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.
One of the questions answered by Dependent Origination is where our information about the world comes from, and what it is based upon. As we have seen, much of what we know is what the past allows us to know. By reflecting on the moment and commenting continually about it, we use past memories as our pathway to move forward. This imagined response (meaning these ideas we hold about reality are not based upon what is true here and now)is being organized by the brain. To show conclusively the difference, the Buddha in his famous Sabba Sutta (SN 35.23), stated that formed reality holds the six senses only: the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect and ideas. "That is all (there is in form)," he said, "there is nothing that can be added or subtracted from this." The Buddha is specifically showing us that all our added responses from the past about the present are actually one of the six senses arising, as all the senses do, in the present moment. This arising of ideas in the present also includes the person who seems to be receiving those very sensations. Not spoken about in this sutta is the unformed, commonly referred to as sati or awareness. Awareness holds a direct wordless knowing, which does notrefer to the mental way we usually know something by giving it a name. There is space between this wordless knowing and the formation of words in the mind. Thoughts from the mind encircle this wordless knowing when, under the veil of ignorance, the two forms of knowing are perceived as one and the same. Ignorance enmeshes form with the formless, confusing the sacred with the mundane. Once this occurs we have only the sense data and our accompanying commentary to give us the information needed to navigate the world, the wordless discernment of awareness is no longer perceived.