Every other Sunday evening for the past year, I have been sitting in front of a group of meditators in big, light-filled Yoga Shivaya in Tarrytown.
Last night it was more clear than ever before that the best material we have to share with our friends is ourselves. I was speaking about the role of energy and effort. I shared that the Buddhist word “viriya” comes from a Sanskrit word that meant hero or strong man (virile), but that the radical Buddha turned all that heroic effort towards an inner quest. The ultimate quest is to be open to what is, to disappear into the receiving, to be a vessel and allow life to flow in.
We all have our memories of moments when life opens up and it seems clear that our highest human purpose is bearing witness to with love and attention. But how can we get there on an ordinary day, mired with work and dukkha (the bumpy, sticky turning of many wheels). Achieving this open awareness is a subtle kind of hero’s journey, but rather than delve into that last night it came to me to share something I once tried with a friend at a retreat. If you feel like it, you can try it too. When you think of it, see and sense everything that is happening to you. Now think of it as if it is a memory or a dream that you are recalling. “Sati” or mindfulness means remembering. “Right” in “right mindfulness, etc.” means recollected and/or collected, pulled together and one of the meanigs of “right mindfulness” is “right memory” or even fully remembered memory. I invite you to try remembering your life as it is unfolding. This experiment has an extraordinary way of shifting our focus, opening the lens.
If you do the exercise, you may have the feeling of being accompanied. I think of it as being accompanied by the better angel of our own attention. The passage below is from my friend and Parabola colleague Lee Van Laer:
“When you close the door of your dwelling and are left alone, know that there is with you an Angel, allotted by God to every man, whom the Hellenes call the spirit of the home. He never sleeps and being always with you, sees everything. He cannot be deceived, and darkness hides nothing from him. And be aware of that, besides him, God is present everywhere. For there is no place or substance where God is not present. He is greater than all and holds all in his hand.”
– Antony the Great, from “Early Fathers from the Philokalia,” Kadloubovsky and Palmer, Faber & Faber 1954