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Buddhadharma : Spring 2019
88 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY occurring in our larger culture. We don’t live in an enlightened world—have you noticed? As a dharma teacher, I was trained to teach the insights and kindnesses that I have felt. However, these days I feel propelled to teach from where I am—to be real and authentic in the moment, in the midst of places where I do not have answers, and from the limitations of my own flaws. Beyond an occasional mention of the five hindrances, which are numerically contained and therefore perhaps conceptually manage- able, acknowledgement of the opposite of freedom and awakening is largely absent in many dharma teachings. In more than thirty years of Buddhist practice, I have rarely encountered any discussion about what happens when enlightenment doesn’t happen—really doesn’t happen. Or about what occurs in that potential crisis of faith, that edge of practice, when awakening is no longer a sufficient motiva- tion for practice. Vedana practice (the second foundation of mindfulness) teaches that each moment of our lives is experienced as pleasant, unpleas- ant, or neutral; the unconscious mind tends to lean toward pleasant experiences and push away the unpleasant ones. And this happens even in our practice of awakening. We do not like to turn to the unpleasant reality of not awakening, so we often push it away and hide our imperfections behind a facade of serenity. Dharma teachers aren’t immune to this. A close friend was the primary caregiver for a family member who was struggling with a debilitating illness. They were as close as two human beings could be, and when that family member finally died, my friend’s grief felt inconsolable and interminable. In response to the depth of that grief, a well-meaning dharma teacher told my friend, “Arhants do not need to grieve.” My friend was shocked at this remark, as was I. How can we ignore, deny, or repress the reality of our lives and still say we are living mindfully?