Friday, December 30, 2016

Siddhearta's Essence of 2016.

2016 was a great year (or a terrible one, if you choose to see it through the media lens).   

Writing this blog has been a challenge this year.  I wrote a lot this year for other projects and I would say that I shared more this year than ever before.  But what I share here is different.  It has a different tone.  It is often me speaking to me, sharing something that needs to be shared.  Most of what I share here doesn't come from me sitting down to write, it comes in a flurry, in a flash.  It slips in between the gaps, into my dreams or just comes from the heart.  It often feels more like catching than writing, and I need to do a better job of being open and listening so that I can catch those messages. 

Of course this is also why I write.  There is an element of revelation and liberation.  We see truth, but we also see hindrances and problems.  The practice is to carry both as the path, to use both so that we can eliminate our own obscurations and ignorance in order to awaken our hearts and minds.  

I appreciate your support and encouragement over this past year.  Thank you for your dedication to your own practice and having the courage to carry it into your daily life.

Here is an overview of some of the top posts in 2016, in no particular order.

This might be your chance.
Householder tradition. 
What do we leave for posterity?
Our biggest challenge. 
The slippery slope of self-compassion. 
The truth of suffering. 
Only so much room. 
A better version of yourself.
The path from here to there. 
First, tumult. 
Throw back the fish. 
Disconnected. 
Willing to go. 
Concealed. 
The world is deceitful.  
Unless.
Overwhelm challenges.   

I wish you all a great New Year!
May you enjoy health and a peaceful mind!
May you focus on your practice,
generously share love and kindness,
and may you accomplish the aims for yourself and others!


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Bigger than that.

Be bigger than what you are going through.

You can accommodate this situation you find yourself in.  You can remain open to it.  You are able to listen, to bear its weight.  You can stand the gravity of these conditions.

If your mind cannot be bigger than the situation you will be crushed and overwhelmed.  It will be too much.  You won't be able to tolerate what you are going through.  You won't accept it and won't be willing to participate.  I can't get involved, I can't do this. 

This is easy to judge for yourself.  Just look at your mind, your reaction.  Look at how you respond.

The way to a bigger mind is compassion.  It starts with your concern being bigger than yourself.  Broaden your horizon.

The end is an open, expansive mind that is able to accommodate anything, like space.  Overwhelm situations through complete and utter openness, and everything is carried as the path. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

A mind divided.

Man is often divided unto himself. 

He seeks out leisure, but must act on his responsibilities.  He pursues his passion, but must be held accountable.  He follows his curiosity, but must produce results. 

There is tension between these two, leisure and responsibility.  Constant opposition and internal struggle.  Struggle to find your place in the world, the enduring battle between what you want to do versus what we have to do. 

The one requires space, silence, idleness, even solitude.

The other demands interaction, checklists, deadlines and diligence.

How do we dissolve the barrier between these two?  Can we cross the chasm over this great divide?  How do we reconcile this internal struggle? 

Lend your leisure to virtue.  Rely on virtue for your responsibilities. 

Virtuous is the pursuit of knowledge, patience and kindness.  The virtues of generosity and wisdom bear fruit in both leisure and responsibility.  Silence, mindfulness, and fortitude, these too are fertile ground for both leisure and responsibility. 

Virtue removes the struggle from our lives.  It allows us to find our balance, to find reconciliation.  Reconciliation is a gift we can give ourselves, and a gift we can carry into the world. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Working with uncertainty.

You will experience uncertainty on the path.  We can turn and hide from it, or learn to carry it into our practice.   

In the beginning, turn it into a question.  Use it as a marker for curiosity.  Try to resolve it.

In the middle, allow it to refine your practice.  Use it to find the edges and break them down.  Allow it to give rise to dissonance and resistance so you know where to focus your attention.   

In the end, no one has walked this path before.  You are forging an new trail, uncertainty lies just around the next bend.  Keep going. 




Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Sitting with uncertainty.

Uncertainty, doubt, hesitation.  

How often are we plagued by these maladies?  How often to they influence our path or lead us astray?  

How often do we find ourselves waiting?  Waiting for the right time, the right conditions.  Waiting to get picked or promoted, or told what to do.    

Uncertainty hides in the shadows of our intention.  When we encounter it, we often step out of our posture, or move for the small reprieve it gives us.  We may try to stay busy, reach for distraction, or entertain the discomfort away just so we can feel normal again.  

In uncertain times we yearn for control.  We wonder about our future, the future of our family and loved ones, the future of our community and world.  We spend sleepless nights caught up in the cycle of hope and fear, playing out dramas of gain and loss, praise and shame.  

But uncertainty really prevents us from moving forward.  Our intention may be strong, but we lack the focus to carry it through.  Our intention may be clear, but we don't feel we have the power to carry it out. 

Sitting with uncertainty may be the most powerful thing you can do. 

Face the resistance.
Don't avert your eyes.
Don't turn from it.
Don't waver.
Just sit. 


Donning the armor of patience,
With the sharp sword of mindfulness,
and all the grit you can muster,
breakthrough to openness, clarity and insight.
Then step forward with generosity, kindness and love.  

Friday, December 2, 2016

Nourish and support.

In June 2008, my soon to be wife and I were meditating at Boudhanath early one morning.

It was a beautiful morning.  Sunny, clear skies.  A gentle breeze blowing the prayer flags that were strung up to the peak of the stupa.  There was the steady sound of women doing their daily prostrations.  The familiar chanting of OM MANI PADME HUNG resonated throughout the square.  Incense floated on the breeze.   

It was 6am and the stupa was alive. 

As we were meditating, two elderly Tibetan women came up to us and offered us some unleavened bread and a spoonful of stewed potatoes, all the while reciting their mani mantras. 

It didn't matter if we could have paid something.
It didn't matter if we didn't need the food.
It didn't matter if we weren't even hungry.
It didn't matter what our status, our situation, who we were or if we were doing it right.

They simply offered sustenance to those committed to practice. 

What would our communities look like if we were committed to supporting and nourishing those committed to practice?

What if we dropped all the expectation, all the judgement, all concern for reward, recognition or repayment? 

There is seldom anything as impactful as a genuine human interaction. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Getting dirty in the fields.


Your boots will get muddy.  Your socks wet.  You are going to stain your jeans.  There will be dirt underneath your finger nails and you might suffer some scratches.  

Working in the fields means getting dirty. 

Your work will be the same. 

The bodhisattva knows that their time on this earth is very short.  They know that the road ahead will be long.  Knowing the truth of suffering they plunge into the fields.  Knowing liberation upon arising, they do not fear getting covered in mud.  At the end of the day, they dedicate their work for the benefit of others.  Tomorrow, they rise again. 

