Using Everything as Food for Freedom
A reflection on practice by Annie Nugent
When we are faced with the challenge of bringing the practice into our everyday lives, it can seem like a daunting task. Out of this we may become despondent and slowly our good intentions about practice begin to recede into the background as we become seduced by worldly distractions, relegating our practice to a period of formal sitting some time in the day. While this is an important part of the practice, it is only a part.
What about the rest of the day?
Rather than limiting the practice to some special period of time on the cushion, can we learn to see every situation as an opportunity for wisdom and compassion to grow? For example: whilst driving our car is there aversion to other drivers or are we perhaps daydreaming? When talking with others are we judging or wanting something from them? When preparing the evening meal are we rushing, leaning in to the moment? In the midst of these ordinary, worldly situations can we notice how we are relating to the moment?
The Buddha tells us that the end of suffering comes with the uprooting of the defilements of greed, hatred and delusion. Thus our job is learning to bring awareness to the presence of these unwholesome habits in the mind and not acting on them – this is how they are ultimately uprooted. In this way we are working towards ending suffering.
But this takes time – the patient, sincere willingness to begin with a gentle but determined encouragement to be aware of what is happening in the mind in one small moment. This is perfectly doable – nothing grandiose like being aware “for the whole day”. One moment of awareness begets another. Slowly and repeatedly throughout the day noticing what our attitude of mind is in any moment. Asking the question: “What’s happening in the mind now?”
In this way we can see that there is nothing special we have to do to alter our day. Only watching how the mind is operating. With awareness we begin to see the unwholesome tendencies of mind showing themselves. With time our attitude of mind shifts from living out the defilements of greed, hatred and delusion towards living from a place of generosity of heart, kindness and compassion and wisdom.
A joy comes into our lives when we realize the scope of the dharma. We see that it doesn’t narrow or limit our lives, but brings a growing ease of mind into life as wisdom and compassion is cultivated in the midst of the fullness and vibrancy of daily life. We come to understand that awareness wakes us up. It is a courageous and a deeply compassionate act because it breaks the cycle of ignorance. Gratitude arises for our lives as they may be manifesting right now, recognizing that the seeds of wisdom and compassion lie in whatever life is offering in this moment. It is up to us to use them as food for freedom.
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