MEDITATION FOR REAL LIFE

New York Buddha Dharma and AWAKENEWYORK, under the auspices of the Westchester Dharma Center, present :

 

MEDITATION FOR REAL LIFE         Fall Mindfulness/Awareness Training Intensive

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/meditation-for-real-life-tickets-37431322099

https://www.facebook.com/events/1307768902699912/

 

PLACE: Aligned Center 2 Bridge St. Irvington, NY.

TIME: Fri October 6, 7-9 and Sat Cct 7, 10 – 6pm

DONATION: $35.00 (pay what you can afford)

 

ABOUT:   Hosted by Cary Tamura of AWAKENEWYORK the program will offer talks and meditation instruction by John Baker, a senior Buddhist teacher, author, editor and preeminent student of  Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche and Joseph Mauricio, a long time teacher of the Shambhala Tradition.

 

A friday night introductory talk is open to all, and will include remarks from our panel, and practical mindfulness awareness practice instructions.

 

Our Saturday workshop will unpack and deepen the meditation instruction and include guided meditation, talks, private interviews  and group discussion.

 

This program is open to all, and is designed to suit various levels of practitioner. It is a perfect program to learn meditation in a beautiful and supportive environment.  And, it is an excellent opportunity for advanced students to deepen their experience of mindfulness awareness practice.

 

All are welcome.

 

THE PRACTICE:   Mindfulness Awareness meditation is the heart of Buddhist practice at every level, from beginner to advanced. The benefits are profound: peace of mind, greater clarity and intelligence, and increased compassion for oneself and for others.

 

Meditation practice can increasingly free us from the pernicious, anxiety-driven, and distorted stories we repeatedly tell ourselves. It can help us see life “as it is,” freshly and vividly, free of egotism and petty value-judgment. It can lead us to what Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche called “the world of ordinary magic.”

 

We will explore mindfulness-awareness practice and traditional teachings that describe it In plain speech for real life.

 

TEACHERS:
John Baker
Joe Mauricio
Cary Tamura

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/1307768902699912/

 

Reserve your seat in advance:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/meditation-     for-real-life-tickets-37431322099

 

A TALE OF TWO WORLDS

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, … it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope…”  

 

In pethaps the greatest run on sentence in literary history, Dickens painted the picture of the modern epoch. This is a precariously magnificant time, a time of unfiltered hatred and burgeoning compassion. Humanity is waking up slowly, but the raging hangover of past indulgences is nonetheless clashing awkwardly with the beauty of a bright new day.

 

But, are we awake or asleep?

 

Buddhist texts refer to these times as the dark age; a time when good and bad rise to a head. It is not dark as in ‘dark obscuring the light’, but, dark illuminated by light. If we are able to leap into believing in the inherent goodness of humankind we can see this as a time when our resistsnce and neurosis become more apparent.  And, hence a time when healing and resolution are most accessible. Rather than leaving darkness sequestered in the night, we have an opportunity to bring this to the light and work with the defensive urges that have been motivating human behavior for so long.

 

Unlike Christian stories of Armageddon where good and evil square off in a movie directed by Michael Bay, the Buddhist version has more to do with a knitting of fabrics, a coming together of elements into a new compound. Maybe more like a film by Daron Aaronovsky. Which means a psychic blending of tendencies that never resolve into easy answers – or a simple movie.  On one hand, we have good and evil becoming more opposed until one – presumably good – wins out. Perhaps the modern definition of good is that which wins out. On the other hand, we have good and evil – light and dark – entwined in a dance fantastique that will spin until the pieces blend, the bubble pops, and a new agency is formed.

 

Tantric master Trungpa Rinpoche likened these times to a cosmic pimple popping – a heightening of neurosis and wisdom that leads to an opening from which new possibilities are formed. One doesn’t defeat the other so much as their clashing brings about greater awareness of pain and the suffering caused by an inapropriate relationship to pain.

 

It is my belief that we can navigate this confluence and take agency in the coming singularity. By training the mind in mindful awareness we gain control of impulses, by slowing down the point of impact and creating a buffer that allows us the time to RESPOND consciously rather than REACT reflexively. By learning to learning to guide ourselves from one trigger to the next without fistraction or reaction we can possibly learn to help  humanity through the turmoil into its next phase. Whether that phase is a greater sense of space and understanding leading to a flowering or its much predicted demise, may be in our hands. And the time to gain MANUAL control of the micro steps of our destiny may be right now.

