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 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


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.