Thursday, November 16, 2017

Eight remedial techniques.

The eight remedies are antidotes to the five flaws of meditation. 

Antidote to laziness
1.     Faith
Faith means to study and develop conviction in the teachings. This faith is based on reason and logic and our own experience of the Dharma.
2.     Intention
Intentions lead to mental actions, which eventually become habits. Be clear, be specific.
3.     Effort
Effort is the greatest predictor of progress in your practice. If it is difficult to develop a joyful effort towards practice, reexamine your faith and intention.
4.     Pliancy
Pliancy means that our mind and body become adaptable and dexterous. We become open to change, ready to change. Pliancy is like making friends with a horse and learning to ride it, at some point the horse becomes workable.

Antidote to forgetting the instructions
5.     Mindfulness
Mindfulness is strong and focused, it recalls our intention and the object of our meditation.

Antidote to dullness and agitation
6.     Vigilance
Vigilant awareness is sharp and clear. Vigilance is able to access the quality of our meditation, be aware of our mind, and notice problems as they start to come up. It notices agitation and dullness and can allow us to tighten up our mindfulness before we lose our focus.

Antidote to under-application
7.     Attention
Attention means that we recognize and respond to fault arising in our meditation. Vigilant awareness might notice dullness starting to creep into our meditation, but if we fail to pay attention that subtle dullness might turn into a lose of clarity or even gross dullness.

Antidote to over-application
8.     Equanimity
Equanimity is the mind resting naturally, free from agitation and dullness. It is a mind that is calm, clear and vibrant; like a calm lake during the daytime.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Five flaws of meditation.

There are five flaws (Tib. nyes pa lnga) of meditation that prevent us from developing a calm, clear mind.

1.     Laziness
Laziness is a flaw because it ensures that we don’t start. We may want to start a meditation practice, but when we try we run into the inertia of our own indolence. There are three types of laziness- lethargy, obsession with pointless activity, and discouragement.

2.     Forgetting the instructions
Forgetting the instructions means to not know the object of your meditation or how to meditate. We have sat down to meditate, but we have forgotten how to meditate properly.

3.     Dullness and Agitation
Dullness and agitation are the main problems that we experience during meditation.

4.     Under-application
Under-application means not correcting your meditation when you are aware of the faults of dullness or agitation. Failing to apply the remedy, our mind wanders and our meditation deteriorates.

5.     Over-application
Over-application means continuing to apply remedies when it is no longer necessary. When our minds are naturally resting on our object of meditation, we should not continue to manipulate or try to augment our meditation.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Training the Mind.

The fifth stage of the nine ways of resting the mind is called training the mind. When we have arrived at the completely settled state, our mindfulness can hold our object of meditation continuously without being distracted. We still notice thoughts, sounds and sensations arising in our peripheral awareness, but those appearances aren't strong enough to distract us from our focus.

In the fifth stage, we are primarily focused on overcoming subtle dullness in our meditation. As we are resting in the completely settled state, one of the errors that we can make is that we fall into a state of dullness or numbness. We might be focused on our object, but we've sunk into a mental state that is narrow and without clarity. We are focused on our object, but not really. There might even be the comfort and pleasure of a cozy, peaceful meditative state. We should recognize this error and try to prevent it.

The main goal of this state is to prevent that subtle dullness from overtaking our meditation. The way that we do this is to maintain and strengthen our vigilant awareness. As subtle dullness starts to set in, vigilance starts to collapse and weaken. Our alert awareness starts to shrink, to close in on itself. Everything starts to collapse onto our object of meditation, and we lose the vibrancy and alertness of vigilant awareness. We might maintain our attention on our object for a bit, but eventually this subtle dullness gives way to gross dullness or even sleep.

If we can catch vigilant awareness as it starts to weaken, we can make a correction and increase the intensity or the scope of awareness. We can expand our peripheral awareness, exert a little effort to make it more clear.

As we train our mind, we can eventually notice when subtle dullness is starting to creep in and make the necessary corrections to prevent it from arising at all. When we have eliminated subtle dullness, we move a little closer to resting in the single-pointed state.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Scientist, Philosopher and Artist.

The Scientist.
Scientists like to experiment. They like to figure out what is really going on, and then to look to discover solutions to problems. The scientist pursues knowledge, but she does so through experience, trial and error.

The Philosopher.
The philosopher likes to examine and question. They want to know what is true, what is deceptive, and how these views influence and shape our world. The philosopher examines the very nature of our being and what can be known about our world by relying on reason, logic and critical thinking.

The Artist.
The artist is concerned with connection, relationships and impact. The artist conveys the value aspect of her work, her work creates meaning. Meaning is created through connection, change and impact. If no connection is made, or if no one is impacted, then the artist's work is undone. The artist's medium is reality, people and the web in which we are all connected.

Each of these three archetypes play a role in our practice.

When we sit down to meditate, we should sit down as a scientist. Your mind is your lab, what are you trying to solve?

Once we gain stability in our meditation, we should become a philosopher. Look deeper into your experience. Examine the nature of your own mind and the nature of reality. What is the true nature of the mind? What can be known through your experience?

When we stand from meditation, we stand as an artist. Use your daily life and interactions as the medium to create art. Share kindness, generosity and compassion. Use your trade to impact your community, create change and shape the world.

Don't be attached to any one role. Don't get caught up in the result or effect of your work. Simply attend to the different roles as they arise. There is a time to be a experiment, a time to analyze, and yes, even a time to dance.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Shamatha and vipasyana.

