Witnessing Ram Dass

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Sometimes I crack myself up when I see myself seeing myself. Who is it that is cracking up?

I have been thinking lots about something I heard recently from Ram Dass. He was talking about being a witness to our thoughts and actions… a witness to ourselves…

I say I have been thinking lots about this, and whilst that is true, I have not tried to penetrate deeper meaning into it. That is unusual for me, but it is for two reasons I have left it alone – 1) the thought felt complete enough on its own – I didn’t feel my normal sense of ‘dharma-battle’  of attacking a ‘teaching’ to see what fails in the attack and what holds true; and 2) because of #1, I felt a conscious decision to not mess about with the thought – as it would only become mental masturbation (which I absolutely love lol).

But back to the thought – the reason I have been thinking about this thought so much – or rather, holding this thought – is because this is what I do, almost always- I am witnessing my life before my eyes – I am usually ‘stepped back’ . I can see Richard getting excited, or upset, or sad – I can see how Richard needs to move, or act, or think to accomplish Richards’s goals. It is odd. Who is this witness?

Yes – who is this witness?

I see Richard’s life unfolding and I rarely get caught up in this unfolding – I would just get in Richards way otherwise, lol. When I find myself not being a witness – I feel like a slave to my thoughts and emotions – or rather- I sense my witness trapped and unable to help the maniac who is freaking out!

Have you ever gotten really angry? Super pissed off, fuming – and in the middle of that emotion laughed? Laughed because perhaps you saw your face in the mirror and you looked, well, funny! Red face, downturned eyebrows, scowl ? Or laughed simply because you realized your brain was freaking out of control ?

Have you ever sensed that witness in those situations and felt, ‘no, they aren’t allowed in here right now, I have the right and I deserve to feel this anger – it is justified!!’.  Your witness obeys –it must – and cries in the back of your hollow skull.

So, who is the witness? Who is the Master? Should not the master listen to the witness? Then does not the witness become the master? If the witness always stays the master, than the old master becomes the servant.

BE careful – do not detach yourself from your witness or your master. Ultimately, these are just made-up distinctions. It’s all made up. The master, the witness, they are the same, and neither exists. I say this only so attachment isn’t given to any of this.

So, back to my point – who is this witness who is witnessing myself?

It is still an illusion, the witness – when you are ‘stepped back’ and see yourself doing whatever – making yourself crack up laughing when the witness sees you freaking out – whatever – turn that witness onto itself – witness the witness.  WHO turned that anger into laughter?  – Now the laughs turn into something else – wonderment – at a minimum – of what is ‘witnessed’.

 

 

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The Middle Way

trees

trees

The Middle Way is an integral part of Buddhism… sometimes this distills into ‘everything in moderation’. While there is truth in this, there is also danger. You don’t want everything in moderation… you do not want any cyanide in your bloodstream! Lol.

But seriously, the Buddha practiced asceticism for years before he realized his Enlightened nature. I have written about this recently. By denying yourself of the nourishment it requires, this actually feeds your ego-mind. ‘I will deny myself pleasure. I will deny myself good health until I realize enlightenment. I will suffer.’ …. They all involve an affirmation of ‘I’.

I don’t think I need to discuss the opposite of this… of hedonism.

So I ask myself.. could the Buddha have realized his enlightenment if his body wasn’t taken care of?

The Middle Way is not about checking yourself if you have too much or too little. It is a result, not a precursor of realizing we are already complete, already buddhas. But certainly it is wise to follow the Middle Way before our realization.

All of the Buddha’s teachings are the natural function of realizing our Enlightened state.

There is a saying that God will never give you more than you can handle. In Zen, we say that a bad situation is a good situation. God knows what he is doing.. He is pure Love, no? He is the ultimate teacher so when we suffer, have a horrific situation… can we see good in that? I like to think these things out in extremes. For example, say we were witness to unimaginable massacres that do occur… We see family and friends murdered before our eyes. God as a teacher seems absent. We might not be able to handle it and have a mental breakdown. How horrible. Can we learn and grow from this experience? We might not allow ourselves to take anything ‘good’ from it, it may feel like we would be disrespecting what occurred. ‘I refuse to see anything good from such evil’. Does this not make the evil even more evil? Does it not make it triumph even more over us? I know if my family saw me killed in a horrific way I would want them to somehow learn from it. Mourning wouldn’t be diminished for this.

So, a bad situation is a good situation. It can provide us with the passion to find our true nature. Who we truly are. In times of extreme distress, nonreligious people will pray for God’s help, for a higher power’s help… desperate, they reach out for help… beg for help and offer repentance or service.

Zen Master Dogen said we must practice as if our hair was caught on fire….

Our hair has been burning for longer than time exists, we just haven’t realized it yet.

Shortcomings

A different night to the story below, but the song remains the same. Love.

A different night to the story below, but the song remains the same. Love.

Being kind to ourselves is sometimes the hardest thing to do. We constantly judge ourselves and perhaps magnify what we feel are our shortcomings. We never therefore are the person we think we should be. Who should we be if not who we already are?

Now, I feel I should be an understanding father, for example. And sometimes,  when I am feeling ill, for example, I will not be so understanding as a father. The other night, when reading bedtime stories to my 4-year-old son, he said he was thirsty. I was tired, in pain and wanted him to fall asleep already. I was impatient and the thought of having to walk down the stairs to get a glass of water made me imagine the burden on my hurting legs. I was fed-up. He also said his feet were cold and wanted socks on. I admit, I brushed his requests off and told him no, and to go to sleep. I was almost angry. Then I looked at his face.  He is 4. He was sad. He was cold and thirsty and I was being, well, frankly a jerk. To my own son. I swallowed my ego-mind, looked at him in the eyes and told him I was sorry, and I will get him water and kissed his head. His sad face melted a bit. After I got his water and he was drinking it, I got him some socks and put them on his feet for him. We laid down and he held me tight., now with a smile. I read him a story from his favorite night-time book and he quickly fell asleep.

I would have cried if I wasn’t still feeling angry.. though my anger was now at myself. I accepted my shortcoming and moved on…. But getting back to my opening … I think I should be a better father, and this keeps me trying,trying trying to always be the best father…but it also means I never accept myself for who I am right now. Sure, I never want to be complacent and think I am the world’s best papa, but I also know living in the future of some version of myself is not helpful.

So, there is a balance. Accepting who I am right now, but not giving up on becoming more… to unfold the Buddha already inherent inside me.

Reading a bedtime story can be the best Buddhist practice. Learning about compassion is there. Learning about Ego is there. Learning of acceptance and non-attachment is there. Learning about love is there.