“And day after day I wake up feeling potentially lovely, perpetually human, suspended and open.” – Open, Regina Spektor
There is a contrast in our lives, a constant flux of experiences ranging infinitely on an infinite spectrum. At any given moment we could be swinging from bliss to despair, or back again. This is the experience of humanity, and we have all experienced this at one time or another. Things are going well, we love the world, we love ourselves, we are all smiles and big plans. Or, things are not going well, we are introverted and angry, we are all despair and regret and bitterness. And these moments can be separated by months or by seconds.
To step back, it sounds like I am describing an unstable mind. And I am. But not in a psychiatric context. The truth is that we are all subject to these changing tides and this is no more or less than the experience of living. We wake up, coffee is ready and we are pleased and we have a good morning, we get to work and we have an unpleasant email and we sulk through our lunch. This goes on all day, and then all week, and so forth. The more even-tempered of us will blame these experiences on circumstance outside of our control and will accept the bad mood and patiently ride out the swing of their mood pendulum, eventually arriving at the bliss end again.
But this, this is still the mind of someone who is asleep.
The word Buddha means “awakened one.” And the teachings of Buddhism are directed at just that, waking us up to our own Buddha nature. To wrap my own mind around this, I think of the weekend I spent studying with Manorama. She teaches about the pendulum nature of our own mind and how we become trapped in this, but also how to wake up to it. She says (my own paraphrasing)
“If we can see the cycle then we must be outside of it. Because we can not observe it and be a part of it, so we must be something bigger than this. We can not change the cycle because this is its nature. The nature of our thoughts are to spin and spin and to try to make something be other than it’s nature is to create suffering. But we can realize that we are bigger than the cycle, that we are something beyond it and so we do not need to be in this spinning.”
Remembering her lesson helps me when I find my own life cycling from one end of the spectrum to the other, but what is most important in this work of staying outside of the spinning is my practice.
We come to practice because it is time set aside where we can step outside of the cycle. Outside of the spectrum of emotion, and we can observe the cycle for what it is. Our practice puts us in touch with our own buddha-nature and creates a memory of this space outside of thought and emotion cycling. The better acquainted we are with that space, the easier it becomes to find it not only on our mat but in our lives, whether the coffee is made early or not, whether we hit all of the red lights or cruise through the greens, we practice to prepare ourselves for the experience of living in this world.
This week, I am trying to step up my own practice and add some extra time on my mat and in meditation at home. I encourage you to make some new space and renewed commitment to your practice this week! Finding the extra hour and change for class can be difficult, but try finding just 10 minutes to sit quietly watching your breath and your thoughts.
Until next time, Happy Monday!