That is how you practice on the path. 


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Overwhelm challenges.

Usually we try to meet challenges with aggression.  We get ourselves worked up, we really fight and give it our all.  We meet intense situations with more intensity. 

Aggression is the bold face.  What lies beneath all of that aggression is aversion.  We fear losing, or losing control.  We don't back down because we would then feel vulnerable.  We keep pushing, because at least we can say we kept pushing. 

Our culture loves the aggressive model of meeting challenges.  It is celebrated and often bears the intended fruit.  But aggression is also exhausting and it doesn't always leave us feeling satisfied inside.

Is aggression the only way? 

Imagine instead of pushing back against challenges, we let them in, were patient with them, and then shared generously.
Imagine instead of getting worked up and fighting, we witnessed the situation and then acted with kindness.
Imagine instead of intensifying our activity, we moved with deliberate gentleness. 

The ability to witness, understand and listen is the hallmark of accepting situations as they arise.  The ability to then stand up, speak and act is the hallmark of sharing your gifts.

Overwhelm challenges with love.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Unless.

Unless someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It's not.  
Dr. Seuss | THE LORAX

You show up because you care, but caring is not enough.  What you are fighting for isn't going to happen right now.  What you are protecting is going to continue to be attacked and broken apart.  What you stand for isn't going to be accepted. 

That thing you are doing, it's not going to work this time. 

Or the next.

And probably not the next time either.

But caring means you keep showing up.  You continue to stand your ground.  You continue to fall, then get back up.  You continue to fail, and fail, and fail.  Birth and death playing themselves out for eons. 

Unless someone like you cares a whole lot and relentlessly shows up, nothing is going to get better.  It's not. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Not there yet.

Your practice will have certain goals and endpoints.  There are going to be practices that you accomplish.  You will finish some things.

But the defining characteristic of an authentic practice is that you are never done.

Never a time to hang up your shoes.
Never a time to retire for good.
Never a time to say that's it.
You will never arrive at the destination.  

Your practice will always require you to find a delicate balance between being overwhelmed by conditions or withdrawing your presence.  The more our minds grasp to situations the more we get sucked in and eventually overwhelmed.  On the other hand, without compassion and the intention to benefit others, we will often find ourselves being stagnant and withdrawn.

The balance is difficult to find. It is enjoying peace and fulfillment, but always standing up and moving forward.  It is being open and responsive, yet calm and stable.

Open and responsive.  Calm and stable.  Those you can identify in your meditation.  Those you can carry forward into the world.   

Friday, November 11, 2016

The world is deceitful.

Not the world actually, just our perception of it.

We think things are going to work out.
We believe things are going to go our way.
We hope that our lot will continue to grow.
We trust that things will get better. 

All the while we neglect the truth of suffering.  Dissatisfaction runs deep, it is all-pervasive.  We know that things are impermanent.  We know that all conditioned things are going to let us down.  We know that we never get anywhere when we are caught up in praise or blame, gain or loss. 

We know things things to be true, yet we continue to hope things are somehow going to work out in the end. 

Contemplate the truth of suffering.  Really, honestly think about it.  The only way out is to eliminate our own ignorance, bias and confusion.  No one is going to do this for us.  It is we who deceive ourselves.

That doesn't mean give up.  Not at all.  It means that we shouldn't be surprised when we encounter the truth of suffering.  It means that this fight is not over, it will never be over.  

It will never be over.  And we vow to continue to take rebirth here until all beings are liberated from the cycle of suffering. 

That is the promise.  That is what we are doing here. 

I am not surprised.  Now it is time to get back to work. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Time to heal.

We are sick.  Divided. 

This infection runs deep.  Much deeper than we expected, certainly more than we would like to acknowledge.

It doesn't look good.  We don't feel good.  Our future is uncertain. 

We sit, alone in the darkness, wondering how this could happen.  To us. 

Alone, grasping for any words than may grant a moment of solace. 

Alone.  In the darkness. 

People rarely talk about their experience conversing with death.  They don't like to acknowledge the possibility themselves, so it is often too awkward to talk about it with others.  Yet, one who is conversant with death knows one thing to be true.

Make being alone and in the darkness your friend. 

This space, this 3am empty world, with its shadows and resonant hum is often your only home.  It may often manifest as torment in all its variety, but it is yours and you make of it what you will.

Make friends with it.  Make friends with your own mind. 

It is in this space that you will discover what you need to continue to push forward.  It is here, that you discover how to be healthy when you know a cure is not possible.

We are sick, but we are not going to turn our lives over to this sickness.  Our future is uncertain, but for now, we sit in darkness.    

Friday, November 4, 2016

Have you read this?

A key aspect to the preservation and transmission of the Buddhas teachings lies in the way that they are passed on from generation to generation.  There are certain teachings that anyone can read or practice. 

Choose a book, read it, reflect on it, use it to support your practice.

There are other texts that traditionally require a lung (pronounced with long u).  Lung is the Tibetan for oral or reading transmission.  It is an authorization to study or practice a text, but also more than that.  In order to receive the lung for a text, you need to get it from someone who already has the lung.  So the lung is a living transmission from teacher to student from generation to generation.  The teachings are alive because the lung is intact. 

The key aspect of maintaining the living tradition of the Buddha's teachings is the teacher-student connection. 

This also goes much deeper.  There are hundreds of teachings of the Buddha and other great masters that no longer have a living lineage of transmission.  You could find one of these texts, have it translated and read it.  It might be an amazing teaching that profoundly impacts your life, but who do you talk to about it?  Have you ever read a book that makes a huge impact on your life or perspective?  You want to share it with someone, you want to talk about it, discuss challenging sections. 

The tradition of passing on the teachings through an oral tradition from teacher to student ensures that the student has someone to come back to with questions.  They have a network they can tap into if they need it.

If you could only read books if you received the oral transmission, what do you think you would receive?  If you gave out oral transmissions of books that made an impact in your life, which ones would you want to pass on (assuming you had received the lung to begin with!)? 

If we only read books due to connections we had with others, would you be advocating for giving as many lungs as possible?   

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Concealed.

You are a baker.
An accountant.
A nurse or a barista.
You're a neighbor.  A friend.
You're the girl down the street. The guy with the hat.

The ordinariness of your appearance conceals your practice.

But inside, you train your mind.
You practice compassion.
You cut through bias and judgement.
You are patient, generous, and kind.
You care for others.

Your lived practice is extraordinary.

No one will ever know the impact of your practice on the lives of others.  Maybe not even you.
Yet you forge ahead for their benefit.

Our world needs more people like you.  

