For almost a year now, I’ve noticed an underlying anxiety, a feeling of being off balance, craving to read the news more than I ever did before. There is a thread of fear stitched into our country, and I feel it, for we aren’t separate from our surroundings. In the midst of summer, there’s a chill in my heart. I’m grateful for the teachings & practice of mindfulness, calm, and equanimity.
What gives rise to the peace of mindfulness? The ancient texts tell us: mindfulness produces mindfulness. What we do with our minds right now conditions the next moment. How we breathe, how we pay attention to what arises in & around us, how we love… What are we doing moment to moment? We’re practicing something all the time. Are we practicing being aware? How are we actually spending the moments we have in this heart-breakingly unsafe, exquisite, magnificent life?
Flannery O’Connor wrote, “Faith comes & goes. It rises & falls like the tides of an invisible ocean. If it’s presumptuous to think that faith will stay with you forever, it’s just as presumptuous to think that unbelief will.” My Korean Zen teacher always encouraged us to “Believe in yourself!” With great humor & intensity, he asked us to have confidence in our minds, to believe in the stability & wisdom of awareness itself, our “not-moving mind.” His definition of faith was trust in awareness, our ability to see clearly.
Even so, sometimes what we see frightens & upsets us. We know our trust, confidence, faith will waver. When we’re mindful, we can see: wavering is both as real & ephemeral as trusting. Like all experiences, they appear & disappear. The skill is being willing to step back & observe the heart’s inevitable movement back & forth, in & out of fear & faltering, with as much kind, understanding awareness as we can summon.
This is how we learn to meet the inevitable ebb & flow of confidence with the “not-moving mind”. Sorrows, fears, joys, perceptions move — who watches & stays still? Awareness & presence are always here when we look deeply. This is how we cultivate mindfulness & compassion with all the insecurity of life. Practice means learning to recognize & support the courage, capacity, and strength already present in us. And mindfulness means remembering to look, again & again. “Believe in yourself!”