Saying ‘Yes’ to an open heart
I’d like to propose that mindfulness
true blue mindfulness-is the open heart. Sure, the
purists can define mindfulness as “paying attention to
the present moment with an open and curious stance,but
that definition can be staid, sort of dull, and
inadvertently can take the heart out of a practice,
which is, in truth, all heart.
I remember in my early years of mindfulness practice, I
got attached to subtle mental states of concentration. I
was intensely curious and amazed by my mind, but
secretly I felt the practice was a little dry - too much
in the head. So I spent a few years seeking out gurus in
India, hoping for a bhakti hit to make my practice
juicier. I later realized I was looking for love in all
the wrong places outside myself instead of inside.
That’s when I discovered that mindfulness practice
itself is the open heart. And here’s how it works; First
you start out on the cushion (or chair for the less
pretzelly inclined) and you attend to your present
moment experience, no matter what it is - good, bad, or
ugly. And as you practise and get some skill - “Hey I
can sit here and be okay in the midst of knee pain, in
the midst of my aching back, my frayed nerves” - then
you realize just this: the capacity to be mindful means
having an open heart. It’s not a theory, it’s a heart/bodyfelt
Why is this so? Because as you sit there, hour after
hour, you learn to say yes. Yes to your jagged
breathing, yes to your itchy scalp. Yes to the leaf
blower dude across the street, yes to your grief and
pain and shame and grandiosity and fear. Not because you
want to act on these things, but because they’re true,
and fleeting, and simply part of who you are (but not
the half of who you really are). Your nervous system
begins to relax - at last you’re acknowledging the truth
Saying yes means attending to and surrendering to your
experience whatever it is. It means feeling your body
when you’re in the midst of a strong reaction or
emotion, and letting whatever you find be there. It
means coming back to your breath, again and again. It
means noticing that thoughts and feelings and sensations
come and go.
You say yes to your pride, your stupidity, your
murderous rage. Naturally you don’t act on your
murderous rage, but you allow it to be true within you.
It is a very inclusive practice. Nothing is ever left
You discover that if you are pushing away your
experience, even ever so slightly, your mindfulness is
not fully realized, not quite formed. It is tainted by
aversion, even just subtly. Now sometimes you truly
can’t say yes, and then you say yes to the no: I hate
that I’m not feeling okay, but I’m actually okay with
not being okay.
Saying yes in mindfulness practice eventually begins to
spill over into your everyday experience. You start to
say yes - with awareness - again and again: yes when
that guy cuts you off in traffic, yes when your email
box is spammed to the brim, yes when your doctor is an
hour late, yes even when you lose a treasured person,
place, or thing. You say yes to your experience of the
present moment, whatever it is. You no longer reject and
armour your heart. Not that you necessarily agree with
the moment, or would wish it on anyone, or think it’s
desirable, or wouldn’t try to rectify injustice, but you
say yes because whatever life brings is just that, life
as it is. And by saying yes, you let go deep down inside
and can step forward with poise and balance and clarity
to the next right thing.
My six-month-old daughter has been waking me up hourly
this week to night nurse. Sometimes I say no. Oh god,
not again, what’s wrong with her? Will I ever get to
sleep again? In those moments, mindfulness is a vague
“good idea” somewhere in my sleep deprived brain. But
other nights this week when she cries I simply, without
thought, say yes. Yes, darling, feast. yes, I’ll be with
you. Yes, I’m awake and that’s just how things are. I
listen to the stillness of the night (rare in Los
Angeles), feel her warm body and attend to her snuffling
slurps, and sigh that yes, this is life. A deep peace
sets in over me.
By doing this practice of yes, by mindfully embracing
each moment with a willingness to accept things as they
are, with a willingness to be with life - inner and
outer - exactly as it unfolds, you may be able to look
down at your chest and realize that your heart is
gigantic. It’s expansive, spacious, broken open, like a
big, fat suitcase overflowing with warm, comfy, oh-so
You open and open, you attend and attend you say yes,
again and again, and then over time, the mindfully
opened heart is more and more just who you are. Courtesy
summer 2010 Buddhadarma.
Saying yes means attending to and surrendering to your
experience, whatever it is. You say yes to your pride,
your stupidity. It is a very inclusive practice. - Diana
Nothing can bring peace
but by yourself
“A few among such men as thee,
The other shore they do reach
Other people who then remain,
They run on this shore again.
Among folk they are few,
Who go to the further shore
Most among humanity
Scurry on this hither shore”.
“As a frontier city well-guarded,
Within and without, so guard
Yourself. Do not lose a single
Moment, for those who let the
Opportunity slip away do indeed
Grieve when they fall into
Even as a border town.
Guarded within and without
So should you protect yourself
Do not let this moment pass
For when this moment’s gone they grieve
Sending themselves to hell”.
The gift of truth excels all other gifts.
If one is capable in guarding his stream of
consciousness without allowing it to go to any
extraneous object that is the highest degree of
knowledge one could achieve.
A perfect uninterrupted moment is the beginning and end
of all eternity and deathlessness.
A change will not come if we wait for some other person
or some other time. We are the ones that we have been
waiting for. We are the change that we seek. Peace and
joy comes from within.
When a fish swims he swims on an on and there is no end
to the water. When a bird flies he flies on and on and
there is no end to the sky. Thus it reveals that we are
responsible for our misfortunes. If we go probing
beneath the surface events in search of main spring of
human miseries we will find that it is due to the lack
of universal human sympathy in the particular
individual’s mind. It is only through the peace of mind
of the individual that the peace among the nations can
be achieved. If any person keeps his mind far away from
the dirt of thinking and looking at others he will
become an invaluable flawless diamond. One can enter
into the silent sanctuary of his own being is the path
of leisurely contemplation.
Discipline within one’s mind is the essence of Buddha
Dhamma. By renouncing a small pleasure one derives
bliss: So the wise man relinquishes small pleasures in
view of the greater one.
The Buddha expounded spiritual equality of all men and
women if they develop their full potentials morally and
intellectually. It is only if we have experienced
suffering in ample measures that we can resolve to run
away from “Samsara” cycle of birth and death, and to
work our way out of it. That is something about
themselves as they are now, which if understood, at once
creates the greatest joy and peace of liberation that
man can know.
A man’s true end of destiny in Buddhist terms is harmony
with ‘Nibbana’. This supreme order of blissful joy is
not a result to be attained through action, but a fact
to be realized through knowledge. This could be
considered to a psychological aspect of Dhamma is a
state of mind called ‘total acceptance” ‘yes’ to
everything this moment and every moment.
This supreme bliss of Nibbana does not depend on any
external events, it belongs to the nature of the
individual who remains unaffected by any kind of
Each man is the architect of his own destiny. One has to
find out for oneself and not through anybody else.
“The cognitive insight arose. The release of my mind
cannot be disturbed by any external force. This is my
last birth. There is no future becoming”. (The Buddha).
It is impossible to escape reality what is now. It is
equally impossible to accept or embrace it. It is always
May this mind-healing wisdom of the blessed One be the
sufficiency in all things to all beings.