Monday, March 31, 2014

Are you happy?

That thing that you are doing, does it make you happy?  Are you happy?

What is happiness?

Is it the simple pleasures in life?  Those tasty morsels of chocolate following a decadent massage in a spa resort.
Is it being immersed in a challenging activity?  Having to push yourself past your limitations and the joy that comes with discovery and engagement.
Is it your relationships? Your family, friends and loved ones, your role in the community and your workplace.
Is it your purpose?  This quest that you have embarked on that serves the greater good.
Is it your accomplishments?  Your titles and honors.  The impact that you have had on others and the blood, sweat and tears that went into fulfilling those projects.

Happiness is all of those things, and I hope you have it.

It is said to be our inalienable right to pursue happiness.  For a long time I thought that meant to pursue our own happiness, but what if it meant to pursue the happiness of others?

What if our simple pleasure was to delight, surprise and benefit others?
What if our challenging activity was to overcome our selfishness, fear and uncertainty and honestly strive to be generous, loving and kind in order to help others?
What if our relationships- with our family, friends and community- revolved around enriching their lives and promoting their aims?
What if this was your purpose?  Your quest?
What if you accomplished it?

Would you be happy?

Friday, March 28, 2014

A source of refuge?

Everyone who enters a healthcare setting is there because of hope and fear.

The 52yo male with high blood pressure.
The 46yo female with Type 2 Diabetes.
The 27yo male with generalized anxiety disorder.
The 4yo female with a nasty cough and an earache.

The are looking to get rid of the pain or discomfort.  They are hoping to feel better.  They don't know what their future holds and they are afraid of untimely death or medical complications.  The process of aging, sickness and death affects us all and it is a lot to handle.

So we ask the doctor, the pharmacist, the nurse or dietician to help us.  And they want to help.

So we give you a medication, set out some treatment goals that have been statistically proven to reduce your long term risk (even as those goals change every couple of years), and we enforce regular follow up and examination.

But we aren't in the business of curing things.

We can get rid of certain infections, cure your kids pink eye (if its bacterial).  We can remove certain tumors and benign growths, but we don't cure much of anything.

We can't even cure acid reflux (but here is a Prilosec).  Funny isn't it, how easy it is to direct you to a pill instead of doing the hard work of recommending a change in your diet and lifestyle and following up on that change.  What if a doctor's first words weren't as simple as take this?

So people come to us, looking for health, to feel better and to remove the fear of death and the unknown.  We give them a pill.  A subscription prescription for health.   A placebo would not be a moral treatment, but placebo or active medication the cure rate would remain the same.  Zero. 

That is because the cure lies in you.  If there is a cure at all. 

It is your choices, your decisions and actions.  It took a long while to get where you are, and it won't reverse over night.  But if you care about your health, your well being and happines, then you need to take responsibility for it. 

Do you turn the keys to your health, well being and happiness over to others?
Or do you own it?  Take the keys.  In the meantime, we are still here to help you manage your symptoms and reduce your long term risk while you make those changes. 

That is what we should be here for- helping you in the pursuit of your own health and well being.  Empowering you, providing the support and filling in the knowledge gaps. 

This is about our healthcare system, but it also applies to our work, religion, happiness- everything.

Take the keys. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014



Ratnasambhava is one of the Five Family Buddhas.

His pure land is Gunavyuha, the Array of Qualities, representing the wealth of complete and perfect buddhahood.  His color is yellow, representing the activity of enriching and increasing, like the bountiful increase in crops just before the summer harvest.  His right hand is in the mudra of supreme generosity, completely purifying egotism into the wisdom of equality, equalness.  His left hand holds a precious jewel- radiating peace, prosperity and fulfilling his own benefit and the benefit of countless others. 

He rides a precious horse possessed with all the major and minor marks.  The horse is fearless, never startled.  His composure is perfect with a soft mane and flowing tail.  His tireless hooves are silent, light and unfaltering.  The horse rides on the wind, the natural vehicle of movement and change.  In Tibet, it is believed that prayers are carried on the wind.  Prayer flags are often known as the 'wind-horse', and making aspirational prayers and prayers of dedication give energy to that horse.

In regard to our own mind and self, Ratnasambhava represents the aggregate of vedana, which is often translated as sensation.  But sensation here really refers to how we experience the world and mental events.  In the Abhidharma-samuccaya:

What is the absolutely specific characteristic of vedana? It is to experience.

So the way in which we determine our experience (or our life) as being positive, negative or neutral is the aggregate of vedana.  We are presented with a situation and we determine it is positive while someone else might determine it is negative.  Who is correct?

When we deeply contemplate and integrate the wisdom and symbolism of Ratnasambhava, we can learn how to transmute any situation into one of great wealth and purpose.  Whatever we are presented with, if we meet the situation with the mudra of generosity we can overcome the narrow confines of our ego.  We can approach the world with openness and tenderness.  We can transmute selfishness into the wisdom of equality.  That precious jewel you are holding in your left hand, that is bodhicitta, the intention to awaken from your own darkness and delusion in order to benefit others.

