The text below comes from a transcription, editing of text and adaption of a Zoom talk on the theme. Talk given on 27 November 2021. Mindful Space in Israel organised the Zoom teaching sessions. Four 60-minute sessions with talk, Q and A, guided meditations on first link of Noble Eightfold Path. on Saturday 8 January 2022. All are welcome. See link below to register.
This talk given on 27 November 2021 addresses the intimacy of the spiritual path and goal and the importance of trust in relationship to the goal of a liberated life.
The practise of non-thinking, or at least reducing the quantity of thinking, contributes to the recognition of trust and its cultivation. This exploration includes recognition where trust is weak and ways to develop trust. If we are engaged in skilful reflection, it means we will not lose ourselves in thinking.
If though, thinking swamps the mind, then return to mindfulness of breathing, experience of the body or the immediacy of direct experience, here and now, via the senses. The direct experience of the breath, body or the here and now does not require thinking about any of these areas, concepts or ideas.
Through relaxing the whole being, we feel ready to reengage in reflection. A short question for refection such as What shows trust? or Where do I need to develop trust? This can start wise reflection. We experience a space between the asking of the question and listening to the inner response.
The concept liberation expresses one of the concepts of an ultimate language. I went through the discourses of the Buddha and found 108 different words for the ultimate. 108 represents an infinite number in the Indian tradition. These concepts include ultimate truth, reality, the immeasurable, Nirvana, awakening, enlightenment, God, the expanse, the immeasurable, the unborn, the unconditioned and the unmade.
These words transcend ordinary and everyday experience. At first, it seems that a huge gap appears between the everyday experience and ultimate or transcendent realisation. Our practices include the experience of conditions of consciousness namely mindfulness, paying attention, noticing and the condition of states of mind and body.
We become more aware as well of what is around us. Surrounding conditions change in gross and subtle ways which we can experience. Such a perception confirms a view of living in a world of causation, of conditionality. Ultimate truth or liberation includes the unconditioned.
This leaves us with a duality, a binary situation of ultimate and convention, goal and path to the goal. This is not easy to work with. We experience a gap between the two. Practise could keep reinforcing the gap through views about the path aiming to reach a goal.
The tradition encourages the exploration of the noble eightfold path – a language which functions as a formalised way to encourage us to look into every area of life, not to neglect anything past, present or future. This principle applies to ourselves but also to our engagement with everything else as well, not our self. The path endorses looking at the primary activities of life such as what we do, what we say and the way we live.
The path develops ethics, a meditative concentration and wisdom through the exploration and development of each link in the path.
The teaching encourages the language of the path but the teaching shows the way to reaching the end of the path rather than designed to keep us staying on the path forever. There is an end to the path. The relationship to the path and goal requires trust to explore the path and goal and its intimacy, otherwise the language of the path will carry a shadow in it.
We say to ourselves I’m committed to the practise. I’m committed to the spiritual life. I’m committed to a holistic life of well-being and discovery. I don’t know how far along I am on the path. I don’t know if I’m at the end of the path or in the middle or just a novice, even after years of practice.
Your thoughts and feelings may arise, I’ve been doing this practise for five, 10 or 30 years, I feel I am a beginner despite much experience. In a tough time, we feel ourselves to be a novice. To be honest, 15 or 20 years of dedicated mindfulness and healthy lifestyle seem like peanuts from my point of view at my age. We might think two or three decades constitute a long period.
A Priority for Life
It doesn’t matter where we feel we are on the path. I am on it. I stay steady with it. I don’t want to live in a greedy way. I don’t want to live with aggression. I don’t want to live with confusion. I wish to live with kindness, compassion and wisdom. This is the priority for my life. This is the path.
While on the path, deep places of awareness, mindfulness or meditation may arise for moments or longer.
I can see light at the end of the tunnel.
I feel I am close to the end of the path.
You may have a deep relationship to the path.
Others tell me, I used to be dedicated and committed. I attended retreats regularly I participated in group meetings/retreats with the Sangha but then my dedication faded away. I got lost in career, lost in money and lost in my marriage. After years, the person begins to reconnect with the Dharma and practise. The person reflects on the benefits during those years of practice. A recollection awakens trust in the process.
There are limits to the application of the metaphor called path and goal. Though it is a valuable area for reflection, there is no such thing in reality as a path and goal. It is a metaphor, a useful form of language, of expression. It is a figure of speech applied to an activity not literally applicable. We cannot find a path and goal. The metaphor provides a language construction to distinguish what is or what was or what might be. Our reflection on past, present and future gives support, develops trust and leads onwards towards a goal.
