Meditation: Embracing the Shaking World, by Catherine Rathbun (Lama Jetsun Yeshe)
When I used to teach a lot of dance, I ‘invented’ a technique of shaking all parts of the body in a rhythmic and progressive fashion that I called a “Shake-a-diddy”. Later I learned that this was part of the esoteric practices of the Yogas of Naropa. Then I learned that it was also part of Qigong. So much for the creation of anything new!
Whether we are shaking up ourselves physically to get the kinks and poisons out or whether we are living in a situation that shakes things up psychologically, we need this dynamic to become a part of our spiritual growth. Without it, things move into a stasis and then, after a time, into a kind of deadened or fixed response to life.
In Vajrayana Buddhism, we are taught to embrace the shaking world, to see the possibilities of growth inherent in such times. We are even thought to give thanks to our enemies, as they afford us the opportunity to learn to become more compassionate, clear and skillful in response to any external ‘opponent’.
When major illness or accident strikes, our bodies become weaker but our minds can become more resilient. Moving compassionately with illness and its attendant frailty can mean that we stop trying to have impossible dreams of physical prowess and learn to open our hearts more in the day to day interactions in life. Then when we meet someone who is frail, our response will be one filled with empathy for their situation and not necessarily offering ‘fixes’ for them. In this way, we can prepare for our own old age or ill health and enter that state with loving kindness and compassionate endurance.
When emotional upheaval strikes, our minds can become confused and an exhausting inner turmoil starts up. We may no longer know which way to turn or what path to take. If we can learn, through meditation, to stay balanced on this mental teeter-totter for long enough, the pathway forward will slowly become clear. Aspiration for a good and wholesome outcome is truly important here, as the aspiring mind is what leads a person forward slowly or quickly into the outer form. Making sure then of our motivation is imperative, if we are to succeed.
In Buddhist terms, this is called Establishing Bodhicitta. In its relative form, we can place all things pertaining to this world. In its Absolute form, we learn to rest in an unknowing but expansive state of mind that can allow anything to arise. Confusing one state from another can and does cause suffering. Relative Bodhicitta allows us to enter and function in the world in a caring and compassionate way. Absolute Bodhicitta allows us to be ready to ‘Be’ and not always ‘Do’. We need to understand both these states and not confuse them; otherwise we will act when we should stand back or refrain from helping others when active help is needed.
At the same time, we need to understand that the two Bodhicittas are one and the same. They cannot exist without each other; they are not separate. When we experience this, we are able to act without attachment to outcome and to be present when things do not work out the way we hope, without negative judgment.
If nothing ever came along to ‘shake things up’ how boring life would be! So the next time it happens to you, move to the aspiring mind and by fully entering this Bodhicitta dance, you will be able to meet life’s changes with an open and expansive heart.
Catherine Rathbun received her traditional teaching name, Lama Jetsun Yeshe, from Ven. Karma Thinley Rinpoche, a lineage master of the Sakya and Kagyu traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, in 2002. She taught meditation at York University (1989 to 1997) and is the founding teacher at Friends of the Heart, a meditation centre in Toronto. With a background in dance — she was a member of the National Ballet Company of Canada from 1962 to 1963 — and a modern dance career in England (1967-69). She is the author of Developing the World Mind and Clear Heart, Open Mind, and is currently working on a new book called Waiting for Truffles: Meditations for Daily Living.