finding heart

May 27th, 2020

Through the process of sitting still and following your breath, you are connecting with your heart.

Luckily, one day I read this line in a book. It changed my life forever.

It was from a passage in Chögyam Trungpa’s book Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior. At the time I found it, it was an odd and unlikely thing for me to read. I wasn’t religious; I possessed no spiritual inclinations and had no curiosity about deep things. I didn’t feel like a warrior and had no path. The book had simply fallen into my hands during a desperate time, the contours of which are not too different from today. My world had fallen apart, leaving my mind tormented and my spirit broken. Lonely, depressed, and despairing of fulfillment in either work or relationships, I was looking for something to keep me moving forward into the long shadows of uncertainty. I needed a reason to live.

Without knowing it, the thing I was looking for was my own heart. And here was a stranger telling me how to find it: be still and listen.

The sitting practice of meditation is the means to rediscover basic goodness, and beyond that, it is the means to awaken this genuine heart within yourself.

For all our self-involvement, most of us remain wholly unfamiliar with who and what we really are. Sure, we know well our stories of shame and inadequacy; self-pity, grievance and grudge; desire and attachment. We know our faults and failures. But we may remain blind to the pure marvel of our being, the mystery of breath, and the miracle of our bodies. We may not notice the constancy of the earth and sky that sustain this life, or the sun, water and food that nourish us. Indifferent to the basic goodness of what we already have, it’s not surprising that we feel the aching absence of what cannot be found or filled from outside. How can we see this for ourselves?

By simply letting yourself be, as you are, you develop genuine sympathy toward yourself.

People quibble about the various methods and benefits of meditation, but what shouldn’t be overlooked is the power of the posture itself. Sitting upright, anchored on the ground and supported by the spine, we embody dignity, self-discipline and personal responsibility. At the same time, we are soft, open and vulnerable. With face forward and chest open, we present a self that is undiminished and undefended, completely engaged with reality. We no longer feel the need to hide what we are or pose as something we aren’t. We accept ourselves. Amid worry and sadness, loss and pain, we awaken our own heart of compassion. Now we have something to live for: doing good.

You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world. You are willing to share your heart with others.

It is a difficult time to believe in the promise of this ancient practice. Many of us confront circumstances more dire than at any other time in our lives: an entirely unknowable world. Expectations are fruitless. Hope may be pointless. A future once so blithely envisioned will never be. And yet, there is nothing more vital to humankind at this hour than human connection. It is a time for genuine fearlessness and the compassion that rises from it. This is the path of a bodhisattva, opening our eyes to a world in need, and seeing the infinite, ordinary ways we can care for others. This alone will heal us. This alone will last. And we can begin to do it today.

Photo by Sarah Ball on Unsplash

5 Comments »

  1. My habit when I hit email is to first go through and checkbox the ones that I can delete without even reading, which is about two-thirds of everything that comes in. But when I see that one of those emails is an update from you, I stop, and I immediately read it. You always provide something that makes me look at things differently. You are a blessing, a finger pointing at the moon, and I just want to say that I appreciate that more and more every step of the journey.

    Comment by Donn King — May 27, 2020 @ 4:43 pm

  2. It’s such a good time to express appreciation, and I am grateful to you Donn.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — May 27, 2020 @ 7:54 pm

  3. Beautiful, from the photo, to the last word. Thank you.

    Comment by Katharine — May 27, 2020 @ 7:12 pm

  4. My Dear Teacher,

    As always your timing is impeccable . . . this beautiful message has brought me back to where I belong, especially in our current times, to the cushion. When I sit, in my heart I will be sitting beside you.

    Deep gratitude

    Love and Light,
    E.J.

    Comment by E. J. — May 29, 2020 @ 5:48 am

  5. Just read this minutes before sitting meditation and your words enable me to take the risk to be more kind to myself and to those around me. Thank you for your clarity of sight, wisdom and kindness, which you so readily share and from which so many benefit.

    Comment by Paul — May 30, 2020 @ 9:18 am

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