I’m obsessed with understanding why. Why do I feel the way I feel, why do I react the way I react? My obsessive search for answers never leads to resolutions. It’s only when I let go and stop looking that I begin to understand things. I stop searching and start seeing.
I was never pleased with any of my answers. I needed something fascinating. So even when I started to acknowledge that certain ways of thinking or being weren’t beneficial, I continued to search for more. I needed substantial evidence. Only recently have I grasped the fact that incessantly searching for the “why” was the source of my continued frustration. If I left my feelings alone, they had nothing left to carry them, so away they passed.
You don’t have to obsess over your problems. You don’t have to understand them. You don’t have to know where they come from. As long as you see them, insight will arise. We get caught in attempting to understand why we feel the way we feel. Then we see that we are upset and instead of giving the emotion the attention it needs, we continue on our search for answers on why certain situations make us feel certain ways. We continue asking why, after why, after why.
When a negative feeling arises, sit with it. Give it time and space. Allow it to sink in. You’ll come to the realization that certain reactions are no longer serving you. The realizations arise on their own through continued awareness. As you stay aware, your attachment to the instances that trigger you will slowly dissolve. Have patience and know that with time, heartfelt attention and an open mind, your negative reactions will become less and less. You’ll begin to welcome all experience with open arms. As things occur, with a smile you’ll think to yourself “this too, this too” 🙂
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“If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between ‘for’ and ‘against’ is the mind’s worst disease”
As I meditated, my mind was full of thoughts, one after another. I tried to refrain from joining the chatter, but today my thoughts were highly persuasive. I imagined a road trip, rekindled with my stress and questioned my purpose. As the ending bell rang, I felt my meditation was unsuccessful. I had failed today.
This is my struggle “for or against”. The simple desire of wanting my meditation to be a certain way seems to prevent me from seeing whats true. I get caught up in the idea of the way things “should” be and avoid being with the way things are. It seems that if I want relief from struggle, all I have to do is let go of my preference for or against. If my preference arises, allow it to be as it is, but don’t join in and believe it as true. I’ll see what I’m for, and what I’m against, but the outcome will no longer matter. I’ll have no preference for either.
Intellectually, I’m not sure if I can grasp this concept. What seems to resonate with me in relation to Sengcan’s quote is to never be for or against, just “see” for or against. The same way one would meditate, see thoughts arise, but not get caught in them. Then if one does get caught, simply see you are caught without wishing you weren’t.
Having faith in the mind as it is without imposing upon it your ideas, is peace. This can only be found through practice, through experience.
When love rises to the surface, you deny it. It’s the exact opposite of your opinion of yourself. It’s a threat to everything you think you know about who you are. If you accept this love, you’ll have to let go of the “self” that you’ve so meticulously created. The unworthy self, the guilty self, the pessimistic self. Subconsciously, It’s a terrifying thought. You’re afraid of your heart.
But just hold the fear in your hands and let it melt. Allow it to be, without drowning in it. As it runs through your fingers, feel your demeaning thoughts fade. Your mind will become empty, allowing you to feel the soothing warmth of your heart. The heart from your childhood, when you lived as love, and scraped knees were memories without ties.
Behind your fear is everything you’ve ever wanted. Look closely and free yourself from unease. It doesn’t take strenuous effort, it just takes awareness and attention. Your heart is your home. The love around you is only a guiding force to help you recognize that the source of love is within. Accept what is and don’t be afraid, what you’re feeling is what we all feel. You’re deserving of love too.
“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”
– Pema Chödrön
I work with someone who’s nearly impossible. Question after question after question with no effort towards retention. The quintessential recipe for frustration. But what is it that I am frustrated with? Is it my coworker? It can’t be, because some people think nothing of it. So, is it my desire for things to be a certain way? Or how about my need for uncomplicated communication? Or maybe I’m just tired. No matter the reason, all the arrows point back at me. The frustration I feel is simply my reaction to the situation. And below the reaction, is usually a deeper wish for well being. In this situation, I’ve found that my deeper wish is to end the confusion and bring understanding. It wasn’t until I saw this wish that I was able to let go of my negative reaction and realize that the reaction would not lead to well being.
The heart is like a door. As it opens, guests enter. As we let others in, they no longer scream from outside. We stop seeing them as a nuisance and we accept them as they are. Our preferences fade and we gain insight on the lessons that they offer. We begin to see and understand the bigger picture. They may frustrate us, but when we open our hearts we begin to see emotions that arise, the source of the emotions, and the deeper wish for well being.
When others drive you mad, ask yourself “what is arising here?”. You’ll recognize the emotions as they show up and if you sit with it long enough, you’ll start to identify the mental construct that is causing you to react in a certain way and what your deeper wishes may be. From there, decide if the reactions you are having are beneficial and ultimately if they lead you toward well being.
We may not be able to change others, but we can always look into the mirror and make little improvements on ourselves. Start by opening your heart, theres plenty of room for the world and the wisdom that it brings is profound.
