just be it It’s about the work involved in establishing a dedicated practice to feelings of a bigger belonging through practices aimed at increasing feelings of compassion, gratitude and forgiveness

The Art of Awareness

Published on 04/04/20
by randy

“The foolish reject what they see, not what they think; the wise reject what they think, not what they see…Observe things as they are and don’t pay attention to other people.”  Huang-Po (9th Century)

Our health and well-being are fed by our capacity to adapt to change, meeting the moment to what comes up.  For me, this is why staying in the moment, working to meeting things ‘fresh’ just as our young puppy, is the best way to build immunity from increased suffering.  In Philippians of the Bible, it’s written: 

 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”

This virus is causing all to lighten our load.  In a society that screams you need to have more or desperately hold on to what you have with weaponry, the skills in letting go and getting lighter are being sewn and shown.  The media has bought the notion of ‘bigger is better’ and now only a few of the extremely wealthy feed you information on what to think.  I’m hoping you can see how foolish the old school political platforms are, how the focus is on holding the sheep in line with some more programs aimed at a sugar buzz high, of trying to communicate a sense of knowing when we face our own uncertainty.  We all see things differently, and that’s ok.  Yet, I think it behooves us to share what’s worked for us before, especially if we have the experience of getting lighter and realizing the benefits that come from it.

It’s just of human nature to want things to be different.  We’re by nature restless, wanting things to be the way they were or hoping for things to be different in the future, anxious about what’s to come.  Yet, wisdom advises that our health, peace and well being will come from seeing what’s in front of us, here and now.  There’s a softening, an easing of our craving thoughts, and a settling into meeting discomfort with more ease, less vulnerable to potential ‘dis-ease’ from greed (trying to hold on or grab more) or fear (trying to push things away).  

I’ve been in many situations through my life where I felt the squeeze from not wanting things to change, fearing the unknown, losing my stuff and identity.  I’ve had very physical reactions as a doctor told us he had no cure for our son’s illness, as I lost identity from my position in heading a large company, or facing the grasping to hold on to physical assets through the last recession.  The stress (the distance between where you are and where you want to be) took its toll and I want to share what worked for me so that you take better care of you wellbeing through this crisis of radical change.

I’m older now, almost 70, and currently enjoy the comforts of shelter and food security.  I like our neighbors and ‘seeing’ has led me to stay away from knocking on their doors at night without first phoning since they have all said they have weapons in their house for protection.  So, my basic needs have me grounded.  Yet, I’ve seen what happens when we don’t put the basic needs first for all.  That’s why, for me, the notion of pulling trillions of dollars out to hold on to our ‘stuff’ seems foolish if we haven’t first addressed how to provide the basic needs of food, shelter and safety to all who are insecure.  

I found that I didn’t want to be around those who tried to convince me of their knowing when it was obvious their thoughts blocked their capacity to see.  Whether it was meeting with doctors, legislators, educators, friends, spiritual leaders, etc., I learned to gravitate to those who ‘lined up’, those who had deep experience in their area of expertise and communicated ‘this is what we know for now’.  With that, we moved with those professionals who had the deepest experience, curiosity and respect for how fast things change.  I learned that in moments like these, the best action was to humble to the cushion or mat and allow the mind to still, to deepen awareness to the body, to give it kindness and aim higher in my vow to care for it’s service to me, to breath awareness with friends and family, free from words that could add more stress.  The bottom line was, “Where am I finding my security?”.  How am I finding my capacity to embrace uncertainty with a confidence that is the antidote to the harm stress causes the body?  Where do I find my resolve to get stronger in the face of radical change, to cultivate stability on an ever increasing unstable platform?  How can I practice those things that feed balance, the awareness to see and wisdom to let go, holding a virtue of equanimity, gratitude, forgiveness, and compassion to meet others who are suffering.  I suspect those who put their security in what they have are deeply suffering as the market crashes, as paychecks diminish and the dreams for getting more and more diminish.  Those who put their security in what they do, tied heavily to the good opinion of others for what they do will have to face themselves and realize identities, too, will have to be let go.  It’s an odd thing, this letting go, kind of like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz when she was instructed to click her heals and realize she could always go home.  That’s what I found with always going to the cushion, to just sit, to watch the next arising moment, using breath to arrive home, repeating the phrase, “Here, just here.  Now, just now. Be, just be”.

