Saturday, November 28, 2009

One Who Is Awake

I came across this today, apparently an excerpt from Karen Armstrong's upcoming book - The Case for God. It was such a beautiful piece of writing, and sentiment, that I thought I'd reproduce it here:

From almost the very beginning, men and women have repeatedly engaged in strenuous and committed religious activity. They evolved mythologies, rituals and ethical disciplines that brought them intimations of holiness that seemed in some indescribable way to enhance and fulfil their humanity. They were not religious simply because their myths and doctrines were scientifically or historically sound, because they sought information about the cosmos, or merely because they wanted a better life in the the hereafter. They were not bludgeoned into faith by power-hungry priests or kings; indeed religion often helped people to oppose tyranny and oppression of this kind. The point of religion was to live intensely and richly here and now. Religious people are ambitious. They want lives overflowing with significance. They have always desired to integrate with their daily lives the moments of rapture and insight that came to them in dreams, in their contemplation of nature and in their intercourse with one another and with the animal world. Instead of being crushed and embittered by the sorrow of life, they sought to retain their peace and serenity in the midst of their pain.

The Buddha after his awakening - teaching the DharmaThey yearned for the courage to overcome their terror of mortality; instead of being grasping and mean-spirited, they aspired to live generously, large-heartedly and justly and to inhabit every single part of their humanity. Instead of being a mere workaday cup, they wanted, as Confucius suggested, to transform themselves in to a beautiful ritual vessel brimful of the sanctity that they were learning to see in life. Thy tried to honour the ineffable mystery then sensed in each human being and create societies that honoured the stranger, the alien, the poor and the oppressed. Of course they often failed. but overall they found that the disciplines of religion helped them to do all this. Those who applied themselves most assiduously showed that it was possible for mortal men and women to live on a higher, divine or godlike plane and thus wake up to their true selves.

One day a brahmin priest came across the Buddha sitting in contemplation under a tree and was astonished by his serenity, stillness and self-discipline. The impression of immense strength channelled creatively into an extraordinary peace reminded him of a great tusker elephant. "Are you a god, sir?" the priest asked. "Are you an angel...or a spirit?" No, the Buddha replied. He explained that he had simply revealed a new potential in human nature. It was possible to live in this world of conflict and pain at peace and in harmony with one's fellow creatures. There was no point in merely believing it; you would only discover its truth if you practices his method, systematically cutting off egotism at the root. You would then live at the peak of your capacity, activate parts of the psyche that normally lie dormant, and become fully enlightened human beings. "Remember me, " the Buddha told the curious priest, "as one who is awake."

This story of the first person that the Buddha met after his Enlightenment has always been a powerful one for me. There are so many strands here - he did not recognize him for what he was, he passed on by after the Buddha told him what he was, not knowing how to profit from the encounter ..... and on and on ....

The notion that the Buddha is one who is awake - fully and utterly awake to their experience - has also remained powerful and poignant. Not about being someone different, becoming someone different, becoming anything other than what we are, right now. But opening fully, and utterly to what is, right now, and seeing it for what it is, not lost in it, not entranced and seduced by it, but seeing it for what it is, in the fullest possible context, in detail, and it nature. Fully awake.

Karen summarizes so well the best of this inner urge that many of us feel, that seems to have become a little lost in the public eye, transfixed as it is with the words and deeds of fundamentalists.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reflection on Khakhyab Dorje - Melody of Buzzing Bees

I began this post a couple of months ago and wasn't able to finish it. I thought I'd just publish what was there, as the teaching from Khakhyab Dorje is extraordinarily rich ...

Last night I dreamt of HH15 Karmapa, Khakhyab Dorje, so thought sharing 'Melody of Buzzing Bees' would be auspicious.

Just a few reflections, unnecessarily trying to gild a solid gold statue:

You are the primordial ground, Buddha Vajradhara,
Unobstructed manifestation, the body of great compassion.
You posses the kindness that delivers Buddha into the palm of one's hand,
Please enjoy being an ornament on the top of my head.

