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The Simplest Meditation

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InnerNet Weekly: Inspirations from ServiceSpace.org
The Simplest Meditation
by Melvin McLeodÂ

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2401.jpgHow can everything be perfect if it’s so screwed up?

That question goes to the heart of the situation we find ourselves in, which Buddhists call samsara. That’s the endless cycle driven by our struggle to try to fix what’s broken—in ourselves, in our lives, in our world.

But what if nothing really is broken? What if our problem is that there is no problem, but we don’t know it? What if all our efforts to solve our problems are what’s creating the problems in the first place?

Who knows when and how this trap was sprung, but we’re in it. How do we get out?

We just stop. We do nothing at all, and see what we see.

That’s what the Buddha did.

First he stopped material struggle, because he realized that wouldn’t fix the problems of birth, old age, sickness, and death. Then he embarked on a long spiritual struggle, but that didn’t work either. Finally, he just sat under a tree and stopped all his struggling.

He sat there and did nothing, and enlightenment revealed itself like the morning star. No longer misled by the drive to achieve something, he realized that all beings are inherently enlightened, just as they are, and the universe is perfect, just as it is. There is nothing to fix. There is nothing we need to do.

This is simple—but not easy. Nothing is the hardest thing for us to do.

Our entire existence is predicated on doing things. We think we need to do things to ensure our well-being, to make spiritual progress, to fix ourselves, to survive.

Most of all, we fear that if we’re not doing anything we’ll discover we don’t exist. That’s called a glimpse of enlightenment.

Of course, this doing nothing is a little different from kicking back and relaxing. It means stopping what we’re doing at every level. It means not trying. It means not trying not to try. It means not philosophizing about not trying, or setting the goal of not trying.

Our minds are so subtle and tricky. We have to step completely outside our funhouse of infinite mental mirrors. We have to sit down and give it all up, like the Buddha did.

Once we stop covering it over, even for a moment, it’s said that what we glimpse is the basic ground of reality—of ourselves, of all beings, of all phenomena.

In Buddhism this is called many names—enlightenment, buddanature, the true nature of mind, the Great Perfection, ordinary mind, or just plain “buddha.”

The description I find most helpful is “emptiness endowed with all the supreme aspects,” from the Vajrayana tradition. This means the basic ground of reality is empty—free of all our mistaken projections—yet replete with all good qualities: wisdom, joy, compassion, peace, enlightenment.

In other words, once we stop screwing everything up, it’s all perfect.

About the Author: First appeared in the Mar 2020 editorial of Lion’s Roar magazine.

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The Simplest Meditation
How do you relate to the notion of arriving at enlightenment when both material and spiritual struggle ceases? Can you share a personal story of a time you experienced great insights after ceasing to do or fix? What helps you reconcile not striving with other dictums of continuous improvement?
susan schaller wrote: Al Anon sums this essay into one suggestion: ” Don’t just do something, sit there.”…
Jagdish P Dave wrote: Accoding to my undersatnding, arriving at enlightenmnt means finding my true nature of mind, the basic ground of reality in progress. True nature of mind is emptiness-empty of craving and clinging, f…
David Doane wrote: Everything isn’t “so screwed up ‘ — everything is being what it’s being. Trade in the approach of endlessly struggling to fix what’s broken for allowing to learn and heal, especially when it comes t…
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