Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on May 15, 2014

Looking back some forty years, the key to meditation progress (at least for me) has been to just relax and allow the mind to rest. And by rest I mean the same thing you mean by rest, as in "take a rest." Resting in the present moment allows everything whose time has come to present itself naturally. Using western psychological terms, if we think too much about the future and trying to get to it or make it happen, we are pushing the curve, what psychologists call being sadistic. On the other hand, if we dwell on or overly prolong the past, we are behind the curve, as in: being dragged through life by time. This is masochism.

Shakespeare said it well in his phrase "Ripeness is all." That is what allowing the mind to rest is about, letting things come to us naturally as they ripen, or as the kind-of-gross popular saying puts it: go for the "low-hanging fruit." LOL.

Learning to relax in the present does two things. As the restful moments accumulate, they create a new and more relaxed past which we begin to identify as our own past, and we gradually cease to identify with what went before, however rough that was… let's call it our old past. Resting in the present simultaneously best prepares us for the future by welcoming it in a relaxed way. I believe I first heard it from the great siddha Chögyam Trungpa in the phrase "relax as it is," his translation of one of the slogans from the "Seven Points of Mind Training" teachings by Atisha.

In many of the Tibetan Buddhist practices it is advised to keep an image of your root teacher above your head, either just above your head facing the same way you do or above and in front, facing you. This may sound a little strange to the western mind, but all it really points out is that keeping someone we trust and respect in mind can be helpful. Of course the Buddhists believe that having an open channel with a great teacher or a Buddha is just that, a channel through which blessings and clarity actually flow. Try it sometime with the person you most respect in life, living or dead. Experience that purity for yourself.

We can drink from any old puddle and pond if we wish, but invoking the influence of someone "we" love, admire, and respect makes a lot more sense. The Buddhists even go so far as to say that great beings like the Buddha or adepts like Naropa or Tilopa, although long gone, can still inspire us, and not just as thoughts we think. If our intent is pure and our appreciation of them is strong, they can be a channel open to us through whom we can receive their actual blessings and insight, regardless if they are still living or not. The mind is infinite and eternal. No real truth is ever lost, and that by the definition of truth. It endures.

The Christian phrase from the New Testament "Angels will lift you up in their hands, so you will not strike your foot against a stone" is in my opinion just another way to point out that keeping great beings in mind, whether above your head or wherever, is a good move. It can help us to become and stay more aware.

In fact, the whole notion of 'purity' is something to consider, the idea that a pure or focused intent (keeping your eyes on the prize) is worth having. I find that with the Tibetan Buddhists, a pure intent is everything when it comes to accumulating karma.

As my first dharma teacher used to say to me (often), "Michael, if you spend all of your time in the sideshow, the main tent will be gone." I find that as I naturally become aware of my own bad habits and let them go, I can better experience and know the purity of my own mind, and that feels good.

[Photo taken a few days ago out in the wood.]