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Lions Roar : July 2017
As in so many things, the dharma has to turn our condi- tioned notions about our own happiness upside down. The free heart is one that can experience joy and well-being and then extend it to others—that is part of the role of the bodhi- sattva in serving the world. I think that one of the main rea- sons people go to the Dalai Lama’s teachings is to hear him laugh. That someone who carries the tragedies of Tibet and the world can still laugh gives us hope. The notion that being happy is a betrayal of a true spiritual unfolding is the opposite of what is really true. What we’ve found over the years is that depression and self-negation don’t help you or anybody else. If you go into a difficult situation, bringing your own depression and fears doesn’t help any- one. But if you can bring not only a clear spirit but a positive one—which includes a joyful heart—that becomes an inspi- ration and source of liberation for all around you. From some point of view, the step-by-step approach to prac- tice seems easier: follow the formula and eventually you’ll have success. Being free and joyful on the spot seems more mysterious—like taking a leap instead of following a plan. The practices of loving-kindness, of common humanity, of deep compassion and self-compassion, are as transformative to the heart as anything we can do. And with them in the mandala of the awakened heart is the practice of joy. There’s a beautiful section in the Dhammapada in which the Buddha says, Live in joy and freedom, even amongst those who are sick or troubled. Live in joy and a peaceful heart, even among those in conflict. Quiet the mind and heart and find the sweet joy of living in the dharma. This is the Buddha’s instruction to us. What it requires is a little bit of a soul-searching, to use a non-Buddhist term—to PRACTICE Mind Like the Sky Rest in the open awareness that is the true nature of your mind SIT COMFORTABLY AND AT EASE. Let your body be at rest and your breath natural. Close your eyes. Take several full breaths and let each breath release gently. Allow yourself to be still. Now shift awareness away from the breath. Listen to the play of sounds around you. Notice whether they are loud or soft, far or near. Just listen. Notice how all sounds arise and vanish, leaving no trace. Listen for a while in a relaxed, open way. As you listen, let yourself sense or imagine that your mind is not limited to your head. Sense that your mind is expanding to be like the sky—open, clear, vast like space. There is no inside or outside. Let the awareness of your mind extend in every direction, like the sky. Allow the sounds you hear to arise and pass away in the open sky of your mind. Relax in this huge openness and just listen. Let the sounds come and go, far and near, like clouds in the vast sky of your own awareness. The sounds play through the sky, appearing and disappearing without resistance. Then, as you rest in this open awareness, notice how thoughts and images also arise and vanish. They are like clouds. Let the thoughts and images come and go without struggle or resistance. Pleasant and unpleasant thoughts, pictures, words, and feelings move unrestricted in the space of mind. Problems, possibilities, joys, and sorrows come and go in the vast open sky of mind. After a time, let this spacious awareness notice the body. Become aware of how the body is not solid. The sensations of breath and body float and change in the same open sky of awareness. In awareness, the body can be felt as floating areas of hardness and softness, pressure and tingling, warm and cool sensations, all appearing in the space of the mind’s awareness. Notice too how the breath breathes itself. It moves like a breeze. Let all experience be like clouds. The breath moves as it will. Sensations float and change. Allow all thoughts and images, feelings and sounds to come and go, floating in the clear open space of awareness. Finally, pay attention to the awareness itself. Notice how the open space of awareness is naturally clear, transparent, timeless, without conflict, allowing all things to be but not limited by them. Remember the pure open sky of your own true nature. Return to it. Trust it. It is home. ♦ From No Time Like the Present, by Jack Kornfield. LION’S ROAR | JULY 2017 43