When Peace Will be Born

This is a beautiful guest post from Najmeh Jami, a student and practitioner at One Dharma and reflects the fruits of compassionate dharma practice.

“When Peace Will be Born”

I’d been waiting all my life for a moment, for a moment that shouts itself “Hey! Look at me! I am clear. Hey! Look at me, I am perfect.”

I missed a lot when I was waiting. I missed the pain behind my mom’s eyes when she was expecting me to do “nonsense” and I called that moment imperfect. I missed my dad’s suffering when he was angry, really angry and I called him an imperfect dad. And I missed a lot of beauties and joys when I was judging the imperfection of those moments waiting for that clear, perfect moment.

Some got clear, while I was still busy waiting for the perfections to happen.

Those moments happened again, my dad got angry, my mom expecting me to do “non-sense”. I wasn’t thinking about perfection or non-perfection. I was seeing that clarity; I was dissolved in my mom’s pain and my dad’s suffering; There’s no pain, no suffering, no me no dad, no me no mom. It was a pure clarity and it was perfect.

Some didn’t get clear. But I have already made my decision. I am not looking for clarity or perfection. I am just dying in the moment with love and the moment gets clear, the moment gets perfect. The moment IS clear, the moment IS perfect. We just need to die in the moment with love, and it gets clear and it gets perfect. And that’s when peace will born.”

– Najmeh Jami

True Nature, No Nature or Buddha Nature?

“The luminosity of the mind, the nature of clarity of the mind, is something that I cannot simply explain in words to you. But if you undertake this kind of experiment on your own, you will begin to understand.” – Dalai Lama

After practicing meditation for 25 years I rely less and less on words to describe the awakened state, such as “Buddha Nature” or “True Nature.” In reflecting on this, I find I’m not satisfied with any word that conjures up an idea of this unconditioned, unnameable experience. There is often some taint of fabrication that tends to accompany these names. That’s inevitable as its how language works: words and ideas mingle and no matter our best intentions, create an inevitable separation from our actual experience.

So what happens when you experience deep peace and interconnectedness, when you encounter incomparable clarity and luminosity? Usually the mind will quickly weigh in with names and labels or try to create a context for the experience. That’s what the mind does; it usually happens so fast we don’t even see it until the clarity and luminosity are obscured. This is actually a matter of capacity – when we first encounter this luminosity, it is so far from any previous experience we’ve had that our mind quickly veers into fabrication. Only after practicing for some time can we simply dwell in this unobstructed peace without trying to label or contextualize. Our capacity to abide without words or labels grows.

“If you’re primed to look for innate natures, you’ll tend to see innate natures, especially when you reach the luminous, non-dual stages of concentration called themeless, emptiness, and undirected. You’ll get stuck on whichever stage matches your assumptions about what your awakened nature is. But if you’re primed to look for the process of fabrication, you’ll see these stages as forms of fabrication, and this will enable you to deconstruct them, to pacify them, until you encounter the peace that’s not fabricated at all.” – Thanissaro Bhikkhu

The key is to be alert to the mind’s tendency to construct and conceptualize. This is another, more subtle stage of mindfulness, to see when we obscure our experience with ideas about Buddha nature or emptiness. As your practice deepens, you’ll begin to see how readily the mind creates names and fabrications, even for that which can’t be named or classified. The awareness will help you to release any clinging to words or explanations and abide in this mind, clear and luminous beyond words.

 

 

Functional Identity and No-self

Every morning we put on clothes that allow us to function within our daily activities and obligations. For early exercisers, workout clothes are the first clothing of the day. Others begin the morning with work clothes or simply day clothes. We all wear clothing that gives us a functional identity in the world, whether a standard uniform, jeans and t-shirt or more formal work clothes.

In the same way, we take on functional identities in our lives to fulfill needs, aspirations and obligations. We may be a parent, a friend, a spouse, a programmer and an artist, all in one day. We may also be a meditator and yoga practitioner. Take a look at what you do each day and see how fluid your identity is based on your activates and interactions. I call this functional identity because it serves a purpose but is not fixed; it is subject to change over hours, days, weeks, years and decades. If you cling to identity as concrete and unmoving, you will suffer through the inevitability of change and impermanence.

Most of us don’t cling to our clothes, at least not for long. We change them as needed and realize they aren’t who we are. We recognize the impermanence of any particular set of clothes. If only we could view our perception of self in the same way, our suffering would decrease significantly.

When you realize experientially that the identity you cling to is subject to change and impermanence, that there is no fixed self, you will taste liberation. Your functional identity serves a purpose and doesn’t need to be denied or eliminated, but it is ultimately a kaleidoscope of change over the course of a lifetime. It’s no more permanent than your clothes.

