Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Siddhearta's Essence of 2014

2014 was a year of change for me.

My wife and I entered the year finalizing plans for a retreat cabin in the San Juan islands, hoping to bring to fruition our dream of having a place for people to spend time devoted to their practice in a quiet, peaceful setting.  Those plans were put on hold when we learned in January that we would be expecting our first baby.  Things have changed a lot since then. 

I got a new job.  We had a beautiful daughter.  And now we are moving.

It has been a challenging year to practice.  Even more challenging to write.  It has been a joy for me to be able to share my journey with you, to share a glimpse of my practice.  Thank you for supporting me and I look forward to what we share together in 2015.

Here is an overview of 2014.

1. Heartfelt Connection
2. How do you sit with irritation? 
3. A Meditation for the Dying.
4. How to tame a horse.
5. How long should I meditate?
6. "I don't know what to do."
7. Our Human Dilemma.
8. Doing work that matters.
9. How does a racoon satisfies it's thirst?
10. Lineage. 
11. What does fearlessness look like?
12. Beyond the surface.
13. Middle Way between extremes.
14. Letting sadness wash over me.
15. I am samsara.
16. Three hats.
17. Neurotic.
18. What do teachers teach?
19. Privilege.
20. Breakthrough.

I wish you all a happy new year,
a year of health and inner wealth!
May you focus on your practice,
generously share love and kindness,
and may you realize the simultaneous fulfillment
of your own and others aims!


Friday, December 26, 2014

Life and death.

When a soldier trains, he understands that it is a matter of life and death.  He knows that his hard work and practice may be the very thing that keeps him alive, allows him to take his stand and fight the battle.  The soldier may not know if the battle is tomorrow or never coming, he trains the same. 

We don't have that same sense of urgency.  Our battles don't seem to hang on the precipice of life and death.

But how many lifetimes have we let pass?  How many moments do we let slip away?  How many days, weeks, months and years?


Train with the intensity, precision and focus of a well-trained soldier. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Difficult to accept.

It's yours.

All of your problems, your negative emotions, your anger and frustration, your suffering and discontentment.  All of it, it's yours.

I know that is hard to accept, but if we can accept that they are ours, then we can also accept our responsibility.  We have a habit of shifting the blame, being the victim and not claiming any control.  The consequence is we are waiting for others to fix our situation, to pick us as the fortunate one and offer us reprieve.

But we have to pick ourselves, we have to take the responsibility.

This moment is the start of our practice.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Meditation is beyond mind.

Mind is like the clouds in the sky.
Clouds of thoughts, feelings and emotions.
Clouds of anger, frustration and sadness.
Clouds of ideas, opinions and affirmations.
Clouds of highs and lows, happiness and suffering.
All of that comes and goes, continuously.

Meditation is beyond mind.

It is not the clouds or the weather, it is like the spacious sky, unchanging and all-encompassing.  When your meditation is like the spacious sky, everything else is an ornament of your practice.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I had a bad day.

But it was a good day for practice.

A good day to practice patience.
A good day to relax my fixation and attachment for what I wanted.
A good day to fight my own resistance and stubbornness.
A good day to not get swept away by negative thoughts and emotions.
A good day to train my mind.

Looking back at it, I actually had a pretty good day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A diamond in the rough.

Your sitting there, unrecognized, wondering if you have any value.  What is your purpose?  What is the meaning of your existence?

The problem with being a diamond in the rough seems to be that you are waiting for others to recognize you.  You are waiting for confirmation and approval.  Those are selfish traits cloaked in fear and apprehension, but those are not the problem.

The problem is that you are a diamond in the rough and not even you recognize your value.  You don't trust in it.  Your not confident about your own nature, so you spend all your time running about trying to get confirmation and approval. 

Once you can truly recognize and abide in your diamond-like nature, you have no choice but to share it with others.

It's your turn.

[Thanks Seth].

Monday, December 8, 2014

What would a tulku do?

A tulku is the present reincarnation of a previous great master.  The Tibetan སྤྲུལ་སྐུ་ means 'emanation body', meaning that the present rebirth is an emanation of awakened mind.  They have deliberately chosen to take rebirth out of compassion, to continue to work for the benefit of others.

Once recognized, often at a very young age, tulkus are expected to undergo rigorous study and training.  They receive the best education and are expected to rank at the top of their class.  They receive instruction from the greatest masters of the day and bring those practices to their culmination.

The tulku has the responsibility of preserving the tradition in which they are said to be the lineage holder, but the way in which they carry out that responsibility depends on the tulku themselves.

They might put their efforts into strengthening the education system.
They might emphasize retreats in which the teachings become a living experience.
They might travel extensively, teaching and inspiring others in their own practice.
They might assist the poor and hungry in their communities.
They might become respected doctors who cure disease.
They might focus on preserving the textual tradition and aiding in translation.
They might disappear and live the life of a wandering nomad, renouncing their high status and reminding others of the importance of actually committing your life to your practice.

The one thing the tulku does not do is wait for permission.  They know they have taken on this life to be a living example of the practice tradition and to be of service and benefit to others.  So that is what they do.

Of course you can do all of these things.  What are you waiting for? 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Not this time?

How many lifetimes have passed, how many moments where the time just wasn't quite right?

How long have you said to yourself, "This isn't the right situation, the conditions aren't right."

How many extensions have you been granted, how many pardons have you received to try again later? 

At some point you realize, this is all we have.  This might be as good as it gets.

It may not be perfect timing, the conditions might not quite add up.  This might not work.

But your time has a limit.  Use it. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Transforming poison.

It is easy to focus on all the poison in our lives and the world around us.  To see all of the anger and injustice in the world.  To witness unfairness and outright manipulation by those in power.  It is easy to get caught up in the busyness of our days, the pointlessness of what we are doing.  At times we all feel helpless and lost, that we have no control over all of the problems in our life.

The practitioner doesn't get caught up in the highs and lows of their day.  The don't get caught up in what is right or wrong, what to accept and what to reject.  Everything is applied to their practice.  Everything is an opportunity to practice.

Anger is poison, use it to practice patience.
Attachment is poison, use it to practice impermanence.
Fear is poison, use it to look deeper and examine your fixation.
Anxiety is poison, use it as a catalyst to train your mind.
Resistance is poison, use it to persevere.
Jealousy is poison, use it to rejoice in the happiness and success of others.
Looking outside yourself is poison, recognize and look within and to your own practice.
Death is the ultimate poison, use it to express gratitude and a profound appreciation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

We get to do this.

We get to transform suffering into the path of realization.
We get to transform our problems and obstacles into growth and accomplishment.
We get to dig deeper and experience everything as the path of liberation.

Knowledge isn't enough.  It is not enough to simply know this.
Practice is important.  The lived experience is what counts.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Part of our family.

There are those who care and those who don't.

Don't worry about those who don't care, treat them with respect and kindness and let them go there way.  Respect your own time and energy.

Those who care are like your own family.  They show up, do the work.  They push through resistance because what other choice do we have?  Pour your energy and time into strengthening the network, on impacting their lives and offering your support.  Benefit others, contribute value and the whole community benefits.  

We all want to be part of a family that cares, that takes a chance on being generous and kind.  Such a family experiences true wealth, or ratna, and they are crazy enough to want to share it with others.   

Friday, November 28, 2014


A mirror naturally reflects whatever is put in front of it, such that the two are indistinguishable.