 

In order to navigate this grand confluence we might have to slow down and begin to unpack the presumptive reasoning of being right. How do we see beyond our framed thinking into an acceptance of all that is coming toward us without losing ourselves? Well, maybe we can stand to loose some of ourselves. Or even a lot of ourselves. Maybe we can begin by recognizing all that keeps us from assimilation, and simply relax into the convergence, turn off our aggression and float into change WITH OUR EYES OPEN.

 

Working with synchronicity is a process of letting go and yet navigating the flow. Unlike other traditions that imply we can either resist or comply with a script, the Buddhist point of view  is that once we awaken – that is when we become conscious – we can navigate rather than aquiece or resist and in effect co-create the script of exustence with the universe. The universe, in this case, is the karmic web created by past actions moving in various vectors into future space. It is like an ocean of currents, each with thier own momentum. Navigating these currents means accepting thier existence and sitting up above the water line, being able to see where we are heading, and having the resolve to move away from the momentum of self interest into the undefined waters of discovery.

 

Navigating the white water confluence of past actions into future possibility takes letting go of our aggression, self-interest and resistance and allowing the natural change of things to take place. By keeping our eyes open during the change we can move into the open space of possibility, discovery and communication. Looking into the fear, darkness and aggression of our ancient pain, we can see our suffering in others. Understanding how misunderstanding our pain has caused us to act blindly, hurting ourselves and others, we can see how others have done the same to us. We are all fighting ancient demons snd blaming each other for our pain. We are all human and we are all suffering by our own hand. If we see this, pethaps the possibility of repairing that cycle of aggression is possible.

 

With our eyes open into the turmoil we can keep our balance and begin to pull each other from the roil. Or, with eyes and fists clenched against the current we will drown ourselves and each other. Maybe the duality isnt between good and evil, left and right or right and wrong. Its about seeing or ignoring. Either we wake up communicate and learn to stabilize the world of compassion, or shut down and solidify a world of hate, pain and aggression.

 

So, is this the best of worlds ir the worst?

 

Yes. It is both and because of that it is a magnificant time to be awake.

 

 


PAYING ATTENTION TO TENSION

Stress is considered a detriment to health. Lowering stress is a commonly stated  motivator bringing people to meditation. There we escape into interior landscapes of calm. We have apps that guide us into internal relaxation free of stress. This is all well and good until we get out in the street and someone buried in their smart phone slams into us, spilling our chill all over our shirt.

 

While these various  forms of escapist meditation bring relief from stress, they dont address the actual problem: tension caused by stress.  We can go to a yoga retreat in Kuai, a medicinal a salt bath in Utah or a deep chakra cleansing in Oregon. Still, three days later that tenacious stress is there. Maybe we should move, get a new job or softer shoes. But, all of that is so stressful. So there’s Xanax. Xanax works, but pills are cheating. And we know they’re cheating so they’re not really working. There’s Zen. And thats better than pills, but soon that all that Zen makes us so bored we start getting stressed thinking of how to bring more stress into our life.

 

So, maybe stress gets a bad rap.  Its clear that some stress is important for us to learn and grow. And each of us respond differently to different stress points. One person is paralyzed at the thought of public speaking, while another may thrive on the opportunity. Some may love physical thrills and extreme sports while others freeze on the way up a diving board. So, maybe stress gets a harsh rap. I mean, if you didn’t value stress, even a little bit, what are you doing in New York City? Or, Baltimore? Or, anyplace in the current United States, for that matter?

 

I believe its not stress that does the harm, as much as the tension we create in relation to it. Tension is a refexive / reactive physical gripping within the body. Its like putting on imaginary breaks while sitting in the passenger seat. Things are not going as we want them to, and mistaking this as a threat, we clamp down and avoid the opportunity to work WITH the situation. Its this gripping in the body that creates discomfort and injury.

 

On the other hand when we thrive on stress its because we have learned not to fear the opportunity and we meet stress with relaxation instead of tension. Serena Williams or Aaron Rodgers navigate stress for a living. They do it through relaxation born of mind and body training. Its about training. Training the mind to see how the body feels and training the body to open to the experience. In this way, we navigate past stress by turning tension into attention by actually leaning in to the stress points.

 

This is so counter to our conditioning, which has programmed us to avoid suffering by a process of aquisitional bandaidery. We apply one “healing” modality atop the other until we are fitter, happier and healthier, pigs in a cage on antidepressants. (Appologies Mr. Yorke.) Societally, We are driven to buy, buy, buy until we are spinning so quickly, we no longer see how our life is robbed. This is stressful. So we clamp down on ourselves, stomping in a frenzied river dance trying to stop that wheel so we can breath.

