We would rather be special

When Zen Master Joshu was a young monk he asked his teacher Nansen “What is the Way?” His teacher replied “Your ordinary mind is the way”. By “ordinary,  Nansen meant the mind Joshu already had; he did not need to turn it, or himself, into something else. Unfortunately, these days when we hear the word ordinary, we are inclined to think that it means “average or typical” or even “mediocre”. We contrast ordinary with special and decide, given the choice, we would rather be special. But our practice wont make us special; it will keep bringing us back to who we are already.

Barry Magid, Ending the Pursuit of Happiness

Stuck in concepts

There is great practical wisdom in understanding how the mind
creates boundaries of concern and interest, and how we can work
with these. Of course there are boundaries; there are other beings
on earth. But what counts is how those boundaries are maintained,
opened and closed.

When we consider otherness — the way beings
are different from us — we can feel either insecurity, ‘How does
she compare with me?’ or contempt, ‘You’re not as good as me’; or
fear and intimidation, ‘You’re better or stronger than me.’ Or, we
can feel adoration/attraction — ‘I want to be bonded to you.’

These immediate assumptions are called ‘conceit’: that is, we conceive
of people as worse, better or the same as us. The effect is that the
mind’s responsiveness gets stuck. 

Caught in the conceit of self-view, the heart doesn’t extend its boundaries of appreciation and concern. 

We take each other for granted as ‘my wife,’ ‘my boss,’ ‘my teacher’; and that fixing of them freezes our sensitivity. In that state, the heart easily tips over
into complaining about the other not being the way they ‘should
be’ (or rather the way I want them to be), and so the heart becomes
a breeding ground for ill-will.

Ajahn Sucitto, Parami: Ways to Cross Life’s Floods

On the island

 

how would it be to allow for knowing
and not knowing:

allowing room
for the mystery
of creating
to be able to wonder
softly
without needing to understand everything
to trust in the process
to trust in love
to trust in the mystery and wonder
of the universe
that beats softly wildly
true
all round about us,
that is hidden
in the mists
in the clouds and the rain
in the wind blowing and the rain lashing down on your window,
reminding you
poetically
prosaically
that this is where you are,
on the island,
at the edge,
in a place of finding
and refinding,
and remembering
to remember
the feel of the mist, wind and rain.

Author Unknown, sometimes attributed to John O’Donohue

Enough light

The art of living is to enjoy what we can see and not complain about what remains in the dark.  When we are able to take the next step with the trust that we will have enough light for the step that follows, we can walk through life with joy and be surprised at how far we go.  Let’s rejoice in the little light we carry and not ask for the great beam that would take all shadows away.

Henry Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

The Ordinary

A lot of the narrative around the New Year suggests that it must be different and special….

We tend to overlook the ordinary. We are usually only aware of our breath when it’s abnormal, like if we have asthma or when we’ve been running hard. But [with mindfulness] we take our ordinary breath as the meditation object. We don’t try to make the breath long or short, or control it in any way, but to simply stay with the normal inhalation and exhalation. The breath is not something that we create or imagine; it is a natural process of our bodies that continues as long as life lasts, whether we concentrate on it or not. So it is an object that is always present; we can turn to it at any time. We don’t have to have any qualifications to watch our breath. We do not even need to be particularly intelligent — all we have to do is to be content with, and aware of, one inhalation and exhalation. Wisdom does not come from studying great theories and philosophies, but from observing the ordinary.

Ajahn Sumedho, Now is the Knowing

The future is open

Everything is material for the seed of happiness, if you look into it with inquisitiveness and curiosity. The future is completely open, and we are writing it moment to moment. There always is the potential to create an environment of blame — or one that is conducive to loving-kindness.

Pema Chodron