A pristine lake naturally reflects the world around it.

Our cities are natural reflections of the people living there.

Our homes natural reflections of our family and values.

Our world is a natural reflection of our mind and mental states.

Your world is a reflection of your mind.

What does your mind look like?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


You have an opportunity available to you.

It may not always appear to be the case.  You may look around and wait for others to go first.  You may think that your situation is too hard, too unique. 

But that is the thing about privilege, when you have it you should take advantage of it and advocate for those who don't have it.

You have the privilege of being able to be generous and kind.  You have the privilege to treat others with respect and honesty.  You have the privilege to do the right thing, to be a good person.

You have the privilege of being able to help others- Don't waste it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Where do I start?

Integrating your practice can be hard. 

You try to be generous, patient and kind.
You try to sit with resistance and discomfort.
You try to dance with anger, attachment and ignorance, to not get swept away by their momentum.
You try to look deeply, to make connections and draw out implications.

You try to do those things, but where do you start?

We start with our family and loved ones.  We start with our friends, our sangha and our community.  We start in our workplace and in our home.

Then, as we cut through our own confusion, we stop fighting with our families.
Then, as we cut through our own negative emotions, we stop struggling at work.
Then, as we loosen our attachment  to me and mine, our community expands and is more peaceful.
Then, as we realize how much wealth we really have- a wealth of confidence, joy and a good heart-
then we can truly share our generosity, love and kindness.

And we continue our practice.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


All that study, yet it doesn't fit together.
All that information, but no sure way to act.
All those years of dedication, but still the struggle to find balance.

The ability to make connections is vital to your practice.  Study broad and deep, but distill the essence to bring it all together.  Expand and elaborate, then summarize the key point.

When you understand the essence, everything else makes sense.  You see the relationship and the bigger picture.  You see the next step, the possibility.

Without the essence, you're all head.
With the essence, you're all heart.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Turning pessimism into practice.

We all have moments of doubts and uncertainty.  It is easy to be pessimistic today with the decline in community and social values, rampant political and religious misconduct, along with our materialistic culture that emphasizes name, fame and fortune.  We could use pessimism to further isolate ourselves, to protect ourselves from vulnerability and to build up higher and higher walls of insulation.

Or we could bring our pessimism into our practice.

"I can't do this."  Why not?  Let's look deeper.  Is it because you might fail or because you literally don't have the skills to do this?  Is it possible but simply requires too much work that you cannot take up right now?  What is it that you are getting stuck on?

"This isn't going to work."  Maybe that is true.  Maybe you are doing something that has never been done before and this might not work.  That would be okay.  Actually, that would be great.  You would be pushing the envelope, testing your limits.  If it has already worked for someone else, but you don't think it is going to work for you, why? 

"I need a break." Okay, rest.  But are you resting so you can stop, so you can turn around and go home?  Are you resting because you are physically tired or is your mind picking limits for you? 

Pessimism really gives us a chance to examine ourselves, to examine our limits and our fear.  It can provide us with insight and understanding, while still entertaining doubt and uncertainty. 

It is okay to have doubt and uncertainty, but use it for examination.  Use it for insight on your path.

Friday, November 14, 2014


Our natural state is one of peace, joy and contentment.  It is a state of natural rest and clarity.

What prevents us from abiding in our natural state?


Afflictions can come in the form of physical discomfort and illness, emotional turmoil and mental neurosis.  They arise in a mind preoccupied with the past and future.  A mind that is chasing and grasping is fertile ground for the afflictions.  Our innate selfishness is a deep root from which the afflictions continually grow.

In an effort to regain our natural state, we attempt to soothe the afflictions.  How?

Money. Entertainment. Alcohol. Food. Power. Vacation. All sorts of remedies really.

But do any of these really work or are they themselves driven by neurosis and selfishness?

Your practice should soothe the afflictions.  It should cut through discursive thought, weaken grasping and fixation, and reduce selfishness even if only by a sliver. 

We teach children to soothe themselves at a very young age, but we seem to have lost this skill with age.  Time to regain the practice.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Focus on your practice.

I think we all want to live purposeful lives.  We want our lives to have meaning and be of value.  We want to share our gifts with the world and to benefit others, but how do we do that?

For most of us our gifts are not readily apparent, and if they are we often don't know how to share them.  We often don't know how to coordinate our work, relationships, our families.  We may find ourselves making either/or decisions- family or career, push ahead or give up, succeed or fail.

How do we bring all of this onto the path?

Focus on your practice.

When you focus on your practice, your relationships benefit and are included in your practice.
When you focus on your practice, your work benefits and is included in your practice.
When you focus on your practice, your family benefits and is included in your practice.
When you focus on your practice, your problems and stress are included in your practice and become catalysts of your path.

Clarify your practice, and your practice clarifies you.
Experience value in your practice, and you experience your own value.
Discover the meaning of your practice, and discover your own meaning.

So what is your practice?

Do not take this question lightly.  Find it, clarify it, and everything else falls into place.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

When information is not enough.

We live in an age of information.  It is right at the tip of our fingers, but what do we do with it?

How do we apply it to our situation?  When do we know if it is working?

There is a certain comfort that comes with knowing where to go to get the right answer, but how do you apply that knowledge in a new context?  How does it apply to your context?  How do the facts actually benefit you? 

Information was once held by the powerful to establish hierarchy and maintain the status quo.  Now information is freely available and yet we often still feel powerless.  Why?

Knowledge and experience are two different things.  It is like reading and planning for a trip to a distant city versus actually going there.  You need to make the journey to make the knowledge real, to make it your own.  Having never stepped a foot in the direction of that which you read about, how can you proclaim to know the subtlety of its experience.

You must walk the path

Monday, November 3, 2014

What is your vessel?

When you wake each morning and rise from bed, what vessel do you use to move forward through your day?

Is it profit or gain.  Conquest and power.  Do you set your sights on simply making it through? 

What carries you through the good moments and the bad?  What allows you to bear witness to the extraordinary and painful?  What allows you to enjoy your meal and drink deeply, while also allowing you to sit with hunger and thirst?

Does the nature of your vessel give rise to love and kindness or do these need to be fabricated on their own?  Does your vessel allow for generosity and patience or are those extraneous virtues that only arise through effort?  Is your vessel a source of insight and wisdom? 

Take impermanence as your vessel

It will carry you across beautiful waters and rough seas.
It will bring enjoyment to your meals and quell the hollows of your hunger.
It naturally gives rise to kindness and compassion,
and is the source of unending insight and wisdom.

Take impermanence as your vessel and use it to live a life of kindness and generosity.  Use it to fulfill your own aims and the aims of others. 

Use it, because it will not last.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


We are all struggling.  Struggling to find our balance.  Struggling with our health and our work.  Struggling to discover our purpose or passion.

We try to resolve this struggle, to figure it out and to find the right answer.  We think that if we can fix this situation then everything will be fine.  We will be happy and feel content. 

So we fix our relationships.  Our work.  We try to find a new social circle, a new hobby and a different story.  We search and we find and we fix. 

Except with all the fixing we have been doing over the years we still find ourselves in the same situation.  Strange isn't it? 

Strange that we keep trying to fix the outer condition of things.  We keep trying to fix our situation and our surroundings.

What if we stopped investing all that time and energy in applying a fix?  What if instead of trying to blame the outer condition of things we look at our own minds?  What is it about our habits, our neurosis, our negative emotions that contributes to our struggles? 

