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.