When your own parents do not offer you love and support, how do you come to a place of self-acceptance? If you go to school, bloody from being beaten, isn't reasonable to expect someone/anyone to ask if you are OK? And when they do not, you might just begin to wonder if there is something wrong with you. And aversion towards yourself takes root.
Venerable De Hong knows about trauma. He left Vietnam on a boat. Overcrowded with others escaping a harsh regime, they sat in place for many days – with no food and maybe a tiny amount of water. Then at 18, he found himself in the United States, with $10, responsibility for his younger brother, unable to speak the language, trying to finish high school while working all night to pay for food and rent. Before this, Venerable De withstood tremendous amounts of verbal and physical abuse from his father. In between physical attacks, he was told that he was nothing and that was not worthy of an education, it is no wonder that Venerable De developed an aversion to his own appearance. On the list of ACE or adverse childhood experiences, Venerable De has lived through almost all of them. Spoiler alert, after going through his own suffering, he came through the other side. And now he uses his experiences and his story to help others.
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Breaking Down Attachment: Exploring Greed and Liberating the Mind with Dave Smith
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43:52Margaret Meloni has a conversation with Dave Smith of Dave Smith Dharma (davesmithdharma.com) about the common misunderstanding that attachment is the same as non-attachment or detachment when it is actually closer to the Pali word "loba", which translates to "greed". Dave explains how greed is unethical and unskillful and can lead to sacrificing one's own values and morals to acquire something, leading to suffering. The conversation also touches on the "three fires" of greed, hatred, and confusion, which the Buddha discussed and which do not lead to contentment. Dave explains that Upadana, which means to cling and grasp, also means to fuel, and that one must stop putting fuel on the fires of greed, hatred, and confusion in order to be liberated. The speakers explore ways to counteract greed, such as practicing generosity Dave wisely encourages listeners to question the teachings and language they hear and to trust that if something doesn't feel right, there may be another way. Dharma practice is something that is available to everyone, regardless of comfort level or age, and can be cultivated in everyday life.
Journaling the Difficulties, Fears, and Regrets of Facing Death
14:53Margaret reflects on the fear of death and the challenges that may arise during the dying process. She shares her personal experience of losing loved ones and the resilience gained from Buddha's teachings and her Buddhist practice. Once again we are reminded of the concept of letting go and accepting death as a gift, emphasizing the importance of preparing for death at both the spiritual and mundane level. Margaret contemplates her own fears around dying, including concerns for the well-being of her loved ones and unfinished tasks. She decides that meditating on potential key issues will help her identify other underlying fears and areas where she has resistance to letting go. The episode ends with a message of hope, reminding listeners that even after losing loved ones, it is possible to recreate your life and find new relationships and connections. Overall, this episode provides a thoughtful and reflective take on the fear of death and the process of preparing for it. Margaret offers a relatable perspective, and her message of resilience and hope serves as a comforting reminder for those grappling with loss and mortality.
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Finding Peace Through Letting Go: Navigating the Journey of Life and Death
15:50In this episode, Margaret delves into the concept of leaving things unfinished. We all do it, whether it's a to-do list or a long-term goal that we never quite achieved. But what about the ultimate unfinished task: death? We can find peace in the face of our own mortality by letting go of our attachments and being ready to leave at any time. Margaret shares a touching story of a family friend who found closure before passing away. His wife realized he was having a hard time letting go of life, so she arranged for his missing siblings to say their goodbyes over the phone. Miraculously, they all got through on the first try, and he passed away peacefully just a few minutes later. When possible, provide a peaceful environment for your loved ones who are dying, by supporting them on their journey and allowing them the freedom to let go. And live well, by following the Noble Eightfold path and being aware of what you are carrying around. By resolving your own issues, you can find peace and let go of your attachments, leaving you with less clinging, resistance, and aversion when it's time to pass on.
Embracing Death as a Gift: Overcoming Aversion and Supporting the Dying with Oliva Bareham
31:01In this episode, Margaret interviews Olivia Bareham, founder of Sacred Crossings in Southern California, who helps individuals through the dying journey. Olivia has been supporting people through the dying journey for the last 20 years and for the last 15, she has been teaching conscious dying and death doula and death midwifery work. Olivia created Sacred Crossings Funeral Home (Sacredcrossings.com), which offers alternative funeral services such as home funerals, green burials, and full-body deep-sea burials, with the aim of helping people to care for their loved ones after death so that their own experience of death is more gentle and easier to accept. Olivia shares her personal experience of caring for her mother after she took her last breath and how it transformed her profoundly. She believes that when we hold death in our arms, it informs our brain in a way that no other deed can do. Olivia feels that we should all have the opportunity to be up close to death so that we can be transformed like that. However, there is resistance to being with the dead, which is just a learned behavior and belief. Olivia breaks that facade by showing images and inviting people to have their own personal experience of something that is completely contrary to what they've up until now believed and thought about and imagined. Olivia teaches a course called "Enter the Grave," which is about literally embracing the grave as a potent place of transformation. It's not unlike the womb; the tomb, the grave is a fertile ground for growth, creativity, and change. In the course, Olivia helps individuals examine all that they are afraid of, all that they are clinging to, anything that is preventing them from fully allowing themselves to be in the grave of their life as they're living it. Olivia believes that even if somebody doesn't have an intention of being with the dying, it's still a valuable training and philosophy to consider. Finally, Olivia discusses the most common challenges, issues, and things that people cling to on their way to getting this comfort level. She believes that clinging is everywhere, and we just don't notice it. We can cling to ideas and beliefs, an identity, opinions, and sensual pleasures. When we notice that we're attached to them, they have control over us, and we're not really free to just be in a place of constant surrender and acceptance and receiving. Olivia believes that "Enter the Grave" is an opportunity to look with a microscope at our beliefs, opinions, and ideas, and to relax our grip on them, be open to other beliefs, and be in a constant state of flow and change. Contact Olive at [email protected]
Journaling and Thinking About the Intersection of Hope, Realism, and Attachment
14:00In this episode of the podcast, Margaret reflects on the concept of hope and clinging in situations where someone is sick, injured, or dying. She shares a personal anecdote of a friend's children contracting chicken pox and the introduction of a vaccine as an example of hope versus realism. Margaret then raises questions about the line between hope and clinging in scenarios where someone strives for healing beyond what is expected or accepted. Margaret also shares a personal experience of her father's terminal lung cancer and the acceptance and preparation for his eventual passing. She reflects on the difference between acceptance and fatalism and the importance of not judging others' situations or reactions. Margaret remembers an expression used by Cayce Howe, who provided guidance and support while her husband was in hospice. "The living are dying and the dying are living," is discussed as a way to focus on the present moment and let go of attachment to desired outcomes. Margaret reminds us that it is not wrong to hope or accept expected outcomes, but clinging to desired outcomes can lead to suffering.
