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Buddhadharma : Spri 2007
buddhadharma| 17 |spring 2007 ally practicing its opposite most of the time and therefore become quite adept at it. The cultivation of a nonjudgemental awareness to the unfolding of experience from moment to moment balances out these human tendencies to be unaware and inattentive. froM Zen boW, SpriNg 2006, puBliShed By roCheSTer ZeN CeNTer. nodding off on the cuShion? The late Lama Thubten Yeshe explains how to avoid falling asleep during meditation. First you have to know the process by which slug- gishness arises so that you can recognize it from the start. Sleepiness in meditation doesn’t come openly; it sneaks up on you. If you’re aware, you can observe your mind begin to go from light to dark. A foggy darkness begins to descend; then it gradually gets darker and darker, your gross sense perception slowly disappears, and finally you’re asleep. That’s how sleep comes; not all of a sud- den. We think we fall asleep straight away because we’re unconscious. If you check up wisely, you will see that it happens gradually. We call the early part of that process sluggish- ness – a small impression of darkness. As soon as you notice it starting you should apply the anti- dote, which is to clarify and brighten your object of concentration. If you do this, the fogginess will disappear and you won’t fall asleep. At the first sign of sluggishness, visualize light. In meditation, strong, clear light prevents you from falling asleep just as it does when you’re in bed at night. froM eGo, ATTAChMenT And LibeRATion, By laMa ThuBTeN yeShe. puBliShed By laMa yeShe wiSdoM arChive (fall 2006). high-power brain! Dr. Michael Krasner recalls the mantra of one of his professors in medical school, calling upon students to cultivate an expansive and nonjudge- mental view. During my first two years of medical school I had a professor of pathology named Dr. Katsumi Miyai, who, with a thick and barely decipherable Japanese accent, insisted that my fellow students and I examine pathologic specimens with a “low- power microscope, high-power brain!” At nearly every opportunity he would repeat this, sometimes as an admonition in the laboratory. It became a mantra. As he uttered the first words, we would all join in a chorus of “high-power brain!” On one level, he was merely reminding us to avoid the obvious and common mistake of narrowing our visual focus prematurely and thereby missing critical patterns and features visible only from a more expansive point of view. Yet on another level, it became increasingly clear – especially as my education began to move from the laboratory and classroom to the bed- side – that he was also reminding us how very easy it is to “miss the forest for the trees.” We often lack awareness of a larger perspective and are unable to sense the fresh, new, and unique aspects of expe- rience unfolding at each and any moment. The ability to use all the senses in meeting experience, approaching it as freshly as possible, while over and over bringing back the wandering of atten- tion, is a skill that is imperative in the practice of medicine or in any endeavor where a meeting of beings takes place for the purpose of healing. It seems almost paradoxical that the process of narrowing down a set of symptoms and signs to reveal a precise diagnosis, sometimes reflect- ing very specific aberrations in physiological and psychological processes, requires an open and attentive awareness that encourages a beginner’s mind that is nonjudgemental and is not attached to outcome. Yet how can one possibly see clearly through the nearly infinite domain of diagnostic possibilities inherent in the complexities of human illness without being familiar, attentive, or even intimate with this kind of awareness? It follows naturally that for the education of health care providers to be effective (not to mention to be an education par excellence), it must focus on the cul- tivation and development of these innate human faculties of paying attention. Open, attentive, and nonjudgemental are words that have been used to describe mindfulness. Yet what does it mean to be open and attentive? And is it possible to be truly nonjudgemental, or at least to acknowledge judgement when it arises? Thich Nhat Hanh has stated that one of the rea- sons to practice mindfulness is that we are actu- bUddhAdhARMA iNviTeS your SuBMiSSioNS To firST ThoughTS. pleaSe SeNd To: ediTor@TheBuddhadharMa.CoM STEVEHEYNEN