Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Mind is a Comfort Seeking Missile

I had the opportunity to sit with Zen teacher Grace Schireson, who founded the Empty Nest Zendo in North Fork, California. She gave a wonderful talk, sharing the story of her journey to Vermont. Her plane was stuck on the runway in Dulles for hours, and the toilet was overflowing. This situation is a suitable metaphor for life on how we can either resist or accept what is happening. She discussed the 8 winds of Buddhism that deal with attachment in one form or another. These are: 1) wanting pleasurable sensations, 2) not wanting unpleasurable sensations, 3) not wanting pleasurable sensations to end, 4) wanting unpleasurable sensations to end, 5) wanting praise and admiration, 6) not wanting criticism, 7) wanting reputation and accomplishments, and 8) wanting to avoid failure. She made a wonderful point about traffic jams. We tend to go into these seeing them as an obstacle in our path. This self-centered perspective omits the fact that we, too, are part of the traffic jam. It is not just happening to us, we contribute to it. She also discussed the notion of active friendliness in regard to, for example, the aging body. She shared how she is much more compassionate, patient, and understanding of other people’s aches and pain than her own. The notion of active friendliness can help us to take care of ourselves without getting into judgment, impatience, and, importantly, passivity. As with all teachers, she emphasizes the purpose of formal practice is to prepare us for life. We practice swimming in the shallows so that we may be prepared to swim in open choppy waters. She is writing a book on the treatment of women in Buddhism (Wisdom Publications). Grace is a bright, witty, and warm teacher and I would encourage you to visit her Zendo if you are in the region of Fresno and Yosemite California. Visit the website: Empty Nest Zendo.

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