This experience of deepening awareness to what we see leads to new vows where we aim to not cause harm.  To gain awareness to the footprint of our actions, words, thoughts and emotions.  Those who still function from a sense of duality (us vs. them) will probably not understand this, caught in notions of security from thoughts held so deeply.  In the late ’60’s and early ’70’s we had the gifts of diversity as Western and Eastern wisdoms came together, as musicians presented songs that transformed our dualistic minds, as we opened to the wisdom of ‘the circle has no sides’, ‘we’re all connected’, ‘everything affects everything’.  The rug was pulled from us and there were those who met this radical change with altered experience, curiosity and humility and there were those who craved the stability of the ’50’s and early ’60’s.  There was also rapid growth in science and technology that shook the very ground of our being.  Change was accelerating at a pace we hadn’t ever seen and we either developed the skills to meet them or we put all our attentions to stopping change or ignoring it.  For me, a hallucinogenic experience pulled the rug of certainty from under me.  The good fortune of having Lutheran ministers introduce me to Zen masters for meditation training in the value of the cushion, finding grounding in the groundless, deepened my faith and awareness in seeing.  The study of language, linguistics, statistics, and General Semantics clearly showed me how limiting my thinking had been.  I had deepened my awareness to how our use of language limited our experience.  I had experienced the beauty of the ‘no thought zone’, the vast freedom in a vacation from the verbal mind.  Statistics taught me the value of reliability tests and how to strengthen the validity of our conclusions, always humbled to, “This is what we seem to know now.”  There was alway a deeper question.  General Semantics taught me that meaning was in the person, not somewhere out there.  The meaning we put to words comes from our experience.  It humbled me to how little we know and how dangerous it is to ‘think’ we know.  We can only build maps to this huge territory, and with eduction, experience, collaboration and persistence, we move to a more accurate map.  Yet, we know we’re so far from knowing the full territory, that our only response is to sit in awe and wonder at this miracle of being, offering our deepest gratitude for the opportunity to participate in this life.

So if you have been fortunate enough to have bounced into the unified experience, some of my suggestions for what’s worked for me will make sense.  If you’re still into building walls, trusting authoritarian leaders, judging those of different experience from a ‘right vs. wrong’, you may be bewildered by all of this.  That’s ok, too.  The only appropriate response for me is, “I’m ok, you’re ok”.  Some other mantras I use are:

  1. The problem is never what you ‘think’ it is.
  2. Everything is working out.
  3. With change, there is no resolution, just capacity to see and adapt.
  4. If basic needs of food/shelter/safety are met, shift attention from ‘just have’ and ‘just do’ to ‘just be’, aiming to move with a lighter footprint resolved to reduce harm.

In response to reducing stress with this virus uncertainty, here’s what I’ve found to reduce stress:

