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Shambhala Sun | March 2011Discovering the Power of Basic Goodness

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.

The 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.

Meditation 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.

Throughout 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.

Through 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 others.

Many 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.

Tapping 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.

So 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.

 

From the March 2011 Shambhala Sun magazine. Click here to browse the entire issue online.



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