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Buddhadharma : Spring 2016
spring 2 0 1 6 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 29 a problem in need of fixing. Our messiness harbors the essence of natural awareness. We tend to believe that chaos is not fundamental to who we are, but in fact our chaos cannot be separated out from its ground and distilled into something more “pure.” Natural awareness saturates it. So the practice is not to escape, suppress, or fix our mind but to see natural awareness within our wild mind. If our practice is to simply notice natural aware- ness, a quality of mind that is already present right here and now within every moment, then it is coun- terproductive to try to make something special hap- pen—even to bring about a meditation state (jhana) or meditative stability. Those practices, so prevalent in Buddhism, draw us toward thinking about a before and an after, pursuing special states of being. Natural awareness has no before and after; it is already awake. It is already happening. It cannot happen later. There is no special event, other than noticing with increasing depth and intensity what is happening right now. Sometimes natural awareness is also called “ordinary awareness,” emphasizing that it is nothing exotic or special. It is ever-present and ordinary, a constant reality. And yet to witness something this subtle directly is extraordinary and the essence of awakening. So there is nothing to be cultivated in Maha- mudra except this subtle turn of attention to what is already there, to something that we already are. Adding something onto our already present awareness, something that is labeled “meditation,” becomes a distraction. Always a Fresh Experience The Tibetan word for meditation is gom, which essentially means “to get used to something by repeating it.” When we meditate, we return to a technique again and again. This familiar return can be comfortable, but it can become repetitive or even boring, resulting in resistance to the practice itself. What can we do about this boredom and resistence? to who we are. We meditate in order to witness this clarity, spaciousness, and compassion as our inner- most being. When we first sit on the cushion, we may have trouble believing there is anything of that nature in a chaotic mind full of churning thoughts and feelings. But as we sit more and more, eventually we discover that a very subtle, quiet awareness is watching the chaos. Natural awareness is not thrown off by the chaos of the relative mind. It remains grounded in every moment of experience, not separate from what it sees; it is a selfless, non- dual watcher. It is completely ordinary and present in the now. To experience this quiet watcher, we practice carefully observing the fundamental ground of present experience, the home and essence of the watcher. To the degree that meditation supports this reflexive gaze, it supports the recognition of natu- ral awareness. But to the degree that meditation is future- or goal-oriented, it takes us away from natu- ral awareness. Right Here in This Wild Mind In order to stay with a process of subtle self-obser- vation, a commitment to tolerance is necessary. We have to become okay with our mind just as it is. Awakening is not found anywhere other than within this wild mind—not in the future nor in the past. So we need to find some friendliness toward everything arising in the mind. We cannot explore the truth of the mind while judging or reacting to it. Non-meditation involves letting everything—the messiness and chaos—be there, creating a holding environment for the mind’s gymnastics without sup- pressing, fixing, judging, or getting carried away by them. The practice of non-meditation is a practice of deeply accepting the truth of our present experi- ence. This requires a great deal of patience and love. This love and friendliness is well worth cultivat- ing because as it turns out, the messiness itself is not