Some teachings emphasize a kind of detachment from the messiness of ordinary human life, encouraging us to identify as boundless awareness and not as a person. I tend to prefer a different approach that sees the messiness of ordinary life as the Holy Reality, encouraging us to go ever-more deeply INTO the ordinary, so that we discover where enlightenment actually resides (not “out there” in some special state, but right here in THIS present moment). To my taste, this approach feels more real, more alive, and less likely to inadvertently feed into a kind of dualistic dissociation, denial or disengagement from life in which we pretend to be “beyond it all,” or where we go off in search of the exotic somewhere else.
Of course, by “going deeply into the ordinary,”
I don’t mean being deeply lost in and entranced by all the stories and beliefs
and conceptualized situations that we often THINK of as ordinary life. I mean
being fully awake to the immediate, energetic, sensory aliveness and
present-ness of Here / Now. I mean seeing through or waking up from the virtual
reality created by thoughts and stories ABOUT ordinary life, including the
illusory IDEA that we are an isolated separate self encapsulated inside an
independent and separate bodymind. I mean beginning to notice our actual
EXPERIENCE, which is undivided, unencapsulated, seamless, boundless and whole.
Going deeply into the ordinary can take different forms. It can be the attention to detail that you find in Zen – where sweeping the floor is a way of sweeping your mind, and where pouring tea or cooking rice or using the toilet is the most important and sacred activity in the universe, to be approached with the same loving care and attention that you would give to your dearest beloved. Going deeply into the ordinary can also be a nonconceptual exploration of presently appearing thoughts and sensations, so that suffering is transcended not by detaching from all of this and ignoring it, but rather by seeing through the thoughts and stories (with awareness, not with analysis) and by relaxing totally INTO the sensations and energies of this moment, and thus discovering directly that our suffering is actually no-thing at all.