Wednesday, December 12, 2018

An important life lesson.

The question of where to start is ever more challenging today. We live in a world where climate change is out of control, where we face tremendous ideological divides, and our society is plagued by anxiety, despair and addiction. None of the problems that we face are easy. None of them have a clear starting point.

There is an important lesson that we are trying to learn in life. It is a hard fought lesson and one that we should teach our children as they move out into the world:

The world is more free when we are free in it. 

As we transform ourselves, we transform the world. As we learn to resolve our own limiting fear, uncertainty and doubt, we learn to participate and contribute to the well being of the community around us. As we learn to work with our own tight knots of attachment, aversion and ignorance, we also learn how to be more present, understanding and kind in the world. 

The individual and collective are inseparable. We are the culture. Know that each of us has this capacity to wake up to a deeper sense of self and that doing so benefits not only ourselves, but the whole world. Knowing this shifts our posture. It changes who we are and how we move through the world. It shapes our values and our choices. 

In times like these when all seems lost, perhaps the greatest gift we can share with the world is to be more true to who we are and our unique way of seeing the world. There is so much to be done to solve the problems of our times. The solution that we need isn't going to come from rushing headlong into the wasteland and hoping for the best. The solution starts by being committed to the inner work of freeing our own heart and mind. 

Freeing ourselves from our own inner constraints, we are more freely available to share the naturally present abundance that is the ground of our being.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The opposite of awareness.

Tibetan: ma-rigpa
English: ignorance, confusion, unaware, diminished presence, absent-presence (like you are here, but not really)

Dzogchen takes awareness (Tib: rigpa) as the path and that awareness takes the form of pure presence. It is a way of being in which we are open, receptive and dynamic. An excellent metaphor for this presence of awareness is dancing, in which we are responsive and in union with the arising of experience around us.

It can often be difficult to recognize that awareness since it is utterly beyond description and is groundless in nature. There is nothing to hold onto, and so we can never be quite too sure that we got it, or get it. Doubt can creep into our minds about if we are "doing it right."

We can be sure that if we are trying to do it right, or struggling to embody what we think of as 'presence', then we are still a bit mistaken and haven't quite grasped the key point. We cannot contrive or fabricate a state of presence.

It is often much easier to recognize when we aren't embodying open presence. The state of unawareness (Tib. ma-rigpa) is where we usually live out the course of our lives. The state of confusion about who we are and the nature of the world around us. This usual sense of diminished awareness, or stupor, or malaise that we carry through our days. I often find myself reaching for another cup of coffee to "turn up the lights" of my dullness and malaise.

We can easily recognize this state of diminished awareness. It is the struggle to break out, to break free, to move beyond ourselves and the imposed limits of our narrow mind. Do you ever get that feeling that you need to get out of your own way, but this heaviness inside keeps holding you back? Like you just can't muster up enough gumption to actually be present and responsive. I do.

Recognize these moments of malaise, hesitation and doubt. Recognize the holding back and the holding on to whatever is coming up in your experience. Recognize them for what they are- the state of confusion in which our presence in the world is diminished. We cannot be fully present when we continually give in to this inner struggle that is playing out in our hearts and minds.

When we recognize these moments, we need to follow the meditation instructions:

"Let go. Let it be as it is."

There is a gap that opens up. A gap between the moment of confusion and the awareness that recognized that confusion. In that gap is the state of pure open presence. Recognize the nature of your own awareness in that gap. Recognize the state of uncontrived, pure presence free from the confines of mind or mental states. It is in that moment that we can recognize the buddha within, our own buddhanature or buddha heart. 

It is in that moment that we abide in the world in a deeper way, and can discover the resources and utility to participate and contribute meaningfully to the world around us. It is in that moment that we discover that we have enough and that we are sufficient just as we are. In that moment, there is nothing to be added or taken away, nothing to accomplish and nothing to overcome, and so it is called the natural great perfection, Dzogchen.

Of course,

the story does not stop there.
The world keeps turning, and we must keep dancing.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Upcoming Meditation Workshop

You are invited to the following event:  

Event to be held at the following time, date, and location:
Sunday, December 9, 2018 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM (PST)
Wise Orchid Taijiquan & Qigong
2002 East Union Street
Seattle, WA 98122

View Map
Join us for a weekend workshop on the foundations of the Dzogchen view and meditation. Dzogchen, or the Great Perfection, is the heart essence of all of the Buddha's teachings. These teachings reveal our own innate buddhanature in a simple but direct way.
  • Be introduced to the unique Dzogchen view
  • Learn how to recognize and rest in the nature of mind
  • Learn how the practice of resting unfolds to reveal awareness
  • Understand how we stray in the practice and how to eliminate errors in our meditation
See you on the cushion!


Friday, December 7, 2018

The wasteland.

Charnel grounds are a recurring theme and symbol that appear in many of the stories of meditation masters and great teachers of the past. It is said that great masters like Garab Dorje, Shri Singha and Padmasambhava all spent many years in charnel grounds after the nature of their own mind was revealed to them.

The charnel ground represents the wasteland that is the final result of this human life. The presence of death and loss cannot be overlooked or hidden. No matter how beautiful or meaningful the work that we have done in this life, no matter how much we have cherished our loved ones, all of us must go through this devastation and loss. The charnel ground also directly challenges this notion of the ego, the importance that we place on who we are and what we do.

The best solution to being in the charnel ground seems to be to get out of it. We want to get away and hide the whole thing. If we don't look at it and don't get too close, maybe it's not going to be there to torment us. Yet the actual solution comes from living fully in the charnel ground and using the resourcefulness of our own practice to dance with whatever is coming up in our experience.

You can be sure that when you feel like everything is falling apart and your world is turning into a charnel ground, you are being called to a deeper presence in the world.

Recognize that moment. Rediscover the ground of your renewal and resilience. That is the essential if you are to learn how to find complete resolution while living in the charnel ground. When you learn to skillfully work with the intense appearances of the charnel ground, you will find that it has become a pure land in which you can manifest your activity and accomplish your aims. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


Many of us feel stuck in our life or in our situation. Day after day we travel on well-worn tracks of habitual routines. Changing directions or charting a new course seems like a remote possibility.

Most of our days we are simply going through the motions, moving from one task to the next. We have to get from point A to point B and we hustle to get there on time. Along the way we are bombarded with news and information, consuming a never ending stream of entertainment. The effort to remain present and aware can be daunting, as our minds are habituated to following after the shiniest and most colorful objects.

When those very same wandering and distracted hearts and minds catch a moment of presence, a world of possibility opens up. Our world opens up to wonder and awe, and we enjoy a greater sense of well-being. In those moments, we may realize that we don't need to recreate our life anew, but that we can meaningfully participate in and create this very life as it continues to unfold before us.

The challenge then, is how to we catch those moments of presence? What signs or indications can we rely on?

Notice when you are feeling stuck. Notice when you are hiding, or scared, or hesitating. Notice when you are anxious or stressed. Those are the signs to look for on the road. When you see the signs, look for the Buddha within.

"Go to the places that scare you. 
In haunted places, seek the Buddha within yourself."
Padampa Sangye's advice to Machig Labdron

Monday, December 3, 2018

"Adversity reveals genius."

Adversity reveals genius, prosperity conceals it.

The question is not whether you have this potential. The question is whether or not at this moment, at this time and in this place, you will do the emotionally heavy labor of being present, understanding and generous. 

Each of us participates and contributes to the world around us in some way. We can choose how we want to contribute. We can choose to be patient, kind and generous.  We can choose empathy and compassion over anger and disrespect. 

Following through on that choice is not always easy.

When we come face to face with adversity- the resistance of shutting down, tuning out, hesitating- we have an opportunity to recognize that moment and rely on the crucial instructions of the practice.

The genius that is revealed is not related to our innate abilities or talents. It is not the result of our actions or work. This genius refers to a deeper presence in the world. It is a way of being in the world and contributing to the world.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Answering the call.

There is something inside of each of us that is calling for us to be more deeply present in the world, to participate and contribute to the world in some way. Answering that call opens the doorway to the path.

When we feel called to step beyond our narrow conception of self and our abilities, we usually experience vulnerability, hesitation and fear. We feel called to step out into the open, but when the time comes to do so we hold back, we wait, we turn back.

That is why we need a practice, a teacher and mentor, a supportive community. We need stories and examples of those who have traveled this path. We need support and feedback and guidance from those who are currently traveling.

On this journey, we often feel alone and isolated. But there are those who walk with us, among us. There are those waiting for us just ahead and around the corner.

By showing up and listening to our own calling, we show up for others and continue to inspire them in their own path. Answering the call fulfills our own aims and brings about the aims of others.