Smoke & Mirrors

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!…

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Rumi

How easy is it to mentally & physically checkout anytime discomfort arises? Anxiety; there’s a pill for that. Insecurity; point out other people’s flaws. Boredom; eat. Depression; alcohol. The list goes on. Something I picked up through Buddhism and Tara Brach, is this idea of “Inviting Mara to Tea.” There’s countless times whether it be in meditation or while driving into work where I’ll experience the feelings of sadness/fear/anxiety start to creep up out of the blue. First initial reaction as with most people; fuck this, I’m out. Through meditation though, alongside with “Inviting Mara to Tea”, I’ve adopted two principals to help combat the doom and gloom.

First things first; you have to start realizing that these are nothing more than random thoughts/emotions that will pass in the matter of minutes unless you cling to them. The average person has 50,000-70,000 thoughts a day. If you honestly think that you’re consciously responsible for thinking up each and every one of those thoughts, you’re out of your fucking mind.

You have to start becoming mindful enough throughout daily life to not let these emotions yank you around. You feel the emotion of anger before you become angry––if you’re paying close attention. Notice it for what it is, a passing emotion. But the very moment you cling onto that feeling of anger, you now just became angry versus being able to watch that feeling of anger without reacting to it, and then letting it pass on by.

Now for step number two and the whole idea behind this blog because I’ll tell you right now that step numero uno isn’t always going to work out. The next time you should feel discomfort creep up, stop trying to turn away from that feeling and face it head on. Feel that feeling of anxiety, anger, or depression to there fullest.

Ride out that wave and try to follow into the body just where exactly that feeling is coming from. Your chest? Down in the stomach? You’ll notice that one of two things will happen. You’ll either find that maybe there is an underlying reason that’s causing that feeling of discomfort, and if so, fine. Stop trying to hide from these emotions. There’s only so many times you can mask the symptoms before you realize you need to get to the root cause.

Or two, which is usually the case. You’ll realize that a lot of these feelings of discomfort are nothing more than smoke & mirrors once fully accepted.

Quick back story: I remember one time specifically while I was meditating and had a sudden rush of fear come up. I’m talking heavy duty, baby. I had this felt this sensation before and immediately shut mediation sessions down in the past. Too many times I backed away from it, but that time I let it take over completely. Accepting that in that moment, fear was what I was feeling. And it wasn’t until that moment, that once I fully accepted it, it disappeared as quickly as it came. Smoke and fucking mirrors I tell ya.

Anytime I experience feelings of discomfort now a days, I always see if there’s a legitimate reason on why I’m feeling that way. I go back and seeing if there’s anything I’m overlooking. If not, I try to accept it and feel it to the fullest and move on.

You’re never going to fully eradicate these feelings of discomfort. Make sure that’s completely understood. Until you investigate them fully though, they will always be there and you’ll never have gotten the chance to learn just how easy it is to cope with these feelings of discomfort.

Each time you try to disassociate with these feelings of discomfort, little by little you start to put a restrictive cast on the body––literally. You start to distance yourself from the most authentic version of who you really are. I’m sharing this solely on how much this practice of “Inviting Mara to Tea” has made a huge impact on my life and something I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while. Below I’m leaving Tara Brachs post about Inviting Mara to Tea…the actual real deal. Once again, thanks for reading.

“One of my favorite stories of the Buddha shows the power of a wakeful and friendly heart. The night before his enlightenment, the Buddha fought a great battle with the Demon God Mara, who attacked the then bodhisattva Siddhartha Guatama with everything he had: lust, greed, anger, doubt, etc. Having failed, Mara left in disarray on the morning of the Buddha’s enlightenment.

Yet, it seems Mara was only temporarily discouraged. Even after the Buddha had become deeply revered throughout India, Mara continued to make unexpected appearances. The Buddha’s loyal attendant, Ananda, always on the lookout for any harm that might come to his teacher, would report with dismay that the “Evil One” had again returned.

Instead of ignoring Mara or driving him away, the Buddha would calmly acknowledge his presence, saying, “I see you, Mara.”

He would then invite him for tea and serve him as an honored guest. Offering Mara a cushion so that he could sit comfortably, the Buddha would fill two earthen cups with tea, place them on the low table between them, and only then take his own seat. Mara would stay for a while and then go, but throughout the Buddha remained free and undisturbed.

When Mara visits us, in the form of troubling emotions or fearsome stories, we can say, “I see you, Mara,” and clearly recognize the reality of craving and fear that lives in each human heart. By accepting these experiences with the warmth of compassion, we can offer Mara tea rather than fearfully driving him away. Seeing what is true, we hold what is seen with kindness. We express such wakefulness of heart each time we recognize and embrace our hurts and fears.

Our habit of being a fair weather friend to ourselves—of pushing away or ignoring whatever darkness we can—is deeply entrenched. But just as a relationship with a good friend is marked by understanding and compassion, we can learn to bring these same qualities to our own inner life.

Pema Chödron says that through spiritual practice “We are learning to make friends with ourselves, our life, at the most profound level possible.” We befriend ourselves when, rather than resisting our experience, we open our hearts and willingly invite Mara to tea.”

From Tara Brachs’ Radical Acceptance (2003)

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