August 11, 2012

How to Be 100 percent Alive.

Light in darkness, darkness in light.

During the night, Te-shan entered Master Lung-t’an’s room and stood in attendance till late at night.

Lung-t’an said, “Why don’t you go?”

Te-shan bade farewell and went out; he saw that it was dark outside, so he turned around and said, “It’s dark outside.”

Lung-t’an lit a paper lantern and handed it to Te-shan; as soon as Te-shan took it, Lung-t’an blew it out.

Te-shan was vastly and greatly enlightened.

We often categorize our experiences into good or bad, exciting or boring, traumatizing or enriching.

The candy tasted great, I am happy.

The man was angry with me, I am upset.

And as we move along, life swings back and forth between the poles. But what if what we think of as bad, negative, uncomfortable, or a waste of time, is actually something meaningful and worthwhile—an opportunity for growth, a key to unlocking something within ourselves? What if we could feel or experience something deeper, beyond what we are comfortable with presently, if we are able to drop our likes and aversions, our ideas of darkness and light… to realize an open mind?

Wading into our discomforts as well as the incalculable and uncontrollable reality we are a part of, is what makes us grow.

It is the alchemy of realization—of going into the darkness without the comforting flashlight of our thoughts, beliefs and rigid opinions.

Master Lung-t’an’s kind and creative teaching quoted above, struck down Te-shan’s beliefs. He took Te-shan’s small mind, the lantern, and gave him the entire universe in return through the simple extinguishment of his expectations. It was within the darkness that Te-shan awakened, not the light and this is key.

When we open this example up, sit with it intimately, and bring it into our lives, we find that our own growth can come from being in the darkness of the unknown and letting go of our habitual responses. 

While going into the dark regions, the unknown and also the uncomfortable, represents the highest and consequently the most difficult form of inner transformation, we can aid the process—strengthening ourselves—through enjoying and remaining present during the seemingly mundane moments in our day-to-day lives.

Learning to see the majesty within the ordinary is a solid first step toward accepting and inhabiting the present because most of our lives are filled with such moments. A butterfly, the lighting on the front porch, a dog scampering after a tennis ball, or the sound of raindrops on the bus windshield can enrich our experience of daily life. They are their own keys for us to discover and consequently, they may have the power to open us.

There is an inherent “thusness” within the ordinary that can shine through our created walls. Training ourselves to enjoy the regular sights, the mundane movements, and to see the beauty interwoven within ordinariness enhances our total experience. But most significantly, when we accept the unacceptable—when we realize that what we don’t expect or want might be the avenue for our own awakening, then life takes on a new texture we could not have imagined before. [1]

We don’t know what will open us, thus we remain open to each and every moment.

We must greet the bright day and the long night as we would old, tired friends.[2] One sight, one sound, the autumn wind, a break-up, or our own broken reflection on the ripples of a pond, can shift us into a new state of being. The more we expose ourselves to the darker moments in life (the unknown or what makes us uncomfortable)—without the protection of our internal armor (our comforting opinions and justifications)—the more we will inevitably shift into being.

We can deepen further because we are experiencing more and more without our created version of reality. This is living 100 percent. We are opening to life and life mirrors our opening. It is that simple. But once again, we must be the ones willing to open our doors, inch by inch—diligently and patiently.

Our darker moments, the uncomfortable and challenging ones, become interesting—something to experience and something to examine. There is a texture, a kind of marrow for inner growth that we will miss if we shun the unknown.

There is so much for us to work with every day. Every second is a moment to remain present. Every sensation is a feeling to feel. And every event is one to experience, to see through and to accept. When we experience this, life becomes a giant opportunity for practice, and we are increasingly here to meet it as it is. A fundamental shift will occur within us if we are conscious enough to “stay awake,” especially while passing through our uncomfortable moments.

The more we view the ordinary experiences as something to cherish, the more we enrich our lives.

The simple, moving along moments fill our days. They are neutral and so are we. We are driving, we are walking to get lunch, we are sitting watching the television, we are spacing out. But when we turn off the TV, when we walk mindfully and we remain alert, we begin to see the flux around us. We see all that is before us moving in a dance. We are more open to catching a glimpse of the passing songbird, the kind gesture, the laughing girl eating her melting ice cream cone. Even the sun passing through the trees can bring a feeling of warmth that lasts throughout the day and into the night. Everything flows so naturally, and it is all so full of life. There is an undeniable intimacy that can be felt.

Don’t miss out on it by being stuck in a fictitious world—one we are trying to fight for and control. There is a whole reality outside our walls waiting to be experienced. Wisdom comes from our ability to drink from the richness of life.

Begin to see the beautiful within the ordinary. We will expand out from our bubble and we will enrich our lives naturally. Being present, watchful, and mindful of our state of mind, we open the door to our own world. We are truly giving and receiving at all times, breath after breath, sight after sight. Be aware of this and witness what is manifesting constantly.

Light in darkness, darkness in light.

[1] A monk asked, “What is the treasure in the bag?” The Master replied, “Keep your mouth closed.” Keep it simple.

[2] The discomfort of not knowing or being able to control is unacceptable to the logical mind lost in the haze of labeling; Remember Rumi’s “Guest House?”

Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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