Friday, October 28, 2016

Essay: Actualizing the Profound View of the Middle Way


            In the First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma, the Buddha gave teachings on the Four Noble Truths, laying a foundation and framework by which all of his teachings could be understood.  In the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha identified ignorance as the root of all suffering.  Ignorance is a state of confusion about how the self exists.  We perceive of an independent, autonomous self, one that is the basis for all experience and continues from moment to moment.  Through the teachings on the skandhas, ayatanas and dhatus, the Buddha broke down the self, revealing the wisdom of selflessness as well as the path to the cessation of suffering. 
            The teachings of the Second Turning of the Wheel of Dharma don’t depart from the teachings of the First Turning.  The understanding of the truth of origin and the abiding reality of the truth of cessation become more subtle and profound in the Second Turning. 
            The basis for the Second Turning of the Wheel of Dharma are the Prajnaparamita Sutras.  The 8000 verse Prajnaparamita Sutra is the earliest known sutra from around 100 BCE.  This was later expanded into the 10,000, 18,000, 25,000 and 100,000 verse sutras, which bear close resemblance to the 8,000 verse sutra but expand on abbreviated sections and enumerate lists.  The shorter Prajnaparamita Sutras include the Heart Sutra, also called the 25 verse sutra, as well as the Diamond Sutra, also called the 300 verse sutra. 
            We can see in the Heart Sutra how the understanding of the truth of origin becomes more subtle and profound in the Second Turning.  Remember, in the First Turning we use the skandhas, ayatanas and dhatus to deconstruct self-grasping and realize the wisdom of selflessness.  In the Second Turning we find Avalokiteshvara exploring this even futher in the Heart Sutra:

At that time, the Blessed One entered the meditative absorption on the varieties of phenomena called the appearance of the profound.  At that time as well, the noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva, the great being, clearly beheld the practice of the profound perfection of wisdom itself and saw that even the five aggregates are empty of intrinsic existence.

            The Heart Sutra starts by stating that the Buddha entered into meditative absorption called the appearance of the profound.  Profound here is emptiness, the appearance of emptiness.  It is profound because it is not easily realized, that it is beyond concepts and ideas about how things exist.  In the First Turning, we used the five skandhas to uproot self-grasping, but here Avalokiteshvara is saying that even the five skandhas or aggregates are empty of intrinsic existence.  The teachings of the Second Turning examine not only the selflessness of the person, but also of all phenomena. In order for bodhisattvas who aspire to realize this perfection of wisdom Shariputra and Avalokiteshvara engage in discussion on how to practice the perfection of wisdom.  Avalokiteshvara expands on the practice saying bodhisattvas should see clearly in this way:

Form is emptiness, emptiness is form;
Emptiness is not other than form, form too is not other than emptiness.

            This famous verse describes the Middle Way free from extremes.  We should analyze that form is empty of inherent existence, eliminating the extreme of eternalism or existence.  We should also analyze that emptiness is form, eliminating the extreme of nihilism or non-existence.  The last two verses reiterate this union of appearance and emptiness. 
            In order to clarify the view of emptiness as presented in the Prajnaparamita Sutras, Nagarjuna wrote his famous Mula-Madhyamakakarika, or the Fundamental Verses of the Middle Way.  In it, he presents the teachings on the two truths, conventional and ultimate truth, so that we can eliminate doubt and uncertainty about the view of emptiness.  In Nagarjuna’s Mula-madhyamakakarika:

The Buddha’s teaching of the Dharma
Is based on two truths:
A truth of worldly convention,
And an ultimate truth.  XXIV.8

Those who do not understand
The distinction between these two truths
Do not understand
The Buddha’s profound teaching.  XXIV.9

Without depending on the conventional truth,
The meaning of the ultimate cannot be taught.
Without understanding the meaning of the ultimate,
Nirvana is not achieved.  XXIV.10

            Nagarjuna’s presentation of the two truths reveal our confusion about the way that things appear versus the way that they actually exist.  Things appear very solid, concrete and independent.  We appear as independent autonomous selves.  But if you examine the nature of the self or of phenomena, you find that self is actually dynamic, connected and interdependent. 
            Traditionally there are Four Great Arguments of the Madhayamaka or Middle Way that logically establish all phenomena as being empty of inherent existence.

1.     Vajra Splinters, investigating the cause.
2.     Investigation of the result.
3.     Chariot argument, being neither one nor many.
4.     Great Interdependence.

            Nagarjuna’s famous tetralemma forms the basis for the Vajra Splinter argument and refutes production or arising from any of the four alternatives:

Neither from itself, nor from another,
Nor from both,
Nor without a cause,
Does anything anywhere, ever arise. I.1

            For our purposes, the easiest and perhaps best method of establishing emptiness is the Argument of Great Interdependence.  This king of reasonings includes all of the other logical arguments because it examines the seemingly real appearances of dependent origination.  According to the Middle Way as presented by Nagarjuna, all the illusory appearances of dependent origination and emptiness arise as the union of the conventional and ultimate truths.  In the Mula-Madhyamakakarika:

That which is dependent origination
Is explained to be emptiness.
That, being a dependent designation,
Is itself the middle way.  XXIV.18

There does not exist anything
That is not dependently arisen.
Therefore there does not exist anything
That is not empty.  XXIV.19

            Nagarjuna makes it clear that whatever is dependently originated is empty of inherent existence, form is emptiness.  To be dependently originated and to have some kind of independent existence are logical contradictions that cannot be maintained once they are revealed.  The wisdom of the two truths illuminates our confusion about how phenomena exist versus how they appear to us.  This simple insight that all phenomena arise dependently based on causes and conditions reveals the nature of suffering, how that suffering arises and whether we are able to eliminate it, as well as the actual path to be free from suffering.  As Nagarjuna states in his Mula-Madhyamakakarika:

Whoever sees dependent arising
Also sees suffering,
And its origin,
And its cessation, as well as the path.  XXIV.40

For whom emptiness makes sense,
Everything makes sense.
For whom emptiness does not make sense,
Nothing makes sense.  XXIV.14

            The correct view of emptiness is not that complicated.  Logically we can see that it is relatively easy to establish that all phenomena are empty of inherent existence.  But to fully appreciate this profound wisdom we have to move beyond a simple intellectual understanding, beyond mere logic and conceptual analysis.  We need to apply this view of emptiness to our own mind and our own experience.  Like the Buddha in the Heart Sutra, we need to meditate on the appearance of the profound.
            In the Essence of the Path, Younge Khachab Rinpoche encourages us to apply the two truths to our own mind and experience, for this is truly the doorway to the Middle Way.  It is not necessary to undergo extensive philosophical and logical analysis, we simply need to carry a direct understanding of the union of dependent origination and emptiness, or appearance and emptiness, into our own meditation. 
            Focusing on our own mind, Rinpoche teaches the view of emptiness with five features- profound, peaceful, free of elaboration, luminous clarity, and uncompounded.  By recognizing this view of emptiness with five features in our own meditation and relying on the union of shamatha and vipassana, we can enter into absorption on the appearance of the profound and realize the perfection of wisdom, the essence of the Middle Way.

