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.    

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Middle Way between extremes

Can you rest between extremes?

existence and non-existence,
eternalism and nihilism,
acceptance and rejection,
affirmation and denial,
real and unreal,
hope and fear,
right and wrong,
good and bad,
beginning and end,
something and nothing.

Where is the middle between
'I got it' and 'I don't have it',
'This is it' and 'this is not it',
'This is good' and 'this is bad',
'Yes' and 'No'.

The Buddha taught that any fixed position that we take is the result of ignorance and the cause of future suffering.  Whenever you establish a ground, you are forced to defend that ground.  The need to defend yourself, your views, identity, culture, lifestyle; your very existence- creates a lot of problems.  The short list is fear, uncertainty, doubt and guilt; on the flip side arrogance, anger, power, manipulation and exploitation.

The middle way between extremes is the practice of groundlessness.  You could compare it to learning how to surf or float on water.  At first it might seem impossible, but with practice you discover that groundlessness can effortlessly carry much more weight and without all of the friction and stress of having a ground. 


Monday, July 14, 2014

What do you want to do today?

There is so much opportunity in that question.

We tend to fill that void with errands, entertainment, consumption and distraction.  We fill it with browsing, shopping, social media and all sorts of sudden urges. We fill it with many things that have no lasting value.  Illusions you could say.

So what do you want to do today?

I am tired of chasing illusions.  Tired and weary.

It is not so much that my life is really that busy.  I make it busy in order to avoid answering that question in a meaningful way.  It is easier to consume and be entertained.  Easier to remove myself from the irritation of being open and present with that incredible opportunity.  Easier to stay distracted than face the uncertainty and discomfort that arises when you don't actually have an answer. 

I can't say what value having a spiritual practice will bring to your life.  What I can say with confidence is that having your own practice will allow you to sit with uncertainty, with doubt and discomfort.  It will allow you to pause for a moment before neurosis leads you down illusion's game.

You might end up being honest and certain about who you are in an authentic and genuine way.

When you are authentic and genuine, you discover an inexhaustible wealth that wants to be shared.  It wants to connect, lend a hand, share a laugh and benefit others.

What do you want to do today?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

That wasn't so bad.

Not nearly as bad as what you thought it was going to be.

Your perception of what you are about to experience is usually worse than the actual experience itself. 

Why do you think that is?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Indifference is not wisdom.

How we relate to what is coming up in our experience determines whether or not it gives rise to wisdom. 

If we are open and responsive, willing to sit with resistance and irritation, we have a chance of opening up to insight and clarity.  Usually however as soon as we are faced with resistance and irritation we look to protect ourselves and close off any opportunity for harm and discomfort to enter, thus shutting any window for the light of wisdom to dawn.  

If we approach our experience with indifference it produces an even more unsightly side effect.  People who possess a mind of indifference actually think that they are quite wise and capable.  Their nonchalantness and overall lack of concern is actually a subtle dullness that results from a nihilistic view (nihilism = nothing matters, who cares).  The result is that they lack warmth, generosity, love and compassion.  Their practice has stalled and any progress is halted.

But they think they are doing a really good job.  And that is the danger. 

They could continue on this path for years before their practice gets corrected.   They could continue down the path of ego and ignorance, instead of the path of wisdom.

How do you relate to what is coming up in your life, right now? 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Songs of the Mahasiddhas

 Join the Venerable Younge Khachab Rinpoche as he returns to Seattle with teachings on the Songs of the Mahasiddhas. The Mahasiddhas were a diverse group of practitioners who were practical, committed, creative and engaged with their world. They shared their awakening through songs of realization and instruction. Khachab Rinpoche will give an explanation of these instructions so that we can follow  the footsteps of these great practitioners.

Register online at:

 August 2 & 3, 2014
10-12pm and 2-5pm
515 N 64th St
Seattle, WA
(near Greenlake)

$150 pre-registration
If you wish to attend, but cannot afford the full amount, please contact us in advance to discuss work study options 
and what amount you can afford to pay. A limited number of these partial scholarships will be awarded based on need.

Younge KhachabRinpoche VII is the Younge family lineage holder and a true nonsectarian scholar and Dzogchen yogi. He is known for his accessibility, youthful humor and brilliant discourse.

For additional information or questions, please email

Monday, July 7, 2014

How long should I meditate?

One of the first questions people often ask when approaching the practice of meditation is "How long should I meditate?"