 

But breath happens as we relax. And relaxation happns as we become aware. Awareness happens as we alliw ourselves the space and time to relax and tension, and pay attention to the life unfolding before us. Our life. What kind of blessing is that? Not only is stress instructional, it is elemental in creating enough tension in the body for us to wake up, release the tension, and relax into attention.

 

So, not only is stress not the problem, but even tension is not a problem if we use it as a reminder to release ourselves from its psycho/somatic imprisonment and open back into our life. It may not be as selfie-potent as that chakra cleansing in Kauai, but mindfulness training is a sustainable way to teach the body to bring itself back to balance in pressured times.

 

Waking in Depression: The Way In

Our beautiful minds are vast and embued with great power. As such, they are a reservoir of great potential. However, we generally ignore this potential in lieu of problems we feel need to be fixed.  The problem is these problems tend to birth more problems until our identity is fixed with fixing things. Our attention becomes focused in tighter and tighter loops and our life reduces into simple iterations of routine.

 

We are caught between the great human potential inherent in all of us and an existential sleepwalk that holds us in lock step. Imagine the power of the universe locked in our laundry closet. At some point something either breaks out or breaks down. But who has time to break down these days? So we soldier on, ignoring the gnawing until we collapse.

Depression is a common and even reasonable reaction to living a life on  everyone elses terms. The root of depression may not actually be fear, but the anger we feel from shortchanging our lives because of that fear. Trying to get away from pain, we actually cause more pain. By trying so hard to be good, we end up living a false life. We have been duped by a cosmic shell game bartering reality for an anxiety dream. We cling to external things to help us fix the mess and in so doing forget the one person who can actually help us. The only person who can help.  The one who has been there all along.  We forget ourselves. When we shunt part of us away out of embarrassment, we become cut off from our inherent power. We begin to believe there is something wrong with us, and that we should be disappointed with ourselves and embarrassed about our depression.

In this way, our depression becomes solid. Our confidence erodes as we feel we are losing a battle.  We fall inward and becoming so small the day itself  feels too big. From this point of view, the potential of the mind must appear dark and forboding. In reaction to this fear, we shrink our awareness in an ostrich like effort to avoid pain. But, as we are occluding awareness, our fearfulness actually begets more fear. This denial of life not only robs us of joy, it also leaves us very vulnerable to manipulation.

 

Ancient humans fought for survival, hunted and gathered food. They died easily and lived short lives. Yet those lives may have had more contentment, community and connection than ours. Perhaps being disconnected from pain we are disconnected from an essential part of ourselves. We relagate pain into the darkness and take refuge in the light. We take solace in being right, even as a part of us suspects the opposite.

 

Our lives move more and more quickly these days. However, the nature we come from, is very slow.  The earth moves at its own pace, in its own way. The same with the heart. The faster we move the less we are able to feel the earth beneath us. And this has to threaten a more ancient part of ourselves, a deeper and intuitive part of ourselves. Whether we are aware or not, this spiritual dissonance causes an internal friction. On one hand, we feel we should be doing so much more. On the other, we’re already working too hard. Caught in this zero-sum vice, our heart, art, compassion and the life part of living have become lost. Placing our hearts on hold, we barter creativity for security causing ourseves and others great pain.

 

This reduction of our life dampens something inside. We can choose to be mute only so long before we forget how to sing. We can stay hobbled only so long before we forget how to dance. We can shut down life only so often, before we lose our will to live. We have told ourselves no so often, we simply shut down in response. So we retreat in fear, collapse inward and, wrapped in the fabric of time and space, hide ourselves from ourselves by becoming consumed in ourselves.

 

Man, it’s actually quite brilliant.

 

Crushed beneath the weight of “me” our mind begins to compile a ledger of all the things left wanting, undone and unfulfilled in our life. Our life force turns inward and the mind turns vicious. The power and potential of our mind is turned against the only foe it feels it can defeat: itself.

 

But, there is a way out. And the way out begins with the way in. By sitting IN our pain, we can become comfortable enough with suffering to find the space within. There is always space. But, in our fear we cling to the familiar and play the same song with such volume we drown all alternatives. However, by training the mind to stay, simply stay, and hold space for our experience, we find we can sit with greater and greater challenges. Eventually, we find a profound stillness. It is within that stillness that we begin to see in the dark. In fact, we become so familiar with the terrain of turmoil, that we learn to walk in the dark. At some point, we may even learn to dance in the darkness finding grace in our simple tenacity.

