just be it It’s about the work involved in establishing a dedicated practice to feelings of a bigger belonging through practices aimed at increasing feelings of compassion, gratitude and forgiveness

Holding Joy in the Face of Deteriorating Conditions

Published on 11/12/09
by randy

“How do you live in this complicated reality?  How do you face the moment when the earthquake suddenly happens?  How do you handle yourself in a moment that is beyond your control?  When a moment appears, there is only one thing that controls you: the capability that comes from your spiritual practice, your ability to face impermanence and deal calmly with the conditions of every moment.  So, before the earthquake happens, before your mind starts to work and you want to run away, accept every moment as an opportunity presented to you to practice facing reality as it really is.  When a moment arises, you don’t know the reason why it exists, but you have to accept it and face it, whatever happens.

You have to do your best to face every moment, because this moment will never come again.  The moment that you are living right now is a very important opportunity to make your life vividly alive.  If you want to live with spiritual security in the midst of constant change, you have to burn the flame of your life force in everything you do.

When you play sports, work at your job, write a poem, or whatever it is that you do, that is an opportunity to burn the flame of your life energy.

When you forget yourself and put your wholehearted effort into facing every moment, you can do something, and simultaneously you can rest in the continuous flow of life energy.  Then you really enjoy life.” from Each Moment is the Universe by Katagiri Roshi

Understanding the ‘present moment’ requires an examination of how we look at time, in particular, our grasping of impermanence and interconnection. Katagiri expresses it this way:

“…the way is produced by impermanence and interdependent co-origination.  What produces impermanence and interdependent origination?  That is time and occasion.  Time and occasion are nothing but the activity of time, which is called time arising.  What produces time and occasion?  According to Buddhist philosophy it is emptiness, but Dogen says it is just arising only.  That is a more positive way of understanding it.  Emptiness, arising only, means that real time is completely beyond time as an idea you can discuss.  Time is identical with action, motion, or energy.  There is nothing to hold on to, because everything in the universe exists as arising only.    p. 33

…you cannot understand it (way) objectively because to understand real life is to be one with it.  This is not only Buddhist teaching; this is life.  For example, if you want to be a cross-country skier, you can objectively understand what cross-country skiing is through research, but to understand skiing perfectly you have to go skiing.  At that time the root of the way is dynamically working and you can become one with skiing.

Oneness with skiing is possible because everything lies in the one source of existence and is unified there.  This is the place that is called Buddha or universal consciousness or whatever you say.  This is the place where you are.  The root of the way is present with you wherever you may go, constantly working freely in peace and harmony, so you can always use it.  All you have to do is just tune in and accept it.  That’s why we practice zazen and try to refine consciousness of our minds.  This way of practice is not based on trying to do something good and getting a reward.  The final purpose of this practice is to leave no trace of individual experience.  How do you do this?  It depends on the attitude you take from moment to moment.” p. 44 Each Moment is the Universe

This may be why Tolle says our most important relationship is the one we have with this present moment.

Brother David says we’re to fill with the ‘feeling’ of gratefulness, moment to moment, for the sheer opportunity to participate.  Understanding time as action, motion or energy, it’s a moving thing to be engaged in with full attention, in harmony and rhythm to the way, doing our best, but releasing any “trace of individual experience”.  Could this be where we find our humility and our courage, standing solid as the mountain in the face of impermanence and inter-Being (interdependent co-origination)?

This has been ‘working me’ a lot lately.  How can I stand solid, in joy, facing deteriorating conditions?  It seems we’re in a culture lacking the courage to face the present in concern for a well stewarded future.  We want to nourish the seeds of the positive, accept the existence of the negative, and compassionately move to giving our best in participation to healing that which we have harmed.  And we face the inevitable dissipation of energy (entropy; Second Law of Thermodynamics).  Can we accept what “is” in peace and yet, have the courage to dedicate in stewardship to the art of taking care of this moment, knowing it’s our best shot at taking care of the future for coming generations (beings we’re interconnected with outside our notions of time and space)?  Or do we go to sleep?  Or worse, do we actively work to feed the poison of denial, joining the ranks who deny science and our impact on the planet and one another?

This moment is so precious.  I hate to let it go, and yet, I can’t capture it.  I can only hope I’ve met it well, awake to the gift of what was there, if only glimpsed in its arising.

In everyday life you cannot always regulate and harmonize your body and mind.  The “ only thing you can regulate and harmonize is you attitude.  When you take the proper attitude toward your activity—zazen, skiing, or whatever it is—simultaneously, beyond your human effort, refined practice comes up and there is a total dynamic working between you and your object.”

Day after day, moment after moment, just take care of practice, leaving no trace of technique and no trace of practitioner.  This is a very fundamental attitude toward human life.  If you do, finally you will be great: a great skier, a great artist, a great musician, a great poet, a great philosopher, a great businessman, or a great religious person.

There is final verification. “Here I am!”  That’s all.  That is completely wonderful.  That is final proof of you life.  You feel alive!  There’s nothing to say, but you feel good.  It’s more than feeling good, it’s feeling that your life is worth living.”  p. 36

Poof…no longer addicted to approval, control, security and power.

Deepok Chopra’s The Ultimate Happiness Prescription describes it as follows:

“One side of the coin is that we crave approval because it bolsters our self-image.  The other side is that we fear disapproval because it diminishes our self-image.  All of this is known as object-referral, which means that you identify with objects outside yourself.  The opposite of object-referral is self-referral, which means you identify with your true being, entirely an inner experience.  True being has five qualities, none of which is created by external events, or other people:

  1. Your true being is connected to all that exists.
  2. It has no limitations.
  3. It has infinite creativity.
  4. It is fearless, and willing to step into the unknown.
  5. Intention from the level of being is powerful, and can orchestrate synchronicity (a perfect meshing of outside circumstances to bring about your intention).”

