Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Developing Bodhicitta

Today we are going to talk about developing the awakened mind.  We are going to be discussing the four immeasurables or the four boundless attitudes, which are love, compassion, joy and equanimity.  They are called immeasurable (or boundless) because they themselves are immeasurable and they bring immeasurable benefit. We all have experience of these four attitudes but it is of a limited scope, they result in blissful states and remain conditioned.  If we take these four attitudes onto the path of liberation they serve as catalysts that propel us to the far shore. 
            Since we have this mind that tends to fixate on objects and tends to need an objective referent, that is where we want to start.  Normally with regard to these attitudes (equally they are perceptions and feelings) we focus on the object of the experience, but the quality that we experience can be with or without a reference.  The referential aspect is limited, impure and leads to higher rebirths.  Rebirth here can mean better states to be gained in this lifetime and the next.  The non-referential aspect is all encompassing, unlimited and the cause for complete awakening. 
            With regard to these four attitudes, love is the desire to establish beings in happiness, health or prosperity.  Compassion is the desire to free beings from suffering, anxiety or negative states.  We should differentiate between sympathy which can lead to pity and empathy which is more of a move to act on that compassion.  Joy really means to rejoice in the happiness and success that others have gained, just as when parents are joyful when their child takes their first step.  Equanimity means to have a calm, open mind free from acceptance and rejection.  There are many traditions and methods to cultivate these four attitudes, many of which start with cultivating love.  Longchenpa prefers to start with the cultivation of equanimity so that we have a basis in the non-referential aspect. 
            So we are starting with equanimity because then the other three attitudes will be of a greater scope.  We have all had an experience of feeling at one with the world or others around us, or having a fully present, open mind, or feeling a sense of interconnectedness.  Most likely these moments have been brief and fleeting but we want to try to expand and deepen that experience. 
            On an outer level, we can examine our thoughts and value judgements.  We can look at our past experience and see that people who we thought were friends have become enemies, or enemies have become friends.  We have done things that we thought were helpful but they ended up causing harm, or things that we thought were bad but ended up being okay or good.  Otherwise people that we thought were really admirable turned out to have a terrible demeanor, etc.  We have a lot of these types of experiences, so we should examine these experiences and reach a conviction that there isn’t any definitive good or bad, right or wrong, and then we should relax into that certainty.  We should start small, slowly, gradually expanding this to our country, world and universe.  The measure of success is that oneself and others are seen to be alike. 
            On an inner level, in our meditation we have the natural settling of our body, feelings and thoughts.  As we continue to open up to and naturally abide in equanimity, our experience is that of enjoying in whatever manifests, whether it is of samsara or nirvana, as being pure and equal without acceptance or rejection. 
            The secret experience, or the dawning of non-referential equanimity, occurs when you realize that everything is nature of mind and that it is empty of existing in any fixed manner (think of the continuum of dependent origination).  The nature of the mind is like the sky, and it does not truly exist.  The vast expanse of awakened mind is utterly lucid, like a spacious sky.  The measure of success is an unchanging openness without center or limit.  We have an experience like the waves of the ocean, whether high or low, which serve to ornament the ocean but do not in affect it in any way.  We come to abide in the spontaneous presence of the authentic nature. 
            Next we turn to the practice of love, which means to establish others in happiness.  The referential aspect of love is to establish in others pleasure, health and prosperity.  We also seek to establish them in their ultimate happiness, their own realization of the awakened mind.  The common method to generate love is to develop it towards one’s own mother or loved one.  We then gradually expand that practice to include all beings.  The measure of success is an all embracing love like a mother who loves her child. 
            Non-referential love is great love, in which everything is within the reach and range.  It is the union of love and the openness of being, and the result is a visible pure pleasantness and noble qualities. 
            Third is the practice of compassion, which means to free others from suffering.  The referential aspect of empathic compassion seeks to free beings momentarily from their suffering, their pain and uncertainty through one’s own virtue, wealth and effort.  The measure of success is the inability to bear the suffering of others, like a father who is unable to bear their child’s pain. 
            Non-referential compassion is great compassion, the union of compassion and the openness of being.  The result is a mind that is without malice or vindictiveness, not seeking to inflict harm or dismiss others suffering as only their own. 
            The fourth and final practice is of sympathetic joy, or rejoicing in the happiness and success of others.  The referential aspect is to have joy in others pleasure, not needing to install them in happiness but that they have found it and that they will find it from now until their complete awakening.  We should have the intention that they never be separate from this happiness and prosperity.  The measure of success is joy free from envy.
            Non-referential joy is like experienced in states of meditation, the union of joy and the openness of being.  The result is steadfastness through the cultivation of inner wealth. 
            Next we want to cut through attachment or fixation to the experiences of these four immeasurables.  When through love we start to feel attached to our friends or loved ones, we want to cultivate compassion which cuts through the karmic suffering of the relationship.  When our compassion becomes fixated on the object of reference, we should cultivate joy to cut through weariness.  When joy brings agitation and excitement, cultivate equanimity free of attachment.  Finally, when abiding in equanimity leads to passive neutrality and an indeterminate state, we should cultivate love and the other immeasurables. 
            This cycle of cultivation is easy and leads to the steady development of the four immeasurables.  We come to experience an inner happiness free of anything to be upset about.  People are friendly and you have an inner wealth to be shared with others.  You grow more and more, spontaneously fulfilling the two accumulations of merit and wisdom and gaining the two kayas. 
            When the four immeasurables are present and meet with afflicted emotions, they act as a catalyst for realizing the five wisdoms, or the five aspect of timeless awareness. 

