Monday, November 30, 2015

Standoff on the streets (or dancing on the sidewalks).

Twice in as many weeks I have heard people comment on the standoff that occurs on sidewalks everywhere across the country.  Imagine it: you are walking on the sidewalk and someone is walking towards you, and you are both in the middle. 

Do you move out of their way, or do they move out of yours?

There is a common conception that people feel like they are always the ones to move.  The comments that I have heard is that people experience this as a display of power.  That not moving is a sign,
I am more powerful than you.

This standoff is perceived as a power play, and if you move then you are losing.  But is that true?  Are people on the sidewalks really power walking?

Indefinitely there are a few people out there who treat this confrontation on the sidewalk as a display of power, best of luck to them.  My bet though is that most of the people aren't power walking, they are sleep walking.

Yep.  Sleep walking.

They are caught up in their story lines.  They are habitually driven between point A and point B.  They are not aware of the world around them and they have no concern for the people around them.  They are checking their phones, their senses closed off behind headphones and just trying to make it in their microcosm. 

What about you though?

You're a mover.  You are alert and aware.  You notice the people around you, adapt to a change in their stride.  You're present. 

By moving you lose nothing.  You're not giving anything up.  This sidewalk, it's not yours.  You are being polite, respectful.  You are making a choice and standing up (or moving aside) for what you want to see in the world. 

You can walk with confidence and compassion, which feels like dancing on the sidewalks.  

No one will even notice, but you are being the change you wish to see in the world. 

So next time you are out walking and are conscious enough to be aware of the people around you, make a decision: Do you move or stand your line?

Ask yourself why?  What are you trying to assert?  What are you trying to defend?

Who is making this about a power play?  What if you are establishing a power play against someone who is sleep walking?

Maybe you are still learning what it means to be awake and this person, they are your teacher.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

So hard to get started.

Tibetan: lelo (actually pronounced lay-lo)
English: indolence, faintheartedness, procrastination

The Tibetan term lelo is a subsidiary negative emotional state that undermines one's enthusiasm for virtuous or productive activities.  Maitreya Buddha taught that this is the first flaw that we bump up against in our daily practice.  It is a flaw because it ensures that we do not start, that we don't apply ourselves.   It is a flaw because it ensures that we remain feeling stuck. 

We may want to do something important, want to accomplish an activity, but when we try to do so we run up against the inertia that is our own indolence.

There are three types of indolence:


This is the fatigue and laziness that we all experience.  It is heavy, sluggish.  I could get started or I could rest for a second.  I could do a little bit today, or I could wait until tomorrow when I feel better.

Obsession with pointless activity.  

We all know these... 


This is feeling inadequate or unable to start.  A lack of self-confidence that results in waiting or hiding.

It is easy to pass the blame to something else, something outside of ourselves.  But as a practitioner, or someone aspiring to be a practitioner, we need to look at our situation and our life.  We need to be honest with ourselves, our choices and our activities.

Are we really committed to making this happen?

To overcome these three types of indolence, Maitreya Buddha taught four types of remedies:

Belief. Intention. Perseverance. Pliancy. 

Belief is knowing there is something greater than this.  It is not blind faith, but rather our deepest aspirations and knowing there is a truth in them.   

Our intention seeks to purposefully accomplish our activity.  Clarify it.  Be specific. 

Perseverance pushes us to continue to show up.  Put in the time.  Do the work.  Make the effort.   

The result is pliancy.  We become adaptable, flexible, dexterous.  We become open to change, ready to change.  We become confident with the continuum of change which is life.

No longer too tired to go, too busy to go or too scared to go, we simply go.  We start, and figure out what else we need as we go. 

Are you going, or waiting?  What else do you need to start?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Two attitudes.

A practitioner needs two attitudes in their efforts to be generous, to make an impact and to benefit others- humility and confidence. 


The humble practitioner says, "I can do more." 

"I can do better."

Contrast that with the person who thinks what they have done is enough, that they have nothing more to do. 

The humble practitioner pays reverence to great teachers, profound teachings, generous acts and all those who are striving to make a difference.  The act of paying reverence is a display of humility.

Contrast that with the person who bows to no one, respects nothing even as their equal.  


The confident practitioner says, "I can do this."

"I can achieve that."

A humble practitioner who is endowed with confidence can do anything.  And they likely will.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Right livelihood.

In his noble eightfold path, the Buddha spoke about Right Livelihood and how to live a honest and ethical life.  As we try to integrate our practice with our life, our work often challenges us. 

The Buddha spoke of five lifestyles to avoid in our work in order to pursue right livelihood:

1. Ingratiation, or speaking kindly to others to win their favor.
2. Flattery, or praising others in order because one seeks to obtain something.
3. Self-promotion, or speaking of one's own qualities to advance your own interests.
4. Calculated generosity, or giving a little to receive a lot.
5. Hypocrisy, or putting on airs in order to receive gain or honors.

Those five lifestyles really come down to us being honest with ourselves about our intention.

Are we acting with our own self-interest or because we are wrapped up in the eight worldly concerns?

Or are we genuinely acting for the benefit of ourselves and others?

You can't be expected to lay down your own well-being and happiness in your work, but how often do we find ourselves scheming and throwing others under the bus?

Right livelihood is possible when we inspire others by our actions.  When we don't perpetuate greed, anger, desire and arrogance, we are acting with right livelihood.

