Thursday, January 10, 2013


Most of us are very familiar with distress.  It is our habitual mode of existence- the non-stop busy-ness, distraction, projects and responsibilities that compose our day to day life.  I think all of us are looking for a way to reduce or escape this distress altogether.  We long for a relaxing weekend getaway, a sunny beach vacation or even just a sound nights rest.

Our efforts to escape this endless pattern of distress has been futile to date.  How many times have we said, 'After this project' or 'once I get this finished'.  How many dreams and resolutions have we formulated to excise this aspect of our lives once and for all.

A lot.

The thing about distress is that we cannot escape it, no matter where we go or what we gain.  This was the First Noble Truth of the Buddha, the truth of dukkha- the inevitability of suffering or distress.  The tricky thing about distress though is that we create it.  Reality hands us a stressor and we react to it in such a way that it causes distress.  There is another way though, we can use that same stressor that reality deals us and use it to create eustress.

Eustress is a positive response to stress that is healthy and gives one a feeling of fulfillment.  Here is one example of eustress: 

What if in our meditation we took our obstacles and negative circumstances onto the path?  What if we could actually use attachment and aversion, all of our negative mental states and conceit as catalysts for awareness, insight and realization?  I know it doesn't seem likely, but this is exactly what we are asked to do when practicing the Vajrayana, the Indestructible Vehicle.

As we sit here today that doesn't seem very possible.  However, there are two simple steps we can take to get started:
1. Discover your fundamental ground
2. Train in mindfulness

Both of these will require instruction from a qualified teacher and daily meditation to establish a solid footing.  All in all though, neither are too far from where you are currently sitting. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Lose the Map

Our spirituality is often a story that we tell ourselves about how we and the world exist.  It calms our fears when we are challenged and disheartened, it gives us hope in times of pain and sorrow.  If our spirituality is a map then we think we have found a good one.  In fact, it is quite comforting that we have this trustworthy map. 

Buddhism has a very well documented map.  The Buddhist map to enlightenment has layer upon layer of detail.  The cartography of this path is unparalleled, giving both the general overlay of the land as well as 3D views.  It is the Google Earth of spiritual maps. 

In its vastness and profound detail we can be lulled into a content torpor, our ego intoxicated by the intricacies of such a supreme vehicle.  We can feel secure going about our habitual mode of existence because we carry this map around, at any moment justifying our location with astute logic and reasoning.  Not only that, but we can describe in quite detail places in which we have never been, never seen with our own eyes. 

The real challenge with actually traveling the path to enlightenment is that at some point you need to throw out the map.  The only common trait among the numerous Buddhas and enlightened masters that have gone before us is that they made their own map based on integrating the teachings with their own mind.  Every situation was different.  There was different terrain, different obstacles and different cultural conditions. 

You can't follow someone else's map to gain awakening.  You need to make your life the map, each and every step. 

So toss out that map you have been hanging onto.  Look around, what is the lay of the land?  Where are you at this very moment? 

Keep your senses open, your mind calm.  Always walk with mindfulness and discipline.  Arm yourself with patience and all the grit you can muster.

Enjoy your hike!

ps. If you need help packing your bags we can help you with that one, the rest is up to you.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

SIDDHEARTA: Random Acts of Kindness

SIDDHEARTA: Random Acts of Kindness: If reality is your canvas and generosity is your art , here are 52 random acts that can paint a picture of kindness and compassion.   1. ...

Random Acts of Kindness

If reality is your canvas and generosity is your art, here are 52 random acts that can paint a picture of kindness and compassion.  

1. Bring dinner for a friend in need. 
2. Pick up garbage on the street.
3. Congratulate people on a job well done.
4. Bring healthy snacks to work for your coworkers (or cupcakes).
5. Volunteer
6. Write a prayer or wish on the sidewalk in chalk.
7. Help someone with a flat tire.
8. Give someone your filled punch card.  
9. Leave a heartfelt note.
10. Call your grandparents.
11. Send a handwritten letter.
12. Give a cup of soup to a homeless person.
13. Give someone your seat on the bus.
14. Skip the close parking space in the rain.
15. Hold the door open for someone.
16. Let that stranger in a rush go in front of you in line.
17. Carry dog treats.
18. Give a bouquet of flowers.
19. Perform a burnt sur offering for the recently deceased.
20. Offer to push someone in their wheel chair.
21. Strike up a conversation with the old man on the corner.
22. Look people in the eye, and say 'Good Morning'.
23. Help a neighbor clean up their yard. 
24. Pay for the person behind you in line.
25. Go caroling, any day of the year.
26. Offer your shoulder to cry on.
27. Offer your legs to lift.
28. Offer your back to carry.
29. Let the other person win.
30. Offer prayers of aspiration to bring benefit to others when no one is looking. 
31. Leave a gift card for a stranger. 
32. Light a candle on a dark corner.
33. Leave your favorite book in a public place with a note.
34. Send a friend a photo of the good old days.
35. Make dinner for friends or family. 
36. Do the dishes.
37. Offer your body, speech and mind through the practice of Chod.
38. Be willing to say 'Yes'. 
39. Be open to say 'I can'.
40. Show up early to set up.
41. Stay late to help clean up.
42. Offer to be a free babysitter.
43. Help those who are sick.
44. Offer your umbrella in the rain.
45. Listen.
46. Be present.
47. Plant a tree.
48. Share stories of love and inspiration.
49. 'Like' other people's acts of generosity.
50. Rejoice in the merits of others.
51. Respect everyone.
52. Take a breath and recall these acts before you act with anger. 

What random acts of kindness would you add to the list?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Encouragement

The following is an excerpt from the Precious Treasury of Pith Instructions, composed as the heart advice of the great Longchen Rabjam.


Six considerations will provide encouragement:
The yogic practice of holy masters is their legacy to you;
please do not be indolent or dilatory in your spiritual practice.
Meditation on the arising of thoughts provides fuel for your sublime knowing;
please do not consider concentration on some fixed point to be the best way.
Suffering and other negative conditions are inducements to undertake positive action;
please neither indulge in whining and moaning, nor try to rid yourself of negative circumstances.
The manifestation of the five emotional poisons is the secret path to timeless awareness;
please do not thing of them as wrong, as you would a horde of enemies.
Obstacles in all their variety are intimations of spiritual attainment;
please do not react to them with apprehension, superstition or aversion.
What you perceive as samsara is the pure realm of the victorious one's;
please do not place your trust in the seeming truth of your confused dualistic perceptions.