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Lions Roar : September 2016
their well-being and liberation is called “the great motivation.” We are walking a path of awakening that includes being generous and caring, patient and helpful. This expansiveness of intention brings spaciousness and warmth to our sitting practice, allowing those heartfelt qualities to pervade our daily living with others. Right Effort Effort also has an associated slogan in contemporary culture: “No pain, no gain.” If we don’t try and try again and try harder, we are told, no result can be attained. This can lead to a one-sided approach to exertion, as though the Buddha’s meditation instruction was to place the attention “not too loosely, not too loosely.” We can find ourselves practi- cing with hypervigilance, eager participants in a new spiritual sport called Extreme Effort. Meditators can develop a habitual tightness instead of cultivating the relaxed spaciousness of heart and mind that originally inspired us toward awakening. My first Buddhist meditation teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, spoke of non-effort as a worthy partner to effort: “Effort, non-effort and effort, non-effort—it’s beautiful.” Yes, it is important to apply ourselves, to engage fully in mind- ful living. But it is equally important to release all trying and confidently trust our innate mindfulness to shine through. All the Buddhist traditions of natural wakefulness, original goodness, or buddhanature are based on this sense of inborn wisdom not produced by meditating or walking the path. This is the practice of basic sanity through what is called “just sitting” or “non-medi- tation” or “primordial great perfection.” As the pioneering Zen master Shunryu Suzuki Roshi phrased it: “The point we empha- size is strong confidence in our original nature.” In this view, mindfulness is not a special attainment or an extraordinary event in our life journey. Mindfulness is an innate capacity, present in all sentient beings. Walking the path, we are gently cultivating our own nature, allowing seeds of potential to blossom. From this perspective, awakening is as natural as the dawning of the sun. We are invited to begin each session by feel- ing this naturally awake quality—and to return to this original openness again and again during practice and everyday life.