21021-05-09-Seeing the Traces of the Path
5:57PM May 9, 2021
So the Buddha gave an analogy, which I would like to adapt for this talk today. He talked about a forester, someone who worked in the forest roamed around the forest for their work. And one day came across the traces of an ancient road that had maybe been mostly overgrown and difficult to see. But he saw a trace of it. And he cleared the clear it a little bit, then started following the road and clearing it and following it and finding his way through it. Until he came to a ancient capital that had long since been overgrown and been abandoned and and so then, the forester went back to the monarchs of the lands and explained what had been found. And the monarchs came then to clear the road fully, and to re inhabit the great capital. So partly, what this analogy is used for in the teachings of the Buddha is to suggest that what the Buddha had to teach is ancient, the hidden the invent it, he didn't just, you know, just invent something or make something that hadn't already been there. But it was there available for everyone. Except it was overgrown with our preoccupations, or attachments, or contractions, or clinging or grasping things, or fears, or hatreds, or delusions, and so forth. And that the end, so here we discover this ancient potentials, ancient possibility for all of us. And the task is to kind of clear the road and to re inhabit this beautiful place that is always been there for us waiting for us in a sense. So, so the question is, what is the trace that we can find? If we're the forest? Or what is the trace? What's the hint that shows us the path forward. And this idea of a road or a path is such a big metaphor in Buddhism, about the journey of practice the way that we grow and develop in the Dharma. And I just love the idea of being on a journey that has an arc as a beginning, middle and as an unfolding over time, and I think partly why I love it is that it's so so organic, so part of the human condition, that there's always change, there's always movement going on. And we see it with young children, that if you haven't been around a child for some time, you see that they've grown physically, and they've grown mentally, and capacities and all kinds of things. And that, with the right conditions, they grow beautifully. And, and you can't really stop them from without a lot of effort, the natural process of their growth, the change, that they unfold, the maturation. And so the same way of our maturation, psychological and maturation that we have, doesn't end when we're 18, or 21. But that continues into adulthood, and right up until the time we die. And maybe many of you can probably recognize that in some ways, you're wiser than you were 10 2030 4050 years ago. Things that disturbed you tremendously are things that you are afraid of, or do you resisted or that you really were grasping onto and clinging to, there might be some things you no longer do that you've changed and you'd like go you're wiser you see claim more clearly. And, you know, they're better opera opera options for you or what you used to have. No, you don't see the allure of it anymore. So there's this height of unnatural movement and people who don't do any Buddhist practice at all, go through, go through a changing unfolding of it. Sometimes there are challenges or things that interfere with
them, though, maturation of wisdom and in that process, and people get stuck, they get disappointed. They get betrayed, they have disappointments, they somehow they get closed down, shut down. And and so then they're not available for the continued maturation process, which is pretty a natural process. And so Buddhism is going along with that process, and then setting the conditions in place, that that really brings out the best in us that brings out that freedom, freedom from being shut down, closed down, being having the heart covered over with mud or with overgrown, overgrown, overgrown with all kinds of vines and shrubs and stuff that does not allow the heart to radiate or shine. And so this idea of a path, then, a journey of that maturation process is often talked about in Buddhism. So what is that what is that traces we can find. And what I like to say is that those traces are available at the very first beginning of meditation. First, even before meditation, even first teachings, or ideas or meditation, where there's maybe a recognition that all these teachings, point to something I can feel I can sense i can to it, that there is some freedom, some ease some absence of stress, that is possible for me. And that is the beginning. That's the clue. That's the first traces of that road. And what that means is that the traces and the road itself are not complicated metaphysics, they're not complicated beliefs and philosophy. But something experiential, something we can see and feel and experience for ourselves. In the simplicity of that's as simple as, if you hold your head at tight fist, it begins being a problem. But if you're released a fist, it becomes a lot easier. And so the fist feels freer and more comfortable. So we have all these fists of the heart fists in the mind, we have all these ways we contract, or there might be strong resistance or, or strong pressure that lives inside of us. That kind of obscures. It gets in the way of our sense of ease or peace or freedom, there might be a strong desire, you need to have something now you need to have