Dear Still Water Friends,
Zen teacher Cheri Huber’s book, Making a Change for Good, shines a light on how most of us talk to ourselves about the concerns, problems, and frustrations we face in our lives. Moment by moment we hear voices urging us on, judging us, commenting on how well we did and how well others did. These inner voices – such as the planner, the worrier, the self-critic, and the regretter – originate, Huber believes, from our conditioning, from how we were raised, from what others wanted us to do or be. These demanding inner voices are the voices of young children – the survival strategies we developed as we learned to judge ourselves so that we would not be judged or punished by others.
Together the inner voices become a harsh, unforgiving task master demanding self-improvement and self-discipline.
In contrast to all that, Huber writes about the simple act of being fully present, directly experiencing each moment, rather than having it filtered through the voices. We come to Center:
the unconditionally accepting, conscious, compassionate awareness that is our authentic nature. It is the nonseparate reality that contains, and is able to embrace, the illusion of a separate self – called I, me, my – that suffers. When in center, everything is as it is and none of it is taken personally. There is nothing wrong; no loss, lack, or deprivation; no fear; no urgency.
It is meditation that teaches us how to come to center. Once we have an experience of center, then we can embrace and mentor "the young parts of ourselves who never had anyone help them understand their wants and needs."
The Mentor I’m encouraging you to find is not a source of permissive self-indulgence. Nor is the Mentor a hard taskmaster who makes you do stuff you don’t want to do for your own good. The Mentor speaks from conscious, compassionate awareness. The Mentor, being center, loves you and all life unconditionally.
We’d all like to have someone who thinks we’re wonderful, encourages us, and loves us unconditionally. We can be with that person all the time because we have that person inside us.
Huber’s point is: "We don’t lack self discipline, we lack presence."
"It couldn’t be that simple," you might be saying to yourself. "Compassionate self awareness is not enough."
You might ask yourself, "Who is saying that? What voice? Where did it originate?"
This Thursday evening, after our meditation period, we will share our experiences with both of these strategies for self-discipline. You are invited to join us.
A related excerpt by Thich Nhat Hanh on our awakened nature is below.
Our Awakened Nature
From Living Buddha, Living Christ, by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Buddha taught, “Be an island unto yourself. Take refuge in yourself and not in anything else.” This island is right mindfulness, the awakened nature, the foundation of stability and calm that resides in each of us. This island shines light on our path and helps us see what to do and what not to do. When our five skandhas – form, feelings, perceptions, mental states, and consciousness – are in harmony, there will naturally be right action and peace. Conscious breathing brings about calmness and harmony. Aware that practicing this way is the best thing we can do, we will feel solid within and we will be a true vehicle for helping others.