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  • Writer's pictureLama Jigme Gyatso

Mindfulness or Emptiness?

Some Zen students are advised to simply watch their thoughts while others are admonished “there is NO thinker of the thoughts.” Well, which is it? Ask the first century Buddhist philosopher, Nargarjuna.

He advised that we need to contemplate BOTH conventional AND ultimate realities if we are to ascend to Nirvana (just a bird requires BOTH their wings if they are to take to the skies). But how are we to do that?

Due to a happy coincidence of evolutionary biology our sympathetic nervous system is already wired to practice mindfulness and our parasympathetic nervous system is quite optimized to meditate in a manner that viscerally experiences the metaphoric emptiness of that which was noticed during the previous inhalation.

During every inhalation we automatically access the sympathetic nervous system (of our thoracic spinal cord) that supports the sensory acuity that evolved to vulnerably, passively, viscerally, and randomly perceive sensations, flavors, scents, sounds, sights, and the like, as well as our emotions, intentions, thoughts, memories, and imaginings.

During each exhalation we inadvertently access the parasympathetic nervous system (of both our lumbar and cervical spinal cords) empowering us to physically relax…

and mentally release our resistance to the PRESENCE of that which we hate as if it was as non-graspable as a vast empty void…

and mentally release our resistance to the ABSENCE of that which we crave as if it was as non-graspable as the infinite azure sky on a bright and beautiful cloudless morn…

and mentally release our resistance to the LOSS of that to which we cling as if it was as non-graspable as the reflection of the moon in a basin of water.

Every twelve hours, as we sit in meditation, may we exercise the courage to nakedly notice whatever presents itself during each IN-BREATH (be it external or internal, physical or mental, pleasurable or painful, interesting or boring, glorious or grotesque); and during each OUT-breath may we exercise the enthusiasm to get out of own way, align our body and mind with our “factory installed” wiring, and physically relax as well as mentally release, that we too could meditate like a Jedi.

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