I recently read an article where the author suggested that we should all be nearing the end of working out our Karma. I thought: "God, I haven't even started!" Actually I have, but I am certainly not near the end, and I would say that a vast majority of us are not. Nagarjuna, an Indian mystic, long ago suggested we all suffer from 13 afflictions. Rimpoche says there are actually 84,000. I watched the entire second season of "True Detective" over a period of 24 hours. If you don't believe there are 84,000 afflictions just watch this show.
My experience during my five years at the Royal Avenue Crisis Program tells me there are large numbers of us not only suffering, but also very ill, and while I agree with Rimpoche that this is not their true nature, we all suffer. Yes, all. A few have gone beyond this suffering, transcended duality; yet most of our heroes/leaders/gurus are blowing smoke when they say we are approaching some universal awakening. After all, the DSM-V has made it clear that we are all diagnosable. This too is smoke.
I would say: "Like if your are suffering," but this is not Facebook, which recently has been criticized for censoring the so called "truthers." The number of likes, if we were truthful, would be huge. Rimpoche would say that our minds, due to our afflictions, our habitual defenses, our habitual ineffective coping mechanisms, take us repeatedly to a very dark, futile, and depressive place, which he likens to a dungeon. He says: "A thought," with a gesture waving his hand, "and you're gone."
What is the medicine? Mindfulness. All other treatments are less than effective. We watch our breath. We watch a thought, that thought that would take us away. We watch a counter thought: "It need not be."
I recently found myself very distressed in that dark, hopeless dungeon due to the passing of a bill in the senate that would require mandatory vaccination for vets receiving medical benefits from the VA. I saw this as a betrayal of my willingness to defend my country, if need be. A betrayal of my goodness, that willingness. I considered writing an in-depth article documenting the dangers of vaccination, the horror of that bill, the betrayal of our senators, and likely the House. I no longer see this as necessary. My friend, Ken Adachi at Educate-Yourself.Org has done just that in more depth and detail than I would have managed. Simply go to his site, click on News, and then click on short-cut to latest articles.
While I believe that it is important to shout out the dangers of this bill, of the actions of our politicians and government, I see that my real purpose is to shed light on the reality of our existence. My name, Lobsong Nema, means "Clear mind, like the sun." This is my purpose.
I now realize that as a child I was missing something. I often see that time in sepia colors. My father had purchased a now ancient, reel to reel recorder. Movies taken outside were fine, but anything taken inside was cold and dark, those sepia tones.
What was I missing? It was the knowledge that my parents did not have, the knowledge of how to get out of the hole we all find ourselves in. There is a metaphor often used in therapy that suggests that the worst tool to have should you find yourself in a hole that you can't climb out of is a--shovel. The adults in my childhood were trying to climb out of the hole with a shovel-we still are, and they had no other tools.
This being a metaphor, the hole is not literal, it is psychological, but real none the less. The tool needed will not be climbing gear, or a ladder, it will be mental, a mindful tool.
So what do I mean by mindfulness? While it is clearly the medicine, the tool for climbing out of the hole, it is also, in the hands of charlatans, a cliche.
I could define mindfulness, but that puts us in the realm of words, and while one can, and should be mindful of their words, generally mindfulness is not about words, rather it is about observation. Allow me to demonstrate mindfulness: Imagine (a powerful activity) that I give you a very tiny gift. You grasp it between thumb and index finger. You observe that it is wrapped and with a ribbon. You further notice that it is wrapped in silk. Now this sparks your curiosity, a very deep need to know. You then notice that it is beautifully wrapped, every corner perfectly tucked. Finally, your curiosity too much, you open it, and find inside one-raisin. You are surprised, and in this state of great curiosity you examine the raisin, its color, its texture, its taste. This is mindful, as is this brief description during which you have thought no other thoughts, probably forgotten your worries, and perhaps even without knowing how you did it, climbed out of the hole. You didn't think your way out, you imagined your way out. Imagination is a powerful, mindful tool. So is intent. If I intend, truly and deeply, for something to be, I believe that it will be.
I acknowledge that I suffer, that I have issues. I confess to having 13 afflictions. We all do. This is my opportunity to take this tool of mindfulness and transcend these afflictions.
Our frustration with, our alienation in this world is reaching a climax. There are powerful beings who are stealing anything of value. They murder those who get in the way. Any day that could be you, it might be me. We will not defeat these beings in confrontation. We can transcend them through awakening, all of us.
The interesting thing about climbing out of that hole is that we tend to fall right back in. So the second part of this process is to make the choice to notice the hole, and stay out of it, again using the same tool of mindfulness.
So I have demonstrated mindfulness, but the trick is making it work for you. Meditation can bring clarity, and yet, mindfulness always involves a choice, choosing to pay attention within and around you, to notice the pitfalls whether they are avarice, pride, lust, anger, pride of race, pride of form (feeling that one's body is better than another), pride of power (the 13 afflictions); and pursuing the concept of "it need not be."
As it says in 'Nagarjuna's Letter to King Gautamiputra:' "one who has formerly been heedless, but later becomes heedful, will be resplendent like the moon free from clouds.' (Page 9)