We need to train ourselves, like a good naturalist, to be interested in even the grubbiest, ugliest and apparently most insignificant phenomenon...
|The teachings presented in this issue point to at least two things that are necessary in enabling this to happen. Firstly, creating time and space in our lives. Of course, as Ajahn Sundara points out, the opportunity to spend an extended time away from one's role and daily concerns, practising under the guidance of a teacher in a forest monastery, is rare. We can however, if we wish, consider ways of translating such an experience into our own circumstances: visiting a monastery, taking time for retreat, or simply making time to be with ourselves, quietly, each day.|
The second factor is investigation - really watching closely to see how our particular kamma manifests through thought, speech or action. We need to train ourselves, like a good naturalist, to be interested in even the grubbiest, ugliest and apparently most insignificant phenomenon - for it may be the very one that underpins our whole view of ourselves, a view that naturally affects our way of relating to others and to the events of our lives.
One such phenomenon that I've noticed within my own mind, and that many many people have confided as part of their experience, is the fearful little voice that says - convincingly - 'You're not good enough. You don't practise enough - or well enough. You're unworthy. What would people think if they knew what you're really like?... Oh dear.' We're not completely at ease with ourselves - and we wonder why we are not happy: 'After all, I've been practising all these years, trying to be good, trying to do the best I can. Where am I going wrong?' But the miserable little voice is stuffed away ('It's only a thought: anicca, dukkha, anatta*). We get on with the business (or busyness) of our life and practice.
* anicca, dukkha, anatta (impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, impersonality) the three characteristics of existence according to which conditions are contemplated in meditation and in everyday life.
Maybe we need to make space for that voice, and for all its companion niggles to come out and be carefully attended to, one by one. Sure, they're only thoughts: anicca, dukkha, anatta - but do we really trust and understand that insight? Can we dare to allow them to dance before us in all their finery and, when they're done, bow out?
Living our lives in accordance with the Noble Truths (Suffering, its Origin, Cessation and the Path) might seem somewhat paradoxical at times. Are we really being asked to allow space for what is most ignoble, most trivial? But perhaps it is only noble qualities, such as humility, patience, honesty and the willingness to abandon our self-centred yearnings that can allow the fulfilment of such a Path.
Present Moment Opportunity:
'There are these roots of trees, these empty huts.
Meditate, bhikkhus, do not delay or else you will regret it later.
This is our instruction to you.'
Sutta 19 Majjhima Nikaya