文／ 美國佛心寺禪修班學員 Mark CunninghamI first started reading and observing Buddhist principles and material a couple of years ago. This past fall I started attending "Beginning Meditation Classes" at Buddha Mind Monastery in Oklahoma. I wanted to find a teacher who could teach me better ways to practice and help to guide me and share their experience with me as tried to deepen my efforts of practicing the principles that I had read about.
The more that I read and, more importantly, the more that I tried to "apply" what I read to my life, the more I felt it was becoming a "truthful way of life" for me. Not only did it enhance some of the spiritual practices and principles that I was already making a part of my life, it offered a "hope" for me in crossing through some areas of my life that are still causing me to suffer, and maybe more importantly than just me, they are areas of my life that also have caused suffering for others that are dear to me too.
While I am far from "enlightened" I know in my heart of hearts that I am on this path and that while I am just a beginner, I know that there is some power or pull "within" that keeps moving me in a direction of growth in a positive way.
No doubt, the losses and failures in my life have been the biggest catalyst for lasting beneficial change in my life. To date, one of the biggest losses or troubles that I have ever had to face was alcoholism; many of the principles that I was taught in rebuilding my life and overcoming alcoholism are central to the Noble Eightfold Path. Self-examination (Right Mindfulness and Right Understanding), amending relationships (Right Action), and helping others are all principles that I try to practice in my life.
Where does tolerance fit in? Buddhism has helped me to be able to better practice tolerance for others. My intolerance for others and not allowing them the dignity of growing as they are supposed to grow in their own time is a guarantee for a disaster in my relationship with others. Meditation and contemplation in how to better understand them have helped me to have a more kind and tolerant view towards others.
Sometimes the best that I can do is to "step back" from the moment until a later time when I have a chance to let the "emotions of the moment" subside and clearer thinking prevail. Now those are nice ways of saying it and on paper it sure looks a lot better than how it might really happen in real life. Some days life just seems to "come at you", and all the spiritual tools in the world can't stop that. BUT, they do give me some assistance in how to respond.
I have always been fond of the story of the boy that was trying to learn to play the guitar. When you first are learning to play the guitar putting your fingers in the right spots for the chords is very awkward, sometimes uncomfortable. You strum the strings and a noise that is similar to the sound that the chord should make comes out of the guitar. The more you strum, the better the sound becomes. That is just one chord. Eventually the teacher has you move from one chord to another, it doesn't flow anything like a beautiful song for some time as you practice. At first it isn't always a pretty sound, but in time with more practice eventually you become able to make that "joyful sound" that you had hoped to be able to make one day.
That to me is how the spiritual life seems to work too. I will be able to play a beautiful melody in my life.