this now. And then Without this, I can't be happy. And the very intensity of the desire is the very thing that keeps us from being happy, rather than the thing is going to make us happy. It's that intensity of wanting that obscures our natural capacity to just kind of, for the good heart to just kind of manifest to show itself to relax to open, that doesn't need much. But space doesn't need much but quiet and freedom to do so to be to express itself. And so and so it's just experience, your sense of this, the difference between being stressed and being not stressed, being contracted and not contracted, being in bondage to something, versus being freed from it being a feeling under pressure, and then they're released to the pressure to feel the weight of the world and the release of that weight, to feel strong kind of shutting down of resistance, and then their release of that resistance to the all kinds of things like that, that those other traces of the path at that's what we're clearing. So when we first sit down to meditate, and the shoulders relax, in that relaxing the shoulders, is the very is the first maybe trace or hint of what Buddhism what this Buddhist practice is all about. And so rather than thinking that relaxing your shoulders is a, you know, preliminary practice or, you know, kindergarten practice of Buddhism. It's, it itself is a little movement, towards that ease towards that freedom. And so rather than just relaxing the shoulders and then quickly moving on to the, whatever practice you're going to do, to take some time to appreciate to feel Ah, oh, yes, it's a little bit more easy there now more more relaxed, more open and softer.
Or sometimes when I relax my shoulders, it feels like I feel Ah, that's good. But what I do so what I feel what's left is a little bit the underlying tension and holding that might be there. And, and I failed, that's good. Oh, this is good to, to know this. To be aware of it and to be close to it to feel it because that's the way forward To go back to being tight, so the underlying tension is kind of masked. That's not desirable. It's really good. It's good to relax the feel what's going on here? Oh, yes, it's like this. And then that allows for over times, or deeper relaxation, deeper release. And so something as simple as relaxing the shoulders, you know, I've been in, you know, in social situations where I noticed my shoulders were tense, or my stomach was tight, and then I relaxed it. And, and it's not like something to write home to your, you know, unit write home about and say, Look, what great thing I did. You know, if I attain the fulfillment of Buddhist practice, you know, it's kind of silly to do it that way. But in talking that way, I am pointing to that there's a trace there, there's it, this is the path, this is where the right way forward, this is what it takes, it isn't like you relax your shoulders. So that now you can go read some big tome of Buddhist philosophy, you relax your shoulders. So that's the door, that's the book we're reading. We're reading the book of softening, releasing, opening, together with clarity. And, and the there can be with relaxation, a little sense, maybe a minor sense of clarity, the awareness becomes a little clear. And these two together, release, and clarity. Those are the primary things that we're appreciating, valuing, opening to remembering to do, as we do this meditation, Buddhist practice, letting that grow these grow and develop. And doing so then allows for this maturation allows for the greater clearing of the road, until we come to this great capital, some point gets uncovered. So that's one kind of analogy, the analogy of, you know, a path that we go. But it's just an analogy. And another way of saying this, is that we are going from one place to another, we're going from here, ourselves suffering to there, we're not suffering at all, that's the kind of the overall overall kind of simple description of the Buddhist path. And so it but however, it's not a geographical journey. Sound like we're traveling anywhere on the world. It's all about what happens right here. And, and each step along the way, is not about doing something so that you can get someplace in the future. But each step along the way, is itself a fulfillment of the of clearing that clearing the road or the expressing or finding even a small degree, what the whole path is about the freedom from suffering from stress from contraction, from pressure, from resistance from fear. And so to really appreciate this is just right here and right now, what we're doing. And in this regard, it's sometimes said in Buddhism, that the fast, fastest way to go from A to B, is to be fully at A. So not to be so involved in getting anywhere, but really take and really be here with what's happening now. And, and that's very much the same process. Because if you produce it down just anybody, you know, if they sit down to start paying attention to what's going on, they might find that there's a lot of physical agitation, they don't want to sit there they want, they have a lot of things, they have a long to do list, and they're anxious to do it all. And there's all this restless nervous energy in the body to do and, and because there was all this restless nervous energy, it actually feels better to enact it or act out the energy that is sit still and feel it and makes us busy. Again, it's because keeps people spinning until they're exhausted.
