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.

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Moving Beyond Hope and Fear – Audio

Our Saturday meditation talk was inspired by a reading from Pema Chodron’s book Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living (Shambhala Library). The key idea is that our hopes and fears, by focusing on the past and future, actually take us away from the only moment where peace and fullfillment can be found. We take the briefest of snapshots from the past, add fantasies about an unknown future, and become endlessly entangled and impoverished.

The present is rich beyond measure
If we give up what is not real
Then at last we can give
Our living awareness to this moment

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Beginner’s Mind

It may sound paradoxical, but we are not trying to become experts or masters of mindfulness, wisdom, or compassion. We want to keep a fresh and vibrant experience of what is forever new: this moment. Suzuki Roshi calls this approach Beginner’s Mind. Think about how vivid and alive new experiences can be –your first visit to a new city or country, your first taste of chocolate pie, your first kiss. With repetition of experiences, we often become less present to this moment. This lack of presence opens the floodgates to the endless thoughts and stories our mind creates. We can practice our stories, but we cannot practice what is endlessly beginning and forever new.
Spirituality is about being vividly alive now, not achieving something. This moment has never happened, and one might say that universe has orchestrated its entire history just to reveal this moment, this awareness, this breath. We let go of the stories, and awaken for the first time in this moment to witness the incredible display of this. There are not even any words for something so fresh and new. And even as we embrace it, it all dissolves into the next revelation of now.
I highly recommend Suzuki Roshi’s book, Zen Mind Beginners Mind. It was one of the first books I read about meditation and presence, and it is one that I return to again and again for inspiration.

Awakening Right Now

The mind creates stories, and perhaps one of its favorite stories for meditatators is the story of ‘enlightenment’ – that wonderful time when we will at last understand all the secrets of life. The story seems so noble and so beautiful that we do not see its subtle implications.  The mind is telling us that something immeasurably important to us is not present – it is in some unattained future moment. We are incomplete and separate from this wonderful moment of awakening.

We need a new map and a new vision of what is happening in our spiritual practice.  Awakened presence is the core of who we are, not something distant and separate.  Right now – and NOW is the only game in town – an incredible array of sense and form and feeling is present.  The stories mind weaves are indeed part of this changing present moment, but stories misrepresent what is happening.  They are like a movie that draws us in until we forget that we are watching a movie.

Our stories are dreams and we are either awake to them – now – or lost in them.  Our awakening or enlightenment happens right now as we clearly see what is presently arising. We can only be awake to this moment …and now this moment …and now this one.

Our awakening
   is not some distant state
   that we may one day achieve
It is the gift of presence
   that we give
   to what arises now
      and now
         and now