Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Underneath All Victories and Defeats

--by Gangaji (Aug 31, 2009)

In the midst of some activity, even the activity of reading this now, it is completely possible to allow your mind to open fully, and in that opening to discover the peace and fulfillment of your own spacious awareness.

No place to go, no thing to get, no goal to be realized; no body to change no perfection to be attained. Simply, in this very moment, you can recognize what is always here. Here underneath all the lists and underneath all the victories and defeats.

In meeting yourself, free of all should's and must's and will's, for even a moment, you realize that even if nothing gets fixed or done, simple natural fulfillment is already here.

Of course there is much in our world, our bodies, and our minds that could use fixing. And part of the human evolutionary thrust is to use our mental capacities to discover what is wrong -- outside and inside -- and then to begin the work of correction by removal or augmentation. What a truly awesome power of mind. It is a hallmark of the capacity of the human brain.

The problem arises when this evolving, mistake-searching aspect of mind rules the life form called by your name. And this problem is huge in our culture.

How much of your attention is focused on what is wrong with yourself or others?

When we see how much is wrong or harmful in our thinking and our and others' actions, we can be overwhelmed by the tasks revealed. This overwhelm can result in giving up and reverting to cynicism or in strengthening our resolve to work even harder. To think and do more.

I am actually suggesting that before the overwhelm, or even in the midst of overwhelm, it is possible to stop, if only for a moment, and return to silence. In that moment, there is the recognition that to be internally free and at peace, nothing needs to be done.

Even a moment of true silence allows for true choice, for authentic, appropriate action or non-action to follow.

Some spiritual traditions refer to this silence as no mind. But for me that term is too close to mindless as in ignorant or stupid. I prefer the term open mind. The open mind is spacious and aware. It finds nourishment in itself, intelligent and aware without the need to follow thought.

In truth, all creative and fresh thinking comes out of this nourishment of aware silence. And it is available for you right now.


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Previous Reflections:

On Aug 31, 2009 Matthew Oliver Sloan wrote:

I love her use of the term - "Open Mind" as opposed to  no mind. It recalls to me an incident from my youth. I was 15, studying O/A level Math in England (my place of birth) and my teacher opened my mind with this definition of a straight line - "A straight line is a circle with infinite circumference."

Open Mind, I love it!

On Aug 31, 2009 madhur wrote:

So very true and enlightening!

On Sep 1, 2009 kendagor wrote:

I really feel this story and it teaches me a lot.

On Sep 1, 2009 brvhrt wrote:

Can we realistically open our minds and be the gatekeeper of everything that enters it and furthermore not observe and judge any of these thoughts?

To have true peace, one need to surrender to God and not base it on how much effort or good works we can do. After all, Christ has done everything for us. What or Who are we worried of? :)


Brave Heart


On Sep 3, 2009 Somik Raha wrote:

I liked the idea of "giving up." There are two kinds of giving up, as the author hints. In the first, the mind is still active, and the ego responds to the external situation by walking out. However, the mind keeps beating me up, and does not stop harassing, even after the external giving up has happened. This giving up is the result of a monkey mind

There is another kind of giving up, which comes from a space of silence. Due to great external agitation, there is a realization that nothing I do will help. So the mind backs out, and I go into silence. From that space, things get a lot clearer. This giving up is the result of a monk mind.

I include below a reflection from a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat, that shows the monkey and monk minds in action.


Day Four
I was exhausted from three days of Anapaana (focused concentration technique), dealing with a regimen that is quite the opposite of a highly unbalanced lifestyle. The fourth day is special as this is the day when Vipassana instructions will be given. And it was indeed special, as the unfolding events will show. 

At breakfast, with the usual wholesome and healthy food options, I noticed peanuts with a strange smell. My mind ought to have immediately gone on alert, but my greed got the better of me, and I lifted a handful. As a I started munching, I realized the strong smell was that of garlic, and I knew immediately that I'd be sick. Sure enough, my stomach kept making strange sounds for some time, and during the hour long sitting from 8-9 AM, I had to walk out to relieve myself. I felt embarrassed. As I walked back to the hall, Chris, our Dhamma manager was there to see if I was ok. I said I was and asked if I could go back to the hall and he said yes, of course. This had happened once before in the previous Vipassana seminar last year on the last day. Memories came flooding back. We were told we had to spend two hours in the hall when the Vipassana teaching would be introduced later in the afternoon. I was groggy (two meals a day meant I was hungry for 18 hours, and I'd just relieved myself of one), and not sure how I'd survive. In the break, I relieved myself further and realized with despondency that I was getting stomach flu. Maybe I wasn't going to survive this course and would have to drop out. I need to get help for my stomach. As I was thinking of spending the afternoon break in bed, I looked up at the bathroom service list and was aghast to find my name on it. Of course, I had entered it myself on the previous day. Ok - so the challenge had just stepped up. 

