Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Having That Which Animates You as Your Most Intimate Relationship

A while back I suggested what I called the "ingredients for a satisfying life."
They are:
1) Dedicate your life to something you consider worthy.
2) Celebrate your contributions.
3) Have That Which Animates you as your most intimate relationship.
4) Know how to give your attention to what you choose.
5) Keep your word to yourself .

I spoke about the first two and promptly forgot to return attention to the following three. Fortunately, life, in its infinite wisdom and compassion, never lets us lose sight of anything really important to us. (Egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate has learned to mimic this trait by dedicating itself to attempting never to let us lose sight of anything that is really important to it!)

I realize what I’m going to say next could sound iffy, but, you know, if I let that stop me I would have said very little over the past years—perhaps not a bad thing. Nonetheless, I have and I will continue to, so here goes.

It’s not that I choose illness. As with most people who prefer having more that they want to do than will ever get done, have endless interests and pursuits, love feeling energetic and active, I avoid sickness assiduously. But when it comes, I confess I have learned to enjoy and appreciate it. Being sick is a bit like going on a vacation with practice.

Several days ago I developed symptoms of either a cold or severe allergies. Over the years I’ve realized that going to bed at the first sign of illness really works for me. I don’t pass around whatever I have, and I can usually get through colds and flu sorts of things in about three days. If I fight it, it fights back and I get the standard ten days or two weeks, which just seems like too much of a good thing!

This one went straight to the chest, and before long I was having trouble breathing. Not dangerous-trouble-breathing, just take-a-breath-and-collapse-into-racking-coughs trouble breathing. Under normal circumstances this could be annoying, but since I was already on my mini-vacation with practice, it was fascinating. (The real blessing in these mini-vacations is that there’s nothing else to do but pay attention.)

I began to watch for the exact millisecond when the cough got triggered. I found if I went slowly enough I could get past all the danger points and take full breaths without choking or coughing. This, of course, brought me to a place of great joy: It was impossible to do anything other than attend to the breath for each complete cycle. A moment’s lapse would be followed by collapse-into-choking-and-coughing. How perfect is that?

Since it was not possible to be concerned about anything, complain about anything, or even attend to anything other than each millisecond of the breath, there was nothing to interfere, even at the subtlest levels, with right here/right now. Breathing fully with absolute attention makes stress impossible. There’s no room for egocentric karmic conditioning to get a toe in…not even with that “incessant nattering” it likes to offer as “innocuous noticing.”

And the best part of all is that the spaciousness—created by the lack of intrusion by an illusion of a self separate from life—can be filled with awareness of That Which Animates. There’s nothing interfering, nothing blocking the wisdom, love, and compassion that we recognize as our authentic nature when we stop doing anything else.

Then I lost my voice. Bliss!



  1. Last night, conditioning was yammering away about how demanding and relentless this practice is. This blog bursts to pieces that suffering perspective. The "demanding" nature of practice is the whole-hearted invitation to being at one with That Which Animates -- millisecond by millisecond.

    Life hasn't given me a cold to practice with, but I do have a few days' delay in the AT&T guy coming to hook up my internet and U-verse tv. Ah, bliss!

  2. Ooo Ooo. I want to be the first to comment. Someone is horrified that I am acting on that impulse.

  3. I give my attention to the gap.
    Not always easy in daily life.
    But I have created a version of the privileged environment where it is possible, quite often, to stop, drop and breathe.

    Now the breathing thing, for me, is particularly rich with practice opportunity.
    I spent two years in a hospital for kids with asthma. And am just coming out of seven weeks of coughing ghastly looking phlem and bronchitis.

    What could be perceived as a horrible bout with old lung problems actually gave me the means to focus on the nowness of the breath, weak and fragile as it was.

    Step up to the plate. Give it your all.
    And no matter what life serves up, it's
    grist for the mill, practice openings and profound gratitude.

    That Which Animates is the place I want to be.
    And vowing to deeply train myself is the way.
    Breath by breath.

    Deep Gasho to the Sangha.

  4. Hi Cheri,

    Re "Egocentric karmic conditioning," you might like this post that describes the factors that create this conditioning

    Thanks. Maggie Scott

  5. This is a bit tangential, but over the years, I too have found that the straight-to-bed-at-the-first-sign approach is what reduces a cold from two weeks to three days. My experience *exactly*. Makes conditioning squawk like crazy.