This nature that's there in *all* experience, the primordial ground, which Khakhyab Dorje refers to as the Buddha Vajradhara is the groundlessness of experience. This never changes whatever arises in our mind, whether pleasant or unpleasant, skilful or unskilful, nor whether englightened or not. It's always there and is known as Buddha Nature. You don't have to become something else to be enlightened. You don't have to become something else. Right there, right here - where is the ground in whatever you experience right now?

HH15 Karmapa, Khakhyab DorjeHow beautiful the image of keeping the lama who shows you the nature of mind, the nature of all possible experiences, above your head. How beautiful.

Your son supplicates with devotion and longing;
Father Rinpoche, please look on me with kindness.
Lord, by the light rays of your kindness,
The darkness of confused ego-fixation has been cleared.

To develop sufficient level of attention so that we can remain aware in *any* experience, however unpleasant, however hooked into past actions and patterns and conditioning, then we need a lot of energy available to that attention. In Vajrayana that energy comes from cultivating devotion to the guru. It could be loving kindness or compassion, such as in the Hinayana or Mahayana. For myself, what matters most is that the emotional energy, the energy that can move mountains, is there. It's clear how powerful emotions are compared with thoughts. You can feel the whole shift when emotions stir. Having that available to fuel your attention underlies your ability to remain in attention when appearances beguile.

You are the primordial ground, Buddha Vajradhara,
Unobstructed manifestation, the body of great compassion.
You posses the kindness that delivers Buddha into the palm of one's hand,
Please enjoy being an ornament on the top of my head.

Having obtained a human body this one time,
I was accepted by your great kindness, lord.
You, the Jetsun who makes this free and well-favoured birth meaningful,
Please dwell inseparably in the very centre of my heart.

Your son supplicates with devotion and longing;
Father Rinpoche, please look on me with kindness.
Lord, by the light rays of your kindness,
The darkness of confused ego-fixation has been cleared.

In this song of the realization of the pure ultimate natural state,
These naive words are like the buzzing of a bee.
Although they irritate the ears of the father Jetsun,
Your son, with overwhelming longing,
Offers this song of nonsense words; please think of me with compassion.

In general, this body endowed with the eight freedoms and the ten favourable circumstances
Is more excellent than the wish-fulfilling gem.
Obtaining this body,
I know it to be the power of unperverted merit.

Although I have obtained it, it is impermanent,
And, therefore, the moment of death is unavoidable, as is said.
Since one never knows when it will come,
I wonder, "When will death come for me?"

The cause and effect of karma ripens infallibly in everyone
Just like a see that has been planted.
Because of my actions of deceiving myself and others,
I wonder, "What will my end be like?"

In general, ignorance, the great city of samsara,
Is filled with endless and strenuous suffering.
When I think about this, I almost lose my mind.
Panic-stricken, I wonder, "When will I be liberated?"

My body, blown by the wind of bad karma,
Falls from the precipice of the wrong path.
Now I am sunk in the mud of samsara; please look on me here!
Kind lord, precious Guru,
Please protect me from this terror.

Through a break in my evil karma, I discovered good karma.
I met the father Jetsun, the excellent true Buddha
Whose essence if Sri Cakrasamvara.
The skin of ignorant ego-fixation fell away from me,
And the great knot tied by passion and aggression was loosened.

As for the klesas, produced by the three poisons,
The object of their arising, the arising itself, and the one who gives rise to them
Are all projections of mind.
Like a reflection in a mirror,
Their essence is empty.
Like waves merging with the ocean,
they subside into empty ineffable space.

External phenomenal objects: forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and objects of touch,
All these phenomena are no other
Than the magical tricks of mind.
Like a child who builds sand castles,
It is mind that fixates on names.
Realizing that this is unreal is also mind.

Therefore, nothing exists as separate from mind
Neither as substance nor as a mark.
Realizing that everything is the manifestation of mind,
So-called samsara and Nirvana,
Considered to be bad and good respectively, do not exist.
Realization that mind is the manifestation of Dharmakaya,
The natural state of self-existing mind
Does not exist as form or substance.