Monday, October 24, 2016

What do you need to do?

What do you need to do to be of benefit to others?

Learn more?
Master a craft?
A better position?

Those are all things you can do.  Get started.

What about being less busy, less distracted?
Dealing with your own hesitation or fear?
Being more available or attentive?
Being present?
More understanding?

All things you can work on.  Get started.

What if you are feeling inadequate?
What if you are not good enough?

Then you need to learn to sit with yourself.  Be patient and listen.

Once you can do that for yourself, you can do it for others.  




Wednesday, October 19, 2016

King-complex.

Our culture promotes a certain complex.  It is very simple:

If you are doing something well, you will be rich and famous. 

Is that true?

Well, if you are doing great work, people should be following you.  People should be buying your thing, or promoting your service.  People should be talking about you. 

You should be remarkable. 

With a following and unique tribe comes the ability to capitalize on your work.  You should scale, increase your presence in the market and distinguish yourself from the competition.

Wealth and fame.  It's going to be glorious!

A modern day king living a lonely life of excess and neurosis, just like the good ole days. 

Is there an alternative?

If you do something well, you will have a rich and thriving community. 
If you do something well, you will impact people's lives.
If you do something well, you will be content and satisfied.

We can actually act on those.  We should start to value them more than likes, followers or money.   

Monday, October 17, 2016

Willing to go.

There are dark places out there. 
Places you don't want to see,
you don't even want to hear about them. 
You don't want to experience that pain,
that suffering and defeat. 
There are stories you don't want to relive,
memories that you don't want to remember.

There are a lot of places that we wouldn't choose to go. 

Compassion makes us willing to go.

She is willing to go there with you. 
Willing to listen, to hear your story. 
She will let you cry,
let you scream in pain,
let you suffer guilt and regret. 
She will be present and hold that space.

"I'll be here with you." 
Those are powerful words,
when you are surrounded by the fires of hell
with no hope on the horizon. 


Friday, October 14, 2016

So much more work to do.

We have made great strides. 

We have overcome a lot of strong negative emotions, disrupted bad habits and eliminated mistaken bias and perception.  We have started to act with patience and generosity, applied ourselves joyfully to virtuous actions and our practice of meditation.  Our wisdom and insight has begun to blossom and we can appreciate and see the connections we have with our communities and environment. 

Our life has been impacted by our practice.  This is important work, and we have so much more work to do. 

As we continue to develop our intention to benefit all beings, the aim of our meditation is to cut through layer after layer of fixation and grasping. 

Layer after layer we eliminate our self-cherishing behavior. 
Layer after layer we shed neurosis and confusion. 
Layer after layer we become more open and vulnerable, opening our hearts and minds. 

Bodhisattvas on the path to pure and total presence progress through ten bhumis or stages in their training. 

First is Great Joy.  Having eliminated the coarse layers of self-grasping, they generously dedicate their life and energy to benefit others without suffering from regret or dissatisfaction. 

Second is Stainless, where the bodhisattva never falls back or gives up.  Their intention is stainless.   

Third is Luminous, where bodhisattvas perfect the practice of patience, willing to work for countless eons to bring benefit to others. 

Fourth is Radiant.  Having cut through layer after layer of self-grasping and fixation on negative emotions and outer circumstances, the bodhisattva works joyfully even in the worst hell realms for the benefit of others.  

All progress is made by cutting through self-grasping and fixation on whatever is coming up in our experience.

Fifth is Difficult to Conquer, which is our own mind.  Our own bias and distorted perception.  Our own wandering and confused mind is difficult to conquer. 

Sixth is Manifest.  Wisdom and insight arise naturally.  We see truly, connections are seen and insight is shared for the benefit of others.

Seventh is Gone Afar.  The bodhisattva has gone far in developing their qualities and realization, and they tirelessly work to benefit others through skillful means.  They are adaptive and teach according to the needs of beings.

Eighth is Immovable.  All negative emotions and afflictions have been purified and one is able to effortlessly and spontaneously act for the welfare of beings. 

Ninth is Perfect Intellect.  Clear, concise, direct knowing and the ability to connect and teach others in whatever way is necessary for their benefit.

Tenth is Dharma Cloud.  Taking on any form in any direction, they continually act for the welfare of all beings. 

All of this stems from the intention to benefit others.  All of this grows and progresses from cutting through our own fixation and grasping. 

Strengthen your intent.
Clarify your practice. 
Accomplish your own aims and the aims of others simultaneously. 


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Upcoming meditation workshop!

MEDITATION WORKSHOP
Join us for a practice intensive.  Receive meditation instruction,
ask questions, engage in discussion with other practitioners. 
Clarify your practice.  Let your practice clarify you.
 
Sunday October 23, 2016
10am - 12pm
1716 NW Market St 
Seattle, WA 98107
Suggested donation $10

REGISTER NOW

For more information contact Greg at siddhearta@gmail.com.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Disconnected.

There is a disconnect between spiritual practice and modern forms of earning a living. 

Our culture is driven by ego.  Spiritual practice cuts through ego.
Our culture is driven by profit and gain.  Spiritual practice is rooted in generosity and letting go.
Our culture chases after name and position, fame and renown.  None of those hold weight in our spiritual practice. 

So how do we earn a living as a professional and carry out our spiritual practice?

Do we divide them?  Day trader and night giver?
Do we forsake the workplace and retreat to remote abodes, saying "this is not possible."

It is a problem that you must resolve on your own. 

What does your practice look like in the context of your whole day?  Can you resolve the tension and conflict of carrying your practice into your work?  Does your work cause you to suffer and generate self-contempt?  Can you be patient with your work as you progress on your path?  Do you need to switch, change or find something better before you can integrate your work and practice?

All of these have to be answered by the serious practitioner of virtue.  They are not easy questions, and you are the one that needs to bring forth the answers.  You are the solution, and it must be lived. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Progress through wisdom.

The common method of achievement and accomplishing your goals is by force.  Push harder, put in more time and effort, show up early, stay late. 

A lot can be accomplished through effort and exertion.

Another method is to progress through the wisdom of selflessness.  As you cut through ego and self-cherishing, you eliminate possessiveness and suffer less.  Not fixating on your own agenda and perspective, you become more open and generous. 

As wisdom deepens, you don't feel so overwhelmed by situations or problems.  You don't feel the need to turn back or give up.

