Wherever we are, whatever we do, all we need to do is recognize our thoughts, feelings, perceptions as something natural. Neither rejecting or accepting, we simply acknowledge the experience and let it pass. If we keep this up, we’ll eventually find ourselves becoming able to manage situations we once found painful, scary or sad. We’ll discover a sense of confidence that isn’t rooted in arrogance or pride. We’ll realize that we are always sheltered, always safe and always home.
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, The Joy of Living
photo richard hoare
As many teachers have pointed out, “the path is the goal”. That means that what we experience as “obstacles” along the way is usually just a sense of our own expectations falling apart. These same obstacles can be viewed differently, as the basis for reengaging our attention and working through whatever arises, whether it is a sense of purpose and satisfaction, or boredom and resistance, or a sense of futility. Work with whatever arises
Cyndi Lee, Yoga Body, Buddha Mind
[If] we truly want to progress on the path, we must regard our enemies as our best teachers. For whoever holds love and compassion in high esteem, the practice of tolerance is essential, and it requires an enemy. We must be grateful to our enemies, then, because they help us best engender a serene mind! Anger and hatred are the real enemies that we must confront and defeat, not the “enemies” who appear from time to time in our lives.
The Dalai Lama
The subtle suffering in our lives may seem unimportant. But if we attend to the small ways that we suffer, we create a context of greater ease, peace, and responsibility, which can make it easier to deal with the bigger difficulties when they arise.
Gil Fronsdal, Living Two Traditions
Last evening it snowed here in Ireland. Not a real fall of snow such as you would see in Switzerland but enough to stick on the ground for a while and prompt thoughts of having to travel to work in more difficult circumstances, of getting stuck by bad roads. It does not take much sometimes for the mind to feel trapped and blocked, not seeing a way out. And frequently thoughts shift to ones of blame as we feel we should be stronger and able to dig ourselves out of the difficulty we are in, However, strange as it seems, getting out of narrow places sometimes requires that we accept that we are stuck. Most blocks come from fear; getting out requires that shift our relationship towards it .
What shuts down the heart more than anything is not letting ourselves have our own experience, but instead judging it, criticizing it, or trying to make it different from what it is. We often imagine there is something wrong with us if we feel angry, needy and dependent, lonely, confused, sad, or scared. We place conditions on ourselves and our experience: “If I feel like this, there must be something wrong with me… I can only accept myself if my experience conforms to my standard of how I should be.”
Meditation cultivates unconditional friendliness through teaching you how to just be—without doing anything, without holding onto anything, and without trying to think good thoughts, get rid of bad thoughts, or achieve a pure state of mind. This is a radical practice. There is nothing else like it. Normally we do everything we can to avoid just being. When left alone with ourselves, without a project to occupy us, we become nervous. We start judging ourselves or thinking about what we should be doing or feeling. We start putting conditions on ourselves, trying to arrange our experience so that it measures up to our inner standards. Since this inner struggle is so painful, we are always looking for something to distract us from being with ourselves.
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.
photo kenneth allen
When it rains, we are not afflicted, we are not suffering. We accept the rain. We cannot go outside. We close the door to keep warm. We have our lunch and our tea inside. Our mind is the same. When our mind is clear, we do different things than we do when our mind is cloudy. We should not be afraid. If our mind is dull, we know how to practice. If it is clear, we know how to practice. We do not oppose any kind of mind. When we sit down with our dull mental formation with all our caring and love, we will begin to understand it, and we will say, “Cloudy mental formation, I really need you. Because of you, I have the capacity to see my beautiful mental formations. You are not my enemy. I know you are necessary for the manifestation and growth of positive mental formations.” When we know how to take hold of our cloudy mental formations and do walking meditation with them, then quite naturally, the situation becomes easier to bear. We no longer have a desire to push it away. We just want to take its hand and look deeply at it. Then the situation will become more bearable and we can accept a day that is rainy and windy very easily.
Thich Nhat Hahn, Taking the Hand of Suffering