Attitude + Afflicted emotion ======== Attitude + Aspect of timeless awareness

            When love is present and acting on anger (aversion, rejection), there comes in its place a mirror-like timeless awareness that naturally reflects, reveals and participates in the experience.  When timeless awareness is not recognized and we fixate on the negative characteristics of objective referents, then anger arises. 
            When compassion is present and acting on desire (attachment, acceptance), there comes in its place all-discerning timeless awareness.  When timeless awareness is not recognized and we fixate on positive characteristics of objective referents, then attachment arises.
            When joy is present and acting on envy (discontent, should have been this or that way), there comes in its place the timeless awareness of spontaneous fulfillment, things completely perfect as they are and a sense of inner contentment.  When timeless awareness is not recognized and we fixate on objective referents, then envy and discontent arise.
            When equanimity is present and acting on pride (ego-inflation, arrogance), there comes in its place timeless awareness as equalness.  When timeless awareness is not recognized, grasping at subject and object, better or worse, high or low, then arrogance arises.
            When equanimity is present and acting on ignorance (delusion, non-recognition), there comes in its place timeless awareness as the basic space of phenomena, the authentic condition free from elaboration.  When timeless awareness is not recognized and we fixate on the intrinsic clarity of the nature of mind, then ignorance arises and we move away from the authentic state.  
           Through the contemplation and practice of the four immeasureables we can really come to experience them in this way.  

May all beings have happiness and its causes,
May they be free from suffering and its causes,
May they never be separate from sorrow-less great bliss,
May they abide in equanimity, free from attachment and anger.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Simple Discipline

Commit not a single unwholesome action, 
Cultivate a wealth of good qualities, 
To tame this mind of ours,
This is my doctrine.
Buddha Shakyamuni

Discipline is meant to simplify our life.  It provides direction and rights our course if we go astray.  Discipline is not moral righteousness with its attendants of arrogance and guilt.  Shantideva wrote in his Way of the Bodhisattva that it is we who corrupt ourselves, it is in this sense that we apply the practice of discipline.

Commit not a single unwholesome action

The essence of this practice is simple- do no harm.  The application of this practice is not easy at all.  We should strive to do no harm with our body, speech and mind.  Make effort because it does not come easy.

