To begin on a bright note. The 50th Birthday celebrations continued on into this week. There weren't noisy street parties or loud ecstatic firework displays exploding across the Cambridge countryside. Just a rousing 50th Birthday Party at our flat with half a dozen of my friends coming round for a convivial buffet meal. David put in a lot of time and effort into planning the meal,and into making it happen, so a big thanks goes out to him. He made a delicious Carrot &Walnut Cake, and a Frittata and presented well a number of other nibbly delicacies we'd bought. I'd made a Potato Salad the night before and an unusual Super-food Salad on the day. It seemed to be appreciated by one and all. The whole evening was enjoyable and a lot of light-hearted fun. It was also a pleasure to entertain so many people in our flat, I feel so lucky to have such good and faithful friends.
After three or so years I'm finally going on retreat again at the end of July, and I'm really looking forward to it. I've been re-reading The Dhammapada in preparation, using two stylistically very different translations. The first is by Sangharkshita, the founder of the Western Buddhist Order I belong to. This 'Dhammapada – The way of truth' struck me as being some what remorseless in tone, as it drew out a clear, but hard line, and read as a little unsympathetic towards the plight of us ordinary conditioned mortals. The other was styled as a rendering - A Dhammapada for Contemplation - composed by Ajahn Munindo. The ' for contemplation' seems a curious appellation, as if other translations aren't, though I think he just meant it to be easily comprehensible. I found the content did indeed begin to colour and seep into my consciousness. Sangharkshita translation extensively uses phrases fixed ( in brackets ) which. I know as a style of translation, is meant to highlight interpretive or connecting insertions not found in the original, but I find it visually encumbered the flow of sentences, in the manner of a rather stubborn nitpicker constantly interjecting. Munindo, by comparison uses a very colourful flow of imaginative language, with a very urgent but contemporary feel. His approach to rendering allows much freer modes of expression and is consequently less stilted and literalistic. It remains approachable without softening the Buddha's uncompromising edge, which Sangharakshita ,I felt, rather heavy-handedly over emphasised.
Contemplating these at work proved beneficial, as I've been in the Cremation Room, burning dead people all week. I've now got my Intermediate Cremation Technicians Certificate sellotaped to the wall. So, strangely, I feel like I am a professional now, rather than a bumbling, anxious amateur. Qualifications aside, I still want to leave working for the Crematorium. I've even been considering a return to Windhorse, though with, at present, a contradictory mix of feelings. I'm really not sure whether that's a good idea or not. Yet, having some idea of where to move on too, a means of escape, seems important at the moment. Without it I sometimes feel imprisoned in a very dingy bardo ( an in-between state ) indeed.
The ramifications of last weeks acupuncture session role on, and continues to accentuate the sense of an inner 'divided self'. This week I've been feeling a wider mix of emotional responses, but increasingly I've been an uncharacteristically irritable, angry and resentful being. On Wednesday, the day after my Birthday Party, I recognised I actually felt quite morbidly depressed. This, as you can imagine was not helpful, particularly as it felt not to be in reaction to anything in particular. It appears to be darker aspects of my psyche arising from being contained in my back and emerging into consciousness with greater intensity. If this is what my back has been holding onto,its no wonder its been troublesome. The pain in my back has been noticeable easing since these mood shifts.
Now studying The Dhammapada is all very well, but by Friday I felt the urgent need to apply the Dharma more assiduously to my current situation. I began reflecting on my relationship with aversion and craving. I've been experiencing severe aversion to my work for a few months now. Considering what I'm doing I guess you could say that's understandable. But I've been aware its as much the result of my mental state and approach, and not solely the effects of this context. My craving is for a happier, more consistently pleasurable and content Vidyavajra, though a way of helping this arrive has not transpired as yet. This leaves me experiencing both aversion and craving endlessly in a sort of perpetual loop. Frustration, irritability, boredom, lack of engagement and depression follow in the wake of this self- enforced passivity. What I find I tend to do in such situations is apply more emotional leverage. I pile more pressure on myself in an attempt to shift the apparent stalemate. This makes things fraught, complex to resolve and emotionally over loaded, so I can often see no further than the imperative to make an immediate change. When nothing improves it gets very black in here I can tell you. I'm like one of those Arthurian knights who, not being able to remove Excalibur from being wedged in the stone, will return armed with a pneumatic drill, or if all else fails dynamite! When a door wont open you push harder don't you, or dismantle the door? So lets just say I think its all about me putting in more energy and effort. In reacting to perceived passiveness in relation to my own feelings and needs I go to the opposite extreme and becoming intolerantly aggressive towards them. I duff myself up good and proper, and then wonder why I've got depressed. Well, for the moment at least, I've decided to stop pushing. The immediate change has been to reduce tension and a freeing up of energy. For the time being at least I feel more relaxed about the present and the future. We'll see what follows from this change in tactics.