By John Lee Pendall
If there’s this, then there’s that—that’s the simple foundation of Buddhism.
That’s the formula behind emptiness or dependent arising. On the surface, it kinda makes ya go, “So what? What’s so liberating about that shit?” That’s what Ananda basically said to the Buddha once, and Buddha replied, “Don’t say that, asshole! It’s actually very subtle and expensive.”
All the other teachings rely on this one, and all of the methods were built on it. So, why fuck around? We’ve all got stuff to do, so it’s best to just get right to it. One easy way to grok emptiness is by studying the breath. You can study anything though, since everything has the same if-then nature.
The breath is just intimate and reliable (for the most part).
We can start by taking a slow, deep breath in while counting to five in our heads. Then hold it for five, exhale for five and repeat. Watch how your count gets slower over time and how the tension kinda rolls out of you. This practice is called the Healing Breath.
Now, when you feel more at ease, focus on the breath and contemplate everything that goes into it. First, there’s the air all around you. We can’t breathe without air, and we evolved to breathe because there’s air. If there’s air, then there’s breathing.
Next, there’s the body, the nose and lungs. We couldn’t breathe without those. So, if there are functioning lungs, then there’s breathing. Finally, there’s no experience of the body, breathing or air without the mind. If there’s mind, then there’s breathing.
All of those “nodes” are interdependent. If we take away one, we take away the whole experience. If one changes, then the whole experience changes. I sometimes call that TEM, the Trimodal Emptiness Model. It’s by no means exhaustive, but it’s the basic building blocks of all our experiences.
This is where we have to leap into a new perspective.
We usually think of ourselves as this body and mind and the air as something else, but there’s no body and mind without air and no experience of air without the body and mind. They’re not three things, not separate, and there’s no hard boundary between them.
There’s no reason for us to view anything as separate or isolated, as a thing-unto-itself. There’s no thing-unto-itself, there’s a self-unto-things. We rise up from these nodes, change with them, travel with them and we’re all connected through them. Insight into that is sometimes called the ocean seal samadhi, because it paints an oceanic perspective of reality.
We usually think of ourselves as this body and mind and the air as something else, but there's no body and mind without air and no experience of air without the body and mind. ~ John Lee Pendall Click To Tweet
That was Buddha’s basic insight when we looked up at the Morning Star. Then he realized that it doesn’t take any effort to be, that there’s no need to search and strive, searching and striving obscure it. Emptiness is effortless, it takes no effort to see, hear and feel. When it does take effort, that feeling of effort comes and goes effortlessly as well because it appears naturally through that if-then process just like everything else.
You don’t have to strain to feel strained, it just happens. This is an immersive teaching and practice that covers all aspects of our lives including our deaths. Even our dreams, wandering thoughts and hallucinations follow the if-then flow of effortless being.
Working with it is like a wave realizing that it’s the sea, and then the sea realizing that it’s all the waves. Then that’s it, there’s nothing else to learn or go on about; you can do what comes naturally. That might be getting ordained in a Buddhist lineage, practicing this or that meditation, volunteering at the soup kitchen, studying Sutras or forgetting about contemplative life entirely. That’s entirely up to effortless being, the wind beneath the leaf.
In any case, it’s permission for you to stop searching and get some rest.
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