The Warmth of Our Completeness (Audio)

Any simple practice, anything we do in life can come from more than one approach. We can count our breath with a sense of struggling to get some outcome, or we can be warm and kind to ourselves. We long for a sense of completeness and fulfillment, and we suffer when we believe that fulfillement will come in some future moment or attainment. Shunryu Suzuki calls this the ‘stepladder’ approach to practice.

Our practice can come from a tremendous sense of affirmation – our completeness is here and now! So we smile at what is here, this breath now. One could define meditation as basking in the warmth of our completeness right now.

Our reading for the day came from Not Always So: Practicing the True Spirit of Zen by Shunryu Suzuki.

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The Courage of Simple Presence (Audio)

This is the meditation talk from July 3, 2010.

The traditional teachings say that patience is the antidote to aggression. When we have any strong energy, it wants to complete itself in some kind of action or resolution. In a way it is like a snowball rolling down the side of a mountain, gathering momentum and speed as it goes. The resolution – such as telling someone off – feels good for a moment, but then it leads to further suffering.

We need the courage to just be present and aware, not looking for a resolution to strong feelings but for the underlying openness that underlies feelings. That is how we open the door of compassion, for ourselves and others.

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Our reading for the day came from Practicing Peace in Times of War by Pema Chodron.

The Freedom of Restraint

Freedom, in the meditation traditions, is often referred to as the freedom of restraint, a freedom not to do what one desires. This is a paradox – and it is certainly counterintuitive in a culture that fights against restrictions and limitations of any type. Many people would say that freedom means freedom to do anything in any way at any time. I am free, one might think, if I can do whatever I want.

The vastly different perspectives come from how one understands what might limit one’s freedom. We live in a world where our freedom is seen as limited by external factors – repressive powers, rules, or conditions. And indeed, our struggles to insure basic rights and freedoms is a part of our movement toward true humanity and sane co-existence.
Yet with mindfulness we can see that there may be a deeper level of freedom, and unexpected sources of limitation. We can begin to explore how much of our time is ruled by aggression and desire, and how easily we are captivated by moment to moment changes in our minds. At the mercy of aggression and desire, we are not free. Lost in our stories, we are not free. Endless amount of material fulfillments will not free us.

Freedom is experienced when we are free not to follow the infinite and exhausting demands that mind presents to us. Freedom reveals itself when we discover that we are not our minds and we are not our desires. This is the freedom of restraint. Some mindfulness teachers compare this to coming out of the scorching sun into the cool shade of a tree. In the cool clarity of wisdom and restraint, we find a peace and joy that is the true mark of freedom.