Family is Away, Reflecting in Silence

Good evening, friends.

I have had a very quiet weekend with the family away, the result being I’ve had some extra time to devote to some Dhamma documentaries and reading, as well as a visit to a local Vietnamese Buddhist Temple.

The thinking is really what I want to write about tonight.

I watched a Dhamma talk of Ajahn Brahm’s from 2008 titled “The Power of Silence,” which impressed upon me something that I seem to be figuring out on an intellectual level, but in practice, I have a really, really hard time with. The idea that silence has value is not one that is shared widely in our culture, and everything from telephones to billboard advertisements will constantly work against us to make certain we are unable to find any quiet.

The last 48 hours, I’ve had some silence. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched some stuff on TV that wasn’t silent by any means, and I’ve played some SimCity 4, but I wouldn’t trade the time I have used quietly for anything in the world.

It has occurred to me how little of my time is spent really practicing mindfulness the way the Buddha taught, and just how much effort really goes into it when one does, at least at the beginning — and maybe at the end too (I wouldn’t know). The Buddha didn’t share with the world an easy path, and that is to say that any spiritual path that is “easy” probably leads nowhere but in circles.

There are a number of problems that lead up to my failing to practice so fully, but ultimately they all come back to me and my own decisions, and kamma I suppose. Not all of it is necessarily negative, but it does require a lot of effort to surpass.

While all of this is important to say, and takes up over half of the post, it really isn’t the true point I’m getting at…

Fact is, even when I find points of failure in my practice, I am happy. I’m realizing that I no longer take the mistakes as matters that have to be demoralizing (and thereby demotivating). I no longer scoff at myself in disgust when I mispronounce something when chanting or say one thing when I really mean something entirely else. I’m not precisely sure when this change happened, but somewhere in the last year I’ve let go of the ego-idea that I am a failure, that I deserve to be punished harshly for my failings, or that any one particular failure has to define “me” beyond the extent of my kamma already does.

As the night falls on me once more this evening, I want to reflect on this. We spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves, and I think often the undertone of the thoughts is that we are failures, ugly and unlikable. When we break this thought process, we can be happy even when we make mistakes, and my experience so far tells me that it is easier to learn from the mistakes this way because the fear of your own self can be removed from the equation.

Try it.  Be well, my friends.

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3 comments

  1. Dennis Beyer · · Reply

    Kindof along the same lines I used to turn off the radio and listen to the nothing that would be a drive home from Kate’s house before we lived together. I always ended up thinking about things that made me happy, simple stuff, like the fact that I had a car to be driving, or the warm comfortable bed I was about to sleep in, I don’t have as much opportunity to do this now mind you, but when I do I tend to think about the same stuff. Funny how much and how little can change in 7 or 8 years….

    1. You understand all too well, my friend. It can be challenging to remember to appreciate the little things when life keeps us moving at breakneck speeds.

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