Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Day 5: Returning to the Circle

I've been coming to Molokai for almost ten years and have never experienced "vog" - the equivalent of smog, only produced by the massive eruption of Kilauea happening currently on the Big Island of Hawaii. The haze comes and goes depending on the strength of the eruption and the direction of the winds. It was reported that the pollution level on the worst days has been similar to LA smog on a regular day, only we have sulphur dioxide, ash, and smoke in the mix rather than the primarily carbon dioxide of auto pollution. When the trade winds return from the north, the air clears and we can see far off into the distant horizon.  The island of Lanai suddenly appears as if by magic and our breathing is relaxed and easy once again. This dramatic environmental shift is not too different from the internal shifts we discover in practice. One moment we are caught in the haze of the "self-centered dream" and feel real suffering.  We experience it in the body and in the breath. As our thoughts change and our perspective shifts, the mind begins to clear and what was previously occluded by "holding to self-centered thoughts" is suddenly revealed as delusion.  The entire island of Lanai was not destroyed, we just couldn't see it because the vog made it impossible to see from our personal viewpoint.  Neither is our True Nature destroyed when we are caught in the self-centered dream.  However, we do loose sight of who we truly are as our horizons contract back to self-clinging, self-cherishing, and the relentless social "I". This doesn't just happen in the midst of work stress and family difficulties, this happens during beautiful and grace-filled retreats as our conditioning is triggered and within the container of practice we have the opportunity to look closely at these patterns which we usually play out as ordinary and automatic.  We chant, "each moment, life as it is, the only teacher."  This is only true if we are willing to look deeply and if we are willing to help each other look closely in the reflective benevolence of loving relationships.  In this way our horizons expand.  We become a larger container for experience, more able to "bow to life as it is."  The air clears and the breath is easy again. 

Caught in the self-centered dream, only suffering. 
Holding to self-centered thoughts, exactly the dream.  
Each moment, life as it is, the only teacher.  
Being just this moment, compassions way.


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