Tibetan: zhi-nay
English: calm abiding, peacefully resting, resting in serenity

Tibetan: lha-thong
English: penetrative insight, clear seeing, higher perception

Meditation is the science of training the mind. It is a vehicle for awakening to our own true nature and the nature of reality. What we often call meditation can be categorized as two types of meditation, shamatha and vipasyana. Shamatha, or calm abiding, is the practice of bringing the mind to rest. The practice of shamatha involves choosing an intentional focus, whether it be the breath, an object, or even resting in the nature of mind.

The goal of the practice of shamatha is to cultivate an effortless, joyful, and peaceful equanimity that is accompanied by a very powerful and sharp mindfulness. When this mind that is resting in shamatha is combined with the practice of vipasyana, it can give rise to very clear and profound insights; insights into our own mind and the nature of the world in which we live.

We are all familiar with brief flashes of insight. We may be moving throughout our day and suddenly, catch a moment of clarity. These moments come and go, and they can fuel our well-being, joy and creativity. While we may have these insights frequently, they are often not transformative. The transformational power of the higher insights into the true nature of the mind and the nature of reality only occur when the mind is resting in shamatha.

The union of shamatha and vipasyana give rise to moments of awakening, as well as the final awakening to our true nature. These moments of awakening and higher perception are unpredictable and depend on certain conditions and the depth of your practice. The way that you can impact your chances of gaining these higher insights is to practice more.

Sit. Train your mind. Develop familiarity with bringing the mind to rest. Familiarize yourself with the stages of bringing the mind to rest, so that you can continuously and regularly rest in shamatha- a powerful mind that is joyful, effortlessly resting in peaceful equanimity. From this place of calm abiding, we can direct our discerning awareness to questions that explore the mind, our experience and the world around us.

Monday, October 23, 2017


Not much is sacred anymore.

Everyone appreciates values such as self-reliance, independence, hard work and kindness. We all value honesty, integrity and optimism, whether it is in our homes, at work or in our communities. As young adults we start to explore our values, what impact they have on our lives and which values we want to live by. Our values shift and change over time, depending on the shape of our lives and the relationships that we forge.

I was fortunate to encounter the Dharma when I was in my early twenties. During my formative years as an adult, I experienced and explored values such as honor, reverence and humility. I had the privilege of sitting at the feet of great spiritual teachers; teachers like my own root teacher Younge Khachab Rinpoche, the Dalai Lama, Kusum Lingpa and Lama Tharchin. I practiced a tradition that had a long lineage of reverence towards teachers like the Karmapa, Patrul Rinpoche, Longchen Rabjam, Padmasambhava and all the way back to the Buddha himself. I was able to explore what it meant to be humble in the presence of these teachers, but also recognize a powerful sense of self-worth and innate potential. 

Nowadays, everyone has the right to say what they want. Everyone can choose to have a voice. Everyone can choose to lay out a vision. No one wants to exclude anyone. No one is wrong. There is no authority to be found, authority is seen as anti-egalitarian.

When we don't honor anything then nothing is sacred. Without any sacred values in our life, there is no authority to be found. Without authority, we end up with chaos, indecisiveness, and a lack of action. Without honor, traditions wither and die, movements stagnate, and communities suffer.

Honor gives rise to other values. It gives birth to authentic reverence and humility, which themselves rely on values like integrity, determination, self-respect and service.

I'm glad to have honor as one of my core values. What, or who, do you honor?

Friday, October 20, 2017

Goals for the state of unification.

The state of unification has two main goals:
1. Recognize the error of subtle dullness.
2. Persevere in the practice until effortless mindfulness unfolds.

As we gain stability in the immovable state, our practice transitions to the state of unification. Now we have considerable stability in our meditation. We are no longer bound by fixation on appearances such as thoughts, sounds and sensations. We strive to remain in this uncontrived, open presence for as long as we can, but the practice still requires a degree of effort at this state to eliminate potential errors.

The biggest error at this state is to confuse resting in rigpa with resting in the alaya-vijnana, or the foundational consciousness. The alaya consciousness is the unconscious aspect of our mind, in which reside our habit patterns, memories, karmic imprints, and various unconscious sense perceptions and emotional and cognitive obscurations.

We can rest in the alaya consciousness, which has a knowing aspect, but lacks clarity and vividness. Resting in the alaya consciousness is often stable and free from thought, and may even have a pleasant, peaceful feeling. This can also be described as being similar to daydreaming, where you are awake, but not really, as the mind drifts in and out of various mental states. 

We should recognize these signs of subtle dullness in our meditation and make an effort to correct for them when we see them. As a precursor to these signs of subtle dullness, often we can notice vigilance starting to wane and lose its alertness. Oftentimes though, by the time we notice vigilant awareness waning we are already on the slippery slope of being caught up in subtle dullness. It may even be necessary to move around a little, refresh yourself and settle back into meditation.

Knowing the errors of subtle dullness in our meditation, we simply must persevere in our practice. During the state of unification, we will experience many states of bliss, clarity and non-conceptuality, as well as many sessions where nothing seems to be happening at all. Stick with the practice. Continue to apply effort and be diligent. Don't let doubt, uncertainty and boredom create rifts in your practice.

As you are able to sustain and deepen your practice of resting in the uncontrived, natural state, eventually the effort of mindfulness falls away and you enter the effortless state of equanimity- a vast, limpid ocean of awareness.