that holding on to anything blocks wisdom.
Any conclusion that we draw must be let go."
Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn, 1927-2004
Founder, Providence Zen Center
When push comes to shove, it seems to me that a set of commitments is all that I really have to bring to the plate. The rest is in the hands of the Cosmic Pitcher. All I can really do is commit to showing up, putting in my time in the batter's box, then taking my best swing if it appears to be in the strike zone -- or letting it go by if it ain't. (Egads, I'm thinking in baseball metaphors. It must be Spring!)
And here's the Pitch.....
No Such Thing as a True Story
In The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving Kindness, Pema Chodron not only offers what I've found to be a valid "take" on the Way It Is, but gives us a useful and practical way to carefully, gently and persistently alter the nature of the way we experience Life. In chapter 8, entitled "No Such Thing As a True Story", she describes the way that we co-create our own world, moment to moment, largely as a result of the "storylines" that are constantly dominating our attention. As these thoughts play out, a whole set of conscious and unconscious beliefs play a major role in what then happens as we live our lives.
This notion probably isn't new to anyone who has been exploring Eastern Spirituality, New Age thought, etc. Yet, it's not the "belief" about how beliefs alter our perceptions of things that is most important. What is important is realizing that we have the capacity--moment to moment--to transform our lives by simply gaining greater control over the quality of our own attention.
Although simple, this is not easy. It takes time, effort and Practice. Yet, with gentle persistence, we can actually change the nature of our lives as we learn to alter the extent to which the thoughts spinning through our brain dominate our attention.
Those thoughts arise, unbidden, quite mysteriously from a cauldron that contains our individual and collective conditioning, as well as an infinite array of other causes and conditions stretching throughout space and time. Instead of allowing these thoughts to continuously write the screenplay of our individual movie, we can, instead, learn to let them go -- and focus more directly on the underlying experience of our life in that moment. Instead of the "narrative" running through our heads, we can enlarge the focus of our attention to the the actual sensations of sight and sound and touch and feeling that are often overlooked. Rather than remain "lost in our thoughts" we can find ourselves dancing with the wondrous array of energies at play within and beyond each moment. We can actually shift our awareness from our heads to the boundless space of our own hearts. That's where the real action is.
Although making the choice to let go of the storylines that incessantly run through our brains takes having the courage and gentle persistence to explore a range of emotions and feelings that may at times seem painful and scary, (we have repressed and denied a whole gamut of experience), this is the pathway to an Open Heart. This is where all the Miracles exists. With Practice, simply remembering the mental note "thinking", then turning our attention to feel what is in our hearts, can shift our immediate experience of reality -- sometimes dramatically. It can take us from hell to heaven in the blink of an eye.
Of course, for most of us, the "habit" of focusing most of our awareness on the content of our thoughts is deeply ingrained. We've learned to "harden our hearts" and stay in our head to avoid what Pema Chodron calls the fundamental ambiguity of being human. Our thoughts then become the major means we use to "control" our world. We create a superstructure of "knowing" to protect us from the sometimes queasy, achy-breaky sensations that emerge from the ceaselessly flowing, and ultimately uncertain, nature of our actual experience.
Our "thoughts about the matter" habitually become the primary foundation of our identity as well. The "I" that we experience is, in large part, the sum total of the conclusions we have drawn about the the nature of reality and how we fit into it. Even if that "I" is generally stressed and unhappy, we cling to it. It can be scary as hell to throw it all up for grabs and realize we don't know really know who we are or what is actually going on.
Yet. that is precisely the Gateway to the Real Deal.
Mindfulness Practice, both in formal meditation, and at those times off the cushion that we actually notice what we are experiencing in the moment, increasingly offers the possibility of exercising more conscious control over how and where we focus our attention. With gentle persistence, we begin to open to Life in a fuller, kinder, clearer, and more complete way. In time, we come to see that we are way more than we thought we were. In fact, at times, we come to see that we are the entire Universe!
And that's my story and I'm sticking to it--or not!
* In Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, Pema Chodron describes this as a three-fold process: Let go of the storyline. Feel what is in your heart. Open to the next moment with no agenda.