There is a story of a monk who would use black and white stones to track his actions throughout the day.  For every good action he would put a white stone in his right pocket, for every harmful action he would put a black stone in his left pocket.  At first he found his pockets only full of black stones and everywhere he turned he encountered conflict in the world.  As he applied effort to the practice he began to have a balance of black and white stones, and while he still encountered conflict he was beginning to see how he could act in certain situations.  In the end, he only found white stones in his pockets, his mind was peaceful and there were no threats to be found.

Cultivate a wealth of good qualities

Our mind is an open plain of pure potential in which anything at all can arise.  Cultivate qualities that will bring benefit to you and others.

Develop the mind.  Habituate the mind.  Train the mind.  

The qualities that we can develop are endless, but the qualities that the Buddha taught bring  fulfillment are the four immeasurables and six perfections.  In the battlefield of afflicted emotions within our own mind, the six perfections- generosity, discipline, patience, joyous perseverance, meditative equipoise and wisdom- function like an impenetrable armor and the four immeasurables- love, compassion, joy and equanimity- are the equipment we carry.  It is these qualities that the Victor's before us have cultivated on the path and likewise it is in this way that we should train.

To tame this mind of ours

Cultivate an open, calm and clear mind that is free from afflictive emotions, negative habitual tendencies and cognitive obscurations.  All of the teachings are meant to reveal the naturally liberated state, our own authentic condition, but they need to be applied to our life and our mind.

Where would I possibly find enough leather
With which to cover the surface of the earth?
But just the leather on the soles of my shoes
Is equivalent to covering the earth with it.

Likewise it is not possible for me
To restrain the external course of things.
But should I restrain this mind of mine
What would be the need to restrain all else?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Perfection of Generosity

'The gift is to the giver and comes back to them.'
Walt Whitman

Generosity of Generosity

Generosity is the act of giving gifts.  They may be material, teachings, protection from fear or personal interactions that benefit others.

Discipline of Generosity

The discipline of giving gifts is to let go of attachment to your own welfare and status.  This involves being free from the eight worldly concerns, such as thinking that by giving a gift your status will be enhanced or that people will praise your good qualities.  Let go of the notion that people are going to applaud your greatness.

Patience of Generosity

The patience of giving gifts is to not be attached to the result.  Be patient with people's criticism of your gifts and their reaction, whether it be positive or negative.

Diligence of Generosity

The diligence of giving gifts is to strive more and more.  Don't be complacent, don't wait for just the right time.  The time is now, give.

Meditation of Generosity

The meditation of giving gifts is to single pointedly dedicate the act to the welfare of yourself and others.  

Wisdom of Generosity

The wisdom of giving gifts is none other than the awakened mind free from reference to 'me' and 'mine'.  The giver, act of giving and the recipient are all mutually dependent on one another; the one cannot exist without the other.   The perfection of generosity is the ultimate awakened mind that is boundless and without measure, simultaneously accomplishing its own benefit while carrying out the benefit of countless beings.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Digging Up the Roots

Previously we have discussed dependent origination and how we get entrapped in the cycle of conditioned existence.  It may seem hard to determine how we can apply these teachings to our life, what their usefulness is to us right now and especially how to apply them at times when we are caught up in the cycle. 

There are two points at which we can attack this cycle, 1) fixation and 2) ignorance.  There is some debate about this within different Buddhist schools, but we can say that if we cut through fixation then we can indeed be free from suffering because we cut through the rest of the process of birth, aging, sickness and death.  Now, this is not to be equated with being a Buddha, because even though we may be free from suffering, we still have the conceptual veils which obscure our vision, we still have duality, subject and object. 

There was the question, what would life be like without any fixation, is that even possible to conceive of?  Indeed, that is difficult to conceive of, but we should contrast fixation with enjoyment.  We can conceive of a situation where we enjoy in something without being fixated on it.  Normally, in our process of enjoyment we reinforce our fixation, further craving to have that experience again and again.  But it is indeed possible to enjoy whatever it is that manifests, free from trying to make it better or worse, just enjoying in things as they are.  It is this process of spontaneous enjoyment. The manifestations never stop.  In fact that is part of the nature of the mind- that arising is unceasing- but we don’t need to cling to that, we can spontaneously enjoy whatever manifests.  

The Metaphysical Scientist

The easiest way to attack fixation is in our meditation, or own personal laboratory.  When we meditate we want to have an open, expansive mind.  We want to have control over our mind so that we can work with situations in our life.  Normally we grasp at all the appearances of mind, whatever it is that is arising- thoughts, feelings, sights, sounds- we always make these subtle investments into them, like adding pennies to your saving account.  It doesn’t seem like they are adding up much, but by fixating on those appearances of the mind, we are never going to be able to recognize and rest in the nature of the mind.  We are instead stuck in this process of taking births, again and again.  I want to make a little disclaimer here about the nature of the mind.  You are never going to ‘see’ the nature of mind, you are never going to be able to say ‘Aha, this is it.’  In fact, you can examine in the context of this discussion what proclaiming ‘this is it’ would imply.  The nature of the mind can only be experienced, we can talk about chocolate all day, but until you taste it you don’t really know it. 
In our meditation, we can discuss two methods so far, 1) resting in the natural state and 2) riding or watching the breath.  Both of these methods can be used to attack fixation, in the first it is non-referential and without an object which is much more difficult at the beginning.  Right now we have this mind that has this tendency to fixate on things, this monkey mind that is constantly jumping from object to object, never sitting still.  So we can use skillful means, we can intentionally choose an object like the breath to fixate on.  When meditating on the breath, if we are distracted and fixate on something else like our thoughts, the moment we recognize that distraction we cut through our fixation and bring it back to the breath.  It is through this process that we tame the mind and develop a strong meditation, continually cutting through fixation.  But we also want to practice resting in the natural state, which is without any particular object.  
Using this technique, we are still having thoughts, feelings, sights and sounds arising, but we are not grasping at them.  We are letting our mind rest naturally- an open, expansive mind- in which we are aware of appearances but not fixating on them.  Simply by shining the light of our awareness, or illuminating appearances as they arise, they naturally subside on their own.  This method is more difficult, but we want to get started on it, laying the foundation for this type of meditation.  If we always use an object for our meditation, eventually, we are going to need to cut through that object. 
That is fixation, the second place we can attack the cycle is at ignorance, the root.  This is much more difficult and takes a lot of studying, contemplation and meditation before the wisdom of non-duality can arise.  When we are meditating in the natural state, any time that we are correcting or fixing our meditation we are in fact moving away from our true, authentic condition.  In fact, if we continue this type of subtle fixation we will never find genuine lasting freedom.  Our tendency is to always create something anew, this addiction to taking births that we talked about before.  If we think about how we treat addicts, the first thing is awareness or to recognize that there is a problem.  Most of us are completely unaware we even have a problem, we just go on investing in conditioned existence and turning that wheel.  There is a key instruction from the masters of the past and present- Let it be, as it is.  This exemplifies what we have been talking about, letting whatever it is that is manifesting be just as it is.  
Buddhas, or awakened beings, always recognize and abide in the authentic condition, the true nature of mind in which there is no duality.  Before we talked about dependent origination and this vast web of interconnectedness.  That is the vision of Buddhas, they see that everything, all beings and all environments are this vast web.  They abide in spontaneous fulfillment, fulfilling their own benefit and the benefit of others at the same time.  

There is a common example used to describe this, we can compare the awakened mind to the orb of the sun.  The sun (from its own side) is always fully manifest, completely radiant and utterly lucid.  The sun shines impartially, radiating light in all directions, not preferring some areas over others.  The warmth that radiates from the sun is like the love and compassion that naturally radiates from awakened mind, instantly and effortlessly accomplishing their own and others wishes.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Revenue Streams

Most of us have one main revenue stream for love, happiness and joy in our lives- usually our family and close friends.  What would happen if we diversified our investment?  Is it possible to conceive of a situation where strangers or even our supposed foes brought us joy and happiness?  It may seem remote, but it is indeed within our reach.


