[Once] the Buddha asked a musician how he tuned his instrument before playing. The musician said “If I tune the strings too tight they break. If I tune them too loose, no sound will come out. So not too tight and not too loose works best” To which the Buddha replied “This is how you should hold your mind in meditation”. It works the same way with fear. If we immediately begin busying ourselves with explanations, solutions and rationalizations, then we haven’ t allowed space for perspective to develop – we’ve responded with too much tightness. If we fail to look at what frightens us, if we blow it off or continually procrastinate about acknowledging our fears, we’re missing an opportunity for self-knowledge and skilful action. This is too loose. Fear invariably makes us do one of two things in response to this uncertainty and unpredictability: Either we tighten up around it too quickly, and begin imposing structure and rules on something not as yet fully defined, or we pretend that what frightens us is no big deal. We stop paying attention and space out.
Susan Piver, How not to be Afraid of your Life
Tuning into the sensations in the body is the first foundation of mindfulness. This is a crucial practice because normally whatever we experience — our feelings, emotions, thoughts and perceptions — also arise as sensations in our body. It is also the case that previous experiences – good and bad – can be stored almost in the cells of the body, and can be a better signal of what is going on than our interpretation of it. When we practice mindfulness of the body, we train in being open to a changing stream of sensations without pushing away or holding on, and this practice becomes our refuge when faced with emotional storms.
The teaching of the actual body is the harbour and the weir.
This is the most important thing in the world.
There is one thing that, when cultivated and regularly practiced, leads to peace, to mindfulness and clear comprehension, to vision and knowledge, to a happy life here and now, and to the culmination of wisdom and awakening. And what is that one thing? It is mindfulness centered on the body.
The Buddha, Anguttara Nikaya
In meditation practice, you work directly with your confused mind-states, without waging crusades against any aspect of your experience. You let all your tendencies arise, without trying to screen anything out, manipulate experience in any way, or measure up to any ideal standard. Allowing yourself the space to be as you are — letting whatever arises arise, without fixation on it, and coming back to simple presence — this is perhaps the most loving and compassionate way you can treat yourself. It helps you make friends with the whole range of your experience.
As you simplify in this way, you start to feel your very presence as wholesome in and of itself. You don’t have to prove that you are good. You discover a self-existing sanity that lies deeper than all thought or feeling. You appreciate the beauty of just being awake, responsive, and open to life. Appreciating this basic, underlying sense of goodness is the birth of maitri — unconditional friendliness toward yourself.
John Welwood, The Practice Of Love
Mindfulness is first of all the ability to recognize what is happening in the present moment. It is a simple recognition – without judgment or criticism, without suppression or attachment. I breathe in and I am aware that the in-breath is here. I breathe out, and I am aware that the outbreath is here. There is no criticism or struggle. There is no effort to reject anything or grab on to it.
Thich Nhat Hahn, You are Here
Field of Poppies, May 28, 2012
The utmost care and attention is needed to see the internal drama fairly, accurately, dispassionately, in order to express it as it is seen. What we mean by “being made to feel good” or “getting hurt” is the internal enhancing of our ongoing me-story, or the puncturing and deflating of it. Enhancement or disturbance of the me-story is accompanied by pleasurable energies or painful feelings and emotions throughout the organism. Either warmth or chill can be felt at the drop of a word that evokes memories, feelings, passions. Conscious or unconscious emotional recollections of what happened yesterday or long ago surge through the bodymind, causing feelings of happiness or sadness, affection or humiliation.
[But] Can we experience freshly, directly, when hurt or flattery is taking place? What is happening? What is being hurt? And what keeps the hurt going? Can there be some awareness of defenses arising, fear and anger forming, or withdrawal taking place, all accompanied by some kind of story-line? Can the whole drama become increasingly transparent? And in becoming increasingly transparent, can it be thoroughly questioned? What is it that is being protected? What is it that gets hurt or flattered? Me? What is me? Is it images, ideas, memories? Can the instant connection between thought and sensations become palpable? The immediacy of it. No I-entity directing it, even though we say and believe I am doing all that. It’s just happening automatically, with no one intending to “do” it. Those are all afterthoughts!
Toni Packer, What is This Me?
When we look closely, we find that we pass a great deal of time within the mental frame of being “on our way to the next thing”— completing a task that has been hanging over us, getting to our next meal, disengaging from a phone conversation. Now is not as important as doing something to relieve the stress we feel from unmet wants and gnawing fears. We don’t like the feelings that arise inside us when we are forced simply to wait.
But in life we have to wait a lot. According to one study, the average person in our culture spends eleven days a year just waiting in lines — and this doesn’t count time in planes and cars waiting to “get there.” Nor does it include hours of listening to electronic messages or waiting for TV commercials to end so that we can get back to the main feature. Throughout our day, red lights get in our way. Waiting is stressful, but it is part of the life of all creatures. As long as we have wants and fears, we are waiting for fulfillment or relief. The big question in spiritual practice is, how do we react to biological and psychological stress? Do we think having to wait and tolerate discomfort is a mistake, a glitch in the system?
Tara Brach, Blessings of a Patient Heart