 

You see, it will eventually occur to our wounded mind, that we are sill here. One we’ve abandoned hope and surrendered to the great despair, we see that being with ourselves is all we have. Ground zero. Right here, right now, just so.

 

Meditation practice will not cure depression. Nor should it. But, a consistent daily practice will strengthen the mind, giving us the bravery to enter the dark, the resilience to remain with ourselves and the wisdom to find the love we need.

 

The love we need.

 

The love we have been looking for all along. The love that no one else can give. The love we learn to give ourselves by simply being here. There is something supremely powerful about beginning to feel lovingkindness for our incomplete life, bruised heart and tattered mind.  We can do this without turning the lights on, forcing a smile or turning the volume down. We can do this simply by being here, and not changing a thing. We can forgo trying to be good and simply be human. And humans suffer. When we connect to our suffering, we are connected to all of life, for all of life experiences suffering.

 

When we find love in the depths of despair, we find an Unconditional Love that compares nothing and accepts everything. Then we have a gift forged in the flames that no one can take from us. Our gift of unconditional love.

 

In the Shambhala teachings we say that practicing lovingkindness is to “place the mind of fearfullness in the cradle of loving kindness.” Learning to open the heart to the sadness of our spirit and finding the strength to hold space for our pain is a profound statement. And that profound statement is an acknowledgement of life itself.

 

Learning to hold ourselves with open arms, reduce the harm and find a connection to all beings is the way of the Bodhisattva.  In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition a Bodhisattva is one who has vowed to forstall their own salvation until all beings are free of suffering. They have vowed to venture into hell to liberate all beings.  We can find strength in this. There have been such people. And there are such people. Those willing to face the darkness and stay there until they get it. And then, be willing to look outward and bring that strength to the world. That is the way out. Benefit for the world. And, if not the whole world, then our world, 0r community. Someone else. Benefit to others is the best way to value yourself.

 

And, it is the way out that comes from finding the way in.

 

AWAKEN THE REPUBLIC

Following the election. Our world feels different. Maybe broken. It’s a good time to find healing and strength in love and sanity. It was hard to fathom. The People have spoken. Only not the majority. Rather, some people have spoken, rather pointedly.

 

Now, all will quiet. It will calm. We will likely not build a wall, or deport, indict or persecute anyone. Everyone will dial back to the center where this country finds ballast continuing nonetheless on a course the election has set. We’ll go back to our lives.  And as we sleep again, 2 conservative justices, a conservative senate and an administration built of lobbyists and special interests will turn back time for women, minorities, policing, jails and healthcare. Sadly, no one will turn back time on our changing climate, which will likely continue on pace, with our country a world leader in its own destruction.

 

You may be frightened. You may be happy that all is turning back from the swing to the left the country has taken. You may feel vindicated. You may be angry. You may be hurting. But, please remember its okay to love, along with hurt. It’s okay to find stillness and feel strength. As we rage in our souls and pour our hearts into every moment, whether we accept, resist, or support the changes, we might also be kind to ourselves. It may not be an easy time to feel light, but remember, we are light. I think we can shine, regardless.

 

This is bravery in the face of the unknown. I believe that we can respond, and act without malice, and without aggression. The power we have lies in awareness. And awareness comes when we don’t follow blindly, but stay engaged and grounded in the present. I believe we can employ non-violent activism and remain in place, awake, if we begin by sitting in the silence of loving kindness.

 

Turning anger into love that is awake and active and engaged. Love is not compliance. It is clear seeing with the heart and the mind. But it is dependent on our stability of mind. Our warrior posture of awake. It is time for this. It is time to move from the ignorance of blind compliance, or the blindness of rage to holding our seat as warriors in our body, spirit and mind.

 

Let’s awaken our republic. Awake New York! Awake DC! Awake LA and Awake America. Gently, but resolutely AWAKE. What other choice is there.  The Buddhist teachings say look at your world without disdain or bias. Meditation master, Chogyam Trungpa said “Look. Look at your world. It is your world. How can you not look.” His son, Sakyong Mipham has said again and again that the world needs us now. And to be brave, we must be “kind to ourselves and merciful to others.” From our seat of warriorship we can enact sanity in ourselves and very natural radiate that much needed sanity to others. So, we are shattered, and we are broken. But, rising up in hate and anger is the coward’s way. It is the way humanity has chosen again and again and regretted the results of the experiment each time. Instead, we can sit in strength and dignity of awake and choose sanity.