It completely passes beyond even being shown by analogy.
To say "emptiness" is not total negation;
Rather, its nature is luminosity,
All-pervasive like space.
To say "existence" is not to establish a reality.
Just like space,
It does not exist, but it is very luminous.
Although it arises, it does not exist as separate,
But is liberated in the essence of this luminosity.
Like clouds in the sky,
It arises from space and dissolves into space.

In short, the phenomenal world is mind.
From the aspect of its luminosity, there is appearance.
From the aspect of its essence, there is emptiness.
Neither Buddhas nor sentient beings
Exist as separately established things.
All the so-called gods and demons do not so exist.
Everything is mind.
Mind is self-existing luminosity.
It passes beyond all arising, ceasing, and projecting.
It is free from dwelling, coming, or going anywhere.
Other than this ineffable mind,
There is no Vajradhara.
Mind is luminous;
I have confidence in realizing that this is so.

Jetsun, this realization is your kindness.
Rinpoche, now I remember your kindness.
Please look upon me, one of bad karma, with compassion.
Father Jetsun, ultimate Vajradhara,
Time and time again I think of you and devotion blazes up;
With undistracted longing I supplicate you.
Father, grant your blessings so that we may be beyond meeting and parting.

This song of experience
I offer to your ears, father Jetsun.
If there has been any stain of error,
Please wash it away with the amrta of loving kindness.
This son supplicates with one-pointed longing;
Please accept me with the iron hook of your compassion..

At the Karma Vihara of Akanistha, the great Dharma palace of the Buddha Karmapa, in the year of the Iron Tiger called Vikrta, I offered this song with great devotion of body, speech, and mind at the feet of the omniscient Jetsun, the king of Dharma.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Today is a Good Day to Die

Today is a good day to die!

Tasunka Witko, Crazy Horse

If you are truly prepared for death like this, then you are truly prepared for life too.

Tasunka Witko, Crazy Horse

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Nothing Special

Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.
Shunryu Suzuki

I love this quote.

It's not about having special experience. No experience with 'save you', or give you eternal happiness. You cannot take refuge in particular experiences. Not satori, not insight, not enlightenment, not getting there.

Suzuki RoshiIt's just right here, right now, opening to what is, fully, deeply, clearly. Not trying to get somewhere else. Not trying to change or manipulate it. Not trying to get comfortable. Not preferring this to that.

And being able to rest in it, this nowness, without reactivity. Rest in whatever arises. Rest in the groundlessness of experience. Rest in whatever life serves up. Rest there, with an open heart. Allowing the moment to soak you, to teach you, to whisper in your ear.

And when you can just rest there, in however it is, then you'll know what to do, in each and every experience. Without thought, without plans, without judgment, without agendas.

So we can just get on with life, without trying to get somewhere else, each moment open, each moment aware, each moment knowing what it is that needs to be done. Not for me, not for you, but just what needs to be done.

You don't have to chase after something special. Special is all around, already here. Just open to it.

And then the Dakini's warm breath will be felt at *your* ear.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

All Experience is Mind

All experience is mind is probably a misleading title for this post. It seems to suggest that experiences are ‘something’, and that this something is ‘mind’ – a thing. It’s as if there is this thing called mind which exists, and our job is to discover it, to reveal it. But actually, it doesn’t!

Instead, we could see this title as pointing to what is the starting point in many ways for the path of Mahamudra. As normal people, we tend to view the world as a ‘me’ in here, and a whole bunch of stuff ‘out there’ – other people, other living beings, inanimate objects, etc. It all seems so natural seeing the world this way. Yet the very basis of the path transforms our view here, and points to a radically different way to view our life.

