The Heart at Rest

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Misty Winter Morning at Radnor Lake

Even if you have a regular meditation practice, you probably encounter moments when you feel overwhelmed and challenged to sit in the midst of your experience.  Especially when strong feelings of anxiety or fear arise, the mind’s tendency to identify with thought and avoid the present moment is particularly strong.

What is your resistance point? When do you reach the precipice of overwhelm, when you believe you can no longer stay present? Cultivating awareness of this tipping point, when you exceed your capacity for presence, can help you expand your awareness beyond any imagined self limitations you have.

How? First it helps to remember and practice this core teaching from the Buddha:

“Nothing whatsoever is to be clung to as “I” or ‘mine.’ Whoever has heard this truth has heard all the Teachings, whoever has realized this Truth has realized all the Teachings.”

You may ask how Buddha’s teaching of non-clinging applies to resistance and emotional overwhelm. As our practice deepens, we begin to recognize when we cling to desired things such as relationships, possessions, health and happiness. But we may overlook how we cling to our unwanted mental states and interpret them as “I” and “mine.” It’s all too easy to perceive depression, shame, fear and anxiety as part of who we are.  As soon as we create this self-identification, the emotions feel fixed and personal. Letting go, releasing our clinging, is challenging.

When I speak of letting go, I don’t mean trying to get rid of anything, but instead allowing our emotions and mind states to be exactly as they are, without self-identification. This is how we begin to loosen the knot.  As soon as we quit identifying with these feelings as “me,” we see them for what they are – the temporary and changing mosaic of thought and emotion that we experience throughout our lives. If these emotions and mind states were only a kaleidoscope of color passing by our eyes, we wouldn’t identify with them as ourselves; we could allow them to simply come and go. No resisting and no clinging. When we cultivate this attitude toward emotions we invite equanimity and non –identification. We may still feel the anxiety or sadness, perhaps even more deeply, but we don’t interpret them as “I” or “mine.” They are simply part of the moment, along with the sounds, scents, and physical sensations, everything that is here. We have room for it all. This is a heart at rest.

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