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!