The Wake Up Call for Lawyers

Finding Refuge in 2022

January 06, 2022 Judi Cohen Season 6 Episode 333
The Wake Up Call for Lawyers
Finding Refuge in 2022
Show Notes Transcript

Who knows what 2022 will bring? Today is the anniversary of the January 6th assault on the U.S. capital. Last year, who could have predicted that?

Sometimes I'm so sad or exhausted or afraid. I just want to take refuge. Do you ever feel that? There's just always so much going on.

But what if refuge is right here, right now? What if the Wizard was right, and all we have to remember to do, to get home - to find refuge - is close our eyes, tap our ruby slippers together, and be present?

Hi everyone, this is Judi Cohen and this is Wake Up Call 333, the first Wake Up Call of 2022. Happy New Year, and also, not so happy January 6th. I guess today’s anniversary of the assault on the U.S. capital will always be a marker. So, just marking that as well. I think it’s good to mark it. It’s good not to forget.

And it feels good, too, that the next chapter of the Dhammapada, which we’ve been studying, is Chapter 14 and is called “The Buddha.” 

Chapter 14 speaks to a powerful reminder of what are called in mindfulness the Three Jewels: Buddha, dharma, and sangha. Buddha, not an external person but the awakened parts of ourselves. The parts of ourselves that are not searching for something different but are here, right now, observing whatever comes our way, moment to moment. And when that thing is difficult, or very difficult, like January 6th, or the pandemic, or our own sorrows and fears, saying, this too. This sadness, this fear, this frustration. It’s part of being alive in this moment, in these times. And I’m here for it. And then “dharma,” the teachings we study. And then sangha, the communities we spend time in, where we’re intentionally trying to wake up.

My favorite two verses of Chapter 14, and maybe the gist of the Chapter, are:

People threatened by fear go to many refuges: to mountains, forests, parks, trees, and shrines. None of these is a secure refuge; none is a supreme refuge. Not by going to such a refuge is one released from all suffering.

But when someone going for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, sees, with right insight…the arising of suffering, the overcoming of suffering, and the…Path leading to the end of suffering, then this is the secure refuge; this is the supreme refuge. By going to such a refuge one is released from all suffering.

I love going to the mountains for refuge. I love the forest – I live at the edge of the forest. I love the parks and the trees. 

I also love going to shrines. I’ve been hoping to go to a shrine next week – to Spirit Rock, our wonderful meditation center here in Northern California. 

I go to take a deep breath of the mountain or sea air. I go to relax. And there is fear involved, too: I go when I need a break, when I’m off kilter, when I need rest and am concerned that if I don’t get it, I’ll burn out - or keep motoring on, and exhaust myself.  

And I have other refuges: the cookie jar. The occasional glass of wine. The hot tub. Place I go to feel better. 

Do you know what I mean? If you do – if you go to the mountains or forest or park for refuge, or if you go to a shrine you love, or if you break out the ice cream or that good bottle of scotch on occasion, you know. These are places of refuge. We go to feel better. We go not to feel worse.

And then we return. Maybe you’re even doing that this week, from some beautiful, physical refuge. Which is great – I hope you got to the mountains or the beach or the park, over the holidays. I hope you had some good cheer, whatever flavor that took. 

But if you did, or if you ever had, then you know: whether the return is easy or not easy, it’s a return. And sometimes that sense of refuge comes along, too, but not for long…or at least, not forever. 

Which is what Chapter 14 is saying: not by going to such a refuge is one released from all suffering. But, going for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, - the dharma being, the teachings of mindfulness, and the sangha, meaning, the communities where we get to practice mindfulness together, like this one -  so, going for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, we see, with right insight…suffering, the arising of suffering, the overcoming of suffering, and the Eightfold Path leading to the end of suffering…. This is the supreme refuge, [where] one is released from all suffering. 

Yesterday I got the news that a team member will be moving on, focus on their own practice. Which is of course something I want to wholeheartedly support. But it was also a hard thing to hear, with many consequences. 

But as I was listening to the news from this team member, I had the urge to find refuge – elsewhere. Because so much arose: emotions, swirling through. Thoughts, coming up. And this urge was initially an urge to find refuge somewhere else– to head out to Spirit Rock, or to walk into the forest, or to go get a cookie, or to pour a glass of wine last night. 

But in fact there was nowhere to go. Because there never is, is there? So I just tried to stay with all those thoughts. All those feelings. All that discomfort. 

And in fact, not just to stay with it but to put out my hands and open to it – not to act – and not to seek refuge from it – but to seek refuge in it. In the discomfort. In the difficulty. In the Buddha inside, if you will.  

When my daughter was three we were at a big, fancy, dinner for my grandmother’s 80th birthday. Everyone was dressed up, including Em, in her little party dress and pink Mary Janes. Everything was great and then a split second later she said, Mommy, I don’t feel well, and without any thought process kicking in, I put out my hands and – apologies for the yucky image – she threw up into them. And if you’re a parent (and also a granddaughter not wanting to spoil your grandma’s birthday), you probably would have done the same. 

And yesterday there it was again – that perfect opportunity to put out my hands. To take refuge in the present moment and all of it’s discomfort and frustration – in my wobbly old desk chair and my gray leggings and blue sweatshirt with a plate already too full. To take refuge, just like Chapter 14 invites us all to do. To be present, to be the buddha in that moment, and to just very simply (not easily, but simply) turn towards whatever is happening, open our hearts, open our hands, and say, yes, this, too. 

Let’s sit.