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Buddhadharma : Spring 2009
25 SPRING 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly A Relaxed and Open Mind If we don’t have a focus, we meander around like a restless tiger, not finding any pleasure in anything. We find ourselves laying on the bed, then turning on the TV and flipping through the channels, eating when we’re not hungry, then picking up the phone. What are we trying to do? We are trying to connect with the phenomenal world. But how can we when we are not connected inwardly? The times we don’t feel connected inwardly are the best times to practice. When our minds are restless, this might sound about as appealing as dental work. We are tormented and distracted by our thoughts, emotions, and fears. We come up with all kinds of physical sensations too. We have a pain in our neck, then it moves to our back, then our foot. All of a sudden we hear a ringing in our ears, or our eyes start to itch. It’s a little suspicious, don’t you think? We need to give ourselves time to allow the nervous and restless energy to settle in our bodies. When the body rests, the mind rests. When the mind rests, the emotions rest, and we feel a profound sense of contentment and relaxation, or shenjong. When the mind relaxes in a state of shenjong, it is available to us, to serve us or at least help us understand what’s up. The space of shenjong means less vulnerability, so our thoughts and emotions cannot simply shove us around and rough us up as they usually do. All our fatigue falls away. The heart clears. The body lightens and feels as weightless as feather. It Takes Might and Clarity We need a little strength to resist the habit of grasping at dis- tractions, even if we are halfway in. We don’t want to be like a freshwater salmon that swims all the way upstream, and just when it is halfway into a bear’s mouth, rather than trying to wiggle out, thinks, “Oh well, I’m halfway in anyway.” Wig- gling out of distraction takes some might and clarity. I’ve heard people say, “I’m too lazy and love my ego too much to dedicate my time to practice.” That kind of lazi- ness and lack of intention will never support realization. The Buddha said that if flies, grubs, and bacteria had a capacity to aspire for enlightenment, they would attain it. That would be embarrassing, wouldn’t it? A grub attaining enlightenment before we did. In the sutra it says, “All things are circumstan- tial.” The circumstances we need are created by the might and clarity of our intention and how we carry it out in our lives. It’s not as if we have no diligence. The alarm rings, it’s 4 a.m. The temperature has dropped into the single digits. We don’t want to get out of bed, but it’s Monday and there will be conse- quences. We get up. We scrape the snow off the windshield, heat up the car, and head to work for nine hours, maybe more. To do this every morning takes a little vision, a little might and clarity. Surely if we can do this, we can find a little time to practice. A Modern-Day Mango Grove If we can put time into perspective, organize our schedules, wiggle out of distraction with might and clarity, and think about what makes life meaningful, we will surely find time to practice, to relax the mind. Ordinarily, relaxing means tak- ing our minds off our daily routine, laying on the couch, and watching a movie or going to sleep. Usually relaxing means distracting ourselves from the stresses of daily life. But we have spent half our lives sleeping without ever feeling rested. This is because we haven’t focused on relaxing the mind itself. What could be more relaxing than letting go of preferences and worries? What better way is there to reduce our self- clinging than by contemplating bodhichitta? What can liberate our hopes and fears other than letting them arise and disas- semble themselves naturally in the space of an open mind? Meditation leaves plenty of room for everything: all of our hopes, fears, and anxieties as well as our joys and aspirations. There is no need to control our thoughts, because when we practice we have committed ourselves to letting them be—not judging them as good or bad, spiritual or not spiritual, helpful or harmful. Is there any other activity that can accommodate the mind and its various arisings in this way? The only thing we need to practice is a quiet place to sit: a room, a park bench, or our own bed. The sutras describe a peaceful mango grove as an ideal place to practice. The Bud- dha and his disciples practiced meditation in such a place. If you think about it, in the midst of our busy lives, any quiet place to sit can be our modern-day mango grove. Dzigar Kongtrul rinpoche is a lama in the nyingma tradition of tibetan Buddhism. Born in northern india, he was recognized as a reincarnation of the rimé master Jamgon Kongtrul lodro thaye and raised in a monastic environment. in 1989 he moved to the united States with his family, where he founded his own teaching organization, Mangala Shri Bhuti. he is the author of Light Comes Through and It’s Up to You. How often do we get distracted by wanting something, then trying to figure out how to get it? Can we free ourselves from this kind of distraction through simply doing without? SaSHaMeYerOwitz