RESILIENCY – a talk by Cayce Howe
Details: Some thoughts and reflections on the teachings of Ashin Tejaniya, a contemporary Buddhist teacher of our time.
In these times we need resilience. At all times our spiritual practice calls on us to be resilient. In fact, one can say that resilience is why we practice. How can we be in this world and stay resilient to suffering? There are a few tools that can help us along the way, tools that have been used for centuries.
The problem with finding resilience is that we first need to deeply look and “be” with the uncomfortable. The very things that cause us to break down are actually the means for a breakthrough. For this to happen, however, we have to be willing to hold, and to befriend, what may be bringing internal strife.
Many times we want to do this in a safe way. In regards to our practice, this may manifest in configuring the teachings in a way that feels comfortable. This may be in what pieces of reality we choose to sit with, accept, and process. In many ways, we want the romantic version of enlightenment, a sense of freedom along with an egoic safety net.
“Enlightenment” is when we do not need a safety net. We let ourselves freefall. As a sage once said, “the bad news is that you are falling, the good news is that there is no ground.” Trust, faith, and devotion can buoy and support our practice long enough to experience for ourselves this truth.
What is Buddhism?
“Buddhism is a statement of our intrinsic goodness; and the possibility of discovering that intrinsic goodness. This is the simple answer, but complex questions can arise from that. Giving a simple answer is not always that simple. When I use the word goodness, I am not using it in the sense of nicey-nicey goodness, or piety, or sanctity, or holiness – ‘goodness’ here relates to complete value. This goodness is the goodness of freshly baked bread; the goodness of seeing a field of sunflowers; the goodness of birth and death; the goodness of being present. There is a basic goodness, a basic sanity with which we can connect. We have that – we simply need to allow ourselves the non-referential space to find it.”
~ Ngak’chang Rinpoche
The Five Poisons
In Buddhism the term the five poisons points to the five major negative emotions. When looking at resilience and ability to hold what we have an aversion to it is a good practice to look mindfully at these disturbing emotions as they arise. In doing so, one by one, over and over again, we can work with them. We could learn to recognize them upon arising, we can learn to look deeply into their insubstantial characteristics.
Each emotion also has an antidote to cultivate. One piece of the practice is to acknowledge that these negative emotions are empty upon “arising.” The other piece of the practice is to take a negative emotion and drop into its place a positive trait.
We can turn Jealousy into Rejoicing in the good fortune of others.
We can turn Aversion and Anger into Non-Violence and Compassion.
We can turn Attachment into Renunciation.
We can turn Arrogance into Humility and Appreciation.
We can turn Ignorance into Wisdom by being mindful of the suffering caused by wrong action.
Exchanging these negative aspects for positive traits takes practice. On Sunday, we did a formal meditation allowing these negative emotions to arise, after which we took them in and exchanged them for the positive. We can allow ourselves to experience, in a controlled way, the effect that these emotions have, both positive and negative, on our well-being. In addition, we are watering the seeds of our Buddha nature.
Thoughts lead to emotions, which lead to action. Before that, we can speak of intention. Within this chain of reaction, we can cut it short by looking deeply into the emotions. By changing course here, by transforming, by spiritual alchemy, we can move into a habit of resilience. Taking life’s challenges one by one, and growing from them. Each time growing stronger in our faith that either there is nothing substantial harming us, or, as spiritual beings, can we truly be harmed by substantial things.