Filling in the gaps; the posts that were not posted…
Sunday June 1st 2014
I am still sick and sitting very still in the sunny yard, watching the wind push the clouds above while it moves my hair, my clothes, the grass, and everything around me. Suddenly, the other female volunteer comes running into the yard, rushes up the steps, then pauses for a moment and asks what I’m reading. After I reply, she says, “That’s great! Wish I had time to read!” then runs up the rest of the steps and disappears in a hurry. I think to myself ‘Yes, but I am here to be still and reflect, what are you here for?’ I have begun reading “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” by Sogyal Rinpoche. It talks about something he calls “active laziness” which manifests in very different ways depending on the culture. In the West, we keep ourselves so busy and bustling around, that we never have time to reflect, thereby avoiding our fears. The tragic side effect of this habit, is that we also rush through all the beauty around us, the wonderful moments as well. Most often we miss them completely, thinking we’ve arrested our minds and bodies long enough to participate, but because we’ve not actually trained ourselves to slow down, we are not actually able to do so. That is why the Tibetan masters refer to Westerners as “beautiful living corpses”.
In 2008 I read a series of ‘based on real story’ books that were part of the “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior” saga, written by Dan Millman. The series was accompanied by self-help books. At the time, I had no idea that the thoughts and practices were born of the Buddhist philosophy and tradition. I followed exactly the suggestions, and it was one of the most peaceful times in my life. It is said that once the concept is grasped, it is not uncommon for one to lose hold of it, and that I did. Not knowing where the ideas had come from, I had no way of pursuing further knowledge, but there were some meditation apps on my phone and I started using them. Over the years, I slowly started becoming aware of traditions that included masters and enlightened beings. Then, in a required Comparative Religions class that turned out to be absolutely amazing, I was introduced to some of the religions to which these philosophies belonged. Long story short, I wound up in Nepal studying Eastern Philosophy and some of the religions and cultures it lives in.
Excerpts and ideas about the mind and the nature of mind, from the “Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” by Sogyal Rinpoche:
“The mind is the universal basis of experience, the thing that creates both happiness and suffering.”
According to Tibetan Buddhism, there are two fundamental parts of the mind. The Ordinary Mind (Sem in Tibetan), and The Nature of Mind (Rigpa in Tibetan).
The Ordinary Mind is the part of our mind that looks outwards, reacts to outside influence. It is the troublemaker, the thing that is constantly judging, comparing, wanting, scheming, and bringing us suffering. As Sogyal Rinpoche writes “Sem can only function in relation to an external reference point. Sem is the mind that thinks, plots, desires, manipulates, flares up in anger, that creates and indulges in waves of asserting, validating, and confirming it’s ‘existence’ by fragmenting, conceptualizing, and solidifying experience. The Ordinary Mind is the ceaselessly shifting and shiftless prey of external influences, habitual tendencies and conditioning: the masters liken sem to a candle flame in an open doorway, vulnerable to all the winds of circumstance.”
The other fundamental part, The Nature of Mind (Rigpa), is a little more difficult to understand. It is the part of the mind that looks inward. Sogyal Rinpoche says Rigpa is “Simply your flawless, present awareness, cognizant and empty, naked and awake.” I understand it as the moments of clarity, the epiphanies that come through when all the mental noise stops, and the feeling and wisdom you experience when you are truly one with what you are doing, but I am a novice.