As wisdom deepens further you can work with adverse conditions and circumstances with great patience.  The impulse to shut down gradually fades further and further from view.

Deeper still, your wisdom overwhelms whatever arises in your experience, allowing you to continue forward with your intention.  Even amidst great hardship and adversity, you continue unafflicted.

Deeper and deeper into the wisdom of selflessness, further and further along the path you progress.  Wisdom unearths accomplishment, yet what have you to gain?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Jerry-rigged.

When was the last time you found yourself struggling with a problem?

Did you search out the right tool for the fix? Develop a new tool?

Have you have tried to solve a problem with a tool that wasn't designed for the job?

There is a certain art to jerry-rigging.  A proficient craftsman can make use of a wrong tool and produce beautiful results.  With proficiency comes agility and innovation.

But what if you are not proficient?

An emerging craftsman attempting to jerry-rig a solution often ends up with a mess.  Or at best a solution that quickly unravels.

We often go through our days and weeks jerry-rigging solutions to problems when there are perfectly qualified tools for the job.  Tools we can acquire, learn, and master. 

As an emerging craftsman in your practice, when we are trying to jerry-rig a solution we should recognize our frustration as a sign that we need to search out and acquire better tools.  If we are frustrated, struggling and irritated, then we need to step back and reassess.

Reassess here means to ask for help, open a book, or search out the right tool for the job. 

What does jerry-rigging feel like when it is done correctly?

Curiosity, examination and joyous perseverance. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Secret.

གསང་བ་
Tibetan: Sangwa
English: Secret, hidden

Many of the Buddhas' teachings, especially those of the Vajrayana, are described as being secret.  Their are many lineages of esoteric teachings that descend from Tibet, many which are dying out as the tradition meets with a global culture and modern civilization. 

Many might ask, if the teachings are dying out, what is the point in keeping them secret?

We think of secrecy or hidden teachings in which the practitioners are sworn to silence, vowing not to disclose the practice.  That is our ordinary perception and understanding of these teachings, just talk about them and they will stay alive and spread, right?

But the teachings are actually secret because they they are beyond mere words.  They can be shown, witnessed or revealed, but they cannot be explained.

The teachings remain secret unless we commit ourselves to them, unless we become the working basis for the practice to unfold.  The act of working through the practice reveals that which is beyond description.

The life of the teachings then does not depend on simply sharing the teachings, it depends on people committing their lives to their practice.  Once we have received the blessings of the lineage, it is up to us to engage in the practice and develop it to its maturation.  

The practice tradition is the holder of the secret teachings and it is this tradition that we must strive to keep alive. 


Friday, September 16, 2016

Objects of gratitude.

Success can take many forms. 

Fancy cars, big bonuses, new additions, first homes, second homes, happy hours and weekend getaways.  Buy what you want.  Build a pile of what you think you need. 

Walk through your area and you are likely surrounded by people living out their success story.  Money and status grant us certain comforts and security, but underneath that success, how many people are really satisfied and content?

A lot of the contentment and satisfaction in our lives comes from being objects of gratitude.  We have been relied upon, trusted, made an impact and been present in someones life and they feel grateful for that presence.

We don't own that gratitude, yet we benefit greatly and derive deep satisfaction and joy from it. 

Instead of chasing success, maybe we should pursue more opportunities to impact the lives of others.  


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Throw back the fish.

The fruit of bodhicitta is the practice itself.

You must be willing to practice with no hope for signs or success.  Nothing to gain, nothing to elevate your status or ego.  No sense of accomplishing or finishing, nothing to hang onto whatsoever.

You must be willing to practice your whole day with no sense of achievement.

Then, if you do catch a fish, you must throw it back.

Dedicate whatever comes your way.  Share the fruit of your practice with others.

Blessings are not used up when shared. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Lifetime after lifetime.

A new job, a new relationship, moving, going back to school.  Change something. 

Discovering our own natural freedom and benefiting others is always just around the next corner.  Fulfillment and peace of mind is always just a couple of changes away. 

Yet we turn a corner and soon are looking for the next one.

We search, longing for a new opportunity, a fresh start, a new birth.

Lifetime after lifetime, we cycle.  Even in this lifetime. 

When do we no longer look to change our circumstances? 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

First, tumult.

Its easy to sit along a beautiful lake and enjoy the silence.  So still, so calm.  Every fish, every call of a bird, every movement is a chorus of life.  Perfect, just as it is. 

Easy still is it to sit alongside a gently flowing river.  Continuous, flowing, inspiring, yet peaceful.  The flow of life passing by.

Further upstream we encounter rougher waters.  Cascading falls, rushing gorges, roaring waters.  Its rough through here, even dangerous.  You definitely need to watch your step.

Further still you move up into the mountains.  A melting snow pack.  Drip, by drip, by drip.

We want our practice to be like a beautiful lake.  We want to sit with complete presence and stillness, to experience that profound peace and enjoyment.

Our experience is different however. 

When we sit to meditate we experience the rushing current of the mind, the cascade of thoughts and the tumultuous waters of negative emotions.  Then we think, "I can't make it through here, it's to scary" and give up. 

To get to the beautiful lake, you need to pass through the rougher waters.  You need mindfulness and vigilance to make it through, but eventually you make it down to the gently flowing river of meditation.  Continue further and you end up in the deep, crystal clear waters of vast lakes and oceans. 

All of this starts drip by drip.  Again and again we start down the path, each moment a new opportunity.  The tumult means we are on our way. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The hard part.

The intention is easy.  The aspirations and prayers increase your enthusiasm.

The hard part is maintaining a joyful practice of generosity.
The hard part is sustaining vigilance without getting caught up in mundane concerns.
The hard part is working with all of the obstacles, problems and distractions that come up.

It's easy to want to set out for the far shore.  It's much harder to get there. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Just give.

Far down the road,
well beyond what the eye can see or the ear can hear,
something remarkable is going to happen.
You may never know it,
often no one will make the connection,
but a gift leaves a ripple.
It bears fruit, even after many seasons.
It opens doors,
turns on lights,
blazes trails,
reveals a gap,
makes an impression.
No one knows where that doorway will lead,
or who will take it.

Don't wait on gifts as an investment.  Just give. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I know this life will come to pass.

Morning dew beneath your toes.
Light rays of sunshine, illuminating worlds.
Gentle breeze, rustling leaves.
Drip by drip,
Deep pools of samadhi.
A slow meandering walk, going nowhere,
holding hands,
big step, another step.
Way to go.
A smile, a glance, a friendly wave.
Doors open.
Off to work, working,
hurried, intense, what am I forgetting?
Panting dog, a warm cuddle.
Engine roars, silence.
Excitement, laughs,
tending, caring, picking up the pieces.
Holding, waiting,
there you go.
Rising moon.
Moments lasting eons,
hours gone in a flash.
Coming, going,
unceasing.
Inhale.  Exhale.

