Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Huber Cure

Here’s a saying everyone who has been to the Monastery is familiar with: “We have many guidelines but only one rule: We will use everything in our experience to see how we cause ourselves to suffer so we can drop that and end suffering.” The often overlooked piece of that is “We will use everything....”

Egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate wants to be in charge of awareness practice, just as it wants to be in charge of every aspect of a human life. One of its most successful techniques for gaining and keeping that control is to highlight what works best for it while distracting a person from seeing what supports awakening and ending suffering. (Good to remember that “awakening and ending suffering” is synonymous with “getting out of the control of egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate.”)

With little if any conversation, the person is given to understand that there are some areas of life suitable for practicing awareness and others not in practice’s purview. Meditation is an acceptable place for practicing awareness—particularly acceptable as few people are allowed actually to do it. But “larger, more important” life content, such as work, money, children, and health, must be left in the domain of conditioned mind where they can be dealt with “thoughtfully and intelligently.” (As I’m fond of pointing out, there are very few people who will entrust really important matters in life to that old bungler God. “Oh, sure, I believe in God and will pray like crazy to get what I want, but I’m going to look to conditioned mind to make the big decisions.”)

With that arrangement in place, egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate can relax into assurance of a steady diet of human suffering. (Good to remember that “human suffering” is synonymous with “dissatisfaction.” The person looking to conditioned mind for direction is guaranteed to live in a world of “something wrong” and “not enough.”)

I want to set the stage with that perspective because, at first glance, it can be difficult to see just how “The Huber Cure" is awareness practice. But awareness practice it is, pure and simple. Here’s how.

For years I’ve been fine-tuning the awareness practice of “being sick.” Sick, like many other things in life, doesn’t seem to show up as often when we start scrutinizing it. Not a bad thing, certainly, but it does make it harder to practice with that particular content. Fortunately, just as many of the monks were recovering from various types of bugs, one found me. Let the games begin!

I will now go step-by-step through the process I hope each of you will follow should you “get sick.” After you have practiced in this way for a bit, please let me know what happened. Perhaps we can change lives throughout Sangha and beyond.

I woke up in the morning feeling fine. At about 2:00 p.m. I had the first inkling that I wasn’t feeling well. There was enough congestion in my sinuses that I thought I might be coming down with a cold. I DID NOT “WAIT TO SEE.” (Very important steps will be in caps.) I immediately took a hot shower, wrapped up in layers of clothes suitable for a tour in bed, and donned a hat. I got in bed, turned on the heating pad I keep for these situations, and prepared to sleep and sweat until the bug could no longer maintain lodgings in my person. This process usually takes about two days, as few as 24 hours is not uncommon, 3 days would not be unusual. That’s the physical part.

While resting I only rest. I don’t read, do email, talk to people, text, watch movies, etc. I remain as immobile as possible, and, yes, you may have guessed it, I do prone meditation. I have all sorts of attention-directing practices that I enjoy, and I rotate through them as I rest. ABOVE ALL, I DO NOT ENTERTAIN ANY VOICES. I don’t allow any conversation about work I should be doing, obligations I have, what a misery this is, why me, what did I do to bring this on. I welcome this as life’s gift to me—a complete time-out to give the body an (always) much-needed rest. I don’t take medications that will mask symptoms so I think I feel better than I do. If I can’t breathe I will take something to open a nasal passage, but that doesn’t alter the resting behavior.

Now, here’s the really, really difficult part. When a body is truly ill there’s very little ability or desire to do anything other than rest. THIS ENABLES THE SYSTEM TO USE EVERY BIT OF LIFE FORCE TO HEAL ITSELF. But when one starts to feel better, egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate slides in to siphon off any “extra” life force. For instance, if I felt a little better the voices might say, “You could do some email now; that wouldn’t be a big strain,” and conditioning would slip a foot in the door. Soon I’d realize I’m tired again, and if I’m not paying attention I won’t notice the healing energy is being skimmed off to feed egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate. Now that the voices have an entry, they can start in with their, “you should, what about, oh no, it’s all your fault” torture. Know what I mean?

So, how is this awareness practice “pure and simple”? This way of approaching this particular life content is how we learn to approach all content in life. Each situation that arises in a person’s life is there as an opportunity to make a choice for suffering or for freedom. The body knows how to heal itself, but it needs support and cooperation. If we keep taking energy from the body and giving it to egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate, the body will weaken and egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate will get stronger. If we give attention, awareness, energy, life force to what life is offering us in each moment—pure, undivided focus on WHAT IS, HERE/NOW—our experience will be freedom.

One other item for your consideration: Sugar and “upset” (read: negative voices) are the quickest way for egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate to “get” you. They each take a terrible toll on the immune system and leave a person vulnerable to any and all attacks.

Again, I’d love to hear your experience. Shall we take on children, money, and work as next conversations? By the way, that bug held on for just about 24 hours!

In gassho,

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Have You Seen Sangha Market?

I was writing an article for the inaugural edition of the Sangha newsletter, due out January 1st, when I received the email announcement from Living Compassion for the holiday gift-giving ideas with its focus on SanghaMarket. I opened it and was filled with, there’s no other word to describe it, pride. What a beautiful job people in this Sangha are doing!

Starting with the email class “Living Beyond Karma” and accelerating with each new “bump” in the world economy, I’ve been exploring ways to keep our practice viable, sustainable, and accessible. True, we need to keep our attention on the Monastery, the “mother ship,” because it’s such a tangible expression of practice in the world, but we also need to be sure practice reaches practitioners and that the path between the two is easily traversable. Some aspects of getting practice to practitioners has been made easier with technology, but the issue of getting practitioners to in-person practice opportunities, such as workshops and retreats, remains challenging.

For most of our Sangha the biggest obstacle to practicing in person is financial. There aren’t a lot of folks who can afford to attend as many retreats as they might wish to, usually because of the cost of the retreat, transportation to get to the retreat, or that much time off work. As the economic situation around the world remains unstable, the difficulties compound. What to do?

In “Living Beyond Karma” I offered people the challenge of paying $500.00 for the class with the understanding that during the course of the class they would learn how to generate that amount of money doing something they love that supports their practice. The vast majority of participants succeeded in meeting the challenge, and many exceeded it. Those who generated more than the cost of the class would use the extra income for something they wanted to do or have and could not otherwise have afforded.

It was those successes that inspired the vision for Sangha Market. Wouldn’t it be grand, we thought, to have a “market place” where Sangha could post items to sell, generating income for themselves and for the Zen Center/Living Compassion? Yes, that’s a grand idea! It was not, however, an idea without severe obstacles. But an intrepid group of Sangha stalwarts confronted and overcame each obstacle until, adjustment by adjustment, we had a working site. And, there, sadly, Sangha Market languished for many months as we focused attention on many necessary structural improvements in the organizations themselves.

Much effort is happening behind the scenes to make Keep It Simple more functional, the new communication/information strategies are coming together, the web site is getting ready for a major overhaul, and the time is right for Sangha Market to step into the spotlight and play a large role in helping Sangha and our beloved practice toward all the security we can manage in a reality of impermanence! When Nancy (long-time Sangha) stepped forward, offering to pick up this project and bring it to its full potential, we were all delighted.

So, this holiday season please consider becoming a buyer and a seller on Sangha Market. For help and support getting started, contact Nancy at

Give a gift to someone—remembering that you are someone—that will benefit us all. It’s fun, it’s supportive, and it’s definitely for a good cause…practice.

In gassho,