One more post prompted by recent references to Adam and Eve. These ancient stories attempt to do justice to the fundamental truth of the human condition, using the language of those days. And we are told that after they ate of the tree of knowledge, Adam and Eve hid themselves. This simple fact – the need to hide and protect themselves, the existence of judgmental thoughts and guilty emotions – alerted God to the fact that something had changed. When he asked them why they were hiding, Adam replied “I was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself”
As I said, the writers were reflecting on what their own experience was. And it is similar to ours. We feel fear and that leads us to pull back and hide from others, because of the anticipation that we will get hurt. The openness and ease of the original days is not easy to find, even in the closest relationships. And most of us have been hurt along the way, from early childhood onwards. There is a relationship between how reliable things were in our childhood and how confused and difficult our relationships are as adults. So there can be an ongoing struggle between the part of us that loves and the part of us that fears, the part that wishes to be open and be seen and the part that want to protect itself and hide. And so all of us will struggle from time to time to keep believing in love, in allowing ourselves get close to others.
What we can learn from these ancient stories is that some undercurrent of fear has always been present in human history and will likely always be present in our lives. The difference between adulthood and childhood is that we do not have to allow it dominate. We can act in spite of our fears. Mindfulness is based on this same understanding that there are fears at the heart of life, and that does not mean there is anything wrong with our life, or with us, just because we feel them. We do not have to turn this fact into a judgment about ourselves or others. We can choose not to hide. We can work through our fears.
This statement by Tara Brach contains the essence of practice: All of our reactions to people, to situations, to thoughts in our mind – are actually reactions to the kind of sensations that are arising in our body.
See if you can practice this today: Notice the sensations in your body, before thinking sets in. Notice how the body reacts to pleasant and unpleasant events or experiences. Stay with fear as a feeling in the body before it gets to thoughts or emotions. Can you allow the sensation just remain a sensation in the body? Can you stop judging your whole life just because of a disturbing feeling in the body?
We do not get too many opportunities to get to English speaking retreats here in Switzerland, so it is nice when one comes around. From Thursday evening March 3rd to Sunday March 6th, Christina Feldman will lead a silent retreat at the Meditation Centre in Beatenburg, near Interlaken. Christina is an excellent teacher and author who has been leading insight meditation retreats internationally since 1975. She has trained extensively in the major Buddhist traditions. She is a guiding teacher of Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Mass., U.S.A and is co-founder of Gaia House in Devon, England. Her books include Compassion, Silence and The Buddhist Path to Simplicity.
Full details can be found at their website: http://www.karuna.ch/xs_cms/index.php?lg=2&id=2
Perhaps the truth depends upon a walk around the lake.
Yeats’ quote could almost be written about meditation.
I love the way he says we can life a “fiercer” life by touching into calm, or seeing what is truly important, by simplifying things down to the essential.
We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.
W B Yeats
In this mild weather the first snowdrops are beginning to appear in the garden. I love the old legend about this flower. Adam and Eve were banished from the warmth and security of the Garden of Eden. They longed for the original sense of belonging and attunement which they once had. And then, to make matters worse, it became cold and started to snow. Eve began to cry, believing that she would never see warmth and love again. Seeing this, an angel felt sorry for her, caught a snowflake in his hand, breathed on it, and when it hit the ground it turned into these delicate flowers. This beauty gave her comfort and hope in the winter of her difficulties. Like Eve, we all search for that original safety which we know deep down. We all need little signs to keep us going. We can look for them today.
Cheerfulness comes naturally with meditation. It is a quality of space created within the mind. When there’s space in the mind, the mind relaxes, and we feel a simple sense of delight. We experience the possibility of living a life in which we are not continuously aggravated by emotions, discursiveness, and concepts about the nature of things…. Despite all the ups and downs of our life, we are fundamentally awake individuals who have a natural ability to become compassionate and wise. Our nature is to be cheerful. This cheerfulness is deeper than temporary conditions. The day does not have to be sunny for us to be cheerful.
When we practice meditation, we are encouraging this natural state of cheerfulness. We don’t have to regard meditating as a somber activity; we can think of it as sitting there and being cheerful. We are using a technique to build clarity, strength, and flexibility of mind. In training our mind in pliability and power, we’re learning to relax, to loosen up, so that we can change our attitude on a dime. Strength of mind and pliancy are the causes and result of cheerfulness.
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche