Thursday, January 11, 2018

This is the practice.

This morning as I was in the midst of doing a hundred prostrations as part of our 100 day practice intensive, the thought occurred to me, "I should stop and just meditate."

Which was followed by, "This is the practice."

There was so much freedom in that realization. I was no longer pushing myself to finish my prostrations, no longer worried about doing other 'more important' practices.

I simply did prostrations.

I laid my own body, speech and mind down again and again. Offered my own body, speech and mind as the basis for the practice to unfold, the basis for achieving liberation, and the basis for bringing benefit to others.

Namo Manjushri. Namo Sushri. Namo Uttamshri, Soha.

Namo Manjushri: I prostrate to the ever-youthful, awakened body.
Namo Sushri: I prostrate to glorious, virtuous speech.
Namo Uttamshri: I prostrate to authentic, awakened mind.
Soha: So it is. 

Our practice is embodied. It isn't just the meditation cushion, everything is included. Even the struggle.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Contributor.

Don't worry about what you can accomplish.

Don't worry about your status, or your role, or how this next thing is going to get you ahead of where you currently are. Don't worry about the results, the strategies or the tactics. 

Are you a contributor?

It's a simple question.

What can you do, right now, to contribute? It doesn't have to be amazing. It doesn't even have to be noticed. It won't be your last contribution, and it won't even be your best.

Notice the posture that this question begs. You either contribute, or you don't. You are either engaged, or not. There is no value assessment to the result of the contribution. What you contribute isn't even in the question.

When you make up your mind that you are a contributor, everything changes. Your intentions and actions naturally lend themselves to abundance and generosity. Your interactions and relationships change and enter into realms of possibility. You might even discover an inner sense of joy and contentment.

You don't need to contribute to everything, but figure out those couple of things that are really important in your life. Then ask yourself if you are being a contributor, and choose to take generosity as your compass.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Cut the bale.

You are all bound up.

You have projects and to dos and more than you can deal with. You know this isn't your natural condition, this isn't who you were meant to be or even the posture that you want to embody. You know all this to be true, but you don't know the alternative. You don't know how to solve the riddle. There isn't a readily available answer.

When you cut a bale of hay, the hay has no intention in how it is going to open up and land. It just does. You simply cut the bale, and it settles into its own place.

The bale finds its natural place of rest.

What would happen if you simply let go and found your natural state of rest? You don't know what it is going to look like. You don't have a clear picture of how you will land.

But you will. You'll land. You'll discover a new ground, and maybe a new way to sit or stand. Maybe even a new way to dance.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Siddhearta's Essence of 2017.

2017 was a very challenging year for most of us. There has been a lot of baseline anxiety, tension and frustration with our outer world and the perceived trajectory that we are all on. I really decided to focus a lot of my time and energy to meditation and teaching various courses for Younge Drodul Ling that were practice focused and useful. During much of the past six months, my writing has been mixed with my contemplation for these courses, which I have organized as a two part series on Bringing the Mind to Rest. These are in no way complete or comprehensive, but have been useful for me as I have been teaching those courses to other students. I hope you will enjoy reading through them on your own time.

Bringing the Mind to Rest series and other selected works.

I appreciate all of your support over this past year. I know it is easy to get sucked into the media these days, so thank you for choosing to take a moment to spend your time with me, listening to me, sitting with me, and hopefully using a tiny bit here and there to connect back to your own life and practice. Our practice is most important during times of change and uncertainty, continue to nurture and use it.

Here is an overview of the top posts from 2017, in no particular order.

Endless iterations. 
Reverence. 
Feeling Stuck. 
Complexity, simplified.
Barchay. 
Buddha heart.
Lit up. 
Unpaid debt.
Dharma. 
Idolatry. 
Feeding concepts.
Born free.
Say yes.
Different emanations.
I hope. 
Honor.
Buddha eye. 

I wish you all a wonderful New Year!
May you enjoy health and a peaceful mind!
May you focus on your practice,
generously share love and kindness,
and may you accomplish the aims of yourself and others!

