Sunday, March 13, 2011

On Making Comparisons and Slowing Down

A few weeks ago, (On February 20, 2011 to be precise), I wrote this, among other things, about a little challenge that has arisen between Heather Albee-Scott and I:

Anyway, oddly enough, by the end of the Facebook discussion, Heather (perhaps to her dismay) had agreed to read The Book of Mormon, and I had agreed to read The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching.  I've ordered it, and should probably be starting it sometime next week.  If any of you are hankering to get better acquainted with either book/school of thought/religion, please feel free to join us in our quest.  I'm planning to write some of what I learn/experience as I read on the blog, and knowing Heather, I think she'll probably do the same.  (You can read what she's already written about our little agreement here.)

So, I've been reading The Heart of Buddha's Teaching  for a few weeks now. I read for a few minutes before I go to bed at night, and so I'm not exactly speeding through the book.  However doing it this way gives me something to think about before I go to sleep, and it's a nice way to finish out the day.  I just finished Chapter 7, and I'm on page 40.  There are 269 pages in the book, 28 chapters plus 3 additional discourses.  So, I've barely scratched the surface at this point.  I'm okay with that.

Anyway, here are some of my thoughts on what I've read so far:

Towards the beginning of the book, Thich Nhat Hanh (the Vietmanese Buddhist monk who wrote it)  states something that I've been trying to keep in mind throughout my reading.  He says, (at the beginning of Chapter 4, on page 12)

"When we hear a Dharma talk or study a sutra, our only job is to remain open.  Usually when we hear or read something new, we just compare it to our own ideas.  If it is the same, we accept it and say that it is correct.  If it is not, we say it is incorrect.  In either case, we learn nothing.  If we read or listen with an open mind and an open heart, the rain of the Dharma will penetrate the soil of our consciousness.  . . . While reading, or listening, don't work too hard.  Be like the earth.  When the rain comes, the earth only has to open herself up to the rain. " (emphasis added by me, Charlotte)

So, as I've been reading, I've been gently trying to remember to just read and just listen.  I've been trying to avoid looking for comparisons, making judgments, or decisions.  However, I've also been hearkening back to some of my old yoga training, which is, when I find myself making comparisons, judgments, or decisions (as I inevitably do), I just gently remind myself that I've gotten a little off track and try to do better, rather than feeling guilty or as if I've failed.  So far so good. 

That said, as I was reading Chapter Six, titled Stopping, Calming, Resting, Healing, I was absolutely reminded of a talk that was given in LDS General Conference last fall by President Uchtdorf.  You can read the entire talk here, but basically, what I got from the talk was that some of us (like me) would do well to settle down, stop running around so much, and when we find ourselves dealing with turbulence or times of extra growth, go a little slower, so we can endure it a little better.  I remember after listening to that talk, I felt in my heart that there were some things in my life, good things, that were taking time and energy away from better things.  That week, I closed up shop on my voice teaching studio (it wasn't as painful as it could have been, I only had 4 students at the time).  Since then, I've had two opportunities to start teaching again, and while I mostly enjoy teaching, and I certainly enjoy the extra money it brings, I've had a relatively easy time saying "not right now" to those opportunities, having already made that decision, and (more importantly) tasted the (delicious) fruits of that decision. 

This post is getting kind of long, so to close, I'll just write two quotes, one from the Buddhism book, and one from President Uchtdorf's talk.  I recognize that in posting these quotes right next to each other, I'm basically going against my original premise of this post, which is that Thich Nhat Hanh counsels me not to compare what I'm learning (Buddhism) with what I already know (Mormonism).  I'm okay with that though, because as I was reading the Buddhism Book, I wasn't actively looking for comparisons to LDS doctrine.  In this case, the similarities came to mind without me actually searching for them, which I feel is in keeping with the spirit of Thich Nhat Hanh's counsel.

Anyway, here are the quotes:

Thich Nhat Hanh:
There is a story in Zen circles about a man and a horse.  The horse is galloping quickly, and it appears that the man on the horse is going somewhere important.  Another man, standing alongside the road, shouts, "Where are you going?"  and the first man replies, "I don't know!  Ask the horse!"  This is also our story.  We are riding a horse, we don't know where we are going, and we can't stop.  The horse is our habit energy pulling us along and we are powerless.  We are always running, and it has become a habit.  . . . we have to learn the art of stopping--stopping our thinking, our habit energies, our forgetfulness, the strong emotions that rule us. . . How can we stop? . . . We can stop by practicing mindful breathing, mindful waking, mindful smiling (Charlotte here-that one is my personal favorite), and deep looking in order to understand.  When we are mindful, touching deeply the present moment, the fruits are always understanding acceptance, love, and the desire to relieve suffering and bring joy. 

Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
quirky 3-11
Let’s be honest; it’s rather easy to be busy. We all can think up a list of tasks that will overwhelm our schedules. Some might even think that their self-worth depends on the length of their to-do list. They flood the open spaces in their time with lists of meetings and minutia—even during times of stress and fatigue. Because they unnecessarily complicate their lives, they often feel increased frustration, diminished joy, and too little sense of meaning in their lives.

Here's to getting off that horse!

Thich Nhat Hanh image courtesy of redwylie
Dieter f Uchtdorf image courtesy of The Deseret News


Heather Albee-Scott said...

I'm glad you brought up the story from the Buddhism book - I sort of zipped through the book (um, hello, isn't that going against the book? :) ) and am glad to be reminded of that passage.

I think it is natural to compare and I find wonderful similarities in Buddhism and Mormonism - it's not a competition, but a compliment to each!

Jeri said...

a perfect post for me today. I need to get off my horse too, except right now I have MUCH on my plate that I can't really just dump... but I CAN re-evaluate what new things I ADD, and I can finish things off without feeling the need to replace them with MORE "stuff."

Thanks for sharing

Tasha said...

My horse is currently running too fast to get off of right now, but in two weeks, I WILL slow down...

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