[Thomas McConkie, Mindfulness Teacher]
Hello, and welcome to another episode of Mindfulness+. I'm your host, Thomas McConkie. Thank you so much for listening today. The theme of practice for this episode is a little something I call building heaven. What does that mean? Well, something I like to do, I found this to be really helpful in teaching in general but in teaching mindfulness specifically, I like a good metaphor. I like a good analogy. And I like to relate it back to something we're doing in the practice. And again, I don't think we can say it enough, what are we doing in the practice? What is a mindfulness practice? A mindfulness practice is paying attention in a particular way. We're doing it with intention. We're holding our awareness at a higher pitch, a higher octave. And when we do this life presents itself to us differently. We notice possibilities we wouldn't have noticed before. Things work better. That's an understatement, but, it's brief, it's concise. Things work better when we're mindful. So what is this about building heaven? So I was talking to a friend who lives in Europe, and we were talking about, I don't even remember what we were talking about. But he brought up this kind of fascinating point, that back in the day, we were talking like medieval Europe. That you could be born in a town in medieval Europe where the local Bishop had decided to build a cathedral. Let's take an iconic, well known cathedral here. Let's talk about the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. So the cornerstone, I think they made the decision to build this cathedral to top all cathedrals, around the year 1160. And by the year 1163 AD, Pope Alexander III is laying the first foundational stone. So, let's say you're born in Paris in the year 1150, few years before they get going on the cathedral. And then let's say you're an impressionable young teenager about 13 years old, when the first foundation stone is laid. And let's say, you know, you're feeling the buzz, the excitement in town. Wow, this cathedral's going up. Remember cathedrals were a big deal back in 1150, 1160. You might not be excited about churches and cathedrals now, but that was like the latest version of the iPhone coming out. There is the biggest show in town. So, okay, I digress. We're building this cathedral and you're feeling the buzz, you're feeling the energy of the town and something in your heart says, I want in on this, I wanna be a part of this. So you decide then and there, I am going to become a mason. I'm gonna become a carpenter. I'm gonna become a glass maker, a painter, anything that would allow you to contribute to the construction of this grand cathedral. Let's say you apprentice yourself to a stone mason and you're precocious, and you pick up the guild, the craft very well. By the time you're 30 years old, so where are we here? It's 11, the year 1180. You participate directly in laying your first stone. And it's your job to lay a certain number of stones in the building of this cathedral. People didn't live as long back then but let's say you had a ripe life. You lived, I don't know, 60, 65 years. I don't know if that's long back then but let's say it's a good ripe life. You die in the year 1215. You were born, there was all this buzz in town about this cathedral going up. You decided to dedicate your life to the building of this cathedral. You give everything, you have your whole career to learning how to chisel the stone just so, and consecrate it to the purpose of building this holy monument. And you die, and it's the year 1215. And this cathedral's not gonna be finished for another 140 years or so. This is what we were talking about, my friend and I, where I just paused there for a moment like, yeah, we're involved in this project, this building and we're never gonna see the end of it. We give our whole life to it and we don't even come close to seeing the final construction. And then it dawned on me that this is actually not so different than what we're all involved in right now in this year of our Lord, 2022. What do I mean by that? When talking about mindfulness practice here, and you've heard me talk about this in different ways in different episodes. Really, I'm saying the same thing over and over and over and over. There's only one episode, there's only one teaching but that's another episode. I'm saying the same thing over, which is, in a sense, every single moment of your life, every moment of your existence, you have the possibility, the opportunity of bringing your highest awareness to it and responding in a mindful way. In an open hearted way, in a way that's full of wisdom and compassion or not. When we respond to a single moment in life with let's say a quality of anger or jealousy, or blame, or impatience or aggression, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. That is our product. That is our stone. That is our woodwork, that is our painting. That is our stained glass. On a subtle level, the love we make available here is made available everywhere. The anger, resistance, blame, et cetera, that we muster up to respond in a moment is also made available everywhere. It's our product, it's our craft. In a sense, it's a metaphor. But in a sense, as a human family we're building something grand. On a concrete level, yeah, we're building skyscrapers and sending people to Mars and all that wacky stuff these days. But it's the subtle world I'm interested in in this episode. What are we building on the subtle plane of the human family? Are we generating and emitting enmity or rancor into the atmosphere, or humility, patience, forgiveness. This