So you ride your horse, you train in fearlessness (which doesn't mean there is no fear).  You train in composure, in honesty and integrity.  You ride the wind by making heartfelt aspiration and dedication prayers.  Give voice to the wishes of others.  Give voice to your own wishes. 

If you practice in this way, you will come to experience the wealth of Ratnasambhava.  Summer is coming.  Are you ready?  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What should I do?

How often do we find ourselves saying this?  How often do we ask this to others?

We really don't know what to do.  The complexity of our lives and all of our decisions and responsibilities are overwhelming.  If someone has the right answer, please, tell me.

This question actually protects us.  Implicit in the question is that we want to do something remarkable, we want to live a meaningful life, a life of purpose, but we don't really know how to do it so we ask the question.  But asking the question actually shields us from the responsibility of the result, it shifts the fear and the possibility of failure onto the other person.  If this doesn't work out, it is her fault not yours. 

We all care about our life, how we live it and how we spend it.  But caring is not enough.  You need to take responsibility.  Responsibility for your actions- your thoughts, words and deeds.  You need to take responsibility for your health, your well being and your values.  

First we need to care about our practice, then we need to carry the responsibility. 

Oddly enough, then we might find ourselves asking, how do you do this?  Why do you do this?  What advantage does this have over that?

We become curious, active learners and experimenters.  Little scientists with big dreams.  Everything falls within our domain and we are always pioneering the next breakthrough.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Doing Work that Matters.

There have been many teachers in my life, but the one that has had the most profound impact on my life and my mind is my root teacher, Younge Khachab Rinpoche.

I met Rinpoche in 2004 in Madison, WI where I studied closely with him and engaged in numerous meditation retreats under his guidance.  That period of my life left an indelible imprint on my mind and transformed my life in such a way that it is still beyond my comprehension. 

When I moved to Seattle in 2006 Rinpoche gave me the responsibility of connecting with others, introducing them to meditation and sharing these profound, practical teachings and their significance in daily life.  That has been a challenge that I have had to reconcile with my practice, make it part of my practice.  Looking back it forced me to go deeper and drew out the implications of my practice beyond the confines of my meditation seat. 

Rinpoche often asks me, "How is your job?" and "How is your practice?"

It turns out that how you answer both of these questions says a lot about your practice.

If you think your practice is good but you are consistently overwhelmed and discouraged by your daily life and work, then you haven't figured out how to integrate your practice. 

We have a lot of modern day examples of people who have made a great impact in the world, people like the Dalai Lama, Pema Chodron and Lama Surya Das.  They have integrated their practice with their life, acting with generosity, love and compassion.  Making an impact.  But you don't need to be a monk, nun or lama.

That is not the only way. 

A couple years ago I asked Rinpoche, "What if I sell everything I own, quit my job and go move to a small retreat house in Nepal or India?"

His response, "That is a good idea, but you need to work for another twenty years."

The message- there is no escape.  Even if we manage to escape, it only perpetuates the cycle, lifetime after lifetime.  What you need to do is liberate the mind, not free it into some sort of fantasy, but actually free it.  To do that, you need to integrate your practice and your life.

Your life is your spiritual practice, the result is the path.

You need to do the hard work of connecting with others, benefitting them through kindness,  generosity and doing work that matters.

Monday, March 17, 2014

I am samsara.

Awake at night, caught up in this hell of ceaseless torment,
the endless machinations and ruminations of the mind,
I am like a boat without oars, strung along by a raging current,
subject to the whims of every crashing wave.
A miserable existence.

Like a hungry ghost in a barren desert,
the virtue of my mind has dried up and
no source of nourishment can be found.
Hopeless yet bound by craving,
I wander in and out of various mental states.
A miserable existence.

Like an animal, slaving after the aims of others,
I fulfill their requests but receive no gratitude.
I am expendable, replaceable.
My worth is measured out to me by by weight alone,
once I've carried my weight and they have had their lot,
they'll do with me as they please.
A miserable existence.

Like a human, I deserve to be recognized for my worth,
I have endured the hardship of my present circumstances,
in order to secure the benefit of my family and future.
I long to be free from this discontentment,
to be honored for my achievements with dignity,
to gain freedom and the peace of happiness.

Like a demigod, I'll fight for my position,
mine is the path of the virtuous and just,
Victory shall be mine and I will suffer no fools,
I will show you.

Like a god, procuring every advantage and truth
from the grand palace of my own position,
I am right.  I am right.

I am right.  As I wander off to sleep.

I am samsara, the cycle of existence.  Samsara is me.

Pray that I awake from this cycle of delusion and ignorance.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Here's the thing-

When you get the opportunity,
the chance to share,
to be generous,
to love,
to be kind,
to lend a helping hand;

Don't be stingy.

