Monday, February 19, 2018

Compassion, redefined.

I have spent a lot of time leading meditation workshops and discussions about compassion. Most people tend to focus on the action of compassion. Compassion means helping the homeless, feeding the hungry, tending to the sick. Compassion means doing. If you take the action out, then somehow compassion seems to fall away.

This type of compassion is results focused. It needs to demonstrate an impact. No impact, no meaning.

The Buddha taught this type of compassion as 'normal' compassion. This is the type of compassion that we have for our friends and family, and even to strangers in times of crisis or shared humanity. We see this type of compassion in certain mammals, this natural instinct to take care and nurture our loved ones for our own welfare and survival.

When we are trying to cultivate compassion in meditation, we are trying to cultivate unconditional compassion. This is compassion that is objectless and unbiased. For this type of unconditional compassion, we need a new definition of compassion.

Unconditional compassion is open, available and responsive.

It is open- receptive, accommodating, vulnerable.
It is available- present, alert, attentive.
It is responsive- dynamic, engaged, attuned.

Unconditional compassion is focused on being, not doing. Being open, available and responsive, we can offer others our attention and understanding, we can acknowledge the pain and suffering they are going through, we can stay with them through struggle and strife. Embodying this unconditional compassion, we can offer others our warmth, kindness and generosity, or we can simply be present, listen, and witness.

"I see you" and "I hear you" can be more powerful than offering a solution. Compassion doesn't always need to have an answer, we don't always need to provide a fix. Sometimes offering others dignity and understanding are enough.

We can learn to rest in a state of openness, availability and responsiveness. We can learn to rest in unbiased equanimity, allowing ourselves to witness our own pain and the suffering of others. We can learn to be patient with adversity and ugliness, to witness rather than react, to embrace rather than reject.

And we can learn to carry this openness, availability and responsiveness off the cushion. We can carry it into our homes, our communities and into the world. We can walk with openness, be present and available in the world, and respond and engage with the way things are.

Friday, February 16, 2018

You will be judged.

There will be haters and critics. You will encounter dissenters and contempt. Others might even try to make you feel worthless.

It's going to happen.

Don't react.

Listen, acknowledge, but don't respond. It is not your job to change their minds. No matter how astute your arguments, you will lose. Let your silence and presence do the work.

Focus on what you can control, your own mind and your intentions. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Every Step Matters.

Every Step Matters. 
Transform your practice into the path.

1716 NW Market St
Seattle, WA  98199

February 18, 2018
Sunday 10am to Noon

Join us for a weekend workshop on carrying our practice into the world. This workshop will explore the practice of compassion and the Four Dharmas of Gampopa, a short aspiration prayer on how to carry your life as the path to awakening.

All classes by donation (recommended $20)


For more information contact Greg at

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Preparing to go and going.

Before going, it is important to plan. It is important to gather your things, assemble the tools and materials you will need. You'll want to know where you are going and how to get there. It might even be useful to know some key landmarks along the way.

Preparing is important and necessary. Spend the time that you need to prepare.

Then take the first step and resolve to never turn back.

You don't need to go fast and you won't have it all figured out. The path unfolds one step at a time.

Step by step.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Can you rest in open presence when all the conditions are right?

You aspire to be more generous, more patient and kind. You value kindness and compassion. You put effort into cultivating right view and understanding.

What holds you back from practicing those all the time?

Negative emotions. Stressful situations. Difficult relationships and interactions. Our own self judgement, hope and fear. Our thoughts and ideas about how things should be or could be.

There are lots of reasons why we start to close down. It is easy to slip into narrow and confined states of mind.

Our daily practice of meditation gives us an opportunity to rest in open presence, to familiarize ourselves with our values and inner qualities. If we can learn to rest in open presence, even for a moment, then we will have more opportunity to recognize those qualities in our daily life.

It's a simple question, with profound impact.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Where does one go?

The tathagata-garbha. The Buddha heart.

The Buddha taught that all beings are Buddhas, but that this is obscured by temporary defilements and obscurations. Just as a treasure buried under the earth, or a precious statue wrapped in a dirty cloth, once the obscuring factors are removed the treasure can be enjoyed in all its splendor.

But what is this Buddha heart and how can we come to experience it?

The Buddha taught many different vehicles by which we can actualize and realize this Buddha heart. The Mahayana sutras describe the tathagata-garbha as a seed or potential, which we can cultivate and nourish until it becomes manifest and bears fruit. The Vajrayana, or resultant vehicle, describes the tathagata-garbha as being fully manifest since beginningless time, but obscured and unrecognized. The Vajrayana employs various skillful means to try to purify and remove these obscurations. Within the Vajrayana vehicle, the highest understanding of the tathagata-garbha is understood within the Dzogchen tradition.

Dzogchen, or the Great Perfection, describes the tathagata-garbha as being timelessly liberated. There is nothing to change, manipulate or improve. The true nature of reality is perfect just as it is, there is nothing to purify, nothing to cultivate, nothing to attain. Failing to recognize this true nature, we wander in and out of various mental states. Recognizing this, one is primordially free.

Where does one go when they have actualized the tathagata-garbha?

Tathagata is a name for the Buddha, which means 'One who has thus gone', 'Beyond coming and going' or "One who has gone to the true nature'. Garbha means heart, essence or womb. So one who has actualized the tathagata-garbha is the 'heart of one who has gone beyond', or the 'heart of one who has gone to the true nature'.

The tathagata-garbha is beyond mind. It is not the coming and goings of our mind. It is not an idea or a projection of what should be. It is not a belief or a philosophy. It is not 'in your head'. Awakening isn't in your head- its embodied, manifest.

The practitioner of Dzogchen is introduced directly to awareness beyond mind. The are introduced to the timelessly liberated natural state of being. Once introduced to this unique state, the practitioner clarifies doubt and uncertainty about this unique state, until they have truly gone beyond to the true nature. Then, they can continue with confidence in liberation. As Garab Dorje wrote in his Three Words that Strike the Essential Point: 

One is introduced directly to one's true nature,
Be decisive about this unique state,
Continue directly with confidence in liberation.

Or as Garab Dorje also states:

Mind's nature is and always has been Buddha,
it is neither born nor ceases, like space.
When you realize the authentic meaning of the equality of all things,
To remain in that state without effort is meditation.


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.