Emotional Habits

“I now see the emotional habits that one has as vipaka-kamma (result of kamma). If I accept whatever emotions come up, let them be in consciousness and then let them out, they will be liberated from their prison. I find this a skilful way of looking at it. Even after years of moral conduct and strict practice, it’s surprising what emotions still come into consciousness. But in terms of practice, whatever comes, you don’t make any problems out of it, you just recognise the opportunity to liberate this wretched creature, or this emotion, from its prison.
~
The attitude is vipaka-kamma, resultant kamma. When the conditions ripen, the result becomes conscious. The things that ripen, that come up into consciousness—just let them be conscious and liberate them by letting them go; let them be what they are, and they will naturally move away. With awareness you’ve opened the doors to the deathless, you’re liberating those wretched conditions from their misery. The doors to the deathless are open—that’s mindfulness. We talk about the doors to the deathless, but it’s not something out there, something remote or hidden. The Buddha pointed to this mindfulness—this is the path to the deathless.
~
You can see that every moment of your life you have this. This is your heritage, your opportunity, and so even if you forget about it or don’t want to do it right now, there will be a point in your life when you will want to do it. Even if you’re not ready for the unconditioned experience, for realisation, you will be at some time. You’ll get fed up with the suffering that you create through ignorance and attachment.
~
This seems to be a time when this kind of teaching is becoming increasingly appreciated. It’s not just through the Buddhist convention, but in many ways. It’s as if this kind of practice is being made available to people, or maybe it’s the time of awakening because of the seemingly unsolvable problems and the mess that we’ve created through our greed, hatred and delusion. The population pressures of this age, the pollution, all the wars and weaponry and the materialism, all this has been done—through what? Through desire, and attachment to desire. So much of our intelligence has been used for creating horrible weapons, smart bombs that aren’t so smart, and the problems of human beings and all planetary creatures at this time on this earth, and yet there is this potential for enlightenment, for realisation.
~
If we contemplate in the terms of just being one human individual at this time, we can see that what we learn through awareness is something very ordinary and unimpressive. It’s not as if we light up with flames shooting out of our heads and we have extravagant experiences. It’s very subtle. No one would ever know. Nothing shows. There’s nothing spectacular about paying attention, this expansive intuitive listening, attentive listening, intuitive awareness. It’s nothing fantastic, nothing to write home about. That’s why it is overlooked, why people don’t notice. They’re looking for something spectacular, some kind of mystical experience where you kind of merge with the ultimate in a union of bliss. It’s what we’d like, isn’t it?
~
Sometimes you have moments like that where you feel as though you’re in union with the ultimate and with nature and with everything, but that kind of feeling becomes a memory and then you want to have it again; you get attached to the memory of it; you’re always looking for something through a memory rather than trusting in the very simple ability we have right now of just paying attention.
~
This is humbling. It isn’t like an achievement that we can exhibit for the world to see. Worldly people think it’s not worth anything. All these ways of trying to get you to meditate often come with promises that you’ll look younger, you’ll be able to make more money, your relationships will improve, you’ll be successful, you’ll be happy, your diseases will be cured. These things sell meditation. We’re promised all kinds of good things as a reward for doing it. It’s not that those things never happen, it’s not that the reverse happens and you become poorer and sicker through meditation, but that isn’t the point. It’s the goodies that often stimulate the desire to meditate. But I’m referring to the ultimate purpose of meditation—the realisation of truth. To many people, if meditation doesn’t promise a lot of the good things, then it’s not worth anything. In terms of realising the way of nonsuffering, however, and a fearlessness that comes through that, then that is what is said to be the highest happiness. To be fearless and to understand the truth is its own reward. You don’t need anything more than that.”
❀❀❀
Ajahn Sumedho — Emotional Habits
First published in the August 1999 Buddhism Now [Taken from a talk given during a retreat at Amaravati in May 1999.]

How Could She Choose Him? Why Did She Stay?


Mostly she doesn’t remember.

The little girl hides under the porch stairs

makes herself small, silent 

waiting until it is safe again from
the mother, who cannot reach her,

bares her teeth, screaming.

The girl knows it is all her fault.

Mothers like good girls

pretty girls.
No one tells her differently.

