In our practice we turn our attention toward our body and mind. We study, and illuminate with awareness, this very body and mind. Some may feel that this is a sort of self-absorbed luxury – to spend time each day looking at one’s own body and mind. There are so many problems in the world out there, I don’t have time to just sit and look at my own body and mind. We might acknowledge that there are also internal problems, within this body and mind. We may know that we get angry, feel stressed at times, perhaps have trouble sleeping, that this physical body is the source of more and more grief, but it is so hard to get one’s arms around these internal problems. The problems out there seem so much more concrete, so let me just attend to those external things. After all, that’s more than enough to keep me busy.
The truth is that the distinction between internal and external is just a convention that we use in the conduct of our daily lives, but it is not really true. In reality, all things are contained within this body and mind. This entire universe that you inhabit came into being for you when this body and mind came into being, and it will go away with this body and mind. Even heaven and hell are contained within this body and mind. This isn’t just some crazy Buddhist idea. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus himself says that the Kingdom of Heaven is within you. So, turning attention back to our body and mind is not a self-indulgent waste of time. It is really a coming back to the source of everything – the source of suffering, the source of happiness, the source of all our problems – so that we can truly address them. The best starting point for addressing problems is to illuminate them with awareness at their source – this body and mind. If we don’t begin with that, it is like trying to fix a problem with your house or your car in the dark. You will likely wind up just banging around, and maybe even making things worse.
That all things are contained in this body and mind is the ultimate truth, but it may be hard for some to understand or accept this at this time, so we can also look at it through the lens of relative truth. Even concrete problems in the world out there – the oppression and suffering of others, and the everyday trials and tribulations we each face in the conduct of our own lives – have an essential component that can be seen in our own body and mind. Along with what’s going on “out there,” a part of the problem is right here. There are internal things like anxiety, stress, greed, denial, depression, numbness, and cutting oneself off from others that accompany those external problems. It’s very hard to come up with a problem out there, that doesn’t have a very important internal component right here. Our practice isn’t a retreat from the world’s problems, but a coming back to them in a more complete way. Of course we have to take real actions in the world around us to address our problems and care for others. But, our external actions will almost always be more balanced, and skillful when we have present moment awareness of the aspect of the problems that lie in our own heart and mind.
And, it’s not that we have to fix the problems in our heart/mind. Our practice is simply to bring present moment awareness to them so that our own innate wisdom can deal with them. Everyone has this innate wisdom. It just needs awareness to illuminate things so it can work. When the mind is clear about how suffering is being created in the moment, that suffering is naturally released.
Our practice at the Center relies on this truth. When we sit in meditation, the mind keeps wanting to chase after the things out there. It keeps running off into the past or future, but we work at noticing that, and gently and repeatedly bring it back to what’s going on right here in this body and mind. If we are persistent in our daily practice, then this returning to our own body and mind, and illuminating the source of the problem here, can become more and more of a habit that starts to happen naturally. It can deeply change how we deal with the concrete problems out there.