Open yourself to appreciating the world around you.  Take in all the subtle flavors of your environment and the people in it.  Like a fine wine that gets better as it opens up, you will find that appreciation brings a wealth of contentment, peace and joy.

Mutual Respect

It is hard to find this quality in our polarized world of right and wrong, my way or the highway.  But through appreciating others around us, we can start to come in touch with the notion that all people everywhere want happiness, peace, contentment and a sense of purpose.  We may start to see that diversity- of race, religion, sexual orientation and views- enriches our lives.  There is a depth of experience open to us that can unearth much more wisdom than if we were surrounded by people just like us. 


Having appreciated the world around us and come to have mutual respect, we can now tap into a huge opportunity for generating inner wealth.  Rejoice in the success of others.  Rejoice in the happiness of others.  Just rejoice and dedicate that feeling you have so that all beings everywhere, plagued by sufferings of body and mind, may obtain an ocean of happiness and joy.

Through these three simple methods- appreciation, mutual respect and rejoicing- we will come to know infinite sources of happiness, joy, peace and contentment in our lives.  We can start to fulfill our own aims and the aims of others around us. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Artist's Medium

A timely melody that warms the heart...

 A world of endless possibility...


An open dimension of pure potential...

What is your medium?  Go.  Be an artist.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Renaissance

This time the art won't stand in galleries.
It won't be sculptures portraying feminine beauty,
Nor frescos that celebrate the triumph of man.
It will not be found in melodies of memories past,
Nor in written words of far off enchantment.

Art is the gift of our humanity that changes people's lives.
It is a rediscovery of the ground of being.
It is exemplified by personal interactions that bring benefit to others.

This is the new Artist.
She has a simple discipline.
Fearless patience.
Acts with joyous perseverance.
And with a calm and clear mind,
She simultaneously accomplishes her own and others wishes.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

This Depends on That

            Today we are going to discuss in a little more depth this process of investing in conditioned existence and understanding how we can break free from that bondage.  We especially want to examine how this applies to our own minds and our own experience. 
            The Buddha’s teachings all revolve around the concept of dependent origination, or interdependence.  Dependent origination means that everything that exists depends on causes and conditions in order for it to come into being.  On an external level this is very easy to verify, a tree for example depends on good soil, sunlight, adequate water and lack of competition from neighboring plants in order to grow tall and strong.  If we think about the particular seed, we can examine further and further back, an infinite regression of causes, that form the basis of this single tree we are looking at.  There is this vast continuum of causes and effects that bring us to this single moment.  Modern science has come a long way to verify this process of dependent origination that the Buddha taught 2500 years ago. 
On a social level, we can see how social networking authenticates these teachings on dependent origination, because if something major happens in any part of the world, very quickly that information reaches a wide spectrum of people and there is a global immobilization.  There is a Buddhist tantra entitled ‘The Magical Web’ which plays on this process of dependent origination, that everything is connected as a greater whole, a vast web or matrix in which we are all connected. 
            On an internal level though this process of dependent origination is very difficult to verify; how our thoughts, feelings and experiences develop through this process of dependent origination.  Fortunately for us the Buddha taught it very clearly. 
            The first step is ignorance, or not recognizing.  In this case, we have this awareness and  what we are ignorant of is the way we actually exist or the nature of our own mind.  We could also say that we are mistaken or don’t recognize the way that we exist.  From this ignorance we create this concept of ‘I’ or self.  Now of course, once you have a self you have an object, or other- you have duality.  Longchenpa has a quote:

If you have one, then you have two, and the whole world turns round.

