This week Fabiola will facilitate:
This Monday night I would like to share Roger Cohen's beautiful op-ed piece in the New York Times on July 14, 2017 titled "Sons Without Fathers". He writes:
"There is no preparation for the loneliness of a world from which the two people who put you in it have gone. The death of parents removes the last cushion against contemplating your own mortality. The cycle of life and death becomes internal, bone-deep knowledge, a source now of despair, now of inspiration. The earth acquires a new quality of silence."
My father passed away almost three months ago. Now, I really understand what Roger Cohen means when he writes that his life has acquired a "new quality of silence". I find myself seeking silence more and more in my life.
I miss my father deeply. This is not a new feeling for me. I left the north of México 20 years ago. So, my relationship with my father, was mostly the emotional umbilical cord that we shared. My favorite moments with him where full of silence. We would read the newspaper together, simply enjoying each other's presence. We would share books. He always had a stack of Spanish books ready for me. We would take walks together, usually barely speaking.
He was an early riser, probably left over training from his years at the seminary. When he was five years old, he left his parent's home and went to live among priests and friars. He spent the next seven years surrounded by prayer and the occasional bed-wetting. I think this experience thaught him the value of silence. He usually was up at 4:30am. I know that he cherished these early hours of the day. He always had a softness to his smile as he greeted us with a plate full of freshly cut papaya.
My father gave himself fully to his work and his family, he seldom used words to express his love for us. It is ironic, because he spoke three languages. I learned early on in my life that if I wanted to feel love by him, I needed to understand that he would not say it in words. He would express his love in simple actions, never in grand gestures. For him, love was an action not a word.
I am so grateful to our sangha and the support it provides to my life. It is interesting how Cohen uses the word "cushion" when he expresses what is removed from our life when we lose a parent. For me, sitting on my cushion in the middle of my day, gives me so much comfort and strength to accept the uncertainty I feel. It is not always easy to rock my baby of fear and loss. These days, I sometimes must cling to my breath to be able to stay present. Thankfully, silence softens me.
I think when Cohen writes that he sees the world as a "condemned man" is another way to say that he sees the world in the present moment. The death of my father has connected me more with the sky and the trees and the sun. I see now, that for us to be fully alive, we need to fully accept the certainty of death. It has ignited my curiosity, and connected me with my dad. His curiosity was one the quality I admired the most about him. At his desk, you would find a copy of Facebook for Dummies next to an underlined copy of the Spanish translation of the Koran.
On Monday night, I invite us all to share what makes us feel fully alive and present. What makes us connect with the preciousness of life? Do we mediate on the certainty of death, knowing it will come to us all? Can we invite the light of impermanence into our lives in an active way?
It is always a joy to facilitate our time together. I look forward to being among you all.
Anger, Greed, Ignorance
In Buddhist teachings, the term 'kilesa' (in Pali) or 'klesa/klesha' in Sanskrit, is translated as 'poison','defilement', 'affliction', or sometimes 'unwholesome root'. In any case, it refers to those states that most separate us from our own enlightenment, or awakening. Working to recognize these states as they arise in our consciousness, and to discover and release their roots in our psyche, is a foundation part of Buddhist practice.
As with most Buddhist concepts, exact teachings and translations differ between Buddhist branches. Some sutras mention 5 poisons, others 10, but the three poisons of anger, greed and ignorance are the most common, and considered the root poisons. They are the states that most clearly lead to suffering (dukkha) and obscure our recognition of our true nature. Each of them also has several 'companion', or associated, emotions and states:
Anger is associated with any rejecting or aversion-oriented emotion, such as hatred, animosity, being judgmental, hyper-critical, or easily irritated. These are all manifestations of 'otherizing' - separating ourselves from others and pushing something or someone away. The object of our aversion might even be an idea, as in the case of highly polemical political beliefs or other exclusionary belief systems.
Greed is related to any destructive desire or lust, covetousness, materialism, stinginess, possessiveness, jealousy, or a hoarding instinct. The operative words of this poison are 'must have','more' and 'mine'. When manifesting this state we are trapped in the idea that we must have something, or have more of it - whether a thing, a person, an addiction or an emotion - in order to be happy, and all else becomes lessened in our awareness.
Ignorance is at the root of all the poisons, and is built upon our basic misunderstanding of ourselves as separate and 'other' from our natural being, or enlightenment. Related states are delusion, passivity, being easily manipulated, and a lack of self-awareness.
We all have certain manifestations of these poisons that are our personal Achilles heel. Working deliberately to uproot them in our mind is an important part of the path. Doing so is not a matter of simply repressing them, or seeking to not express them by controlling our words or actions (although this can be a useful first step.) Instead, we need to honestly acknowledge them, and seek to clearly understand how they arise within ourselves. We need to recognize our triggers, and emotional patterns that contribute to them taking root. Meditation and mindfulness are important tools for helping gain the clarity and self-awareness required to do this practice.
Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhist lineages also focus on these poisons as energies that take root in our subtle or energy bodies through karma and conditioning, and include energy practices for releasing them from these levels. Some traditions include breathe-based meditation practices designed to help us specifically surface and release the energies of the three poisons from the subtle levels of our being. Chakra, or energy center, practices work in a similar way. The focus is not only on releasing blocks, but on transmuting the raw energy behind these emotions.
For example, when the raw, aggressive energy that is normally behind anger is cleared of negativity, it supports positive, assertive, balanced action in the world. When the clinging behind greed is cleared, the raw energy behind it supports an awareness of emptiness, or 'pure space', within which nothing is needed. And when the energy behind ignorance, or a sense of separateness, is dispersed, we are able to experience the bliss of oneness and a true knowledge of our interconnectedness with all.
These are simple examples, but they point to an important point when working with the three poisons - that it is important to not to get caught up in punishing ourselves, or guilt, but instead to focus on acceptance and self-knowledge. Meeting ourselves where we truly are at, starting from a place of acceptance, is a cornerstone of all Buddhist practice. Otherwise, we may repress negative emotions instead of releasing and dispersing them, and then we cannot own the corresponding gifts that can accompany true insight. The three poisons are part of the human condition, and although they may lead us to make mistakes in life, it isn't part of the Buddhist model to punish ourselves for them. Instead, we note when they arise, we practice, and we move forward, with increased lovingkindness towards both ourselves and others