More and more, the teaching practice takes me into the community where I engage directly with students. My focus right now is on bringing the continuity of the Dharma into the market place. Although retreating is an important form for self-knowledge, I find myself less interested in the immediate results of a retreat and more interested in helping students investigate their relationship to the ups and downs of their everyday life.
Nature, death and spontaneous freedom continually interweave themselves into my teaching. From the forest of Thailand, where I spent several years, I bring a deep awareness of the healing quality of nature into my teachings. Relaxing into our true nature allows us to realize what it means to be a human being. It is here we find a resting point, a counterbalance to the speed and turbulence of our culture.
My work in hospice brings a sense of urgency into my teaching. Working with the theme of death and dying reveals the here and now of life to us, how important it is to open to each loss, change and transition that marks our path. Life is precious. We need to awaken without hesitation.
Many of us crave to be more calm and centered. We know that life has more to offer than this fleeting material world. For each of us, the Dharma offers an immediacy of freedom for which we do not have to strive or wait. In practice, we can learn to relax deeply into the moment and rediscover spontaneous freedom.
While we may have guilt over an incident or a series of mishaps, shame is the accompanying attitude about oneself and can therefore be far more disruptive. Life becomes an uphill battle against our destructive inward narrative. Its variations go from feeling lesser and smaller than to being an obstacle and ultimately better off not existing. Confronting our conclusion around shame is taking on our emotional posture to life itself.
Anger is often unconsciously encouraged because it clears away the doubting mind. "I know why I feel this way, and I am right," says anger. Spiritually we can only approach and understand anger from humility, the opposite direction of righteousness. Anger usually arises as a component of grief where something you cared about was blocked or diverted away from you. If we can see anger as grief, humility is more easily accessed.
The mind finds endless reasons to energetically split itself in two. "Shoulds," denials, rationalizations, resentments, and countless other states are energetic divisions, where the mind is trying to have what it wants while hiding from its assumed reality. Doubt is perhaps the most common expression of this pattern. Doubt reaches for what it wants with half a heart because it fears the repercussions of being a failure.
Fear divides the mind by convincing us that the present is in the crosshairs of an approaching disaster. We therefore need to harness the power of our thinking and take flight physically and mentally away from now. If presence is maintained, fear has no way to access the moment except by projecting into the future.
Aversion and desire work together to entrap the mind within its own projections and divide the whole into parts. The opposite of what I desire is feared and visa versa. Because the mind is a single whole, when we pit what we like against what we do not, repetitive aversive and desiring images noisily dance through the mind in opposition to the contentment of the abiding wholeness.
Desire forms the sense of self by fracturing the mind into what it wants compared to what it has. In moving with what it wants, it has to dismiss or resist reality (what it has) and form its own imaginative response. The sense of self is part of that fantasy buildup and has a central role in keeping it going.
Mindfulness of the body gave us stability of focus and mindfulness of feelings gave us the mechanism for how we project ourselves onto the world. Now we are sufficiently prepared to look at the mind itself.
Equanimity does not empower feelings to drive thoughts. It holds a feeling as a feeling and does not extend the feeling into a narrative on why this feeling is important. It does not add anything to the moment, allowing the moment to bloom on its own.