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Lions Roar : July 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN jULy 2009 98 In the Anapanasati Sutta, or Discourse on Breathing and Mindfulness, contemplation of the dharmas takes the form of bringing mindfulness to the impermanent nature of all phenomena. Contemplation of imper- manence is a dharma gate opening to the understanding of the interdependent, con- ditioned, and selfless nature of all that exists. Asana practice offers a great window into impermanence. From day to day, the body feels and moves differently each time we come to practice. We know things change, yet we put so much effort and energy into trying to live life as if that were not so. This is avidya, “not-seeing” as a kind of willful denial. But ignoring or denying the truth of impermanence perpetuates suffering and misery, and opening to the reality of change liberates that energy. We look into the impermanent nature of all the earlier objects of meditation, start- ing with the breath. No two breaths are the same. Even within one inhalation, there is constant movement and change. There is no thing that is actually the breath that can be grasped and held on to. Every sensation we experience—whether pleasant, un- pleasant, or neutral—is impermanent, as is every emotion, thought, and perception. If “self ” is understood as an entity that is autonomous, independent, and persis- tent over time, then insight into imper- manence leads inevitably to the clear view that all things lack such an unchanging self. Even the consciousness of self that we take great pains to protect and bolster is not an autonomous, independent, persis- tent thing or entity; it is a process that is in constant flux, conditioned by everything else that is in constant change. Insight into anatta, or “no-self,” leads to an un- derstanding of shunyata, or emptiness— that we, and all phenomena, are empty of a separately existing, enduring self. By penetrating the reality of imper- manence, our grasping after ephemeral phenomena weakens. A taste of this can happen in the time it takes to work with one asana. Maintaining warrior two, for example, unpleasant sensations may arise in our shoulders. These sensations lead to aversion, and grasping after relief. We identify with the unpleasant sensations and think, “My shoulders are killing me.” Thoughts arise about the teacher mak- ing us hold the posture “too long,” never seeing that too long is a relative concept. Clinging to that belief creates a sense of self, and the more we cling, the more the self suffers. Shifting our attention to the impermanent nature of experience, there is just sensation, and the sensation is ever-changing. With this insight comes nirodha, or ces- sation. This is the third noble truth of the Buddha, often used as a synonym for nir- vana. It is also Patanjali’s definition of yoga. Practicing asana, we may notice many small cessations. We may experience a pleasant sensation and the arising of a mental forma- tion. With mindfulness, we see attachment, and based upon an awareness of imperma- nence, the attachment fades away. It hap- pens once, and then again and again. over time, the fading away continues until that particular attachment ceases. This is a small but potentially profound taste of liberation. Finally comes letting go. But there is also the insight that it is not you that lets go. Throughout our practice, there was still that final vestige of self-consciousness that could take credit for the insight into impermanence and cessation. The final thing to let go of is the idea of a separate enduring self. The irony is that we are let- ting go of what was never there. This isn’t letting go of one thing in or- der to grasp something else. letting go means to see through all that keeps us sep- arated from reality as it is. The supposed boundary between self and other is seen as not real. Nothing needs to be removed or added or joined together. This letting go means being with whatever is happen- ing, free of personal agenda. When the desire arises that something be other than it is, we see through it to its fading away and ceasing. Enlightenment and libera- tion come not by turning away from our human condition, but rather arise within it, and as its fulfillment. ♦ Mindfulness Yoga continued from page 47 For more on the Four Foundations of Mind- fulness, go to www.shambhalasun.com. HELP SAVE TIBET Tibetan children, nuns and monks continue to escape persecution by making a perilous journey across the Himalayas to seek freedom in Nepal and India. Many arrive traumatized and destitute. With a sponsorship of $3.50 to $33 a month, you can help save a life and preserve a culture. To learn more please call or visit our website. www.TibetAid.org 877-Tibet-Aid Chögyal Namkhai Norbu has committed, for his lifetime, to give the essential transmission of Guruyoga on three anniversaries each year. Direct transmission is not limited by space or distance. The practice is coordinated by global timetable and videotape, and is hosted by the main Gars and by local practice groups throughout North America and the world. 2009 Open Webcast Dzogchen Retreats: May 15-19th June 12th-21st 2009 Worldwide Guruyoga Transmission: *August (date To Be Announced)* Anniversary of Padmasambhava Tsegyalgar East Dzogchen Community of America P. O. Box 479 • Conway MA 01341 413.369.4153 • email@example.com www.tsegyalgareast.org