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Buddhadharma : Summer 2013
48 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SUMMER 2 0 1 3 ideal world instead. I’m sure that one of the reasons people want tranquility or peace is because they’re so unhappy, and it’s very difficult to see that all of the turbulence that occurs happens within nonturbulence and goodness. It takes a while for us to understand the totality of our experience. That’s why practice is so subtle and a lifelong journey. It’s not just a chal- lenge for the beginners; it’s a challenge for all of us, however many years we’ve been practicing. KAMALA MASTERS: Yes, as we go deeper, we learn to become more present with subtleties in our practice. We also tend to develop an awareness that’s like a magnifying glass, so obsta- cles may feel even bigger than what we’ve experienced before. So as our practice matures, we still need people to remind us that this is a natural part of the unfolding of our practice. EZRA BAYDA: One of the major obstacles in practice is our uni- versal deep-seated desire to feel a particular way. I think all of us begin with the illusion that if we practice hard, we’ll feel better. So when obstacles arise, we automatically see them as impediments and don’t understand the really pivotal point that practice is not about feeling any particular way. As long as we view obstacles as obstacles, as something to oppose, we’re going to stay stuck. One of the most crucial things for students to learn, not just at the beginning of the practice but at any point along the path, is that obstacles are the path. Whenever an obstacle arises, we need to ask ourselves, Can I see this is as my path? Can I see it not as an obstacle on the path, but as the path itself? Can I welcome this as the way to become free? But we what they’re looking for, when the opposite comes up, they find themselves wanting something that isn’t happening. Many people also think practice is about sitting still or just getting to the cushion, which is a very low expectation. So one of the obstacles is low expectations and not understanding what the practice is really all about, and the other is having too high expectations about practice. Students can feel inadequate and disappointed in their practice and think they’re doing it wrong. Although in my teaching I repeatedly give the same instruc- tions to stay calm and open to whatever is happening in the present moment, sometimes it takes years for students to say, “I just only now heard you say to open to whatever I’m expe- riencing in my practice.” That basic lack of understanding about practice and how to open to whatever is happening is a real obstacle on the path. BUDDHADHARMA: We tend to think of obstacles as problems rather than as a normal part of our meditation experience. We see them as something bad or wrong. Is that part of the problem, perhaps? JUDITH SIMMER-BROWN: Yes, because such a big part of our human nature is rejecting who we are and feeling that there’s something fundamentally wrong with us—that’s what’s called dukkha in the buddhadharma. The core of the Buddha’s genius was seeing that our struggle to live life as we think it should be, as opposed to how it actually is, is our fundamental dilemma. And of course we can use practice this same way, as a means of rejecting who we are and trying to create an PHOTOS(LEFT—RIGHT):ALICIAW.BROWN;JODIREED;SCOTTWATERS EZRA BAYDA is a Zen teacher and cofounder of the Zen Center of San Diego. His most recent book is Beyond Happiness: The Zen Way to True Contentment. KAMALA MASTERS is cofounder of the Vipassana Metta Foundation, located on Maui. She is also a core teacher at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. JUDITH SIMMER-BROWN is an acharya in Shambhala International and a professor of Buddhist studies at Naropa University. She is the author of Dakini’s Warm Breath.