Whatever it is that bothers you or brings you joy, frustrates you or astounds you; what is always the same? What is the constant?
Your job is giving you headaches, so you work at fixing it. Your relationship is giving you great happiness, so you work at making sure it stays stable. Someone cuts you off on the freeway so you flip them off. You really like a certain prepared salad from your local deli so you talk to the manager to ensure a steady supply.
All of these things “out there” bringing happiness and pain, and they are virtually infinite – there’s always a new detail. How can you deal with an infinite sequence of issues?
It’s all about you. At the center of all these details is the one that perceives them. If you try to resolve your issues one at a time, you’ll never finish. So, how about clarifying the one element that is the constant in all your situations? Look directly at “you” and see clearly what it is that is reacting to all these external happenings.
What would be better – fixing all the details one by one, or changing the way you perceive them all at once?
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New things are exciting. Especially spiritual practices. But after a while they lose the luster, and you either accept that you now have to put effort into it or you leave it behind and move on to the next exciting thing.
Mindfulness sounds great, Zen sounds great, and they’re rewarding when you first start working with them. They’re fun! But sooner or later comes the time when you know you “should” be mindful, but you simply don’t want to. You know that responding from your hara brings your best Zen result, but you find yourself choosing to react from your “little self”.
What then? Don’t expect yourself to be perfect! Let go of what you “should” be doing and deal with the situation without any guilt. Later you can return to being mindful. But when you do, remember how things had gone, and use that memory as inspiration to strengthen your practice.
If you turn your mindfulness practice into a habit, that habit will carry over into your next “little self” episode and make it easier to release your story and respond sanely to the current situation. This is why we often use the word “training” in Zen – more and more it becomes your natural action to respond from that place of mindfulness instead of the place of reactivity. But again, no one is perfect, so don’t expect yourself to be! As soon as you’ve cooled down from the emotional involvement, let it all go and return to your cycle of mindfulness.
Eventually it won’t matter anymore – your consistent training will let you be mindful through everything that happens, whether it’s fun or not fun.
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