I sense that at every step my life is impeded. Nothing happens easily. Everything I do seems to be a struggle involving effort and conflict. Sometimes I’m not moved to do anything at all.
In part it is like weather. There are periods of wind and rain and there are times when the sun shines. The conditions of the environment are changeable and influenced by many factors. Sensing these conditions, just as one senses the weather, can you tell when it is more possible to act and when to hold back. It isn’t necessary to know the exact nature of the forces at work. You can never really know them in full and you can lose a lot of time trying to analyze them. Worse, you can imagine that you do know something based on astrology or whatever, rather than relying on your own sensing.
Mastery of self is knowing how to read, and be advised by, one’s sensations. In a world that is full of contradictory forces, where it is nonetheless necessary to act, you must be able to follow the path of slightly less resistance.
But there is much more to this. Is it possible to cultivate an unimpeded state? In Vajrayana it is said that the essence of reality is emptiness, its nature is luminous and its expression is unimpeded. What is meant by unimpeded? To gain insight into this question, it is necessary to begin at the beginning, which is emptiness.
So much of what we do seems to come from thinking. And much of our thinking is compulsively centered on what we should do, or what we always do out of habit. Clearly, these actions do not come from emptiness. We think that nothing can come from emptiness. We are very uncomfortable with the whole notion. If I don’t make efforts based on what I think I would do if I could do what I should do, what’s going to happen? Nothing, right? Wrong.
Observe yourself. Mostly, you are a bundle of habitual reactions. Stimulus from outside followed by habitual reaction. But there are other rarer events. Sometimes an impulse arises that has no observable external cause. Where do these impulses arise from? This is truly a mystery if you follow this inquiry. Do they arise from the emptiness? Can you see that they begin as luminous expressions of love, of joy, that precede thought?
To remain unimpeded, the impulse must pass cleanly through the self—body and mind—without diversion. This is where we are most impeded. Our inner contradictions and habitual editing prevent unimpeded expression even more than the conditions of the external world. There are antidotes for this confusion…repeated exposure to voluntary presence and attention and especially impartial observation. Conditioning breaks down over time. This is a path of inner surrender which goes hand-in-hand with growing indifference to yourself and your conditioning. Indifference has a great power to change.
You can learn to find emptiness, embrace it and trust it to move you, slowly passing the power to act from outside to inside. Of course, as long as you live in this world you will have a list of shoulds and you should probably honour them if you can, as long as they remain shoulds. You have to be mindful of consequences. But unimpeded expression comes from the emptiness within.
“Like a long-legged fly upon the stream. His mind moves upon silence.” W.B.Yeats