Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Solitude


Yesterday I translated a Dutch film of a woman from Curaçao who's been on welfare since coming here in the early nineties. She has three children, one of them a severely mentally disabled teenage boy, who is unable even to use the toilet.

It was an interesting job. In the process of doing it, I indentified with her as a mother trying to raise children in The Netherlands with virtually no support from the native population.

I've said before that coming here has helped me to better understand what it's like to be a minority, and what it's like to be discriminated against. I guess that's a valuable lesson in itself that I should be thankful for, but it still can never subtract all of the lonely hours I've spent here, or the depression that's been its result. I'm a lot stronger now, even though my strength hasn't translated into acceptance here on the "home" front.

There was an article last week in the NRC Handelsblad (the most reputable Dutch paper, that uses as its model the New York Times) about research done by an English expat. He found out that most people who come to Amsterdam to work leave after only a few years because they find the social climate too harsh and unaccepting. This goes even for people who do their utmost to speak the language, and to "fit in," and "integrate." Even people, unlike me, who earn a lot, live in Amsterdam in a nice house, and have respectable careers end up feeling shut out of the Dutch culture. It leaves me wondering if there's much hope at all. They all wind up in expat groups, like so many, complaining about the Dutch. How familiar.

About a year ago I decided to combat my isolation by becoming an acestic. I decided that there had to be another way of breaking through the boundaries of my life, and I knew that it wasn't going to come from the outside. In the end, I have to become responsible to an internal self that isn't reliant on other people's reactions or acceptance, which isn't very forthcoming at all. There are some very nice people out there, but the little time we spend together has never been enough to sustain the vastness of the loneliness I feel when the warmth of their presence has gone.

In Zen, solitude is wisdom. Solitude, loneliness and isolation aren't the same things. Solitude brings with it a sense of peace and tranquility. Isolation is turbulent and disparaging. Isolation is unbearably stressful and can lead to various psychological ailments.

I keep reminding myself that I am grateful to the pain I've experience because it led me to what I am doing now, which is following the vajrasattva path of Tibetan Buddhism, and it is a source of learning.

I haven't come that far on the path, but when I am meditating consistently, I am more positive, at peace with myself and the world around me.

Recently

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Path


Mulling a bit as I'm prone to do about the many things I've given up, in the midst of the drift that forms my thought, it occurred to me while walking away from one of the Lama's teachings, that, yes, this is something I can do! Quite simply, it's my failure, or my perception of my failure, that's brought me to the varjayana path.

That was one of the many small epiphanies I've had since the beginnings of my studies with the Lama.

I knew when I saw the Lama speak at the World Museum in Rotterdam several years ago that I had to study with him. It was only an inkling, but I knew then that it was the path I had to follow.

Tibetan Buddhists refer to "obstacles" on the path. One of my obstacles was a lack of funds. We're constantly out of money. So I put it off for several years before actually beginning. I couldn't really pay for the course at the time.

Of course, very few Westerners are truly materially impoverished. It's usually a matter of a little frugality, and suddenly, you're surprisingly well off. I don't want to give the impression that we're poor.... We spend money accordingly, and then it's gone....

There really is no way back. When I think of going "back" to the person I was before I started on the varjayana path, I realize that I have to keep going. We make things so complicated for ourselves, because we're complex beings with multitudes of depth, and great powers being spent in all the wrong ways. This is what makes the path such a difficult one to follow. To begin with, I must start by getting to know my own mind, and by developing kindness. This is something I tend to misconstrue with my judgment of things. When I think of kindness vulnerability comes up as an issue for me.

I knew I had to do something. After spending years looking outside of myself, looking for the cause of my frustration outside, blaming, feeling the brunt of people's reactions to me in the form of rejection, and internalizing it all, in turn reacting in a negative way, I knew I had to stop. I knew I had to examine myself, to look inward rather than outward. Still, I need continual reminders, or I slip back into my old habits.

The change that I seek can only occur through meditation. It doesn't come out of a book, and doesn't take the form of words, spoken or written. It takes place in the form of heart wisdom, and the method is meditation. This wisdom is accumulated through daily effort. This translates into diligence in practice, or devotion.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ssshhht....



Studying Buddhism has had as its result greater mental stability, and also less writing activity. Minding myself, my mind, my actions, trying to be a better, more positive person is a full-time job, requiring continuous effort. I've read a lot, and listened to a lot of teachings online of the Dalai Lama, and others. Meditation is the key to all of this soundness of mind, something I haven't been doing very consequently of late. That's why I'm here, but I'm not sure if I have anything to say at all.

Let's see. There's wisdom realizing emptiness, which derives from a deeper understanding of the law of dependent origination. We are all the result of a beginningless beginning, with an end in site. There's the truth of impermanence, which simply means that everything is in continuous flux, and will all eventually come to its end. This includes the most solid and stable of things, like mountains, or diamonds. Keeping this all in balance, it's important to remember to be joyful. Joyous effort is a true key to being Buddhist, not something I've mastered yet, but I get it.

There are things we've got to let go, like grasping at the ego self. All suffering stems from ignorance, which is all based in ego, and grasping at one's identity. Likewise, it's best to find a middle-way, somewhere between grasping at the self, and aversion toward self and others. Grasping, attachment, aversion.

Watch yourself, watch your actions, thought, speech. Be mindful of this all. Try not to harm others. Don't push yourself. Don't go beyond what you can. And love. Love is of utmost importance. It all starts with self-love. For one who cannot love himself cannot extend love to others, which is the pen-ultimate goal of the varja path. Love for one and all, indiscriminate, understanding, to allieve the pain of the world.

Ted Gärdestad - Come Give Me Love

I simply love this song.

Thursday, October 9, 2008