For as long as we are caught up in this dualistic view of the world, we’ll experience suffering. We’ll be forever caught up in pushing and pulling at our experience, accepting and rejecting, wanting and not wanting – a cycle of trying to somehow ‘make it right’, to adjust stuff, so that we can experience happiness, ease and contentment. This cycle of adjustment, of constant nagging dissatisfaction with our experience, with somehow being in struggle, with needing to transform how it is seems endless, it just goes on and on. That’s why Samsara is said to be endless. For as long as we experience things as if ‘I’ am ‘in here’, and the rest is ‘out there’ ... then this struggle goes on.



Yet, the Dharma says ‘it needn’t be so’. That it is possible to live in ease, with contentment, and with peace in our hearts, whatever is happening, whatever we may encounter at that time.

Clear Blue SkyWhen we practice Mahamudra we learn to rest in awareness. We learn to bring attention to our lives and to rest in that attention, without trying to make it any different to how it is. We are not trying to avoid experiences we don't like. We are not applying antidotes to things we view as 'bad'. We are not even trying to transform our experience.

We simply rest in our experience and allow ourselves to fully experience it. All of it.

At any moment, we have body sensations. At that same moment, we have emotions. We have stories going through our mind. These things arise.

At any moment, can we experience all of this?

Can we allow our bodies to tell us what is happening on that level, even when we are swept up in the swirls of deep emotions?

Can we know what our bodies are telling us when the stories are running at express speed in our mind, justifying and judging, analysing and rationalising?

Can we open to all of it, all the time, whatever it is, however difficult it might seem to be?

As we practice this, this resting in experience, without trying to change it, or get away from it, but instead opening to its fullness, its variety, we begin to notice that our experience takes on a flavour of spaciousness. Rather than feeling as though we are shrunk down into 'this emotion', or 'this experience of physical pain', or 'this thought' ... a great openness unfolds, in which all our experience plays out. And play out it does, with whatever arises 'self-liberating' all by itself, without need for manipulation. What a relief this all is!!!!

Spacious openness, and self-liberation.

And in that spacious openness in which all experiences self-liberate, we begin to see that this thing we call 'life' is a succession of experiences, of sensations, emotions and thoughts. And, we begin to notice that there isn't much of a 'me' in all of that. We begin to see that the notion of 'me' is an experience which arises, which flickers into view from time to time, and which is no different to any other experience. Instead of imagining that there's this 'me' there which is at the centre of the universe, which is wrestling which this enormous universe, and which therefore seems forever locked up in a sense of struggle with something much larger than itself, and which constantly changes and constantly seems to frustrate our desire to have life as we want it ... instead of this ... we begin to see that there really isn't a 'me' in all of this, not in the way we thought there was. We begin to see that this notion of 'I' is just an appearance, and empty appearance. It arises like all other appearances. As such, it's not at the centre. It's just a mirage-like appearance, dancing and shimmering into view, but relatively rarely.

No constant me, right there in the centre of things.

Just a flickering appearance, empty of substance, which sometimes arises along with the rest.

So ... endless experiences in succession, of body sensations, thoughts and emotions. No 'me' in there. And no 'world' out there. Not 'my' sensations, thoughts and emotions now. Just appearances which we helpfully characterise as thoughts, emotions and sensations.

In this way, we come to see that what we call 'life' is the play of appearances, empty appearances, a flickering of experiences, without centre, without solidity.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What's it all about?

... it's about opening to what is, every moment ... and being able to fully open to whatever arises. That's all.

It ain't about getting somewhere, having any particular sort of experience rather than another, however so called spiritual, or getting enlightened.

No place to go, nobody to be ...

just open and rest in the opening.

Such a simple thing, so extraordinarily simple. Rest in what already is. without preference.

then everything becomes possible.

(simple post on a simple thing that is the key to all doors)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Reflections on Niutou Farong - Song of Mind (Xin Ming)

Some sleepy reflections when unable to sleep whilst ill ...

