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.


PasserBy said...

Yes indeed. From the perspective of awareness, there is no way to point to a moment of experience and say this is ‘in’ and this is ‘out’. All ‘in’ are as ‘out’; to awareness seamless experience is all there is.

Yet in addition to this ‘ungraspability and unlocatabilty’ nature, emptiness is also about this maha sensation when a moment of luminous experience comes into being due to the inter-being and interdependency of everything asif the universe is doing the work and nothing ‘me’. When there is no sense of self, ‘Tong!’, the sound, the person, the stick, the bell, hitting, vibration of the air, ears...all come together as the moment of experience called 'sound'. The universe is giving its very best for this moment of experience to arise.

Also when experience is seen as the manifestation of dependent origination, there is a sensation of always right wherever and whenever is. A sensation of home everywhere yet no place can be called home.

Just a sharing.

Chodpa said...

As always, thank you for your considered comment. It's been an interesting experience reflecting on what you've said, and seeing where that goes.

I guess for my own practice the place where I work, for want of a better way of expressing it, is in terms of emptiness and appearances. These I can know directly, right there ...

Dependent origination is something which works more as a reflective tool for me, which involves more of a 'triggering' to know. I have to 'work' the moment more in order to 'see' this at any time. Whereas appearances, and their emptiness are utterly direct.

That's where I'm at ... at this time :-)

I wonder if these are two different 'frameworks' (not sure what else to call it) for working ... emptiness/appearances ... and emptiness/dependent origination .. which suit different people at different times?

once again, many thanks,

and best wishes in the Dharma