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Lions Roar : March 2015
Touch and Go We could use the phrase “touch and go” to describe the cultiva- tion of mindfulness and awareness. Mindfulness in this case is being mindful of the sense of being. The touch part is that you are in contact, you’re touching the experience of being there, actually being there, and then you let go. This approach applies to awareness of your breath in the practice of meditation, and it also applies to awareness in your day-to-day living situation. In the practice of meditation, touch and go works with how we directly feel our experience. The idea of touch is that you feel a quality of existence; you feel that you are who you are. When you sit down to meditate in a chair or on a cushion, you feel that you are sitting on your seat and that you actually exist. You are there, you are sitting, you are there, you are sitting. That’s the touch part. The go part is that you are there, and then you don’t hang on to it. You don’t sustain your sense of being, but you let go of it. So, first there is recollection; then you disown this glimpse; and then you just continue whatever you are doing—cooking or brushing your teeth or driving your car. You don’t have to be startled or unsettled by the glimpse. Sometimes there is some slight recollection that is hardly noticeable. Some awareness happens, but you may think it is just your imagination. You think that probably nothing is hap- pening at all. It doesn’t really matter whether something is happening or not. You’re not trying to document your aware- ness. You are trying to practice it. Manufacturing Confusion The practice of recollection may seem like an insignificant thing to do. You might wonder what it does for you. In our lives, the chain reaction of our mental processes and the network of our habitual reactions often create a whirlpool of confusion. We are not just subject to or living in this whirlpool at this moment; we are also manufacturing confusion for the future. We keep gen- erating a chain reaction of confusion because we think that it provides us with security for the next minute, the next month, the next year. We want to make sure that there is something to hang on to. It’s quite amazing that we manage to manufacture our own future confusion using our present experiences of hanging on to neurosis. With our present actions and attitudes we create the seeds that blossom in the future. The present situation is inescapable. You are somewhat settled or habituated to it, so you don’t want to do something different in the future. You don’t want to have to change gears. Generally people enjoy living in the world of confusion because it is much more entertaining. Even suffering itself is entertaining in a strange way. Therefore, we create further neu- rotic security over and over again on that ground. Although we may complain and we suffer, we also feel quite satisfied with our lives. We’ve chosen our own self-existence. The Practice of Recollection The practice of recollecting awareness throughout the day is the main way that we can prevent ourselves from sowing these fur- ther seeds of habitual cause and effect. In the present moment we can disrupt these chain reactions. The memory or recollec- tion of awareness creates a gap, because awareness cuts through the continuity of our struggle to survive. The practice of recol- lecting our awareness shortens the life of that fixation. That seems to be one of the basic but powerful points of meditation practice. With meditation we don’t reject the present situation. Beyond that, application of awareness is the way to sabotage confusion’s hold on the future. Awareness is a simple matter. It just happens. You don’t have to analyze it, justify it, or try to understand it. In the midst of enormous chaos, recollection is a simple action. There may be problems, but you can simplify the situation rather than focusing on the problems. Natural gaps in our experience are there all the time. Our post-meditation experiences will be clouded with all kinds of ups and downs. Sometimes there is a sense of enor- mous excitement. You feel that you are actually making some progress, whatever that is! Sometimes you feel that you are regressing and that everything is going wrong. And then there are neutral periods where nothing happens and things are somewhat flat. Those signs of progress or regression are just temporary meditative experiences, which occur both in the practice of meditation and in our daily awareness practice. Sometimes people worry that their practice is actually regressing, but that never happens. Sometimes, if you push yourself too hard, your ambition will begin to slow down the speed of your journey. But as long as meditation is not conjur- ing up something imaginary, there aren’t any problems with regression. You can’t fail at practicing meditation. You would have to give up your mind, and you can’t do that. Meditation practice is a haunting experience. Once you begin, you can’t give up. The more you try to give up, the more spontaneous openness comes to you. It’s a very powerful thing. Often, having practiced mindfulness for a while, people describe temporary meditative experiences of pleasure or joy, emptiness, and clarity, which is sometimes called luminosity. It’s as though light is finally being cast on your life. These three experiences—emptiness, clarity, and joy—are not regarded as extraordinary signs of progress. They are simply experiences or phases in your practice. When these experiences arise, you just SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2015 70