 

If survival is where humanity is meant to be going, then choosing sanity for ourselves is an important step. If, on the other hand, we are headed for destruction, well… then sanity seems even more important.


America Awake

2015-08-27 17.42.31There was another mass killing. Which one was that? The terrorist? The Muslim who sympathized? The Syrian who was left out? The Kid in the night club? The white kid in the theater, or the best friends at school?  Its getting so hard to keep count. Kids killing kids, cops killing kids, cops being killed, improvised explosives and suicide vests changing the face of public gathering. The world is erupting.  And with it, the cry to have more guns, and more war and more punishment. As though adding to the problem will somehow solve the problem.

 

But with all the pain, there feels like hope in the cracks of our chaos. With more pain there is, perhaps, more awareness.  There is more here, in front of us, to see and to understand.

 

This is a great time to be alive. Yes.  Not instead of the pain or despite the pain, but entirely because of the pain. Its a blessing that we are here to help and to repair and to work to bring this world back into harmony with the earth that has nurtured us. Its a blessing here in New York City to be among the fortunate, the privileged, the few who have the honor to make a difference. It is our great honor to serve. And it is great to give back. You see, we become weakened as we grab for more. We falter as we turn away.  We fail as we try to win, and win at all cost. There is no wining that does not win for all of us. There is no sanctity except in the grace of living in a world that we support, and are supported by.  And because of this, it is a great time to be awake.

 

The destination is now, and the time is here. We can make a difference, slowly and surely in our lives and now – more than ever in history – even small differences will be heard around the world.

 

America Awake is a call to (open) arms. Awake is a revolution whose symbol is not a raised fist, but an open hand. It is a philosophy of understanding. And, rather than re-knowing what we already know, reiterating what we’ve been told, retelling the obvious and restating that which was written in stone, in an age of stone, we can emerge into a new dawn, and simply have the courage to say . . .  heck if I know. Lets start fresh.

 

How can I help?

 

What is happening now? And, how can I better understand the needs of my sisters, and the truth of my brothers, and the pain of a rainbow of every shade in between?

 

I pledge allegiance to the moment. And equipped with the immense power of wakefulness, vow to listen to the differences and to heal all damage. I pledge to cause harm to no one and bring the world together in a time of darkness.  I pledge to never outrun my fear, but to open my heart to the transformative possibility of my pain.

 

Is that utterly ridiculous?  I suppose so. Its certainly naive and simplistic. And, how cool is that?

 

 

 

 


Wake Up and Relax


Meditation is a practice that allows us gain agency in our lives. We are training to settle our mind in order to wake up into our life. As the mind is more attentive when relaxed, training to cultivate a relaxed attention allows us to more fully contact our life. We sit in a singular connection to the moment, grounded in the security of earth. From that base, the spine can rise to heaven, allowing the mind to open into the vast sky of awake.

 

We rise up to settle down. We wake up in order to rest in the moment. These seeming polarities describe what are actually complementary components of the practice. The Taoist Tradition refers to the “Yin” of relaxing into the receptive earth and the “Yang” of rising to heaven in attention.  It is stated in the iChing that the alignment of the spine to the center of the earth allows us to reconnect to a universal sense of humanity. The Tao Te Ching posits that disconnection from the earth leaves us wandering as ghosts, blown by the vicissitudes of desire and past actions.  At the center of the earth, humanity is connected, clear and complete. On the surface, we perceive difference, distance and disparity.

 

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition meditation is considered a yogic practice. The posture is an asana with the main stretch being the upright spine. Imagine the tailbone as an ancient arrowhead pointed directly down, weighted deep into the earth. Its alignment is plum, neither sticking back nor curling forward. Then feel the spine resting on that base and reaching straight through the body, through the top of the head, describing a line infinitely into the heavens above.  Relax upward into that stretch, as though a string was pulling you up, stretching the spine. This is the “Yang” alignment, a vertical stretch joining heaven with earth. It is awake, and tells the lower mind it may relax now, because someone is in charge. Our higher power is engaged and we are awake at the wheel of life. In just two minutes, it is said, our brain chemistry begins to change. We are, in effect, exchanging cortisol for confidence.

 

With that vertical stretch, the body’s organs and systems gently fall to the pull of gravity and relax into their anonymous work. Contrary to our conditioned thinking, it is actually more restful for the body to to sit upright allowing interior room, than to slump downward, constricting space and creating stress on the internal organs.

