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Lions Roar : January 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2009 79 which are nothing but manifestations of that nature. This freezes awareness into solid concepts, such as I and other, desirable and detestable, and plenty of others. This is how we create samsara. But if, instead of letting our thoughts solidify, we recognize their emptiness, then each thought that arises and disappears in the mind renders the realization of emptiness ever clearer. In the heart of winter, the chill freezes lakes and rivers; water becomes so solid that it can bear men, beasts and carts. As the spring approaches, earth and water warm up and thaw. What then remains of the hardness of the ice? Water is soft and fluid, ice hard and sharp, so we cannot say that they are identical; but neither can we say that they are different, because ice is only so- lidified water, and water is only melted ice. The same applies to our perception of the world around us. To be attached to the reality of phenomena, to be tormented by at- traction and repulsion, by pleasure and pain, gain and loss, fame and obscurity, praise and blame, creates a solidity in the mind. What we have to do, therefore, is to melt the ice of concepts into the living water of freedom within. All phenomena of samsara and nirvana arise like a rainbow, and like a rainbow they are devoid of any tangible existence. Once you have recognized the true nature of reality, which is empty and at the same time appears as the phenomenal world, your mind will cease to be under the power of delusion. If you know how to leave your thoughts free to dissolve by themselves as they arise, they will cross your mind as a bird crosses the sky— without leaving any trace. Maintain that state of simplicity. If you encounter happiness, success, prosperity or other favorable conditions, consider them as dreams and illusions, and do not get attached to them. If you are stricken by illness, calumny, deprivation or other physical and mental trials, do not let yourself get discouraged, but re- kindle your compassion and generate the wish that through your suffering all beings’ sufferings may be exhausted. Whatever cir- cumstances arise, do not plunge into either elation or misery, but stay free and comfortable, in unshakable serenity. —NOVEMBER, 2000 Cool Loneliness by Pema Chödrön IN THE MIDDLE WAY, there is no reference point. The mind with no reference point does not resolve itself, does not fixate or grasp. How could we possibly have no reference point? To have no reference point would be to change a deep-seated habitual re- sponse to the world: wanting to make it work out one way or the other. If I can’t go left or right, I will die! When we don’t go left or right, we feel like we are in a detox center. We’re alone, cold turkey with all the edginess that we’ve been trying to avoid by going left or right. That edginess can feel pretty heavy. However, years and years of going to the left or right, going to yes or no, going to right or wrong has never really changed anything. Scrambling for security has never brought anything but momentary joy. It’s like changing the position of our legs in meditation. Our legs hurt from sitting cross-legged, so we move them. And then we feel, “Phew! What a relief!” But two and a half minutes later, we want to move them again. We keep moving around seeking pleasure, seeking comfort, and the satisfaction that we get is very short-lived. We hear a lot about the pain of samsara, and we also hear about liberation. But we don’t hear much about how painful it is to go from being completely stuck to becoming unstuck. The process of becoming unstuck requires tremendous bravery, be- cause basically we are completely changing our way of perceiving reality, like changing our DNA. We are undoing a pattern that is not just our pattern. It’s the human pattern: we project onto the world a zillion possibilities of attaining resolution. We can have whiter teeth, a weed-free lawn, a strife-free life, a world with- out embarrassment. We can live happily every after. This pattern keeps us dissatisfied and causes us a lot of suffering. As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don’t deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity. To the degree that we’ve been avoiding uncertainty, we’re naturally going to have withdrawal symptoms—withdrawal from always thinking that there’s a problem and that someone, somewhere, needs to fix it. The middle way is wide open, but it’s tough going, because it goes against the grain of an ancient neurotic pattern that we all share. When we feel lonely, when we feel hopeless, what we want to do is move to the right or the left. We don’t want to sit and feel what we feel. We don’t want to go through the detox. Yet the middle way encourages us to do just that. It encourages us to awaken the bravery that exists in everyone without exception, including you and me. Meditation provides a way for us to train in the middle way—in staying right on the spot. We are encouraged not to judge whatever PHOTOCOURTESYOFTHEESTATEOFMOLLYNUDELL