From a mathematical standpoint we can understand this using binary code, 0 and 1.  Using just these two digits we encode our computers, DVD’s and electrical equipment, a digital matrix of duality in which there is infinite expression and manifestation.  THINK about this.  Simply through duality itself, we have infinite possibility in the world of appearances and possibilities.  This is why the sutras say that the suffering of samsara is without end.       
            Then once you have an object, you perceive the qualities and characteristics of that object.  You come into contact with that object and start to like or prefer certain qualities, and are averse or reject other qualities.  It is at this point that you have the three poisons (ignorance, attachment and aversion) which the Buddha describes as being the root of all suffering. 
Based on that acceptance or rejection, attachment or aversion, you develop craving- craving that which you desire or craving to be free from that which you don’t like.  From craving arises fixation or grasping.  Now we have this mental picture of what we want or don’t want, and we fixate on that.  From fixation arises a process of becoming, in which we go through the decisions, plans and actions that bring whatever we are fixating on to manifest or take birth, or actualize.  It is this process of becoming that eventually gives birth to our fixation and grasping.  Once we have birth, or manifestation, then there is this process of aging, sickness and death as it relates to the person.  Of course we can talk about phenomena in this same sense, once a thought comes into being it goes through this process of abiding or aging, and finally ceases.
            So this comprises the cycle of samsara, or conditioned existence.  This cycle plays itself out again and again, we are constantly going through this process of rebirth- deciding on things we want or don’t want, fixating on them, and eventually giving birth to them.  We can see this process play out in seeking out relationships, getting a new job, new car, all those things we invest in outside of ourselves.  It is important to realize that we are really addicted to taking rebirth.  In this regard, we can contemplate rebirth or reincarnation, which even though you don’t necessarily need to believe that there is reincarnation or not, we can verify in our own life that again and again we are going through this process of fixation, becoming, birth and then aging, sickness and death. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Generosity as Art

Give gifts that don't have a limit,
Gifts of humanity that affect change
And bring about the welfare of others.
From these gifts infinite qualities arise,
Give freely and openly,
And come to experience boundless inner wealth!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Four Noble Truths

The first teaching that the Buddha gave after attaining complete and perfect awakening was on the Four Noble Truths.  The importance of this teaching is that the Buddha laid a framework for all the rest of his teachings, so that at any point a practitioner on the path knows how to relate the teachings back to their own life and experience. 

First is the truth of suffering, that no matter where we look in the world suffering is always just around the corner, even if we have gained enormous wealth, fame or power.  

Second is the truth of origin, it is because we invest in conditioned existence that this is the case.  It is because we invest in things outside of ourselves, things that are of a temporary nature, that happiness continues to evade us.  

Third is the truth of cessation, that it is indeed possible to find lasting happiness, a genuine inner peace and confidence in one’s own nature.  

Fourth is the truth of the path, that by learning, contemplating and putting these teachings into practice we can indeed arrive at that state.  

We can compare this to the metaphor of a sick person.  If someone is sick, they go to a doctor to get a diagnosis.  The doctor says ‘this is the cause of your sickness, and it is possible to be free from this sickness but you need to take this medicine’.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A New Beginning

We are endowed with this precious human existence,
and have met with the Dharma.
The world and inhabitants
are impermanent, like a water bubble.
At death, only my dharma practice
will be of any benefit.
At death, there is no freedom,
and the winds of karma take their course.
Therefore I shall devote myself
to abandoning negative acts
and cultivating positive ones.
All the illusions of samsara
entrap my mind with the three poisons.
Realizing the faults of conditioned existence,
may I practice renunciation and strive for enlightenment.

When we think about the motivation to meditate and pursue spiritual growth, what is it precisely that motivates us?  Obviously we want to be free from suffering- pain, anxiety, stress- much less anger, jealousy, and the collection of afflicted emotions.  Of course we want happiness- peace of mind, contentment, inner well-being, a sense of purpose and a long, healthy life.  The thing is, we don’t really know the causes of happiness, much less the causes of suffering. 

Where have we gone astray?

