What does it mean to be open & turn towards our experience?

Lama Shenpen Hookham UK Female Buddhist teacher
“Being open means to question all such assumptions and to face situations with freshness and honesty…”

“Trying to be more open means adopting a particular attitude which could be called turning towards experience. This means giving whatever experience that arises sufficient space to be fully aware of it.

Sometimes we are not even aware that we are turning away from certain experiences, because rather than shrinking away and trying to hide or deny them, we simply fill up space. In other words, we do not allow any space in which awkward or painful experiences might manifest.

It is as if we instinctively know that we cannot control Openness and spaciousness, so we fill any situation where there seems to be too much space with distracting activity, physical, verbal or mental.

Turning towards means cutting through all this and allowing there to be space. In this way, we gradually learn the meaning and significance of grasping, attachment, aversion and so on.

We learn to recognise areas of our experience where unquestioned assumptions allow us to dull out and not experience things fully. It is only when we experience things fully that we can really begin to let them go.

Trying to be open means, in effect, to interrupt our volitional habit of shutting off awareness and sensitivity. Although we are scarcely aware of it, we are constantly choosing to remain in a closed, unawakened state. Trying to be open means going against the grain.

Often our lack of Openness at an ordinary level is caused by our making assumptions about things that we are not prepared to question seriously. This is very obvious in gross forms of racism or chauvinism. One assumes that one’s own kind are better than the rest and expects other groups to conform to one’s stereotype.

Being open means to question all our assumptions and to face situations with freshness and honesty. Often we know much less about others than we tend to assume. Being open means to take a genuine interest in finding things out for ourselves. This quality is absolutely essential for developing greater clarity and awareness and for following the path to awakening.”

Lama Shenpen Hookham

This is a short extract from the Openness course book of the Discovering the Heart of Buddhism course, part of Lama Shenpen Hookham’s Living the Awakened Heart Training. The course books contains teachings and exercises for exploring your own experience through questioning and reflection in meditation and daily life practice.

The Living the Awakened Heart Training is a structured, comprehensive, supported, distance learning programme in Buddhist meditation, reflection and insight. The training, which is open to all, brings the profound Dzogchen and Mahamudra teachings to a Western audience in an experiential, accessible way, through spiral learning. Find out more and how to join at www.ahs.org.uk/training

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