with Eric Swanson
We're reading Tsoknyi Rinpoche's Open Heart, Open Mind at the Tricycle Book Club. Pick up a copy and join the discussion below. In the following co-author Eric Swanson introduces the book and gives us some ideas to chew on for the discussion.
From the moment we wake up in the morning to the moment we fall into exhausted sleep, most of us are confronted with so many challenges: social, psychological, ecological, and economic. Given the current troubles of the world economy, the harmful effects of global climate change, the occurrence of natural disasters and epidemic illnesses, and the persistence of acts of violence by individuals and groups, the world in which we find ourselves can seem like a ticking time bomb, moments away from exploding.
Our interior lives, meanwhile, mirror the various dysfunctions of the external world. We’ve become experts at multitasking the possibilities of disaster. Our minds work like perpetual news channels, complete with big windows showing the main story of the moment, side windows showing stock and weather reports, and “crawlers” providing the latest, often sensational updates.
Or is it the other way around? Could the trauma evident on the world stage reflect a fractured internal image—a conflict between our longing for well-being and the fear, loneliness, and despair we acquire when someone or some situation inflicts a wound upon our hearts that seems impossible to heal?
As human beings, we find ourselves in an uncomfortable position of balancing thoughts, feelings, and actions over which we can acknowledge some conscious control, and mental, emotional, and behavioral habits formed by factors beyond conscious awareness. For many of us this discomfort feels as though we’re living a double life. A shadow seems to stalk us, a self behind the personality we consciously acknowledge and present to the world. Identifying and coming to terms with this shadow, for most of us, can be an unsettling experience.
But the process does have its upside. A shadow is projected by some source of light, and by recognizing and acknowledging our shadow selves we can begin to trace a path toward the light. Discovering this light is a gradual and deeply personal process through which we begin to see the causes and consequences of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors more brightly and vividly than we might previously have done.
On tricycle.com we’ll explore some of the ways through which we can rekindle the light of our essential nature, particularly through learning to open our hearts and our minds. The ideas and exercises introduced here are adapted from Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s new book, Open Heart, Open Mind: Awakening The Power of Essence Love, published recently by Harmony Books. This book evolved primarily through many hours of private conversation with Rinpoche, and it’s my pleasure to share some of the insights that arose from our discussions. Please join me on this journey of discovery, and write in during the week to tell us how it’s going!
Eric Swanson is co-author of Open Heart, Open Mind. A graduate of Yale University and the Julliard School, he is the author of several works of fiction and nonfiction.