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The Moon Times

a monthly digest released around the full moon
sharing thematic teachings & affirmations
to cultivate psycho-spiritual awareness + wellness
(to be referenced & revisited as much as you need)

this Moon Times is on:

tea with mara (our demons)


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.

— The Guest House, Jellaludin Rumi
video from the PBS documentary, The Buddha - The Story of Siddhartha Gautama

Mara and the Buddha

Mara is a personification of temptation, self-preoccupation, greed, delusion, constant craving and clinging to things that we as humans have a tendency toward; always wanting and being tempted for more and more and more.

In the myth of the Buddha’s enlightenment, Buddha is confronted with various temptations by the demon Mara. Her final temptation to the Buddha was that of doubt, asking the Buddha, "who do you think you are to sit on the earth and become enlightened?!"

In response, the Buddha placed his hand on the ground and said, "the earth is my witness"; proving his work, virtue and equanimity to no one besides the goddess of the earth. And in this, the earth goddess let loose a flood that swept away the armies of Mara, allowing the Buddha to sit peacefully to enlightenment.

Weapons of love, compassion, equanimity, and appreciation gave the Buddha victory over Mara. Though Mara did not give up and continued to live with the Buddha throughout his life. The Buddha was constantly vigilant though, always meeting Mara with a loving awareness and disarmingly heart-felt responses. We can also practice responding wisely to our addictive patterns, our pains and darknesses of Mara.
Dearest reader,
 
Our demons are anything internal that takes our energy. It could be fears, doubts, depressions, conflicts, pains. Mara could look like fears of not having enough money or community, doubts of not being smart, capable or worthy enough, unexplained depressions that loom over us like shadows, conflicts in relationship, chronic pains, uncontrollable temptations for substances/certain behaviors like sex or shopping, or inner narratives that can make us feel powerless.

We all have demons. No matter how demonless someone seems, being human inherently comes with darkness, and lightness and the spectrum in between. The story goes that even the Buddha had Mara visiting well after he was enlightened.

Depression has a been a demon that's interwoven itself in my life since I was a teenager. It would often occupy my days with sullen haziness, a heavy heart and a desire to assume fetal position in what feels like the safest place in the world, my bed.

As the years have passed and the depression demon comes to visit, I've learned a couple things: it comes as a teacher, an alarm and an indication to me that something needs to change in my life, either my perspective on something, what I'm investing my time and energy into, or what I'm identifying with. Mara came in the form of high cannabis temptation when it was time to leave a job that didn't fulfill my purpose; Mara came in the form of deep and prolonged sadness when I was not engaging in intimate relationships that actually mattered to me.

Another time the depression demon comes is when I'm venturing into brand new territory that I (and even my living and passed ancestors) have never been in; times when I'm undergoing a challenging rite of passage. Mara manifested as intense and anxious imposter syndrome when I went to grad school, and even when I entered and engage in the healthiest and most long-term partnership in my life. Imposter syndrome is a familiar face of the depression demon.

Facing MARA is a rite of passage; it was for the Buddha to attain enlightenment, and it is for us to grow and expand beyond generations past.

When Mara in the form of depression, even anxiety, comes up, the RAIN meditation is one of the most soothing medicines. For me in relation the depression demon, RAIN looks like this:

Recognize: wow, I'm feeling really sad, anxious, grieving, longing (I name it to myself or even out loud without identifying with it; it's not "I am sad" but rather, "I'm feeling sad")

Allow: it's okay to feel this way, I allow this because this is what is right now (I genuinely sit with it, feeling the sensations of it in my body, the weight, the colors, the textures of these emotions)

Investigate: what might be needing my attention right now? what am I believing about this? What's one small thing that I need right now?

Nurture: I can offer this pain something small, tender and loving. I place my hand on the space of tension, breathe deeply and sigh out loud. I might say to myself, "I'm here for you, I love you." Small nurturing moves might be drinking some tea, taking it slow, screaming in a pillow, going for a walk outside, offering to help someone, watching a video of a teacher or healer who inspires me.


I hope this digest serves you in your welcoming, exploration, conversation and kindness with parts of yourself that feel like demons.

Love,
Chetna

You, Darkness
by Rainer Maria Rilke

You, darkness, that I come from
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone
and then no one outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything-
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them! -
powers and people-

and it is possible a great presence is moving near me.

I have faith in nights.                        

Resources
 
Listen:
  • Tara Brach, psychologist and meditation teacher, on "I see you, Mara" (3 minutes)
  • Tara Brach, at length, on Taking Mara to Tea (50 minutes)
Watch:
Read:
Practice:
  • Meditation: Tending to your Demons (51 minutes)
  • Do the RAIN meditation when MARA is present (20 minutes)
  • Write a 1-page letter to a demon in you (it could be feelings of doubt, depression, anxiety, insomnia, envy, greed, etc.) and then let your demon write you a 1-page letter back
    • reflect on what your demon's intentions, needs and wants are/might be
 
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Our level of compassion is a soothing balm to our individual and collective suffering; teachers from the Dalai Lama, Einstein and Mother Theresa to modern day scientists and researchers have revealed the significance of self-compassion on our mental, physical and emotional health.

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NYC

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We'll be hosted by The Sixth Street Community Center, occupying the "Sanctuary Room" which is beautiful, airy and just the right vibe for our work and play. Find tickets here, including a limited # of student scholarships.
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Make sure you're subscribed here and stay tuned with the next full moon on August 15th for The Moon Times Digest - publication 18
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