using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Buddhadharma : Summer 2010
BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SUMMER 20 1 0 96 The Heat of the Moment In the Puttamansa Sutta, the Buddha talks of a man being dragged to a pit of hot coals. Many middle-aged women who practice meditation have had direct experience of this feeling. For me it began at a six-day retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh in Colorado, late in the summer of 2003. This was the longest retreat I had attended, and I was concerned that my legs would ache and fall asleep. As it turned out, seated meditation wasn’t a problem; overheated meditation was. On the second day of the retreat I sat with closed eyes on my purple cushion and black pad, with hands cupped in my lap and thumbs touching. A small nuclear device seemed to go off in my solar plexus, radiating fallout throughout my body. This was not a flush from too much niacin—I was simply turn- ing into a small furnace. I wondered whether the drafty, chilly zendos of many meditation centers had explored heating their halls with menopausal women. I had been taking black cohosh and proges- terone for menopause symptoms. These rem- edies had previously proved sufficient, but on that day a new sensation manifested: the mar- row of my bones seemed to be boiling and it felt as though steam was rising from my skin. Where two parts of my body touched—behind the kneecaps of folded legs or in the pits of folded arms—the steam condensed into a film of sweat. Dampness covered my upper lip and my neck at the hairline and my forehead under my bangs. I felt like an iron that might scorch my pillow if I sat too long. I repeatedly wondered: Can I stay still? Can I stay seated? Will this too pass? Will I burst into flames? On the positive side, there is nothing like a hot flash to keep you in the present moment. For me it went something like this: Don’t pant. Keep breathing. I was the bright tip of a stick of smokeless incense. Hotter, hotter, hotter... It’s done! The flash, really a steady burn, always ended suddenly, making me want to catch my breath. Inhale. Exhale. I felt my head relax in the sudden relief of coolness. Outside, walking meditation never felt so good—fresh air moderating the fire within. I began estrogen therapy shortly after the retreat, but the symptoms came back when I stopped taking it four years later. They have continued to this day, although fewer and slightly reduced in intensity. These days, my meditation shawl starts up on my shoulders and then drops down to my waist, a cloth thermometer showing fluctuations in my core temperature. Socks on, then off. Unbutton anything that’s not too revealing, turn back cuffs, and pull up sleeves. I try to match these movements with walking meditation. I have found I tolerate the hot flashes bet- ter, and even see some benefits for my medi- tation practice. These periodic episodes have taught me to practice with what is, in the present moment (at least in my body). I know each episode will have a beginning, middle, and end, so I can be more patient with the process. I no longer fight the heat, or harbor delusions that I have control over my body, let alone any other phenomena. Now I use the sensations as an object of my meditation. I imagine the perspiration as purifi- cation, as a steam bath, removing poisons from my body. I look for positive aspects: all this extra warmth has to be good for my joints! I contemplate the four elements. Fire seems to predominate in me at this minute, but there is water in my sweat and air in my breath and the earth under my legs. SANDRA SUZANNE MURRAY was ordained in 2005 in the Order of Interbeing established by Thich Nhat Hanh. She is a founding member and practice leader at Flowing Mountains Sangha in Helena, Montana. Journeys By Sandra S. Murray ILLUSTRATION KIM SCAFURO