Henri Rousseau-The Flamingoes

just as you are


You can’t push the river, the Zen masters of old would say. And wow, how I have tried—reading, studying the Dharma, going on retreats, even fasting at times.

So, OK, I can handle each statement separately just fine, but when combined into one sentence, I admit it’s been a head scratcher.

You can’t push the river, the Zen masters of old would say. And wow, how I have tried—reading, studying the Dharma, going on retreats, even fasting from time to time.

And it’s still little ol’ me, unenlightened and pooped out from so much effort!

So I go back to that line — If I am perfect just as I am, what’s the improvement I need, and how do I “get” it?

let the river flow

Maybe “I” just need to step aside as let the river flow and let go of all the pushing.

Pema Chodron reminds us:

“All the qualities of your natural mind—peace, openness, relaxation, and clarity—are present in your mind just as it is. You don’t have to shift or change. All you have to do while observing your mind is to recognize the qualities it already has.”

She drops a few clues there: while we don’t have to do anything differently, like pushing for some final, blessed shift or change to happen through all our trying, we are asked to “recognize” the qualities we already have—in our own minds!

your mind right now, just as it is

That’s a big one. She re-orients our efforts from trying to “get” something we supposedly don’t have to recognizing that elusive “something” as qualities already in our own mind, just as it is.

Perhaps it follows we just need to “observe” our own mind, it’s moods, it’s likes and dislikes, in fact, all its weather patterns just as they are

untweakable you

And in this observation, we relax, and let go of trying to modify or tweak this mind or its experiences in any way.

Maybe it’s all the effort-ing that hides these natural qualities. And is it this over-exertion that keeps us going round and round the hamster wheel of a practice that seems to be going nowhere?

U Tejaniya and relaxed effort

Alexis Santos, a meditation teacher who practiced as a monk under the guidance of the Burmese meditation teacher U Tejaniya Sayadaw, discovered on his own an image that helped him get off this wheel of over-exertion. 

like a sunflower naturally orients itself toward the sun

The sunflower doesn’t try to get the right sun light, or more of it, it just turns to receive what comes.

Can we practice like this, relaxed and open to all experience, without trying to tweak anything?

simple, natural awareness

It’s just this simple, natural awareness which sees the very subtle perturbations caused by striving, wanting or trying to create something—as deeper layers of holding or attachment, as U Tejaniya would say.

Can we just hang out in this simple awareness that knows effortlessly the experiences unfolding in the present moment, like a sunflower turning so gently and naturally to face the sun?

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