 

Now, without compromising the vertical stretch, allow the body to relax down and open. The “Ying” alignment is a continued opening and relaxing of the body. While the upright Yang posture aids wakeful attention, its attendant downward relaxation allows the mind to fall into the body and synchronize with the moment to moment beating of life. This horizontal opening awakens the mind’s receptive potential, as it opens out into a community of awareness.

 

In the practice of mindfulness awareness – or, as I call it, Mindful Awareness we develop a synchronicity to the parts. We combine the solar and lunar experience into a fluid synchronized dance of resting in the moment as we open to the experience. The Yang alignment develops mindfulness by rising to a specific detail of our living experience. It’s counterpoint, the Ying alignment, relaxes into acceptance and expands into an awareness of the environment. Yang establishes form and definition, while Yin accesses space and context.

 

The breathing binds these two components. With the breath we rise up and relax down. We gather in, and expand out. We take in nutrients and release toxins. We gather in the world, and then let go back into it. We bring the mind back to the breath again and again until the mind settles into a peaceful and stable connection to the present, joining heaven and earth.

 

As with any meditation practice the primary point is the effect on our life. With the posture alone, we are learning to wake up into relaxation, and to relax down into attention. We reduce stress and gain greater ability to rest in the present. SO, counter to our conditioning, we actually gain more focus in life not by focusing, or learning to tighten the mind in concentration, but by opening to our experience we can relax into resting in that experience for longer and longer periods of time. And, we always have the body, and its proper alignments – up and down – to bring us back to wholeness and balance.

 

And, as a tool the breath is perfect for balancing the yang and yin. For one thing, it is always there. It is reliably in the present. For another, it is lifting us up and relaxing us down into synchronicity with the moments of life. So, we can use this tool, anywhere as long as we remain alive. We can simply breath and with Mindful Awareness training, come to bring the mind and body back into balance by breathing into the tension, relaxing the breath into the body. The alignments will occur naturally releasing tension, and the stress of the stored tension, and breathe in nutrients to lift our mood and relax our mind.

 

In this way, we bring meditation to life. Training in body and mind awareness, so that we remain in balance with life.

 


Holding on to Letting Go

MIndful Awareness: The Precision of Openness
hands-silhouette-4x3We speak a lot about letting go. “I’ve got to let go.” “You should let that go.” “I’m letting go of letting go.” But, at the same time, we talk about mindfulness or holding to the present.  “I’m mindful of the moment.” “I’m mindful of my life”. “I’m doing a mindfulness retreat.”

Ah. And what did you learn on your retreat?

“I learned to be mindful of letting go.”

Okay.

But, what does any of that mean? How do we let go and pay attention at the same time? And while we’re at it, how can you pay attention to moments that are rapidly slipping by, without holding on? Grasping and fixation seem posited as twin evils in the church of mindfulness. But, how do we pay attention without grasping on to something?

How can we be here now, when it is gone by the time we get there?

Developing mindfulness and learning to let go are only contradictions to the programmed, conceptual part of our mind. It is the mind with which we create value judgements that allow us to communicate with the world. However, in doing so we also build an identification upon these concepts creating a “Me”construct, which is a compendium of conceptual ideas with no inherent substance. They are simply labels used to identify ourselves to social ecosystems. These concepts reduce the complexity of reality into a two-dimensional flatland of opposites. Good and Bad. Right and Wrong. Heaven and Hell. And while that may make for great rock n roll, or action adventure comics, these dualities fail profoundly as an assessment of reality. To the open, relaxed mind trained in meditation, it becomes apparent that good and bad are just points indicating a spectrum. In fact, they are really just points in an infinite array of possibilities.

In meditation practice we actually do ‘let go’ in order ‘hold to’ the moment. We let go of our personal identification and its attendant gripping in order to rest the mind on the moment. By taming the mind with meditation practice, we slow down assumptive and presumptive mental processing. At the same time, we increase our objective awareness and begin to see the steps beneath the assumption. This fellow is a good man, and will make a great president. But, if we relax into this assumption, we may see that we don’t know this person at all.  We may see that our assessment is colored by our fear of certain beliefs he stands against. We may see that our assessment is persuaded by societal pressures. When we relax beneath the labeling process, we can see the energetic exchange below. Relaxing may be a more accurate designation for letting go. Wze may see that much of our thinking on the subject is prejudiced by fear and, in fact, we have little knowledge of either the person, or the office. By relaxing, we loosen the fear based grip. We can look more deeply and objectively at the situation. We might even go beyond thinking and feel into the situation.  Far from eliminating or eradicating the moment, we are opening to the moment.  With meditation, we relax past designations and loosen the grip of our our identification in order to access the moment more objectively.