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You’re standing waiting for the bus. With an earsplitting screech, it comes to a stop. The doors open and you acknowledge the driver, but right before you step on, you pause and realize its heading the wrong direction. You politely decline, the doors close, and the bus continues on down the road.
The bus is your thoughts. Deciding to ride is like getting caught up in thinking. Once on the bus, wherever it goes, so do you. Letting the bus pass is like seeing thoughts arise without getting involved or mixed up in the drama. The point is not to end all thought, but rather to avoid entanglement. When we become entangled we are unable to see what is wise and unwise.
The peace lies in the moment we pause and reflect. When we pause, we become still, giving us space for thoughtful reflection rather than reaction. Reaction often lacks reflection, because it leaves no room for us to weigh our options . Without reflection, we are unable to see the outcome to which our thoughts may lead and we are more likely to act carelessly.
When we act carelessly, we bring harm to the world. Harming the world brings you no benefit. So in the words of the Dalai Lama, “If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.”
“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.”
― Pema Chödrön
Taking a “good look” at what is, that’s mindfulness. It’s a moment-by-moment turning of our attention towards thoughts, feelings, actions and perceptions.
When emotions arise, we often get caught in the story. We drift away from the present moment and create suffering for ourselves. It is not until we begin to cultivate mindfulness, that we bring clarity to our experience. We are then able to better understand our state of being. Using mindfulness to simply see and feel the way things are begins an astonishing transformation.
Through mindfulness we are able to recognize what hinders us. Our hearts natural process is to let go of all hindrances. The profound power of mindfulness lies in its simplicity. It is truly through the process of mindfulness that the heart and mind are able to let go. A simple concept, but a challenging reality.
With time, being mindful weakens the grasp of our unskillful mental states, allowing attachment to dissolve. Negative emotions are often painful and uncomfortable, so it takes courage to meet these challenges as they are. But we have to remember not to discourage ourselves, this is all part of the human experience. No one is alone in this struggle. As we cultivate mindfulness, through practice, letting go will become a way of life.
“I listen with my heart. I struggle with the reflexes of my mind. And the pains of life are sharper now but disappear more clearly the way knives are swallowed by the sea”
– Mark Nepo
As we open, we become more vulnerable. In a way, this vulnerability forces us to become limber. Like a tree, we flex and sway in the winds of adversity. Our ability to bend allows our roots to stay intact, providing us with nourishment instead of toppling us over and cutting us off from our source. We no longer have to fight the storms as they arise. We simply see them, allow them to work their way through our branches and acknowledge their passing.
If we begin to approach our problems with curiosity and openness, we can learn about ourselves through the challenges they present. Instead of insurmountable difficulties, our issues become a much smaller portion of our awareness. We feel more deeply, without getting consumed. We experience and let go, rather than experience and hold on.
No matter how persistent our mind is in its attempt to disturb our calm, if we stand upright like a tree, leaning and tilting, we’ll always spring back just in time to catch the sun as it begins to peer through an opening in the clouds.
When you’ve hit the bottom, reach out your hand. It’s the touch of another human being that reminds you of your connectedness to the world. It brings you back to a place where you realize just how deeply woven together we all are. A hint to the fact that you don’t have to bare all of your burdens alone.
During our darkest hours we often shelter ourselves from the world, making the weight of our problems seem unbearable. But it’s ok to reach out for assistance. We can laugh and cry together. We are allowed to be here for each other. You are not alone, you are a part of this universe and the world wants you here.
Let the wall around you dissolve, it is never to late to start anew. When we walk beside one another, no one gets left behind. Let’s get through this together.
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“So, if in doubt about the next step, just listen. And if still in doubt, wait. When it’s time to move, you’ll know”
Rushing the spiritual process only leads to obscurity. We then become lost which encourages us to strengthen our search efforts. It becomes a cycle of paddling faster only to become further adrift. It is not until we slow down, relax and trust the process itself, do we find our way.
A reoccurring theme in my life has been a constant realization of how different our journeys are, but how similar the destination is. It’s almost like we are all looking in the same direction, just with different perspectives of what we see and how to get there. We have to trust the messages coming from our hearts, not from the comparisons and rationale of our thinking mind.
Try not to be so realistic with yourself. Practicality can often damage an open heart and diminish a spacious mind. Loosen the reins of direction that you’ve placed upon yourself. Walk slowly, one step at a time. Pause and listen, and don’t be afraid to stop and enjoy what you see through the stillness. In that moment, you’ll likely find your bearings and be back on course.
Imagine yourself looking out of a window. You see what is there, but you’re still here, sitting in your chair. Your chair is this present moment. You’re trying not to lose yourself in the imagination of what you see outside. When you do get lost, you decide that it’s ok to dance for a moment, as long as you remember to come back to your chair. You’re learning to dance with life while still remembering your chair. You’ve realized that life is a balancing act, dancing and sitting, dancing and sitting. Over and over you dance and sit until, through a flicker of insight, you grasp that when you’re dancing you’re really still sitting. You’re beginning to find the present moment in every moment. You’ve found peace, you are free.