‘Just Be it’ is a phrase aimed to true being, breaking the barrier of dualistic object referral.  There’s great peace, joy, confidence, and harmony in facing the unknown, meeting the surprise of the arising moment…even in what appears to be deteriorating conditions.

This is hard work.  It takes tremendous resolve.  Our mind says we’ve worked hard enough and it’s time for mindless, unaware activity.  Maybe have a beer or two, eat a chocolate or ten, watch TV, smoke a joint, daydream, text or phone or whatever we do to step away from the moment’s arising in momentary pleasure.  But it’s always there, the arising moment.  It never stops, as hard as we may try to believe it does, with our notions of retirement, victim, death, winning, etc.  Science now validates our inter-Being and the reality of continuous change.  The harmony and rhythm of the universe is better understood as technology advances.  Yet, we step from our awareness in denial to the song and dance arising in front of us, traveling at greater speeds of mindlessness.

“I am though you so I” ee cummings

“Our awareness itself is a fathomless mystery” Brother David

“I am the manifestation of the unmanifested” Jesus

“The greatest thing happening in our time is that we’re taking down this theistic God from the limitation of being somebody else…we’re totally embedded” Brother David

“When conditions are right they manifest, when they aren’t they don’t” Buddha

With regards to “Difficulty”, I wrote this in 2003 after studying with Brother David Steindl Rast:


It’s more difficult to be a meadow on a mountaintop than on the plains.

It’s more difficult to live as a wave in a pond than an ocean.

It’s more difficult to be a mountain on it’s own (volcano) than one within a full range.

It’s more difficult to live a live driven by common sense and true being when surrounded by extremists.

It’s more difficult to live a life of peace when surrounded by those finding joy in violence.

These insights came to me when flying at thirty-five thousand feet, returning to Minnesota from California.  Flying over the landscape I had a much deeper felt sense for the ‘fractal’, how cellular energy tended to manifest in like ways, where the texture duplicates under influence of the energy around it.  Moving from ‘Difficulty’ to the power of intention, I wrote the following:

If you want to be of integrity,

Be around people of integrity.

If you want to fill your body with toxic foods,

Surround yourself with toxic foods.

If you want to be physically fit,

Be around people that are physically fit.

If you want to smoke,

Be around people that smoke.

If you don’t want to smoke,

Don’t be around people that smoke.

If you want your children to be grateful,

Surround them with grateful people.

If you want your kids to be expressive,

Surround them with expressive people.

If you want close minded children steeped in a strong belief system,

Surround your children with closed minded people steeped in strong belief systems.

If you want children open to receive a deeper question,

Surround them with people curious to explore a deeper question.

If you want children of fear,

Surround them with fear driven people.

If you want courageous children,

Surround them with courageous people.

If you want to be angry,

Be around angry people, listen to angry music, and watch angry TV

If you want attention,

Be around people that want attention.

If you want to be square,

Be around square people.

If you want to feel abundance,

Be around people that feel abundance.

If you want to hold on to the feeling of victim,

Be around those who hold the feeling of victim.

And in the end, all we can do is ask, “Is it working for you?  Is this the quality of live you want?”  We all have to answer this for ourselves, outside notions of righteousness.  And yet, when I look at nature and see all the “unique communities”, I can see I want to be around a community where people celebrate life, live without fear, in a sense of stewardship to the earth, one another, the cosmos…in full joy and wonder for the mystery.  I want to be around “awake” people.  And so it goes:

If you want to be a scavenger or a parasite,

Be around those who are scavengers and parasites.

If you want to appreciate the value in seeing the big through the small,

Be around people who appreciate seeing the big through the small.

If you want to erode your character and talents,

Be around those who erode their character and talents.

If you want to be sick,

Be around those who whine about their injury or sickness.

If you want to be strong,

Be around those people able to be hope in the healing to their suffering.

If in your life journey you become lost, and if you meet with an obstacle, be on the look out for more of the same.

Look at the clouds and see how they assemble as a family

And as we come to experience our tribe

Can we hold the ‘‘feeling’ of a bigger belonging

Never separate from those we’ve failed to meet from fear

For their difference or apparent weakness?

When I look into your eyes

It’s when I see my heart

It let’s me see myself

I know we’re never apart

I know I can’t hold on

I’ve got to let you be free

And then I clear my heart

For all eternity

Love is

Paying attention

Answering the door.

Giving it my best, in wholehearted action

Joy and happiness

Deeply listening, here and now

Touching silence

For Our World

Mattie J.T. Stepanek

September 12, 2001

We need to stop

Just stop

Stop for a moment

Before anybody

Says or does anything

That may hurt anyone else

We need to be silent

Just silent

Silent for a moment

Before we forever lose

The blessing of songs

That grow in our hearts

We need to notice

Just Notice

Notice for a moment

Before the future slips away

Into ashes and dust of humility

Stop, be silent, and notice

In so many ways, we are the same.

Out differences are unique treasures

We have, we are, a mosaic of gifts

To nurture, to offer, to accept

We need to be

Just Be.

Be for a moment

Kind and gentle, innocent and trusting

Like children and lambs

Never judging or vengeful

Like the judging and vengeful

Differently, yet together,

Before there is no earth, no life,

No chance for peace

And now, let us pray

Differently, yet together,

That's it. What Next?

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