The nature of the mind is non-arising,
What need is there of knowledge and views?
Originally there is not a single dharma;
Why discuss inspiration and training?
Niutou Farong begins with the view, a view which includes the need to go beyond views. When we rest in awareness we are able to see that mind cannot be found, that experience cannot be found. It has no shape, no characteristics ... wherever we touch we find only melting, vast open no-thingness. This groundless nature of mind is non-arising. Why? Because that too we cannot find. It's not as if we've exchanged the seemingly solid stuff of ordinary existence with some profound 'thing' or 'reality' or 'transcendental' which somehow underlies all else, which somehow has eluded us up to now, and *now* we've got it, now we have the 'real deal', the 'real thing'. Nope, this groundlessness isn't there, it can't be found, or grasped, or seen. We all try to do that in meditation, to grasp onto how emptiness reveals itself.

To understand it rather than to know it ... but .. the nature of mind is non-arising. When we know this, truly and deeply, then words are a very poor substitute for this direct knowingness. Not even a finger pointing at a moon. More like a finger pointing to a moon which is altogether different to what 'moon' is to most of us. Not one 'thing' pointing to 'another thing'. One thing, pointing to no-thing. How things are? You won't find a single experience that can be grasped onto or held, however sublime. Not a single dharma originally exists. That's how it is, both prior to and after all that practice and training. You're just spun around and walking backwards through it all. Just not knowing yet.

Coming and going without beginning;
Sought for, it is not seen.
No need to do anything;
It is bright, still, self-apparent.
When we rest in knowing, though utterly groundless, yet endless appearances seemingly arise. Mind's nature is luminous, though utterly without ground. Empty appearances arise unimpededly, arising and ceasing, though where are they? When you rest in knowing, appearances clearly arise. Yet can you say where? Can you say when? Where and when just don't apply. Resting in knowing, mind has no shape. Yet when appearances are clearly there, has a shape come into being. Has mind/experience changed in any way. It seems to have, yet utterly groundless it remains. All these appearances - thoughts, feelings, stories, sensations, perceptions ... can any be truly found? Tell me ... where are they? Cause a thought to arise right now ... where is it? Did mind change when it arose? Did mind change when it ceased? You can seek for experiences ... profound experiences, wholesome experiences instead of the stuff you don't like, but this utter emptiness never changes, minds nature remains as is ... and all that seemingly arises, self-liberates, back to where ... who knows? From where? who knows. Profound mystery indeed. Never understood, but can be known. Bright and luminous, unmoving yet unceasing, revealing itself as Mahamudra always, however minds content should be. All of Samsara and Nirvana are not different to this. All experiences are of the same nature ... so why seek for certain experiences? for enlightenment, for purity, for something special?

The past is like empty space;
Know anything and the
Basic principle is lost,
Casting a clear light on the world,
Illuminating, yet obscured.
When appearances arise, they are vividly present. Yet soon they are gone. Where did they go? Watch closely. Know. However acute the mind, you won't see where they went. Our memory of them is what? More empty arisings. Groundless like empty space. Niutou here uses the word 'know' in a way I'm using the word 'understand'. Know anything and the principle is lost. I'd say, try to understand anything with concepts, with conceptual mind, and you are a million miles away. These words mislead. They are not suchness. Allow them to point directly, don't try to understand them. When we have our hard-won conceptual understanding, we think we finally know everything, the world is our oyster, we sit astride it .... illumined and understood. Yet the next disturbing emotion arises, the next pattern ... then bang! .... suffering again! Understanding will not save you!! .. hehehehe.

If one-mindedness is impeded,
All dharmas are misunderstood.
Coming and going thus,
Is there need for thorough investigation?
You won't see much ... meaning, you won't know it as it is if you mind cannot rest. Otherwise all you'll see is the waves, not the ocean. Mind you, the ocean isn't 'behind' the waves, like we all thought, like some pristine true reality, which we've never glimpsed. More like you see one thing, but it's something else, not behind it, or within it, or more truly it .... in one and the same thing, known differently, known as it is. These very appearances - anger, hopelessness, happiness, frustration, peacefulness .. not seeking to exchange one for the other, to get from one to only the other. Just knowing experience as it is. Then samsara *is* nirvana. Then samsara and nirvana are known to be inseparable. Without the ability to rest the mind, you'll only see everything that's stirred up and muddy. And then everything is misunderstood, experiences taken as solid and enduring, all dharmas are misunderstood.

