Sacred West

Buddhism and Modern Life

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Put On Shoes, Throw Freedom Away

October 20th, 2008 · 3 Comments · Filed under: Practice

We can watch ourselves close down our spacious mind in order to fabricate a wall of comfort around ourselves, and we can train through meditation techniques to strip this wall back away again.

As I wake in the mornings I find it relatively simple to notice the thoughts beginning to form a picture of my circumstances “out there”. I catch myself getting absorbed in arising “realities” that I need to remember and deal with during my working day.

In the dark with my eyes closed I can pull myself back into my own experience itself, and most mornings I play with watching this concretization occur, pulling back from the going out. I’m always astonished at what a simple trick it is happening to me, and yet how unresistingly I get pulled into this delusion. David Deida has described this in nicely lay terms:

…you can feel your attention “come out” of a deeper, blissful consciousness and “carve” a world of thoughts, objects, feelings and relationships that you call your life. Out of the silent, blissful nothing of deep sleep, suddenly you are aware of – and absorbed by – whatever world reflects your current fears and hopes.
-from Finding God Through Sex

Having pulled back in the dark, however, the difficult task for me is retain this space as my eyes come open. This is something I’m practicing with, and in sitting meditation sometimes I’ll close my eyes, and try to discover what it takes to open them and retain the same completeness of experience.

(Tip. I’ve noticed that gentleness is the way to take my inward feeling of self-in-body out to the world outside the body. Gentleness, as all my Shambhala teachers have always emphasized.)

One morning a few months back I woke up and pulled myself back from this world of absorption, and felt utterly peaceful, resting in great spaciousness. I opened my eyes and retained the spaciousness. Softly I arose, and started getting dressed, spaciously sitting down to pull on some shoes.

As the left shoe was coming on I watched in bitter surprise as I turned away from the great peaceful mind of empty space and reached out to the clothing of thoughts and preoccupations to wrap myself in. I watched my space shrink and draw close, and I was able to detect a lingering trace of the desire for comfort that had caused this. Comfort.

Dammit. Pull on familiar clothes, bring on familiar thoughts, and before you know it you’re dumb again.

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 chodpa // Oct 21, 2008 at 3:51 am

    Hi there .. this is a great post …. and much to reflect on there … many thanks indeed :-)

    One quick question for you .. you say:

    “As I wake in the mornings I find it relatively simple to notice the thoughts beginning to form a picture of my circumstances “out there”. I catch myself getting absorbed in arising “realities” that I need to remember and deal with during my working day.

    In the dark with my eyes closed I can pull myself back into my own experience itself, and most mornings I play with watching this concretization occur, pulling back from the going out.”

    Just wondering what you are pointing to exactly … you seem to counterpose ‘my own experience itself’ … with ‘the thoughts [which] begin to form a picture of my circumstances out there’.

    Where do ‘thoughts’ sit in ‘your experience’? Am I wrong in thinking there is a distinction being pointed to here? If not … how do these things relate to each other, in your understanding?

    take care, and very best wishes to you in the dharma,

    Chodpa

  • 2 SacredWest // Oct 21, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    wow – you had to ask the hard question didn’t you? :)

    This was something I rushed past a little bit (hoping no one would call me on it). I didn’t want to take the words to distinguish between these things – let’s see if I can.

    I think I’m talking about becoming absorbed in the thinking, and taking as solid the represented world depicted in the thinking, and then realizing I’m actually still just lying in my body, in my bed, and that’s all that’s going on – and all that needs to go on for the moment.

    In that mindfulness I then can see the thoughts faintly arising and milling around and passing away, at a distance that is actually appropriate to my just-awoken state. The thoughts can come and go, but I find my habit of absorption in them beckons them closer and invites them to multiply and magnify and form an impenetrable cluster around me.

    In other words, I lose mindfulness of my present situation, lost in thoughts. But since this becoming lost in thought actually arises as I awake, I get to see it happen.

    So instead of leaping up and saying okay I gotta do this or that or the other, ruled by all these thoughts, instead of this – and because of meditation practice and the spaciousness that grows from it – now I have the gift of space to watch this thought storm happen, and play with letting it abate also.

    This is what’s so different from the rest of the day. In the day, usually in meditation, I can come to mindfulness, out of thought, and usually I’ve been in thought when I start this coming to mindfulness. And in meditation I can lose this and then return to mindfulness as awareness brings me back – back to the breath again and again.

    But in the morning waking up it happens in the opposite sequence. I start without thought, and get to watch it come – or at least notice how it’s taken over in the last few seconds. I start with mindfulness (or perhaps just awareness, calling me, now awoken, to take stock in mindfulness of my present, empty situation), and I catch myself daubing layer upon layer of thickness of thought on the projection screen.

    I even notice my eyes are focused upward in my head as I visualize these “solid” thoughts. In the dark, with my eyes closed, I lower my gaze and feel simple body awareness fill the present again.

    So the thoughts are my experience yes, and I “should” be experiencing them in the simple way we know from meditation. And from shamatha meditation we know that being lost in thoughts, holding them as concrete things, is not the same as experiencing awareness of thoughts, without attachment.

    So it’s difficult for me to describe that difference, but others must have done it brilliantly a thousand times, and it’s what we first discover when we meditate and begin to find the space between things. But that difference – however poorly I can describe it – is the thing that I’m saying becomes so clear to me as I wake up.

    I know also that it’s a relative path to the absolute, so in some ways what I’m calling body awareness is delusional also – but it’s the map I’m using for the moment to steer by. :)

  • 3 Moon willow // Sep 13, 2009 at 7:00 am

    I think it is amazing how more and more we are becomming aware. To be aware of the arising of thoughts or mind is the begining self awareness.

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