Annie Nugent on “The Buddha’s Inspiring Teaching: Freedom Is Possible!”
A reflection on practice by Annie Nugent
There is a well-known teaching of the Buddha that we might not give the attention it deserves. It goes something like this: “If transforming the defilements of mind were not possible, I would not ask you to practice towards this end. It is because it is possible that I ask.”
This short teaching is important to take in fully and then check that we understand how the practice unfolds: It is about being mindful of what’s arising in our experience just one moment at a time. In that moment we are not acting on the unskillful habits and this is the way transformation begins to come about. This is good news for us because one moment is perfectly do-able – and then another and another. This becomes our life’s practice.
Yet, if we wrongly think that the unskillful tendencies of mind are going to stop with just a little bit if practice, of course we will be discouraged when we see these old tendencies showing themselves again and again. Remember it is not about getting rid of them but quite simply to repeatedly meet them with mindfulness and this will lead to wisdom.
What is wisdom? We begin to realize that these unskillful tendencies are impermanent arisings in the mind that are not who we are. They don’t belong to anybody, but are known by the mind as they arise and then cease. When we understand this, we don’t attach to them as being “mine”. In this way they are disempowered. The more we are able to meet the moment with mindfulness and wisdom, the less we are feeding these unskillful tendencies. They begin to wither and die in the same way that a plant that is not watered begins to die.
It is important to celebrate the moments when we have not been caught in some unskillful mind state, even for a moment – and feel happy about that. We may even find that we experience the opposites of the defilements more frequently as our practice strengthens – wisdom, kindness, compassion and a generosity of heart are more often the backdrop of the mind.
Now the confidence the Buddha had in our potential becomes ours as we savor these times when we are not suffering. We truly experience the joy and the power of the dharma.
See more about Annie Nugent