No Obstacles/No Opportunities

Call something an obstacle, it is an obstacle. Call something an opportunity, it is an opportunity. You get into a state of mind where you accept whatever is happening is happening. Even the most awful things happen, when you’re centered, you’ll be okay. If not, the most trivial thing will set you off. It has nothing to do with the experience or the circumstance: it is the attitude that is important.

Detours and obstacles are a fact of life. Some arise out of our own psychology and conditioning. Other obstacles are ones that nearly every one faces at one time or another. No matter from where they arise, obstacles are at the heart of practice. But until we see them clearly and how they manifest in our life, it will be difficult for our practice to move forward.

Practice begins with an exploration of self. Honestly observing where you are is the first step to leading a life of contentment. How can we move down that spiritual path with wisdom and compassion? It takes courage to become a fearless warrior and face the challenges of the world. See everything as an opportunity to practice and we can handle anything.

Not understanding the power of waking sleep is one obstacle to practice. This refers to the state in which we live most of the time, identified with, or lost in our thoughts, our emotion, and our actions. We are addicted to our thoughts and believe that they are the truth. We see through this veil and perceive it as reality. This lack of clarity and presence keeps us from dealing with our emotions. Developing deep insight into the power and magnitude of waking sleep will allow us to recognize the possibilities for inner growth and lead to a more satisfying life.

Resistance is a predictable and inevitable way that we move through life. The most basic form of resistance is wanting life to be other than it is. We think and talk about practice rather than actually experiencing our lives. Facing life would mean abandoning our view of how we think the world should be. Putting in the effort takes practice, patience and a willingness to let go. Truthfully speaking, we don’t really want to wake up. But instead we hold on to our beliefs and even our suffering. Afraid of the unknown, we cling to the familiar. Giving into our illusions is easier. Resistance is the ego’s effort to maintain control. Whatever we resist becomes solid and it exerts a strong hold on us. We empower it to stay in our mind and life. By cultivating a willingness to be with life just as it is, our relationship to what we have avoided changes. Once we can see through the solidity or our resistance, our lives become more fluid and workable. Then we can move beyond where we were once stuck. Even if we don’t like our life as it is, we don’t have to wage war against it. Start meeting the resistance squarely by noticing all of ways in which we avoid the present moment, in which we avoid practice, and in which we resist what is.

It is important to understand that this is a process. We move between aspiration and resistance creating a kind of rhythm. There are the inevitable ups and downs of practice. Don’t abandon the practice. Doubt can be a place to get stuck in negative beliefs or a positive force in practice. Use doubt as an opportunity to experience unfulfilled expectations about practice. Learn to surrender to and reside in the physical experience of what doubt feels like in the body, instead of following the story line of negative thoughts. Gradually we feel a renewed sense of hope and direction.

Another major obstacle we encounter in practice is a deep seated desire to feel a particular way, whether calm, clear, spacious or simply free of anxiety. We share the illusion that if we practice long and hard enough, we’ll get what we want. The persistent belief that drives us to do whatever we can to alleviate discomfort is counterproductive. We think that if we just practice harder, we’re sure to feel better. But the key point about spiritual practice is that we don’t have to feel a particular way. Nor do we have to be a particular way. All we can do is experience and work with whatever is arising in our life right now. No matter what is going on or how we feel about it, the essence of practice is to honestly acknowledge whatever is happening in the moment and stay present with our experience of it. In this way we can feel true appreciation for life just as it is.

Whatever exists in the world is worth experiencing. We can’t ignore situations in the phenomenal world. Take opportunities to seize it on the spot, right here and now. Free yourself from habitual patterns and view the world with as scared. Fully appreciate this moment, seeing beauty and goodness all around. When open to limitless possibilities, you create a sense of harmony with self and the world around you. “Rare, difficult and wondrous it is to be born into this human life.” Wake up to the joy of being alive each day. Awakening to this rare gift of life, we can accept and endure the wide spectrum of human grief and bliss and become a source of happiness for others.