Problems arise when people either believe their assumption of reality or go to the other extreme and believe they are letting go of the moment itself. This is the linear mind of opposites. There is this and that. We are either believing our superficial mental designations, or letting go of the moment into a blank space. In meditation theory, we talk about the middle way. In our flatland way of believing the surfaces, we think it’s either gorge or purge. We believe that a middle way is a small theoretical point on a line of opposites. In truth, the middle way is the spectrum of possibility available in the moment. The middle way is multidimensional and those dimensions become more apparent as we relax further into the moment.  We are letting go of mental judgements in order to fully realize the moment. Meditation can be seen as a process of training the mind to ‘open to’ rather than ‘close down on’ an object.

Mindfulness: Agency in the Moment

Mindfulness meditation is using an object of mindfulness to stabilize the mind. Mindfulness in action is being able to hold the mind to an object in space or a moment in time (actually, the same thing).  With mindfulness training, we are incrementally letting go of panic induced gripping in order to see beyond the constrictions of fear. Gripping is how we attempt to control an uncontrollable world. We grip onto each moment and then conflate a number of feelings, thoughts, memories hopes and fears into a very handy label in an attempt to control our experience. Hence, we would rather be miserable by our own hand, than open up to possibilities which may lead us to being miserable. However, we simply cannot control life by griping to it. We defeat the purpose and actually destroy life by gripping to it. A mind without mindful attention like being in a stuffy room. And meditation is like opening the window. Gripping to that moment is like slamming the window shut in order to keep the fresh air in. 

And then when the air is once again stale we will become miserable remembering what we once had. We will imagine a time when there will once again be fresh. We will be lost in the past and the future, we will scheme and cajole, bargain and manipulate, daydream and regret.  We will scurry into a cycle of schemes each triggered by the other. We will do any number of things, except open the window.

Until we it happen again randomly, on its own. This is likely, because the window represents our natural inquisitiveness. And, the space beyond the window, our very life. Whether we know it or not, we are naturally present in that life. But, although life is always out there, and the fresh air is limitless, when we forget we are alive in our life, we are effectively shutting it out. We are preferring the laundry in the closet to the trees, mountains and the rivers outside. So, windows open naturally all the time. Only, each time we ascribe a meaning to this and credit the book we read, the person we loved, or drug we ingested, we again shut the window.  We confuse the ‘finger pointing to the moon’ with the actual moon. We will lose the object to the method and surely the window will shut again. Then we may hate the book. We may toss the book across the room. And, in a borderline show of swinging opposites, switch our drugs and throw our lover out the door, as well.  

And, when we open the door to throw them out, and the fresh air gets in, we may mistake that again. It’s a common rookie error to blame the messenger. We’ll be at the bar and everyone we buy drinks will agree, all we had to do was get a new book. But, maybe someone who doesn’t drink will risk suggesting a way of giving up the control game in order to gain access to our life.  They may suggest an actual path to discovery, rather than a placebo or panacea.  A way of giving up control and gaining agency in our life. There are those darned opposites again. Giving up control, but gaining agency in our life.  We may actually learn about the window and our tendency to look at easy surfaces instead of the complexity of truth. We may learn how to open the window for ourselves.

In time, and perhaps more importantly, we will learn that we have been the one closing the window all along. The fact is, open windows are frightening. Anything can get in and close off our life again. And so we will seal the window shut ourselves just to have control. We will throw the lover out, in order to get a jump on them dumping us. We’ll stay in and read a book. An old book, of course. a nice musty one. New books all disappoint. They are not like they were back in the day. They are definitely not what they could be. We might sit a while and imagine the book we will write someday. It will be a book much like the way they used to be. And, WE WILL BE IN CONTROL.

Lucky for us, as the of fresh air of the outside life is our natural state, eventually some neighbor’s kid will toss a rock through the window. Or, maybe after repeated disappointments, at some point, it will click. We can learn how to open the window on our own. We can learn why we close it sometimes, but we can develop along a progressive path toward opening the windows more and more. And then, once the windows are open enough, we can enjoy closing them now and gain, as a respite from life. But we know it’s our decision. We have agency, and we have gained that, by giving up control. We can’t gain access to the mind by controlling it. We gain access by working with it. We can’t gain access to the moment by clamping onit. We gain access by opening to it. And when we’ve done that enough, we can choose to close off for a while. It can be our choice.

