Living from Pairs of Opposites by Adyashanti

Most human beings are living their whole lives from the pairs of opposites because it’s the only way they know. But when you discover that there is within you this place that is beyond the pairs of opposites, and that place, that state of awareness, is actually what you are, you start to realize you can live from that place.

To live from that place, self-grasping must be let go of more and more fully, because the only thing that keeps anybody from living from that place is holding onto thoughts, ideas, judgments, regrets — all those things that cause you to hold onto yourself. They literally create your self, and as soon as they are let go of, that self is not there anymore.

Living from that place, you start to choose to be simple, to give your attention to the simplicity, to what’s awake in you, to what lies beyond the pairs of opposites: your inherent nature as awareness or consciousness itself. It’s a very simple thing. Through this, it introduces you to the fundamental nature of yourself, the fundamental nature of reality.

You’ll know when you get there, because you stop asking, “Have I gotten there yet?” It’s an exquisite place to get to. It’s very liberating when you discover yourself as you truly are. It’s that place within you that is free, within and from the pairs of opposites. The exquisiteness is the sense of freedom. It’s what brings rest.

~ Adyashanti

Beyond Opposites

Time for Truth and Reconciliation by Jack Kornfield

I imagine that one of the reasons that people cling to their hate and prejudice so stubbornly is because they sense that once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with their own pain.—James Baldwin

Like many, I am heartbroken with sadness over the events in Charlottesville, Va., and the rising wave of hate and violence in our culture. While this is part of a long painful history, I want to understand the current tide of white nationalism and racism so the fear and anger it promotes does not take over my own heart. For with understanding I can respond with courage, wisdom and compassion for the benefit of all.

In the breakup of Yugoslavia, after the fall of the communist government, hate mongers took over many radio stations and local media. In this insecure time, fearing uncertainty, loss of power or privilege, politicians and others promoted stories about “them”—the dangerous others. Fearful stories were spread about the past and how the “other”—the Serbs, the Bosnians, the Croats, the Muslims, or the Christians—were dangerous. They will take your job, your houses, your women and children, your lives. And thus a civil war between these groups and their new states was ignited that killed and destroyed hundreds of thousands.

It is not hard to stoke fears in a time of change. Our brains are wired to first scan for danger, and it is easy to trigger the amygdala and the primitive response of fear. It is always pointed to the dangerous “other”—the communists, the blacks, the Asians, the gays, the Muslims, the Jews, the Mexicans, the immigrants.

Fortunately, we human beings possess other capacities beyond our reptilian brains—capacities of wisdom, love, connection and understanding that can override our primitive and easily provoked fears. This is one the great gifts of our meditations and dharma practice. It gives us straightforward and powerful trainings to balance our mind and open our hearts amidst all difficulties, using mindfulness, loving-kindness, equanimity and compassion.

The dharma also points to timeless truths and reminds us of the best of human possibilities. I remember my friend and teacher Maha Ghosananda, the Gandhi of Cambodia, chanting this Buddhist verse to thousands of traumatized refugees in UN camps, fleeing the terrors of genocide:

Hatred never ceases by hatred but by love alone is healed. This is the ancient and eternal law.

In his chant and his years of work leading refugees home with this same chant of love across the jungles and killing fields, he showed the Cambodians another way to live.

We need these now.

In many ways we Americans are still fighting the Civil War. It was not so long ago. My great-grandparents, several of whom I knew well, fled the pogroms of Russia to come to the United States in the 1880s and 1890s. This was only 20 years after the end of the Civil War!

2019 will mark 400 years since the first of millions of African slaves were brought to Jamestown, Va., in 1619. On June 19, 1865, General Grainger freed the last slaves in the United States across the state of Texas. At that time there were 250,000 slaves in Texas alone—more than a third of the population was enslaved! And since that time, the years have been marked by lynchings, apartheid/segregation, racism, economic and social oppression and a modern prison system that perpetuates another form of enslavement in spite of Lincoln’s great victory.

This story is a huge and agonizing part of our national history, in which we are still mostly in denial. In this same way we are in denial about the deliberate genocide of Native Americans across this continent. Native Americans were also enslaved at times, but mostly slaughtered by the millions. Native lands and children were stolen and Native cultures systematically destroyed—all in the name of white expansion and white superiority, white economics.

Unfortunately as a nation, we have not genuinely come to terms with our past. And it haunts us. It haunts us through our fears and our guilt and our insecurity. It haunts us whenever there are times of national challenges and uncertainty. Our fears are activated and the most primitive forces among us are empowered and unleashed. Our denial of the pain and exploitation in our history feeds the distorted and toxic myths of exceptionalism and white supremacy.

There is another way. It is based on the movement of Restorative Justice. South Africa provides a model. With the inspiration of elders like Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission panels were set up across the country for the nation to watch. The mandate of the commission was to bear witness to, record, and, in some cases, grant amnesty to the perpetrators of crimes and human rights violations, as well as foster reparation and rehabilitation. The panels confirmed what had happened during the apartheid regime, bringing out the painful truth. And in doing so they began to lead the nation from trauma and polarization to a greater collective understanding of the suffering they had passed through. While there is still much healing needed in South Africa, the Truth and Reconciliation Councils promoted a national soul-searching honesty, and started the basis for genuine reconciliation.

