Not knowing is not a problem

We have not been raised to cultivate a sense of Mystery. We may even see the unknown as an insult to our competence, a personal failing. Seen this way, the unknown becomes a challenge to action. But Mystery does not require action; Mystery requires our attention. Mystery requires that we listen and become open. When we meet with the unknown in this way, we can be touched by a wisdom that can transform our lives.

 Rachel Naomi Remen,  My Grandfather’s Blessings

Tea without leaves

Sometimes people think that when they meditate there should be no thoughts and emotions at all; and when thoughts and emotions do arise, they become annoyed and exasperated with themselves and think that they have failed.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  There is a Tibetan saying: ‘It’s a tall order to ask for meat without bones, and tea without leaves.”  So long as you have a mind, there will be thoughts and emotions. 

Just as the ocean has waves, or the sun has rays, so the mind’s own radiance is its thoughts and emotions.  The ocean has waves, yet the ocean is not particularly disturbed by them.  The waves are the very nature of the ocean.   Waves will rise, but where do they go?  Back into the ocean.  And where do waves come from? The ocean.  In the same manner, thoughts and emotions are the radiance and expression of the very nature of the mind.  They rise from the mind, but where do they dissolve? Back into the mind.  Whatever arises, do not see it as a particular problem.  If you do not impulsively react, if you are only patient, it will once again settle into its essential nature. 

Sogdal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

Open to Ambiguity

The test of a psychologically mature person, and therefore spiritually mature, will be found in his or her capacity to handle what one might call the Triple A’s: anxiety, ambiguity and ambivalence. While all of us suffer these onslaughts and react reflexively, the immature psyche especially suffers a tension and seeks to resolve it quickly by a shift right or left to a one-sided solution. The more mature psyche is able to sustain the tension of opposites and contain conflict longer, thereby allowing the development and revelatory potential of the issue to emerge. Anxiety rises in the face of uncertainty, open-endedness. Ambiguity confounds the ego’s lust for security, to fix the world in a permanently knowable place. Ambivalence – the fact that the opposites are always present, visible or not  – obliges one to deal with the capacity for dialogue with that other.

James Hollis, Creating a Life.

Finding serenity within

The nature of the mind is comparable to the ocean.

The incessant movement of waves  on the surface of the ocean prevents us from seeing its depths.

If we dive down there are no more waves;

there is just the immense serenity of the depths….

Pema Wangyal Rinpoche

Storms often lead to growth

There can be bad weather and winds outside and similar storms and movement  in our inner life. It is good to see them in a similar way:  simply as stuff “passing through”. Sometimes, however, they can shake us out of our habitual patterns and bring us back to what is important.

When changewinds swirl through our lives, they often call us to undertake a new passage of the spiritual journey: that of confronting the lost and counterfeit places within us and releasing our deeper, innermost self – our true selves. They call us to come home to ourselves, to become who we really are.

Sue Monk Kidd, When the Heart Waits

Feel the next step

The next step is to train ourselves in staying mindful and aware of the body throughout the day. As we go through our daily activities, we frequently get lost in thoughts of past and future, not staying grounded in the awareness of our bodies. A simple reminder that we’re lost in thought is the very common feeling of rushing. Rushing is a feeling of toppling forward. Our minds run ahead of us, focusing on where we want to go, instead of settling into our bodies where we are.

Learn to pay attention to this feeling of rushing  — which does not particularly have to do with how fast we are going. We can feel rushed while moving slowly, and we can be moving quickly and still be settled in our bodies. Either way, we’re likely not present. If you can, notice what thought or emotion has captured the attention. Then, just for a moment, stop and settle back into the body: feel the foot on the ground, feel the next step.

Joseph Goldstein,  A Heart Full of Peace