I know this life will come to pass.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A single intention.

Intention is important. 

What if your intention was the foundation upon which you could cultivate all other activities?  What if it could serve you during times of hardship and prosperity? 

We all of many intentions, some come and go, some stick around for awhile.  We often have mixed intentions because lack clarity and focus.  We want to work out more, but on the weekends we also want to have fun, so which is it? 

Bodhicitta is the basis of the path.  It is the intention that allows us to bring everything onto the path.  It is the fertile ground that allows our labor to bear fruit.  It is a single intention, a clear and focused intention, yet it encompasses everything and everyone.

May I attain complete awakening for the benefit of all sentient beings.  


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Grab a shovel.

Answers don't allow us to go deeper.  Questions do.

As we process and contemplate the information available to us (and it's all available to us), we need to learn to ask better questions.

Ask a question.  Find an answer. 

Answers give you a resting point, a place to contemplate and a ground to dig deeper.

Questions are the shovel that opens up space for further exploration.  Don't sit on your laurels, grab a shovel. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The path from here to there.

There is a path between the present and where you envision yourself in the future.  It might look like this:

A-B

A is the present, our current condition, what is real.  B is the result, the future or ideal.  Most people focus on the B.  Your B might be happiness or success, fame or fortune, family or fitness, or maybe even (B)uddha. 

It's easy to focus on the B.  To strive for attainment, for the result.  Everything around us is telling us to set our goals and to hit our mark.

But take a close look at the path (it's the hyphen!).  A life is in there.

There are good days and bad days, victories and defeats, friends and obstacles.  There are opportunities to be focused, and opportunities to deal with resistance.  There are moments to be generous, and moments to be overwhelmed by negative emotions. 

The path is where all of the transformation occurs.  The path is the conversion process that draws out all of the qualities and characteristics we are hoping to be present at the time of the result. 

The path is the gift that we get to share through our life and energy. 

We tend to experience a lot of dissatisfaction and discontent on the path, but that dissatisfaction and discontentment are due to our own perception of the path and our fixation on our desired result.

What if we shifted our posture, and focused on the practice of the path instead of the attainment of some future state?  That hyphen holds a lot of potential, we should make the most of it and also take joy in the opportunity that is present for us.  We have a lot to share. 


Monday, August 15, 2016

Buddhapada.

The Buddha’s footprints are one if the earliest representations of the Buddha. During the early dissemination of the Buddha’s teachings, the Buddha’s feet signified the Buddha’s presence, representing his enlightened form; the Dharmachakra represented his enlightened speech and the stupa his enlightened mind. Depictions of the Buddha’s feet have long been objects of veneration and respect, people would make offerings to them just as though they were the Buddha himself. The Buddha’s feet can also present us with another symbol:

‘I, the Tathagata, the Teacher,
Reveal to you the path that stops the pains of existence;
You must follow it.’
From the Udana-varga

In this way, the path is through the footsteps of the Buddha, footsteps that signify authentic presence, taking your stand against ignorance  and negative emotions, and embodying the Dharma in scripture and realization. In this way, the Buddhapada represent not only the destination, but also the very path.

‘As I practice following in your footsteps,
I pray you approach to confer your blessings’
from the Seven Line Prayer of Guru Rinpoche

These are footsteps that transcend the confines of time and place, footsteps that are unerring and true. They are footsteps that are meant to be followed.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The power of bodhicitta.

Being clear, it gives us direction.
Being stable, it manifests in various ways.
Being expansive, it is present.
Being formless, it gives shape to our life.
Benefiting many, it fulfills our aims.
Benefiting oneself, it accomplishes the aims of others.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A better version of yourself.

You are an individual.  You are a father, a mother, a son or daughter.  You are a partner, a friend, a student and a teacher.  You have a profession, hobbies, passions and curiosities.  You might be young or old, beautiful or well worn, trendy or old-fashioned. 

You are all of those things, and none of those things are you.

You've ridden on the highest of highs, sailed through the lowest of lows.  You have hopes and fears, ideas and aspirations.  You have stories you tell yourself when you are in a slump, and stories you tell yourself when you are basking in the limelight.

You are all of those things, and none of those things are you.

You are a mosaic.

You are millions of pieces of broken bits, shards of glass and shattered pieces gathered over lifetimes of moments, actions and interactions.    

You are an aggregate of stones, some white, some black, amassed over mountaintops and rolling hills, through dense forests and sandy beaches, across good times and bad in cities and villages that have come and gone.  Tiny pieces brought together from your youth, through aging and sickness, pain and suffering, opportunity and loss. 

People will want to take pieces of you, pieces to call their own.  Let them.  Those shards are not your own and scars and imperfections enhance your beauty. 

You will be judged and you will judge yourself.  Judged for your form, for how you come together, criticized for your proportions and the depth of your character.  It's okay to listen to judgement, for it voices what is real to what is the ideal.  Not necessarily your ideal, but an ideal not yet embodied and probably not found. 

You are dynamic, constantly changing.  A continuous process of transformation, gain and loss, old and new, death and birth.

You will likely spend years, maybe even a lifetime, trying to piece together the broken shards into a picture that makes sense.  You'll try as you might to figure it out, to make it more beautiful or more meaningful, all in the search of a better self. 

It is my hope, indeed my greatest aspiration,
that someday before you are lying on your deathbed,
that you will not suffer from grief or regret. 
That you will simply rest.
The continuum of time and space embodied in the present
as a collection of millions of broken bits,
bits that don't make sense and some that do,
all of them coming together in a beautiful moment,
a moment of joy, rapture, tenderness and forgiveness.
A moment of gratitude and appreciation, wonder and awe. 
Where you discover a better version of your self.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Technicians, Artists and Alchemists

Chances are your work falls into one of three categories:

The Technician.
The technician is precise, focused and determined.  They are masters of their trade, know the details and the connections.  Their depth of understanding is profound and inspiring.  Ask a technician a question and he will give you an answer backed with experience and reasoning.  Technicians are very straight forward and matter of fact.

The Artist.
Artists are masters of their craft who are generous by nature.  They use their trade to make an impact in people's lives.  They are visionaries, leaders, ruckus makers.  The artist isn't in it for the status or power, they are in it because they see an opportunity to impact change and they are willing to step into the void.  

The Alchemist.
Alchemists are enigmatic artists.  You find them in strange circles, unfit places, unseemly professions.  Alchemists are masters of change and transformation.  Their art doesn't make sense to us, often times we don't see it or even believe it to be true.  Their art is lived, worked over.  They do the same thing day in and day out, perfectly content to keep plodding along, yet timelessly free and relaxed.  The enigma of the alchemist doesn't lie within them, it lies within us.

