinion, the stomach ache which is also my old friend, is a good way to remind me the impermanent of my humble life.

    Thanks for diligent work, my stomach. LOL

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