Awareness: Access to Life. 

cropped-10584450_10152364200277968_1913484645_o.jpgWhen we can train the mind to ‘rest’ in moments without gripping, we gain a deeper access to life. In time that resting mind allows us to naturally activate a different kind of memory. WE connect the dots – not conceptually – but in experience. Our ability to access the timeline of experience grows, and we actually increase the awareness of now. Now becomes a larger – and less defined – arena. In this way, non gripping mindfulness allows us to let go into a larger field of awareness. Instead of a pinpoint designation, “now” becomes a larger field of possibility, history and potential. Sakyong Mipham translates this as “Presently Knowing”. We are presently knowing our life when we are resting in the present, not carried away in judgments of good or bad, pulled by this and that. We may be aware of references from past experience, or a view of our future, but it is all regarded in the present, without conflating it into the personalized miniature of projection.

We have trained the mind to see what is, and trained our emotions and body to allow us the contentment to relax all gripping. With meditation, we train the mind to open to the moment and rest there long enough to let go into an awareness of life.

Mindfulness is the tool by which we open TO an event, rather than close in ON the event.  Thus letting go and resting on are complimentary, and necessary components of the path to awakening.  During the path of meditation, we train ourselves to let go of its stages even as we render them into language to better track the process. We come to understand that labels are provisional titles pointing to deeper interpenetrations of experience. In this sense, as it clarifies itself, meditation practice uncovers a fundamental truth below our conditioned existence.  In order to see beyond the limitations of delineation and gain a deeper, more organic connection to life, we train the mind to loosen its grip and feel below the labels. As the mind naturally becomes more present, and more comfortable with its experience, we gain an internal confidence in ‘not knowing’ and a willingness to lean in and investigate further. Eventually, we relax our grip on this and that. Which is to say, we release our grip on separating ourselves and everything else. Apparent logical discrepancies become complementary and reality becomes unified and possible.

In the seminal manual on meditation “Turning The Mind Into An Ally”, Sakyong Mipham refers to ‘resting’ the mind on an object. Of course, “resting” is itself a conflation and a designation. But it is more subtle and energetically accurate in terms of opening to and contacting the object. The more we grip, the more the object changes and the less we actually see the object. Complicating this our personal evaluations and judgements further confuse the process. When I say resting is more energetically accurate to mindfulness, I mean it is closer to what the mind does in order to see an object clearly. It is inquisitive. It opens to the object without preempting experience with assumption. Therefore, rather than ‘focus’ the mind on the breath, Sakyong Mipham urges students to ‘rest’ the mind on the breath, and to open to the experience of breathing. This points the mind toward looking beyond the conceptual index and into an actual felt sense of a purer access to reality.

When we rest the mind repeatedly on an object, gently training the mind to return again and again to present experience, we develop the confidence to further relax the grip of our personal identification and its attendant histories and associations. The process is like raising a child, I suppose. The more our personal agenda comes into play, the more the child resists and the less accurately we see the child. This engenders a certain panic that increases our identification and gripping. We begin to conflate a miraculous human being into a limited dimensional thing, a “child”,  a “daughter”, a “son” that belongs to us. And while those designations are provisionally accurate, they evoke all sorts of assumptions that may have little to do with an actual person. This becomes particularly complicated when we say “my” daughter.  We automatically assign personal judgements and assume patterns of  behavior. Much of it is well intended, but sometimes the more we love, the more we fear. And, the more it we are instigated by fear, the greater our tendency is to panic and grip. The more panic and grip the less awareness we have. Expectation is the death of accuracy. When we expect a living, changing, dynamic being to remain faithful to our provisional designations for their lives, we rob them of self-agency and the confidence needed to live an independent life.

But does this mean we just let the child “go” and refuse to guide them or protect them? This would not be a very mindful upbringing. The key is learning to ‘guide’ the process. We are not gripping out of personal panic and its attendant delusions of the ego, but are letting go into the process of ‘seeing’ who  this person is, and how to help them open to their true potential. In this way, we are actually paying deeper attention who the child is, rather than preconceptions of what she should become. Because we are giving the child space to be, we can better understand and appreciate the child.  In this way, instead of letting go, perhaps we are letting be. We are gaining distance in order to become closer. We are opening to life by resting our mind on the moment rather than stomping all over it, appropriating it, or truncating it into a label. Therefore, we discover that there is simply more to life than we can imagine. In fact, our imagination is limited in comparison to the true complexity of life. If we are open to discovery, we will use a gentle touch in our investigation, honoring both the perceiver and perceived in an increasingly informative exchange.

By doing this we are letting go of the “Me” construct and opening up to everything else.