Taking one thing at a time, I ate a lighter-than-usual lunch. Then, I decided that I would postpone getting medical help and would first clean the toilet. If I was going to be a quitter, I'd at least gift a clean toilet to my co-meditators. The building I was staying in had a large toilet, and I didn't realize how much work it was. The last thing I'd want to do with an upset stomach was heavy lifting, and of course, the mop had to weight a ton when wet, with its wooden handle hitting the ceiling if I so much as lifted the mop all the way from the bucket. Learning how to clean this large toilet with an oversized mop and doing it with equanimity was a great challenge, but with each stroke of the mop, I felt satisfaction creep in. By the time the toilet was cleaned, I was exhausted, ready to drop dead, but had a lot of satisfaction. 

After sitting on my bed, pondering over the next course of action, I realized I had about 40 minutes before the start of the next meditation session. I decided to postpone my quitting decision till then and take a slow walk up the hill. With each step, I became aware of an inner calmness, as I practiced accepting my situation of an upset stomach. Then, suddenly, it hit me. The tree in front of me had a lesson for me. It stood tall, giving so much shade from hot sun, cowering not a bit. Inspite of discomfort, this tree was going to do its dhamma, and continue giving shade to the best of its ability with the changing seasons, until it died. It did not have a mind to question its dhamma, it just did it. And here I was, trying to awaken in dhamma. Therefore, if I had to have a teacher, this tree would be my teacher. I immediately asked the tree to bless me so I could receive dhamma. With every step after this, the same request went out to each tree, and the heart kept getting lighter. By the time I reached the meditation hall, I realized that every plant, flower and tree that I had encountered, even the grass, was a teacher of dhamma, and since I had come as a sincere student, they had opened dhamma up to me by helping me recognized their teacherhood. I knew now that I was going to make it.

The next meditation sessions passed by, and as the Vipassana teaching was given, I was able to survive, and go deep. With each passing session, the focus improved, the practice of the technique improved, and the equanimity improved. In the evening sitting, I had a great insight. There was great pain in my butt and hip, and as I watched in slow motion, I could see the painful sensation arise and my muscle tense up in response. There was a moment when I told my mind not to react that way. And like a silly thief, who thinks the master is not watching, it did so, right in front of me. I couldn't help laughing. With the help of a sharpened mind, I had caught the thief who was stealing my peace. And it was my own mind. I saw why the mind did this - it was because of fear (or aversion). The moment I laughed, the fear disappeared, and the muscle collapsed. Of course, it tensed up again alongwith other muscles, but they all collapsed with greater rapidity, and soon the painful sensation was replaced with a finer sensation, first of burning and then of a tingling, which was nowhere near that discomfort which made me desperately want to get up.

By the end of the day, as I sat on my last sitting, the trees came to my mind, and I felt that there was a great blessing. I could tune in to the natural vibrations in the body, and opened up in a deeper way. As I walked down the hill, I felt successful and excited. And then it struck me - when I was about to fail, I had no faith in myself, and had to get the blessings of the trees, plants and flowers. But when I managed to get through the day, my ego came up to claim the credit, destroying my equanimity. I had caught myself in the act! Laughing to myself, I accepted the truth of my ego, and went to bed with great gratitude.

Day Five
Vipassana has started, and so has Athithana (sittings of strong determination). We were told that we couldn't change our posture, open our eyes or move our hands. As I sat through the first one, fresh from the success of the previous day, a big sensation from my stomach punctured my confidence. I had not relieved myself earlier, and the reality of an upset stomach was still with me. My stomach, of course, chose the Athithana to collapse again. This time, I decided that death would be preferable to getting up and I was going to break the mystery of my stomach. As I watched each shooting pain with full concentration, a big realization dawned. These were not actual motions where something undesirable would happen. They were instead signals of alarm, to which I normally respond without delay, and due to the quick-response conditioning, I wouldn't notice the decision opportunity. I thanked my stomach for these signals, recognized their practical utility, and told it that I would respond when I could. The stomach may choose to (or not to) keep sending these signals. Suddenly, I felt like an outsider watching with patience and compassion how my mind did its monkey business, as the signals wouldn't stop, although they decreased in frequency and stopped bothering me altogether. The sitting passed comfortably.  Just before it ended, I knew that when I got up, I would discover that the situation was not so bad. The actual experience confirmed this. It was my fear and aversion that had multiplied the impact of the sensation and caused such great distress in the past. 

