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Buddhadharma : Spring 2019
LARRY YANG 89 Is the point of practice to negate and deny our very tender, human experiences? Even if we are encouraged to “go through” them rather than go around them, the value is placed on the getting through, rather than on being in and with. What happens when we’re stuck in the quicksand of life’s circumstances with no foreseeable resolution? What if the limitations in our lives prevent us from seeing a path out of despair—whether existential (in the form of disillusionment), psy- chological (in the form of loss or depression), or sociocultural (in the form of racism, misogyny, heterosexism, transphobia, ableism, and other outgrowths of oppressive cultural unconsciousness that are certain to last well beyond any single human lifetime)? When we become aware of our disillusionment or disappoint- ment, our next impulse is often to try and fix whatever it is we think is broken so we don’t have to deal with our feelings of despair. But what if nothing is actually broken and yet the disappointment and hopelessness remain? The world is imperfect and flawed with the reality of the first noble truth. It is what it is, and often there is noth- ing we can do. No wonder we feel despair. If we don’t look deeply into these states of non-enlightenment, we deny the authentic reality arising in the moment. That contradic- tion can create a crisis of faith in the dharma itself. So how do we turn toward that despair, even immerse ourselves in it, as part of our spiritual practice? We must dig deep into our practice in order to navigate the extremes of despair and disillusionment. We must listen to what is underneath it all, to where freedom is calling from, by asking: Can I open to this? Can I turn toward this? Or in the inadequate lan- guage with which we must communicate, can I love this too? Can we incline toward the despair and imperfections of this life with the same diligence we give other objects of mindfulness? Can we prac- tice presence when life feels impossible?