What is your true nature, what is your mind? When you let go, you will find joy and equanimity in this very moment. You will begin to wake up from the illusion of a fixed self and know freedom within the endless flux of experience, of activity, of living and dying.

“I came to realize clearly that mind is no other than mountains and rivers and the great wide Earth, the sun and the moon and the stars.”
~~ Eihei Dogen

Daily Meditation Tip: Letting Go of Self and Anxiety

If you have a daily meditation practice, you inevitably experience sessions when you feel restless, anxious, or uncomfortable. This is something I mention often because it’s a near universal experience. Some days you may settle onto the cushion and feel relaxed and spacious. At other times, you might quickly seek reasons to end the session, if you make it to the cushion at all.

When you sit daily, you become intimate with your heart and mind in ways both wondrous and disturbing. How do you skillfully face anxiety and restlessness on the cushion? When you first take a seat, you may see a daunting meditation session stretching out in front of you. How do you stay put when every impulse in your body says to leave? First, be fully aware of it, don’t push it away. You might start by offering gratitude to the anxiety – it is a present moment experience – this is what we have in this life. The flavor may not be your favorite, but it is worth tasting nonetheless.  Give it a try. Gratitude practice, even toward our unwanted visitors on the cushion, can help notch down resistance.

Remember to return to your body and the physical sensations associated with the discomfort. This is especially important in working with anxiety. Don’t try to get rid of it. I’ve discovered that as soon as I commit to staying present with anxiety or restlessness, my sense of time and the impulse to escape begin to dissolve. There’s no longer a “me” that is separate from what appeared to be a problem, what I thought of as “anxiety.” Labels have practical uses, but they can easily cause us to react from old scripts that separate us from experiencing what’s arising.

The apparent duality of our self and our experience creates an illusion that there is something separate to be rid of. This dichotomy leads to myriad forms of suffering because it’s a struggle with no end. As long as we identify as a self that is trying to eliminate discomfort and inconvenience, we’ll stay stuck in this conundrum. But when we let go, the sense of self and separation dissolve. What we define as a problem is gone.  What’s left? Something delicious. Beyond that, you’ll have to taste it yourself. Keep practicing. It’s well worth it!

 

Practice Idea – Taste The Mud and Be Free

IMG_6809In Buddhism we often talk about remaining fully present and mindful in the midst of unpleasant sensations, thoughts and emotions. Most people understand this, but actually sustaining presence beyond noting and momentary awareness is often quite challenging.

When we’re in the midst of difficult feelings or sensations, we may transition from avoidance into full presence for short bursts of time. That’s an important step. But with especially intense discomfort, it’s all too easy to quickly re-engage with external stimuli and old stories to blunt the intensity. Somehow it feels safer than stepping over the edge and letting go, where it seems the discomfort may swallow us.

I’ve found a practice approach that helps me sustain attention when I need a little extra encouragement. I look for simple, even playful ways to increase my capacity to stay present long enough to counter my ingrained resistance. What I’m doing is interrupting the flow of mental formation long enough to create a gap.

I discovered this practice at a time when I was so upset and miserable that the last thing I wanted was to increase my discomfort by feeling it more fully. This very resistance was a clue – time to face it, not run away. But my mind was like a wild horse, rearing and bucking, ready to run. To redirect the energy I asked myself what this horrible sensation tasted like. As someone who especially enjoys food, this question stimulated my interest and interrupted an entrenched reactive pattern. My resistance went down a notch; my mind stilled a bit. If you are more auditory or tactual, look for a specific sound or touch instead.

The key here is that you are engaging in direct experience, what’s actually present, no analysis or stories added. Just find a visceral taste, touch or sound. The answer to my own question was mud and manure – that’s what the discomfort tasted like. Really unappetizing and not even food! This lightened me up a little and engaged my curiosity. After the first few moments of really tasting mud in all its dark grit, the present wasn’t overwhelming anymore. I could stay with it. As I let go, the last slivers of separation and resistance dissolved into immediate experience. The mud dissipated on its own.

 

 

The Rain

Before dawn, not yet light

crickets touch the dark

with their soft sounds

Rain drops, slow and steady

tap the leaves, fall to the ground

So close, unbound by walls

My skin is dry

but the rain soaks me through.

– Lisa Ernst

Peony with Rain  photography by Lisa Ernst

Peony with Rain photography by Lisa Ernst

Dying to This Moment

In dying to this moment,

We lose ourselves,

but gain everything.

And as Rumi eloquently puts it:

When you lose all sense of self the bonds of a thousand chains will vanish.

A Flock of Egrets - photography by Lisa Ernst

A Flock of Egrets
– photography by Lisa Ernst