Well, of course, it’s not simple. It’s very difficult because of the power and deeply embedded nature of our ego thinking-mind and habit-energies. But the point that the choice is ours is absolutely correct.
Once we are aware of the impermanence of all things. Once we are aware of the emptiness of all five skandhas ... appearance of form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness-ego. Once we are aware that there is no yesterday, no tomorrow, no today, only the present moment and that the present is the only reality, all else is thought, all else is in the mind. Once you know that all you need to be happy is to offer others joy, to be in the company of loved ones and friends, to respect your mind, to respect your body, to be in touch with nature, and to live within your means, and that everything else your mind tells you is ego.
Once you are aware of all these things, both when you’re on the cushion and off, then the choice is truly yours. Do you really want to be at peace and find happiness in each moment? (See my post, “Do You Really Want to Be at Peace and Content?”) If the answer is “yes,” then the way is to follow the path of the Buddha as best you can and not be drawn into the web of your mind. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. You cannot have the “comfort” of your habit-energies and experience peace and happiness.
But even if you answer “yes” unequivocally, even if you are aware of all the Buddhist truths noted above ... it is not, as the monk claimed, “as simple as that.” Because even at this stage of your practice, your ego-thinking mind in concert with things happening in your life and the world around you conspire to draw you into its vortex of attachment, fear, anxiety, frustration, anger, negativity, etc. And its pull is very strong.
What then is the way forward? How do you implement your answer of “yes”? The answer lies in the daily discipline of meditation and the recitation of mantras that embody these truths.
We are trying to create a new paradigm for our lives. And that is very difficult. By reciting affirming mantras every day, in addition to meditating, we slowly begin to absorb these truths at a deeper level until we get to the point that they become our new default mode, not our old habit-energies.
As I have often said, walking the path of the Buddha is a slow, incremental process. If we are disciplined in watering the seeds of our true Buddha nature, we find as the weeks and years go by that those roots grow deeper and stronger and we are more able to both be aware and say “no” to the force of our ego thinking-mind when it arises, thus being able to see things clearly and be at peace. (See my post, “Nirvana - It’s Right before Your Eyes.”)
I have been doing as I suggested in my 2014 post “The Choice Is Yours” - the discipline of daily meditation and the recitation of mantras that embody the dharma truths - and it has made a great difference in my life in many ways. Things no longer push my buttons, I do not react with emotion, I know that things are the way they are because it’s just the way it is, I release all desire for my life to be different in any way from the way it is right now, I embrace all aspects of my being and experience, and I know that I will be OK regardless what life throws my way because I have returned home and will always return home to be true Buddha self.
But, as I have frequently written, despite those changes that evidence freedom from my ego-mind, I still felt this frown on my face, there was a grayness surrounding me. It had been a puzzlement. Only recently did I become aware that the reason for this grayness is that the trauma in my life had not been fully healed.
I learned that trauma, while it impacts the ego-mind, has a bodily existence separate from the ego mind which is why my daily meditation practice and reciting affirmations has not freed me from my trauma. For me to be able to exercise my choice, I had to free my body not just my mind. And so I have started doing exercises to free the pain of the trauma from my body, to no longer repress it, and so allow the trauma to be healed. (See my posts, “Trauma,” and “Trauma Denied No Longer.”)
But there is another side to this story which impacted the exercise of choice. As I have said, for years I was very aware, almost obsessed, by the fact that I just was not a joyful person; momentarily, yes, but not my normative state. That while I was at peace and nothing pushed my buttons anymore, my normative state was a frown; serious. I was not the adult image of the smiling toddler that I had come to see as my true Buddha self. I knew there was something wrong. And over the years I tried various means to free me from this burden.
Recently though I learned from a respected psychic, transformational therapist that my serious repose was who I was … typical for a capricorn. That is my true self. It had nothing to do with trauma or darkness. This changed my whole perspective on this aspect of me. (See my post, “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall - A Revelation.”) I even found new toddler photos that expressed this nature and to which I connected strongly. (See my post, “Buddha Nature Gentle and Serene.”
For years I had created my own trauma by trying to be someone other than who I was. I had labeled something that was my true nature as undesirable, unhealthy and tried to free myself of those qualities. Despite my practice of The Heart’s Embrace, I had not embraced that aspect of my being, other than momentarily. Talk about creating my own internal conflict, my own samsara.
Now that I know that the avatar of my true self is the innocent, serious toddler, not the laughing toddler, there is no more inner conflict within me. I embrace my seriousness, I cherish it. I love and accept myself exactly as I am. Now I can make that choice, fully. Every moment of the day, I can make the choice to be in touch with the positive energy in my heart and take pleasure in each passing moment.
This has had a profound impact on my practice. How many times have I experienced a profound impact that moved my practice forward. What revelations will the future bring? I will see; the only thing certain is that one never finishes walking the path until one takes one’s last breath.