Tag Archives: wakefulness

Your Refuge – A Heart That Is Ready for Anything

A dark heart silhouetteWhen the Buddha was dying, he gave a final message to his beloved attendant Ananda, and to generations to come:

“Be a lamp unto yourself, be a refuge to yourself. Take yourself to no external refuge.”

In his last words, the Buddha was urging us to see this truth: although you may search the world over trying to find it, your ultimate refuge is none other than your own being.

There’s a bright light of awareness that shines through each of us and guides us home, and we’re never separated from this luminous awareness, any more than waves are separated from the ocean. Even when we feel most ashamed or lonely, reactive or confused, we’re never actually apart from the awakened state of our heart-mind.

This is a powerful and beautiful teaching. The Buddha was essentially saying: I’m not the only one with this light; all ordinary humans have this essential wakefulness, too. In fact, this open, loving awareness is our deepest nature. We don’t need to get somewhere or change ourselves: our true refuge is what we are. Trusting this opens us to the blessings of freedom.

Buddhist monk Sayadaw U. Pandita describes these blessings in a wonderful way: A heart that is ready for anything. When we trust that we are the ocean, we are not afraid of the waves. We have confidence that whatever arises is workable. We don’t have to lose our life in preparation. We don’t have to defend against what’s next. We are free to live fully with what is here, and to respond wisely.

You might ask yourself: “Can I imagine what it would be like, in this moment, to have a heart that is ready for anything?”

If our hearts are ready for anything, we can open to our inevitable losses, and to the depths of our sorrow. We can grieve our lost loves, our lost youth, our lost health, our lost capacities. This is part of our humanness, part of the expression of our love for life. As we bring a courageous presence to the truth of loss, we stay available to the immeasurable ways that love springs forth in our life.

If our hearts are ready for anything, we will spontaneously reach out when others are hurting. Living in an ethical way can attune us to the pain and needs of others, but when our hearts are open and awake, we care instinctively. This caring is unconditional—it extends outward and inward wherever there is fear and suffering.

If our hearts are ready for anything, we are free to be ourselves. There’s room for the wildness of our animal selves, for passion and play. There’s room for our human selves, for intimacy and understanding, creativity and productivity. There’s room for spirit, for the light of awareness to suffuse our moments. The Tibetans describe this confidence to be who we are as “the lion’s roar.”

If our hearts are ready for anything, we are touched by the beauty and poetry and mystery that fill our world.

When Munindraji, a vipassana meditation teacher, was asked why he practiced, his response was, “So I will see the tiny purple flowers by the side of the road as I walk to town each day.”

With an undefended heart, we can fall in love with life over and over every day. We can become children of wonder, grateful to be walking on earth, grateful to belong with each other and to all of creation. We can find our true refuge in every moment, in every breath.

Adapted from True Refuge (2013)

Enjoy this video on The World in Our Heart:

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3 Easy Steps tp Inducing Lucid Dreams

Lucid dream (LD), or sometimes known as a conscious dream, is simply a dream wherein you know you are dreaming. Most people experience it as a gradual "false awaking" awareness during a regular dream. As a result of LD, you will discover that you fully aware that you are sleeping and can even recall minute details of your waking life (like what is on the night stand or where your slippers are or where you need to go in the morning).

While knowing that you are dreaming might sound like a small semantic shift in terms of experience, in reality, it changes everything about your dream simply because the dream is experienced volitionally in much the same way as waking life. The lucid dream is also very similar to waking life in that there is a consistency or stability of experience. For example, if you study the contents of a room during LD, leave the room, and then return, you will discover that the room’s contents remain exactly as you left them. Textures, colors, object placement, and dimensions are all stable details that remain intact over time.
On the other hand, you will find marked differences from your waking life. If you touch one hand to the other, you will discover that you can’t feel it. You will also discover that newsprint or clock face characters are inconsistently rendered. Stare at the character, look away, and then return your gaze. The characters will have changed completely. Try flipping a light switch on a wall, and you’ll be surprised what happens (or, actually, what doesn’t happen). But beyond all the details, the primary thing you will no doubt note that everything is far more vivid and colorful than anything you’ve experienced ever before (and, yes, LD is in full color). Moreover, as you share LD experiments/experiences with other participants, you’ll discover an amazing anecdotal overlap with the experience of others.
One of the most popular topics covered on any LD forum is how to induce LD states.  I’ve found that you can increase your chances of experiencing the lucid dream dimension by following these steps:
  1. Study everything you can about LD: the more information you absorb on the LD experience, the more apt you are to induce the experience. Researchers note that many people experience "false awakening" but are unaware that they can maintain the state. Intention is everything.
  2. Keep a dream journal next to you on the bed. Incorporate your journaling with your dreaming. It is a vital step in coaxing your mind to be more receptive to the LD experience. When you actually awaken from a normal dream,  journal it immediately. This will begin break down the barriers between your REM sleep cycle and full wakefulness. There is also probably a link between using your hands, which are in turn related directly to verbal skills, both functions of higher brain activity that is energized during LD. And, who knows, maybe one time while journal your dream, you’ll discover that you’re actually still asleep!
  3. Set your alarm early. Wake up around 3 hours before you normally would. Make a cup of hot decaffeinated tea and sit in contemplation with your eyes open. After 20 minutes of tea and meditation, return to bed. This will disrupt your normal pattern of sleeping in a way that gently jostles your brain’s circuitry and encourages the "veil" of deep sleep to lift. 
Once you’ve sensed that you are awake during your dream, make sure you sense your volitional participation by testing your experience: examine your hands closely. Studying the color and texture of your hands will anchor the dream solidly. If you find yourself "wanting" anything at all, the lucidity of the dream will quickly begin to fade. If it does, return to your hands, studying them, back and front. Closely studying the myriad objects you will no doubt discover will also help anchor the dream.  The more closely you scrutinize something, the better.
Then have fun. Explore hallways, tables, objects of every sort. Seek someone out. See if you can engage in a conversation with them. Can you hear yourself talk? Do they respond? Does what they say make sense? Ask for clarification. Note exactly what they say so that you can log it in your dream as soon as you awaken. Try some fun experiments. See if you can find a water glass. Is it full? Can you drink from it? Drop it to the floor to see what happens to it. Find a mirror to see what you look like (you’ll probably laugh when you find out). Continually discover what it is like to want nothing, completely detached yet fully immersed. What happens to your LD?
One thing that is consistent in LD is the feeling of being rapt in total safety, even when confronted with images or physical positions that in a normal dream would terrify you. There’s nothing like the knowledge that "this is just a dream" to create a complete sense of safety effortlessly. You will be amazed at how you experience this without the usual “coaching” you normally have to give yourself to stay calm. One of my first LD experiences was being suspended about 50 feet over a small road beside which was a farm. I was able to adjust position gyroscopically in order to see details of the farm below. The color was overwhelming! I was completely unafraid of falling (because I was in bed asleep). It was probably the best LD I ever experienced and it went on for over ten minutes.
Finally, LD can be extremely healing in your waking life. Dr. Chopra often refers to adopting viewpoint of "the witness" in your everyday experiences, especially during those moments you find yourself charged with emotion. Rather than approaching "the witness" vantage point as an intellectual challenge, LD will provide the quantum leap in actual experience to make it natural. Your "style" of observation during LD will translate directly into your personal "style" when you witness your physical states during the day. It is truly transformative.


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