Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Settling the Mind.

Take your seat. Meditate for ten minutes using any method that you are familiar with. You might focus on your breath, visualize an internal drop of light, focus on a mantra, or rest in the uncontrived natural state.

What is your experience? What do you notice? What are some of the challenges or problems that come up?

One of the first things you will probably notice is movement.

You experience thoughts racing, sensations coursing through your body- pain, itching, tightness. You notice all of this movement, which normally goes unseen and unrecognized.

Movement is the first experience of meditation. Now you know how stirred up you are. You may have a conceptual idea of resting the mind and what that should look and feel like, but when you sit what you actually experience is movement.

Which is good.

What we are experiencing is our own mind- complete with thoughts, emotions, sense perceptions, habits and memories. We are having a direct encounter with our crazy monkey mind.

At this point in your practice it is important to rely on study. What is meditation? What are methods for dealing with obstacles? Really investigate what is mind, what is the nature of mind? What is the basis for what we experience in meditation? Are the things we experience momentary and fleeting or do they have some real substance? Investigate cause and effect, look at where you are stuck or what you are holding onto. Dig deeper into your experience.

Don't beat yourself up. Don't make your practice into a big project. Learn to relax. Let go.

It is okay if it doesn't happen right away. It is important to develop the habit of settling and resting. Put your effort into showing up without expectation or judgment. Be present, be here. Even if the present is loud and unsettled, it is enough for now. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

An exercise in love.

From On Being with Krista Tippett:

This tool that I inherited, that's in my toolbox, is right there:
I carve this little space each day for being,
in the me so I can be there more for the we,
and I am now really conscious of how core it is in an exercise in love,
so that I can be more agile and helpful, 
when more contentious moments happen,
the moment I turn on my phone or open my front door.

Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Questions to my self.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, 
 that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, 
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Such a simple statement, it seems as though we couldn't go astray with those words as our compass. And yet we have. We do. We have since that statement was committed to paper.

When we contemplate these rights, we might start to think about deeper questions like who are we? what do we stand for? what makes our life meaningful?

So much of the rhetoric that we see and hear is the shouting of the false self. It is the cries of the self-righteous, the small disconnected self that occupies a small world, the self that divides and exploits. The mind is a powerful thing, it has the potential to create change. Ignorance has an effect, and it is not pretty.

It is important to examine the self. The Buddha taught the examination of self as the foundation for understanding not only ourselves, but also the world around us.

The Buddha taught that the self was an aggregate. It was a heap of consciousness, a body, perceptions, feelings and mental formations. Each of those aggregates was furthermore composed of smaller aggregates. There is no autonomous self, it is connected, a network of parts and pieces that makes what we perceive as a whole.

The self arises from causes and conditions. It is not a single entity, self-manifest and self-created. We are created from our parents, communities, social and spiritual backgrounds. There is no independent self, we are connected, a network of causes and conditions that enable us to occupy a moment in space and time.

The false self feels isolated, lonely, rejected and powerless. The true self is connected, dependent, bigger than you, malleable, changing, dynamic. The false self builds walls, the true self embraces its diversity.

It is important to examine the self, who are we? Who are the we that hold these truths to be self-evident?

Of course the true self is also no self. Everything is connected as it were. When we realize this simple truth, that we are all connected, then there is a potential that we can respect and fulfill those inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Becoming more human.

I'm nothing special, just an ordinary human being.
That's why I always describe myself as a simple Buddhist monk.
His Holiness Dalai Lama

I have heard the Dalai Lama speak on several occasions, and often times he will remind us of this point. It is really a teaching unto itself, a reminder for ourselves in our own practice.

In our own practice, we often find ourselves trying to escape the human condition. We try to get away from all of the pain and suffering, to relieve ourselves of the burden of our anxiety and stress. We can work with our condition in healthy ways, or in way that continue to feed our own neurosis and confusion, that is the challenge of the practice.

I think part of the reason that the Dalai Lama reminds us that he is an ordinary human being is because a lot of people project onto him the notion that he is a Buddha or some kind of god, above it all. They imagine that he is somehow removed from the human condition, that he is different from us.

There is a tendency, that I have often witnessed in so called advanced practitioners, to be above it all. Our practice can lend itself to being the knower of truth, the provider of every solution and the one with an answer to every question. This is a real danger, the work of ego and arrogance. It is something that we should watch out for in our own practice.

The Dalai Lama reminds us that through our practice we should become more human. The goal isn't to become better than human, or some kind of superhuman, but to truly be human. An ordinary human being. Our practice is about embodying human values, connecting with what it really means to be human and using that as the basis for our practice.

Orienting ourselves with human values, our practice should be simple. Simply be present, practice mindfulness and compassion, be grateful and enjoy this life. Don't make things too complicated. Don't be too complicated on the inside, don't have too many wants and needs. Don't stir the pot.

Be simple. Easy going.

And he is a Buddhist monk. This is his job. He takes it seriously. We should take our practice seriously. As practitioners, this work that we are doing is important. Don't be lazy. Don't give way to your bad habits and doubts. This is important work that needs to be done.

Living this way, as a simple human practitioner, we can make a profound impact on the world. We can be makers of change, forgiveness and healing. We can alleviate pain and right injustice. We can enjoy life, appreciate its beauty and tenderness. We can have a peaceful heart and a happy mind.

Don't believe it is possible?

The Dalai Lama is showing us, it is so.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Who is we?

The great practitioner of virtue dedicates their practice to the benefit of others, but who are the others?

Who is we?

Is it your family, your tribe, your community?
Is it your supporters and sponsors?
Is the circle of we really the circle of you?

We is everyone. All beings, everywhere. Those with you and those against you. Those you agree with and those you don't.

That is the basis of dedication.

You don't need to agree with everyone or align with their position. You don't need to condone wrong views or tolerate injustice.

You should wish all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness, that they be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. All beings, everyone.

That is the basis. That is the common ground. That is a starting point for change.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The virtue of presence.

Presence is compassionate. It is open, available and responsive.
Presence witnesses the world as it is, offering acknowledgement, understanding and respect.
Presence is generous. Generous with your time, attention and effort.
Presence is disciplined. It does not waver or get caught up in cycles of confusion.
Presence is patient, overcoming the tendency to shut down and turn away.
Presence is diligent, willing to resolve hardship as we journey on the path.
Presence embodies a natural meditative stability.
Presence gives rise to insight and wisdom.

All virtues are embodied in presence. Practice being present, and you give the world a great gift.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Signs of progress.

Being accomplished in your practice doesn't mean that you have amassed a great following. It isn't your ability to know every answer, to be the provider of every solution. It doesn't matter if your students think you can walk on water or you have amazing abilities.

Your practice has borne fruit if you are less concerned about what others think of you.
Your practice has hit its mark if you don't fear being insignificant.
Not chasing after praise or worried about being blamed are signs of success.
You've made great progress when you are no longer scheming for gain or using any measure at all to protect against loss.
If you no longer feel overwhelmed by suffering, your practice is ripening.
If you no longer find yourself wishing for happiness, it is a strong sign of accomplishment.