Meditation & Mindfulness. (Part Three)
We live in a society that emphasizes the surface.
Focusing on the apparent foreground of our lives, we become fairly oblivious and numb to the infinite background that is always present—the vast wilderness within the mind as well as the universe that gave us life and holds us moment after moment.
A collective lack of reverence and recognition of the ultimate reality behind the undulations of what is before us is an essential faux pas within modern culture.
There is much more to life than what meets the eyes and the ears and even further, the mental formations streaming through the mind. If this is the case, then there’s much more to happiness and contentment than fulfilling some preconceived notions stemming from a ceaseless desire.
This piece offers a cultural paradigm shift. Experience life, but first, make it a priority to deeply examine your inner self, diving below the waves to become the master of your inner realms.
Touching the Core.
The practice of meditation shatters the grip of small mind. Meditation is the path out of and away from subjective narration into the ultimate: the vastness of reality experienced in this moment.
When a practitioner sits and mindfully watches his thoughts and emotions during meditation, he or she is astonished at the discovery of the incessant stream—a flowing narrative that has most likely dominated and defined his or her life.
Through meditation and mindfulness, one realizes that he or she is not the thoughts, but rather the still and vast awareness of rising and falling waves of thought, the medium of space that allows the thoughts to manifest and flow through. There is no need to control or fight thoughts. Just remain aware and keep the light of awareness turned inwards. Watch and realize that you are the empty space behind the screen, the openness beyond the prison walls.
In the beginning, meditative awareness is like a small flame, which can easily be extinguished and needs to be protected and nurtured. Later, it is more like a huge bonfire, which consumes whatever falls into it… Then the more thoughts that arise, the more awareness blazes up, like adding logs to a bonfire! Emaho! Everything is food for naked enlightened awareness. [iii]
~ Dzogchen Master Jigme Lingpa
Practicing mindfulness throughout our daily lives allows us to continue to live in the present moment and to act in a way that reflects our total attention in the here and now. A beautiful bird flies by, an insult is thrown in our direction, there is traffic today. Rather than reacting or responding through small mind, we remain mindful of the core, the vastness of who we are, the awareness below the thoughts, reactions and emotions.
Each moment then, is an opportunity for us to keep the fire burning. Equanimity is cultivated through such an endeavor. Peace and wisdom through it too. We remain centered in the face of “good” and “bad,” and we continue to maintain our roots in the ultimate dimension of present-moment reality. This is our beginning.
Everything is cyclical. Condensation over the ocean leads to the formation of storm systems that dump their rain stores onto the mountains that feed the rivers, which flood back into their ultimate source, the ocean. It is replenishing. It is unending. It knows of no right or wrong. Some years there is drought, and some years there is too much rain, and while it rains too much here, it does not rain enough there. But from the perspective of space, looking down onto Earth, it is perfect and entirely within balance.
How is this part of meditation? Buddha’s Right View, or the acceptance of reality in its entirety, is an opening through the mind to aid us in the process of letting go. Reality, without the constraints of attachments and judgments—without the idea that we, as our individual selves, stand as everything that is important—is a key ingredient for us to let go and to get in touch. “Getting a clue,” as Lama Surya Das would say.
It is expansive and thus counterintuitive to think in such a way. There’s a great deal of resistance within the mind to such notions because in the end, reality brings about the death of the mind—nothing to control, nothing to judge, nothing to fight against, and nothing to compare to in order to create some sort of definition of an illusory self, an actor’s identity, a mask. The subjective mind has hijacked our being because we have allowed it to do so. Reclaim it through awareness. Be the ocean below the waves!
Koan: “The coin lost in the river is found in the river.” [iv]
The coin, what we seek, is Buddha nature. It’s right in front of us, buried within each flowing moment, bursting within this very mind. The river is life and our experience of what is as defined by subjective mind. But the coin is not lying on the beach, we have to get wet—we have to jump in to touch it. Leaping into the river requires facing the trouble or darkness small mind perceives or guards against in life—the internal regions that we avoid, the things that secretly and subliminally impel our surface-level actions, the muck lying at the center of the fortress.
In order to truly let go and submerge we must greet our demons and walk with them into the night. The constant stream of thoughts, problems, obligations, events and so forth that defines our lives blocks our access to the river and thus the coin. We are forced into reacting and fighting against the flow. Life swirls and flows around us each passing moment. Sometimes it’s fast and sometimes it’s slow. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad, sad, hectic, (insert adjective), but it’s all still part of this life.
The coin is in the river right now. It’s there. It always has and it always will be. Buddha nature is not found while dreaming about a trip to Tibet or a good time at the beach. It’s found in the practice of meditation, mindfulness, and the acceptance of the present moment—right here, right now— in the distant sound of bird calls or the droning of a ceiling fan.
One can access the coin anywhere at any time because one is the coin.
Why not slice through to the core now? Roshi John Tarrant says, “Enlightenment is fundamentally an acceptance of the journey.”[v]
The journey —life, the river, what contains us is our resting place and our refuge—is all we have. Our way into the river is through the practice of meditation—our practice of being in a reality that is precisely what it is, void of the procession of projected ghosts that lurk in the dark, neglected places of a shallow small mind.
Sifting through the reeds, and coming to the open space, we can begin to let go and look within. Meditation is the way of freedom and transcendence. “Of freedom” as opposed to “to freedom,” because it is always there. The sky—both inner and outer—is always present. We must be the ones to realize it.
Don’t seek the true and don’t reject the false;
realize the emptiness and formlessness of both…
The gateway to Zen (Ch’an) is cutting the mind off completely,
suddenly entering the wisdom of the unborn. [vi]
As a wax candle slowly melts before the flame, so the illusory self melts into the all that is. Again, very strange for the rational mind: a good sign of melting. Let it seep. Breathe it in and let it flow. Meditation is the surrender to melting. Sizzle and melt like ice on a stove.
Read the whole 5 Steps to Freedom series so far:
Editor: Brianna Bemel