The path ahead is not going to be easy, but if we are honest with ourselves we will realize that shifting the blame and never brought us any closer to the goal. 

Time to take responsibility for our struggles.  We don't need to fix the whole world in order to fulfill our aims, we simply need to train our mind.  The weight of the world rests on this task. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mental vigilance.

Vigilance is alert. Focused. Sharp and attentive. 

But vigilance divorced of method only leads to attachment or aversion.  You need to rely on discipline and mindfulness in order to gain freedom in your situation.

Discipline gives you form.  It is your posture.
Mindfulness brings you back when you have strayed.

When you combine discipline and mindfulness with mental vigilance, you will easily carry out your aims.  You will know what you have to do and have the vehicle to get there.  You will not tire and giving up is not an option.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Equal measure.

Cultivate these two in equal measure: freedom and resources.

You may have plenty of freedom and leisure, all the time in the world, but if you lack the resources to carry out your aims you will be stuck in states of misery.

What are those resources?  Knowledge, tools, assets, skills, support, connections.

You may have all the resources in the world, but no freedom to use them.  Stuck in a state of misery. 

What are those freedoms? Time, leisure, freedom from negative emotions and negative conditions. 

Seek to balance these two in your life, always.

Friday, October 17, 2014

What's the point?

Why do you want to learn to meditate?

Peace of mind.
Your own spiritual practice.
Confront your fear of death.
Rainbow body.

The truth is, I meditate because I realize that I am my own biggest obstacle.

My own discontentment and dissatisfaction.
My own negative emotions.
My impatience.
My fear and uncertainty.
My grasping and fixation.
The contradiction between what I know is possible and what is.

I want to be generous, patient and kind.
I want to be happy and I want to benefit others.
I want to live a meaningful life, to be part of a community that is vibrant and worth being a part of.

What makes life and connections meaningful?  That they are shared.

In order to share, I need to overcome my shortcomings and downfalls.
I need to overcome my neurosis and habitual tendencies.
I need to learn to overcome obstacles and resistance.

The only way I have ever discovered to do those things is through meditation, but not just any meditation.  Your meditation should allow you to liberate yourself from that which binds you and in the space that remains to find something worth sharing. 

The great Dzogchen master Patrul Rinpoche very concisely stated:

To meditate but not to liberate, what's the point. 

Run in the rain.

Don't worry about achievement.
Don't worry about the result.
Don't worry about enlightenment.

Practice so that you can run in the rain, and enjoy it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Reaching for straws.

The mind loves to find something to do.  It craves something to do.

Check email.
Check FB.
Check Instagram.

The mind is naturally unsettled.  It is constantly movin' and a shakin'.

When you sit, you notice just how unsettled your mind really is.  The mind resists, it tries to do anything it can to get away, to continue churning and doing and feeling like it is accomplishing something.

This is why meditation is difficult.  We see directly just how dissatisfied and discontent we really are.  We see with our own eyes how unsettled and restless we are.

How do you resist?

You maintain your discipline with mindfulness and vigilance.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

An assignment: Emanations.

How many roles do you play in your life?

Father, mother, sister, brother, spouse.
Student, teacher, mentor, apprentice.
Leader, counselor, manager, employee.
Friend, enemy, stranger.
You in an empty house, you in a room of strangers, you at a party with friends.

Which one is you?

Could you be each aspect of you with generosity, love and kindness?
Could each aspect of you be patient, insightful and understanding?
Which aspect of you cannot be helpful?
Which aspect of you can allow forgiveness?
Which aspect of you gives rise to anger and jealousy?

Now the real question:
Can each aspect of you act for the benefit of others?
Could each emanation fulfill your own aims and the aims of others?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Why am I so angry?

Is it the person in front of me or the situation?
Is it because of what they are doing or because I don't know how to respond?
Is it too intense?  Am I too tired? 
Is it because I don't know the right answer?
Is it because what I have tried isn't working?

Why am I so angry and what am I to do with this anger?

If you can sit with the intensity of that question and continue to work with it,
the only thing left to do is create.

Try another method.
Push another limit.
Fail another attempt.
Reach a different conclusion.
Dance to a different rhythm.

When the situation is intense, you could simply be angry- internally or externally.
Or you could dance harder. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

An extension of you.

The samurai's sword.
A mother's child.
Your practice.

Don't drop it.
The ability to wake from a deep sleep and still have a firm hold is a sign of accomplishment.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Straying into confusion.

The gap between the present and the future is the source of all fear and uncertainty. 
It is the ground which gives birth to infinite fictitious worlds. 
It is the demon from which we run and hide,
the instigator of selfish actions and irrational choices.

When we stray from our natural state of being-
a peaceful state of clarity and inner wealth-
we stray into a wheel of confusion.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Meditation Workshop.

Resting in the Nature of Mind

You are invited to a practice intensive, discussion based
meditation workshop.  We invite students with no experience
and practitioners with lots of experience to create a learning
environment that provokes insight and understanding.
Learn about meditation, share your experience,
deepen your practice.

Sunday October 19th, 2014
10-12pm and 2-4pm
1716 NW Market St 
Seattle, WA 98107

Cost $30
Bring a friend for FREE

For more information contact Greg at

Friday, October 3, 2014

Skip the regalia.

Skip the romance.
Skip the awards and honors.
Skip the pretentiousness.
Skip being right and thinking your done.

Your practice is about showing up,
its about what you do when faced with problems and adversity,
and how you deal with opportunity available to you. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The grind.

How much of the grind is a concept?

A fabricated obstacle, a perceived barrier, an unreachable endpoint.

How much of the grind is fixation?

On how much this is going to hurt, on how bad you are going to do, on your own position.

We often find ourselves in the grind.  It could be Monday.  It could be a deadline.  It could be your health.

The grind can be a lot of things, but what is it really?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Wisdom and compassion

As we train in openness, we learn to dance with fear.

We learn to work with fixation, with where we are stuck.
We learn to shed light on our doubt and uncertainty.
We see where we are holding onto a ground, protecting ourselves.
We become more tolerant, more willing to hang with discomfort.
We are raw, exposed, vulnerable.

As we break through fixation, grasping and vulnerability,
we open up to the wisdom of selflessness.

Abiding in the wisdom of selflessness,
one knows peace of mind, an inner calm and wealth.

There is a bit of a danger that one could become attached to that state of peaceful quiescence,
which is why it is important to practice compassion.

Compassion gives the wisdom of selflessness form.
It gives you direction, a strong posture.

Compassion is not pity, it is not "Oh, that poor thing."
Compassion is responsive.  It is dynamic.
It can be peaceful or fierce, but it is always for the sake of benefiting others.

As we act, we are prone to fear.
We are stepping out of the peace and calm, moving forward into uncertainty and fear.

It is definitely easier not to act, to stay with what you know and let others do the work.
Which is why we continue to practice openness, the union of wisdom and compassion.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"I don't know what to do".

Which is why you practice.

To sit with uncertainty, fear and frustration.
To not get overwhelmed by waves of anger and fatigue.
To maintain openness, even a possibility of openness.
To practice patience when it no longer seems possible.
To push on when you feel like giving up.

You might not know what to do, and that is okay. 

You don't need to know the right answer for what you are up against.  Persevering in your practice might be the only answer available. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Inconceivable virtue.

Practice patience in such a way that you never give up the practice of helping others.

This is not easy.