Arising without the mark of arising,
Arising and illumination are the same.
Desiring to purify the mind,
There is no mind for effort.
Appearances don't leave any trace, like the bird flying across the sky. Does it leave a trail?

Spontaneous wisdom
Throughout time and space
Nothing is illuminated;
This is most profound.
Knowing dharmas is non-knowing;
Non-knowing is knowing the essential.
This knowingness which is incontrovertible. Which knows with a certainty that understanding never approaches. Which itself is vast, open and empty. Across all experience. Where does awareness begin? Where does it end? When looked for it's nowhere. Yet, equally, it's everywhere. Depends on how you wish to express it. You can't find it, yet it fills all of experience. Boundless and unending. Spontaneously co-arising, it knows appearances as they arise. It knows emptiness for what it is, ultimately illuminated, known as it is ... yet does emptiness or appearances change when they are known thus? Nope, just as they were. Illuminated, yet not illuminated. And this knowing, this incontrovertible direct seeing? Is that 'something'? Something you can grasp, something that you can understand, to intellectually makes sense of? Nope, non-knowing. A direct knowing which can't be found. A direct knowing of the one thing which makes a difference, ultimately. That all other realisation relies on. Knowing the essential frees you. This one aspect of all that seemingly arises. Don't get lost in the jungle. Know this one thing. Then you are at base-camp, and the journey can begin.

Sleepy, sleepy, sleepy head. Time to sleep now.

Homage to Niutou Farong, whose profound words I massacre:

The nature of the mind is non-arising,
What need is there of knowledge and views?
Originally there is not a single dharma;
Why discuss inspiration and training?

Coming and going without beginning;
Sought for, it is not seen.
No need to do anything;
It is bright, still, self-apparent.

The past is like empty space;
Know anything and the
Basic principle is lost,
Casting a clear light on the world,
Illuminating, yet obscured.

If one-mindedness is impeded,
All dharmas are misunderstood.
Coming and going thus,
Is there need for thorough investigation?

Arising without the mark of arising,
Arising and illumination are the same.
Desiring to purify the mind,
There is no mind for effort.

Spontaneous wisdom
Throughout time and space
Nothing is illuminated;
This is most profound.
Knowing dharmas is non-knowing;
Non-knowing is knowing the essential.

Using the mind to maintain quietude,
Birth and death forgotten;
This is original nature.

The highest principle cannot be explained;
It is neither free nor bound.
Lively and attuned to everything,
It is always right before you.

There is nothing in front of you;
Nothing, yet everything is as usual.
Do not belabor wisdom to examine it;
Substance itself is empty and obscure.

Thoughts arise and pass away,
The preceding no different from the succeeding.
If the succeeding thought does not arise,
The preceding thought cuts itself off.

In past, present, and future,
There is nothing;
No mind, no buddha.
Sentient beings are without mind;
Out of no-mind they manifest.

Distinguishing between profane and sacred,
Their vexations flourish.
Splitting hairs deviates from the eternal.
Seeking the real, you give up the true.

Discarding both is the cure,
Transparent, bright, pure.
No need for hard work or skill;
Keep to the actions of an infant.

Clearly knowing,
The net of views increases
Stillness without seeing,
Not moving in a dark room.

Wakeful without wandering,
The mind is tranquil yet bright.
All phenomena are real and eternal,
Profuse, yet of a single form.

Going, coming, sitting, standing,
Don't attach to anything.
Affirming no direction,
Can there be leaving or entering?

There is neither unifying nor dispersing,
Neither slow nor quick.
Brightness and tranquility are
Just as they are.
They cannot be explained in words.

Mind is without alienation;
No need to terminate lust.
Nature being empty, lust will
Depart by itself.
Allow the mind to float and sink.

Neither clear nor clouded,
Neither shallow nor deep.
Originally it was not ancient;
At present it is not modern.

