When seeing the world through caring eyes, it can be overwhelming how much stress and suffering there is everywhere right now. Almost too much to bear. Whatever our environment is made of will also be found in us. You might have experienced a tiredness over the last couple of years that has left you worn out. Me too.
Everything I feel around me and in me is reminding me of the importance to practice mindfulness every day. I’m not sure where I’d be without a practice, so am indeed grateful. It saves my ass, over and over again. Every circumstance is an opportunity to focus on the miracle of breathing in the one and only present moment we have. That always seems to nudge me to observe my view of things, especially when I feel burdened or challenged. We don’t always have control over our circumstances, but we do have control over how we absorb and embrace them.
I’m aware lately of how I’m witnessing the unfolding, and how often I have to adjust my perception. The Dalai Lama reminds us that there are at least six views to every circumstance, and to be broad in our thinking.
This week I went to get my eyes checked because they too are having difficulty with clarity. I sat in the chair, wearing those heavy spectacles that the Optometrist can keep adding and changing lenses, in order to help find the sweet spot of clear vision. I realized that moment reflected my life these days. Constantly making adjustments to align with right view.
It reminded me to reread some of Thich Nhat Hahn’s teachings on right view that were totally appropriate. I found a dharma talk on the art of transforming suffering held in Plum Village in the fall of 2012. He explains that in the teachings of the heart sutra, in order for right thinking, right speech and right action to be possible, we need right view. Right view is what you gain by the practice of meditation. Right view is free of all kinds of discrimination, separation and complexes, free of fear and anger. If we have right view or right understanding, everything that we do with our body will be right action. With right view we learn how to practice right diligence.
Right diligence is the true art of generating happiness. A good practitioner is someone who is capable of generating understanding and compassion every day. In Buddhism they describe the mind as having at least two layers: the store layer that has the capacity to hold and preserve our experiences, and the upper layer is our conscious awareness. In our store consciousness, mindfulness exists in the form of a seed, as does its opposite - forgetfulness also exists as a seed. Concentration exists there as a seed, as does its opposite - dispersion.
We hold the seed of anger and the seed of loving kindness, the seed of despair and the seed of hope, the seeds of heaven and the seeds of hell. We hold every kind of seed in our store. He compared our store consciousness to a television. If you turn the channel to hell, there you are. If you turn the channel to heaven, you have loving kindness. Diligence is the practice of selectively watering our seeds.
The seeds we water become energy and then mental formations. When the seeds of disturbances, such as anger enter our our conscious mind, we lose our peace and happiness and the landscape of our mind consciousness loses it beauty. In the store consciousness, these are just seeds. In the mind, they become mental formations. Without a mindfulness practice, we will allow only one energy to manifest at a time. If it’s anger, you’ll become a victim of your anger and likely say and do things that are destructive and regrettable. As a practitioner, we can invite the energy of mindfulness to come and take care of the anger. Breathing in, I know anger is in me. Breathing out, I smile to my anger. I embrace my anger like a mother holding her ailing baby. From this practice there is relief and the anger returns to a seed once again. This gives space for the seeds of wonder, understanding or joy to be watered and grow.
Breathing in I know our current life challenges are in me. Breathing out, I smile to to those challenges like a mother holding her ailing baby. Breathing in I know grace, understanding and kindness are in me, breathing out I smile to those qualities like a mother embracing her child.
Wherever you are and however you are, I send humble smiles and support, along the constant sojourn of practice.