Many of us find our way to the spiritual path due to experiencing dissatisfaction in our life. Maybe there is long-lasting or severe physical pain and it’s associated hopelessness and frustration. Perhaps life itself weighs heavily and has appeared colourless for a long time. Some people who seek peace in the teachings are overwhelmed by strong feelings of anger, fear, or grief. Many bring a deep exhaustion with them or have difficulties in their social environment.
The third of the four Noble Truths seem to promise us that there is a way to end our suffering. For some of us misunderstanding this truth can even lead to more suffering. We come to sit on our cushion craving for happy, tranquil and joyful mindstates. And we miss out opening our heart for our difficulties, bringing our spiritual practice right into our life during the rest of the day when we are not on the cushion.
What if we were to walk the Noble Eightfold Path right in our house, in our garden? Being curious and open for its gifts waiting for us to be found along the way.
These teachings are an invitation to find your own way to practice Buddhism off the cushion. What if we really – with the right amount of effort and with just enough mindfulness – start to accept ourselves just as we are? Embracing ourselves in the middle of our imperfection, in the midst of our problems.
Like the Sufi-poet Rumi said: “The wound is the place where the light gets in.“
Are we ready to immerse ourself in the deepest depth even if we don’t know what is waiting for us? Are we curious enough to face our difficulties with the courage of a lion?
Tips for practice:
- The Anti-Lock Braking System. (ABS) (as I learned from G. Plesse-St.Clair and Frithjof Paulig)
When you feel tension, whether it be subtle or very intense, experiment with using the following tools:
A (comes from the German word Atem = Breath), turning towards your breath. Just following the journey of your breath through your body. Ask your breath how it wants to flow at this very moment. Maybe extending the exhalation. Maybe breathing very loud and wild or very subtle and soft. Just be curious to what the breath is telling you and follow its journey.
Body. Invite movement of any kind in your body, But move! How does your body want to move? Allow your body to do whatever it wants to do. Maybe that means that you just move your little finger or start rolling your joints in a very gentle and smooth way. Maybe your movement is so subtle that nobody can see it, that’s fine. And it might be that your body wants to shake, dance, wiggle. Really allow whatever wants to arise. And be aware of it. Really tuning into your body, feeling it from inside.
Sound. Invite sound together with the breath and the movement. Make any kind of sound. Feeling where the sound is meeting your body. It might be that you start to laugh, to scream …whatever comes up for you… you just allow it to be as it is. And being mindful of what’s happening. Feeling yourself in the middle of the breath, the movement and the sound. Being aware of how life is flowing through you at this very moment.
- Lay down (belly down) on the earth. If you don’t have a garden or a nearby field or forest, just lay down on the ground of your house. Feeling your body on the body of the earth. Listen to your heartbeat on the heartbeat of the earth, to your pulse on the pulse of the earth. Surrendering to whatever is rising up for you at this very moment. Just breathe. Can you feel the ever lasting love, compassion and acceptance of the earth? Can you allow yourself just for this very moment to say “Yes“ to however you are at this very moment? This is a great practice to do when things are really difficult, when you have the feeling of being overwhelmed by your inner storms.
- Reflect on the “Seven factors of Enlightenment“. What is a skilful approach to the situation you are in? Can you develop one of those factors right here and now? What supports you to bring energy and joy to this very moment? Can you find something pleasant or maybe even joyful right here where you are? What about making your gaze soft and opening up to the space around you? Or feeling into the space behind your eyes or behind your heart. What changes? What changes in your body-mind-heart? What about taking a bath, cuddling yourself in a blanket and feeling your breath? Maybe giving yourself a nourishing contact by placing one hand on your belly or on your face or anywhere on your body.