What a great relief to have broken the mystery of the stomach (with such practical benefits), or really, one of the mysteries of the mind, not through intellectual jumps but through actual experience. I realized also that my stomach was a great teacher of Dhamma. It would accept anything I gave it, and try to extract the most energy it could. If I kept giving it garbage, it would collapse by the law of nature, but it would try its best to get back on its feet so it could serve me again. It would do so until the day I die, without questioning me ever. What a great embodiment of Dhamma - to live and die in service! By extension, my entire body (not just mine, but everyone's body) is a great embodiment of dhamma, and for that reason alone, I find compassion in my heart toward my body.


On Sep 3, 2009 megan julianna wrote:

Cleansing consciousness

One day the search for yourself will end for good.  It may coincide with your body's last breath, or it may happen decades before.

Regardless of when or how, awareness will reveal with crystal clarity, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that there never was a "me or mine" or "you or yours" to find, define, fix or improve.

By letting go of every thing, ALL is gained.

Although the body/mind is not easily convinced and relentlessly seeks ways to add more, the truth, if tasted, can be trusted.

As the story of "me" comes to an end (how sad, lonely, and scary it sounds), a very familiar sense of peace & wonder expands endlessly within.  It's the most precious gift we can open, and best to accept while there's a body to enjoy it!  The bonus prize is, there is no one to blame, or anyone to feel bad, sad, scared, better, worse, etc. for how long it took to wake up.

No me, no mine, no you, no yours.  This sounds crazy, Impossible, boring, and pointless - I "thought" so too before I took a taste.  That's just the mind trying to justify it's senior level position.  The only thing required now is to observe it as closely as you would a very small child or sick loved placed in your care.

No me, no mine.  Switch from playing the lead actress to sitting in the audience, and just see what happens.  After all, one must have proof.  If desire is sincere and attention earnest, you'll walk out of the theater, into the bright sunlight.  No me, no mine will be disorienting at times, but it sure beats the alternative - continuing to play the same old part, desperately searching for next big role before the money and clock run out.  But hey, to each her own, all I'm saying is  I know first hand how easy it is to do things the hard way...

With Joy, Hope and Flow


On Sep 3, 2009 susan bradley wrote:

Hump day, mid week, Wednesday arrives and it is time for the weekly gathering in the Mehta Family home.  Truth be told the community created here is on going beyond the weekly evening gatherings that have occurred for the past 12+ years.  We arrive and enter the meditation setting in silence.  We are physically coming together once again and the ripple affect of this community is far reaching up north and south, east and west on the San Francisco Peninsula, across the United States and internationally via physical connection, electronic medium and phone.  After meditation and the reading of the weekly inspiration, and during the serving of the shared meal, the connectiveness, familiarity and love is evident among those attending for the first, second or gazillionth time!

This particular Wednesday we - me single mom from the San Francisco bay area,  Kaz visiting professor from Japan, and Eva student on break from school in New Mexico - carpool to the midweek gathering of our community.   The drive is host to a  pleasant exchange that curiously, though not by design, is related to the reading for the week.  We speak about academic writing, about job interviews, about public speaking, about meditative dance, about confidence and self esteem and ironically the underlying thread ties back to the idea of being present in the moment and allowing for a quiet reflection and acceptance of self and clarity of choice. 
The three of us share our struggles and our growing in the recent weeks with self acceptance and love.  Just as the author writes about  being, “free of the should’s and must have’s” as part of achieving “natural fulfillment“.  I don’t know that any of us is “there” in terms of fulfillment, though we are on our way by being aware of and practicing the acceptance of self as we are and where we are at this moment in our individual lives and taking time for quiet nonjudgmental reflection.
Following meditation and during our group sharing this evening, I thought about the drive and the conversation we shared.  Simple conversation that it was and then here in communion with 40 other people is the evidence of  the beautiful ripple affect of this Wednesday meditation in the Mehta home.  All of us coming together in loving acceptance, in an environment that allows for plain and simple sharing of thought and feeling, just as the three of us had done in the four door sedan driving down highway 101!
Gangaji writes, “When we see how much is wrong or harmful in our thinking and our and others' actions, we can be overwhelmed by the tasks revealed. This overwhelm can result in giving up and reverting to cynicism or in strengthening our resolve to work even harder. To think and do more. “ The conversation on the drive and around the circle, revealed that the power of pausing or stopping, taking time to allow for quiet reflection, and taking time to listen to each other can and does provide for clarity of thought enabling better choice making.  Also for me, this weekly communion of family and friends provides an avenue for practicing this valuable action of meditative quiet that creates a peaceful heart,  brings peace of mind and clarity to our individual and collective thoughts.


