When we are willing to be intimate with what actually is here now, to look directly at all of our experience, we might recognize that this is our life, however different from our thoughts and ideas about it. It is as if we hunker down and actually get very real, recognizing that our thoughts of gaining and losing, good and bad, happy and sad, are what distance us from ourselves.
Once Dongshan was asked, ‘What is the deepest truth? What is the wisdom that liberates?’
His response was, ‘I am always close to this.’
It is the closeness itself – the intimacy with what is here with us now – that is the truth that liberates us.
Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara, Most Intimate: A Zen Approach to Life’s Challenges
The sense of unworthiness, it seems, comes out of our being talked out of, trained out of, conditioned out of trusting our natural being. It is the result of being turned away from ourselves, taught to distrust ourselves. We are worthy of letting go of our unworthiness. If we did nothing but practice letting go of unworthiness, much of the stuff we’re working so hard to clear away would have no support system. We would have more room to grow. Consciously we surrender unworthiness as it arises, not entertaining it with the ego’s list of credits. the work which will awaken us is that of becoming keenly aware of unworthiness without judging it.
Stephen Levine, A Gradual Awakening
Fear is the cheapest room in the house.
I would like to see you living in better conditions.
J. Krishnamurti, the great Indian philosopher and spiritual teacher, spoke and travelled almost continually all over the world for more than fifty years attempting to convey through words…that which is beyond words. At one of his talks in the later part of his life, he surprised his audience by asking, “Do you want to know my secret?”
Everyone became very alert. Many people in the audience had been coming to listen to him for twenty or thirty years and still failed to grasp the essence of his teaching. Finally, after all these years, the master would give them the key to understanding.
“This is my secret,” he said. “I don’t mind what happens.”
Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth – Awakening to your Life’s Purpose’
The most prophetic thing Thomas Merton ever did was to say to a Louisville shopkeeper who asked him what brand of toothpaste he preferred, “I don’t care”. Merton was intrigued and troubled by the store clerk’s response. “He almost dropped dead” he wrote, “I was supposed to feel strongly about Colgate or Pepsodent or something with five colours. And they all have a secret ingredient. But I didn’t care about the secret ingredient ….the worst thing you can do now is not care about these things”
This not-caring attitude is important to hold onto these days and still prophetic, because the ultimate goal of the marketer is to have us see consumer products not as mere things, but as keys to our identity. Brands are marks that owners out on their property, often by painful means, and we are in perilous territory when our self-image, and even our self-worth, is founded on which brands and labels we can afford to purchase and display.
Kathleen Norris, The Secret Ingredient
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