The gift of mindfulness practice is that in any moment of anxiety or fear, we are called to open our hearts, to have the courage to be with even our deepest, darkest fears. An old Hasidic story says teachings are placed on, not in, our hearts, so that when the heart breaks, the teachings fall in. We hear, reflect on and put into practice the teachings, so that in the turmoil of anxiety and fear, loving awareness, is our response—trusting that loving, compassionate, peaceful presence is what is most healing in the experience of the broken, anxious or fearful heart.
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Metta (loving-kindness) is the ninth parami, or emanation of an awake being. What we call "love" is usually based on desire and attachment. This "love" is unreliable because it is usually based on grasping, conditioned on what we get from the “beloved.” At first, the attraction and even the grasping may feel exciting, obscuring the underlying suffering of grasping.
The eighth parami (quality of Buddhamind) is Resolve or Determination, the capacity to set a direction in life and pursue it with courageous energy and patience despite obstacles to its attainment. It is the unshakeable spirit in us that calls us to stick to our course with the kind of dedication the Buddha had on the night of his enlightenment, when he vowed not to arise from his seat until he came to see the cause of suffering in his own heart and in the world, and come to freedom from it.
As the Buddha lay dying, he said to his disciples, “Be a lamp unto yourself, be a light, let yourself shine.” With Truthfulness, the seventh parami (emanation of an awakened being), we vow to illuminate our lives through discovery and openness to the truth. To follow the path of meditation is to open our eyes and our hearts to see and sense clearly the naked truth of our lives in a new and open way.
Patience is the sixth Parami, or, emanation of the awakened being. Patience comes when we appreciate how it is to rest and wait, allowing that which arises to pass in its natural rhythm. From the TaoTeChing: “The wise … those who understand, have no mind to fight the Tao … but instead, rest in the rhythm of life and nature.”
On the night of the Buddha’s awakening, he vowed: “I shall not give up my efforts until I have attained liberation by perseverance, energy and endeavor.” This demonstrates the quality of virya, courageous energy, the fifth parami (manifestation of the awakened mind). The Buddha’s awakening demonstrated the power of indefatigable energy arising from spiritual urgency—the recognition that now is the only reality.
Wisdom, the fourth parami or emanation of an Awakened Being, is not accumulated by long periods of study or linear thinking, or attained by amassing power. We’ve all met people who are intelligent and powerful, and yet not wise.
Renunciation is the 3rd Parami or emanating aspect of an Awakened Being. Learning renunciation is key to freedom, it appears to the worldly mind as depriving ourselves of everything we love, the pleasant and enjoyable. This is understandable, as it is the way the worldly mind conceives of letting go. But renunciation is actually an attitude, a way of approaching life, that invites us to give up what binds us—the mentally fabricated condition that to be happy or fulfilled, our experience must conform to our ideas and expectations or exhibit certain pre-ordained desirable qualities. Instead, our energy can be directed to understanding experience itself, however it is. Life unfolding is the constant opportunity to understand more deeply that whatever forms or flavors arise are Dhamma, offering surprise, delight and deepening wisdom and compassion.
Sila—ethical conduct, or integrity—is the second parami. We are invited to do no harm through wise speech, wise action, and wise livelihood. We resolve to act, and do act, in wholesome and skillful ways, consciously choosing to refrain from behavior that causes fear, confusion and suffering. The Buddha said such ethics have freedom from remorse as their purpose. Imagine a life without remorse!
Dhamma is the second jewel, the second of the three refuges in Buddhist practice. When we take refuge in Dhamma, we seek and find safety in the truth of the way things actually are, everywhere, warts and all.