Embracing Non-Attachment: Why Taking Action and Making Plans Matter
12:55While some may believe that Buddhism is devoid of planning, it is a path toward a specific goal: the end of suffering. The Buddha actively decided to teach the cessation of suffering and shared a whole system of the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. However, he was not attached to the outcome of his teachings. He taught because some would understand and not convert a certain number of people. As practitioners, we also follow a path and seek to become free from suffering. We may plan for our spiritual growth through studying and meditating, but we must also be mindful of our attachment to expectations and outcomes. Non-attachment does not mean apathy but rather accepting the present moment without holding onto expectations of what should happen during meditation or in life. We can use the concept of clinging strategically, changing our diet of thoughts and developing inner qualities to make us stronger to face life's challenges. We should strive to follow the path intentionally, with the intention behind our plans being skillful and pure. Ultimately, it comes down to what should be done today, planting seeds without expectations but still taking action toward our goals.
Cayce Howe: Insights into Attachment and Compassion Fatigue
43:55In this episode of the Death Dhamma podcast, host Margaret Meloni, interviews Cayce Howe, a Dharma teacher and co-founder of Sustainable Caring. They discuss the topic of attachment, which is a key component of Buddhism and can lead to suffering if not managed properly. Cayce explains that the energy of compassion is endless, but when we become attached to a specific outcome, we may experience what is commonly known as compassion fatigue. However, Cayce argues that this fatigue is not caused by an exhaustion of compassion but rather by an attachment to a particular result. Cayce also discusses the importance of wisdom in managing attachment, particularly the wisdom of impermanence and interdependence. He emphasizes the need to focus on our efforts toward kindness and compassion without becoming attached to specific outcomes or results. This can lead to greater resilience in caring for ourselves and others. Margaret brings up the issue of systemic factors that can contribute to fatigue and exhaustion, particularly in the healthcare industry. Cayce acknowledges these challenges and emphasizes that while it is important to work towards changing these external factors, we can still work on managing our internal attachment and cultivating compassion in our daily lives. Overall, this episode offers valuable insights into the Buddhist concept of attachment and how it relates to our experiences of compassion and fatigue. It also highlights the importance of mindfulness and wisdom in managing attachment and finding resilience in challenging circumstances.
Letting Go of Constructed Selves: From Margaret’s Attachment Journal
17:40In this episode of the Death Dhamma podcast, Margaret Meloni explores the concept of attachment, clinging, and aversion. She asks listeners to consider how they define themselves and whether they will let go of certain constructed versions of themselves. She shares two personal experiences of letting go of past versions of herself, including one where she clung to her identity as a computer programmer when teaching project management. She was reminded by a student that what mattered was whether she was the right person to teach the subject matter, not her past credentials. Margaret also shares her experience of letting go of her identity as a wife and caregiver after her husband passed away. She reflects on how difficult it was to redefine herself without the context of her relationship with her husband. She notes that it takes time to rediscover oneself and to reflect on values, interests, and goals without the influence of someone who has passed away. Throughout the episode, Margaret emphasizes the impermanence of self and the importance of letting go of attachments to prevent suffering and dissatisfaction. She encourages listeners to reflect on what they are hanging onto and to let go of constructed selves that no longer serve them. The episode provides a thought-provoking reflection on attachment and the journey of self-discovery.
Exploring the Relationship Between Self and Suffering
11:52You can find lots of discussions in terms of self-versus no self and what the Buddha really taught and what the Buddha really meant. I am staying away from going into an in-depth discussion of these various interpretations. To share context, I speak to you as a Theravada Buddhist. And I draw on the teachings from the Pali Canon. I come from a place of working with teachings of these things are not self. As in the answer to this question: “And is it proper to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: ‘This is mine. This is me. This is what I am?” The answer is no, it is not proper to view that which is inconstant, stressful, and subject to change as self.
Mary Stancavage: A Story of Letting Go
30:41If you and I look at what makes us uncomfortable, that discomfort will show us where attachment lives. It could be things or ideas. Today with the help of Mary Stancavage we look at the should of self. As in I should be like this or that. Or if I am this way or that way, then people will like me. We cling to ideas of self, we cling to relationships because they are our identity. Because we are afraid of the alternative. Who am I if I am not this carefully constructed self that I have created and that I present to the world? And that can be really uncomfortable. And that means it is time to drop below this story, like dropping below the idea of being cool or different or fitting in, whatever it is that your self-image is doing for you. Ask yourself, "What is fueling that?" Somewhere beneath it all is the reason we are hanging on to this idea of who we are.