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A Big Pair of Dharma Balls

Today, perhaps more than ever before, it is easy to be drawn into what we call the
cycle of soap-opera living. Soap-opera living is, unfortunately, rather common. A
person caught up in soap-opera living is like a piece of plankton in the ocean that
is continuously driven in different directions by the changing currents and tides.
Despite being under the impression that they are making independent decisions,
people living a soap opera do not have their eyes open enough to be able to truly
to take control of their lives.
Individuals living a soap opera are highly influenced by whatever beliefs,
behaviours, and pastimes are trending in society. Because the majority of
individuals around them spend their time worrying about money, reputation,
career, and relationships, the individual living the soap opera believes that they
should do the same. If there is an atmosphere of stress at work because of a
deadline approaching, or at university because exams are looming, the individual
immersed in soap-opera living is drawn into and contributes to this stress. Because
others are obsessed with what their friends and peers think of them, so is the
person following the path of soap-opera living. They are pulled along by their own
unregulated thoughts and desires, and by the thoughts and desires of those around
them.
Walking an authentic spiritual path Buddhist or otherwise takes warrior-like
courage. It takes courage because the spiritual practitioner has to break free of the
cycle of soap-opera living when almost everyone around them is consciously or
sub-consciously enticing them to remain firmly stuck in it. It takes courage because
the spiritual practitioner has to leave behind the world that they have become
accustomed to and enter unchartered territory. It also takes courage because the

type of warriorship that fosters spiritual awaking requires the practitioner to blend
together an attitude of fearlessness, with one of unwavering love and compassion
for individuals who choose to remain stuck in the mire of soap opera life.
Leaving behind soap-opera living is easier said than done and should be seen as a
life-long endeavour. As people move from the realm of the soap opera to that of
awakened perception, there is a tendency for them to continuously try to find
reference points or footholds where they feel safe. For example, they may have
previously considered themselves a businessman or businesswomen but now
they see themselves as a Buddhist walking the path of Dharma. However, in order
to progress along the path, the spiritual practitioner should try to avoid attaching
labels to themselves. They have to let go of their old self and embrace a new self,
but then they have to let go of the new self as well. Eventually, the spiritual
practitioner has to find the courage to let go altogether they have to let go
without seeking to reinvent themselves.
Nothing in life is certain and all things change all of the time. If we try to create a
fixed self under such conditions, we are inevitably going to become unstuck. We
need to be able to adapt to, and flow with, the changing conditions around us.
From the spiritual practitioners point of view, this means seeing the teachings in a
completely new way each day. Where the spiritual path once led them to embrace
solitary meditation or a life of renunciation, it may at a subsequent point require
them to fully immerse themselves in society and relinquish the notion that
meditation is something that is practiced rather than lived. Where the path of
Dharma once required them to be a penniless mendicant, it may subsequently
require them to rule a kingdom. Where it once required them to practise nonreactivity, it may require them in the interests of compassion to assume a more
wrathful demeanour. Embracing such changes and challenges takes real
warriorship as well as conviction in ones chosen path.
In short, to walk the Buddhist or any other spiritual path effectively, the authentic
spiritual practitioner must remain unattached to their current circumstances. They
must come to understand that with every breath or footstep taken in awareness,
they venture into the unchartered territory of the present moment. In short, being
an authentic spiritual practitioner and leaving behind soap-opera living requires
having a big pair of Dharma balls. Embracing life itself as the spiritual path and
continuously letting go of who we think we are takes tremendous courage.
However, with perseverance, this fearless approach to embracing reality yields
unconditional happiness and profound spiritual insight. This is the path walked by

all those who have attained Buddhahood in the past, and all those who will attain it
in the future.
Ven Dr Edo Shonin and Ven William Van Gordon