I think of this foundation as being a 3-legged stool. The first leg of the stool, the entrance into a world filled with light, love, faith, compassion, gratefulness, and happiness is to open your heart and embrace all aspects of your being and experience. As I describe in my post, “The Heart’s Embrace,” when I did this, besides the immediate cathartic impact of the process … when was the last time you embraced all aspects of your being and experience? … it removed the internal struggle between what my ego-mind wants and the reality of what the external world offers, between what my ego-mind wants me to be and what I am. The result was that for the first time I truly felt from within what Pema Chodron teaches … that we have everything we need inside ourselves to be at peace and happy.
Note that the heart’s embrace includes not only all aspects of your being, but all aspects of your experience … both the “good” and the “bad.” It all just is. Many have a hard time accepting the idea of embracing the “bad” things that have happened to them, the things that cause them suffering. But everything that happened to you in the past has made you who you are today … not just the samsara-filled self that suffers … but the self who is seeking to return to your home, your heart, and walk the path of Buddhism.
And when you embrace all aspects of your being and experience, you come to the realization that contrasts are essential to finding the meaning in life. If we didn’t experience winter, we wouldn’t experience spring and take joy in it in the same way. If we didn’t experience pain, joy would not have much meaning. The same is true for sorrow and happiness and all the contrasts in life. One needs the contrasts both to make progress on the path and fully understand life. The saying, “no pain, no gain,” applies here.
The second leg of the stool is for the mind to rest undisturbed, for nothing in the world to offend. That state follows naturally once one has embraced all aspects of your being and experience. When you embrace something, it can’t offend. And when nothing in the world offends, as the ancient Chinese poem, “Affirming Faith in Mind,” says, “all obstructions cease to be, thought objects disappear because things and things because of mind.”
Again, this does not mean that you aren’t aware of things or people in the world who harm others or yourself, but you experience them with dispassion. They no longer agitate you. Which, if you choose to work in some way to improve the situation, makes it more likely that you will do so productively, exercising good judgment.
When you have embraced everything and so nothing offends, the catalyst for your ego-mind being activated disappears. The ego-mind feeds on all the things that offend it. Whether it’s fear, anger, negativity … whatever emotion … they all arise in response to something that offends the ego-mind. When those catalysts are removed, the ego-mind starts to wither because it is not being fed.
Ah, but you say, “What about lust? That doesn’t arise because something offends.” But actually it does. We are offended that we have no power or we fear we have no power, that we are not needed and desired. At bottom we are offended by our insecurity. And so lust, as opposed to love, is an effort to wipe out that insecurity. That is why lust is strong and so problematic.
The third leg of the stool is faith. Faith … not in someone of something outside of you, not that something in particular will happen … but faith that regardless what life throws your way, all will be well because you will always return home to your unborn Buddha mind and be at peace and happy. Faith that you have everything you need inside yourself to be a peace and happy.
When you have embraced all aspects of your being and experience, when your mind rests undisturbed and nothing in the world offends, then true faith pervades your life naturally because you are seeing yourself and the world around you through your true Buddha self, through you heart. For however long that space lasts … initially brief periods and as your practice deepens longer periods … you will thus be at peace and happy.