The easiest way for our work to be a support for our spiritual practice is if we act with honesty and respect.  Be honest with yourself and with others.  Inspire them by your actions and they will support you in continuing your work and your practice.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Grateful for the opportunity.

I was just about to head out and drive to work today when my dog needed to go to the bathroom.  I let her out and she was back in a minute. 

So I left.

As I was driving to work, about to cross the Ballard bridge, I saw a terrible accident up ahead.  Several cars were involved in the accident and it did not look good.  A cop car was at the scene and there was an ambulance racing up from behind in the distance. 

I couldn't help but think, what if I had left a minute sooner?

Our life is so precious.  We can never be sure of the time and circumstances of our death.  We do our best to control all the variables, but when death arrives we have no choice.

Take a moment to express gratitude today.

Be thankful that you were able to share this day, how fortunate we are to have this opportunity, and how important it is that we use every day as if it is our last. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

A perfect day.

Each morning I wake up knowing today I have the opportuntity to be generous.
Generous with my time, my energy.  Generous in thought, word and deed.
I will have the opportunity to be receptive, available and present for those around me.
I will have the opportunity to make today meaningful, but I will face a lot of challenges.

I know I will have to rely on discipline today, 
Without a mindful awareness I will quickly succumb to distraction and idleness.
It will take discipline to hold me back from firing off a smart rebuke.
It will take discipline to remain in equipoise when it is much easier to turn my back and walk away.
Discipline will keep me aligned with my intention, but it's not going to be enough by itself.

I know I will need patience today.
Patience to sit with irritation and discomfort.
Patience so that I don't get caught up in purposeless arguments.
Patience so that I can remain open enough to continue, when it is easier to shut down.
Patience will allow me to continue to hold that space and to dance with resistance I am facing.
Patience will be a dear friend, supporting me in my efforts.

Diligence will allow me to carry through in my efforts.
Without it I will certainly succumb to laziness and distraction.
With it I will joyously persevere in my work, adversity and problems only fueling my fire.
Diligence is like a great steed, carrying me to my destination regardless of temporary circumstances.

All of this will rely on a singular focus-
To eliminate my own negativity and cultivate virtue so that I can fully bring benefit to the world around me.
With this single intention, meditation will allow me to work with resistance directly, loosening its shackles and the power of its influence.
Meditation will bring me clarity, stability and an appreciation of the illusory nature of all experience.
Meditation will give me freedom- freedom to move, freedom to act, freedom to decide.

All of this shall be accompanied by wisdom.
Wisdom that knows that this ground I stand on is not my own, that I am not its sole creator.
Wisdom that knows that this opportunity is a dance based on connection, a vast web in which our own neurosis will gladly play itself out if we let it.
I could dance and consume and have flashes of every emotional and mental state throughout my day, that could be my experience, and likely will.
I can see that, experience that, even live that.
But that is not my intention.

My intention is to use this day to bring benefit to myself and others, and so I practice carrying everything else onto the path.

Whatever I experience today will be the perfect opportunity to bring that practice to completion.

Friday, November 13, 2015


Stop looking for approval.  Stop waiting for affirmation.  Stop listening for consent.  Stop looking for signs of success.  Stop waiting for others to grant you accomplishment.

Your selfish concerns benefit no one, not even you.

Don't wait for permission.

Rely on initiative and generosity to secure the benefit of others.

Rely on your practice to secure your own benefit.

You know what you need to do.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Upcoming Events

We have some great meditation practice intensives coming up over the next few months.

Annual Sangha Winter Retreat

Join the Sangha on our annual winter retreat. This is a practice intensive retreat led by senior students and local coordinators. Practice with your local sangha or remotely on your own. The Winter Retreat will focus on the practice of tsa lung for all students and tummo for those students who have received previous empowerment and instruction from Rinpoche.
The retreat will follow a traditional four session format, starting at 7am each day and ending at 8pm. Because tsa lung and tummo will be practiced in the morning there will be several restrictions regarding diet and discipline. A complete schedule and instructions will be given to all those who have registered for the retreat.

Click HERE for more details.

100 day Ngondro Practice Intensive

We are going to start a practice tradition. Each year students of Younge Khachab Rinpoche will practice the Younge Ngondro together. Rinpoche strongly encourages all of his students to work on their ngondro, or preliminary practices. These practices form a strong foundation, prepare us for the path and allow us to overcome obstacles along the way.

This practice intensive will be a group of practitioners who are committed to the practice of the Younge Ngondro. We will have weekly readings, group discussions and senior student led Dharma talks. We welcome new students who are looking to start practicing a genuine path, and experienced students who want to recommit to their practice and have insight to share.

Practice daily at home and at your own pace. One day per section students will engage in the practice more intensely to deepen their experience and understanding of the various practices.

Click HERE for more information

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Instant feedback.

I think everybody dislikes being busy and having too much on their plate. 

The one good thing about being busy is that it provides instant feedback.

When you're busy, it's easy to see what you prioritize.
When you're overworked, it's easy to see your main neurosis.
When you're tired, it's easy to see how you handle negative emotions.
When you have no time, it is easy to see what you yearn for.

If you had nothing to do with your day- no appointments, no interactions, no stress- you would have no feedback for your practice. 

It can be difficult dealing with the intensity of our lives, but we have the advantage of using that intensity as a catalyst for our practice.  We have the advantage of using our life, as it is right now, as a means of accomplishment.