Doors open and close a hundred times throughout the day. Such is life. Curious and receptive attention is needed to know when a door has opened inviting you into the kingdom of newness, potential change and connection. May it be an encounter, words of wisdom slipped in between mundane conversation, or even a dream. Each, in its own way may be that door, that message, that one that offers a fresh new perspective or a creative explosion of growth and freedom. There may be no logic or reason but your deepest gut tells you that it is right. In Sanskrit we call this clear seeing or inner wisdom, prajna.
It is just 6am when we returned to our modest guesthouse along the Nam River. Carrying empty bowls that were once filled with benevolent offerings that were humbly slipped into the urns of an endless silent thread of burnt orange robes. The sun had just begun its ascent above the lush emerald hillsides as we made our way down a narrow alley à la queue leu-leu sandwiched between a monastery and a strand of closely woven makeshift homes. Except for an occasional footstep, silence permeated the air. As I followed the steps in front of me, I wiped the remaining sleep from the corners of my eyes. For no apparent reason except that of the open door of destiny, my eyes gazed to the left and locked with those of one Buddhist monk among many. Time seemed to stand still, suspended like the full moon in the blackness of the night’s canvas. A large white brick wall separated us. Neither spoke, neither moved for what seemed like an eternity but I knew a door had just opened so I consciously stepped inside.
This encounter became the beginning of an endearing transformational relationship between a searching yogini and a peaceful Buddhist monk. We spoke for hours, mostly question and response, politely taking turns and making the most of this auspicious encounter.
Living a humble life in a monastery and following the teachings of the Buddha must have huge metamorphic consequences. I yearned to know the truth. Do we become immune to life’s ups and downs, to people’s moods and even to our own? Does the mind become forever tranquil, the heart light and joyous? Does happiness and compassion prevail? Do we bathe in the essential and do we drink the cup of loving kindness morning and night?
These quintessential qualities are what I aspire to and yearn to embody in every cell of my body. Some days it seems so simple but far too often I find myself affected by the unimportant, struggling with the swinging moods of others and my own incessant thoughts. Peace remains at bay until I am able to gently tether it back to the cave of my heart and the corners of my mind through deep meditation and conscious practice. It is a process, an infinite journey into mindfulness.
The magic of modern technology has allowed the searching yogini and the Buddhist monk to transport our conversations from that auspicious day within the confines of his monastery, across the oceans and into the here and now. I am forever grateful for this open door, this leap of faith and for the simplicity of it all. I have come to realize through the gift of our encounter that whether we are a sage living in a cave, a householder raising 4 kids, a Buddhist monk dedicating his life to the Dharma or a searching yogini we all strive in some form or fashion to aspire to a place of serenity, of ease and of openness. Hopefully we all do our best with what we have at that moment and that is where we are.
Mindfulness, known as samma-sati in Pali and samyak smrti in Sanskrit, is the ability to pay close attention to what is. As the great Buddhist American nun Pema Chödrön says, “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh.’’
So sit back and relax but remain fully awake to what life brings your way. The next open door may be your invitation to peace, or resolution or even an occasion to let go. Aspire to embody compassion, tolerance, love and peace of mind and heart and know that they are attainable in small and sometimes grand doses depending on the moment. No matter where you are with it all, make that ok.
“When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. You’re able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open. And you notice when you get caught up in prejudice, bias, and aggression. You develop an enthusiasm for no longer watering those negative seeds, from now until the day you die. And, you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities to start to do things differently.”