Thursday, December 4, 2008

Quote for the day #2

I feel a little bad for that other quote, and I started volunteering one-on-one at a literacy center today - which made me think of an inspriational quote that actually does mean a lot to me. It's from Pema Chodron - a Shambala Buddhist monk/nun who has written some great books on being fully awake and living a compassionate life. This is one of those quotes that you need to read several times - and try to think of how it applies to your own life before it rings true.

"We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves-the heavy-duty fearing that we're bad and hoping that we're good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds-never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake." Pema Chodron, Start Where You Are

First, I think there is a lot to the idea that we are all Dorothy, wearing red shoes that can always get us home. That doesn't mean that we don't need to take some long trips to discover that fact - but, we already have everything we need within us right now. Also, I like the idea that we don't only cling to good feelings about ourselves - but, that many times we cling even more fevorishly to negative feelings about ourselves - because it somehow feels "comfortable."

We grow used to putting ourselve down in someway - and it's easier to maintain that view than to look at ourselves in a more positive way. Addictions aren't just to drugs - but more often feelings. And finally that all this negativity that we surround ourselves with is imperminent. It is as permiable as clouds - only the light of the sun is permenant and we only have to let the clouds disappate to experience the light that we all have within ourselves.

What does this have to do with running? Everything and nothing.


fbg said...

That is ridiculous. I would love to believe it, but, like all quotes, it's only true in context. Of course we have everything we need, unless we don't have enough food to eat, or enough water to drink. But there is a need for self improvement, because without improvement we'll all just, following his metaphor, stay asleep for eternity.

Awakening, or enlightenment, can be just as bad as ignorance, and that's not an obvious fact until we realize that our rage, jealousy, and addictions don't go away no matter how much we rise above them. We are, after all, human. I need -- in this order -- air, water, food, shelter, sex, emotional attachment, and enlightenment. Anybody who questions this is fooling themselves.

Ben said...

i think you're taking it a little too literally. It's pretty much assumed that anybody reading this book has the first three levels of maslow's hierarchy covered.

This quote means something to me because i sometimes get hung up on my weaknesses to such an extent that I become paralyzed. If you don't have that problem - then that's great.

For me, it's empowering to look at weaknesses as clouds that form and eventually move on. it might not be completely true - our positive attributes are probably as fleeting as our downsides, but if we are to lead lives that are fulfilling, compassionate, and stable i think it's more helpful to come from a place of believing in the capacity of humanity for good. Maybe that's naive - but, otherwise it's difficult for me to find true meaning in life.

Ben said...

one more thing i thought of on my run this morning. for buddhists true enlightenment means that you no longer exist. as you say, as long as you are human you have an ego and attachment - which is what leads to rage, jealousy, and addictions. but, i think you can train your mind to be present at each moment (or awake) - which provides a small buffer from some of the bad habits and attachments that we form.

fbg said...

I love talking about this sort of thing, because no one ever wins, but you get to think a lot. :-)

My response:
If we already have X levels of Maslow's hierarchy covered, then isn't he basically saying "if you have everything you want, you have everything you want"?

Any problems of ours that are clouds which we choose not to "see" can come back at any time when there's a real, physical problem.

My personal opinion:
I totally agree with your comment on seeing our weaknesses as transient, but the quote itself makes it sound like our weaknesses should have zero effect on us. Maybe I should read the whole book, but I see this as a bit of academic "let them eat cake" crap.

But even more importantly, seeking enlightenment involves seeing past your problems and weaknesses of the mind, which include, in a list of decreasing severity: addiction, fetish, desire, penchant, and preference. I posit that all negative emotions can be traced back to these. Heading down this road, in the direction of decreasing severity, leads to indifference. That's not a goal of mine.

It's a sad fact that looking past the negatives induces looking past the positives, and brings only what might be called "peace", and indifference. I, myself, am looking for something permanent, but don't ask me where it is, because I haven't found it yet. While I'm waiting I'm trying to pile more clouds on the positive side of the seesaw than on the negative.

But perhaps I already have everything I need.

Barry Gordy's The Last Dragon:
Old Man to Bruce Leroy: "There is one place you have not looked, and it is there, only there, that you shall find The Master."
Hot Chick to Bruce Leroy: "You sure look like a master to me!"
Sho 'Nuff to Bruce Leroy: "Kiss my Converse!"