― William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
“Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child -- our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
There was a time when a grey, gloomy morning like this would invariably send my spirits spiraling downward. Confined to the tunnel vision of my own thoughts and feelings, I would become oblivious to the Ongoing Miracle we are always immersed in. I'd get really depressed.
Today, that didn't happen. I blame the Practice for this turn of events.
Although I would be dashed between the rocks and hard places of my own unattended childhood trauma and dysfunctional conditioning many times over the years, I was fortunate. The Collective Kensho of the late 60's and my own Peek Experience of Infinite Perfection in 1972 gave me a strong enough jolt of the Real Deal to get serious about a spiritual practice. Although there were some fleeting dry spells, I've mediated regularly for a long time.
Now, at age 74, it seems I've found a way to Not-Do Depression so much. although I am no stranger to sadness, the Practice has transformed my relationship to emotional energy. The inner belief structures and narratives that could operate to lock it into my current reality just can't seem get a toe-hold anymore. Instead, the story lines arise and disappear within the Gracious Spaciousness of Awareness that is readily accessible much of the time. Of course, I put my butt on the zafu for at least an hour most days, and try to take an entire day of mindful practice at least once a month.
The Theory and the Practice
So, here's the Deal.
Left without the continual mental chatter and habitual reactions that create the "narrow chinks" of our habitual perception, sadness, like all phenomena, is impermanent. It comes and goes of it's own accord. At times, it may evoke tears. This is a good thing. It's the body's natural way to release the energy.
Yet, at least in my case, this didn't happen overnight. It took the development of a serious Practice. It involved sitting still an a regular basis to face and embrace the accumulated baggage of my own conditioning, to open my heart and mind to Life with all it's inevitable ups and downs. That took courage, effort, a gentle persistence -- and a developing a deep kindness towards myself and others. Contrary to prevailing opinion, all this can be cultivated.
It just takes Practice.
It is certainly true that as the Practice unfolds, there can be moments of outright wonder and gratitude and bliss. You may be blessed to experience all the big bang moments of human consciousness imaginable. Yet, this isn't the Heart of the Matter. In fact, an attachment to going for the gold and trying to get all the goodies in the spiritual dimension can hang you up, maybe even more than other forms of greed and grasping. The Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa called this Spiritual Materialism and emphasized this point a lot. I suspect he saw clearly how deeply his Western students had been conditioned by our super- charged capitalist "me first" upbringing.
Over time, the Practice becomes quite ordinary, no big deal. It's about simply "assuming the position" -- again and again, on and off the zafu. Ultimately it is about relaxing, releasing our own agenda, and opening our hearts to the present moment wherever we are. We practice by simply paying full attention to this very breath, this sight, this sound, this feeling as they emerge each moment.
There just isn't anyplace to go other than where you are. There is nothing more extraordinary than the ordinary. In the embrace of an open heart and a clear mind, Infinity is visible to the naked eye.
Looking up from the keyboard, taking a breath and relaxing my shoulders just now, I gazed out the window.
It's as clear as a bell out there.
I love it when that happens.