Jack Kornfield – Making Difficulties Into The Path

Turning Straw Into Gold – from A Path With Heart

“To undertake a genuine spiritual path is not to avoid difficulties
but to learn the art of making mistakes wakefully,
to bring to them the transformative power of our heart.”

Sheep at Abbotsbury - great view of Chesil Beach.

Sheep at Abbotsbury – great view of Chesil Beach.

I’ve been going through my journal from my counselling course this week to write a summary of it and I came across some quotes from Jack Kornfield’s book A Path With Heart that a friend lent me in December last year. I love this book and had to buy my own copy to keep. The things I wrote then are always pertinent but it was great to have a reminder and it helped me to see how I’ve been able to achieve this at times since then.

JK talks about how every life will have its difficulties: that is just part of life – like change, it’s unavoidable. But these difficulties can be the source of stress and resistance or the source of our awakening, deepening wisdom, patience and compassion. “The basic principle of spiritual life is that our problems become the very place to discover wisdom and love”.

He quotes Benjamin Franklin: “Our limited perspective, our hopes and fears become our measure of life, and when circumstances don’t fit our  ideas, they become our difficulties”.

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So it’s about observing how we approach difficulties – do we try and avoid them and get to a place that feels safe or do we look at them and learn from them, be compassionate to ourselves and learn from our mistakes? Thereby transforming our relationship to our difficulties.

“Tibetan Buddhist tradition instructs all beginning students in Making Difficulties into the Path. ie consciously taking our unwanted sufferings, the sorrow of our life…and using them as a ground for the nourishment of our patience and compassion, the place to develop greater freedom and our true Buddha nature. Difficulties are considered of such great value that a Tibetan prayer recited before practice actually asks for them:

“Grant that I may be given appropriate difficulties and sufferings on this journey so that my heart may be truly awakened and my practice of liberation and universal compassion may be truly fulfilled.”

“When our body is sick, instead of fighting the disease we can listen to the information it tells us and use it to heal…When we have difficulty with some aspect of our partner/friend we might inquire how we treat that part in ourselves. Difficulties or weaknesses often lead us to the very thing we need to learn.” I have really seen this with my own health struggles: by trying to get well and suppress what was going on, it got worse. By really looking at my emotions and seeing where I was stuck in old, unhelpful patterns, I’ve been able to heal. Our minds and bodies are so much more sophisticated than we will ever really know. Maybe by looking at our patterns we can start to understand what they are trying to tell us?

JK talks of how we need to look at the things we struggle with: for example being busy all the time. What is the reason for this? What are we avoiding? Perhaps it’s a fear of quiet and looking at oneself; taking time to do this will open up new learning and help us see our old unhelpful habits.

“The place where we can most directly open to the mystery of life is in what we don’t do well, in the place of our struggles and vulnerability. When we let ourselves become vulnerable, new things can be born in us.”


Pema Chodron: Joy

The Wisdom of No Escape

At the end of this week’s class I read an excerpt from Pema Chodron’s lovely book. It is from Chapter 6 and is about Joy.

The Navajo teach their children that every morning when the sun comes up, it’s a brand-new sun. It’s born each morning, it lives for the duration of one day, and in the evening it passes on, never to return again. As soon as the children are old enough to understand, the adults take them out at dawn and they say, “The sun has only one day. You must live this day in a good way, so that the sun won’t have wasted precious time.” Acknowledging the preciousness of each day is a good way to live, a good way to reconnect with our basic joy.

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The whole chapter expands this theme and is well worth reading. She tells a story of a woman runnign away from tigers and she climbs down a cliff, and the tigers are above and below, waiting for her to fall. A mouse is nibbling away at the vine she is clinign on to. She also sees a bunch of strawberries near her. She takes a strawberry, eats it and enjoys it thoroughly. Pema Chodron says,

“Tigers above, tigers below. This is the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life, the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”

This is the message we read over and over in different forms: enjoy each moment as if it were your last. You never know what is in the future. It is hard to put this into action. Yoga and meditation help, but modern life is always driving us forwards, to achieve more and more, and not just smell the roses. So today, think about what your strawberry moment is and savour it!

