Thursday, February 19, 2009

Living now, in the squeeze

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, has the most stunning scenery I've ever seen in person. Like all beautiful wild places, it lifts the human spirit and shakes us out of complacency.

So I'm not surprised that a Tibetan Buddhist monastery was established there. I didn't visit Gampo Abbey when my son and I traveled to Cape Breton two summers ago, although we stayed just a few miles away. We ran out of time and, more important, gasoline -- and the closest gas station was in the other direction. But since then I have discovered the writings of the monastery's resident teacher, Ani Pema Chodron. Here's a sample that is relevant to our ongoing discussion of the role of faith in times of economic uncertainty:

We are given changes all the time. We can either cling to security, or we can let ourselves feel exposed, as if we had just been born, as if we had just popped out into the brightness of life and were completely naked. Maybe that sounds too uncomfortable or frightening, but on the other hand, it's our chance to realize that this mundane world is all there is, and we could see it with new eyes and at long last wake up from our ancient sleep of preconceptions.

The truth, said an ancient Chinese master, is neither like this nor like that. It is like a dog yearning over a bowl of burning oil. He can't leave it, because it is too desirable, and he can't lick it, because it is too hot. So how do we relate to that squeeze? Somehow, someone finally needs to encourage us to be inquisitive about this unknown territory and about the unanswerable question of what's going to happen next.

The state of nowness is available in that moment of squeeze. In that awkward, ambiguous moment is our own wisdom mind. Right there in the uncertainty of everyday chaos is our own wisdom mind.

While I wouldn't say this mundane world is all there is, I am quite certain that facing change as though it is birth does give us new eyes to see the gift of now, the abundant life, even in "the uncertainty of everyday chaos."

How do you react to change and uncertainty? Can it be a place of grace?


Catholic101 said...

Change and uncertainty are, to me, opportunities to *renew* my faith that God has all of us in His hands. I recall Jesus' statements about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. When change and uncertainty/adversity strike, it's an opportunity for us to shine in the faith that no matter what happens, God has us covered. The more we empty ourselves of our possessions -- both internal and external -- the more room God has to work within us.

Iztok said...

For me change and uncertainty is a challenge that usually requires hard work and additional study in order to overcome. Change and uncertainty are one of the key components to every evolution. Sometimes changes are for the better, sometimes for the worse, sometimes don't make any difference to the general outcome. When I've moved here I left fairly secure and safe work environment and replaced with uncertain environment. It took me over 3 months to find me my first job followed shortly thereafter by a massive layoff at the same company. It only took me 2 weeks to find my second job that came with significant pay increase. It also came with a lot of changes in job descriptions, job positions, managers and other general chaos of "dotcoms". Final request for change I didn't want to make is move from NC to TX. So I decided to change jobs. Since this was completely new line of work I had to face challenges on the day one and had to adopt very quickly. It worked in my favor and with hard work I've managed to become one of the best in my field. Little over a year there was time for a change again. Different environment, different challenges, different uncertainties.

For the most part what I've learned is that when you work hard and study hard doors will open no matter what times are ahead of us. What I try to instill in my daughter is the value of knowledge/quality education and hard work. Unfortunately due to past abuse and neglect in her life this is not easy to achieve and as she is approaching 18 we are running out of time. All I can hope is that we've patched the damage enough so she can survive and make the right decisions and finish at least high school and perhaps even some occupational type college education.

The key to surviving changes and uncertainties lies in momentum we've built ahead of time in form of knowledge and ability to work. As in most cases those who are able to work harder and smarter have more chances to survive tough employment market.

Bob said...

Personal experience is not scientific evidence.

Catholic102 said...

Most of us are enslaslaved by our preconceptions. Just about every idea we have about God and reality binds us in proportion to the extent we think it is True.