When asked about the fruit of the spiritual life, the 13th century Japanese monk Dogen Zenji replied: “Enlightenment is intimacy with all things.”
Mindfulness allows us to intimately see a flower, or watch a sunset, or eat a mango, with nothing in between us and the experience.
connection with life as it is
Breath by breath we deepen our connection with life as it is. We are more present for the beauty and the challenges we encounter. We long for this connection, this intimacy with our life, as it connects us more authentically with others.
We discover a new dimension to life, as described by Emily Dickenson: “Life is so astonishing; it leaves very little time for anything else.”
the judging mind
But we discover on the cushion that our minds are actively judging, evaluating and comparing our ourselves and our experiences.
The judging mind, that meditators are so familiar with, takes us far away from this intimacy that Dogen highlights as the fruit of our practice. Although we long for this connection, we seem to be powerfully conditioned to judge.
We are “judging machines” as one of my teachers, Michelle Smith, once said.
Jon Kabat-Zinn reminds us that “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way – on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment.”
Consciously practicing non-judgment in meditation allows us to open up more to whatever arises, and rest deeply in the mindful presence that judging blocks out. Doing this relieves us of having to do anything in particular in the present.
We just give up grasping for more of the pleasant, resisting the unpleasant, and ignoring our life as it is.
the space of intimacy
As Larry Rosenberg puts it, by practicing non-judgment we come into the space of intimacy where we are “being with life, not just dealing with it.”
Joseph Goldstein is fond of recounting that an interviewer once asked Mother Teresa what she says to God when she prays. “I don’t say anything,” she replied. “I just listen.“ Then the interviewer asked what God says to her. “He doesn’t say anything,” she said. “He just listens. And if you don’t understand that, I can’t explain it to you.”
Deep listening, in silence, even if no words are spoken, is intimate. Like Mother Teresa we can’t explain this intimacy our mindfulness practice reveals.
We simply live it.