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  • Writer's pictureErika Murphy

The Fruits of Mindfulness

You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather. ~ Pema Chödrön

Most people spend their entire lives focused on what Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön calls the "weather." This is the activity of the mind: its emotions, sensations, memories, anxieties, hopes, attractions, and aversions. The mind loves movement, and craves novelty when it is not craving familiarity. It creates many storms and then usually complains about the weather!

Mindfulness is the practice of being present with what is happening in the moment without judgement. As we develop the skill of watching the mind with curiosity, over time we leave behind our identification with the mind's turbulence and come to know ourselves as the steady and luminous "sky," which remains unchanged by any storm.

Embodying this state of transcendent witness is known by many names: the kingdom of God, Nirvana, Enlightenment, and moksha are all concepts that attempt to capture the state of knowing our true nature as divine love and grace. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus insists that the "kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed," because, he tells the Pharisees, "the kingdom of God is among you" (Lk 17:20). It is already present, but we must learn how to see.

The time to devote ourselves to this new way of seeing is now, as Kabir points out in his poem below, "The Time Before Death." Our culture's common belief is that death is the portal through which we attain freedom and come to know God. But saints and sages from across the centuries urge us to prepare our minds and bodies for God now because death does not grant automatic freedom. As we dive deeply into spiritual practices such as mindfulness, we cultivate the receptivity necessary to "plunge into the truth" and revel in knowing God directly while we are alive.

Where is your attention in this moment? Resting in the sublime stillness of the witnessing sky, or caught up in the movement of weather? Leave any judgment behind and continue to shift your attention back to this moment, where God waits for you with delight!

The Time Before Death

Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.

Jump into experience while you are alive!

Think... and think... while you are alive.

What you call 'salvation' belongs to the time

before death.

If you don't break your ropes while you're alive,

do you think

ghosts will do it after?

The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic

just because the body is rotten—

that is all fantasy.

What is found now is found then.

If you find nothing now,

you will simply end up with an apartment

in the City of Death.

If you make love with the divine now, in the next life

you will have the face of satisfied desire.

So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is,

believe in the Great Sound!

Kabir says this: When the Guest is being searched for,

it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest

that does all the work.

Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity.

~ Kabir, translated by Daniel Ladinsky in I Heard God Laughing

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