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October 21, 2016

Whenever I see a Sunrise, I Remember how the Buddha achieved Enlightenment.

Ashley Medley author's own

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Whenever I get to watch a sunrise, I think of the Buddha’s story.

When the Buddha (or at the time, he was still Siddhartha) was meditating under the Bodhi tree, he was visited in the night by Mara, the God of greed, hate and delusion. Mara attacked Siddhartha with spears and arrows all night long, but each one turned to a flower petal as it hit him. He met each energy with presence, investigation, compassion and equanimity. As the sun rose, he was surrounded by flower petals. Then Mara brought out the greatest weapon—doubt.

Doubt says, “I don’t have it in me. I can’t do this. There is something so fundamentally wrong with me or unworthy, unlovable about me that this won’t work.” Doubt says, “Others can, I cannot.”

Mara said to Siddhartha, “Who do you think you are?”

At that moment, Siddhartha called out to the Earth Goddess by putting his hand on the ground. He took refuge.

And that is the moment Siddhartha Gautama became the enlightened Buddha.

Whenever I struggle with feelings of unworthiness, not enough-ness or self-doubt, I try to call up this image of the Buddha waking up surrounded by flower petals.

I was thinking of this (but mostly about coffee) riding to the temples in the dark that morning.

We all hear the Mara voice constantly. While traveling, I had the chance to actually listen and respond with gentle curiosity to my sense of unworthiness. Leading up to my trip throughout southeast Asia, I was met with this internal Mara voice. I actually took great comfort in having trip insurance believing if I wanted to, I could cancel the whole thing any minute.

The voice that says I’m not _______ enough for anything.

To travel on my own.
To be in a healthy relationship.
To have a fulfilling career.
To enjoy a beautiful sunrise.
To grieve a loss.
To enjoy loving connection.

It sounds exactly like Mara.

Leading up to this trip I constantly heard, “Who do you think you are that you can go to Southeast Asia all by yourself? Other people do these things. Not you. You’re different. You’ll get lost or sick. You can’t do this.”

After I got my ticket to the temples, the sky was already hot pink. I was so excited that I struggled to really stay in the moment. Even as I sat there, gently watching the sunrise, I had to fight this feeling of scarcity. That this moment was not enough.

I do this all the time. We all do.

This is why I take so much refuge in meditation. It’s all about this moment.

Now this moment.
Now this moment.
Now this moment.

It’s every moment. The good, the bad, the pain, the fear, the hilarious, the loss, the joy and the heartbreakingly vulnerable. Let it come and let it pass. Nothing is permanent and everything inside this moment will all pass.

I sat down on the steps leading down to the water, overlooking the west side of Angkor Wat. The sun was just about to come over the horizon.

I thought, “This moment. Now, this moment.”

 

Author: Ashley Medley

Image: Author’s own

Editor: Sara Kärpänen

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Ashley Medley

Ashley Medley is a full-spectrum doula serving the Washington, DC area.