Sunday, September 22, 2013

Tending the Garden in My Heart

I continue to feel moved to focus on the heart. Throughout each day, paying attention to the stirrings within, and noticing the constant changes. Most precious has been Ayya Khema's image of the inner garden with flowers and weeds. The flowers are the beautiful emotions in the love family - love, compassion, rejoicing, and equanimity. The weeds are the hindrances that keep arising and need constant attention - greed, ill will, anger, fear, worries . . . 

There is no shortage of reasons to visit the garden in my heart. Each time, feeling the love or its possibility, and right next to it, a small weed or a tall one. Some weeds are more easy to see than others. When I feel envy, it is not hard noticing the immediate unpleasantness. Wise mind knows better than to linger in such thoughts. Instead, better step back at once and name the weed. Envy, envy, I am going to cut you down right there, right now, so that I can see and feel the beautiful pink flower. Opening the heart is a habit that can be cultivated, like anything else. 

Other weeds are harder to see, as they have a way of blending with the blooms. Feeling love, it would be easy to overlook the tinge of attachment and fear that comes along. Yet, there is no mistaking the slight constriction in the throat, the tension in the chest. What I call love needs to be stripped from such weeds. 

This is an all consuming practice that leaves little interest for writing about the practice . . . 

How are you taking care of your heart?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Love Practice

With mindfulness practice, one becomes more and more convinced of the impracticality of not harboring love in one's heart. Conditional love, ill will, anger, hate all contribute to unhappiness. And all are self-created. Upon close examination, it simply does not make sense to let those fester inside. Life is too short. Not a single moment to be wasted. That is the good news. 

Of course, abandoning old ways is not so easy. A lifelong of bad mind habits cannot be undone that quickly. The mind hangs on to self-righteous thoughts. It keeps coming back with the same old, same resentments, same separating views. It does not take much for the heart to follow, with a tightening, a closing of the half-open door. Chaos usually ensues, and more misery. That is the challenge.

This week, I had a chance to see resentment build to a point of seemingly no return. For a few days, mind and heart did their dance, hesitating between further justification or the possibility of release. It took stepping back, and resting on the foundation of practice to decide on the latter. It came down to a willingness to love above all. I found the heart deep down yearning for this clearing. 

I am most thankful for the unwitting teacher in my life, the mirror I sometimes push away because of its unflattering reflections. Ayya Khema is my other helper on the path of love. In those moments, when I am not so sure, her words are always there, ready for my picking:

The love has to come from our heart. So if there is no love for ourselves, no understanding for our own difficulties, how can we love another? We always think we do, but it is the kind of love that demands something. It wants something back. Maybe it doesn't even want love back, but it wants something back. It wants the right kind of attitude from the other person, the right kind of behavior, the right kind of being together -- there's some demand being made. As long as we're demanding something -- be it ever so subtle -- so long our love cannot be pure. Love can only be pure if it's given without any payment. 

And this:

Our work on the purification of our heart lies in our daily encounters with anyone, particularly human beings. It's not so difficult to love a little bird that has by mistake strayed into our room and we're trying to get him out again, poor little bird, nice little bird. But somebody who has strayed in our room and wants to sit there and talk while we're sleepy, well, there needs to be a little more determination to love that one. It's human beings that we need to work with. All of us have that opportunity constantly, and there's no excuse not to do it, because this is actually what our life is all about. It's an adult education class.

And that:

The heart just has to love; it doesn't have to discriminate. And when we can see the difference between the usual judgments and just loving -- not discriminating -- we have taken a very important step.