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Buddhadharma : Fall 2010
45 fall 2 01 0 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly Buddhism has let me down.” We start to believe in our minds and in the pathos of it all, and we solidify our sense of self around that. We may become destabilized, irrational, and moody. This loss of conviction in “becoming something” can get really difficult, even dangerous—people crack up. Hence it’s a crucial edge: we’re asked to find a sense of continuity and coherence that is valid but not based on the view of person- ality. This comes about through two interconnected processes: developing the relational sense and developing the sense of presence. Whereas the personality view is structured around what I can do, and what I’m going to do about this situation (a “head” sense), the relational sense tells me how I am in the presence of something “other.” This is a “heart” sense. Developing the “sense of presence” refers to the bodily, somatic sense that tells me where I am. The journey out of the stuck place involves cultivating a holistic awareness that encompasses the cognitive, decisive head sense, the empathic heart sense, and the sense of grounded bodily presence. When these three come together there’s an intelligent instrument for practice. In many cases, cultivating the sense of how I am and where I am have to be prioritized, as these normally receive less attention than the doing sense. Let’s take the relational sense first. As we all know, relationships can challenge who we think we are. So in that aspect of our lives, it’s important to maintain a sense of commitment to others (within, of course, ethical boundaries), or to a place, a routine, or a practice, even though these are often the targets that the stuck sense is throwing the dirt at. How good, enlightened, and state of the art do these have to be for you? After all, what’s a little dukkha between friends? It’s rare that we feel completely comfortable with each other. Most times there’s some awkwardness, anxiety, dissonance, hurt—something. But it’s important to aim for mutual trust and faith. The commitment is not about attachment or giv- ing 100 percent approval ratings to people or a system. It’s about contemplating how things are, and using the commitment to effect a leverage against our need to have things go “my way.” It takes us to the edge, the place to realize the limi- tations of conditions internally and externally—and relax out of our tightness. And it asks us to find new resources: to grow bigger than ourselves, bigger than our comfort, happiness, effectiveness, and know-it-all mind. Part of that growth is going to come through a more complete relational sense. This stuckness takes us to an edge. We want to hold on to some identity, or to a conviction in our practice tradition, but we can’t quite do it. It’s not a comfortable place, but it is a piece of the journey. It is supposed to happen. c.bhikkhu