THE DHARMA OF RESISTANCE -- GETTING STUCK

Overcoming What We Resist
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THE DHARMA OF RESISTANCE -- GETTING STUCK

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THE DHARMA OF GETTING STUCK

We live on the edge of the Manistee Natural Forest, some 900,000 acres of essentially wilderness. The two-track forest roads often get impassable in heavy rains and in the spring thaw. The ruts can be a couple of feet deep. You don’t want to get stuck back there.

If we do, our attention is on whatever tire is the most stuck. It’s a case of the obvious, the low-hanging fruit, and that the squeaky wheel always gets the oil. Most of us are busy enough with our distractions, so it takes something pretty immediate and right in our face to get our attention; so much for deliberate planning.

What I’m saying here is that I react much better than I plan ahead, so throw me a bone and I might chew on it. Wait for me to study it out and find it on my own and you might as well forget about it. So, if we are aware that we are stuck (and where), perhaps we can do something about it. Awareness is always the key, which is what Buddhism is all about. The word Buddha simply means the one who is aware or awakened.

And so, where is the edge of awareness for us for us to grab ahold of? Well, for one, it has to be immediate, meaning in the present moment. Yes, we can be aware that we were unaware (or aware) in the past or the future, but even that has to be done in the present. So, as they say, start where you are, here and now.

I have written a great deal about becoming aware of our own reactions since they tend to naturally grab our attention, but becoming aware of where we are mired or stuck in life is a little more difficult, especially if we don’t even know that we are stuck, but just think that’s the way things are or, worse, that that’s the way we are. Do you see what I’m getting at?

Everything changes; everything moves; just as ideas that we will never change give way to change, so does any situation we are in, good and bad. But there’s that problem again, becoming aware of where we are and even who we really are at heart. Of course, as mentioned, awareness is the whole of what Buddhism is about, the study of awareness and ourselves becoming more aware.

Many of the great Buddhist texts are about how we are not aware of ourselves in this present moment. Instead, we are lost in noodling around in our past or scheming and dreaming about our future. It reminds me of how we entertain ourselves on the Internet. So, these pith texts encourage us not to spend so much of our time in the future or the past, but rather to be more aware in the present. It’s not that the past or the future are bad, but just that since everything happens in the present, it might be helpful to spend some time there, like in this moment now. Yet, no matter whether this is a good moment or bad, it is easy slide with it into the past and dwell on it.

Yet, it seems that for many of us, we are not entirely happy with (or in) the present moment. As Shakespeare said, “There’s the rub.” We want it to be different than it is or we feel the present is not what we hoped for or expected. We would rather be elsewhere, like where we think we want to be rather than where we actually are. We are not satisfied with who we are or perhaps where we are in life. Like the old Rolling Stones song and the line “I can’t get no... satisfaction.” I often feel that way about the food I eat; no matter how I vary it, I’m still not satisfied. It’s like there is some mineral that I need but that I’m not getting, an itch that I just can’t scratch.

And the epitome of this problem is when we are not happy (or cannot accept) this present moment, even though all the wisdom of that past declares the “Present” as the living end, the outcome of all there is up to right now, the tip of the top, so to speak. Not accepting the present moment is like holding our breath and refusing to breathe. It’s not that the present moment is where we want to pause or stop but, like breathing, unless we keep doing it, we won’t even have the present moment, warts and all. It’s no wonder that so much sage advice often starts with the simple admonition “Relax, and take a deep breath” and I would add, “and keep breathing.”

I don’t mean to be vulgar, but if we have ever been constipated, we know that we can’t just stop or accept the status quo. We have to keep working with it. It’s the same with a mother giving birth. We don’t stop the birth process because we’re stuck or it’s difficult; we go through with it. Where we are in the “right now” is often just like that. We may not like where we are, but refusing to accept our situation because we are not happy with it only makes it worse. It’s like the high-wire artist. In the middle of the wire is not the time to have a little protest. It’s the time to keep walking.
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