The Source of Understanding

Path of Action: Day 35

The best way to challenge limiting patterns is to look at your experience for yourself, without judgments or preconceived concepts. Don’t make any commitments in advance. Don’t fixate on one particular understanding. Don’t try to ‘fix’ things, or to make any special effort or force any particular result.

Just look in a natural, relaxed way.

As you go about your work and your day, what are you thinking . . . feeling . . . sensing?

How does the self act and react?

What is your experience actually like?

These are not questions allowed for by the accepted patterns for using the mind. So we must be ready to clear the path of inquiry on our own.

For instance, we will have to investigate even the idea of observation. In the standard, accepted model observation is linked to a world divided into subject and object. The result is that we can observe objects, but we cannot observe the positions and activities of the subject. This means that our ability to see our selves in action is sharply limited.

Some traditional practices encourage a fairly rigid kind of observation and concentration. But when we cultivate understanding in daily life, a looser, more relaxed approach seems to work better.

This is the approach you can use when you work.

Every moment offers the opportunity for inquiry, for looking inward to see what is present in the mind and in experience. As you settle into your experience, the mind becomes grounded and stable. Even in the middle of hectic activity, you can observe the prevailing patterns in action. You can ask what thought and emotion really are. You can ask how ‘me’ and ‘I’ function.

This kind of observation is not an intellectual exercise. Analyzing conceptually what you experience or how your life is unfolding, can be a valuable practice from time to time. But at a certain point you must put analysis aside.

To think about something conceptually is like reaching out to take hold of an image reflected in water: the experience that was there the moment before vanishes. What is more, theories and ideas set the mind spinning, disrupting mental stability. Relaxed observation proceeds very differently. It is gentle and open, and it happens within experience, not outside it.


Path of Action, by Tarthang Tulku is an unpublished work. Please do not copy, remix or republish this post or any others in this series without express permission from Mandala Training.