A practitioner may not believe you can know a goal, a fulfillment of spiritual practice. Frankly, it doesn’t matter what you believe. You can experience the benefits of trust in the practise knowing that leads onwards. That does not mean to say you have to have trust in Nirvana or trust in liberation or trust in God. You do not need such a trust. If you keep practising, you will end up knowing a liberated life whether you like it or not. Having faith in a goal does not matter in these teachings. The benefits of the practice provide the trust to keep going.
I gave up the car about 22 years ago at the start of the new Millennium. I made a big carbon footprint on the dear Earth through flights to four continents a year to teach. For years, I gave workshops at the Buddhafield Festival in fields around two hours from home in Totnes. My friend kindly loaned me her car with a SatNav (GPS)
I typed in postal code and followed the instructions. Doubts arose the first-time using satnav whether I would reach the destination. I wondered whether I had entered the correct postal code while the journey continued. I let go of my thoughts and trusted in the IT voice. Two hours later, I reached the destination, the end of the journey, the goal when I pulled up outside fields with large marquees and hundreds of tents.
Liberation is never far away
Liberation is timeless while the path involves time. We do not need to impose time on our experience such as thinking all our experiences are about the past, present or future or yesterday, today or tomorrow.
Let us abide receptive to the bare experience to know liberation not far away. We have whispers of liberation from time to time. A taste of liberation is known to us. Sadly, we grasp onto opinions and projections when something is unknown and unfamiliar, such as the language or words of transcendence or ultimacy. Again, liberation then seems far away. There is daily life and liberation seems somewhere else beyond this world, beyond the process of mind and body. Such views reveal a blind spot, so we develop the power of mindfulness meditation and reflection.
We listen inwardly and outwardly. We recall sweet moments of freedom whether alone, with another, in nature or meditation. These precious experiences offer a valid and authentic experience of a genuine freedom. These moments of freedom show a consummation of a beautiful and meaningful freedom of being. In such experiences, nothing problematic presents itself including difficult states of mind. Liberation confirms our capacity to be free from the grip of problematic desires, clinging to past, present and future and free from living in a contracted state.
Our Relationship to Freedom
We might have pushed ourselves hard to achieve the goal. This pressure upon ourselves has nothing to do with the path and goal. Somebody else cannot give us this freedom. We cannot make a possession of this freedom either. There is no point in keep on telling ourselves I want this freedom. We cannot even say to ourselves, I have this freedom.
In a liberated way of being, the ego seems small, almost absent. Our mind might reflect on this wonderful freedom this is a lovely freedom, a joyful freedom. We might even hesitate to say, I am so free. The language of I might change to This is a lovely freedom. This is a precious happiness. This is an extraordinary expanse, a sense of the limitless. This what it means to be with God. This is what it means to know the infinite. This is nirvana.
We might have a whisper, a taste of it. We may not use any of the language I use. You sit on the beach and look out to sea. Bare elements expose themselves in your consciousness. The witness the element of water of the ocean. You experience, the earth element of the beach, the sand and the rocks around you. The air element touches your skin – a breeze, a wind coming off the sea. The heat elements stand out as it is a lovely summer’s day, a cool evening.
You experience two more elements. The element of space revealed to your eyes, ears and awareness outwardly and inwardly. Consciousness constitutes the sixth element. In the experience of the elements on the beach, you have no interest to make any demand on life. Or yourself. This is a freedom from pressure. The elements of earth, air, heat, water, space and consciousness constitute the dynamics of life – indoors or outdoors.
All human beings, sentient beings and non-sentient life reveals the elements and consciousness of them. Our sense of this on the beach, in the forest, a quiet evening at home or a meditation retreat shows us what liberation is all about. We realise this freedom which cannot make into a product. We cannot buy in a shop or receive as a gift from somebody.
You can attend a course or retreat and have certain experiences. The environment, the meeting and who or what surrounds us ranks as a secondary feature to an expansive freedom. Liberation abides close at hand without dependency on the past, present moment or events in the future.
Liberation accommodates everything. Thoughts can arise in liberation as they have the freedom to emerge out of consciousness with no inherent power to take away liberation, no power to rob us of freedom.
We witness the world, with its challenges, its troubles and its joys. Our heartfulness goes out to others. Kindness expresses itself. Nobody can take this freedom away even if they put us in prison, could confiscate our possessions or throw us out of work.
Moments of Freedom
Freedom is extraordinarily close. If you reflect on the past, whether years ago, or recently, you may recognise and remember moments of freedom. If you experienced them, and know them in a modest, non-egotistical way, the division of path and the goal dissolve. Liberation reveals itself throughout the exploration.
You are a human being making this journey through the field of existence. You wish to live with love and bring a power to love. You wish to live with wisdom. You wish to fulfil all the features of the eightfold path until you realise a liberated life which includes living with wisdom. Through noble views/understanding, intentions, communication, action, livelihood/lifestyle, endeavour, mindfulness and meditative concentration. All eight links matter for the inner and outer life. Liberation brings the best out of a human being namely dedication and application of the path.
