Napa Valley Insight Meditation Message Board › Qualities of Awakening: Reading for April 22nd NVMG Meeting
This Tuesday (Aprill22) we will return to our discussion of Ezra Bayda’s book Zen Heart. Over the next couple of weeks we will explore what Bayda terms the essential qualities of awakening. You can download a copy of the reading by clicking on the link below:
Cultivating awareness is really about moving out of our heads and into our bodies. This is where we become aware of physical sensations, thoughts, changing states of mind, and input from the environment. Moving into the state of Being Awareness is about learning to simply observe and experience whatever is happening in the present moment. There is really nothing special or “magical” about this way of being—it is really very low key. We're attempting to see and experience life as it arises by letting it just be there-minus our opinions and judgments. The more we can learn to drop the story of me and move into a state of Being Awareness, the more we see the never-ending struggle between just being here and our addiction to the comfort and security of our mental world.
Waking up from the Me Phase is not easy. In this chapter Bayda prescribe three essential qualities that he sees as absolutely essential for anyone on the path to an awaken life. These qualities are perseverance, curiosity, and mercy. Perseverance means that we remain steadfast with our practice and the process, regardless of how we feel. Our efforts to be-in-the-body, and to label our experience, will inevitably fail at times. We will have periods of aspiration and effort, followed by dry spells and apathy. Ups and downs in practice are predictable and inevitable. That we seize these ups and downs as opportunities to judge ourselves - as failures or as superstars—is the problem. The countermeasure is always to simply persevere - to attend to one more breath, to label one more thought, to experience one more sensation, to enter just one more time into our heart-space. We can then experience for ourselves that it is ultimately possible to work with everything. It may not be possible today, but it is possible.
Curiosity is about cultivating a willing to explore those aspects about ourselves where our ego may not want to go. When difficult emotions or thoughts arise, the practice of curiosity invites us to simple ask the koan-question “what is this?” - instead of pushing feelings away or pondering “why” they are happening. Learning to stay with—to reside in—our emotions in this way allows us to see how most of our emotional distress is based on our conditioning, and particularly on the decisions and beliefs that arose out of that conditioning. We come to see that these emotional reactions—which we often fear and prefer to avoid—amount to little more that believed thoughts and strong or unpleasant physical sensations. We can see that when we are willing to experience them with precision and curiosity, we no longer have to fear them, or push them away. Thus our belief systems become clarified.
Finally, the quality of mercy refers to the ability to abandon the judging mind, i.e. that part of our ego that likes to run the constant subliminal message that we’re not good enough and never will be. Mercy is often referred to as loving-kindness in Vipassana meditation, but whatever we call it, it is essential throughout out practice life. Without mercy, we are cut off from our heart and our true nature. It is the quality of mercy that allows us stay with our difficulties, judgments and fears. Cultivating the ability to let difficult experience just be, allows the quality of mercy to come forth, because we’re no longer judging ourselves or our experience as defective. We’re finally willing to experience our life within the spaciousness of the heart, rather than through the self-limiting judgments of the mind.
This Tuesday, we will primarily focus on the first quality of awakening, perseverance. See if during the next couple of days you would like to take some time to notice all the little “me’s” that make up your persona. Try and observe the unconscious voices that continually play in the background saying things like, I want security, I want comfort, I want approval, I want control, I want to feel worthy, I want to feel loved - and I “don’t” want to feel fear, loneliness and rejection. See if you can preserve and stay with difficult experiences when they arise, observing them within a greater sense of awareness. See if you’d like to share your experiences from this practice with the Sangha when we meet on Tuesday.