As we practice, we slowly learn to turn our focus
from “them” and toward the heart of the matter, which lies in our view, our beliefs, our own beloved thoughts. We leave our house of blame and excuse, and enter into a new relationship with that which runs our life. That is the first step on the path. We give up “them” & go where our heart knows to look.
We are faced with having to learn how to relate to this crazy wild monkey which is holding the reigns of an unruly dirty elephant. Are you willing to train? Do you have any tools? What kind of training would be most effective? Where do you start?
I have looked at the elephant in this image of the Stages of Shamatha for years. What is the elephant? How does it manifest in life? The elephant is dark, it is hidden from view & slowly gets clean along the path. It takes time. An elephant cannot be rushed with force if you want a friendly relationship with it. Some years ago I had the fortune to work with an elephant. What surprised me, was the elephant’s incredible sensitivity to touch. The very lightest weight of just one finger on its skin resulted in movement throughout its whole body. I had to modulate my use of light direct pressure in order for the elephant to respond with light touches of his trunk on my shoulder. In this way, the elephant and I slowly developed a kind heartfelt trust in our mutual intention; to open to the mystery of experience.
The elephant reminds me of this practice question: What is my most beloved thought? This cannot be discovered through pushing, forcing or any other such nonsense. This is the hidden thought about “me” which is cherished, adorned, protected at all costs. It is the basis for most actions & consequences, yet it is often not in our awareness, it is in the dark. It is like a magnet, attracting things that support it and dispelling things that challenge it. It has become so covered up, that we no longer recognize or even see it. It is buried yet very acutely active.
When we enthusiastically persevere, practice exposes the elephant, our buried beloved thought. We thought we only had a monkey to train & now we see we also have an elephant. Whereas the monkey has been primarily wild, the elephant is primarily sensitive and afraid. The monkey requires patient attention & the elephant requires light warmth & kindness. Working with the most beloved thought cannot be rushed if we want to develop a friendly relationship. It takes time. This is why the practice of awakening is not for everyone. It has no quick fixes, no passive modalities, nobody can do it for you or to you. Yet, for some, even though the monkey is wild & we see it is leading a sensitive dirty elephant, we are not dismayed. We do not shout out “why me?’, but instead soften into experience and say “this is it”. When we look in, we trust what arises to be exactly the path of the moment. In this way, we learn by being in the richness of life.
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