Monday, July 9, 2007

Meet Life Face to Face: a treatise on Summer

“The way to dissolve our resistance to life is to meet it face to face. When we feel resentment because the room is too hot, we could meet the heat and feel its fieriness and its heaviness. When we feel resentment because the room is too cold, we could meet the cold and feel its iciness and its bite. When we want to complain about the rain, we could feel its wetness instead. When we worry because the wind is shaking our windows, we could meet the wind and hear its sound.

Cutting our expectations for a cure is a gift we can give ourselves. There is no cure for hot and cold. They will go on forever. After we have died, the ebb and the flow will still continue. Like the tides of the sea, like day and night: this is the nature of things. Being able to appreciate, being able to look closely, being able to open our mind: this is the core of ‘maitri’ (loving-kindness).” When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön, 1997, Shambhala Publications, Inc.

I have spent much of this year studying the philosophies of Tibetan Buddhism, especially the teachings of Pema Chodron, an irreverent yet wise American Buddhist nun who is the resident teacher at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, the first Tibetan monastery in North America established for Westerners.

This quote seems so timely with the intense heat we have endured the last week or so, and my menopausal hot flashes only serve to intensify the heat, distilling it into something that is pure torture. Following the Buddhist line of thinking, I try to take these heated opportunities to watch my self. What comes up? Anger, frustration, intolerance, confusion, laziness….

Struggling against Nature is like struggling against our own death, fruitless. A pouring out of energy that could be better used. Buddhist thinking includes a couple of main points. Simplified: experience all of life as preparation for death, thereby removing death’s power; second, hold all Beings in unlimited immense compassionate kindness - especially oneself - or the closest you can get there in any particular moment.

So the heat of summer and the cold of winter become opportunities, teachers if you will, of our path. To accept what is, right now. Wishing things were different robs us of treasures in the moments of our lives. My husband takes delight on the Summer Solstice to say, “the days are getting shorter, Winter’s on its way!” and on Winter Solstice, “the days are getting longer, pretty soon it will be hot and dusty!”

The fact is, when I find myself dreaming of snow in Summer and hot baking sunshine in Winter, I have lost touch with enjoying those things, as they truly are, in the moment. I want to come to the end of summer knowing heat, and dryness, and cooling lake waters, hummingbirds and watermelon. And having accepted and taken it all into my Soul, then am I ready to fully assume the nature of Autumn and Winter, wind, rain, snow, darkness and bitter cold.

And having been present through our daily struggles, too hot or bitter cold, we learn to be more open and relaxed in tougher times, like illness, loss and death. Consider the weather kindergarten for those tougher times. And practice compassion in the summer heat, knowing that as you suffer, so do thousands, no, millions of others. Meeting “anger, frustration, intolerance…” with kindness and mercy.
Be Well, Janis
J. Davies, 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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