The Practice of Right View
I was drawn to Zen practice as a path and practice to finding real freedom, to owning, respecting, and trusting this ordinary, precious life. My practice began, and is regularly encouraged by noticing where and when I am not awake, where I am holding, avoiding, tight. I didn’t know it at the time but, this could be a description of the practice of Right View.
As I was preparing to give a recent talk, I noticed a part of me was tight. My reaction to this tightness was to further contract. I thought – oh, won’t it feel better when this talk is over. What a relief that will be. I was looking into the future, and avoiding any kind of stress, any kind of being uncomfortable.
Then I had to smile, to laugh at myself. Here is another opportunity to step right into contraction, not avoid or suppress it, and step into the moment. After all, no one is dragging me out to talk. In fact, for me speaking in public is how I let go of fear and tightness. As I was thinking about this talk, my hope is to step out of my comfort zone, and ideally for us all to step out of our comfort and habits. I hope that what I’m discovering, as well as what you are discovering is contagious, and we can all find more ease and freedom, right here and now.
So, my question, that I began asking early in my life – What does it mean to be a human being? And more recently what does it mean to be a human being on earth, at a time where living systems are declining, where the actions of our society are threatening the planet we call our home? I’m particularly interested in the way these seemingly separate issues – our own views and perceptions, our spiritual practice and how we engage with environmental issues, with war and peace, with are planet, are connected – how it is a mirage that these are separate issues. What is right view?
Right view is the faith and confidence that we can transform our views, transform our deeply held perceptions and reactions.
Just a few days ago President Obama accepted the Nobel Peace prize; and simultaneously spoke about war, and a just war and peace. Is there such a thing? What is the perspective of right view – killing people to make the world safer? What is right view in this situation?
At the same time, our world leaders were meeting in Copenhagen. Nearly all agree on the severity of the problem – from the economic costs to the threat of the health and survival of our planet.
This so called ordinary world is anything but ordinary – Buckmister Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed, we have no clue we are on one – hurtling through the universe, unaware of the speed, no sense of danger, no need for seatbelts.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. Of course, no one would sleep that night. We might all be joined by a sense of rapture and joy. Instead, the stars come out every night, and we play video games or watch television.
What if we didn’t take our hands, our eyes, our hearts for granted. What if we realized that the trees, and flowers, the wind and the rain, our planet earth is not separate from our bodies and minds? What if we could experience the miracle of our bodies, of our minds, of our ability to read other’s energy.
Quantum physics describes that we live in an infinite number of universes. What we call Events, happen not in one universe, but many. The question “Who am I?” is merely a 20-watt fountain of energy operating in the brain. This energy doesn’t go away after death. Energy doesn’t’ die; it cannot be created nor destroyed.
Quantum physics (and Zen Buddhism) says that space and time are not what we think. Everything we see and experience right now is a whirl of information occurring in your mind. Space and time are the tools for putting everything together.
“People like us know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Einstein.
From an ancient Buddhist text – “You should absorb yourself in contemplation in such a way that you manifest the nature of an ordinary person, without abandoning your cultivated spiritual nature.”
How can we live in the spiritual universe and simultaneously live in the ordinary world, the world that needs food and shelter, the world of compassion, and the world of violence and of pain – incredible destruction of our planet. How can we see that these are not two worlds, but one?
Our practice is to cultivate the yoga of ordinariness while simultaneously cultivating spiritual practice. As soon as we see ourselves as separate from nature, or even see ourselves as separate from the troubles and cries of the world; this is a problem.
A basic understanding of right view, is that people/beings are not separate. In fact, separate beings don’t exist in the way we think they do. Separateness is much like the illusion that Einstein described about time – a stubbornly persistent illusion.
Right View is seeing that we don’t need to manufacture love and deep reverence for life. We only need to let go of our views, our deeply held beliefs that get in the way of the love that fills us.
A piece of a poem by David Whyte:
To be human
Is to become visible
What is hidden
As a gift to other.
The other world
In this world
Is to live in your true inheritance.
…What shape waits in the seed
Of you to grow
Against a future sky?