Technicians are too focused on the mechanics of their own practice.
Artists are too focused on the result and ensuing benefit.
Alchemists are free of attachment and the eight worldly concerns.  For them, the result is the path. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Ripened fruit.

What do you do with ripened fruit?

You make use of it.

You eat it, cook something, give it to someone so they can enjoy it.  Otherwise, it goes to waste.

If your mind is ripened, if you have confidence and certainty, if you understand the practice and the path, then it is time to put it to use.

Fail to use it now and it could go to waste.  Don't make the mistake of holding onto a ripened fruit until it goes bad. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I can't see the path.

If you can't see the path, you aren't going to be able to walk it.  

This path that we are on, this way of life and the intention that we carry day to day, its all really new to us.  We look around our family, our workplace and community and we don't see a lot of examples of how to walk the path. 

So you need to search out the path.  You need to find those that have gone before. 

Read the life stories of past masters.  Read the life story of present day practitioners.  Listen to the stories others share. 

There is a wealth of inspiration and wisdom in these stories.  Experience and wisdom that shed light on our own path so that we can forge ahead.  

Your path won't be like theirs, and it doesn't have to be.  But if you find yourself totally lost and without aim, maybe reach for a biography or two. 

Here are a few I have enjoyed:

Longchen Rabjam

Jamgon Kongtrul

Padmasambhava


Friday, July 22, 2016

Missing the fullness.

If you have been around meditation circles long enough you will start to hear people say, "Meditation is boring, and that's just part of the experience."

Well, that's kind of true.

Once the monkey mind settles down and you achieve some kind of calm abiding or shamatha meditation, meditation itself can seem kind of boring.  You have passed one milestone and settled into some kind of space, but you are missing one key ingredient.

Compassion.

Compassion you say?  Of course I have compassion and generate the wish to benefit others through my practice.

Well, that's also kind of true.

You have the aspiration, but are you actually embodying compassion?  Free from a physical act, what does compassion look like?

Openness embodied.  Without center or limit, free of all reference points and elaboration.

Openness embodied is alive.  It is vibrant, luminous.  A spacious expanse.  It is blissful, full.

The state of completely open awareness is the embodiment of grace.  Grace, embodied.

Recognize boredom for what it is, a reference point for you and your experience.  Get a bigger bucket.  


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Only so much room.

We all have our commitments that we have to honor and respect. 

We have jobs, families, friends.  We have to keep appointments and stay on top of our responsibilities.  We have bills and errands, workouts and walks in the park, babysitter's schedules and client timelines.  Of course we have email, Facebook, news and books.  And our practice (doesn't that come first;).    

We only have so much room in our day.  Only so much time we can actually give.

A part of my practice of compassion is the intention to be open and available at all times.  To be present, to give someone that space when they need it.

I fail all the time.  I'm failing now.

And that's the choice that we make over and over again.  Do we actually be present, open and available; or do we play out our own agenda, our own thoughts, our own story and interests.

We only have so much room, but we also decide where its walls are and who we let in. 

How do we knock down the walls?

Friday, July 15, 2016

Change without change.

The spacious sky is unchanging, accommodating unending movement in the form of weather fronts, cumulus clouds modeled in apparitional forms, various life forms coming and going. 

Constantly changing, yet without change. 

The vast oceans are unchanging, accommodating wave after wave, teeming with life and biodiversity.

Constantly changing, yet without change.

The market squares are unchanging, accommodating various vendors coming and going, pedestrians and dogs, birds scrambling to catch a crumb, regulars and travelers, rich and poor. 

Constantly changing, yet without change.

This characteristic of change without change is known as symmetry in physics.  It is beautiful and it is all around us, the nature of reality and the nature of our own mind. 

To appreciate it, you only need to rest in a silent awareness.

The expanse of awareness is unchanging, accommodating all that appears and exists, an endless dance of appearances, days and nights come and go, yet not a single moment comes to pass.

Constantly changing, yet without change. 



Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What are you holding onto?

As you go about your day, what do you find yourself getting hung up on?

Is it your form?  Do you find yourself constantly worrying about how you look?  Are you beautiful or ugly, is that blemish too noticeable?  Too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, feeling strong or feeling weak; what are you hung up on?

Are you stuck on your feelings?  Do you find yourself running away from pain, doubt or sadness?  Do you chase after things that make you feel good, or experiences that are thrilling and exciting?  If you don't feel just right, how does it affect your day?

Are you holding onto your own perception?  Do you stick to your version of right and wrong, playing out storylines and arguments in your head?  Is your perspective the best perspective?  Does others perception of you determine how you feel about your status or respect?  What happens when you think you are about to lose control?

Are you caught up in various mental formations?  Are your ideas, stories, and opinions really important?  Do you rigidly hold to your beliefs or philosophy?  Are there memories that come up in your head day and night that you cannot escape?

Maybe you don't hold onto any of those and you are certain of who you are.  I know who I am, and yet who I am?  I experience the world through sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, do I chase after any of those?  Surely. 

We hold onto many things throughout the day, chasing after many more.  All of those constitute our experience and who we are, but we are none of those things.  They are the nuts and bolts, the beams and rafters, yet we are none of those things. 

If we are none of those things and yet they make up all that we are, then what are we?

Monday, July 11, 2016

Innate wisdom.

We all have innate wisdom.

It is the wisdom that knows something is not right.  That something is out of place or unjust. We feel it, see it directly.  It might give rise to clear thoughts or intentions, it may not. 

Innate wisdom knows that pain is not our natural condition.  It knows that these feelings, this anger and aversion, is not our natural state.

We are not the storm.  This tumult is not who we are.  This disease is not intrinsic to us.

Amidst confusion, there is innate wisdom illuminating the darkness.

We need to trust this.

If we trust the pain, the confusion, and the anguish, then we will be crushed.

If we trust our innate wisdom, then pain, confusion and anguish become workable. 

If we trust violence and hatred they will tear our life, family and communities apart.

If we trust our innate wisdom, then our communities can heal.

We have an opportunity available to us, we see it, we know it directly.  We need to trust what are hearts are already telling us it true.

This is not who we are.  This is not our natural condition.

Wisdom opens a path to healing.  

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Healing.

It is important to know that healing doesn't mean to cure.

We can have wounds, even open wounds, and be healed. 

Someday, this might be important to know. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

The truth of suffering.

We see suffering as many things in our life. 

We see it as heartbreak and loss.  We experience it as pain and regret.  We feel it as we age, our bodies failing us in ways we never thought they would.

