From the Milk to the Meat

The Buddha provided many ethical guidelines in his teachings about how to navigate this realm; how to conduct ourselves in such a way that we move in the direction of awakening and alignment with the natural way of things.

One way to view this is that we are on a quest of sorts, to develop ourselves spiritually and to wake up from the illusion of a separate self. We’ve done our rebellion and we’ve come back towards a spiritual tradition and are willing to look for guidance from someone who’s gone before. The Buddha went this way before, and left a map for others to follow. The Buddha and many, many, others who came after him woke up. They saw through the ego and became enlightened. We need to check for ourselves, but if we choose to follow this path, we need to develop confidence in these practices and engage in the work of transforming our lives. We do that by taking the first step, or, whatever for us is the next step. As we do that, as we practice consistently, our lives begin to give us more positive feedback. We see that this way makes sense, these practices work, and then we can commit ourselves to it more whole-heartedly.

One of the first teachers that I did in-depth Buddhist study with was Fried Smith. He worked out of his home, with kids running around and doing what families do. He had Multiple Sclerosis and had enough wisdom to keep me coming back almost weekly for five years. Fred had certain phrases like “find out that work works”, “negotiate it (your personal material) to voidness” and “it’s important to develop confidence in the teachings”. These sayings all grew on me over time, but the last one took the longest to sink in. What was this “confidence” that he spoke of? It wasn’t the definition of confidence that I was used to. It was the confidence that could only come from experience, from applying the teachings over time, and knowing, not just in your head but in your gut, that this stuff worked. Misery could be transformed into happiness, delusion could be “negotiated to voidness”, to wisdom, to awakening.

The trick is in sticking with it. You’ve got to have some inspiration and support to keep practicing and get into the meat of the teachings. The Buddhist teachings and practices have only really been available to the West for the past 50 years or so, and many are even more recent. They are not naturally available to the western psyche, like the Christian teachings. These teachings are not about bringing more information to the mind, they are about transforming the mind itself, so a different kind of approach is needed. Many of the teachings can’t be approached or understood unless there is also a meditation practice, or some practice of calming and focusing the mind. That’s just the truth of the situation. If you really want to transform your life, you’ve got to get dirty, and perhaps a little wet.

Normally it’s the pain of our lives that motivates us to find a better way to live. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes we have to beat our heads against the wall for years before we realize that a certain behavior or belief is not getting us where we want to go. It may show us that we need to try something else. That’s usually the best we can get out of old, dysfunctional patterns. But that realization that “this is not working” can be the opening required for spirit, for wisdom, to come in and show you something else. It may come from the sheer exhaustion of martyrdom, or from picking up a book, or hearing something from a friend or even in a movie or a song. That can be the opening that can lead you to the next level of being in your life. If you want to pursue that in a more consistent and directed way, then you might consider finding a teacher, taking a class, or taking on a practice that can have the impact of supporting the ongoing transformation of your life.

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 at 3:50 pm and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


2 Responses to “From the Milk to the Meat”

  1. Durga Says:

    “If you really want to transform your life, you’ve got to get dirty, and perhaps a little wet.”

    I love this statement. As Adyashanti says “Where the spiritual rubber hits the road.” There’s so much of value that can happen on the cushion in meditation, but it’s the meditation when we’re out and about and speaking and interacting that in many ways is more challenging. And often more painful, because we can feel like we’re failing when the same patterns hit us in the face over and over again.

    Thanks, Tom.

  2. Tom Fuller Says:

    Thanks Durga,
    I finally read your comment.
    love you!

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