Now it is non-abiding;
Now it is original mind.
Originally it did not exist;
"Origin" is the present moment.

Bodhi has always existed;
No need to preserve it.
Vexation has never existed,
No need to eliminate it.

Natural wisdom is self-illuminating;
All dharmas return to thusness.
There is no returning, no receiving;
Stop contemplating, forget keeping.

Wisdom from the Zen Classic "Xin Ming"
Translated by Master Sheng Yen

Monday, February 09, 2009

Using an Object as a Support - Concentration or Awakening

From a reply on a Dharma list, where someone asked:
"I have an object such as watching the breath but I am constantly distracted. Please elaborate on "In order to keep from being distracted, that object is a support."

Hi there, one way you could approach this is by reviewing your intention - what is the intention behind your practice? Is it to get somewhere? Is it to achieve a certain state? Is that state something that you'd characterise as quiet, still, concentrated? Is that something that I'm chasing after, in however subtle a form?

One way you can look at the intention behind practicing Dharma, is to awaken. To be aware. To be fully and deeply aware of whatever you are experiencing, right now. Aware .. and even knowing it's nature.

awake to experienceAs such .. there's no real reason to try to get rid of thoughts, or to make them subside, or to set up any sort of division between where you are and where you want to get. What is arising at that time can be the focus and intention of your practice. Can I fully experience what is here at this moment. Fully experience it?

You can have a support in this .. such as the breath, which is something that you can you can begin with ... throughout your practice. You can allow yourself to experience the breath. And rest in that experiencing. If you are then able, you can open the awareness to include what other sensations of the body, tactile sensations you are experiencing. Without moving away from experiencing the breath ... but opening to include more in your awareness. If you then lose the breath, then come back gently to it.

Should be you able to rest in experiencing fully the breath and the body sensations .. you can include visual sensations in your experience in your awareness. Not focussing down on any of them .. not concentrating .. but allowing them into your awareness ... together with the breath, and the tactile sensations. Again, if you lose the breath, gently come back to experiencing fully the breath, then open awareness to include tactile sensations .. and the visual sensations.

You can carry on this way and gradually open to more and more of your experience, your heard sensations, taste, smell ... then asking 'what is going on at the emotional level' and experiencing that together with the rest. Then 'what is going on at the story level' .. and allowing thoughts to be fully experienced in awareness.

So gradually you move to deepen and open your awareness to *all* your experience at that moment. The breath is a support as it's where you begin with awareness of your experience, and where you return to each time you lose awareness.

You *will* lose awareness! It's the nature of things :-) .... so we don't really need to get too caught up in calling it names like 'distraction' .. and trying to get away from that happening. If you keep doing the practice, then over time you build up 'capacity'. With capacity, you gain the ability to rest the mind with whatever is there. It's a natural process, and one which you don't' have to fight. And one you don't have control over, as such. You can't force yourself to concentrate.

There are three aspects to our ability to hold whatever arises in our awareness, each of which you need:

- You have the 'motivation' to be aware.

- You have knowledge of 'techniques' for being aware, such as the above, and what you've been taught.

- Then, you just need to do it, and gradually, the third ingredient will build, that of 'capacity'.

With increased capacity, you will lose awareness less, and you will be able to be aware of thoughts without getting lost in them so often, and you will most likely come back to awareness more quickly when you are out of awareness. You'll see that these three happen over different time-spans, and with differing degrees of control. Motivation is something which can be easily set (and lost) in the moment. Capacity, by contrast, is something which builds up slowly over time, and something we cannot 'decide' to do or have.

This sort of gentle, open, inclusive approach will tend to lead to less annoyance with being distracted, I find. And rather than trying to concentrate ... if your intention is to wake up ... to be able to rest in fully experiencing what is present, in each moment ... then awareness will naturally deepen, and knowing will naturally unfold, and you will find less tension and unease (suffering) in the path, as well what was already there!

I hope this description of the Mahamudra approach has been of some use ...