At times along the path of my spiritual study I come to a place where I feel like many of the truths I have encountered will coalesce into a gold nugget that I can carry around in my awareness.
The latest one: Receive (with aimlessness), Embrace (with emptiness), Transform (with signlessness). I have to credit Thich Nhat Hanh with these terms, and most of the ideas as well. I have read many of his books, and continue to reread The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching as an endless source of wisdom.
Based on my study of Taoism, I find that organizing things by 3’s helps me remember as well as process new information. One might at times, for convenience sake, label these 3 categories as Body, Mind and Spirit. Being connected, the categories are extremely fluid in my understanding, and I am constantly aware of the fact that I am trying to glue a nametag onto things that are beyond labels. As always, I do not mean in any of my written meditations to pretend to have anything figured out. I am simply swimming joyfully among the words as they harmonize. I am always open to hearing someone else’s impressions of what I discuss.
To remain in mindfulness, as Hanh recommends, I am experimenting with a process triggered by reciting to myself the words receive – embrace – transform.
Receive begins with mind, to receive sensory perceptions, to be aware of thoughts, feelings, impressions. Hanh adds “with aimlessness” because if we have a goal or objective in mind as we receive input from a variety of sources, then we will color this input and not see clearly. We must be aimless in order to be open to seeing things as they truly are and not how we want/expect them to be. Though the stimulus may originate in the body, heart or thoughts, I associate this step with mind because that seems to be the final processing area.
Embrace is the step of accepting what is. This process happens in the spirit or heart, where we can become aware of the oneness that exists between our own self soul and whatever it is we have just received. Even if it is something negative, to embrace does not help perpetuate, it simply acknowledges what is real, which is an essential step to move forward. If you are being attacked by someone, it is not helpful to pretend it’s not happening. To embrace what is in front of you simply means to acknowledge that it is there. “With emptiness” gives room for reality to be as it is. If I hold something by smashing it against the pavement, it will be contorted and I won’t get a good look at what it is. I will be manipulating it and possibly causing conflict or suffering. If I hold my hands in an empty cup, I can embrace without interfering too much with the form or movement of whatever I hold in my attention.
Transform is the step I associate with the body, although we can take the information of an input or the energy of a situation and simply perform a mental or emotional transformation. However, the body, and by extension the earth and physical manifestations, seems to be the realm in which change is most easily observed, in which a metamorphosis stops being a fluid and ephemeral process and becomes a solid move forward in time. Ideally we take this step with signlessness, in other words, without a preconceived notion of exactly what it’s going to look like, simply moving in the direction suggested by events, environment, further input, etc., because I believe an openness to possibilities leads to the best possible outcome.
So the idea is, if during the day I find myself scattered, lost and/or overwhelmed, reciting these three possibilities, to receive, embrace and transform, can pull me back to a place where I pay attention, I acknowledge what’s happening, and I participate in the wisest, most loving activity possible, given the circumstances.
That’s the plan, anyway!