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.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Don't stir up trouble.

It is often easier to have a problem and figure out how to solve it
than it is to deal with the uncertainty of not knowing.

The trick is,
in times of uncertainty,
don't go stirring up problems
just to escape the uncertainty.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Dharma practitioners don't just meditate.

The Buddha's teachings get a lot of press about meditation. A lot of people may even equate the Buddha's teachings with meditation. That's what the Buddha did, right?

The Buddha did not just teach about meditation.

Meditation is a critical step in a much larger process of developing insight and wisdom. The development of wisdom evolves through three phases- study, contemplation and meditation.

When we study, we learn key concepts and principles. We are exposed to ideas and use reason and logic to determine their validity.

Contemplation is the process of building connections, coming at the material from different angles and reflecting on our experience of the teachings we have been studying. Contemplation involves deeper aspects of our mind and heart, often within the sphere of contemplation we will experience flashes of insight or meaning that seem to come from outside our own conjecture.

Meditation is the process of moving beyond concepts and into direct experience. We can talk about what chocolate tastes like, we can compare it to other regional varieties, but at some point we need to actually taste the chocolate. Meditation is a direct experience of the teachings.

We gain a certain type of knowledge and wisdom through study. We gain a different type of knowledge and wisdom through contemplation. The wisdom of meditation is the wisdom of direct experience.

The fundamental problem that all dharma practitioners are trying to resolve is the human condition complete with all of its negative and positive aspects. We as humans experience a lot of pain and suffering. Mental illness runs rampant through our communities affecting both young and old. But we also see great examples of virtues like compassion, generosity and wisdom. As dharma practitioners work to solve this problem, they rely on the process of study, contemplation and meditation. Over and over again, they cycle through these processes, continuously trying to resolve the nature of their own human life, and sharing that wisdom with others.

Slowly, and tirelessly they gain wisdom about how to work with suffering and practice virtue.
Slowly, and tirelessly they gain wisdom about how to live with suffering and share virtue.
Slowly, and tirelessly they discover freedom in the midst of suffering and learn how to embody virtue.
Slowly, and tirelessly they learn how to embody virtue and discover freedom in the midst of suffering.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Forging the trail.

We can give people our respect. We can show them unconditional love and kindness. We can be patient and understanding. We can be generous and lend them a hand. We can give them a break, offer them a second chance and let them start over.

Others deserve this. It's something that we can give.

But it's often not enough. Ultimately, it's not something we can give.

You must do the work, the inner work of recognizing your own self-worth and potential. You need to do it for yourself.

You have to do the hard labor of stopping, looking within and resolving the tension in your own heart and mind. You need to look through your own self-deception and confusion.

Others can help us on this journey. They can point the way, offer support and guidance. But we must do the work ourselves.

We must forge the trail through the landscape of our lives.



Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The thread that holds it together.

A single thread is insignificant. It has little structural integrity and is easy to break. A single thread is unworthy of praise and often goes unnoticed.

A single thread in a weave can bring the whole thing together. It adds strength, form and creates function. If that single thread fails, the whole system can start to fall apart.

We can all find meaningful ways to contribute. Our contribution doesn't need to be the whole cloth. It can be enough to be a single thread that contributes to a larger meaningful purpose.