On Sep 3, 2009 Pancho wrote:

My family calls me Pancho and I'd like you to know that I love you all... including hermanas Gurita and Pavititita who are today more present in our hearts.

The passage and the insights shared in the circle brought to my heart/mind a conversation I had recently with and inspiring teacher. It could be told as a single "story-telling" but I'd like to split it in 3 points:

1. Keeping an Open Mind/Heart.
2. Humbled by the Purity of Silence.
3. The Ultimate Perfection: Wholeness.

1. Keeping an Open Mind/Heart.
Everything serendipitously started at a place where the motto reads: "growing in generosity". The Karma Kitchen. Indeed, you'll never know how our hearts will be touched by the ripples of kindness. Our dear brother Richard Witthaker, who runs the gift-economy magazine Works & Conversations, has a special skill to connect with people at the SOULlular level. So he did it once again. This time he connected with sister Susan Schaller. 

If you, beloved reader, would be willing to be touched beyond the world of words (literally, pun intended ;-)), I invite you to read the whole conversation between siblings Richard and Susan. It is called: Leap of Faith, the Story of a Contemporary Miracle. Take your time to read it. I predict that, in some degree, it will enrich your spirit.

Sister Susan was told by academics that if you haven't learned language by three or four years old, you can't really learn it the same way. Some people say you can learn it up to about the age ten.

But sister Susan kept an open mind/heart, she cultivated her critical thinking/feeling and when she met a 27 year old deaf languageless man, Ildefonso, her truly scientific spirit was rewarded:

"He did not know sound existed! And he was never exposed to a visual language, and he's a visual person. When I met this man he was twenty-seven years old. Because he didn't know there was sound, because he didn't know he was deaf, he didn't know there was hearing and deafness. He studied lips and mouths. He knew something was happening. He's a very smart man. He'd be staring at lips. He'd stare at your mouth and he'd stare at this person's lips and he thought he was stupid. He thought he was stupid because he thought we had figured this mouth movement stuff out visually. Why can't I get it? He thought he was stupid. He had no idea we were making sounds... He didn't know what language was. All of his life he had survived by copying people (by miming)."

If you read the whole interview you will have a glance of the magic of sister Susan to communicate with hermano Ildefonso. After 27 years, she and her open mind/heart facilitated the learning of Ildefonso's first language.

In the Bay Area inspiring stories spread fast, so I was aware of this part of Susan's story when she decided to show up at the Metta Center's Hope Tank.


2. Humbled by the Purity of Silence.
Once brother Ildenfonso started learning sign language we wanted to learn the sings for everything!

What follows is one of the most touching stories I've heard in my 34 laps around the Sun. It is a story of hope; a story of a celebration of the human spirit; a living evidence of the Grand Human family.

At the Hope Tank, I asked sister Susan how she explained to him history and the non-sense borders humans draw in the dirt. She said:

"He couldn't understand the concept of 'country' though. One day, he was excited and very confused, so he rolled his sleeves and mine to show the contrast of the color of our skins, and he signed: why in 'dark skin land' I starve but in 'light skin land' I don't?

I was humbled by the wisdom of this migrant brother. I am humbled by the purity of silence. What a blissful state to be shielded from prejudices and divisions! No need to go to church or to live in an ashram or to write a best seller book or to live the revolution or to meditate for hours or to live in a tree or to protest with a hunger strike or to win a historic presidential election... he didn't need anything of that, he was already there. Since day one.

27 years in silence kept intact the soul of this man, and his oneness nature flooded my eyes with tears of joy.

Many of us, not as lucky as brother Ildefonso, need to Be in Receptive Silence a few hours a day to connect with this oneness source. That's what we're doing in these magic Wednesdays.


3. The Ultimate Perfection: Wholeness.
This story of hermano Ildefonso humbled my spirit and reminded me to strive for the soul of life in perfection, in ultimate perfection. Ultimate perfection has a way of protecting itself by always showing us there are a few more details to finish.

Are we capable to educate the hearts of our children with the music heard by hermano Ildefonso?

The Earth is but ONE country and the biodiversity its citizens.

May all become compassionate, courageous and wise.

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