Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Goodbye Kiss

All we ever have is fleeting moments of opportunity.

Despite all of the distraction and busyness, all of our responsibilities and the momentum pulling us out the door, if we fail to act now, when will this opportunity come again?

Seize the moment.  Do the practice.  Share your generosity.  Take action. 

Give a goodbye kiss (or hug), you never know when it might be your last. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Let's Move Beyond 'Like'

We all love to distract ourselves with stories that we believe in; stories that inspire us and give us hope.  Somehow, perhaps, if we can just get enough of the right content and knowledge then we might start to be that story.  Right? 

I do this all the time.  If I am interested in something I often find myself studying it first, mastering it intellectually before I actually go do the thing itself. 

But does 'Like' followed by no actual work equal anything?

It ain't a show people. 

It requires work.
It requires openness.
                 joyous effort.
                 and insight.

This life is short.  Our time is precious.  

I believe you can live a life of great purpose, but it's time to move beyond 'Like'.  

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Fruitful Life

You could be a guard for those who are protectorless, 
A guide for those who journey on the road.
For those who wish to cross the water, 
You could be a boat, a raft, a bridge.

You could be an isle for those who yearn for land, 
A lamp for those who long for light;
For all who need a resting place, a bed;
For those who need a servant, you could be their slave.

You could be a wishing jewel, the vase of wealth,
A word of power and supreme healing,
A tree of miracles,
For every being the abundant cow.

Just like the earth and space itself,
And all the mighty elements,
For boundless multitudes of beings
You could always be the ground of life, the source of varied sustenance.

Thus for everything that lives,
As far as the limits of the sky,
You could be constantly their source of livelihood
Until they pass beyond all sorrow.

But if you are going to do those things, then you need to train.  You need to train hard, following in the footsteps of those who have gone before you.  

You need to show up, do the work.  It is not going to be easy, but no one is going to do this for you. 

Adapted from Shantideva's Way of the Bodhisattva

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Two Faced

I am two faced, in the most literal sense of the word.

The right side of my face doesn't work, at least not very well.  Those who know me may know the full story, but basically my right facial nerve was severed and my face was reconstructed with one of my tongue nerves to preserve muscle tone and the possibility of preserved function, ie. a smile.   

The result is uncomfortable, tight, awkward and sometimes, downright ugly.

I have tried a lot of things to try to remove the pain and discomfort, to hide the awkwardness.  Acupuncture, chiropractic, massage- it all helps for a little while.  I've tried posturing, letting my left side (good side) face others so hopefully they wouldn't notice the disproportion or my twitching eye- but it is pretty hard to hide a shit show. 

Mainly I just recognize that this is something that is always going to be there.  I need to know how to work with it in all of its tightness and dysfunction.  I needed to stop pretending, stop hiding.  You can't be what others want you to be, you need to be willing to show your true face. 

When you look in a mirror (or the mirror of your mind) you only see the bad parts, your inadequacy and failure.  You need to look yourself right in the eye, that is the only way to save face.  If you speak from the heart with honesty and integrity, then even if people pick up on the awkwardness it doesn't matter, because they are looking you in the eye. 

Now for a story:
Awhile back, there was this cute, little old lady who used to come into my work.  She would always come in, chat me up, tell me what she was doing.  Then one day she said to me, "Why don't you ever smile for me?"

"I can't smile", I replied.

"Sure you can, everyone can smile."

"Not me."  I was just being honest, I can't fake a smile very well.

"Oh, come on, just a little one?"  At that moment, her granddaughter was looking at me with the right side of her face pinched in a half-cocked smile. 

I laughed.  Kids are so perceptive of this stuff.

"Oh that wasn't so bad, next time you can give me a full one," she replied.  Then I explained my situation, which kind of made her feel bad.  She left, apologizing and probably feeling pretty uncomfortable and awkward.

The next day she came in with an envelope.  She said, "Sorry about yesterday, but when I got home you reminded me of someone so I wanted to give you this," handing me the envelope she left.

I opened the envelope and inside was the picture of a young Elvis Presley with his half-cocked smile.

I smiled and laughed.  She was being generous.

That was Dolores.  She passed away a few years ago, shortly after this exchange actually.  We never know what people are hiding or what their future holds for them.  We can only hope that when the time comes, they show up with generosity, love and kindness.

So on this Memorial Day, I would like to thank all of you out there for your generosity, for the months, years or moments that you have committed yourself to serving the welfare of others.

