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Buddhadharma : Summer 2008
15 summer 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly hoT Boredom Rigdzin Shikpo, a student of the late Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, on the sometimes excruciating irritation and frustration of meditation and why we have to “hang in there.” Meditation, Trungpa Rinpoche once said, is “boring, bor- ing, boring!” This is not what we want to hear. That said, he did have more than one definition of boredom. Hot boredom is a feeling of tremendous irritation in meditation. We just want to get up and do something else. We feel annoyed with ourselves, with our instructor, with the meditation itself. And we wonder, “Why am I doing this when I could be enjoying myself?” Or more subtly, “Why am I meditating when I could be doing something more useful for others?” These feelings of sharpness, heat, irritation, and an- noyance often come from a sense of ambition: “This isn’t what I asked for! I didn’t join the army of meditators to be bored out of my mind! I really thought I’d get somewhere and it isn’t happening! I want to be up and away!” This is a crucial point, because we could be up and away. But if we abandon the practice, we’ll never get beyond our ambition. This is another example of the reasonable person mak- ing judgments about our meditation: “It’s not working, is it?” We need to realize this is just the mind up to its tricks again. The irritation, no matter how strong and compel- ling it seems, is simply another feeling that we have to turn toward in an open fashion. If we get sucked into hot boredom in the wrong way, it can drive us to abandon the meditation altogether. Maybe we should try out Sufism—and I am saying nothing against Sufism—or some other path? To relate to hot boredom properly, we have to “hang in there.” If we have to do this with gritted teeth, then teeth gritting becomes part of the meditation. How long does this hot boredom last? It all depends on you and your past connection with meditation. At some point the mind gives in. We stop fighting that hot boredom and irritability, all of which seems much worse than it actually is. Of course, we can only know this in retrospect. At the time, our mind boils and our body boils as well. Sitting still is painful. We move about in our seat, but moving is just as painful. Changing posture never seems to work; we feel irritable whatever posture we adopt. Our breath is uneven, our mind is unhappy, our emotions are prickly, and we can’t sit still. We seem totally unsuited to this meditation. At this point we just need to give in. There is no tech- nique for doing this. We give in by giving in. We allow ourselves to go through all that irritability and come out the other side. This could be called creative despair. With ordinary despair we just get depressed. Creative despair allows us to give up hot boredom. It’s as if the mind couldn’t be bothered being irritated any more. From never turn aWay: the Buddhist Path Beyond hoPe and fear, by rigDzin shiKpo. publisheD by WisDom publications, 2007 Thank you, Thank you Gratitude can transform the way you experience the world, explains Daido Loori Roshi. Expressing gratitude is trans- formative, just as transforma- tive as expressing complaint. Imagine an experiment involv- ing two people. One is asked to spend ten minutes each morning and evening express- ing gratitude (there is always something to be grateful for), while the other is asked to spend the same amount of time practicing complaining (there is, after all, always something to complain about). One of the subjects is saying things like, “I hate my job. I can’t stand this apartment. Why can’t I make enough money? My spouse doesn’t get along with me. That dog next door never stops barking and I just can’t stand this neighborhood.” The other is saying things like, “I’m really grateful for the opportunity to work; there are so many people these days who can’t even find a job. And I’m sure grateful for my health. What a gorgeous day; I really like this fall breeze.” They do this experi- ment for a year. Guaranteed, at the end of that year the person practicing complaining will have deeply reaffirmed all his negative “stuff” rather than having let it go, while the one practicing gratitude will be a very grateful person. What you practice is what you are; practice and the goal of practice are identical, cause and effect are one reality. Expressing gratitude can, indeed, change our way of seeing ourselves and the world. From Bringing the saCred to life: the daily PraCtiCe of Zen ritual, by John DaiDo loori. publisheD by shambhala publications, 2008 HADlEYHOOPER first thoughts