One of the central truths of Life is transparent and obvious when we examine our direct experience. We can see that all experience is happening immediately. Not in the past, not in the future, but Right Now — moment by moment. Looking a little closer, we also notice that it is composed of a continuous flow of awareness that is constantly changing.
None of the experiential content appearing in our lives remains the same. It is always freshly arising and passing away — like writing our names on the water’s surface with our finger tip.
The writing appears and disappears at the same time — leaving no trace –nothing to grasp or hold. We can use other examples to illustrate this — the transient nature of clouds in the sky, a gentle breeze, a beautiful sunset, a terrifying movie, a captivating song, the sadness of losing a loved one, a yoga posture, or the inhale and exhale of our breathing. They are all Simply and Effortlessly appearing and disappearing.
However, as Human Beings, we all have tendencies to try and hold on to our experiences, or push them away; particularly when they are intensely positive or negative. As a result we reify our experience (make it into something “solid”) and start to include it as part of our core identity. Instead of allowing the Natural Flow of Being to simply appear and disappear, we use it to construct our “self-story”; the narrative we tell ourselves and others to explain who we really are, and why we act the way we do.
We can call this a process of “constructing our Conditioned Body” — clinging tightly to beliefs and aspects of our self-structure which are highly reactive when Life doesn’t go the way we desire. The result is repetitive suffering for ourselves; and others in our lives.
As we experience the same reactive patterns over and over, we invent clever strategies to organize our lives in order to minimize the chances of triggering our negative reactivity, or maximize the chances of consuming temporal pleasure.
Whether it be in our family, job or career, intimate relationships, our body, our yoga or meditation practice, the food we eat, the friends we make, or the “enemies” we avoid; we quite literally build our own self-prisons in a misguided attempt to somehow manage and control our lives; and the lives of others.
This process is endless, painful, exhausting, and certainly no way to live a fulfilling and joyful Life. But there is good news — we can change this cycle with a simple change in perspective. We just need to notice, over and over again, that each of our Lives is a continuous flow of experiential content which is arising and passing away.
There is no reason to grasp at anything — Simply Be with What is Happening without trying to change any of it.
Accept each moment as the Gift that it is, and one which is mysteriously and freely given. Every moment is another opportunity to recognize our Lives of infinite possibility and potential, appearing and disappearing — leaving no trace.
Now, I acknowledge that talking about this is one thing, but putting it into practice is another. How can we learn to cultivate Being with What Is Happening without grasping? Well, as a first step we can turn to our trusted and constant companion — our Breath. By paying close attention to our breathing, whether during formal meditation practice or daily activities, we can easily recognize its transient nature.
I’m assuming most of us already know the effect on our immediate experience when we “hold our breath” and stop its flow. The experience clearly changes moment-by-moment until we can no longer stay with the growing intensity, discomfort, and eventual panic, and are thus forced to release and breathe again.
For the breathing cycle itself we can take the commonly taught perspective that the Inhale is the appearing of the breath, and the Exhale is the disappearing of the breath. However, that is a view which is too coarse. If we refine our perspective and look closer, we’ll discover that the Inhale itself is a flow of constantly changing bodily sensation — appearing and disappearing from moment to moment. Similarly, the Exhale is the same. From the beginning of the Exhale to its conclusion, the experience is the simultaneous moment-by-moment arising and passing away of sensation.
Breathing is a cycle of wholeness which is continuously changing. Only our self-imposed conceptual boundaries separating the Inhale from Exhale keep us from seeing this obvious truth.
We can also utilize this perspective in our yoga practice. Each posture is a whole universe of embodied sensation which is constantly appearing and disappearing. There is no beginning or end to a posture — just a constant flow of embodied awareness. There is no reason to grasp or cling to any posture; just be with what’s happening in the practice –the flow of changing shapes, sensations, thoughts, feelings, and emotions — appearing and disappearing like writing our names in water.
As this perspective gains stability in our minds, we can see that it applies to all perception — sights, sounds, feelings, emotions, and thoughts. We can practice the moment-by-moment releasing of all grasping of experience throughout our daily lives, and Simply Allow Life to Flow through us. In this way, we will discover the inherent Openness which is our Natural State of Being — a stainless purity of Intelligent Wholeness which already Knows how to fulfill its potential. No artificial strategies to manage or control our lives are necessary because We Are That Stainless Purity of Wholeness — enjoying its own miraculous display of appearing and disappearing. This is the true meaning of Freedom. Let us Live it Together.