Mike Stiler is a very successful artist in California. He is also a friend of ours and a Zen teacher. I received this from him last week and finally got a chance to read and post it today. f
I wrote this today, in response to a rising sense of anxiety about life in these surreal times. I noticed, as I anxiously washed the dishes this morning, that there was something noticing the anxiety…something that wasn’t thought-based.
In this coming to awareness in the present moment, there was an immediate feeling of release from my thoughts about an imagined dark and scary future. It was seen as a movie and, oddly, there was a concurrent sense of beauty, not only in the seeing but in the movie. I’d have to describe that as compassion for oneself, which of course, mysteriously and automatically extends to all and everyone.
In silence and love,
There is, in each of us, a silent place, a place of unconditional, indestructible peace. To discover and learn to abide in this place would seem to me to be a high art, maybe the highest art, and ultimately, the deepest expression of compassion for all life.
The silent place, of course, is not a place, nor is it of the mind or something that can be brought about by spiritual techniques or prayer or therapy, no matter how we may yearn for it. No act of will or second-hand knowledge can bring us genuine peace. Why? Because we already have it. It is already what we are, 24-7. It is hidden right in front of us.
Anyone who wants to can check it out anytime. We don’t have to be enlightened masters to discover what we already are. Making the shift from habitual involvement in thinking to simple attention to what is, right now, is the art of awakening.
Are you afraid for the future? There’s certainly more than the usual level of shared anxiety going around these days. That’s OK, it’s just the mind, going ‘round and ‘round, chasing itself into an imagined future. Ironically, fear is an excellent doorway into the present moment. Just noticing that one is anxious is the first step.
Stay with that feeling, don’t try to fix it or get rid of it. Don’t resist. That’s the key. Just observe and allow. You may actually find some inexplicable beauty in this simple act of awareness. You may find that, in reality, there is no problem in the present moment, no matter what is happening.
There is no problem because there is no “me and my story.” There is no one to get hurt and nothing to lose. And you may find that the fear, or anger, or resentment or jealousy or anything else on the menu of human thought/feeling begins to lose its grip on your sense of felt reality. This is the beginning of freedom.
These words, by the way, are not from a book. They come out of day-to-day hard-earned experience as a human being. I have learned that the art of awareness works. But like they say in AA, it only “works if you work it.”
Awareness is, as the ancients said, the miraculous, unborn “Buddha-mind”. Unlike everything else in life, it has no beginning and no end. It comes from nowhere and yet, everything, even our fears, arise in it. In essence, it is vast, intelligent silence. It is the source of love and compassion and is available to all, anytime. Just listen and allow what is.
-Ojai, CA 4/1/20