Have you ever looked up at the sky- really looked up and tried to find some edge or something to hold onto- some boundary or outline that would fit the sky into the confines of how we view most things on earth; solid, fixed, with definitive shapes and sizes… and yet the sky just is…. open, vast and endless..
It’s interesting to note that , although neuro scientists have made huge progress in understanding some of the workings of the brain, to date not one scientist has been able to identify where the mind is. In contemplative traditions, the mind is seen as a luminous, vast open awareness not unlike the vast sky/space all around us. And, just as space can accommodate planets, galaxies, the universe etc without being ‘clogged up,’ so our minds can accommodate thoughts, feelings and emotions that come and go, arising and passing away, arising and passing away… if we simply let them come and go without attaching too many story lines to them. Easy to ‘get’ intellectually – but it is only in the letting go of our intellectual analysis and expectations that we might relax enough to have a glimpse of the open awareness that is present in each of us.
There is a lovely Tibetan story about a poor man who could not afford rich food, wore shabby clothes and lived a life of hardship. Only when someone pointed out to him that the walls of his shack were embedded with jewels, did he take a gem to the market, have it valued and realise that he was, indeed, a wealthy man. Realising this, his life changed and he lived in great comfort. The question is then asked: who is wealthier- the person who lives in an old house surrounded by riches he doesn’t recognise, or someone who understands the value of what he has and lives in comfort? The answer is both- both own great wealth. The only difference is that for many years, one didn’t recognise what he possessed. Once he recognised what he already had, he freed himself from a life of poverty and pain.
Likewise, whether we recognise it or not, our basic nature and its qualities of loving kindness and compassion, remain unchanged. When we begin to recognise it, we begin to change and the quality of our lives changes too. Things we never dreamed possible begin to happen.
Mindfulness helps us get to that place where we begin to open to the spaciousness available to us and recognise our qualities and possibilities. Like any skill, it requires perseverance, diligence and concentration… the changes are subtle and over time become habitual, allowing us the capacity to choose our response to whatever arises in our lives.