You will be tired.  You will hit a wall.  You will be frustrated and drawn out.  You will be skinned and quartered.  You will give your eyes and ears, your blood and tears.  You will give your heart.  

And you will persist.  Your practice will carry you forward free from harm.  Such a practice is inconceivable.

And it is possible. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

A world of difference.

The person seeking there own freedom and happiness is constantly at odds with the world around them.  Karma and dependent origination serve as a burden, a constant reminder of entrapment in this unceasing wheel of life.  Fear exists at every corner, constant threats are always presenting themselves and our own well being is always in a precarious position.

For the person seeking the freedom and happiness of others, everything in the world around them is an opportunity.  Karma and dependent origination reveal a deep connection with the world and all beings.  This connection allows for responsiveness- impact and growth.  There is a natural freedom and ease, because this thing that is happening, this struggle, this problem, this seeming end- it's not permanent nor lasting. 

Yes, karma and dependent origination reveal a wheel that just keeps going. 

But so do we. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The way of the bodhisattva.

Calm and composed.
Undaunted, persisting amidst fatigue.
Empathetic and compassionate, they think about the needs of others and strive diligently to bring them happiness and joy.  

Free from the attachment of holding some close and others distant, they wholeheartedly wish to establish all beings in health, happiness and well being.

They are like a father and mother for the world. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

The white-glove test.

You probably all remember cleaning as a child.  I do.  Do you remember dusting, thinking that everything was clean and tidy, only to have your mother or father come along and point out dust you hadn't noticed?

How about your house now?  I am willing to bet it looks pretty good, but would it stand up to the white-glove test?

Our minds are quite the same way.  We keep our standard routines in place to feel like we have our act together.  We eat healthy, exercise, get enough rest.  We enjoy expressing gratitude and sharing our gifts with the world.  We look and feel pretty good about ourselves.  We are actually really down to earth, good natured people.  

And then you sit down to meditate for ten minutes maintaining the discipline not to move.  The white-glove test.  What is really going on in our heads?

Most likely they are busy and restless.  Thoughts, projects, conversations and memories race across our minds like a proverbial dust storm.  We notice our minds chasing and grasping at all sorts of things- feelings, perceptions, sensations, appearances. 


Of course it is up to you to decide what to do with this information.  You could let the dust be and see what happens, pretend its not there and hope no one notices.  You could wait around, hoping that maybe someone else will do the dirty work for you.  You could also get to work and start cleaning your own house. 

Up to you

Friday, September 12, 2014

Out wandering.

Our minds drift all day and all night.  We scroll down through status updates looking for something interesting.  Click from video to video looking for the next laugh.  We like to be entertained and there is no limit to the entertainment available.

Until we get bored with being entertained.

Then we might go for a run, read a book, go shopping, bake some cookies.  Our mind will lead us off in all kinds of directions.  It is so easy to stay busy these days, some of us even use it as a catch-all for our day, "It was busy."

We might look for a new job, a different career, a new house.  What if we renovated instead?  We could move stuff around, do it another way.

So restless.

Why are we so restless?  What is this wandering mind really looking for?  Is it just another tasty treat or fun experience?  What is it?

It is hard to say what exactly you are looking for, I surely can't speak for you, but I think what all of our minds are looking for are to be in tune with our heart.  If our hearts don't know what we want or what we are looking for, our minds wander aimlessly looking for something to connect with.

If our hearts know what is true, what is meaningful and worthwhile, then our minds can focus on what needs to be done.  We can focus on our practice, whatever form that takes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Homage to the nature of mind.

I pay homage to the primordial Lord, an immense ocean of precious qualities,
Whose depths of natural wisdom and compassion are beyond measure.
This wish-fulfilling jewel of the Victorious One’s and their spiritual heirs,
Gives rise to cumulus clouds of happiness and benefit for all.
The luminous clarity of the stainless dharmakaya is our own buddhanature.
Through fixation and not recognizing our own awareness, we wander in states of becoming.
Exhausted and wearied by karma and negative emotions,
Today, may we find rest in the nature of mind.

~Longchen Rabjam
From the Semnyi Ngalso

What does fearlessness look like?

It looks like loving-kindness.
Like patience and an open presence.

It is someone who continues to show up.
Someone doing the work, pushing themselves.

It sounds like someone who isn't quitting,
who isn't complaining or shifting the blame.

Being fearless isn't easy.  It is incredibly hard.  There are battles everywhere, on a daily basis.

But those battles aren't with the world, they are battles that are fought on the inside.  Battles with hope and fear, pain and discontentment.  Battles with your feelings and your perceptions.  Battles with your mind.

But the fearless warrior keeps fighting, because they know the battle is worth it.  Their practice shows them that it is possible, it provides them with a ground which they can trust. 

Stick with your practice, we need your inspiration. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Setting sun mentality.

As the sun sets we have a tendency to get our things in order, to settle in and make ourselves comfortable.  We might grab a drink, start a fire (or a movie), reach for our book or tuck in our loved ones.

Establishing a state of comfort and rest is important.  And necessary.

As the sun rises we might get up, meditate, get ready for the day, grab breakfast and our coffee and move with deliberate intention.  The day ahead is ours to make, we have much to do and today is the only day I have to do it.

Establishing a state of responsibility and enthusiasm is important.  And necessary.

When we approach our days in this way, we are balanced and in harmony with the world around us.  We run into conflict when we try to alter this balance.

How does your day go, when from the moment the sun rises you are looking for a state of comfort and rest?  What happens when conflict or problems arise in your morning and disturb your pleasure?

Too often we set out at the beginning of our day with the intention, "I hope today is an easy day".  This is a setting sun mentality and we will only encounter obstacles and problems on our path.  What we do not realize is that we are actually the creator of our problems, because our intention at the beginning of the day is to already start preparing for sunset. 

Start your day with the right intention.  That intention is to take responsibility, maintain your discipline and to benefit others. 

Very simple.  Hard to do, but I trust you. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

How to tame a horse.

Our minds are much like a wild horse.  It is unpredictable, hard to manage, often uncooperative and at times even dangerous.  It is also beautiful and needs to be respected.

Our minds are often left to wander and run wild, to do whatever they please.  Very few of us have really spent any significant time or energy to tame our minds, to render them serviceable and attentive.  In order to train the mind, there are a couple simple rules we can follow:

1. The initial approach.
You will find that when you first sit down to attempt to train and tame the mind it is quite agitated and restless.  This is normal.  Be patient and have compassion.  It has been habituated to running freely, is probably a little skittish and doesn't fully know how to rest with the confidence and ease of a well trained mind.  Your experience and confidence will grow as you become accustomed to this type of work.

2. Be a strong leader.
Your mind probably won't do what you want it to do right away, so you need to direct it again and again back to its focal point.  This is called mindfulness.  It is normal for the mind to act up, to stray and get excited, your job is to remain alert and maintain the discipline that the training requires, this is called vigilance.

3. Making the transition.
Initially the corrections that are required during training will require a lot of effort.  As the training progresses these corrections become much more subtle.  At some point wandering triggers an automatic reflex that auto-corrects itself such that there is no straying, this is when you enter the phase of effortless training.  While mindfulness may have entered into the effortless mode, it is still crucially important that you maintain vigilance, lest the entire training unravel and the horse makes a run for it.   There is nothing quite so embarrassing as thinking that you have a well trained horse, only to find them in the neighbors pasture the next morning.