The Tibetan word thun (pronounced toon) means practice session, but it can also mean a prescribed dosage of medicine.  When you think about taking medicine the context for how long you should meditate starts to make more sense.

A traditional thun is a three hour practice session.  The Dalai Lama is quite well known for his daily practice, which consists of rising early and meditating for several hours before most of us even get out bed.  Though we should aspire to such a practice, there are numerous variations available.

The short practice session.  This is a session that lasts less than three hours.  It could be 15 minutes or even an hour.  I can tell you from my own experience and from numerous others that it really takes 15-20 minutes for real stability to develop, so at a minimum 20-30 minutes a day would be a good baseline practice while you build up the endurance to practice a traditional thun.  Doing two sessions a day can help you add time on the cushion but also fit into a busier schedule more easily.    You could call this your maintenance dose.

The day-long session.  The day long session, or nyin thun, is an intensive bout of practice which allows for greater depth and a wider range of experience.  A full day session consists of what is commonly called the four session yoga, traditionally from 5-8am, 9-12pm, 2-5pm and 6-9pm.  That is a pretty intense day.  Once you have a couple of these days under your belt they won't be as intimidating.  This is kind of like a bolus dose, meant to quickly get you to a therapeutic level. 

The practice intensive.  The practice intensive, or sgrub mchod (pronounced drubchod) is any time period between one and seven days, typically two to three days is customary.  These practice intensives usually have a strict schedule for each session of the day and are quite effective for developing greater depth and clarity than the shorter practice sessions.  These sessions are kind of like receiving a high dose of a corticosteroid for a short period of time, very focused and specific.

The great accomplishment.  The great accomplishment, or sgrub chen (pronounced drubchen) is a seven day practice intensive.  These practices require a strong intention and dedication to carry you through.  It is very common for people to experience a lot of resistance around day three and how they deal with that resistance determines the remainder of the practice.  Day three can often mark a breakthrough or a breakdown.  Having completed a drubchen it is much more natural to try to continue your daily practice in the traditional thun format, since you are no longer limited by the conceptual apprehension of sitting for three hours a day (because you just sat for 12 hours each day the past week).   These sessions are similar to receiving a course of antibiotics to rid yourself of infection.

Once you get past the drubchen, there are longer length retreats that you can pursue.  Traditional time frames include a one (lunar) month, a three month, yearlong and a three year and three month retreat.  Each of those would continue with the standard four session yoga format, with guidance and instruction required prior to entry.

All of these are for the purpose of transforming your mind.  Any of them will do that, but probably the most beneficial and the one that provides the most return is your daily practice.  Build a strong daily practice and fit in the short bursts of intensity over time. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014


The reason that it is hard to assimilate your practice with the entirety of your life is that there is no manual.  

Monks had a manual.  We will plug you into the monastery for your education and training, send you off on a three year retreat and you come out a Lama.  Rank high in your class and we will give you some extra titles.  A recognized reincarnate master?  We’ll put you on the fast track from the beginning.   Go through this process and you are considered worthy of enlightenment, qualified to share your wisdom and compassion with others.   

You, not so lucky. 

You don’t have a manual and everything seems to suggest that it's not in the cards for you.

Artist? In your dreams.
Builder? Your kidding right?
Doctor? You wish.
Entrepreneur? Sorry, can't win this project.
Graphic Designer? Yeah right.
Homeless? Not a chance.
Paralegal? Too bad.
Physicist? Afraid not.
Teacher? Get real.
Need we even mention those who are sick and suffering?

Do you really think this is the case?   

The great mahasiddhas of the past didn’t think so.  They rejected the notion that liberation was only for a chosen few, that your circumstances restricted your practice.  Their ordinary life was the foundation and principle nourishment for their realization.  They were practical, committed, creative and engaged with their world.

I challenge you to follow in their footsteps.

We are all waiting for you to unlock the wisdom of your life and situation, to prove that it can be done. 

What would your life look like if this were possible?  What would our communities look like? 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The difficult part.

The difficult part of having a spiritual practice is not the practice itself; that is a joy and a blessing.  The hard part is figuring out how to included everything else, how to integrate the practice with the rest of your life.

The hard part is not trying to exclude resistance, problems, pain and defeat from your practice.

In order to overcome the hard part, you need an example; fortunately or unfortunately, you need to be that example.  To be the example, you'll need a strong practice; one that allows you to bring all negative situations and problems onto your path.

To be the example, you will need to master your practice.