Monday, June 11, 2018

Unhappy mind.

A wandering mind is an unhappy mind.

Without a clear intention, the mind drifts endlessly. Mental states come and go, thoughts flow like an unending stream, pleasure and discomfort ornament our days.

A wandering mind is reactive, restless, easily hooked. Lacking clarity and awareness, insight fails to illuminate our own condition. Freedom to choose, to act, escapes us.

A wandering mind is not present. There are no lights on. No one to listen, no one to respond.

A wandering mind suffers a miserable existence. It longs for peace and contentment. It looks forward to the day that it feels vibrant and alert again.

A wandering mind longs to be a healthy mind. But to be healthy, you must train.

The main point is to do your practice. It takes work, but it is worth it.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Litmus test.

As our practice evolves we move through various periods of growth, learning and change. In the beginning, we don't notice much change. Our progress seems slow and inconsequential. We might feel that during our meditation we can maintain our focus and presence, but off the cushion we still feel swept away by circumstances.

In the middle of our practice, we see some change has occurred. We are more focused and less reactive. We are able to maintain a sense of openness and balance amidst difficult situations. We start to have more insights into our own situation and the world at large. We see and experience this change, but it also comes and goes. Some days we can maintain our equipoise and composure, some days we fall off the horse.

The end result of our practice is that we experience enduring and lasting changes to who we are and how we move through the world. We are able to navigate our daily lives with balance and openness. We enjoy lasting states of kindness, patience and ease. Our practice has fundamentally changed our life.

The litmus test of our practice is our daily life. The drama and tumult that we experience on a day to day basis is the very measure of our achievement.

Can we maintain our awareness and composure? Do we get swept away in our negative self-talk and emotions? Can we be present in the face of uncertainty? When presented with the opportunity to be generous and kind, do we share our gifts?

You are the practice. Every step is the way.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

No shortcuts.

There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going. 
Beverly Sills

The path to living a life of purpose and meaning often seems long and difficult. Many of us can see and feel the truth that is in our hearts, but the reality of our present situation obscures that truth and prevents us from fully enjoying it. We have this perpetual question that hangs out in our heads,  lingering in our life, waiting to for the right answer.

But there is no answer.

Your practice, call it spiritual practice, is to resolve this question in your life.

Can you get comfortable sitting with a question for which there is no answer?

How long are you willing to work on resolving this question in your heart and mind?

How hard will you work?

How much are you willing to sacrifice?

As with many things in life, your effort creates value. The more effort you put into your practice, the more meaning and purpose you will find. Mastery does not come easy, there are no shortcuts to a life of purpose and meaning. There is no hack, no app, no trick. Just effort.

If you want to live a life of purpose and meaning, you're going to have to do the work. Not work for work's sake, but the work of being more human and resolving the question of how to do that in your own life.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Pointing out.

Sitting here,
resting in the myriad display of appearances,
the unceasing luminosity of the ground
appears as the infinite play of dependent origination.
This energetic expression
points to the ground,
yet there is no ground.
Simply resting in complete openness,
utterly beyond all thought or description,
the unceasing dance of spontaneous presence
naturally unfolds,
revealing the single sphere of awareness
in which everything is inseparable-
kayas and wisdoms,
samsara and nirvana.
With nothing more to do,
and nothing to attain,
there is only the timeless freedom
of unborn bodhicitta.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Acknowledging our pain.

The first sermon that the Buddha gave upon his awakening was the teaching on the Four Noble Truths- the truth of suffering, its origin, cessation, and the path to eliminate suffering.

The path to awakening starts with acknowledging our pain and dissatisfaction.

Truth seems elusive these days. Everyone has their own version of the truth and there seems to be little accountability for upholding that which is true. What is truth and why is it significant?

Truth is that which is authentic and non-deceptive. To be a seeker of truth means that one pursues that which is authentic and to remember what it is that is important in life.

The truth of suffering wakes us up to what is important. The truth of suffering is a call to attention, a wake up call. By acknowledging the truth of suffering, we can discover a truth that we can live with and recall that which is meaningful. The outer drama of our suffering can awaken us from the sleep of ignorance, discovering our purpose and recalling what it is that is important and meaningful in our life.

Our symptoms, looking back, can reveal what it is that we have to do.

By denying or rejecting the truth of our own suffering, we close ourselves off to insight into our own condition. Rather than fixing our situation, we require and strive for everything else to be fixed. We fall prey to the preoccupations of our small self, trapped in a world of self-indulgence and a repetitive cycle of lies about who we are or who we pretend to be.

The opposite of living your inner truths isn't living falsely, it is living a lie. We deceive ourselves.

To awaken from the path of self-deception, first we must acknowledge the truth of our own suffering.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Our responsibility.

The Dharma is vast and profound. The impact that it can make on our mind and our heart is profound. It can literally shape our life, give it meaning and bring benefit to those around us.

But that Dharma is not best expressed in words and concepts. It is best expressed by the choices that we make and the way that we move through the world.

And that's our responsibility.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Mechanics of karma.

Karma is intention and that which is produced through intention.
Intention is mental action-
It gives rise to two types: physical and verbal action.
Vasubandhu

When we sit down to meditate we are directly working with our karma. Each meditation session, whether it involves meditation with an object or objectless meditation, must start with a clear intention. 

Suppose we were to meditate on the breath using a vague intention, "I'm going to meditate on the breath." If we set the intention to meditate on the breath, we would find that our focus might start with the breath at the nose, then drift to the breath filling our lungs, and continue to wander to the rise and fall of our belly. An unclear intention leads to mental wandering and distraction. If our intention is unclear, the actions that follow are sloppy. 
Vague intentions create careless actions, which perpetuate unforeseen karmic consequences.

In meditation, we have an opportunity to shape our karma and it starts with intention. 

Before, we were mindless, wandering and distracted. Now we are present, alert and aware. We are shaping our mind, like a potter working with clay. Who we are is not fixed. What we stand for, what we represent, all of that is malleable like a block of wet clay. We are able to change direction, shift our posture, plot a new course. 

And it all starts here, with a clear intention. 

Through intention, we plant the seeds of virtues like being present, mindful, open and aware. We can develop equanimity, peace and gentleness towards ourselves and others. We can be more caring, generous and kind.

While we are operating within the confines of mind, we must work with karma. That starts by working with intention.