We honor your service. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Shift in Space

When you are on the ground, friction allows you to push an object away from you.  You can move big objects, but it takes a lot of force and effort. 

When you are suspended in space, you need to use creative forces to move objects (don't skip that link with all of its cool tools).  If you can learn to take your stance in space, then with very little effort you can send massive objects propelling in the opposite direction. 

So how do we hit a home run.  It doesn't matter how fast the baseball is traveling, how much inertia is has, if it is suspended in space thats all it takes is one good swing to knock it out of the park.  We just need to find our stance.

The question becomes, how do we eliminate the ground?  Or for starters, what is the ground that we are trying to remove?

Usually that ground is our own self-cherishing mind.  The layer upon layer of fixation, our cognitive and emotional obscurations, our habits and karma.  We can use logic and reason to demonstrate the falseness of this self-grasping- the confusion it creates, the problems it causes, the inherent limitations that it imposes.  But so what?  That doesn't actually remove the ground, we just know that it doesn't work and that it shouldn't be trusted.  Yet we end up using it anyways because that's all we've got.

What we need to do is get beyond mind.  Beyond all the concepts and justification.  We need to get into space and we need to figure out how to stand there.

That is not an easy proposition.

That space is unpredictable.  It is always changing and we can't use a reference point to justify ourselves for even a moment or we are stuck back on the ground.  We can't even give you the answers ahead of time because we don't know what is going to be coming up.

You have to be able to recognize that space as it unfolds.  It is not a mere nothingness.  Something is always going to be coming up.  Your options are either to recognize it or be caught up again in the cycle of ignorance.  If you can take a strong seat in that spacious expanse, then you can witness whole worlds of opportunity unfold and collapse right before your eyes.

There is a potential to act.  That is why your stance is important.

If there is a trace of self-cherishing and remnants of the ground not yet cleared, then the cycle of confusion repeats itself and you encounter lots of friction.  If there is no fixation whatsoever to be found and you are motivated by bodhicitta, seeking out the welfare of beings, then there is the arising of grace.  That grace manifests itself as generosity, love and kindness.

Its effortlessness can move worlds.

Friday, May 24, 2013

This One's For You

Normally you are told what to do for your homework.

Now we are asking you to do YOUR homework.
     On your own time.

And don't worry about failing.
Fail.  Fail often.
Then we will make sure you pass the class.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Fire Escape

It is a natural instinct to try to escape a burning building, to seek out better conditions and a safer situation. 

Usually though, that burning building is our own mind- our own confused thoughts and emotions, our anxiety and doubt, hopes and fears.  That is the fire that keeps you up at night. 

We have to learn to extinguish those flames, or at least how to work with them openly and honestly.  When we can be open and honest with ourselves, then we can be open and available for others. 

With that kind of awareness and receptivity, the fires will naturally extinguish themselves. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Join the Movement

Our communities have changed.

We are no longer surrounded by like-minded individuals who share our worldview.

We are no longer surrounded day and night by people who can help us get up when we fall, guiding us in the right direction. 

Our communities don't revolve around anything sacred.  They revolve around 'me', which is often caught up in a lot of mundane activity, meaningless work and a lifetime of distraction.

You are out in the battlefield all by yourself. 

You have your practice.  Keep it.  I am not asking you to buy in.  

I am asking you to own it.  And it ain't a show man.

I am asking you to take your stand, to cut away the frills and the fraud.

Once you can stand, take a step forward with your heart.  Be an artist who uses reality, people and interactions as their canvas.  If your a bodhisattva, your art is generosity, love and kindness. 

As you learn to walk with confidence, you will find that the world no longer fights you.  Every interaction is a support for your practice, an opportunity to dig deeper and to practice your art. 

You'll find you are not alone anymore. 

You are surrounded by community.  Join the movement. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Stepping Forward

You have your practice.

And I respect that.  I honor that. 

That is a living transmission between you and your teacher.  Go deeper.

But what happens when you bring your practice off the cushion, out of the studio and into the world.  What happens to your practice when no one around you cares about your meditation experience or how long you can hold half moon while controlling your heart rate. 

Real-time is messy.  It is unpredictable and you are out there all by yourself. 

Do you long to get back on the cushion, hit the next yoga class or seek to enjoy a week-long, peaceful retreat?    

Then you aren't actually doing the practice.  You are escaping and hiding from fear and emotion when it matters most.  You are letting the resistance win. 

Your practice will teach you how to stand.  If you leave it at that then it is all about you.  Be brave enough to walk.  To step forward into the opening with discipline, patience and generosity. 

