We try to maintain a relaxed observing, and not identify with our thoughts. The heart of mindfulness practice:
To think ‘I am screwed up’, is a value judgement, isn’t it? ‘Screwed up’ makes the ‘I am’. It is identifying with a certain kind of condition, a feeling about oneself personally. If we leave off the ‘screwed up’ bit, we get more to the reality of the moment ― ‘Right now I am . . .’ and there is this sense of being here and now. This is a recognition of conscious experience as an entity. There is an entity but it is not personal any more; it is not ‘I am Ajahn Sumedho’ or ‘I am’ anything at all; it is just this sense of ‘I am’, of presence. Being a conscious entity is ― ‘like this’. Reflect on that and sustain it for a while, that sense of ‘I am’, without adding any personal conditions to it.
In this sense of ‘I am’, the body is ‘like this’. There is consciousness, there is the breath (one can be aware of just the breathing of the body, in-breathing and out-breathing.), there is the ‘sound of silence’, the background. And in this intuitive moment, one observes without adding any kind of personal quality.
Ajahn Sumedho, Try to have a Permanent Emotion.
To give ourselves compassion, we first have to recognize that we are suffering. We can’t heal what we can’t feel. We certainly feel the sting of falling short of our ideals, but our mind tends to focus on the failure itself, rather than the pain caused by failure. This is a crucial difference. The moment we see something about ourselves we don’t like, our attention tends to be absorbed by our perceived flaws. In that moment, we don’t have the perspective needed to recognize the suffering caused by our feelings of imperfection, let alone to respond with compassion. We need to stop for a breath or two and acknowledge that we’re having a hard time, and that our pain is deserving of kind, caring response.
Frequently on Mondays we wish we were somewhere else. We have difficulty realizing that the only moment for us to be alive is this one. We wish our lives away, and they pass us by without us having seen the opportunity that lay in front of us.
All of our listening brings us home. This is what the teacher-soul keeps saying to the student-self in each of us: To accept our place in the miracle before us, to listen to our experience, to our bodies, to our pain, to our wonder, to our place in the mystery, until we land and sing – this is what all birdsong calls us to remember. Try as we will to fly away, all flight leads us to land where we began, different but the same. Try as we will to get out of here, life simply and harshly returns us to the heart of here, which, if listened to, opens us to the heart of everything. What the teacher says to the student who complains is that there is no lesson plan for living but to live. And all our dreams and plans and strategies are necessary detours to the brilliant reality of the life we already inhabit.
Healing depends on listening with the inner ear – stopping the incessant blather, and listening. Fear keeps us chattering – fear that wells up from the past, fear of blurting out what we really fear, fear of future repercussions. It is our very fear of the future that distorts the now that could lead to a different future if we dared to be whole in the present.
Marion Woodman, Jungian Analyst
Today is the Feast of Saint Martin, traditionally a big day of celebration in all countries around Europe and the start of a period of fasting and preparation for Christmas. It was the last day of harvest celebrations and the following days saw a period of simplification and slowing down. Less, rather than more, was seen as the way to keep our bodies and minds in harmony with natural rhythms at this time of year.
The notion of a spirituality of subtraction comes from Meister Eckhart (c.1260-1327), the medieval Dominican mystic. He said the spiritual life has much more to do with subtraction than it does with addition.
Yet I think most Christians today are involved in great part in a spirituality of addition. The capitalist worldview is the only one most of us have ever known. We see reality, experiences, events, other people, and things — in fact, everything — as objects for our personal consumption. Even religion…worship services, and meritorious deeds become ways to advance ourselves…The nature of the capitalist mind is that things (and often people!) are there for me. Religion looks good on my résumé, and anything deemed “spiritual” is a check on my private worthiness list.
Richard Rohr, Radical Grace
We seldom become all of who we are until forced to it….. I have come to believe that we are destined to be opened by the living of our days, and whether we like it or not, whether we choose to participate or not, we will in time, everyone of us, wear the deeper part of who we are as new skin. Either by erosion from without or by shedding from within – and often both – we are forced to live more authentically. And once the crisis that opened us passes, the real choice then becomes: Will we continue such authentic living?
Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening