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Lions Roar : September 2015
are distracting us, won’t solve everything. Part of our karma, part of our dilemma, is learning to work with the feelings that relationships bring up. They also provide opportunities to do the most important thing. If you have spent the morning lost in thought worrying about what you have to do in the afternoon, already working on it in every little gap you can find, you have wasted a lot of opportunities. And it’s not even lunchtime yet! But if the morn- ing has been characterized by at least some spaciousness, some openness in your mind and heart, some gap in your usual way of getting caught up, sooner or later that is going to permeate the rest of your day. If you haven’t become accustomed to the experience of open- ness, if you haven’t gotten any taste of it, then there is no way the afternoon is going to be influenced by it. On the other hand, if you’ve given openness a chance, it doesn’t matter whether you are meditating, working at the computer, or fixing a meal—the magic will be there for you, permeating your life. In any moment, you can put your full attention on the imme- diacy of your experience. You can look at your hand resting on your leg or feel your bottom sitting on the chair. You can just be here. Instead of being not here, instead of being absorbed in thinking, planning, and worrying, instead of being caught up in the cocoon, cut off from your sense perceptions, cut off from the power and magic of the moment, you can be here. When you go out for a walk, pause frequently—stop and listen. Stop and take three conscious breaths. Precisely how you create the gap doesn’t really matter. Just find a way to punctu- ate your life with these thought-free moments. They don’t have to be thought-free minutes even, they can be no more than one breath, one second. Punctuate, create gaps. As soon as you do, you realize how big the sky is, how big your mind is. Another powerful way to do pause practice is simply to listen for a moment. Instead of sight being the predominant sense perception, let sound, hearing, be the predominant sense per- ception. It’s a very powerful way to cut through your conven- tional way of looking at the world. In any moment, you can just stop and listen intently. It doesn’t matter what particular sound you hear; you simply create a gap by listening intently. When you are working, it’s so easy to become consumed, particularly by computers. They have a way of hypnotizing you, but you could have a timer on your computer that reminds you to create a gap. No matter how engrossing your work is, no matter how much it is sweeping you up, just keep pausing, keep allowing for a gap. When you get hooked by your habit pat- terns, don’t see it as a big problem; allow for a gap. W hen you are completely wound up about something and you pause, your natural intelligence clicks in and you have a sense of the right thing to do. This is part of the magic: our natural intelligence is always there to inform us, as long as we allow a gap. When we are on automatic pilot, dictated to by our minds and our emotions, there is no intelligence. It is a rat race. Whether we are at a retreat center or on Wall Street, it becomes the busiest, most entangled place in the world. Pause, connect with the immediacy of your experience, con- nect with the blessings. Liberate yourself from the cocoon of self- involvement, talking to yourself all the time, completely obsessing. Just do it over and over and over. Allow a gap, gap, gap. Allow yourself the space to realize where you are. Realize how big your mind is. Realize how big the space is—it has never gone away, but you have been ignoring it. Find a way to slow down. Find a way to relax your mind and do it often—very, very often, throughout the day continuously, not just when you are hooked but all the time. At its root, being caught up in discursive thought, continually self-involved with discursive plans, worries, and so forth, is attachment to our- selves. It is the surface manifestation of ego-clinging. So, what is the most important thing to do with each day? With each morning, each afternoon, each evening? It is to leave a gap. These gaps, these punctuations, are like poking holes in the clouds, poking holes in the cocoon. And these gaps can extend so that they can permeate your entire life, so that the continuity is no longer the continuity of discursive thought but rather one continual gap. But before we get carried away by the idea of continual gap, let’s be realistic about where we actually are. We must first remind ourselves what the most important thing is. Then we have to learn how to balance that with the fact that we have jobs to do, which can cause us to become submerged in the details of our lives and caught in the cocoon of our patterns all day long. So find ways to create the gap frequently, often, continuously. In that way, allow yourself the space to connect with the sky and the ocean and the birds and the land and the blessing of the sacred world. Give yourself the chance to come out of your cocoon. ♦ This teaching is based on a talk given to the monks and nuns of Gampo Abbey in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. This is part of the magic: our natural intelligence is always there to inform us, as long as we allow a gap. SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2015 42