Shambhala Sun | September 2013
SPECIAL SECTION EXCERPT:
You Are the Sun Not the Clouds
Buddhist teachers and writers including SYLVIA BOORSTEIN, DZIGAR KONGTRUL RINPOCHE, KAREN MAEZEN MILLER, and MARY PIPHER offer concrete practices for being better people — happier, calmer, and kinder to ourselves and others. Part of "You Are the Sun Not the Clouds," a special section on the Buddhist approach to becoming a better person.
Read excerpts here; see the magazine for more.
Unscrunch Your Mind
SYLVIA BOORSTEIN shares a practice she uses to smooth out life’s rough moments. It’s simple—and it makes a big difference.
“Remember, Sylvia, be happy!” That’s what my metta teacher Sharon Salzberg always said to me as I left her room after my practice interviews with her thirty years ago. I usually had my hand on the doorknob, ready to leave, and it was some time before I realized that this was a practice instruction and not a quaint salutation. Nor did I realize that “Be happy!” an instruction that implies choice, was an expression of the third of the Buddha’s four noble truths: that peace is possible, in this very life, indeed right now, no matter what our circumstances.
I’d thought happiness meant liking something, or being pleased. But the happiness of non-suffering is better than that, and the promise that it is available, always, is the great good news of the Buddha’s enlightenment.
The Remedy for Self-Cherishing
You only have one real problem, says DZIGAR KONGTRUL RINPOCHE. Here’s how to solve it.
There can be many different reasons why we are dissatisfied with ourselves, but they all really come down to one problem: self-cherishing.
Self-cherishing—always putting ourselves first—has a sleazy quality that gnaws at our heart and prevents us from feeling true peace. The remedy for self-cherishing is to extend our love. When we extend the love we naturally have for ourselves to include all beings, we feel our heart being cleansed from inside out.
Time to Make Your Bed
You may not want to do it, but if your life’s a mess, says KAREN MAEZEN MILLER, making your bed is the place to start.
Before your feet hit the floor you’ve already run through the reasons. First, there’s not enough time. It’s pointless. You’ll just have to do it all over again. You have more important things on your mind. It doesn’t matter. No one will see it. You don’t care. You’re not uptight about it. It’s a waste of energy. You hate it. After all, you’re not Martha Stewart.
In the one minute it takes to avoid making your bed in the morning, you can observe the ways you battle the reality of your life all day, every day. You might think it’s unfair to deduce all that from a tangle of sheets and pillows, but it’s not an exaggeration. The state of your bed is the state of your head. The bed and its adornments are a mirror of your psyche, a reflection of your thoughts and feelings, the locus of your dreams and nightmares. But more than that, your bed actually is your mind. Like all perception, your bed appears within your own consciousness. How do you respond to it?
Here’s the Good News
All of our confusion and negative actions share one positive quality, says TYLER DEWAR: they can be purified.
For many people, one of Buddhism’s most attractive features is how it views our makeup as human beings and what happens when we become confused. From the Buddhist perspective, the most basic dimension of our minds is buddhanature, which is completely free of any fault or defect.
It is understandable that many people are attracted to a spiritual tradition that teaches that human beings are fundamentally whole. Yet how does a tradition like this work with confusion, disturbing emotions, and harmful actions?
Put Down that Burden
As a child, MARY PIPHER coped by taking on too much responsibility. As an adult, she’s learning to be kind to herself.
I feel as if I were born responsible. I was the oldest of six children, and by the time I was two, I had a father fighting in Korea, a mother in medical school, and a baby brother. When I was six, I heard my uncle ask my dad about a picnic and he answered, “Ask Mary. She plans everything for our family.”
While my early experiences led me to feel that I was in control, I was continually presented with evidence to the contrary: my siblings fought with each other, my casserole turned out horribly, my parents didn’t make it home by bedtime. But these realities didn’t negate my deep-seated belief that if only I worked hard enough, and did everything right, I could solve the problems in my small world of family.
If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, says ELAINE SMOOKLER, you don’t know what you’re missing.
“Does this nose look like it should be on TV?” That’s what I’m asking as I view myself from as many angles as my two bathroom mirrors will allow. I know the Heart Sutra clearly says, “No eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body…” and I get that I don’t ultimately exist. But someone forgot to mention that to my hips, belly, and the other body parts that come under increasing scrutiny when I use a mirror as the litmus test of my value to the world.