By Linsi Deyo
Last week I found myself lost mid-sentence several times. I noticed my breathing was shallow. I have committed to meditating 20 minutes each morning and it has been helping to relieve the my stress and fears about the future. Even as recently as yesterday, I felt too agitated to do sitting meditation and did walking meditation instead. As a long time meditator, I’ve been surprised by my own lack of balance.
Perhaps we can view these stressful times as offering us a koan by these current times. A Zen koan is a teaching story. Generally, if one is working with a Zen teacher, the teacher selects a koan to look at together with the student. It is a collaborative effort based on friendship. The teacher sets out the koan and asks the student questions about the meaning of the koan. The introspection of the koan, being with the teacher–talking, laughing, drinking tea, questioning each other is awakening itself. The answer to the koan emerges.
Our life and these times can serve as our natural koan. The Teacher is Life itself. As students we have an opportunity to work with what is presented, or perhaps, thrust upon us. We check in with the Teacher through introspection and questioning. Life reflects back its response.
The reality we’re finding ourselves in is basically the human condition. So long ago, Siddhartha Gautama meditated under the bodhi tree to reflect on this same koan of life. He awoke– as from a dream –with clarity about the illusions and delusions of this world. He realized the origins of samsara* and spent his life demonstrating what it means to be Awake.
It’s not that easy to think of this current political climate with so much fear and chaos as an opportunity to wake up. Certainly most people, myself included, simply want things to go back to the way they used to be. We like our comforts. But it is our discomforts that force us to grow and evolve.
Judith Lief writes, “Ironically it is only…disappointment with the world–with human beings and their stupidity, and with ourselves–that provides a powerful enough motivation to change. Traditionally reaching the point where you see the futility of samara is considered an essential breakthrough on the path.”**
When speaking about current world events, Mooji Baba, a modern day Jamaican teacher in the lineage of Papaji, says that all this mind chatter will wake us up. We certainly hope so. As we pray and meditate, let us remember the jewel hidden in the compost.
May all beings live in peace and harmony.
May all beings be safe and have enough food.
May all beings Awaken.
This is a time of great opportunity. Use it, don’t lose it.
*Samsara in Buddhism is the beginning-less cycle of repeated birth, mundane existence and dying again. It’s considered to be unsatisfactory and painful, perpetuated by desire and ignorance, and the resulting karma. You don’t have to believe in rebirth to recognize this….just look at everyday desires, disappointments, and personal suffering.
**https://www.lionsroar.com/how-not-to-freak-out/ Thought provoking article in Lion’s Roar Magazine online.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKpmXhGVMxI Staying Conscious in the Face of Adversity | A Special Message From Eckhart Tolle This talk is a healing balm in this troubled world.