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Self-esteem and Emptiness (13 min.)

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"Self-esteem and Emptiness"
Transcript of a talk delivered by Br. ChiSing
Breath of Life (Interfaith Mindfulness Fellowship)
June 24, 2007 - Dallas, Texas

Our practice is to relax into and remember who we really are. Just that. What makes it difficult sometimes to relax into that and remember that is unique in everyone's life. Both individually and collectively as a culture. I think that Western culture tends to have a lot of difficulties around the area of self-esteem. And also around the area of having enough space. Because we are so driven to do more, have more, attain more. Our schedules are just crammed and we no longer have a lot of space. And part of that driveness I think, is also connected to the self-esteem issue of… We don't feel adequate. Because we have forgotten who we really are. Because if we really realize who we are, there is enough. Because we are the light of the universe. We are vast.

We can even say we are empty. That word empty is meant to… to help us break free of all of the different limitations and words and concepts. And so we use the word empty. It doesn't mean empty in the sense of feeling empty and lonely and inadequate. It means… there's no words to express that contain fully the vast reality that we are. So it's empty of all of our notions and words and concepts. So it means really fullness. We are the whole vast universe.

I know that when I grew up, I… I started out, I remember, as a child, very open, very fresh, very wide-eyed and excited about life. And positive. And over the years especially during my teen years and college years… I just… I noticed slowly things started to creep in and… heaviness and… feelings of not being what adequate or good enough or things like that.

And I remember coming out to myself dealing with my sexual orientation… and for you it might be other different issues. But I remember finally coming to a place of acceptance and sharing that with my college church group. And then being called by the pastor after they had an elders meeting. And calling all the college students that were part of the church. About forty of us showed up. And I thought they were going to try to talk about you know… How we deal with this and how do we take care of all the members and take care of me… support me. But instead they were going to make an example and excommunicate me that evening. So a lot of my friends were crying and I was in shock. And I was told this is what the Bible says and if you don't accept our rules and you need to leave this church and never come back. A feeling of numbness came over me and I… it was almost like… I didn't really know what to feel. But something inside of me surged forward. This just knowing who I am and knowing that who I am is ok. And more than ok. And that no matter what they're saying I knew what was right. Even though the majority are saying the opposite.

Bird of Paradise I think experiences like that in my life helped me to… to really dig deep into what is true… who am I. And of course in that instance I was just dealing with who am I in the sense how do I relate in certain ways with others in the world. But really, we have to let go of all those labels, all those identities, all of those things. Because who we are is not male or female, gay or straight, Buddhist or Baptist. I mean these are identities that we can take on and try to like bring in healthy ways of being in relation to those things in the world. But, ultimately we are not that, we are more than that. We are the vast sky of awareness. And no clouds can pull that or obscure that.

So our practice is to realize, remember, and relax into that. And that is the greatest source of self-esteem possible. It is no self-esteem. In the sense of… it is beyond any of these societal notions of what our self is. It is the source of greatest, just joy, and being-ness, and freedom, spaciousness. Because we know we are not confined or constricted by all of these expectations and labelings of the world. And when we practice coming back to who we are over and over and over again… Every morning when we sit in meditation… Every week as we gather together in mindfulness… Every month if we do a special day of mindfulness… Every season if we do a weekend retreat… Every year if we do a longer retreat. All of these cycles are just simply ways to help us not fully forget, and are just different ways to help us to awaken more and more to that which already always there: our true nature. And that brings and creates space around us, the kind of space that just radiates peacefulness, non-busyness, love, acceptance.

So true emptiness is not a feeling of sadness and lonliness. True emptiness is a spacious acceptance, joyful radiance. So that when people are around you, they feel that and they feel accepted. And they feel they can let go and relax. And they feel like it's ok to be who they really are. And they don't have to put up all these different masks. You know, in our society, we're so afraid of silence and so we want to like, chit chat about the first thing that comes to our mind and let the clouds take over. But in spaciousness, we don't need… it's not necessary. Someone can just sit next to you and feel and just enjoy that silently. Like the way your cat does, or dog.

So I will close my short talk, my spontaneous talk with something that I wrote this morning in honor of the first Sunday of Summer Solstice. Amitabha means infinite light and it's a symbolic Buddha symbolizing the infinite light that we all are. And Sukhavati: Sukha means happiness. Vati means place or land or dwelling or manifestion. So it's the pure land of great happiness, which is what a Buddha creates around him or herself. It is what we create around ourselves… this space of love and acceptance, of mindfulness, peace, freedom and wisdom, joy. That's what we are. And that's what we do.
Amitabha Buddha Namo Amitabha Buddhaya
June 24, 2007

A new beginning is dawning
in your life and in your world.
Old things are passing.
Every moment is new.
What used to work
no longer does.

It is time to open your heart
to the Great Change,
the Great Transformation
that is taking place.
Old habits,
old patterns of thinking
are being released now.

Open your mind,
open your heart,
open your body —
open your whole being
to the Light that is now
dawning afresh and anew.

Dedicate every day to the Light.
Begin every day in the Light.
Live every day in the Light.
Close every day in the Light.
Sit in silent meditation every day
in the Light with every breath:

"Amitabha,
Infinite Light"
(Buddha).

"Sukhavati,
Happiness Manifesting"
(Pure Land).

You yourself are the Infinite Light.
Your work here is only to manifest
True Happiness for all beings.
Let your Light shine.
Don't hide it.

Let your Light express
as love,
as clarity,
as determination —
as the Truth, Goodness and Beauty
that you already and always are.

You don't have to struggle so much
to feel this love,
to intuit guidance.
Simply dedicate everything to the Light.
Entrust yourself completely to the Light.
And rest therein.

The Light does all the work.
The Light is love.
The Light is wisdom.
The Light is all there really is.
It is your True Nature.

And what the Light is, the Light does:
The Light creates true happiness and joy and freedom.
Amitabha creates Sukhavati.
The Infinite Light creates Happiness Manifest.
The Buddhas create Pure Lands.

The Buddha is who you are.
The Pure Land is what you do:
Amitabha / Sukhavati.
Being / Doing.
Identity / Function.

And so, perhaps you might like to practice
this in your sitting and walking meditations:
Sit with "Amit-abha" (Infinite / Light)
as your mantra with every breath.
Walk with "Sukha-vati" (Happiness / Manifesting)
as your mantra with every step.

Sit and walk as
the Infinite Light of the Buddha
creating a Pure Land of Great Happiness
with every breath and every step
for all beings.

You can do it.
You can do it,
because
You Are That!

NAMO AMITABHA BUDDHAYA

~ Br. ChiSing

Transcribed by Hal German

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