"Examine the nature of unborn awareness."
It took me an extra week to realize why I was having trouble with this slogan. It turns out I had a preconceived notion that the nature of unborn awareness would be a warm and comfortable feeling - something I could really snuggle into. That is not my current situation.
My assumption is rooted in that analogy about the clouds not being the sky itself, spoken in regard to the delusions of our minds and Buddha nature. In reading the slogan, I assumed that unborn awareness was synonymous with Buddha nature and that this examination would occur during a clearing of the mental clouds, however brief.
I've had none of that over the past couple of weeks. So I assumed I was not connecting with the teaching. In fact I was too buried in my unborn awareness to examine it.
Can anyone say irony?
I may be faced with a very big decision in the next few weeks. In this waiting period, my mind has been flying around in circles. It's filled with words and scenarios and what-might-happens. There is a roiling in my stomach that gets worse when I'm trying to sleep (I’m writing this at 1:00 am). It only occurred to me ten minutes ago that this is the exact unborn awareness the slogan is referring to. In this case I'm not experiencing a soothing place of meditative bliss, but rather the piercing discomfort of uncertainty.
There is nothing about my current circumstance that can be dealt with. Nothing can be done to make it dissipate before the natural conclusion of these events. The Third Lojong phrase is telling me my job is to simply notice the discomfort and stay with them.
As Pema Chödrön would say, I have to become "curious" about this feeling and avoid running away from it. Talking won't make things go faster. Thinking only results in revolving thoughts. Therefore, I am left with only sit and stay, Fido. Stay! Yes. Thank you for this lesson.
Can I go to sleep now?
Why haven’t I made any posts in months?
Blah blah busy blah blah blah work blah blah moving offices blah blah blah…nothing “Buddhist enough” to say.
Yes, it’s true. After sixteen years of Buddhist practice I continue to fall victim to dualistic thinking and tie myself to attachments about the need to be profound in some way. Haha! I’m sure I’m not alone here and I do have a good sense of humor about it. Prajna is a process.
I mean really. The whole reason for calling the blog Average Buddhist is because I’m just an average person workin’ the Dharma. It’s about the small stuff.
Think small. Think small.
Our brains have an annoying way of tuning out normalcy. Regardless of whether the stimulus is a sound, sight, taste or thought the brain’s attentional system eventually tires of it and turns it into a mumbling din. This neurologic strategy makes sense given that humans evolved in a climate of predators and uncertainty. We needed to be primed to give priority to new information about our changing circumstances. When it comes to maintaining mindfulness, however, this mechanism can work against us.
Contrary to the impression of many spiritual-seeking Americans, mindfulness does not bring us to a hyper-alert bliss state akin to an acid trip without the side-effects. The act of practicing mindfulness is to thoroughly experience what is already present. The core of the practice is learning to attend to the mundane. No wonder we go off on so many thought tangents during meditation.
One popular piece of advice for bringing our minds back to the present is self-verbalizing “thinking”, after which we refocus our attention to the breath (or whatever else we have chosen to attend to). This is a gentle, nondualistic way of breaking the momentum of our extraneous story lines.
I am a superhero, flying over the city. I have just vanquished another bank robber! Ah ha! I rock!
In meditation I have to think “thinking” a lot. So often that my brain has gotten really good at continuing to think right through it. “Thinking” has clearly become too boring a cue. I was struggling with this one day when out of the blue I thought “fizzy!” instead. Don’t know where it came from. Just popped out. Fizzy! Stopped my brain dead in its tracks.
Well smack me ten times with the zen stick y’all. What the heck? But the circulating thoughts were gone and I was easily back to finding the spaces between the breath – one of my favorite points of focus.
I’m certain my mind will never respond as thoroughly and strongly to “fizzy” after that first encounter. My neurologic system has already got its number. Oh…You’re just “thinking” in disguise…It was a profound reminder though of the power of the unexpected to bring us back to the now.
Now buy the Book!