You might just learn how to dance. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Thank God It's Monday

On Sunday mornings, instead of tackling those big projects it is easier to keep checking off the small things.  We keep trying to clear away the little things, create more order and space, gain more control.

Better to feel like we are getting things done rather than try to tackle that big, ugly monster in the closet. 

That's what Monday's are for.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Charnel Ground

Photo courtesy of Himalayan Arts

The charnel ground is a very evocative image used by Buddhist practitioners.  

It is disgusting, filled with disease and pestilence.  It is strewn with carnage and lifeless, wandering souls.  

Your emotions and senses run rampant in a charnel ground.  The only way to survive is to stay on high alert.  The charnel ground would love to claim you as its next victim, to bend your will and seize your heart.  Your head might be the next one hanging at the gates as a symbol of its conquest, left to rot and grow old as a reminder for those that might come near.  

Some practitioners actually choose to practice their sadhana in this environment.  Of course they could retreat to peaceful forest groves, alpine meadows or glacial peaks, but they choose the charnel ground.  For these yogins, the very fabric of their day to day life is the path of liberation.  They look to first hand experience to transform their own obstacles and poisons, constantly battling the gods and demons of their own hopes and fears.  It is a direct encounter with wisdom, through insight transmuting poison into a healing nectar that pacifies their own and others ails. 

We all live in a charnel ground of our own thoughts and emotions, hopes and fears.  Our habit since beginningless time is to turn and run, to seek out better conditions and a supportive environment.  And this works, for a little while.  Then we start to meet more resistance and the charnel ground gates start to creak open, beckoning you. 

The nice thing about the charnel ground is that you always know where you stand.  If you are struggling to reconcile your internal conflicts, fighting against yourself and your environment, then you still have more work to do.  If you are able to transform all situations into insight and can use this to bring about the welfare of beings, then I think you have found your calling.  

Either way, better get to work.

Friday, May 17, 2013


Everyone who goes to the airport knows exactly where they are going. They already have a ticket in their hand. 

Most people in the airport have a single objective- to get to their gate so they don't miss their trip.  They rush through security, grab a water and some snacks, maybe take a short bathroom break, but then it is to the gate where they often lobby for the best position in line for a seat they already have. 

Because everyone knows where they are going we shouldn't be surprised that people mostly ignore each other.  Tunnel vision and head phones are the norm.  Give me an iPad or a book and I can sit in the airport for hours. 

The thing is, a lot of magic happens in the airport.  People are leaving their loved ones, joining up with them again.  Kids on their first flight are pulling their mini luggage bags, new parents are trying really hard to make this work.  People are setting out on new adventures, embarking on new ideas, new lives or simply going home to see their grandparents, hopefully not for the last time. 

Most of us miss out on the magic that takes place in the airport because we are so busy doing our own thing.  We miss countless opportunities and interactions because we aren't willing to stop what we are doing and to look at what is happening right around us.  We might be able to lend a helping hand, step out of someone's way or share in a friendly conversation.  We might experience laughter and joy, maybe even hold back a few tears at all the love and happiness that surrounds us. 

In our own life, we are constantly being propelled by our past actions and thoughts, our physical, social and cultural conditioning.  Most of us hold tickets to places we don't even want to go.  Too often we rush to our destination not realizing that there are so many sacred moments to be enjoyed right where we are. 

Open your eyes to those around you, open your ears to what they need.  Open your mouth to share kindness, open your heart to witness love.

When you are no longer propelled to your destination, you might be surprised what opportunities present themselves.  You will also be fortunate enough to enjoy them.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dig Deeper

When you look at the world around you, mainly you will see people trying to get somewhere or achieve something.  Of course there is a good reason for this- the present is irritating, lonely, boring.

Better to paint a better picture.  Write a better story.  Hope for a better day. 

We might feel compelled to bring this habit into our spiritual practice, trying to achieve something that we didn't have before or to bring out qualities that we desire to see in ourselves.  But really, our practice is about digging deeper.

Dig deeper into your thoughts, feelings and emotions. 

Dig deeper into your doubts and fears.

Dig deeper.  Push through the places that scare you.

So often we turn away from places that scare us.  If you manage to sit through the irritation, through the fear and doubt, we might just break through to a place beyond fear, beyond doubt.

When we push through our doubt and our fear we can show our true face to the world around us.  We can actually bring benefit to others in an authentic and meaningful way.  If we are not able to dig deeper and to be open to ourselves, how can we be open for others?