Suffering takes many forms in our life, appearing as many different faces and in all places.  It goes by many names, but there is one that we seldom acknowledge.

Truth.

There is a truth to our suffering, something that we can learn from it if we are willing.  To learn the truth of suffering we must be honest with ourselves and our situation. 

Our ego is wrapped up in our own suffering and the stories that we tell about ourselves.  We perpetuate our suffering because it is part of our identity, its part of who we are.  Acknowledging our suffering requires that we set aside the story of ego, the story of how important we are or how great our life is.  It requires that we look truly at all the pain and ugliness, that we see our true face free from the mask of deceit. 

Which is painful. 

The truth of our suffering is all around us, it pervades our life.  We fail to acknowledge its truth because it makes us feel weak and vulnerable.  The ego hates to feel weak and vulnerable.  In response to this our ego throws up walls and barriers, acts out in passion and aggression to try to gain control of the world around it.  We build ourselves up in an attempt to overthrow our own suffering, all the while sowing seeds for a never ending harvest.

The first step that we take on the path is one of truth.  Honesty to ourselves.  We are suffering.  I am suffering.  When we take this step, we are treading the path of the noble ones who have went before us. 

Acknowledging our own suffering, we can start to see the suffering of those all around us.  We see their suffering reflected in our own life, we see how our story is shared with theirs.  The truth of suffering grants us the gift of gratefulness. 

Suffering that gives rise to gratefulness is a gift, a gift that we can learn to share.   

Friday, June 24, 2016

A tool for looking closely.

My daughter recently developed a fear of bugs. 

A few weeks ago a bug flew in her eye and now every bug she sees is an eye assailant.  Her response to fear is pretty typical for a toddler, she yells and cries. 

To help her overcome this bug phobia we bought her a toy bug vacuum.  Basically it is a gun that sucks up bugs into a tiny viewing chamber, where you can look at them closely and then release them outside. 

It works pretty well for what it was designed to do, to turn a fear into a curiosity.

The bug vacuum gives power back to the user.  It lets them regain control of their fear and work with the situation, rather than feeling powerless.  Any tool that does this is really valuable to the user, because it not only solves a short term problem (bug), but it also develops an ability to look closely and examine what they are actually afraid of from a safe vantage point.

That is also what makes meditation so valuable.  It is a tool that allows us to work with our thoughts, fears and emotions from a safe vantage point.  It is a tool that gives us power and allows us to regain our ground. 

Once you develop a stable meditation practice, you can start exploring the bugs in your life and you will probably be surprised at what you can dig up. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Upcoming Course: Essence of the Path

 
Essence of the Path: The First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma
 
July 10-31, 2016
 
Join us for a 4 week workshop on the Essence of the Path: the First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma. This student-led course is part of a series of teachings given by Younge Khachab Rinpoche to his students, which presents the entire Buddhist path from the point of view of practice. This course will present the foundational teachings of the First Turning, lay the groundwork for the view and practice of the common vehicle, and allow you to understand how these teachings are connected to the Mahayana and Vajrayana vehicles. Rinpoche encourages all students to take this course, whether they are new to the Dharma or experienced practitioners who have insight and understanding to share with the group.

The course will take place using Canvas, a web platform created for learning. Within a couple days of registering you will be sent an invitation to the course. Log in and check out the course syllabus, the online materials and recommended materials. Take a look at the weekly assignments and the course schedule. Check in on the discussion page and introduce yourself. Each week on Sunday at 6pm CST we will be having a Zoom video conference to discuss the material, allow people to ask questions and go over practice essentials.

Required Materials: Essence of the Path: The First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma by Younge Khachab Rinpoche (available for download on course page)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Deliberation.

It is important to have a strong intention in your practice.  To have a clear focus.  To be resolute, deliberate. 

Watch your mind carefully though.  Watch its undercurrents and the way you actually engage with the world, because being deliberate in your practice can often take the form of deliberation.

Deliberation is a waiting room.

It is hesitation, over conceptualization and theoretical idealism.  It is waiting for the right circumstances, the right time, the right signs or omens.  It is waiting for confirmation, or approval, or recognition.   It is waiting for the right answer or the directions, a map with everything clearly marked. 

Just waiting.  And waiting is not the practice.

The practice is to walk through the door.  To deliberately go in the face of uncertainty.  To deliberately go, even when things aren't just right.





   


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The slippery slope of self-compassion.

We are familiar with the practice of compassion, but what does self-compassion look like?

Self-compassion is the act of giving yourself space.  Space to breath, space to experience strong emotions, space to fail.  It looks like tenderness and humility.  It means not taking yourself so damn seriously. 

But self-compassion is a slippery slope.

Are we being tender and humble, or are we closing down and protecting our self?  Are we giving ourselves space to work, or are we not engaging for fear of failure?  Are we allowing ourselves to be wrong and to not beat ourselves up about it, or are we caught up in how right we really are? 

Truly the greatest act of self-compassion that we can enact is to cut through the root of self-grasping.  That is a bold act, and one that is simultaneously compassionate for oneself and others. 

That is compassion as it abides and manifests. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Metaphor for the nature of mind.

A glass of water.

What are the qualities of a glass of pure water?

Transparent, clear, refreshing, healthy, reflective surface.

The pure water represents the nature of our own mind, with its qualities of being pure, transparent, calm and clear.  A state of natural peace and health.  A pristine state of self-reflexive awareness.   

What happens if we put a handful of dirt in the water and stir it up?  Can we still recognize those initial qualities?  Are those qualities still there?  Is the dirt intrinsic to the water now? 

The dirt represents all of our thoughts, emotions, habitual patterns and karmic conditioning.  Normally we spend most of our days stirring that glass up, cycling through various mental states and emotional responses.  Our habits and karma keep churning up that water in the glass, the dirt swirling and obscuring the qualities of the water.   

But what happens if we let the water rest.  Just set it down and let it rest, and it naturally starts to clear up.  The natural qualities of the water reveal themselves without any effort. 

Given how omnipresent this example is in our own lived experience, we have little facility to apply this knowledge to our own condition.  We spend our days wrapped up in exerting more effort, more energy and time in order to accomplish our aims.  Our habitual patterns tell us that if we just try harder, stir faster or more efficiently, then we will gain what we so desire.   

Yet maybe the secret instruction is to rest naturally.

Rest naturally and thoughts, sights and sounds settle into their own place.
Rest naturally and emotions and fears disappear revealing insight and clarity.
Rest naturally and our habits and karmic conditioning lose their impetus.
Rest naturally and the qualities of the nature of mind reveal themselves.
Rest naturally and our intrinsic buddhanature becomes evident.
Rest naturally, and there is nothing more to do.