Friday, December 29, 2017

The garden you tend to most.

By tending to others and the world around us, we tend to ourselves.

Our conception of who we are is quite limited and limiting. We conceive of ourselves as our bodies, our feelings and perceptions, our thoughts, beliefs and positions. We often feel separate from others, segregated to a lonely and isolated existence. We have a deep yearning for connection with nature and contact with others. Most of us can intuit that our conception of who we are is limiting. We feel that bondage.

The Buddha taught that the examination of the self begins with examining the five skandhas. The self is composed of these five skandhas, and by examining the five skandhas we can arrive at the wisdom of selflessness.

The first of the skandhas is the rupa skandha, or aggregate of form. The rupa skandha refers to not only our own physical form, but more generally to everything that we can see, hear, smell, taste or touch. All matter is rupa skandha. Our environment and all beings, the entire universe, all that appears and exists is rupa skandha, our aggregate of form.

Our own body is the result of our past actions, and thus the most karmically significant rupa skandha based on our past experience. Our own physical body is the garden that we tend to daily, that we look after the most and identify with. But our rupa skandha is not only our physical body, it is also the environment and world around us.

Start seeing all form as your form. Start seeing your 'self' as your setting, your neighborhood, your world. When we appreciate our rupa skandha in this way, we want to take good care not only of our own body, but the environment and beings around us.

Start by tending to your own physical body with gentleness, attentiveness and kindness. Extend that to your neighborhood and community. Extend that to the whole world.

Let your gentleness, attentiveness and kindness spread.

By tending to others and the world around us, we tend to ourselves.


Friday, December 22, 2017

Rest, newly found.

We all need a break. We all appreciate downtime and a chance to unplug and relax. The constancy of our lives can be exhausting. We are all weary travelers in search of a place to rest and refresh.

Normally, we conceive of rest as going on a vacation, enjoying a free weekend, maybe a nice mountain cottage or beach getaway. Rest is often sought outside of us.

When we talk about bringing the mind to rest, we are learning to rest in a new way. In meditation we are learning to rest in our own nature, the nature of our mind and the nature of reality. This type of rest definitely involves turning inwards, but it also involves opening up. Resting in this way, we first appreciate the natural peace, joy and fullness of our own nature. Gradually, layer after layer of our own projection and protection start unfold and release, revealing more openness, contentment and well-being. 

This type of rest is entirely remote to us, yet is always accessible. We don't need to travel to far off or exotic regions, we don't need to plan for an extensive leave or gather all kinds of right circumstances. We simply need to sit.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The problem with a guide.

Guides are important.

Say it is your first time in New York. Any city can be overwhelming and intimidating on your first trip, even more so a city that is as complex and fast paced as NYC. You have to learn the local transportation systems, navigate different neighborhoods and learn to deal with the local culture. A guide can simplify that first encounter. They can tell you where to go, and what to avoid. They can give you helpful tips and highlight important details that might otherwise be overlooked. They can remove a lot of the stress and uncertainty in that initial visit.

The problem with a guide is that you are experiencing the city through their lens. If they are really into the local history, you will hear a lot about that history. If they are into art, they will draw your attention to art in the city. Their experience will color and shape your experience.

When traveling, this might be just fine. During guided meditation, it is important that you recognize this important flaw.

When you are just getting started with meditation, having a guide walk you through might be really helpful. They will drop important reminders, show you where people often go astray. They'll remind you to come back, again and again.

But if someone is always guiding you, your mind is simply following along. It is being led and you are having a conditional experience.

Once you know the basics of what meditation is and how to apply the various instructions, you need to go out on your own. You need to get lost in the woods and try to figure out a way back home. You need to encounter your own doubt, fear and uncertainty about the process. When you do this, you will encounter all kinds of other challenges and questions. Bring those questions back to your guide, and then you will also discover the importance of finding an excellent guide on the path.