Your body is the manifestation of your own spirit

Caroline Myss – Anatomy of the Spirit

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written – work getting in the way!

This quote above is from Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss, which I’ve just started reading after I was recommended it and since I’ve mentioned it to lots of people I’ve realised how many of them are familiar with her work. Like lots of the other books I’ve been reading, it talks about how our emotional state affects our physical health. However this book goes even deeper and approaches things from a much more spiritual point of view. It makes a link between the traditional spirituality of the 7 chakras in Hinduism, the 7 sacraments of Christianity and the Tree of Life of the Kabbalah and our own health and spirituality.

Caroline Myss is a medical intuitive who can intuit what is physically wrong with a person, even without meeting them. But she will then be able to tell them what they need to do in their life emotionally or spiritually to heal the physical problems. She gives the power back to the individual though, as all good healers do, and does not heal people but just gives them advice. it is then up to that person whether they are willing to change their lifestyle/diet/job/relationship etc. She also says that she can teach people to be intuitive about their own health and energy in this way. I’ll let you know more when I’ve read more! Hopefully I can find out what’s going on with my back!

For me though, it’s one of the clearest and easiest to understand descriptions of how the chakras function in our lives and the problems they cause if they are not functioning well and what we can do to remedy that. I find that that is the beauty of Caroline Myss – she approaches what is very esoteric work in a down-to-earth practical way that anyone can understand and doesn’t couch it in lots of floaty, hippy language.

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I love the way that she says that our biography becomes our biology – that makes so much sense. I.e every thought we have, every action we take affects our physical and emotional make-up by causing a chemical reaction. If you are trapped in a situation that makes you feel stressed or unhappy and you don’t get out of it, you will become physically ill eventually.

“Illnesses develop as a consequence of behavioural patterns and attitudes that we do not realise are biologically toxic until they have already become so. Only when illness forces us to review our attitudes do we come close to comprehending that our day-to-day fearful or bitter attitudes are, in fact, biologically negative substances.” …”To create disease, negative emotions have to be dominant, and what accelerates the process is knowing the negative thought to be toxic but giving it permission to thrive in your consciousness anyway.”

So she is not saying that we consciously create our illness but we do participate in the process somewhat.

I could quote endlessly from this amazing book, but I won’t – read it for yourself! Have a great day.

 

 

I can elect to change all thoughts that hurt

Love is Letting Go of Fear

This  is a great little book that has been sitting on my book shelf unread for years. It’s by Gerald G Jampolsky MD. (Great name!)

It’s another of the many books that seem to have flourished in the 1980s around the theme of healing and being happy. Others of this era, who I’ve previously mentioned, include Bernie Siegel, Louise Hay and Elizabeth Kubler Ross. This book apparently follows the themes of the Course in Miracles but massively simplified (fortunately, as it is a huge bible of a book that I’ve only managed to read 2 pages of so far!) For anyone with a short attention span, it has very short chapters and lots of cartoons! Bite sized chunks of wisdom.

Buddha in my garden!

Buddha in my garden!

I wanted to share one of the chapters I’ve just read:

I can elect to change all thoughts that hurt

“That free will and choice are inherent attributes of the mind is something that most of us tend to forget. We have all had the experience of feeling trapped in a situation where there seemed to be no escape.

Here is a suggestion that may prove helpful under such circumstances. You can use active imagination to find a way out. Picture a wall and let it represent your problem. On this wall paint a door and hang a red exit sign above it. Imagine yourself opening the door, walking through it and shutting it firmly behind you. Your problem is no longer with you since you have left it behind. Experience your new found freedom by imagining yourself in a place where you have no worries and there is nothing to do other than what you would enjoy. When you are ready to leave your happy retreat, bring with you this newly found sense of  release from past problem-solving attempts. In the freshness of your new perception, solutions previously unavailable to you will now occur.”