“You can’t beat samsara”

When Roshi Reb Anderson was at Clouds, the sound bite that stuck in my mind was “You can’t beat samsara.” Then my husband heard that and amended it by saying “You can’t trump samsara.” What does that mean? It is very similar to the first noble truth that human life contains within it; dissatisfaction, anxiety and suffering. No matter how “good” our spiritual life is, we are not divorced from the swirling ups and downs of samsaric life.

How can you truly find peace amidst the vicissitudes of human life? We need to have some deep visceral connection with that which is beyond up and down.

The 8 worldly winds are the vicissitudes that constitute the human world. They are:

Pleasure / Pain
Gain / Loss
Success / Failure
Praise / Criticism

How can we practice when the 8 worldly winds have us caught and gripped? Sometimes, I feel, I can’t even sit down to do zazen. My practice at these pressurized points in life, often has to do with Buddhist Prayer, the chanting or saying over and over of certain phrases. Trying to interrupt my habituated energy and compulsive thinking with more wholesome, dharmic thoughts.

Lately, I have been using phrases from Joan Halifax’ book Being with dying. These phrases were made for people who were dying, caregiving or grieving. Because of these conditions, I found them particularly poignant and also useful for all the stressful conditions in life.

Here are a few I have been using lately:

May the power of lovingkindness sustain me.
May I offer my care and presence unconditionally, knowing it may be met by gratitude, indifference, anger or anguish.
May I find the inner resources to truly be able to give.
May I remain in peace and let go of expectations.
May I see my limits compassionately, just as I view the suffering of others.
May I accept my anger, fear and sadness, knowing that my vast heart is not limited by them.
May I allow my stress to open my heart of compassion.