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.


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


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.