Willa Blythe Baker

‘One of the gifts of meditation practice is that it provides us with a way to slow down and observe our experience. When we do, so much is revealed. Slowing down provides the leisure to step back from manipulating and fixing. Instead, we can simply watch abhasa, watch what is happening.

When we watch, we gradually begin to notice a profound richness. Many things are happening at once. Sound is happening. The breath is breathing. The light in the room is changing. The heart is beating. Some things seem to be happening outside, and some are happening inside. A symphony of appearance is unfolding.

At first, perhaps all is quiet and all is well. But then eventually there is an itch. Our back aches. The sound of music on the radio is getting in through the window. That music persists. Aversion arises. I could meditate if only the noise would cease.

Now I am sure the noise is why I cannot meditate. It is responsible for my restlessness and irritation. It is at fault. But is it? Can a sound reach inside a mind and make it suffer?

Reactivity has a way of making us believe the impossible. It seeks to turn attention away from the true cause and externalize the fault. The absurdity of reactivity’s logic reveals itself when we turn this assumption into a question.

Tilopa urged his disciple Naropa to question blaming our internal state on external conditions. For so long, we have believed that external conditions determine our contentment, and we have thereby given up our power.

To say we are fettered is to say we are limited. When Tilopa said, “The mind is not bound by appearances,” he was saying we are not limited by external conditions. They are not holding us down, at least not in the way we believe them to be. This is a radical statement and it goes against what we may have believed our whole life.

Reactivity thrives in the gap between how things are and how we wish they would be. This is one way to understand grasping: it is energy that externalizes and reaches slightly ahead of the present. When we are living that way, the mind stays rigid and expectant. It cannot land on what is.’ (from Lion’s Roar)

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