So, Shariputra, without gaining anything,
Bodhisattvas find refuge in Prajna-paramita,
Living without walls in the mind, and so without fears,
Seeing through delusions and finally seeing through nirvana.
The Heart Sutra

Whatever comes along, don’t believe it.
When something appears shine your light on it.
Have faith in the light that is always working inside you.

Not Separate

The light is always working. Inside or outside there is only this one light. It is the sun rising over the barn in the morning. It is the horse as she whinnies asking to be fed. It is the smile of my friend. It is a crow calling from across the field, “Caw, caw!” This one light is always working. How can I be separate from this light? What can I gain apart from this light? To wake up is to be illumined, to be the sun at its rising, to be the horse as she calls, to be my friend smiling at David. To wake up is to find myself perching on a bare branch calling out, “Caw, caw!” In this light I discover that I am not outside of the world or outside of life, I am life as it unfolds. That close and intimate. For the ancestors there was a word for waking up or enlightenment: Intimacy. And yet…

Building Walls, Believing Things

…I build walls. As I build walls I construct the fortress of the self, my me. David. I am here and separate from the world — every tree and plant, the sun, the moon, the stars, the crow, the dogs, the barn behind the house, each person I meet. Separate. The world is too big, too chaotic, scary really, and I lose faith, my trust in the light always shining. I lose the confidence that moves into life not knowing where it might lead. Lost is the trust to simply be present for the unfolding.

We lose faith in the light and losing faith we take up beliefs. Beliefs are the building blocks for the fortress of self.

There are many beliefs — religious, cultural, social. The most foundational beliefs that we take up are personal, directed towards constructing an identity for ourselves (self image), an inside, that stands apart from world, now outside. And we all know how to do this because we all do it. Walls arise around us as we explain our separate selves to our selves.

because…,I am an unlovable person.
because…,the world revolves around me.
because…,I am a person of integrity.
because…,I am a sad person.
because…,I have achieved.
because…,I am an angry person.
because…,I am successful.
because…,I am a failure.
because…,I am compassionate.

Beliefs serve my self image and my perspective on things. With belief I make my world, brick by brick. With belief I imagine protecting myself from the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”However, with belief I have constructed a fortress of self that hems me in as much as it keeps the world at bay. I am enclosed and limited by these beliefs, these“walls in the mind.”

As the flow of life energy is limited to these four walls, the generosity I experience as I participate in life is cut off. If I see myself as unlovable, I cut off the natural affections of those around me. If I believe myself to be an angry person, it may be difficult for me to express tenderness. If imagine myself as a sad person, happiness might be lost to me. If happy, I might not allow myself the grief that comes with life. I have lost my freedom to be in and respond to life. I lose life in all its messiness.

Noticing this Jesus asks a question, “What does it profit someone if she gains the whole world, and forfeits life?” Good question. Linji approaches it this way, “Don’t do it!!” Well, here is what he actually said, “If something confronts you, don’t believe it.” The Heart Sutra reminds us that there is nothing to gain and we can depend on life as it unfolds here and now.

The Wound: Vulnerable for Life or Shining Our Light

And the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” keep coming. You can’t stop them. That’s life.  Our practice is to be vulnerable to life, to be willing for the slings and arrows as they penetrate the hard walls of belief, expectation and self image. We are wounded. A wound is an opening of thebarrier that separates inside from outside.  Physically that can be a problem, infection might follow. But psychically, wounds can penetrate the hard exterior of the fortress of self. These slings and arrows can open us to life, to the one light. And there all kinds of experiences that open us. In fact, whatever life might bring can open us. We are wounded by hatred and by love. There are wounds of sorrow and wounds of joy. If we are vulnerable for life, all of life will come to us. Outside and inside will meet, and again, as it has always been, there is no separation. And those walls in the mind that were everything to you? They’re gone. Our practice is to open to the messy grace that reaches everywhere and to find ourselves right here in the spaciousness of life with no walls.

Linji advises us, “When something appears, shine your light on it.” This is his practice suggestion. The gaze turns inward, we face our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions as they come to us, not as we wish them to be so that they fall conveniently into our manufactured sense of self and world. We explore and discover. What is this? Who am I? Who is —-? We notice as they rise and then fall and open into the spaciousness that is life. This is a messy grace but here at bottom, compassion and love.

For you it is like this: just hold your willingness for things to be as they are, hold your willingness for here and now. Your heart/mind will open.