4.  Setting out to work, with an attentive, trained horse.
A well trained mind never wavers from its discipline.  It is attentive, confident and relaxed.  It is patient and willing to bear considerable burden.  With such a vehicle, you can definitely accomplish your own aims, and you can passionately work to benefit others.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A change in posture.

What we tell ourselves influences our posture.

'I am tired'- our shoulders slouch, we need to sit down.
'I am not tired'- we stand tall, push ahead despite the fatigue.
'I can't do this'- looking for any reason, no matter how small, to duck out.
'I am a frog'- well, we can hop around all day but let's face it, that's simply just not true.

So what if we tell ourselves we love to be generous, to make connections that matter and to bring value to the communities in which we live and work?  What does that posture look like? 

It might look like an open, outstretched hand. 

Is it true?

Well, that is up to you. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Repaying our mother's kindness.

Our own mother,
fed us, clothed us, nurtured us.
She treated our ailments, soothed our wounds.
She gave to us consummate with our needs,
and gave even more consummate with our wants.
She tirelessly worked for our benefit,
even when she was not around,
she was still working for our benefit.
Our mothers have shown us incredible kindness,
a kindness that often never received a 'thank you'.
As children this may have been acceptable,
but as adults we must recognize our own mother's suffering.
We must witness her struggles, her pain and her worries.
She is often tired and alone, age slowly wearing down her strength.
Our love for our mother should fill our heart,
giving birth to a strong intention to relieve her suffering
and to bring happiness and joy to her life.
We should assist her in her health, help her with her wounds.
With a wholehearted resolve, we should generate the intention to repay her kindness.
And we should act on that intention.

Our own Mother Earth,
fed us, clothed us, nurtured us.
She has been the source of all,
giving to us consummate with our needs,
and giving even more consummate with our wants.
She has tirelessly given for our own benefit,
even when we do not recognize her influence,
still she has been there, blessing us with her bounty.
Mother Earth has shown us incredible kindness,
a kindness that often never received a 'thank you'.
As children, this may have been acceptable,
but as adults we must recognize Mother Earth's own suffering.
We must witness her breaking down, her exhaustion.
She is often neglected and abused, worn thin by our greed.
Our love for Mother Earth should fill our hearts,
giving birth to a strong intention to relieve her suffering
and to bring her a state of peace and well being.
We should assist her in her health, help heal her wounds.
With a wholehearted resolve, we should generate the intention to repay her kindness.
And we should act on that intention.

Our own herds of cattle and oceans of fish,
fed us, clothed us, nurtured us.
They have been the source of so much for our benefit,
giving to us consummate with our needs,
and giving even more consummate with our wants.
They have tirelessly given for our benefit,
even when we do not recognize their influence,
still they are there working for our benefit.
All these cattle and fish have shown us incredible kindness,
a kindness that often never received a 'thank you'.
As children, this may have been acceptable,
but as adults we must recognize animals own suffering.
We must witness them breaking down in exhaustion.
They are often neglected and abused, overly fed by our greed.
Love for these animals should fill our hearts,
giving birth to a strong intention to relieve their suffering
and bring them to a state of peace and well being.
We should assist them in achieving a state of health,
help to heal the wounds of the system.
With a wholehearted resolve, we should generate the intention to repay their kindness.
And we should act on that intention.

Our own communities,
fed us, clothed us, nurtured us.
They have been the source of all our benefit,
giving to us consummate with our needs,
and giving even more consummate with our wants.
They have tireless given for our benefit,
even when we do not recognize their influence,
still they are there working for our benefit.
These communities have shown us incredible kindness,
a kindness that often never received a 'thank you'.
As children, this may have been acceptable,
but as adults we must recognize the communities own suffering.
We must witness it breaking down and being abused.
It is often neglected and spread thin by our selfish greed.
Love for our communities should fill our hearts,
giving birth to a strong intention to relieve its suffering
and bringing it to a state of peace and well being.
We should assist in bringing it to a state of health,
helping to heal its wounds and increasing its bounty.
With a wholehearted resolve, we should generate the intention to repay its kindness.
And we should act on that intention.

We, as a society, have acted like children for far too long.  We have taken all that we have wanted and never felt compelled to give back.  Now is the time to recognize the gifts that we have been given, to respect those who have been the source of these gifts, and to start repaying their kindness with our own gifts.  Now is the time to act

Time to get to work.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Moving from scarcity to abundance.

Most of us live lives of scarcity.

We don't have enough time or money.
We could use new gadgets, a better car or bigger house.
We don't have enough support, friends or love in our life.
We feel alone, overwhelmed by our problems, our debts, our pain.

Scarcity is largely a symptom of perception.  We feel deprived when compared to others or to an ideal.  What we have is not enough, not good or of limited value.  We may even feel inadequate ourselves, that we have nothing to offer.

Learning to sit with the discomfort of this perception and not continuing to indulge the storyline is a skill worth acquiring.

If we don't feed that perception we find that it is not true, it can't sustain itself.  We discover the simplicity of being present.  We tune in to appreciation of that which is right before us.  We embody the fullness of being, a natural abundance and inner wealth.

When we have such a discovery the perception of scarcity vanishes like fog on a mirror.  Abundance is naturally occurring and self-arising, it manifests as contentment, kindness and joy.

Not lacking anything yourself, that abundance desires to be shared.  It would be wasteful to hold onto that which you yourself already have.  Share it.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Beyond the surface.

It is really difficult to identify objects in deep space.  Take for example the Helix Nebula, which is observable in our northern hemisphere.  It is observable.  People have identified it, named it, know its location.  But it is not easy to find.


Because we do not know how to orientate ourselves.  We are overwhelmed at the amount of information that needs to be gathered and applied.  Even if you are given the exact coordinates it really doesn't help you if you don't have a general orientation of the sky and how to apply that specific information.

We live in an age of information.  An era when any answer can be Googled in moments.  You might be able to give me the right answer, but does that help you?  Can you see deeper? 

Amateurs are passionate.  They are passionate enough to do the work it takes to orientate themselves to the worlds in which they inquire.  Their passion allows them to build the framework necessary to explore deeper.  Their passion carries them beyond the superficial.  It fosters depth and the depth feeds the passion.

Passion coupled with orientation, a framework for exploration and the ability to see deeper are the prerequisites for becoming an expert.

We need more experts.  Authentic ones that is. 

Monday, August 25, 2014


The arising of a fruit, such as an apple, depends on many conditions.  If those conditions are not met, no fruit is to be found.

Can the same be said about our practice?

What is the fruit that we are looking for?  What are the conditions necessary to give rise to such a fruit?  If such a fruit depends on conditions, is it lasting?  Will we be satisfied?

These are actually really hard questions to form answers around.  Sit with them and work them over.  Let them work you over.

Then ask yourself, what can I rely on?

Friday, August 22, 2014

This is it.

I'm done.
I've reached my limit.
I can't go on.
That's all I've got.
I need a break.
That's all I can do.
I've given it my best.

When we reach that point, where are we?  Where is that line?  Where is that limit?  What are we meeting up with?

Is it real?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


What occupies your mind?  What chews up a lot of time in your head?

Does it need to be there?

Most of us complain about long, busy days at work, but even when we are not working our minds are often preoccupied.  Learning how to loosen the tight shackles that our mental busyness creates is a useful tool to have. 

Give your mind a day off. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

The folly of American intellectualism.