  1. Practice awareness to my preventive actions when out in public.  When I avoid contact of surfaces, is my intention to keep the virus from others or from myself.  That’s the gift in not knowing, the uncertainty as to who’s a carrier given the lack of early symptoms.
  2. Spend more time on the cushion, putting attention to the breath.  “I’m here.  I want to be here, now.  Breathing in ‘Yes’ to this precious gift, breathing out ‘Thank you’ for the opportunity to have been graced this breath”.  Use this as an anchor when thoughts arise, notice the thoughts and let them go, coming back to the breath always.
  3. Get a schedule for nutritious habits.  When waking, commit to gratitude for the return of sensation, for mobility, for working plumbing, for any life that’s in the room with you, etc.  For me, after time with Jane and our puppy, after some coffee and cleaning up, I spend thirty minutes meditating, followed by trumpet toning, and either writing or recording insights.  I alternate aerobic/strength days with yoga days.  I wake at 5am, usually finishing these activities by 10:30.  We’ve incorporated a half hour social distance walk with our grand children, have lunch, twenty minute nap, social coffee/tea with Jane, and then it’s boardsport time depending upon the conditions.  Jane and I bookend the day with reverence to the sunset, I then play my horn in gratitude, and we wind down to comfort entertainment or as much news as we can handle before it starts to get to us.  
  4. Keep learning those lessons, deeper and deeper.  Do whatever you can to stay away from saying, “I knew that”.  It’s a dead end street.  Keep a ‘puppy fresh’ mind, always drilling deeper.  For me, the experience of ‘well being’ has become more and more palpable.  It resides from just below the belly button to the neck.  It’s not like being happy or positive.  It’s vibration that can accept suffering and joy with solid footing.  I seem to find it best when exerting my physical skills to the edge, when fasting, when immersed in great artistic expression, and when receiving the welcome and validation (not approval) of others, or opening to them beyond notions of ‘us vs. them’.
  5. Get enough rest.  Take vacations from food, the verbal, and when feasible, from shelter.  We come to gratitude from not having, recognizing we’re entitled to nothing and consequently work to take nothing for granted.
  6. Ingest those things that sustain health.  Reduce those things that provide a sugar buzz high only to leave us feeling depleted.  Spend more time outside, tasting each breath taken, hearing more deeply, seeing the beauty of the season in all its glory.  Surround yourself in blue when you can…water, sky.  Seize the benefits of sunshine while recognizing today’s sky demands sunscreen.  Spend time by the water and when you can, get in the water.  I can notice building anxiety when I’m in a house two blocks from the ocean.  Without fail, whenever I’ve gone down to jump in the ocean, the anxiety is gone almost immediately.  Make a list of those things to do and foods to eat that always feed and sustain your well being, those foods that not only taste good in the mouth, but also sustain that ‘great fullness’ while digesting.  More vegetables, less refined sugars, sugar substitutes and starchy carbohydrates.  More real foods, less processed foods.  More plant based, less factory farmed foods that disregard kindness to soil and animals.  More organic foods, less pesticides and fertilizers that destroy our ecosystems.  More foods that raise the vibration, less consumption of those foods that put us to sleep. More real food, less processed foods filled with chemicals we can’t pronounce. Aim to eliminate food waste.
  7. Stop using personal pronouns when referring to the body.  It’s your gift from the divine, serving you in ways far beyond your comprehension.  Consequently, develop a practice of sending love to various body parts for all they do for you.  Take a vow of “No complaint, no complaint”, committing your aim to cease criticizing or complaining about your body.  Let your body speak to you, listen deeply, and develop a practice to see/feel its sacred qualities, it’s gift to you as you move about during your time on this planet. Your body wants to live.  It’s the tricky ego that seems to do the work of self sabotage.  Again, settle that ego down with periodic mental chatter vacations, simply settling into noticing the sensations in the body.  Do this noticing without labels, in that gap between words, if possible.
  8. Have practices that feed the qualities of rhythm, balance, harmony, upright posture and equanimity.  Listen to music and play music, preferably without words.  Practice yoga, dance, martial arts, pilates or any other number of regiments that challenge balance.  Engage in strength training to reduce muscle entropy.  Stay away from ingesting food and intoxicants in the evening so the body can ready for healthy rest.  Have a solid routine for going to sleep and for waking, aiming to a minimum of 7-8 hours sleep.  These are all practices that have worked for me.

When we ‘take care’, it begins with the body.  When we care for the body, we care for everything.  Practicing awareness in our actions, learning what works from our personal experience, deepens us to the human experience.  All we have is our attention (awareness, consciousness).  How we daily set our intentions on where we put our attention is the essence of our spiritual journey.  Waking to awareness of impermanence, meeting change moment to moment, with awareness of the illusion of separateness, we move more carefully, aiming to not cause harm, aiming to more kindness, more wholesome actions, thoughts and words.

Continuation…no birth, no death

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