The Bud of Dis-ease

To set what you like against what you dislike
Is the disease of the mind.

—from Trusting the Heartmind
Seng Ts’an, Third Zen Ancestor in China

Each spring I make daily visits to a patch of land at the northeast corner of Lake Harriet. The hill there, just above the rose gardens, is covered with ornamental apple trees. There are probably at least a half-dozen varieties blooming in white, pink, purple, and red. The blossoms are large and small, single and clustered.

Lake Harriet ornamental apple tree blossom, April 2010

When I first discovered this colorful hill, the trees were all in their full glory. To walk amongst the color and perfume was intoxicating.

Each variety blooms at its own pace and peaks in its own time, but I didn’t realize this until the following year. Though I visited regularly that second spring, I was continually disappointed; there were only a few varieties in bloom at any one time.

Lake Harriet ornamental apple tree blossom, April 2010

Many conditions bring disappointment. An inopportune rainy stretch can deteriorate and even rot the flowers. Some years, the blossoms may seem poised and ready to peak all at once, but then an untimely windstorm destroys the lot.

But these are simply conditions. The disappointment—or dis-ease—is rooted in the preferences of mind. The most crucial ingredient of dis-ease is a profound misunderstanding of what is going on:

1. believing that I am someone persisting through time, living out a lifespan

2. believing that I am separate from other, from an outside world

These beliefs are self-delusion. They carry with them feelings of isolation and con­fusion. We yearn to know who we are and how we fit into this world of others. We feel we must arrange what we assume to be the parts and pieces of the world, so that we can satisfy and please ourselves. We want to be happy. Reality, however, doesn’t correspond with our ideas of it, so we are not at ease.

If subsequent visits to the apple tree stand include fixed ideas of me, and expectations based on memories of that first visit, dis-ease is already present. As I compare what I think I see against what I recall, I don’t really see, appreciate, absorb the beauty that is there. My held ideas are so mesmerizing that True experience is overlooked. Direct experience is limited and stifled by ideas of what could be, what is not, and what I’d prefer.

This is mind caught in picking and choosing—in short, a dissatisfied, confused mind.

The Teachings of the Awakened point to this picking and choosing mind. To see through this activity of mind reveals settled mind. It’s the realization that Reality has no preferences. We can realize that what has shown up is the whole of Reality as it appears in this moment—including what seems like an independent and abiding (and disappointed) me. Living as Awakeness is living the realization that it is impossible to reject what is. Full appreciation is found, regardless of our explanations, preferences, comparisons, and measurements.

Though direct experience is forever available as the ground from which our limited versions arise, we over­look it when we live lives based on personal preferences.

The most open way to live is out of Awakeness, where we can respond directly to each situation rather than filter everything through our desire to please, preserve, and protect a self. Awakeness is true compassion. It is humility and gratitude.

Awakeness is the natural condition of mind. Living as Awakeness, dis-ease vanishes.

© 2011 Bev Forsman and Letters from Emptiness. If you share this material, please include direction to the original content. Thank you.