And no one can help you, not even your most loving mother and father, as much as your own mind well-trained.
Awareness is able to hold everything that passes through the mind – thoughts, emotions, sensations – in its kind, non-judging space. It holds things lightly, without becoming identified with them. This “flowing” quality of awareness allows us move with the arising and falling away of conditions, without becoming fixed in any of their forms.
A person fundamentally does not dwell anywhere. The white clouds are fascinated with the green mountain’s foundation. The bright moon cherishes being carried along with the flowing water. The clouds part and the mountains appear. The moon sets and the water is cool. Each bit of autumn contains vast interpenetration without bounds.
Hongzhi, 12th Century Zen writer
Waking up in the morning, I vow with all beings
to listen to those whom I love, especially to things they don’t say.
Lighting a candle for Buddha, I vow with all beings
to honor your clear affirmation: “Forget yourself and you’re free.”
When I stroll around in the city, I vow with all beings
to notice how lichen and grasses never give up in despair
Watching a spider at work, I vow with all beings
to cherish the web of the universe: touch one point and everything moves.
When the racket can’t be avoided, I vow with all beings
to close my eyes for a moment and find my treasure right here.
With tropical forests in danger, I vow with all beings
to raise hell with the people responsible and slash my consumption of trees.
Watching gardeners label their plants , I vow with all beings
to practice the old horticulture and let plants identify me.
On reading the words of Thoreau, I vow with all beings
to cherish our home-grown sages, who discern the perennial Way.
Falling asleep at last I vow with all beings
to enjoy the dark and the silence and rest in the vast unknown.
Robert Aiken, Verses for Zen Buddhist Practice
Ajahn Chah, Letter to Ajahn Sumedho
As long as we conceive reality in terms of self and time, as a “me” who is someplace and can go some other place, then we are not realizing that going forwards, going backwards, and standing still are all entirely dependent upon the relative truths of self, locality, and time. In terms of physical reality, there is a coming and going. But think about it. Where can we truly go? Do we ever really go anywhere? Wherever we go we are always “here.”
On one of the few sunny days recently, I was walking along the lanes near our house and took this photograph of the cows happily eating in the farm next door. It reminded me of the old Buddhist tale which I have posted about before, but because it follows some of the themes of the last few days I will return to it again here. Mindfulness practice helps us see that our sense of wellbeing can be increased if we stop trying to hold onto our idea of what life should be like, and instead move towards what life actually is like. So this leads to another meaning in the words “let go” – letting go what we think we need for happiness and the conditions we feel must be fulfilled in order for happiness to come.
The story is here told by Thich Nhat Hahn, and like all parables can speak to us in different ways at different moments in our lives. Hopefully it may speak to you in some way today:
One day the Buddha was sitting in the forest with some monks when a farmer approached them. The farmer said, “Venerable monks, did you see my cows come by? I have a dozen cows and they all ran away. On top of that I have five acres of sesame plants and this year the insects ate them all up. I think I am going to kill myself. It isn’t possible to live like this”
The Buddha felt a lot of compassion toward the farmer. He said “My friend, I am sorry, we did not see your cows come this way”. When the farmer had gone, the Buddha turned to his monks and said “My friends, Do you know why you are happy? Because you have no cows to lose”
I would like to say the same to you. If you have some cows you have to identify them. You think they are essential to your happiness, but if you practice deep looking, you will see that it is not these cows that have brought about your happiness. The secret of happiness is being able to let go of your cows.