Habit forming

The single most important thing I have done in all my years of contemplative practice is to make a habit of it. I am just as bad as anyone else, and much worse than many, at putting things off. If I didn’t have a set time, or at least a set place in the day’s events, to meditate, I wouldn’t. There would always be something else I’d need to just get done first, or a train of thought so involving that I’d just have to look up what else had been written about it before I settled down to sit.

Someone once wrote (I can’t remember who it was now) that the best kind of practice for each of us is the one we actually do. That’s entirely true. However good and effective a practice may be, it won’t be effective for us at all as long as it is left undone.

Reality is only what is. It cannot be what was, or what might be. It is only when we actually sit still that we can see. Everything else is just a picture, a synthesis the mind presents, like one of those painting-by-numbers outlines: something to help us get from here to there, wherever there might be, even when there is the place where we have intended to sit.

[R]eality is like a huge and all-encompassing ocean. There may be different kinds of fish and seaweed and rocks, but they’re all contained inside one ocean. In the same way, there’s just one awareness, with seemingly multiple objects inside of it. If you look closer, you’ll see that there are no independent objects or distinctions––there is nothing but this one awareness. If you push this understanding one step further, you’ll realize that since it is just one awareness, you cannot even it call “one” awareness. When you know that there are two awarenesses, then you can call this “one awareness.” But when there is no “two,” there is no “one” either. It just is.

Haemin Sunim, in Tricycle, January 2020

The ground in which we rest, Meister Eckhart’s Istigkeit, is nothing other than this light of open awareness that we find in stillness. Tara Brach:

[W]hen we look within, there is no entity, no mind-substance, no self, no thing we can identify. There is just awareness—open empty awareness. We can’t locate any center, nor can we find an edge to our experience. Unless we anchor ourselves again in thoughts, or grasp after desired sensations or feelings, we have nowhere to stand, no firm ground. This can be disconcerting, scary, incredibly mysterious. While there may be a profusion of activity—sounds, sensations, images—there is no thing to hold on to, no self behind the curtain managing things. This seeing of no thing is what the Tibetan teachers call “the supreme seeing.”

But this emptiness, this “no-thingness,” is not empty of life. Rather, empty awareness is full with presence, alive with knowing. The very nature of awareness is cognizance, a continuous knowing of the stream of experience. In this moment that you are reading, sounds are heard, vibration is felt, form and color are seen. This knowing happens instantaneously, spontaneously. Like a sunlit sky, awareness is radiant in cognizance and boundless enough to contain all life…

With practice, recognizing our natural awareness takes less and less of an effort or sense of doing. Rather than climbing up a hill to get a view, we are learning the art of relaxing back and wakefully inhabiting the whole vista. We look back into awareness and then simply let go into what is seen. We become more at home in awareness than in any story of a self who is falling short or on our way somewhere else. We are at home because we have seen and experienced firsthand the vast and shining presence that is the very source of our being.

Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance

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