Ajahn Sumedho on being with Ajahn Chah: “I found him very much like a mirror that would reflect my state of mind. He always seemed to be completely present. I’d get carried away with my thoughts and emotions, and then suddenly discover that just being around him meant I could let go; I could drop what I was holding on to without even telling him. His presence helped me to see what I was doing and what I was holding.” [underline added] (from a published talk, “Gratitude for Luang Por Chah”)
This passage has stuck in my mind for weeks. It could be a description of my recent experience spending several days in the presence of Ajahn Sumedho. For me, it was like floating on an ocean of awareness and acceptance. Mindfulness seemed effortless. Things that didn’t go as expected were seen and acknowledged without resistance. I think of Ajahn Sumedho as my big brother on the path.
Others can perform the same function, usually less dramatically. There is a local monk (in Brisbane for now) whose imperturbability is inspiring. He listens thoroughly and responds to questions of all sorts with wisdom. When leaving his presence, I often feel as if I’d been cleansed of some unnecessary detritus (views and opinions, most likely).
There are many friends, followers of the Buddha’s teachings and not, who also serve in this role, who show me a better way by their behavior and words. When we think of sorting our friendships into wholesome and unwholesome, we can look for this subtle effect. Is there a little more clarity? Or less? Sometimes just being in presence of human acceptance (could also be called non-sticky love) is enough to refresh us.
And how do we affect others? Do we get them stirred up and agitated? Or are they more reflective than when we came together? Do we take people as they are? Accept them in whatever state they come, listen deeply and help them to know their own mind? Or do we approach people with our own agenda – what we want from them or how we want them to behave?
Sometimes I’m the big sister, sometimes the little sister, and sometimes there’s no connection at all.
Many friendships are characterized by reciprocity; we lean on and support each other by turns. We can be mirrors to each other; we can help each other see what we’re holding on to with such clarity that we naturally let go.