Truth and reconciliation first begin in ourselves. In these polarized and deeply troubled times, we are called upon to deepen our own practice of steadiness, courage, mindfulness and love. It is at just these times that we must become the steady hearts the society needs, the ones who remember who are, who are unafraid to tell the truth and who do so embodying the human possibility of compassion, understanding and reconciliation.

Quieting your mind, opening your heart with loving awareness, these are the critical steps to begin. For without doing so, you will only add to the chaos and fear. You must bear witness to your own measure of fears and pain, and honorably see and feel your place in our shared, troubled history. With a wise and caring heart you can understand the systems of privilege and oppression and your own place in them.

And then, like the bodhisattva who hears the cries of the world, you can rise up from your seat of mindfulness and compassion and extend your good hands to touch and mend the sorrows around you. Trust your good hearts. You know how to do this. You have been training for times like this over many years.

For some your response may be reaching out to connect with those threatened, across lines of religion, race, class, sexual orientation. For some it may mean reaching out to the individuals and groups who are promoting hate and prejudice. For some it may mean educating others. For some it may mean political organizing, or activism, or standing up in peaceful ways in the midst of heated demonstrations. And for some among us it may mean working to support a Truth and Reconciliation process in our communities and across the country.

This has been explored in over 30 countries, and in small ways has already begun in the United States. There is a Truth and Reconciliation process in Greensborough, N.C. And this article by Fania Davis is a call written last year for such a commission in Ferguson, Mo.

Since ancient times, Buddhist councils of elders have incorporated elements of a Truth and Reconciliation process in their communities. We can do this in many places.

Now is the time for us to do so in our own troubled land. Perhaps this article will spark your imagination. Or inspire you to start a Truth and Reconciliation group in your community. Or simply remind you that we humans have lived through troubled times before, and that there are ways to steady our hearts and move courageously and compassionately through them.

In spite of the surfacing of so much conflict and pain, I am still hopeful.

There is a magnificence to the human spirit as well as a dangerous and destructive side. Difficult times can ennoble us, and call forth new levels of dedication and care for our lives, our families, our communities, and this precious globe.

May it be so.

And for those creating suffering at every level….

I send metta which includes you as well….

May you be free from hate.
May you be free from fear.
May you be free from ignorance.

May all beings be safe and protected.

With blessings,

Jack Kornfield
Spirit Rock Center
August 2017


The Fine Art of Not Being Offended by Shemsi Prinzivalli

By Shemsi Prinzivalli / Aug 1, 2017

There is an ancient and well-kept secret to happiness which the Great Ones have known for centuries. They rarely talk about it, but they use it all the time, and it is fundamental to good mental health. This secret is called The Fine Art of Not Being Offended.

In order to truly be a master of this art, one must be able to see that every statement, action and reaction of another human being is the sum result of their total life experience to date. In other words, the majority of people in our world say and do what they do from their own set of fears, conclusions, defenses and attempts to survive. Most of it, even when aimed directly at us, has nothing to do with us. Usually, it has more to do with all the other times, and in particular the first few times, that this person experienced a similar situation, usually when they were young.

Yes, this is psychodynamic. But let’s face it, we live in a world where psychodynamics are what make the world go around. An individual who wishes to live successfully in the world as a spiritual person really needs to understand that psychology is as spiritual as prayer. In fact, the word psychology literally means the study of the soul.

All of that said, almost nothing is personal. Even with our closest loved ones, our beloved partners, our children and our friends. We are all swimming in the projections and filters of each other’s life experiences and often we are just the stand-ins, the chess pieces of life to which our loved ones have their own built-in reactions. This is not to dehumanize life or take away the intimacy from our relationships, but mainly for us to know that almost every time we get offended, we are actually just in a misunderstanding. A true embodiment of this idea actually allows for more intimacy and less suffering throughout all of our relationships. When we know that we are just the one who happens to be standing in the right place at the right psychodynamic time for someone to say or do what they are doing—we don’t have to take life personally. If it weren’t us, it would likely be someone else.

This frees us to be a little more detached from the reactions of people around us. How often do we react to a statement of another by being offended rather than seeing that the other might actually be hurting? In fact, every time we get offended, it is actually an opportunity to extend kindness to one who may be suffering—even if they themselves do not appear that way on the surface. All anger, all acting out, all harshness, all criticism, is in truth a form of suffering. When we provide no Velcro for it to stick, something changes in the world. We do not even have to say a thing. In fact, it is usually better not to say a thing. People who are suffering on the inside, but not showing it on the outside, are usually not keen on someone pointing out to them that they are suffering. We do not have to be our loved one’s therapist. We need only understand the situation and move on. In the least, we ourselves experience less suffering and at best, we have a chance to make the world a better place.

This is also not to be confused with allowing ourselves to be hurt, neglected or taken advantage of. True compassion does not allow harm to ourselves either. But when we know that nothing is personal, a magical thing happens. Many of the seeming abusers of the world start to leave our lives. Once we are conscious, so-called abuse can only happen if we believe what the other is saying. When we know nothing is personal, we also do not end up feeling abused. We can say, “Thank you for sharing,” and move on. We are not hooked by what another does or says, since we know it is not about us. When we know that our inherent worth is not determined by what another says, does or believes, we can take the world a little less seriously. And if necessary, we can just walk away without creating more misery for ourselves or having to convince the other person that we are good and worthy people.

The great challenge of our world is to live a life of contentment, regardless of what other people do, say, think or believe. The fine art of not being offended is one of the many skills for being a practical mystic. Though it may take a lifetime of practice, it is truly one of the best kept secrets for living a happy life.

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