Critical analysis versus judgment.

One is concerned with discovering what is authentic and true.  The other with being right.

One is the vehicle for endless learning, connecting dots and drawing out implications.  The other is a vehicle for asserting yourself, creating division and establishing the inadequacy of others.

One is not concerned with being wrong.  The other can never be wrong.

One is the source for wisdom and insight.  The other, for righteousness.

One listens and looks closely.  The other jumps quickly and talks loudly.  

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but do we really need to hold onto it so tightly?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Five Elements Yoga.

The ancient wisdom traditions are all connected to the concept of working with the elements.  Man and nature are intimately intertwined and their deep insight into that nature evokes a strong connection with the world around them.  The five elements are earth, water, fire, wind and space.  This may seem like an archaic and primitive understanding of the universe, but let's look at the manifestation of these five elements.

External world
We are all familiar with the qualities of the elements in the phenomenal world.  Earth is solid, water is fluid and cohesive, fire is radiant and hot, wind/air is constantly moving even when not apparent, and space is the container in which all of this plays itself out.  Each of these can be further examined in terms of their characteristics and qualities as far as the mind can elaborate.  

Physical Matter
Solid, liquid, heat and gas.  We are all familiar with the physical properties of matter from elementary school.  Earth is solid, water is liquid, fire is heat and wind is gas.  Of course don't forget space which accommodates all of these states.  The interesting thing here is that we start to see that all of these five elements are present in one element- water.  Ice has more earth properties, water is water and water vapor is the wind element.  All of these states manifest based on the amount of heat or fire in the system, which itself is contained by space.  So if this is true for water, what about iron? 

Atomic Particles
Let's look at an atom.  Earth is the nucleus, water is the chemical bonds that creates a sense of cohesion, fire is the heat or energy of the system and wind is the constant movement of the atom.   Space pervades the entire particle.  You are probably better at quantum physics than I am, so please explore deeper. 

Our own bodies
Our own bodies are composed of physical matter, earth.  Of course we are 70% water, blaze with the heat of the fire element at 98.6' F, are 100% energy (wind) and 99% space (may need to check my math).  Much of Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine is based on the balance of the five elements and how imbalances effect the rest of the system.  Interesting stuff if you like to read. 

Personal experience
We all have experience feeling grounded, a predominance of the earth element.  With the water element we feel connected, experience a deep sense of peace and calm.  Fire is creative, an inner radiance and intuition.  Wind is thoughts and concepts.  Space is all-pervasive.  Too much earth and we feel heavy and tired.  Too much water and we are emotional wrecks.  Too much fire and we get angry and hot tempered.  Too much wind and we are agitated and restless.  Too much space and we are, well, spaced out.  

All five elements are naturally present in our own awareness.  With the earth element we discover a natural meditative stability.  The water element is a calm and peaceful mind.  The fire element is an inner radiance and clarity.  The wind element is movement even within stillness.  The space element is the expanse of awareness without center or limit.  

When the elements dissolve, either in our meditation or at the time of death, we can recognize their dissolution which serves as markers on the path.  Earth dissolves into water and appearances have a mirage-like quality.  Water dissolves into fire and we experience wafts of smoke-like images.  Fire dissolves into wind and we experience firefly-like appearances.  Wind dissolves into space and we experience the clear light nature of mind, an innate calm and utterly lucid awareness like the deep blue sky just before sunrise.  Rest in that state.  

We should become familiar with the dissolution of the physical elements at the time of death, both concerning our own death and also supporting our loved ones as they set out on the journey.  The dissolution of the earth element is marked by losing your strength and outer movements.  The dissolution of water is when the saliva and urine is no longer produced, the body becomes dry and water is no longer accepted or needed.  The dissolution of fire is when the heat of the body recedes to the heart center, the body slowly continuing its process of shutting down.  The dissolution of wind is the gradual slowing of the inhale and exhale, leading up to the final breath as a long exhale.  It is important not to disturb the body at this time, because the person is starting to experience the inner dissolution of the elements leading up to and culminating in the clear light nature of mind.  Their ability to recognize and abide in that nature of mind determines their next rebirth, if they become swept away in appearances or remorse the winds of karma will start to stir and helplessly propel you along on your journey.  This is why it is important to practice and familiarize yourself with these five elements in this life, when you can still act of your own volition.

The practice of the five elements is a very simple and pragmatic way of understanding our world and our own experience.  It orients you with a bigger picture and makes the complex approachable.  Orienting yourself in this way, you can continue to investigate and elaborate on your understanding to the extent that the mind can reach, a true psychonaut. 

As long as the mind exists, their is no limit to the extent of space.   

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The tool shed.

What's the sense in having a tool shed these days?

We live in a time when you can easily find someone with the necessary skills to fix your problem for you.  It doesn't really matter what the problem is, there is a product or service out there for you.  With all of these resources available to you at the tip of your fingers, what is the sense in having a tool shed?

Well, you might be a problem solver.  A self-reliant tinkerer.  You might be a mad scientist looking to do something that has never been done before, not like this.

You might be someone who isn't just looking for the right answer, you want to know how to solve the question.  Your not simply looking for the quick fix, figuring out the root of the dilemma is more important than the fix itself.

If you are this kind of practitioner, your view liberates you.  Your view is liberating because problems become malleable and you can sit with conflict and strife.  You are willing to explore the unknown and fearless in the face of resistance.   You know you already have the tools necessary to solve the problem, it is just a matter of working it out.  And you can do that.

Contrast this with the person who has no tools and every problem is an emergency.  Panic sets in at the slightest discomfort and the resolution to problems is always reliant on finding someone else for the fix.  We could call this other-reliant.

Be a source of refuge for yourself.

If you want to gain the freedom and confidence of being able to solve your own problems, you need to have a tool shed.  Meditation is that tool shed.  It is your mind lab.

You might learn to be a problem solver.  You also might discover something worth sharing

Monday, August 11, 2014

How do you sit with irritation?

Irritation follows us like a shadow throughout the day.  Often we do not even know it is there, but it finds its way into our work, our relationships, our commute, our responsibilities and even our free time.  

A critical component of meditation is learning how to relate to irritation. 

Do you try to get away?
Switch your posture?
Shift your focus?
Reach for your phone?
Check your email?
Turn on the television?
Turn on some music?  Change the station?
Do you recognize it as being impermanent?
Do you take the opportunity to practice patience?
Or do you let it fester, growing into agitation and anger?
When you experience irritation, does it overwhelm you?

Irritation is a subtle level of aversion.  We don't really like what is playing out in our experience, it could be coming from outside of us or it could be in our own heads.  The result is a state of discontentment that we wish to avoid.

And this is a universal human experience.

It is why we like to be entertained, why we like to eat good food and why we like to build things and do things. 

We all want to avoid the suffering and discontentment of irritation.  We all long for an inner peace and fullness, contentment and happiness.

So how we relate to irritation is important, because we can either run away, let it grow into a monster, or we can use that irritation for growth and spiritual development.  We can learn to hijack our adversity and our problems, to use them as catalysts for change.

And we can start right now, right on our meditation seat.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Heartfelt Connection

None of us will deny the importance that our families, friends and communities have in our lives.  We know that on a very visceral level.

Connections are important.  The impact those connections have on us is important.  Some people can shift our perspective, who we are and how we act in ways that we ourselves could not imagine.

Heart connection.

