Driving. . .
Awakening is often a goal when in reality it is the very practice we aim to skillfully embody and live through.
Buddhist practice develops ordinary capacities so that they can serve on the path of awakening. Rather than cultivating new abilities, with this practice we learn to identify, appreciate, and strengthen ones we already have. Doing so we discover that these capacities are treasures within.
ake driving as an example. As we stay attentive to the driving conditions in the present we are using an everyday form of mindfulness. We maintain this mindfulness by not letting ourselves get distracted by the sights around us or by a conversation with a passenger.
As a factor of awakening, investigation is the ability to clearly distinguish the details of that which we are mindful. It is perceiving simple pragmatic distinctions in our present moment experience. In driving we are making distinctions constantly about the conditions of the road and how to steer, brake, and accelerate. For skilled drivers, doing this can seem natural and almost effortless, but without careful discernment regarding the surrounding traffic conditions, driving would not be safe.
In driving we need to apply some energy to adjusting the steering wheel, staying attentive, and considering our response to what is happening on the road. The habit to do so may be automatic enough we don’t think of the effort as self–conscious work. Energetic effort can combine with investigation to create a delightful sense of interest, for example when we try out driving a new car for the first time.
When we provide the clarity, calm, and wisdom of driving to the concept of “awakening” we begin to understand that we are not seeking a goal but living within a means of being “awake”. Because awakening is often seen as a distant ideal, it is also helpful to recognize the significant ways that being ‘awake’ occurs in our ordinary life. For some people the experience of awakening refreshed from a nap may provide a good example. In waking up clear and relaxed we get a glimpse of what’s possible. While still laying in bed, our daily concerns may have receded and replaced with a simple mindfulness or open awareness of our present moment circumstances.
Relaxed “investigation” may be operating as we study the light coming in through the window or the dancing movement of the curtains in the breeze. While we may not be making any self–conscious effort we may be nicely re–energized in as way that makes awareness easy and clear. There may be simple joy and tranquility as we lay in the bed before getting up. Concentration may be present if we get absorbed in watching the pattern of sunlight on the wall or ceiling. And there may be lots of equanimity as things that bothered us before the nap are now remembered with a relaxed, broad perspective.
Peace and Love, Jim