Wednesday, November 2, 2011


"There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them."  
~Andre Gide

One of my favorite teachers, Erich Schiffmann, often uses an analogy during his training workshops that has really stuck with me over the years.  He talks about how we, as spiritual beings, live in "houses" with dirty windows.  He says that our windows to the world have become so dirty and caked with filth that we are unable to clearly see anything that is going on outside ourselves.  

With his typical dry humor, Erich paints a mental picture for us: We're inside our house, very little light is coming through the dirty window, but suddenly we see someone trying to peer in.  But because the window is so dirty, our vision becomes distorted, and from our perspective it appears that a monster is looking in with a grimace.  We recoil in fear… a monster!  EEEEEEK!  

Having dirty windows makes the world seem like little more than a background to our ceaseless thinking; a blurry landscape that passes before our eyes as we focus on - most likely - our wrong perception of things. When we get up the courage to wipe the window clean, we see that in reality there is not a monster outside the window, but some saintly person (Erich used Jesus as an example, but you can insert whoever your idea of a peaceful, friendly, loving person or spiritual teacher may be).  Because our view was so warped, we actually saw this vision of peace as a something ugly and harmful: a monster!  

Erich says our practice gives us the tools of a handy dandy "mental squeegee" and spiritual Windex, and with practice, patience and compassion, we learn to first clean off the lense of the mind, then to keep it clean.

The Buddhists call this "Right View".  Right View supports wisdom, and they believe that the capacity to wake up and understand things as they are (washing our inner windows as it were), is present in each of us.  Thich Nhat Hanh writes: “Our happiness and the happiness of those around us depend on our degree of Right View. Touching reality deeply — knowing what is going on inside and outside of ourselves is the way to liberate ourselves from the suffering that is caused by wrong perceptions. Right View is not an ideology, a system, or even a path. It is the insight we have into the reality of life, a living insight that fills us with understanding, peace, and love.” (The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, page 51).

Imagine how living in the moment, without constantly evaluating, analyzing and being fearful, would change your perception of yourself and your life. To practice Right View takes courage.  We start by looking deeply at what is causing our windows to get so dirty. This takes patient exploration, asking ourselves the big questions and answering them honestly, such as: "Why does this person bring up anger in me?", "Why does this situation spark fear in me?", or "What makes me resist taking responsibility for ____?".   As perception arises we have to ask ourselves again and again, "Am I  sure?".  Until we see clearly, our wrong perceptions will prevent us from having Right View.  Right View is the big squeegee that clears the window of the mind, heart and spirit and allows us to live more peacefully.

We practice so that we can take back this moment.  Not just to experience it, but also to discover the reality of who we are.  What we begin to see as the windows get cleaned is that we are more than the thoughts and perceptions that bind us.  Until we clean the windows and observe the truest nature of things without opinion, we will not find ourselves as we were meant to be… compassionate, loving and kind. 

Grab your squeegee and a big ol' spray bottle of Windex and I'll see you on the other side of the window :)

Until next time...

"I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations."
(From The Five Mindfulness Trainings in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh)
perception |pərˈsep sh ən|nounthe ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through thesenses the normal limits to human perception.• the state of being or process of becoming aware of something in such a way the perception of pain.• a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression Hollywood's perception of the tastes of the American public we need to challenge many popular perceptions of old age.• intuitive understanding and insight “He wouldn't have accepted,” said my mother with unusual perception.
Halloween Playlist:The Shankill Butchers-The DecemberistEnter Sandman-The Buddha Lounge Ensemble Rama Lama-Sons and DaughtersHell-Squirrel Nut ZippersDevil's Haircut-BeckLittle Ghost-The White StripesLake of Fire-NirvanaPeople Are Strange-The DoorsI Put A Spell On You-Creedence Clearwater RevivalZombie-The Cranberries25 Minutes To Go-Johnny CashDevil Town-Bright EyesEvil-Howlin' WolfKarma Police-FlunkHouse of The Rising Sun-Cat PowerSkeletons (Acoustic)-Yeah Yeah Yeah'sWitch-BellyInto Dust-Mazzy StarShaman's Fire, Navel-Jonathan Goldman

No comments:

Post a Comment