The path of the mind is a mixed bag

By Sal Barba, Ph.D. | Jan 23, 2013

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

These are challenging times. Therefore, it helps to remind ourselves that any spiritual path taken is going to be a mixed bag. In some ways transformation occurs in some areas of our meditation practice and life, and in other ways it appears to not occur.

Our practice supports us to overcome the apparent obstacles that impede our psychological liberation, and at times we feel lucid and light. However, in other ways we continue to behave in negative patterns that lead to unproductive results, which upon closer examination appear at times to be steppingstones to profound transformation.

What is that which we are experiencing a transformation? How about a habitual pattern of thought and/or behavior. Only you can see what that is, and only you can be ruthlessly and compassionately honest with yourself.

When I infer the word “ruthless,” I do imply self-deprecation. Ruthless is like the Vajra sword. One side of the blade symbolizes compassion, and the other side, emptiness. Ruthless means to look without flinching at the bare truth that lives just behind the mask we present to the public.

We look with carefulness, kindness and with an intention to see the truth about what really going on inside our heart-mind without any inclination to avoid what we see and experience!

This body we have offers tremendous potential to facilitate us to awaken to our luminosity on the path, but that also means taking everything that arises as the path because after all, we are walking the path of our own mind, and that means we may not always enjoy what we see, feel and experience.

Therefore, let us learn to cultivate over time an immense inner climate of acceptance and compassion for what we find difficult to accept about our self.

Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, one of my Tibetan teachers, used to say at our retreats, “Erring and erring, we walk the unerring path.” This is a helpful quote to reflect upon because it reminds us that we are not perfect, and our path is not perfect.

Therefore, when we become caught up in a whirlwind of emotion such as fear or anger, we should not think that we are not progressing on our spiritual path. Even though we are likely to provide ourselves with superego attacks, it will be helpful to remember KTGR’s quote above.

Furthermore, as long as we are working with our mind, and doing our best to apply and integrate the dharma into our life, this is success!

Ponlope Rinpoche in his book, “Rebel Buddha,” says, “Failure from this perspective is part of what makes up our accomplishments. We usually don’t see this.”

This implies that everything that arises in our life and from our mind is included on the path of the mind, which can be deeply humbling!

We would like our path to be perfect, but that is an intention that can be considered ideal. To illustrate, if we think that our income is going to increase every year, so that we can build a secure and comfortable future, we are mistaking the ideal for the norm.

It’s also a bit boring like watching a film where you know what the ending is going to be. However, in life anything can happen, and often everything is what happens!

This is really the truth of “impermanence and change, and it is what makes our life such an adventure.”

When we remember this insight, we are likely to take a pragmatic approach, one that includes courage. This quality of courage enables us to reflect and to put things into a perspective that does not entrap us in self-deception.

When we continually err on our path, we experience loss, disappointment, depression, anxiety, and emotional and psychological pain as part of our life and the lives of other human beings.

Therefore, walking this crazy mish-a-gosh path is a mixed bag filled with the nuances of being human, and it brings us surprises to remind us of just how precious life is! Our path filled with such incredible potential can put our life into clear perspective by helping us to see that we are no exception to any other human being!

I think it is fortunate for some of us to have some skill to work with our mind. In some ways we may be better off than others because of our skill to take the inquiry up to cultivate an awakened mind.

Perhaps we can allow this thought to permeate into our heart to help bring to us resolve to by further realizing what the Buddha said, “work out your own liberation!”

Be well, and keep the inquiry continuing.

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