Soaring and Settling

The overlook at Crooked River Gorge is not for those with acrophobia. I have a bit of this affliction myself. Today, as I look down basalt cliffs from the ‘bump out’ in the retaining wall, I have to take a few deep breaths. It takes awhile to regain my stability. My attention is drawn downward and I see a redtail hawk gliding in the wind, following the river path downstream. The unmistakable tail feathers flash red even without the sun. It is a bit stormy and windblown rain pelts my face with stinging droplets, but that does not dissuade me from watching the flight of the raptor.

 It is rare to look down on a hawk and my mind is transfixed. I forget my fear of heights for a moment— soaring along with the image in my mind. This is reminiscent of meditation practice when I notice my mind settle amidst a storm of thoughts. I do not have to do anything but pay attention to what seems to appear in my mind without grasping or pushing away, and I relax. This simplicity is lost when we are new to meditation. We often think there is something to do and a magical ‘state’ to attain.

In our tradition the main practice is moment to moment awareness, and when we notice the mind naturally settling, we continue in that. This is how my root teacher taught me to meditate. He said, “watch the mind be naturally at ease.” If we recognize this, there is nothing more to do. In words of the Vidyadhara Lama practice, “Within the uncontrived awareness of one’s own original mind…” Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. The hawk flies and my mind settles.

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