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

One Step at a Time

Published on 13/05/11
by randy

Holding Stability in an Unstable Environment

Holding Stability in an Unstable Environment

About ten years ago I found myself stuck on a steep mountain slope. I had miscalculated, thinking there was an opening at the top. After climbing 1500’ I came to the conclusion it was impossible. Looking down, I discovered the rock surface was unstable for any misstep. I had taken a book up and when I set it down I watched it tumble several hundred feet. I sat in stillness for some time. I prayed, knowing the slightest error would result in my death. I needed stability in the ultimate of unstable conditions. I needed support. Each step down was with wholehearted awareness. Each completed step carried my deepest gratitude for the opportunity to take one more step, for the support the slightest ridge gave my foot. And that’s how it went for hours as I felt graced to experience another moment. Dainin Katagiri writes about this ‘step by step’ phenomenon in Returning to Silence:

“….let us imagine you are climbing up a mountain cliff. That situation is just like being on the verge of life and death. There is no way to escape; you cannot complain. If you are there, all you have to do is just be there. If you act instinctively you could die. If you are nervous, you could die. should you depend on the intellect, you could also die. So you have to depend on the mountain, your mind and all circumstances. You have to watch carefully and understand. Your consciousness must be clear and know what is going on there. Then, after using your best understanding, your body and mind should depend on just one step. This is action. This is the process of one step without being nervous about what will happen in the next moment, or thinking bout when you will reach the peak, or how far down the bottom is, or who is climbing, or how much farther you can keep going like this, or that you could die. There is nothing to think about, nothing to depend on. All we have to do is just be there using all the things we already have: consciousness, mind, mountain and weather. Then we have to act. Just take one step, a pretty simple step.
What is this one step? Is it to understand about living by studying philosophy or psychology? I don’t think so. Finally they must be thrown away. All we have to do is just live. Take one step, and that one step must be stable. This means, after using your consciousness with your best effort, then act, wholeheartedly. This one step is really not just one step; it is the universe, including the mountains, your mind and consciousness. All things are completely melted into one step. What is one step? One step is the mountain. One step is the weather. One step is you. One step is the true way to live. It is really to attain the Way.” p. 106

Isn’t this what vital living is, finding stability in the face of each unstable arising moment? In the face of impermanence, can I vow to aim to Divine nature, whatever tradition I’ve come to it with. Isn’t it about facing the feelings of ‘ending’, of ‘aloneness’, knowing that God is in the action of ‘this’ step. Can we afford to miss our appointment with the next arising step? Our wholehearted attention is called forth. Our life or death depends upon it. This emergency situation attitude, dedicated in equanimity, is the base of just be it…here and now.

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