But to notice this energy of wanting to do, and then maybe settle back and relax the body. And until there's some ease and presence, just things gonna unwind. And then we notice that the mind is not here and now in the past in the future, thinking about things. And so then there's a process of releasing and letting go of that to be here. And then we noticed that we're here, okay. But we spent a lot of time analyzing and telling stories about here and what's happening and what where we're going and what's happening. And so we see what these all the story making mind and all this analysis what and plans are What to do about that's also keeping me from being here at a really present. So then we let go of the stories, we let go of the plans, we let go of the analysis of what's happening because it keeps us removed from the experience. And so we find this a we kind of keep shedding, letting go releasing all the things that keep us from being present in a very good, high quality way. And, and it's not about getting any plays, as it is really arriving and being here in a fuller and fuller way. So in that sense, we're learning to be fully at a, but in doing so, we are shedding, releasing, understanding all the things that help the process of maturation unfold, the process of inner growth, the process of movement towards freedom to is towards wisdom, towards compassion, and love. All those things now have space and room to unfold and grow. And so there is that kind of going from A to B. Simultaneously, we're becoming transformed and changed in that process. And even if you don't want to be transformed in that process, you can't help human change. We're all changing psychologically, we're all changing physically, day by day, hour, by our through this lifetime. But what you can do is create really good conditions for that change to happen in in a way that's beneficial. And if we continue to live under stress, we still continue to live not really connected to ourselves, spinning out with desire and agitation and wanting the next thing and making the next plans and always hiding and, and closing down and not really being honest and present for what's happening. Those are powerful conditions that influence the direction of our maturation. And it can be a direction, which is not so good. And, but if we meet ourselves, our life with courage, with goodness, with presence, with love with letting go opening up, then that creates a very different set of conditions, where things start feeling safe inside, where there starts feeling of fearlessness inside where there starts feeling and appreciation and love and care for what's here. And those are with very different influence on how we change and mature over time. And so simultaneously to the practice being fully here at a nowhere, but here we are putting ourselves in a process that has us go from A to B has us go from who we are today to what we can become as we become freer and more compassionate, more, more liberated in this whole process. And but whether you're looking at it from going to a to b the road in the forest that's overgrown and you're clearing it, or it's simply that you are already at the palace, and there's nowhere to go nowhere to be. However, the palace is overgrown, that capitals overgrown with lots of shrubs and trees and vines and dirt. And so it's not a matter of getting anywhere, there's a matter of clearing all the overgrowth, so the capital can be inhabited. And so either way, the Met whatever metaphor analogy that you prefer both of them, but they're both the same process. And a process that develops, the more we can appreciate
the benefit of each moment of release. We can appreciate value or the goodness of letting go of opening up of not resisting not chasing desires and wishes and not being agitated and swirling around in stories. not caught in the grip of resentments and anger, hostility, all these things that are kind of the overgrowth that prevent us from seeing this wonderfulness that waits for us inside. This was quite beautiful. And and that we can inhabit the beauty that we can inhabit. And maybe this inner beauty this inner freedom and peace That can be our, where we take up residency. And whether it's a path from A to B to get there. Eventually we're there and we're taking up residency in this wonderful beauty. Or if it just being at a fully nowhere to go, no road to it, no path, we also end up taking up residency to beautified heart that he has become free and compassionate. So, so recognize, even at the smallest initial steps of the path of release, relaxation, opening up seeing clearly what's here or stopping to look at, this is what's happening in, in the relaxation in the stopping to look and see clearly recognize the best you can. The whole goal that the practice has found traces of it you're already there you have it. You can you have what it takes. And now, keep doing it, keep opening to it, keep practicing it repeatedly, over and over again. So this can really make space and grow and develop. And, and there's a wonderful word and that teachings of the Buddha. They it's Bahu Li karate, which means to make it abundant. So, and he says by repeated practice, we make it abundant. So make your freedom and make your peace, make your beautiful qualities of art become abundant for you by just continuing to practice over and over again, what is available for a beginner at the very start of their practice. So, thank you very much and for today and and it's very good.