Thuk means heart, or even awakened mind.
Dam means connection or commitment.  Samaya.

Together these two evoke something very personal.  Something sacred.

They draw out the very root of your personal practice.
Loving kindness.

If you do not possess thukdam, I believe you can do great things in this world.  You can make incredible progress and benefit a lot of people.

If you possess thukdam, I can say that you will truly make an impact and change a human life.  

What is the root of your practice?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Long Life Prayer

ཨོཾ་སྭ་སྟི།         ཆོས་དབྱིངས་ཀ་དག་ཀློང་ལས་མི་གཡོ་བར།
OM SWASTI     Without wavering from the expanse of the originally pure dharmadhatu,
You effortlessly resolve all that appears and exists,
Abiding in the timeless freedom of the single sphere of awareness,
འཆི་མེད་ཆོས་སྐུའི་དབང་པོར་རྟག་བརྟན་ཤོག།།    །།
Lord of the deathless Dharmakaya, please abide eternally! 

Your body, immovable like a mountain,
Your speech, an unceasing melody borne of experience and realization,
Your mind, resting in rigpa zangthal free of elaboration,
ཟླ་མེད་ཆོས་ཀྱི་དབང་པོ་རྟག་བརྟན་ཤོག།།    །།
Peerless Lord of Dharma, please abide eternally! 

From the spacious sky of your awakened mind,
Naturally occurring wisdom pervades all of samsara and nirvana
Guiding all weary travelers by your profound instruction,
ཡོངས་དགེ་འགྲོ་འདུལ་གླིང་པ་ཞབས་བརྟེན་ཤོག།།   །།
Younge Drodul Lingpa, please live long! 

This prayer was composed by Rigpai Wangchuk (Greg Patenaude) following the annual summer Dzogchen retreat in conjunction with devotion and pure samaya on the 25th day of the fourth month in the Tibetan Wood Horse year 2141 (June 22, 2014). It was translated into the Tibetan by Tenzin Bhuchung in a surge of Guru devotion. May it be auspicious!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

When worlds collide.

Imagine your riding along, enjoying your day.  Up ahead you see a fine looking fellow who tosses his water bottle into the woods.  What to do?

In his world, there is no problem.  The results of his actions are too distant to comprehend and his cares are too few.

In your world the fires of anger have begun to burn.  How can someone act with such blatant disrespect and carelessness?

Who's problem is it?  How to proceed?  How do your resolve this collision of worlds?  Do you set out and attack, or perhaps employ some intergalactic diplomacy?

We imagine that the resolution to conflicts in our world are too remote, too distant and beyond ourselves.  Actually, they are right in front of us.  Everyday.

We need to learn how to connect to others in a genuine way.  Don't attack them from a superior position, approach them with respect and establish a common ground.

Draw out the implications of their actions, from their perspective, not yours.  Engage empathy.

When they accept the implications of their actions they come to embrace a larger scope.  They see a bigger picture, how they are connected and the power of their actions.  At some point they may come to a decisive experience in which they actually change their view and their behavior.

Ignoring the problem isn't compassionate.  And it's not skillful.
Solving the problem for them won't help, they haven't realized why it needs to be solved. 
Forcing your position on them will only incite anger in their world, no chance for change then.

So your only option is patience, empathy, connection, reason and respect.  From the position of a shared basis, change is possible.  Freedom and peace are possible.  It's not them against us, it's us against us.  

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Our human dilemma.

Take a walk in a forest or park.  What do you see?

Trees and flowers of various sizes, shapes and colors.
Beautiful ones and strange ones and ugly ones too.
Look at the small details.  Feel them.  Smell them.
Perfect in all of their imperfections,
a wonderful enjoyment of natural freedom,
no need to alter, left to remain just as it is.

Then we have birds and bugs, even spiders and mice,
how amusing these creatures,
beautiful ones and strange ones and ugly ones too.
Look at their details.  Listen to them, watch them.
Perfect in all of their imperfections,
a wonderful enjoyment of natural freedom,
no need to alter, left to remain just as they are. 

And then we see humans,
how amusing indeed,
beautiful ones and strange ones and ugly ones too.
Look at their details, how do they act.  What do they say when you interact?
Could they be smarter or pick up the pace?
Could they excuse themselves for their wayward ways?
Are they agreeable, friendly and nice?
Or should they act better, c'mon remember 'Leave no trace!'
Are they perfect in all of their imperfections?
Do you enjoy their natural freedom?
If you could alter, just a tweak, would you?  Could you?

This is the root of the human dilemma,
the source of our problems, our wars and our rage.
The problem doesn't lie in the natural world,
it lies in our mind and our own faulty vision.
We won't fix it if we keep trying to fix others,
for others are too many and our time is too short.
Better to change our own lens, train our own minds,
Resolve our own faults and imperfections,
and imperfections become perfections,
a wonderful enjoyment of natural freedom.
Left to remain, just as we are.

Judgment of one, judgment of all.
Conflict in one, conflict with all.
Resolving one, we resolve all.
The essence of the path isn't to gain something new,
it is to resolve your own condition,
and rediscover your natural freedom.
Liberate one, and all is liberated,
just as it is.

Let's take a walk in the park.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Spell check.

Lets pretend for a momant that we didnt have aplications built into our computing softwear that determined when we had made a mistake.  What would that be like.  Would we even notice hour errors.  Would it effect the way we communicate and interact with our world?

Would we create a lot of problems for ourselves?

Spell check is a discipline meant to identify inconsistencies and mistakes.  It is quite different than auto-correct which allows us to keep typing despite making a mistake.  Spell check simply says this is a mistake, then you need to go back and fix it. 

Discipline is much like this.  We often think of discipline as being constrictive or closing us off in some way.  Freedom is a concept that we so cherish that discipline seems antithetical to it.  I can do whatever I want.  This is the way I want to do it.  I don't need to follow the rules.

Of course that is fine, hopefully you will discover your own discipline for improving and breaking through resistance.  Regardless, you need discipline to improve, otherwise you will simply be typing gibberish and everyone will dismiss you no matter how important the point you are trying to make. 

Discipline allows us to progress, it fosters growth.  It points out our flawed action and gross ignorance.  It gives your direct feedback right after you do something.  If your practice is going to be carried off your meditation seat and change your life, it is discipline that is going to be your vehicle.  Committing and then subsequently failing is better than never committing at all. 

Commitment carries you forward.  Never commit and you'll never know when you have gone astray.

Your discipline doesn't need to prescribe every action you take during the day.  The simplest discipline you can have is to do no harm, cultivate positive qualities and train your mind.  

Eschew discipline and you will not accomplish your own aims, never mind the aims of others. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Why don't I remember my past life?

Reincarnation is not a dogmatic Buddhist belief.  You do not have to believe in reincarnation to be Buddhist or practice the Buddha's teachings.  What you should do is analyze yourself, study the scriptures and come to your own understanding through study, reflection and meditation.

To understand reincarnation and rebirth you need to understand consciousness and what it is that is being reborn.  This is actually very difficult to do, because even though we all know we have a mind, we really have a very limited understanding about how it actually works.

Let's use the analogy of a river.

When you stand at a river's edge, the only part of the river that you really experience is, well, this part.  Right now, right here.  You can look up the river a ways and even down river for a little bit, but really the only river you really 'know' is this segment.

Actually this tiny portion of the river contains a lot of information in it.

