Connection to Life, by Guy Armstrong:
The topic for the evening talk is “The Connection to Life.” We talked about a number of times about how we construct the sense of self through the process of grasping down over and over again restricts our consciousness, restricts our heart and mind, it narrows and limits our relationship to life, our view of life, and it makes that, in that narrowness, it makes it feel contracted and painful. And of course, this is also reflected in the way we understand ourselves, in the way we view ourselves, from the child’s very open, wide, consciousness, it becomes more and more narrow, and our sense of ourselves gets more and more limiting, and this is based on how we construct the view of ourselves, which the Buddha called ___, the view about personality or our being.
So, we’ve talked about different ways that we do this, and I want to emphasize one other tonight, which is how we consider ourselves to be different. So when we are defining ourselves and our characteristics, we will often say things like, you know, I’m too tall, or I’m too short, or I’m not intelligent enough, or else, I’m smarter than everybody else. Or, I’m not really good-looking enough, or else, I’m better than everybody… better-looking than everybody else and then we get inflated.
You know, we make discriminations based on our skin color, or our sexual orientation. Things like that. And in all these discriminations, we are, in a way, stepping ourselves into a corner by defining ourselves in these more narrow terms. And I think, in a way, this is the project of ___, is to make ourselves special, with these self-definitions. And in doing that, what we end up doing is separating ourselves out a little bit from the whole family of humanity. And so, it’s no wonder that we start feeling alone, isolated, cut-off or disconnected from the world, from life, from the human family, because our thoughts are running over and over, and over about what’s different about us.
Like, when was the last time you thought… Wow, just like everybody else, I’ve got two eyes and a nose. That’s fantastic. Well, this sounds trivial, but you know, we don’t reflect along those lines. We seldom reflect on what we share. We reflect on how we’re different. This carries over on the many walks of life. You know—politics, and couple, relationships, and work relationships, and so on. We so often focus on what’s different, and that’s what divides us and brings us apart.
But we can correct that imbalance and meditation opens us to that very naturally by reminding ourselves of the breath of life and what we share with that breath of life.
So this project of ___, which is about making ourselves special comes with a price tag, which is in an increasing sense of loneliness or disconnection. This is especially prevalent in the West today, because the family, the extended family has kind of broken down, the communities have kind of broken down so there’s normal ways of finding connection or not, so available for us, so, in the West, I think we are more isolated than most other cultures.
And researchers in the West are finding that the sense of isolation that we live with is one of the deepest sources of our suffering. Some Scientific researchers have discovered this. And consequently, that healing this kind of disconnection can bring a much more fulfilling sense of human life. So, part of the work of our meditation is to allow the heart to relax its grasping and relax that really narrow focus and open backup to this wider sense that we came in with, and how that wider sense unveils the sense of inner-connectedness to life.
So that’s the theme that I want to explore tonight. And in this opening and widening, there’s a lot of potential for greater ease, greater peace, greater harmony with life, because we’re part of the whole flow. We’re not stuck out on some isolated margin, but we really see how we’re part of the whole flow.
This undoing is accomplished through both the ___ and the ___. Both of them have important roles to play. So, I want to talk about how they both do that.
Through the ___, when the emphasis is taken off the contraction, the mind naturally opens, the heart kind of expands, and we sort of have room to look around. You know, a lot of people talk about the openings of ___ as creating more space. So it creates more space, the pressure is off the heart, and in that, we kind of relax and breathe, and we look around, and what do we see? Oh, there are a lot of other people here. So, it opens us up to that. And in fact, the foundations of mindfulness point to this directly. One is encourage to be mindful internally and externally, so we become more aware of our own body and or feelings. We’re also instructed to pay attention to the bodies and feelings of those around us. So this happens naturally as part of ___ practice.
And then through Meta, we start to tune in to other being’s state of happiness and unhappiness, and that becomes of concern to us. We start caring through Meta, compassion, and ___ about how other people are doing and feeling. And in that, our hearts get connected, we get put together with others, and we also see some other similarities that are beautiful.
So this kind of interconnectedness that exists, but we often overlook, is summarized in an image from an ancient school of Buddhism called ___ Buddhism that was popular in China. From the earliest, like 68 Centuries, somewhat happened until the present time, and the image that they talked about is called the ___. So in this image, ___ is a great god from the Hindu ___, and so the image is that ___ has created this universe. And the way it’s been created is of a net of rope that has strands going this way, horizontally, and strands going this way, vertically, and it’s like that all through three dimensions of the universe.
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