By Daniel Scharpenburg
The idea of resting in openness is just being here.
It’s what Ram Dass described in “Be Here Now” and what Rob Bell described in “How to Be Here”. It’s what the Buddha was talking about when he said, “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” It’s a description of formless meditation practices, where we aren’t focusing on the breath or repeating a mantra or visualizing some crazy image. These are practices dedicated to just being here.
Some of the historical Zen masters that I really like emphasized formless practices. Master Hongzhi emphasized a practice called Silent Illumination. I really recommend Cultivating the Empty Field for more detail on this.
Master Dogen, the founder of the Soto School, emphasized Shikantaza, or just sitting.
People ask me sometimes what the differences are between the Zen and Vajrayana Buddhist traditions. The biggest difference is that Zen puts formless practices front and center, while Vajrayana Buddhism has these kinds of practices too, but they’re usually not the first things you learn. These are formless practices and they exist throughout spiritual traditions. Buddhism doesn’t own these ideas. They’re everywhere.
The Tao Te Ching says, “Flow with whatever may be.”
I think the line from the Bible, “Be still and know that I am God” is a formless practice instruction too, from the Psalms.
We can just be here, where we are.
We spend a lot of time trying to figure everything out and trying to control things. What if we can dedicate some time to just being here? Just breathe in and out and let things happen. Just pay some attention to the people and things around you.
There’s a refuge from all the things that make life so complicated. It’s right here. When we come to understand that we can rest in the openness, then we can feel more relaxed. We can manage our lives with less anxiety and stress. The past and future are important, but at times we have to be careful to make sure we aren’t living there. We can stop and do this practice any time of day. Just stop what you’re doing for a few moments and pay attention to now. Set reminders if you need to. This kind of training really helps with things like focus and also relaxation.
Just learning how to pay attention is good.
Try it now. Stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath, and just notice now. Just see the world around you, as it is, without judgment or opinions.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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