The Eightfold Path, and liberation fuse together. The gap dissolves. Liberation enables further freedom to explore the path, freedom to share and freedom to explore ethics.
This freedom includes the freedom to work with unresolved issues within ourselves or in external circumstances.
Freedom and Meditation
We say we practice towards liberation, towards freedom. Then we begin to see in an unusual way. For example, we are free to meditate as well as knowing meditation contributes to freeing us up. Meditation confirms freedom and freedom confirms meditation.
We know the freedom to observe and the freedom to engage. We are free to develop the path and much more. Freedom and the path come together because they abide close together. They are as close together as wood and trees. The path and the goal remain intimately close as water and the ocean. Our conventional, dualistic tendency towards separation reveals a mindset, which has a usefulness in application of the metaphor of path and goal as path and goal provide a sense of purpose while liberation embraces notions of purpose and purposeless. We meditate on these themes.
Our drawing upon the past, present and future can support knowing path and goal. We can bring them together or we can regard them as already being intimate and form the same event. Let us keep that potential alive as a deep exploration a deep thing to begin to know and understand.
Keep trust with the full exploration of path, goal and their intimacy. Know experiences of no problem in the mind, a genuine freedom in such times. An experience of no pressure, no contraction. We are a small wave in the ocean but made of the same stuff which we call water. The factor of trust continues to play a part because small experiences of natural happiness confirm a freedom in the mind.
We might not be able to explain this natural happiness, but we do know and remain clear that we are not in denial. Freedom does not mean that no more problems will arise. It does not mean to say life will flow along smoothly forever. An authenticity of this freedom knows if something problematic comes up, you will see it and address it. You will notice a contraction around an issue. There is the freedom to explore and see what changes to make through looking onto the causes and conditions.
This freedom to respond dissolves the dark cloud drifting across the sun. The sun does not stop shining but a problem needs attention. A problematic mind states may be unresolved, but it also does not have to interfere with liberation. That’s how precious deliberation is.
Freedom of being releases kindness and love for people, animals and the environment. This freedom has no start, no finish and no limits, hence its deathless nature shows its ultimacy.
Trust Develops through Experience
Trust can come from what we experience, what we know and what we understand. This approach develops trust through working through challenging experiences and knowing beneficial experiences. The significance of trust reveals itself through our growing capacity to take steps from the known into the unknown.
We trust we can find our voice and trust we can have influence to support others. It is worthwhile reflecting on the different avenues and confirmations of trust. Trust with other areas of development shows in the confirmation of liberation and in its significance to reduce and end suffering.
Trust has no relationship to naivety by assuming everything will turn out all right as it does not function in this way. Our experience and insights can provide the trust in our capacity to handle things or change things rather than live in from fear from a contracted mind state and from holding back
As we explore the significance of all of this, the metaphor of path and goal have less relevance. Ethics, integrity and clarity matter as well as living without fear of authority. We can stay steady despite threats, real or imagines. A short story can communicate a bigger truth. An editor refused to submit to loss of an authentic freedom of speech following a military coup in the country. He criticised the military government.
He wrote about citizens arrested for opposing the government, who tortured them. Many disappeared. Soldiers kidnapped young people, brave students, activists and others and took them to prison. The generals ordered the arrest of the editor, a member of the Jewish community in Argentina. He, endured torture until the regime collapsed and democracy returned. After his release, the journalist made a powerful comment. He said the regime took everything away from him
They took my wife away from me. They took my children away from me my home my life and my work as a journalist They tortured me and tried to take away my dignity. They did everything they could to humiliate me but they could not take away my freedom. They interrogators could not touch it
On Donations (Dana)
Michal and Mindful Space in Israel have put together a huge amount of work and undertaking for these ongoing zoom sessions. She works hard to prepare this programme for the Sangha so we can address every link in the noble path. She has bills to pay, running costs, rent payments as well to online businesses for their services. Mindful Space is a small organisation dedicated to offering teachings and practices.
Every single shekel, dollar or euro you give enables the next programme to take place. You ensure the continuity of Mindful Space through your attendance and generosity.
I also receive support as well. Your donations enable me to cover the monthly expenses, as well as support for my four grandchildren. My granddaughter, 14, goes to the local comprehensive school spending one week with myself and one week with her grandmother who lives minutes’ walk away
Michal and I wish to thank you all for your ongoing kindness and support.
We can find nourishment through the teachings and practices and contribute through each other towards a liberated life. Let’s have a quiet minute together to finish
May all beings explore the intimacy of the path and goal
May all beings give support to teachings and practices.
May all beings live with love and liberation.
Thank you everybody.
Lots of love.
Bye for now.