Intelligent practice always deals with just one thing: the fear at the base of human existence, the fear that I am not.
And of course I am not, but the last thing I want to know is that.
I am impermanence itself in a rapidly changing human form that appears solid. I fear to see what I am: an ever-changing energy field…
So good practice is about fear. Fear takes the form of constantly thinking, speculating, analyzing, fantasizing. With all that activity we create a cloud cover to keep ourselves safe in make-believe practice. True practice is not safe; it’s anything but safe. But we don’t like that, so we obsess with our feverish efforts to achieve our version of the personal dream. Such obsessive practice is itself just another cloud between ourselves and reality.
The only thing that matters is seeing with an impersonal searchlight: seeing things as they are. When the personal barrier drops away, why do we have to call it anything? We just live our lives. And when we die, we just die. No problem anywhere.
— Charlotte Joko Beck,
in Everyday Zen
Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others. He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.-Buddhist Quote
Recognizing the power of our minds means that even as unfortunate or terrible things happen to us, we can receive them in a more spacious and ultimately more enlightened way. The Buddha taught his students to develop a power of love so strong that the mind becomes like space that cannot be tainted. If someone throws paint, it is not the air that will change color. Space will not hold the paint; it will not grasp it in any way. Only the walls, the barriers to space, can be affected by the paint. The Buddha taught his students to develop a power of love so strong that their minds become like a pure, flowing river that cannot be burned. No matter what kind of material is thrown into it, it will not burn. Many experiences–good, bad, and indifferent–are thrown into the flowing river of our lives, but we are not burned, owing to the power of the love in our hearts.
“In gladness and in safety,
may all beings be at ease.
whatever living beings there may be;
whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
the great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
the seen and the unseen,
those living near and far away,
those born and to-be-born,
may all beings be at ease.”
My treasure is the cloud on the peak
The moon over the valley
Traveling east or west
Light and free on the one road
I don’t know whether I’m on the way
Or at home.
– Muso Soseki (1275-1351)