Sunday, November 29, 2009

Practising Non-Attachment

One of the things that has stood out for me that Anthony De Mello said is that you can't really practise non-attachment until you've experienced attachment. It's easy to practise being non-attached to something you're not really attached to in the first place. It becomes much more of a practice if you let go or begin to let go of something that's actually quite dear to you without knowing if you'll get to have or see it again or not.

In the case of a death, you know that you won't get to have it again and in some ways that makes it easier. It's so final. In the case of something else, it can be difficult because you don't know if you'll have it again. So letting go in the face of uncertainty becomes that much more challenging. It could be letting go of a habit, like drinking coffee, or something small. Or it could be bigger, like letting go of a child who's going to go off and experience the world. It could be even bigger and more attachment-like if it's someone you don't want to let go but they're going anyhow, like a good friend or lover you don't want to say good-bye to.

I'm currently in the middle of practising some serious non-attachment. I'm trying to keep my arms by my sides while my whole being is screaming to grab on and hold tight.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Know I've Been Quiet

I know I've been a bit quiet lately. And it's not that I don't have anything to say. I'm pretty busy and I'm also busy with stuff that's having me be a bit internal. Looking back in my life, I think November tends to be a time to go inside, sleep more, eat more, go slower, and this one is shaping up like that too.

In the meantime, here's a video clip that I worked on this week that is still in draft form but is at least postable.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lead Me from the Unreal to the Real

That's one of the mantras I've been chanting over the past couple of weeks. It's a common mantra, often used in yoga, but lately I've been chanting it a lot because someone's staying with me for a few weeks and it's one that he chants. So I chant it too. It is not a "feel-good" mantra though. Going from what's unreal to what's real isn't necessarily a comfortable ride.

Going from darkness to light - shining the light on the situation can be a relief, like finally getting to the bottom of things, to the heart of the matter, acknowledging what's so. And on the other hand, it can also be shocking to see what we've been thinking is real turns out to not be that way, or how we've been living thinking certain things will bring happiness, knowing they probably won't, but then confirming that. Sometimes it makes living in this culture a bit disorienting. Our culture places emphasis on acquiring, on going faster, on physical fitness over mental fitness. However, all of that passes and what is sustaining is something deep inside that you can't put a price on.

So chanting Asatoma Sadgamaya can be something that fries you, laying your life in front of you in a way that demands reconsideration. There's lots more to say but I'm off to CHEO to lead some fine yoga to some fine young ladies at the hospital.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Living from a Broken Heart

One of the things that Pema Chodron said on the last day of the retreat I was at just over a week ago is to stay tender and open in life. In fact, she said, "live your life from the place of a broken heart." It's not depressing or sad even really. But it's about being open to your life - to what you like and don't like, to what's there and what not's there. It's a really tender place to be.

Letting my heart be broken means seeing what's really there. Seeing the humanness in people. In myself. It means I make mistakes.

When I took the clown workshop a couple of months ago one of the things Nick said was, "we love you when you're confused." The clown can be confused and people love him/her. Sometimes being tender and open means being confused, not sure where to turn, not knowing if it's going to work out. Resting in that place takes a lot of strength. It takes something to sit while you're tender and open and uncertain.

But something happens in that space. Some kind of softening and connection to other people emerges. Compassion, even friendliness towards others and ourselves. Pema writes a lot about that, about cultivating friendliness towards ourselves.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Familiar Questions

As I was meditating this morning I was struck (okay maybe striking wasn't involved, noticing perhaps), that there's a quality to the discomfort I feel that is always the same, it doesn't seem to change. It's like when I peel back all the other dynamic stuff, there's this base of softness and it's the same. Am I doing the right thing? Will I be loved the way I want to be loved? Will I ever get it together? Am I fulfilling my life's purpose?

And for awhile, and probably for a really long time, I thought there would be answers to those questions, like I'd finally do enough internal research and the answers would appear, guidance would be given, and I would be confidently on my way. The fact that the answers weren't popping out at me just meant I had to work harder, purify more, do more practice, and THEN maybe the answers would show up. Like somehow I just haven't been doing things right and that when I do start behaving properly like a good yoga teacher should, the answers will just be there. The suffering will stop. The pain won't be there anymore.

After allowing the teachings of the past weekend at Omega to sink in and through taking a new peek at this stuff, this morning I'm left with a feeling like those questions are just there. That fear is just there. It's part of my internal landscape, it's part of my being human. There's nothing wrong with me that they're there. I'm not deficient in practice or in internal inquiry. I can allow those questions to be there knowing some days they'll be answered, most days they won't. Having those questions and that underlying discomfort smacks of being human.

One of the topics covered this weekend was about how to overcome that doubt and move into a place of doubtlessness. How to pick ourselves up and trust that the ground of fearlessness is fear itself. The fact that fear or that underlying discomfort is present makes it possible to stand on it and rise up out of it. It's good that it's there. It's useful.

Monday, November 2, 2009


I spent the weekend in the presence of Pema Chodron and it was a really special time. Pema Chodron is an American Buddhist nun, who spends a lot of time in Canada, I've written about a lot this year since I read her book, When Things Fall Apart. She was so real and accessible and the teachings were so practical and down to earth, just like they are in her writings.

I learned a new meditation technique that I hadn't tried before and this one includes having the eyes open. I had the experience during the weekend of it being really easy and effective. I tried it this morning and it was harder! It was hard to do it on my own, to get that same clarity and I was reminded that company is stronger than will power sometimes. It was doable, but yesterday, when she or her assistant, Carolyn Rose Gimian, led the meditation practice it occurred as super-simple. Remembering that it had been simple was useful and encouraged me to stick with the practice this morning even though it wasn't simple at all today.

Smile at Fear is the name of the new book of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche teachings compiled by Carolyn. It is also the theme of the talks Pema gave all weekend. Pema said they considered calling the book "Conquering Fear," or other things, but that "Smiling at Fear," seemed to just get it right. It worked for me!