To Be Bothered

What does it mean to live within, and how do we approach this in the midst of the movement of life? What is taking place in me now within this vessel? Are there tensions in my body? What is the taste of my emotional state right now? How about the thoughts that are passing through? I need to be in question about this continually as a way of practice. A capacity that need to be cultivated that can separate from all of my functions, be it thought, emotions, or bodily tensions to see them more objectively. This is extremely difficult because for one reason, I forget. I am swept away by the movement of life and secondly, I see that I normally live in a continual state of reaction. Because all of my energy is being taken to external things, there is no room for this quiet inner contemplation. I have no emotional energy invested in it, so I remain indifferent to the possibility of a radically different sense of being alive, of another order of things.  How do I resist being passively pulled out by all of these forces? Can I allow this body to be inhabited by a presence that is stronger than all of that?

Ray Bradbury once wrote: “We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?” I think he addresses an extremely important question here. I see that I am not bothered enough, for is often in unusual circumstances or when things don’t go according to my expectations that an opportunity can present itself. For a moment there is an interruption in my usual routines and habits. Suffering can provide a shock that can awaken us to something much larger and unknown than the small cramped world of “I, me, and mine.” But what is required of me?

I need to stand in front of myself as I am, without trying to escape it. I need to mobilize the whole of myself, not just my head a-thinking in me. It is only through acceptance and this silent watchfulness that something can be transformed.  In those moments, I can be in question. I can awaken to the fact that I am not just my habits and conditioning. Perhaps a feeling of gratitude can be awakened and I can have a sense of what it really means to be alive.

Pictured: A Buddhist priest prays for the souls of the victims still not found in the rubble, Yamada, Japan from The New York Times: Photo of the Day.


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

April 12, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Luke, I read this several days ago and intended to come back to it to provide a proper response. I do love when you offer your own practice here. This post in particular deserved several reads…What’s interesting to me is that this idea of being bothered, of providing conditions that can help break us out of our habitual movements of mind–I couldn’t agree more here, but I wonder about cause and effect. Because often, it’s utter beauty that does this too, that wakes us up. It may be pleasurable, it may be painful, it may be a storm of emotion or thought, but there is this clarity there…this awareness of awareness, and the purity of that observation in and of itself IS freedom. Is it suffering itself that urges us? Is it a particular temperament that needs suffering to urge us? Or is it just our true nature that perceives things as they really are, and if we are attending to it, perhaps because it hurts so bad we have no other choice, then we see? In moments of pure beauty it suddenly becomes clear. What are the things we can intentionally do to make these moments more frequent, more sustainable? Perhaps alluding to the sudden/gradual debate in Buddhism? Questions upon questions. Thanks for the stimulating ideas. And do please keep sharing in this way!

Luke Stormsreply
April 12, 2011 at 3:24 pm
– In reply to: sharanam

Hello Katherine,

You raise some stimulating questions here and ones that are close to my own search. I agree with you that beauty can also awaken us, not just suffering. But this awakening, or coming to oneself, presence or whatever term best describes it for you is, as you know, a mysterious process. I don’t really know what it is. By that I mean, I cannot just do it. It’s like relaxation; no matter how hard I try, I can’t just relax by telling myself to relax.

So I engage in meditation, retreats and what have you to prepare for these moments. The purpose of meditation, for me anyway, is in order to develop a capacity of attention that can stay with what is taking place in the moment. I see that most of the time I am caught only in my reactions. I live in a world of history and conditioning. I am nowhere, probably just circling the wayoutofsphere.

But through sitting, another dimension can come into view. Another order can appear where I observe all of these functions taking place in me: thoughts, emotions, tension, etc without judgment and without any interference. Through this “awaring” or “seeing” I notice that I cannot call any of these thoughts or emotions mine. I also see the tremendous forces at work that are there to continually pull me out of myself, and up to the surface. So there is a confrontation. I learn slowly to give myself to presence and it grows stronger. The silence deepens. There is a possibility of a deep relaxation where a new center of gravity can appear like a counter weight that is strong and can remain within and not be pulled out into the ten thousand things.

When the sitting is over, the real effort begins. How do I maintain a contact with this inner life while I go about my day? It’s like trying to carry a bowl that is filled to the brim with water without spilling it. It is so difficult. I see my poverty in the face of it, and yet I need the challenge. In fact, I welcome it. Maybe I keep the thread, or maybe the forces of life are far too strong, but I study myself and I keep trying, and trying, and trying to come back. I continually ask: “How am I now? What is taking place in me now? I feel that with practice, this inner life grows stronger and practice inevitably begins to bleed into your life until I suspect there in no separation from life and practice. Your breath is practice. I know I sound like I may be of the “gradual” camp, and I suppose I am. But I will not rule out sudden enlightenments and glimpses of presence. It’s just that I know from experience that it isn’t permanent. Eventually, like some kind of cosmic law, one slides down the ladder and hits all the rungs on the way down.

Having written this much, I realize that I have left out one of the most important points, and that is the need to work with others as I’m sure you can testify to. What a striking difference it is to meditate with others as opposed to being by oneself.

Thanks you for this opportunity for exchange. It is really helpful to try to organize your thoughts and questioning.

Most warm regards,


April 12, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Dear Luke,

Thank you for the most thoughtful reply. It could indeed be its very own post. Well, if I had to choose, I would be of the gradual camp too…but the wonderful thing about being of a nondual persuasion, is that I don’t have to I agree that intentional relaxation is not relaxation at all, and it is this effortless effort that is at the crux of the very mystery. Here’s something to chew on from Vimala:

As long as there is an effort there is the center making an effort. We are talking about relaxation. Relaxation is effortlessness, the sacred state of voluntary effortlessness. No effort in any direction whatsoever. As long as there is consciousness of a direction to go to, and a motivation to move from what is, there can’t be relaxation.

Effort, effort and then…no effort? And we are back to the dialogue I dropped the ball on earlier I see…How beautiful, yes, is it not about complete and utter integration of practice and life? Spiritual friends are indeed the whole of it. Love and gratitude.


Luke Stormsreply
April 13, 2011 at 9:51 am
– In reply to: sharanam

Yes, that is it! The crux of the matter. The great effortless effort of which I know nothing. I have heard these “efforts” we make in practice once described as “necessary impossibilities.” We must try, but in the end it isn’t the one who is “trying” that will take you there.

Thank you, Katherine.

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