Sunday, February 26, 2017

Noticing and returning

Michael Hall
February 26, 2017

“In going and returning I never leave home”.
Master Hakuin’s Chant in Praise of Zazen

What does it mean to “never leave home”? Life happens, changes occur, the unexpected and unforeseen become normal. All around us, our carefully constructed life as we know it appears threatened. In the face of the unknown, how do we react? Although continuous change is the very nature of existence, there is simultaneously a ground of being that is rock solid, impervious, unaffected. Its nature is our nature-calm, present, open, curious, receptive. Now this, just as it is. Can we embrace all of this, every last drop, leaving nothing out? Who is it, really, that picks and chooses? Why would we think and believe deeply that our minds know what is best? It is only our minds, which aren’t really ours, that imagine a different this would somehow be better, more appropriate. These minds we know to be conditioned, programmed, constructed. Isn’t an essential aspect of the spiritual path to gradually let go of our addiction to our thoughts and beliefs? The more attached we are to being right the more trouble we will experience in life. It’s that simple. When distressed by some event which hasn’t turned out the way we wanted, can we return to the mind that doesn’t know? Can we wait and see, allowing life to have its way with us? What would that feel like? Not knowing is the greatest blessing. What a relief to sink deeply into this present moment, exactly as it is, needing nothing to be different.
It’s a sometimes comforting fantasy to assume we know what is best. All spiritual paths stress the importance of surrender. “Not my will but thy will be done”. Understanding the nature of surrender is the challenge. It is our perceived sense of separation that makes acceptance of what is so difficult. The belief in separation has a corollary-the belief in the need to be in control. These assumptions and beliefs need to be brought into full awareness and seen directly. They cause us so much difficulty. Yet even in deep acceptance and surrender, there is ‘coming and going’. When life itself encourages action, then action occurs, freely. The action encouraged by life usually is engagement from the perspective of not knowing. The appearance of such action is loving kindness, empathy, and compassion. In the face of this genuine goodwill, the ‘other’ relaxes, let’s their guard down, as it is human nature to want to be seen and understood. It seems the compassionate perspective is required to bridge the perception of separation.  It appears to me that real compassion only emerges from not knowing. If we really believe we are right and the other is wrong, there is no basis to begin. Suspend belief, and let life show you the way.

It is enormously important to remember to notice our inner experiences. When we notice that we have lost our ground, we need to remember what it feels like to be present and open. Normally, when we lose our solid footing we double down on our attachment to belief. This is the time to let go, accept that you really don’t know, and allow life to show you what is currently not being seen clearly. None of us see clearly all the time. We all are capable of being triggered when we perceive challenge or threat. Our goal is to remember to pay attention and be as honest as possible with our self. Notice-stop, breathe, allow, let go. You really don’t know. It’s ok to not know. Not knowing is your true nature. The mind that knows is closed, rigid, defensive. Allow yourself to not know. It’s ok. Maybe you can learn something! In this open allowing exists the possibility of returning to the ground of being. Welcoming everything, rejecting  nothing. 

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