by Michael Moran
Yes, it’s December; packed with great potential for connectedness and comfort as well as limitless media insanity, rampant consumerism, and occasional dreadful family interactions. What is a Buddha to do?
Here, again, the world offers us ample opportunity to practice the principles and ethics that we have been investigating and testing over the rest of the year. For instance, where family is concerned, we have an opportunity to let go of our history and all of the tangled interpersonal drama that we may have encountered over the decades, and see our family members with “beginner’s mind”. The holidays are an occasion to look deeply into what draws us and what grabs us or what jars us.
The six paramitas (perfections) offer some guidance to our approach to the upcoming encounters:
Generosity: How can we give of ourselves generously, wholeheartedly, and wisely whether it be through gifts, gestures, actions, or intentions so that we do not betray ourselves or the kinds of relationships that we say we want?
Ethics: How do we engage with others while keeping our intentions to act with dignity, respect, consideration, and kindness while making sure that we are treated in a similar manner?
Patience: How do we let things (and people) be exactly as they are, without needing to change them or fix them to suit our sensibilities?
Effort: How do we act in accordance with our ethics, our sensibilities, our values, and our heart in a way that neither drains us nor agitates us so that we avoid walking away with either resentment or regret?
Concentration: How can we maintain a level of awareness that allows us to effectively attend to those values and ethics that have committed ourselves to? What do we put our attention on such that we are able to respond to matters in a skillful and appropriate way?
Wisdom: How do we know when and how to apply all of what we have learned to the various circumstances where we find ourselves? How do we enhance our discernment in matters that challenge us so that we can offer appropriate responses to our circumstances?
We are looking forward to a bountiful new year of quality dharma. We are leading off with a two-day retreat with Mary Grace Orr of Vipassana Santa Cruz and Spirit Rock in January, Will Kabat-Zinn of San Francisco Insight and Spirit Rock in March, and Rick Hanson, PhD., international speaker and author of Buddha’s Brain in May. All of these teachers come with a rich history of study and practice. Later in the year we will be hosting Anna Douglas of Spirit Rock and Norman Fischer of Everyday Zen and the San Francisco Zen Center.
May the holidays bring you peace, warmth, happiness, and whole-hearted connections.