The gift of mindfulness practice is that in any moment of anxiety or fear, we are called to open our hearts, to have the courage to be with even our deepest, darkest fears. An old Hasidic story says teachings are placed on, not in, our hearts, so that when the heart breaks, the teachings fall in. We hear, reflect on and put into practice the teachings, so that in the turmoil of anxiety and fear, loving awareness, is our response—trusting that loving, compassionate, peaceful presence is what is most healing in the experience of the broken, anxious or fearful heart.
These days, I have been experiencing directly with great gratitude the power and profound healing of community support in difficult times. Reflection naturally emerges on the indispensible nature of the boundless, universally empathic mind/heart capacities at the ground of human experience. They are timeless and transcultural: love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. Called Brahmavihara, these qualities are, happily, capable of cultivation and development.
These teachings and practices train the heart into feeling life fully and tenderly, intuitively sensing how to reach out and connect with our own and others’ hearts with clarity and sincere caring. They encourage intuitive wisdom and courageous, loving presence in the face of the joys and sorrows all humans know. We allow the teachings to fall lovingly into our heart and trust what we find there. Can you open your broken heart so the experience of boundless loving awareness can fall in?
On the night of the Buddha’s awakening, he vowed: “I shall not give up my efforts until I have attained liberation by perseverance, energy and endeavor.” This demonstrates the quality of virya, courageous energy, the fifth parami (manifestation of the awakened mind). The Buddha’s awakening demonstrated the power of indefatigable energy arising from spiritual urgency—the recognition that now is the only reality.
Practicing the Path to liberation demands unremitting effort in the mind to abandon unskillful mental qualities and develop the skillful. Through this vitality, stillness comes. Through diligent attention, the grace and mystery of life are revealed. By this effort, we do not seek to “improve” ourselves. Rather, we open our minds to understanding what qualities of heart keep us bound and suffering and those that lead to freedom. This is a radical shift that requires profound compassion.
Exerting courageous energy is not striving and pushing to make something happen. It calls for balance—neither too much effort nor too little. We see when effort is tight and we relax. We see when it is flagging and we arouse energy, with equanimity.
Then, we can see when we’re caught, asleep, attached, or frightened and make the effort courageously to let go that which obstructs clear seeing. Doing so, we awaken to the unvarnished truth of experience. Through our effort to be present in body, mind and heart, presently the invisible is made visible. Will you arouse effort, energy and vitality in your practice, with urgency?