Winter is a great time to practice meditation, especially if you live where the snow and ice cover the ground. For then there are fewer temptations to be out and about. Things slow down. There’s even less noise from the streets, just the daily snowplow.
Usually, our mind is focused outward. It might flit from “Where’s the soap?” while bathing to a memory of yesterday’s race to the bus and not wanting to be late for the bus today, especially with all the freezing rain and slushy, surprise puddles outside.
The mind is so often a fickle thing—fluctuating from wondering what sweater to wear to what to have for breakfast to concern for a friend in the hospital, and wondering when in the day there will be time to visit her. The mind notices a new geranium bloom, while overhearing on the news that 200,000 people most likely died in Haiti’s January earthquake and that the government is in a tent outside the collapsed capital building.
Our mind bounces from sensory object to memory to thought to wordless, compassionate shock and awareness.
But when we sit down to meditate, where is this mind? At first, yes, we can rest our attention on our breath, constantly bringing it back from thought flickers to our breath. But where is this so-called “mind” that is the origin of both these thought flickers and this focusing on the breath? What does this mind look like?
Just try “Examining the Nature of Unborn Awareness” Good luck! There is no way to examine or to analyze something that we cannot find. But we can look. When we look at the mind we use the mind to look, not the eyes. Stop reading for a moment and simply sit up straight and look inward. Do you find “mind”?
If you do, that’s a problem, since mind is unfindable, unfathomable, and that’s why it is so often called “unborn”. You cannot find the beginning of mind, you cannot find it’s very first arising. Yet, if you have a pain in your leg, the mind goes there; if you have a headache, the mind goes there. So the mind is not nothing.
When we look at the mind, although we do not find it, there is this awake looking. There is the cognitive ability to know, although in that moment there is no findable object to know.
But every time we look, every time we flash inwards, we cut thoughts and all fixation on outer objects—at least for that moment. This slogan is great to practice every time we sit down to meditate. And it only takes a moment of flashing inward.
And this slogan is a powerful practice in itself. “Examine the nature of unborn awareness” is dynamite to all clinging and concepts. In the instant you practice this slogan, whether in a meditation session or post-meditation, there is this momentary experience of wakefulness and a full stop in the flow of karma.
There will always be appearances, but like the mind that perceives them, they are vivid, fluid, changeable, and ultimately empty, and this slogan’s wakefulness helps us realize that there is no need to fixate or dwell on anything.