They are afraid.

The woman huddles on the floor

makes herself small, silent.

The man’s eyes blaze
screamingit is all her fault.

Men like good girls

pretty girls.
She hears the echo.

I AM

Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
― Walt Whitman

My hair is marsh grass
my arms tree limbs
stretching, muscular in youth
lowering, frail in old age.

My heartbeat is a frog’s
eyes, a bird’s
lungs, a fish’s
skin, a seal’s
in youth
rough wood bark
in old age.

My veins line a leaf
blood, a river inside the leaf
my breath, is wind, a breeze, a gale
the soles of my feet, a bear’s.

My bones are rocks, elongated minerals, calcifications
they will be the heaviness you will feel in your palm
my ashes
as you scatter me
to seed new life.

Take Bread

Take bread
and dogs
my dears,
just for a moment
in these hard times.

Take bread
and coffee decorated with a milky heart.
Take a fountain
water sliding over a tall earthen vase.

Leave loud voices
cemented with certainty.

Take this moment
this wide, well-worn wooden table
the fan humming overhead
open door
to sunlit patio
where young people sit
eating croissants and vegan muffins
under a gingko tree.

Take bread
and art on the ceiling
of parrots and sweet round-eyed faces
in pinks and greens and yellows.

Take bread, dear ones,
take heart.

Tender Work


Work with what you are

If you are a fawn
at dusk
you will
stand still as wood
in a field of tall green grass
at the edge of a forest
your dark eyes wide open
watching sparrows
flit and fly home
through the twilight.

If you are a fawn
your soft brown ears
upright will catch sounds
of wind through the pines.

If you are a field mouse
you will
scurry, slipping between
wildflowers
fawn hooves.

If you are a human
you will
see the fawn, the pines, the wildflowers
feel you breath as wind,
how your heart beats as
bird mouse, fawn
then and only then

your tender work
is done.

Buddha’s Rhetoric


words cannot be found
on the table, on a shelf
spoken they disappear
as exhaled breath
and yet
word becomes flesh
it has been said
and so it must follow
word becomes giraffes
and beer bottles

bombs
guns

Mozart
wind chimes
and muddy boots

the word, invisible
birthed
floating behind the eyes
snapping synapses
in the folds on the brain
pulled and pushed
released
as sound
heard but not seen
to become a warrior or peacemaker
solid with its formless chosen meaning
word become solid

as ash, as air.

Tinney Creek

Tinney Creek, St. Petersburg, Florida

Tinney Creek runs past
under
and despite
the TJ Max
CVS, Target.

It travels back and forth
from Tampa Bay
rises and falls daily with the tide
feeds Egrets, families of Muscovy ducks and Mallards
who seek tiny prawns, mud crabs, bugs.

Feathery Java fern
rounded Moneywort
grow in it’s rich mud,
abundant
as if this was still The Garden.

Between snaking highways,
Dollar Stores
gas stations
condo buildings
Taco Bells
the creeks and their residents
carry on
as if this was still The Garden.

Down the busy street a ways
atop a pole advertising Beer and Low-Cost Cigarettes,
an osprey has built a roomy nest,
designed in the contemporary open sky plan.

A lone Roseate Spoonbill sometimes visits Tinney Creek
always in company with her Egret.
I watch as
Spoonbill lifts it’s comical Dr. Seuss face
twitches its white and rosy feathers
lowers its wide paddle-like beak into brackish water
sweep, sweep 
side to side
poke, poke.

The ducks, Ibis, Egret, crows and I claim
this creek and the remaining
Royal Palms, oak trees, iridescent sunsets
as ours.

“I used to see many Roseate Spoonbills here once,”
a neighbor tells me.
My heart aches 
as regularly
as it beats
these days
at these all too familiar words:

There were many here
once. 

At night, arriving home,
my headlights sweep over the banks of the creek 
lighting up a line of ducks, like fat-buddhas
heads curled into their downy breasts
asleep despite ambulance sirens,
the roar of traffic.

At dawn they will wake 
waddle like drunks
raise their chicks,
the Osprey will hunt,
the Spoonbill and Egret will visit
I will marvel at how they float and splash
and the creek
feeds us all
as if this is still the Garden.