I am in a unique situation that is forcing me to see things differently.  The situation is an opportunity.  In this opportunity, learning to be a yoga teacher, I am learning about the idea of emptiness, the idea that grounds Buddhism and yoga philosophy.  Once I finally allowed this idea of emptiness to be planted in my mind, I realized that with each moment of life that I was misinterpreting, I had the responsibility to reinterpret the moment for what it was, empty of its own nature.  This is a difficult yet life-giving task.

A brief explanation of emptiness:  Emptiness is the notion that nothing has its own nature – our perceptions are nothing but perceptions.  Our minds work in ways to make us believe that everything has its own true essence, so that the computer I’m typing on is, well, a computer.  The end.  When we apply the idea of emptiness, reality changes.  Without my twisted mind getting in the way to call see this thing as a computer in and of itself, this is a thing made up of a bunch of little squares with shapes on them, connected to a rectangle connected to a rectangle and all these other little microrectangles that function as a computer.  One day this rectangle of a rectangle will not function anymore.  And while it may function as a mechanism of productivity for me, it may function as a toy for my son.  It may function as a warm (and hard) bed for a kitty cat.  So, I see this computer as a computer because of my own perceptions of it.  The way I see things comes from ME, not from the things I am saying. 

It’s expected, in the beginning of “getting” emptiness, that one goes back and forth, forgetting that things come from us and not to us and then coming back to emptiness.  Even in the atmosphere where I can express all of the yoga teachings to the fullest at teacher training school, I am noticing that I am reverting to my old conceptions. 

For example, in my attempts to constantly censor myself, I’ve noticed that when people seek to know about my life, I tend to act superficially until I know that (1) I am not burdening them in whatever way with knowledge about me (2) They are genuine in their concern (3) I have nothing to prove.  Though I know my yoga teacher is genuine in his concern, I feel that I burden him if I share or explain my pain and then suddenly I have something to prove:  that I am strong.  And then I become overanalytical, judging everything I say, judging everything my teacher says to me, wondering if I offended my teacher or a peer, UNTIL I remember emptiness. 

STOP!  STOP!  STOP!  Stop apologizing, stop wondering how others are perceiving me, stop doing all this nonsense, I have to say to my self.  See the situation for what it is.  When I am in pain, sometimes I am not genuine with others.  Sometimes I don’t speak meaningfully and truthfully.  Sometimes I engage in meaningless chatter because I am afraid to say that I’m in pain.  Sometimes I want to feel like I’m not in pain so I put on a smile and try to make others feel comfortable and good about themselves, and I agree with them when I really don’t or don’t even have an opinion about what they’re saying. 

Life Lesson 4:  Everything comes from me.       

Life Lesson 5:  I can change everything.

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In my second year of college, I decided there was no God.  Because I was raised in a Chaldean Catholic community, I sang in the church choir for years, and I live in a world where most people claim some sort of religious following, this decision DEVASTATED me.  But I understood, at the time, that it was THE BELIEF in some sort of life after death that helped human beings feel that life is worthwhile to some degree.  It was a way for us to trick our brains, an evolutionary trait that helped us in our existence.  Reading the book “God Part of the Brain” influenced me further in this decision.  Middle-Eastern History and Anthropology classes also convinced me of this reality, though I was morbidly shocked to find out that my anthropology teacher was a devoted Christian.  That’s when I believed it even more.  Even a scientist couldn’t break free of this evolutionary need to believe in something higher.  In a lecture on spirituality put on by the anthropology class, I questioned him but he just didn’t see it my way.  This was all very depressing and it would take a couple years to shake the depression off.

Now I find myself wondering.  I still don’t believe there is a God but I do believe there is some force in the universe.  I don’t know anything about it but I definitely know it doesn’t speak or have human qualities.  It’s a force of energy.  What else could it possibly be? 

When Oprah Winfrey started endorsing Ekhart Tolle and his book “A New Earth,” I joined her on-line group but I never logged in.  But I read it.  In his book, Tolle draws from different religious texts to illustrate how there are common messages among them, messages I won’t go into here.  For example, he is able to link Christianity with Buddhism (I don’t remember much about Islam but it may be there) through similar words of Jesus and Buddha.  Jesus and Buddha have a lot in common: having denounced the ego, understanding the importance of being in the present, practicing compassion.  These two historical figures, who became spiritual guides, understood similar things about the universe.  Well, since they didn’t discuss the purpose of life with each other over tea and biscuits, there must be something to that, right?

I’m totally comfortable with the decision that I am done with Christianity.  Trusting God knows the answers, God will see us through, believing God has a plan for me, etc., just doesn’t sit well with me.  This is too passive for me.  It is ME and MY ACTIONS that have a lot to do with what happens in MY life.  But what about Buddhism?  If Buddhist Monks, or Enlightened Ones, can control their bodies with their minds, they most know something worth knowing.  They are so ACTIVE and IN TUNE.  They must have answers of some sort to our suffering.  I am trying to open my mind to ideas of Karma and Rebirth but it is difficult.  Still, it makes more sense than the idea of a heaven.  Since energy doesn’t get destroyed, it MAY be possible that the energy is transferred to another body.  Maybe?  I don’t know.  I’m still totally skeptical.  I’m coming from the belief of when we die, we die, the end!  Since so many other parts of Buddhism DO make sense, I’m going to TRY TRY TRY to open my mind.  I shall see where I go.