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Lions Roar : July 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2007 42 frightened. At another monastery, I periodically sat all night at the charnel grounds. At one monastery, every few weeks a body was brought for cremation. After the lighting of the funeral pyre and the chanting, most people would leave, with one or several monks left alone to tend the fire in the dark forest. Then, as a practice, one monk would be left, remaining there until dawn, contemplating death. Not everyone did these practices. But I was a young man, looking for initiation, eager to prove myself, so I gravitated toward these difficulties. As it turned out, sitting in the dark forest with its tigers and snakes was easier than sitting with my inner demons. My inse- curity, loneliness, shame, and boredom came up. All my frustra- tions and hurts, too. Sitting with these took more courage than the charnel ground. Little by little I learned to face them with mindfulness, to make a clearing within the dark woods of my own heart. Mindfulness does not reject experience. It lets experience be the teacher. One Buddhist practitioner with severe asthma learned to bring a mindful attention to his breath and limit his attacks by being patient as the muscles in his throat and chest relaxed the stress in his body. Another man undergoing a painful cancer treatment used mindfulness to quell his fear of the pain and added loving-kindness for his body as a complement to his chemotherapy. Through mindfulness a local politician learned not to be discouraged by his attackers. A frazzled single mother of preschoolers used mindfulness to acknowledge feeling tense and overwhelmed, and to become more respectful and spacious with herself and her boys. Each of these practitioners learned to trust the space of mindful awareness. With mindfulness they entered the difficulties in their own life. Like the Buddha in the thick of the forest, they found healing and freedom. FOUR PRINCIPLES FOR MINDFUL TRANSFORMATION Learning takes place only in a mind that is innocent and vulnerable. — KRISHNAMURTI There are four principles for mindful transformation of dif- ficulties that are taught in Western mindfulness retreats with the acronym RAIN. RAIN stands for Recognition, Acceptance, Investigation, and Non-Indentification. This acronym echoes the Zen poets who tell us “the rain falls equally on all things.” Like the nourishment of outer rain, the inner principles of RAIN can transform our difficulties. Outside the Spirit Rock dining hall during a break in practice