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We Are All Baby Ducks

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Here is an excerpt from Nirmala's newest book, Living from the Heart. You can download this book for free on the free ebooks page or purchase a paperback copy in our online bookstore.

Realizing your true nature as awareness would be incredibly simple except for one thing: This awareness that you are can be shaped. Just like water takes on the shape of the container you pour it into, this awareness that you are is shaped by your thoughts, feelings, desires, hopes, dreams, worries, sensations, and experiences. It is shaped by everything that happens. Sometimes this shaping is so strong that it seems the awareness has gotten very small and that you have gotten very small. This is not really a problem as the awareness itself is not harmed and it can always expand again.

This awareness is not only temporarily shaped by experience, but can become imprinted onto an experience or an object in awareness. You may have heard of how baby ducks become imprinted in the first few hours of their lives: They will follow whatever or whomever they are first aware of, usually the mother duck. However, they can also be imprinted on anything, including a scientist who is studying them, in which case, they will follow the scientist around.

There is nothing wrong with this; it helps baby ducks survive in the wild to follow their mother wherever she goes. It is an inherent capacity of all awareness to become imprinted, or conditioned, in this way. Every time an experience leaves a lasting impression in your awareness, you have been imprinted or conditioned by that experience...


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Gratitude is usually suggested as a well meaning prescription. We are told to be grateful for what we have, or to show some gratitude. And yet it is difficult to feel something you are told to feel, even if it would feel better than what you are feeling. But what if gratitude is a description of your deeper nature? What if deep within you already feel gratitude?

Awareness is full of gratitude. It loves the sensations, experiences and thought forms that it touches in each moment. There is a natural appreciation for all that exists in awareness itself. It can't help itself, because on the deepest level awareness recognizes everything it touches as its own self. There is only awareness and so that is what it experiences in every moment, and that is what it is grateful for.

And yet that is not our conscious experience in many if not most moments. It seems like much of what awareness touches is not something we appreciate or are grateful for. What about our problems and our painful experiences? It can seem ridiculous to suggest that we are full of gratitude for those, when we are rejecting them.

The key to finding this deeper level where gratitude flows so freely is very simple. It only requires that you notice the gratitude you do feel in this very moment. And when you are rejecting or resisting a problem or painful experience, what you are grateful for is the capacity to reject or resist. Even in a moment of active opposition to some aspect of our experience, we are not usually also in active opposition to our own opposition. We are actually happy to be so upset about our situation, as we have been taught to believe that this upset will help us feel motivated to deal with or change the problem...

The Endless To-Do List in the Mind

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(This blog post has been translated into Portuguese here.)

The mind has a tendency to label everything as bad or a problem. If we wake up stiff in the morning, the mind calls that bad and then worries about getting older. If we find out we are being let go at our job, the mind immediately assumes the worst and again worries about the future. Even if something good happens, the mind then sees the possible downside or worries about losing what it has just gained.

The mind sees its job as rejecting the now in order to bring about a better future. Its logic is that if we are happy now, then we won't do anything to make things better. So, we need to find out what is wrong with now so that we can figure out what to do to fix or improve it. This keeps the mind very busy and leaves us with an ongoing sense of incompleteness and lack. There is always something in the now that can be labeled as bad, and then there is more to figure out and do something about. As a result, we have an ever-expanding "to-do" list in our minds. With this tendency to find something wrong with the mind's picture of the now, we are constantly creating more to do. We may feel the need to improve our diet, our appearance, our finances, our health, our relationships, our career, and even more immediately, we may feel the need to change how we feel emotionally or physically whenever a strong feeling or sensation occurs.

Even spiritually, we continue this tendency to find fault with our present moment experience and then try to figure out what to do about it. We are not aware or awake enough. We are too judgmental. We have not experienced the deepest truth yet. And all of that just adds to our spiritual "to-do" list. Spiritual teachings are mostly descriptions of what is already true about our deepest nature, and yet spiritual seekers want to turn them into prescriptions for what they can do to achieve a deeper, better reality. We often aren't looking for the truth as much as we want a better and more spiritual "to-do" list. Even if we are told that awareness is all there is, and life is already loving and perfect, we immediately want a list of steps to take so that we will feel that way more often in the future...