Down to the Bones

I once had a dream in which I descended a steep trail to the deepest part of a canyon. The atmosphere was eerie—a kind of deadness where no sound could penetrate. I climbed around ancient boulders strewn about the canyon floor like so many bones left over from a long extinct species. There, sitting atop one of the rocks, Dudjom Rinpoche sat quietly smiling. He looked at me and said, “You finally got here! I’ve been waiting.”

The journey we take on the path of awakening to our true nature requires us to get down to the bones. We must enter a dead zone where we no longer identify with echoing thoughts bouncing around in the mind. This is very uncomfortable because our identity is defined by our mental habits. When we enter the stream of Buddhism we may use our experience to shore up our habits—dress them up ‘spiritually’—or we get down to the bones of our awareness and see for the first time.

It often takes years of practice to overcome the tendency to recast ourselves in the same old patterns. But it only takes a moment to cut through the fog and see clearly. Every vibrating experience is a radiant emanation of our true nature calling us home, stripping us down, exposing the bare bones of awareness. The emptiness nature of the wisdom mind arises, abides as ungraspable, and returns. It is the perfection of the great “in-between”, the bardo of this life, the perfect venue for awaking to the truth of momentary existence.

My prayer is for all beings to notice the precious gift of life and ‘bottom out’ in the deep chasm of understanding. Here, the bones of our wisdom mind dissolve into a nourishing spring of compassion.

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