“In a healthy response to pain and fear, we establish awareness before it becomes anger. We can train ourselves to notice the gap between the moments of sense experience and the subsequent response. Because of the particle-like nature of consciousness, we can enter the space between instinct and action, between impulse and reaction. To do so we must learn to tolerate our pain and fear. This is not easy. As James Baldwin put it, “Most people discover that when hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with their own pain.” That’s why we start by paying attention to the small things, small pains and disappointments. When I start to get into an argument with my wife, if I pay attention I notice that I usually feel hurt or afraid. If I speak to her angrily, she will become defensive and the argument will grow. But if I’m mindful, I can talk about the hurt or fears instead of being lost in anger and blame. Then my wife becomes interested and concerned. Out of this a different and more honest conversation occurs.” Jack Kornfield
“Whatever your difficulties—a devastated heart, financial loss, feeling assaulted by the conflicts around you, or a seemingly hopeless illness—you can always remember that you are free in every moment to set the compass of your heart to your highest intentions. In fact, the two things that you are always free to do—despite your circumstances—are to be present and to be willing to love.” Jack Kornfield
‘A sixth quality of spiritual maturity is questioning. Rather than adopting a philosophy or following blindly a great teacher or compelling path, we come to recognize that we must see for ourselves. This quality of questioning is called by the Buddha Dhamma-vicaya, our own investigation into the truth. It is the willingness to discover what is so, without imitation or without following the wisdom of others. Someone once told Picasso that he ought to make pictures of things the way they are – objective pictures. When Picasso said he did not understand, the man produced a picture of his wife from his wallet and said, “There, you see, that is a picture of how she really is.” Picasso looked at it and said, “She’s rather small, isn’t she? And flat?” Like Picasso, we must see things for ourselves. In spiritual maturity we find a great sense of autonomy, not as a reaction to authority, but based on a heartfelt recognition that we, too, like the Buddha, can awaken. Mature spirituality has a profound democratic quality in which all individuals are empowered to discover that which is sacred and liberating for themselves.
This questioning combines an open-mindedness, the “don’t know” mind of Zen, with a “discriminating wisdom” that can separate what is useful from what is bad, that keeps the eyes open to learn. With an open mind we are always learning.
Our questioning allows us to use the great wisdom of traditions, to learn from teachers and to be part of communities, yet to stay in touch with ourselves, to see the truth and to speak the truth with a great respect for our own integrity and our own awakening. This investigation may not bring us to be more sure of ourselves, but it can allow us to be more honest with ourselves, and in this, our spiritual practice becomes filled with interest and aliveness. The Dalai Lama, when asked about his current life in exile, spoke of this when he replied, “Sometimes I think this Dalai Lama is the hardest life of all – but of course it is the most interesting.”’ Jack Kornfield
“All other spiritual teachings are in vain if we cannot love. Even the most exalted states and the most exceptional spiritual accomplishments are unimportant if we cannot be happy in the most basic and ordinary ways, if, with our hearts, we cannot touch one another and the life we have been given.” Jack Kornfield