Now think about yourself. You think you are a separate and independent individual. But you are not. Without your father and mother you would not be. Without their fathers and mothers, your father and mother would not have been and you would not be…. And so we can go back endlessly to the origin of the human race and before that and before that. You, at this moment, are the apex of the great triangle formed by all these previous individual lives. In you they all exist today. They live in you today as truly as they lived individually in what we call time.
But, in addition, just as you live today by virtue of all the other individuals and existences in the world at this moment – your body is sustained by the food cultivated and processed by innumerable persons throughout the present world, your body is covered by clothing produced by innumerable persons throughout the present world, your activities are conditioned by the activities of innumerable persons living in the present world, your thinking is conditioned by the thinking of innumerable persons living in the present world – [just] so the bodies, the actions, the thinking of all your ancestors who form the great triangle of which you are the present apex, have in their turn been dependent upon and conditioned by the innumerable persons existing in the world at the time they individually lived.
But this is not all. From you will come your children and their children’s children; from your actions will come the results of your actions and the results of those results; and from your thoughts will come the future thinking and the thinking resulting from that thinking, ad infinitum.
And this is true for each sentient or non-sentient being in the universe. In you and in each one of them at this moment is all time and all space. [In other words, this moment is all.]
“We start with ourselves. We make ourselves right or we make ourselves wrong, every day, every week, every month and year of our lives. We feel that we have to be right so that we can feel good. We don’t want to be wrong, because then we’ll feel bad. But we could be more compassionate toward all these parts of ourselves. When we feel right, we can look at that. Feeling right can feel good; we can be completely sure of how right we are and have a lot of people agreeing with us about how right we are. But suppose someone does not agree with us? Then what happens? Do we find ourselves getting angry and aggressive? If we look into the very moment of anger or aggression, we might see what wars are made of. This is what race riots are made of: feeling that we have to be right, being thrown off and righteously indignant when someone disagrees with us. On the other hand, when we find ourselves feeling wrong, convinced that we’re wrong, getting solid about being wrong, we could also look at that. The whole right and wrong business closes us down and makes our world smaller. Wanting situations and relationships to be solid, permanent, and graspable obscures the pith of the matter, which is that things are fundamentally groundless.
Instead of making others right or wrong, or bottling up right and wrong in ourselves, there’s a middle way, a very powerful way. We could see it as sitting on the razor’s edge, not falling off to the right or the left. This middle way involves not hanging on to our version so tightly. It involves keeping our hearts and minds open long enough to entertain the idea that when we make things wrong, we do it out of a desire to obtain some kind of ground or security. Equally, when we make thins right, we are still trying to obtain some kind of ground or security. Could our minds ad our hearts be big enough just to hang out in that space where we’re not entirely certain about who’s right and who’s wrong? Could we have no agenda when we walk into a room with another person, not know what to say, not make that person wrong or right? Could we see, hear, feel other people as they really are? It is powerful to practice this way, because we’ll find ourselves continually rushing around to try to feel secure again – to make ourselves or them either right or wrong. But try communication can happen only in that open space.
Whether it’s ourselves, our lovers, bosses, children, local scrooge, or the political situation, its more daring and real not to shut anyone out of our hearts and not to make the other into an enemy. If we begin to live like this, we’ll find that we actually can’t make things completely right or completely wrong anymore, because things are a lot more slippery and playful than that. Everything is ambiguous; everything is always shifting and changing, and there are as many different takes on any given situation as there are people involved. Trying to find absolute rights and wrongs is a trick we play on ourselves to feel secure and comfortable.
This leads to a bigger underlying issue for all of us: how are we ever going to change anything? How is there going to be less aggression in the universe rather than more? We can then bring it down to a more personal level: how do I learn to communicate with someone who is hurting me or someone who is hurting a lot of people? How do I speak to someone so that some change actually occurs? How do I communicate so that the space open s up and both of us begin to touch in to some kind of basic intelligence that we all share? In a potentially violent encounter, how do I communicate so that neither of us becomes increasingly furious and aggressive? How do I communicate to the heart so that a stuck situation can ventilate? How do I communicate so that things that seem frozen, unworkable, and eternally aggressive begin to soften up and some kind of compassionate exchange begins to happen?
Well, it starts with being willing to feel what we are going through. It starts with being willing to have a compassionate relationship with the parts of ourselves that we feel are not worthy of existing on the planet. If we are willing through meditation to be mindful no only of what feels comfortable, but also of what pain feels like, if we even aspire to stay awake and open to what we’re feeling, to recognize and acknowledge it as best we can in each moment, then something begins to change.
Compassionate action, begin there for others, being able to act and speak in a way that communicates, starts with seeing ourselves when we start to make ourselves right or make ourselves wrong. At that particular points, we could just contemplate the face that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where we could live. This place, if we can touch it, will help us train ourselves throughout our lives to open further t whatever we feel, to open further rather than shut down more. We’ll find that as we begin to commit ourselves to this practice, as we begin to have a sense of celebrating the aspects of ourselves that we found so impossible before, something will shift in us. Something will shift permanently in us. Our ancient habitual patterns will begin to soften, and we’ll begin to see the faces and heart he words of people who are talking to us.
If we begin to get in touch with whatever we feel with some kind of kindness, our protective shells will melt, and we’ll find that more areas of our lives are workable. As we learn to have compassion for ourselves, the circle of compassion for others – what and whom we can work with, and how – becomes wider.
PIMC and The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, teachers and board members cordially invites the PIMC Sangha to community evening June 15th at 7:00-9:00. “Belonging and Othering” will be a Zoom session with guest teachers from Common Ground Meditation Center in Minneapolis, Mn. PIMC teachers and board have met several times with Shelly Graf in person and are so happy to have them join us again to help us keep shepherding our interest in DEI and Belonging. This presentation of well known guest teachers is an evening not to miss! Join Mark Nunberg and Shelly Graf for a meditation period, Dharma talk and Q&A about Understanding and Relating Wisely to Individual and Group Identities. We will reflect about the social dynamics of “belonging and othering” How do we train the mind to use concepts of identity as skillful means to connect with others and to illuminate biases. There is no way to function in the world without views about this and that. The relevant question is how can one use views and ideas about self and others without planting seeds of suffering? We can discuss the skillful use of identity in our lives.There will be small group discussions as well as concluding with open discussion,