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Buddhadharma : Summer 2007
buddhadharma| 17 |summer 2007 discontent for the boss and interpreting both sane and silly organizational policies for constituents and staff members who had questions or problems. It wasn’t a rat race, but it surely was a race. My daily meditation and contemplative read ing helped me to bring mindfulness to the every day clutter of work. Thich Nhat Hanh’s words were instructive: “During the moment when someone is consulting, resolving, and dealing with whatever arises, a calm heart and selfcontrol are necessary.” Even so, in the rush of things I often sensed a lack of easeful presence when working oneonone with colleagues. When a coworker came to my office, I often had a vague feeling that something else was looming on the horizon. I felt a need to address the matter at hand with intelligent dis patch so we could both move on to other tasks, just like talking to someone at a party and being tempted to look over their shoulder to see if any one more important was in the room. This habit was broken when we got a new CEO. He would stop whatever he was absorbed in when I came to the door, invite me in, and sit for as long as I needed to talk through the matters at hand. More importantly, his relaxed demeanor gave the impression that nothing was more urgent than discussing my concern. Even when rejecting a proposal, he did so with a full sense of presence and no hint of a dismissive attitude. This helped me to question a deeply ingrained idea in our cul ture, the notion that my train of thought will be irretrievably broken if interrupted. Ego alert! How important are my treasured ideas to the rumblings of the universe? And how hard is it, really, to get back into the flow of paperwork if I put it aside to talk to a real human being? I was surprised to find that it wasn’t all that difficult. You just do it. The idea of my train of thought was just another habituated mental shackle to avoid acknowledging that I didn’t want to be disturbed. With right effort I could simply stop the train and reboard it after talking to a colleague. As it turned out, when I set the work before me aside, I was happy to be released from it for a while, and I welcomed my colleagues wholeheart edly. I felt better, and the good feeling resonated with them. I moved from a sense of forbearance during these visits to feelings of freedom and lov ingkindness. And I was reminded of something I already knew. I liked these people, and I hadn’t been fully participating in the pleasure of their company. I could rest in the insight of Taizan Maezumi Roshi: “Deadline after deadline? There is no deadline! Each moment is a beginning as well as an end, not a goal or deadline set up by someone else.” from The mindfulness Bell, winter/spring 2007. Tudong can be a purification of anxiety and of the subtle conceit of independence that we can still carry after years of monastic life. We can take the requisites for granted, but tudong blows that piece of self away. The result is greater humility and also greater faith. And by manifesting these principles, one provides a teaching for others: one of the nov ices at Cittaviveka first took up the training as a result of meeting two nuns on tudong in Wales. With tudong there is also the practice with hard ship, whether that means days of walking in heavy rain and blistered feet or hours of grinding slowly up a mountain. No matter whom you’re with, you’re on your own with your mind’s relationship to the body and its pain. And this means another skillful surrender, the surrender to bodily life. It’s something that we can avoid for years with our soft chairs and central heating – until disease or death comes to wake us up. “Best to prepare yourself,” say the wise. A tudong often enables one to witness the resistances of the mind to discomfort, fatigue, pain, and mindfully walk through them. The simplicity of the practice means coming back into the body again and again. This appar ently uncomfortable place is also a place that doesn’t agonize over how much longer this is going to take, fantasize over where else it could be, or have an opinion about oneself or others. It just walks. And eventually the mind surrenders and just walks with it. It is in this very body, rather than in the village in the distance or in the sleeping bag at the end of the day, where the mind leaves its suffering behind. A key truth comes home, one that is well worth traveling for: mindfully opening to suffering, a step at a time, is the way to accom plish peace. Walking, standing, sitting, or reclin ing, to live in that truth is a practitioner’s path. from the foresT sangha newsleTTer, JAnuArY 2007. ego alert! Worried about being interrupted by colleagues at work? Chances are the real problem is ego, says Charles Suhor. After many years, he discovered how easy and rewarding it is to put aside the paperwork and make time for colleagues. It wasn’t until late in my career that I saw connec tions between my spiritual practice, deadlines, and deep listening to colleagues and friends. It wasn’t until retirement that I linked all of those things to what’s commonly called “hanging out.” My job was a traffic jam of timetables for meet ings, reports, and publications. There was always something overdue and a dozen things that seemed unlikely to be completed on schedule. I was deputy director of the National Council of Teachers of English, a group with 70,000 members and a staff of about eighty. Part of my work was absorbing Buddhadharma invites Your suBmissions to first thoughts. pleAse send to: editor@theBuddhAdhArmA.com kATHERINESTREETER