Let's scoop up a sample of that water, what is in it?  We have a variety of thoughts, sights, sounds, feelings, sensations, smells and tastes.  All water bubbles.  These come and go in an endless variety.  Wherever you are on the river, you will find water bubbles.

What else is there?  Oh, here is a preference!  That is strange, I wonder where it can from.  When you find something, it is possible to trace it upstream to some source.  Let's say it is a preference for dark chocolate, what was it in your past that created this preference?  Some great experience, maybe a strong dislike of white chocolate led you on a chocolate tasting frenzy and you found a delicious morsel of dark chocolate that to this very day has you searching in local shops for more.

What else?  A memory.  Let's say it is a face.  Where did I meet you, trace and trace and trace and, Yes!  I met you at that one event with my great uncle.

What else?  Here is a belief.  That's weird, where did that come from?  Is it cultural, your family upbringing, religious or political.  Must have a source, let's investigate.

There must be something else here.  Oh, wait.  Here is kindness.  And love.  And humility.  And fear.  Damn, where did those come from?  Where does my sexual orientation come from, my unflagging interest in learning, my desire to build meaningful connections?  Honestly, I don't really know.  I mean I can trace a lot of that back upstream through my life and find certain markers to indicate their presence, but there isn't always a clear source. 

So, the question remains, why don't I remember my past life?

Well, what did you do on June 3, 2014.  No cheating.  No looking at your calendar to check what your schedule was that day, just tell me.  I bet you cannot.  You might be able to reconstruct that date based on a nearby event or since it was close to Memorial Day you might be able to infer an answer with some calculation, but really you have no idea.  No idea what you ate, no idea what you did, no idea if it was a good day or a bad day, no idea at all. Why? Because there is nothing you can hold onto.  It is water through your hands.

Maybe that is what we are supposed to get from all of this, that while we can trace back to events and memories in our past, there is nothing to hold onto. The only way to gain clarity on these matters is to develop a calm and pristine mind, then you might be able to pick up on subtle connections that pervade your past, present and future. 

So that leaves one other question, what does our future hold?

What are you doing with the water right now?  What imprints and traces are you leaving?  How are you influencing its quality and its course?  What are you doing, right now?  This is really the foundation of all the Buddha's teachings on karma and dependent origination.  Everything is contained by simply looking at your mind and your actions. 

If you want to know your past life, look at your present condition.
If you want to know your future life, look at your present actions.

Of course the river analogy fits perfectly with our linear perception of time and space, past and future.  What happens if we use a vast matrix or even space to understand the mind?  Think about it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Thank you, dear reader.

It can be a strange experience to share your thoughts and feelings across the blogosphere.  The connections you make, the conversations you have, the hearts touched and the faces you never see.  It can be both entirely personal and yet entirely connected at the same time.  It is hard to put into words the impact that others make in your life, usually the only thing that gives due justice is thank you.  The Tibetan for thank you is thujeche, which literally means great compassion or kindness.  Here is to celebrating your kindness and your support.  Thank you.

I sit, stand and walk,
catching fleeting reminders
of where we have been
and where we want to go.
Moments of clarity and insight,
of fear and anger and exaltation, 
strewn across a lifetime of moments,
captured in bottles left to drift at sea.

May you stumble upon what you need,
a worn wood inscription,
a chance encounter,
a guidepost on your journey,
a cairn on a forgotten path,
a note in a book you've always had.

Wherever you are,
this battle is not your own.
Those paths you walk,
those lonely and precarious paths,
you are not alone. 
We are out there,
we are all over,
and we walk with you. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Meditation for the Dying.

Death can be a very difficult time, both for the dying and the grieving.  There can be feelings of helplessness, fear, uncertainty and great sadness and longing.  The Tibetan tradition has a very simple practice to help both the dying and those who are acting as their support.

Begin the meditation by lighting a candle, some incense and recalling the person in your mind's eye.  You may want to use a picture, but better is to simply feel their presence and the presence that they have had in your life. 

With each exhale,
send out your love to them,
radiating out joy and happiness.
With each inhale,
take upon yourself their fear and sadness,
wholeheartedly relieving and supporting them.
uplifting their minds and hearts,
giving them confidence and clarity on the path ahead.
relieving their doubt and uncertainty,
their pain and sorrow.
Exhale.  Give.
Inhale.  Take.

At the conclusion of the practice, make additional prayers or recite mantras and dedicate your practice.

Generally this type of practice is done for seven to forty-nine days after death to ensure and support the transition to the next life, whatever that may be.  It doesn't need to be elaborate, it can be as simple as sitting in a park, calling them to mind and sending them your love.


Monday, July 21, 2014

You and your dog.

You love your dog.
He is not a project,
he has a life of his own.
Your dog has an important role in your life,
he is there, day in and day out,
through the good and the bad,
through moments of joy and moments of defeat.
You make time to spend with your dog,
you adhere to that commitment,
because the joy and love he brings to your life is worth it.
You may have never imagined how much love you could hold,
but your dog shows you it is possible to love unconditionally.
Losing your dog brings a rush of fear and longing,
because it is a privilege to have this great companion,
to carry the responsibility of caring for your dog.
It is priceless.

Switch out the following words:
practice for dog; and it for he.

Friday, July 18, 2014


Inflammation is a natural response to harmful stimuli.

What happens when the body is attacked?  You break your ankle, cut yourself, burn your hand; what happens?  The body releases inflammatory markers and initiates a whole cascade of events to try to heal and restore balance to the area.  Inflammation serves as a method for the body to see clearly what is going on, and to implement the right tools to correct the situation.

The intended effect of inflammation is to restore the body to its natural state.  To health and balance.

What happens when we are attacked?  By our clients, co-workers, unruly drivers and just plain old rude people- we get inflammed!  We get angry.  Anger is actually a natural response to things that are out of order, things that are unjust and out of harmony (for the moment we will assume that it is not our perceptions and biases that are out of order). 

But what is anger for?

Inflammation is for seeing clearly and allowing the body to dispatch the tools it needs to restore balance and health.  Anger is also for seeing clearly and allowing us to dispatch the tools and resources needed to restore balance and harmony.

But let's face it, that is not the way anger goes down.

Inflammation makes no value judgements about the source of the stimulus, how or why it happened.  Anger loves to say exactly whose fault it is, 'Yours'.  When we get angry, we really aren't concerned with dispatching tools and resources to restore the situation, we are looking for validation, for revenge and for retribution.  If anything, we don't want to heal the situation, we want to make it infected.  We tell others about our injustice, we tweet about it and file complaints and work ourselves up into a real tizzy.

All in the hopes of being right.

Isn't it strange the extremes to which we will go to prove we are right.  We will destroy ourselves, our relationships, our well being, our day.  How many hours, days, weeks and years have we held onto anger?  Are we healed yet?  Are we right?

You will get angry, but use anger skillfully.  Allow its intensity to let you see clearly, then dispatch tools to remedy the situation.  What tools?  Patience, kindness, compassion, generosity, honesty, vulnerability and patience.  Patience rules the day when dealing with anger and injury.

And sometimes there will be scars.

The body doesn't try to fix or hide scars, it doesn't keep mulling over them and they no longer are perceived as needing to be healed.  Once the healing process has occurred and a scar remains, it ornaments the body as a constant reminder of how much pain there is in the world.  This reminder should encourage us to practice, so that when the time comes we have the tools and resources available to approach anger effectively and reduce the chances of developing another scar in the near or distant future.