If we look at the current model, the American Dream as it were, we are told and often made to believe that if you get a good education, a good job, make some money, buy some stuff, fall in love, buy a house, start a family, be successful and eventually- if everything goes just right- you will be happy.  Now of course, we don’t need to look very far to see that this is not the case.  We have lots of very successful people- doctors, lawyers, business executives, celebrities- who have the outer trappings of happiness, but they also have a lot of inner distress.  They constantly need to maintain their image, wealth, protect against dissenters, people suing you, the list goes on.  It is a flawed model, I am not saying that those things are bad, we need a good education, good job, personal responsibility, but we need to recognize that those things can only be a support for happiness, the means and not the end. 
That is the gross level, on a more subtle level we all think, ‘I can be better, I can do better, I can do more.’  But this thinking creates a split in us, our current self versus some future ‘better’ self.  We think that if we can just do this or that, then we can be happy.  The problem is that as soon as we make that split we never have the chance to get there.  There is a math problem that children do in school, a rabbit is chasing a carrot and each time he cuts the distance between himself and the carrot in half.  The paradox is that the rabbit can never actually get to zero, he can never actually get the carrot because there is always some distance separating them, no matter how small. 
So the main problem with all of this is that we continuously place our refuge outside of us.  I want to use the term refuge because it gives the feeling of safety, protection, a place free from suffering.  The mistake that we make is that by placing our refuge outside of us, we instantly take away our power and give it to something else, someone else or even some future version of our self.  We may not recognize it, but we make ourselves deficient by placing our refuge outside, made to believe that we are lacking something. 
The reason that this is the case is that we continue to invest in conditioned existence.  Conditioned here means that it depends on causes and conditions, just as a tree depends on good soil, sunlight, and adequate water to grow properly.  But, by investing in conditioned existence, we are investing in things that are going to change, things which by their very nature are impermanent- children die young, couples separate, jobs are lost, disasters occur, problems happen.  If we put our happiness, contentment, and peace of mind outside of us, then when bad things happen we have no place to go, no solid ground on which to stand.  We have no inner refuge, so everything around us seems fixed and concrete.  It is kind of like running on a treadmill.  At first we aren’t doing too bad, first half-mile, mile.  But then our legs start getting tired, we are a little out of breath, but we keep pushing through- two miles- everything hurts, keep pushing.  Eventually, whenever you stop, three miles, ten miles, a hundred miles, you have given all that effort, time and energy- but you are in the exact same place you started.  This is exactly what we have done since beginningless time, we have exuded a lot of effort, accomplished a lot of goals, spent a lot of time, but still we have this inner discontent, this questioning, doubting, anxiousness. 

Natural Liberation

In Tibetan, there is this term, rangdrolRang means self or natural, drol means liberation, so we have self-liberation or naturally liberated.  That is what we want.  The metaphor commonly used to describe this is two-fold.  The first is like meeting an old friend, as soon as you see them you recognize them.  There is no doubt, no uncertainty, as soon as you see your own true face you recognize it.  Still there is a little split here, your ‘better’ true self and you, but at least here you have an inner refuge, you know that it is there. 
The second metaphor is like a snake uncoiling from its resting place, it doesn’t tie itself in knots.  We can’t do the same, try coiling up an extension cord and then pull it apart- I guarantee that you will have lots of knots and lots of frustration.  But snakes don’t have this problem, they can be coiled up and then easily just slither away, naturally liberated. 
So instead of investing in conditioned existence, we want to invest in unconditioned existence.  What does that mean?  We want to invest in the nature of phenomena, and on a personal level the nature of the mind.  Just as water is wet, fire is hot- there is not some water that is more wet, or some water that has a better or worse wetness- it is just wet.  So too, we have the mind and the nature of the mind.  That nature is fully evident, fully manifest, never better or worse and not to be improved upon.  So we need to recognize and abide in the nature of the mind, make that our refuge.  That inner refuge, the nature of the mind, is unchanging, just as the wetness of water is unchanging. 
Then whenever we encounter suffering, stress, hardship, we have that inner refuge.  If we have that inner conviction then we can continue to remain open, reflexive and work with the situation at hand, rather than closing down and shutting out the world around us.  No matter what we do in life, good or bad, everything becomes an expression of our energy.  We become like a painting, a beautiful form or maybe even a weird distorted sculpture that doesn’t really make any sense, it doesn’t matter, because our life is an expression of our energy and the world that we create around us. 
So that is why we meditate, we need to understand the mind and we need to recognize the nature of mind, abide in the nature of mind.