Through the practice of meditation, says Carolyn Rose Gimian, we stop wasting our energy on neuroses and discover windhorse, the never-ending power of basic goodness.
sitting practice of meditation is a tool we can use throughout life to
connect with the heart and mind of warriorship beyond aggression, beyond
violence toward ourselves or others. The dignified and upright posture
that we assume in meditation demonstrates the strength of our connection
with bodhichitta, awakened heart, or basic goodness as Chögyam Trungpa calls it in Smile at Fear.
To work with others, we need both strength and openness. So the
awakened heart of meditation is an open heart, which expresses
gentleness and vulnerability.
also provides a sense of being grounded—connected to the sanity of
Earth. Resting the body in this way is resting the mind. In Smile at Fear, the
meditation instruction stresses identifying particularly with the
outbreath. Through the simple act of joining our breath as it goes out,
we develop confidence. We can be that breath as it goes out and
dissolves into a big space. And then, in the gap, we breathe in. Then,
out we go again. Fearlessly, with eyes open, we connect with our
aliveness as human beings.
practice, because we are human beings, living beings, we have thoughts,
we have emotions, we have feelings. In and of itself, our mental
chatter is not a problem. All that mental activity is a pretty good sign
that we’re alive! It is part of the genuineness of our life. Sometimes,
however, we lose track of our being and become totally lost in thoughts
and storylines. Therefore, while acknowledging thoughts and emotions
and actually honoring them in our meditation practice, we also label
them “thinking” and come back to our breath and back to our seat, our
grounded posture of meditation.
In the practice of meditation we may contact a bank of energy or richness, which in Smile at Fear
is called “windhorse.” This is the energy that we work with all the
time in life. It’s not something new. It takes a great deal of energy
and intelligence to sustain confusion and habitual patterns.
Essentially, we always see the way things are. We actually do. One could
say, we are
the way things are. But out of such things as doubt, insecurity, and
anxiety, we are afraid to acknowledge what we see, so we put a lot of
energy into constructing a wall to protect ourselves from the raw and
rugged quality of our life. By creating this heavy wall of ignorance, we
cut ourselves off from the reality of life.
the practice of meditation, we start to see the transparency of that
barrier. In meditation, we begin to take down that wall, sometimes brick
by brick, so that the energy, or the power of basic goodness, begins to
be released. The energy that’s been going into maintaining the wall of
confusion, dividing us from ourselves as well as from others, is
liberated. Windhorse is in fact that power of warriorship—which is now
made available to us. When it is no longer sustaining doubt and
confusion, we can employ that energy in working with ourselves and with
people are suffering tremendously in this world. No matter how badly we
may feel about ourselves, and no matter how bad our lives in fact may
be, we’re not alone in that. People have to work with illness, death,
poverty, aggression, and all sorts of challenges. Each of those people
is really a hero in their own life, which is another way of saying, a
warrior. To not be beaten down by life, but to continue working with the
problems in your life and helping others around you, it’s extremely
helpful to connect with this unending energy of basic goodness. It can
enable you to go on, even when you feel that you can’t.
into the energy of windhorse is like generating your own solar power.
You don’t have to plug into an artificial power source. It’s always
there. In this analogy, there are no clouds in the way. The sun is
always available. In fact, we’re talking about the sun of basic goodness
that is within us. We may feel that the power in our batteries is
draining out of us. But actually, we’re fully charged! Through the
practice of meditation we begin to realize that we have this inherent
power or energy. Then, although we may have tremendous doubts, we can no
longer doubt that we have energy within us that can help us and also
can help others.
the experience of windhorse is feeling this joyful mind, free from
doubt. Windhorse is another way of talking about getting in touch with
where you are, completely and genuinely. When we begin to do so, we are
beginning to smile at fear.
Carolyn Rose Gimian taught the meditation sections of Pema Chödrön’s Smile at Fear retreat in October. She is the editor of Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery, and many other seminal works by the late Chögyam Trungpa, including his Collected Works.