Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Reflections on black swan

recently saw the movie Black Swan--kind of a must-see for a ballet
enthusiast like me. It was really interesting to observe myself
watching the movie, which was not only a story about a dancer but a
deep psychological portrait about becoming a woman and discovering
your sexuality and your dark side. I was brought up with very little
in ways of scary movies, kind of always kept away from those because I
used to have a lot of nightmares. For that reason I was not sure
whether I would be able to cope with the horror-aspect of this movie.

It was here that I found another opportunity to bring my practice into
my daily life. As I saw all the blood and suffering, I reminded myself
that it was empty, and actually it really inspired and vividified (I
just made that word up ;-) my visualizations of the wrathful
deities. Because wrathful deities are just another aspect of
reality--they are the forceful energies that are behind strong
emotions like aggression. They show us that we don't have to actually
destroy ourselves or others when aggression arises, as the character
in Black Swan does, but instead we can transform this emotion to rise
above ourselves. Indeed, to become a powerful black swan, yet without
its maliciousness. I think these visualizations are one of the amazing
tools that Tibetan Buddhism has to deal with emotions and use them in
very creative ways.

It also occurred to me that I am so lucky to have the teachings. If
only the main character in Black Swan would have had a way to train
her mind--for it is the case that all fear and anxiety come from an
untamed mind. And she is so consumed by anxiety...

Finally, the movie powerfully shows how we create the world with our
minds, as the Buddha also said in the dhammapada (we are what we
think// all that we arises with our thoughts// with our thoughts we
make the world). The movie often left me wondering whether what I was
looking at what "reality" or just a delusion of the protagonist. But
of course reality does not exist, and everything we and others see is
to some extent a delusion. It's just that some may be more delusory
than others... And importantly, some are more painful than others.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Thinking about death...

In the days between Christmas and new year's I attended Sogyal
Rinpoche's annual retreat in Kirchheim, Germany. This year's theme was
death and dying. It was very powerful to receive and contemplate
teachings on such a topic. I think those teachings are particularly
poignant when you are young, because we tend to so professionally ban
death out of our lives here in the West. And yet, it is true that
death can happen at any moment. I often think of the accident I had
this Summer where I was hit by a car while I was biking. How easily
could it have turned out differently, and would I not have been able
to tell you the story... And as Sogyal Rinpoche often says, how do you
know that you will even wake up again tomorrow? Even young people die
sometimes. Just... randomly. You never know. For me remembering death
really makes me appreciate life, how lucky I am to be alive in good
circumstances. But more importantly, it helps me think about what I
want to do with my life. I notice that often I think that the most
meaningful things I do will happen in the future because right now I
am still learning. But what if there is no future? Then we'll have to
do with what is now, and what counts is whether we were kind to that
person we encountered on the bus, or whether we were pushing that
person aside because she was in our way and we needed to get
somewhere. Really every moment counts.

Another realization from that retreat was the idea that really, we
don't need to cram every moment with activity. If we take a moment to
rest in what is, that is the greatest teaching. Because when we die, we'll
enter into the bardos and if
we're not able to rest in what is, then we'll have an agonizing
time. Yet if you're young and ambitious like me, you have a tendency
to want to make everything either productive or fun, and you'll avoid
those gaps. So my reminder slogan has become "don't forget the gaps!"