Seven years ago, three 20-30 somethings from the Washington DC area meditated at a silent retreat in Barre Massachusetts. “Go forth and create sanghas in your cities” the teachers urged. The strangers heeded the call to action and started a spiritual friends group.
Meditation can be a powerful mirror, reflecting the truth of our lives back to us. By taking time day after day to look inward and witness what’s there, we experience the full range of human thoughts, sensations, mental states and emotions. The creative process can serve as a mirror as well, bearing witness and giving us insight into our own joy, pain, anxiety, love, hope, fear and so on.
My first entry into the practice of mindfulness seemed an invitation to experience mental anguish and pain. In those early days, the encouragement to “be with what is” was an opportunity to “be with” poverty, violence, and despair once I left sangha. Even now, I am curious as to why I continued to walk, get two trains, a bus, and walk some more to an area that was stark in its wealth and privilege.
Identity Flexibility and Buddhism is the name of a chapter I wrote a few years ago. An expanded title could’ve been: Identity Flexibility and Buddhism: Anatta from the ‘Inside Out’. Anatta refers to “non-self,” usually listed as the third characteristic of existence. The first is Anicca or “impermanence” while the second characteristic is Dukkha or “not a permanent source of satisfaction.” If we can think of our self as impermanent, then our self is not an entity but a process. We are constructing, deconstructing, constructing…a self dependent on conditions.