Share generously.
Be fully present,
and listen.

Don't hold back. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Postscript: Awaiting your fate.

As a postscript while you wait,

Does it matter?

If you are going to live to see another day, how will you spend it?
If you are not and your time has come, what now?

Your freedom from the confines of your fate only comes right now.  There is no other time to be free.  The cycle is perpetuated right now, while you wait.  My own fear, doubt and uncertainty perpetuate the cycle.

Whether you have much time or little is not the point, the point is to be free as it arises.

Liberation upon arising means that you are not overcome by your fate, nor overcome by the world.  You take it as it comes- the good, the bad and the ugly.

Let it be, as it is.  

Open.  Unwavering.  Fearless. 

Awaiting your fate.

You've gotten this far, you have fought and battled, weathered the storm.  You have persisted in the face of fear, doubt and uncertainty.  You have put up with the pain and discomfort, made the most of your situation.

You have made it this far,
and now you are in a waiting room.

Waiting to get called, to get picked.
Waiting to get cleared.
Waiting to hear if you are healthy or sick.
If you are going to live or die.

Will you live to see another day, another month, another year?

When will I break free from this endless cycle?
Oh, how I long for freedom from this...

"Gregory, right this way".

We'll see what fate holds.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Everything is an Offering.

The most defining teaching of the Buddha is the teaching on selflessness.  That everything and everyone in our world and throughout the universe is connected.  Interdependent.  

We all know that we are a part of the world around us and that we are in the world, but the world is also in us.  We are a part of everything and nothing is solely 'ours', even our mind.

It is not an idea, a philosophical position or a belief, it is a living experience.  When we have this kind of experience and knowledge of selflessness, we are empowered.  We are relevant and connected.  We are a participant in this ever-unfolding world.  

Through this direct perception of our selflessness, our interdependence, we discover a natural wealth and fullness.  This natural wealth and fullness cannot contain itself, because not grasping at a self it has no option but to be shared.  It explodes as love and compassion, generosity and kindness.  Everything you do and everything you are is an offering.  

Everything is an offering. 

Selflessness creates a ripple effect.  It doesn't only change your life, it changes the life of others. 

'My religion is very simple.  My religion is kindness'. ~ His Holiness Dalai Lama

Friday, March 7, 2014

Is this for me?

Have you ever witnessed the surprise and joy someone experiences when they discover something that was meant for them, but they previously didn't recognize was there or that it was their own?

It could be a gift, some kind of promotion, recognition or award.
It could be basic human rights- freedom, equality and the pursuit for happiness; the right to vote, to marry.
It could be their voice, their purpose, something they have to share but never recognized that it was there to be given.

The nature of our own mind is much the same.  It is right there, fully evident, but we do not recognize it and so are unable to enjoy it and experience its fulfillment.

The nature of our mind is originally pure, always and forever present.  It is flawless and unstained with nothing to improve upon.  It doesn't need to be made or cultivated, it just needs to be recognized.

It is your true nature, your innate buddhanature.
It is yours.
Enjoy it.  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Mark.

How do you know if you have hit your mark?  How do you experience error and obscuration and know them to be so?

A marksman has a great advantage, they know what they are aiming for and when they have hit it.

So what are you aiming for?

Stability.  Peace of mind.  A clear and calm mind.

The Tibetan syllable Ah represents your uncontrived, natural state.  It is unborn and unceasing, the true nature of your own mind.  To recognize it and abide in it is the basis of the path.  If you do not recognize it, then you are always falling to extremes and missing your mark.

Persevere in your practice.  Gain mastery and proficiency.  

Lastly, if this is your bullseye, even if you miss your mark, what joy!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Get Started.

The story of Siddhartha's life is about becoming Buddha, being Buddha.

It is a story on how to live a life of wisdom, generosity, love and compassion.  It is about embodying a spiritual practice that integrates all aspects of your life and starts right where you are. 

It is about traversing the Mahayana path, a path of great wealth and wisdom.  It is a path that does not separate your day-to-day life and your spiritual practice.  Your life is your spiritual practice, the result is the path.

It is a path that has been traveled by men and women of all trades-
artists, scientists, physicians, educators and entrepreneurs, the rich and the poor-
it is the path of the bodhisattvas, the mahasiddhas.

Its lifeblood are the blessings that descend from an authentic, uninterrupted practice lineage.  These blessings take the form of realization and wisdom as they pass from each generation to the next through continued guidance, clarification and support.

Siddhearta's story is about living a life of value and purpose, for yourself and for others.

It is your story.

You are Siddhearta.

Your path.  Your practice.
Clarify your practice.  Let your practice clarify you.

If you are looking for practical methods, meditation instruction or simply want to learn more about these profound and practical teachings, contact me at

Thank you for reading this blog and I look forward to our next discussion.