is intriguing to me. We are involved in a kind of subtle construction project that started well before we were born, and will be going on long after we give up this physical form. And it was these words that my friend spoke as we were meditating on this, as we were being meditated by this sense of sweeping and deep time. We're actually a part of something that started long before the individual self started. We were talking about building heaven and my friend said, "We're always building it. "It will never be done." We're always building it, it will never be done. Moment to moment, every response you have to life is a response of a certain quality, wisdom, compassion, patience, humility, forgiveness, love, hope, charity, you name it. All of the virtues that this practice helps to cultivate and bring forth. This is the sacred structure, we're always building or not. The opposite response. Something like, fill in the blank, despair, cynicism, distrust, loathing. Enough of that. You get the idea. I'm totally intrigued by this metaphor. I think back to, I imagine what it would've been like to be in Paris or any town in that part of the world during those ages, where the most important thing you could possibly do was build a house to the God that you worshiped. And you were never going to see it finished. And here we are in this day and age, it's not the same religious metaphor. We're building something. We don't get to see the finished product but we do absolutely get to see, feel, experience, enjoy the quality of our craft moment to moment. And I have no doubt having been at this practice many years. I have no doubt that the quality of our presence, the quality of our awareness does not end with us but it becomes a good, it becomes a public good for all to enjoy across the ages. So here we are, let us build. So what are the qualities we're cultivating when we do this practice. The very qualities that are our product, our offering, to the great project that is ongoing with no beginning and no end. We're always building, it will never be done. And it is a joy to build. What are the qualities? When we practice mindfulness we bring a great sense of openness. The sense gates are open. We're intending to let go of the struggle with reality. We let our experience be as it is. Sit with us for a moment. Letting the body be as it is, sensation, the heart, all of feeling, mind. Sit with this intention to be totally open to experience as it is in this moment. Not that you're not going to do anything about objective conditions in the world, there is a time for that. But if we are at struggle with ourselves at the deepest level, our actions will be ineffective. Not just openness, but also a sense of clarity, sense of precision. Appreciative awareness for what's coming up moment to moment. Sensation. Feel the texture, the granularity of sensation. What a great gift to feel it all. Not a sound. The content of hearing in this moment. Appreciating all the sensory detail, the world of sound. Seeing. Our sense gate of seeing give shape to the light, shape and form. Don't worry about what you are seeing in this moment. Just deeply appreciate that you are seeing, seeing is happening. What an improbable thing that we should see anything at all, and yet we see, and we hear and we feel. The world of senses in a profusion of activity erupts moment to moment, and we're sensitive to it. We're awake to it, alive to it. We're clear. So we're open, we're clear. Another quality we bring to the work this never ending building of whatever mystery it is that we're building and contributing to, the quality of love. I'm not talking about love at the level of personality. These personalities, I love this, I don't love that. I love this person, I don't know that person. There's a personality we love and we hate, we're trapped by the opposites. But beneath the play of opposite, something deeper is happening. This deeper love is the very substance of what we are. It is the recognition that we are one with that which we're experiencing. Like waves rising and falling on the surface of the ocean, some part of me knows, some part of me intuits that I'm not separate from what I see, hear, and feel. I'm seamlessly a part of this field. I'm not even a part of it, a part implies difference. I'm a wave in this field of infinite waves. Let your awareness, let your attention drop down into the heart. So you're not dividing things with the mind by concepts. Just feel the warm resonance of the heart. Same resonance of the heart is the same resonance of all things. The universal hymn. Let your heart just resonate and sound in this grand symphony. This is your product, the stone you place in the temple wall, the stained glass that you paint and design so meticulously with the decades. The love in your heart, your openness of the senses to just be immersed in this dazzling immediacy of sensory experience. Trust in this moment that the way you meet this moment is a contribution to you don't know what. A great mystery, but qualities that will be felt across the eons somehow. Every moment you are receiving the waves of influence from all of creation, and offering your own unique waves of influence to all of creation. Giving and receiving, one and the same movement. This holy place, we are always building it. It will never be done. Oh, yeah. I feel deep gratitude to be in this work with you all. To be a human family, to share a planet together. Maybe I haven't met you, maybe, I don't know you personally, but in this very moment, I do feel the waves of your influence. This is Mindfulness+. We'll be back with more next week.