Thursday, December 31, 2015

Siddhearta's Essence of 2015.

2015 was a year of formation. 

Many of the changes that have occurred over the past several years are starting to take take on stronger forms.  One of the best new shapes in my life has been my daughter, I enjoy spending our mornings together, learning from each other and playing.  I appreciate this brief moment in time that we get to do this, to share and influence each other, to watch each other grow. 

I haven't been as consistent writing this year due to many changes in my life, both personal and professional.  I thank you for supporting me, for taking a moment out of your day to share this space, to influence each other and to bring new form to our life. 

Thank you.

Here are some of this years highlights:
1.  A story of my teacher and appreciating those before you.
2.  What it means to be remarkable.
3.  I wrote about doing no harm and how to work with anger.
4.  How passionate amateurs become professionals.
5.  The experience of groundlessness and how to rest in movement.
6.  How teachers change us.
7.  Compassion and its activity.
8.  Karma and the influence of our choices.
9.  Questioning ourselves and our potential.
10.  The difficulty in starting a daily practice.
11.  5 faults to developing a stable practice.
12.  What a perfect day looks like.

I wish all of you a great year, a year of health and happiness.
May you find what you are looking for,
May you share generously,
May your kindness bring light to the world around you,
and may your determination accomplish not only your own aims, but the aims of others.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Karmic debt.

Your past actions and choices can be heavy.  They can wear on your present state, limit your opportunity, influence your choices and your experience of the world around you.

Karma can be a debt.  It can hang over your head for eons until it is paid back. 

Actions without mindfulness often lead to karmic debt.  Poor choices with short term interests often put us in a bind.

Actions with mindfulness can be an investment.  Generosity and patience, which seem like a lot to give now, often reap substantial rewards over a duration of time. 

How do you relate to your debt and what are you choosing to invest in?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Buddhism in a nutshell.

How do you orient to your practice? 

A lot of times we think of our practice as being one part of our day, like when we are meditating or doing yoga.  Practice in that sense is rather isolated and we can struggle with how to bring that practice into the rest of our day. 

Buddhist's tend to think of their practice in terms of view, meditation and conduct.


Your view is how you see the world.  What is your relationship to the world?  How do you understand yourself and the world around you?  How does your perception influence your experience?  Is your view based on the truth or is it based on assumptions and bias?


Meditation is based on the view.  We stabilize our understanding and experience of the view.  We familiarize ourselves to seeing clearly and eliminate distortion in our lens.  We cultivate mental states that are beneficial like compassion, and learn to let go of mental states like anger and anxiety that bring us suffering.


Conduct is how we bring the view that we have cultivated in meditation into the world.  What posture do these teachings embody?  How do we walk through our day?  How does our view and meditation benefit our family and community?  What does your view look like in action?

Using this triad of view, meditation and conduct, you can develop a complete practice that includes all aspects of your life.  You can clarify your view through study, contemplation and seeking out teachings.  You can deepen your practice of meditation by receiving further instruction or going on meditation retreats.  You can share the fruits of your practice in the communities in which you live and work. 

Clarify your view.
Deepen your meditation.
Share the fruit.

That's the practice of the Buddha's teachings in a nutshell. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Buddhism 101.

Meditation is in the news a lot today.  We hear a lot about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation on our health and its impact on our mind.  This has lead a lot of curious people to look deeper into the meditative traditions, of which Buddhism is a major contributor. 

My intention with this blog is not to convert people to Buddhism or spread the Buddha's teachings.  If you have an affinity for these teachings I think that you will naturally pursue your interest and follow your heart wherever it leads you.  I write to share my experience of a practice tradition, in hopes that it will inspire those of you who are interested in starting your own practice and connect with those of you who already have a strong practice.

A lot of people who are interested in meditation ask me about Buddhism.  If you happen to be one of those people here are some good places to start reading:

The Four Noble Truths which is the first discourse the Buddha gave after his enlightenment. 

Practice Essentials which form the basis for any Buddhist practitioner. 

Impermanence and its impact on our life

Karma and the importance of our choices

Liberation and what is truly beneficial

The Buddha, and his story

Refuge and the important role of a teacher in our practice. 

Compassion, the essence of the practice

Our best tool, meditation.

Wisdom and realization.   

The importance of the Sangha, or community of practitioners

Generosity and doing work that matters

The importance of starting.

Get started

Friday, December 18, 2015

A myth.

There is a myth that goes around the Buddhist world that liberation is somewhere else.  That it is fantastic and beautiful.  That it is perfect. 

That myth harms our practice, because we see our present circumstances as something to be rejected.  This is a mistake because we need to use our present circumstances, they are the fuel for our awakening.  If we reject them as unfit then our practice isn't based on our reality but on a myth.

What can we transform if we don't use our present circumstances?  What else is there to liberate?

We need to experience the truth of suffering in order to realize its cessation.  As difficult as it can be to acknowledge the truth of suffering, it is the start of our path.

Then real awakening is possible.  Buddhahood becomes possible.  

Monday, December 7, 2015

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

5 faults to developing a stable practice.

There are five faults to developing a stable meditation practice.

1. Indolence
2. Forgetfulness
3. Agitation and Dullness
4. Inaction
5. Over-exertion

Indolence prevents you from actually starting.  You may want to start, you may have the idea of what you would like your practice to look like, but you don't actually follow through.

Forgetfulness happens when you actually take your seat, but don't remember what you are supposed to do.  You forget the instructions.  You aren't prepared, so you quit.

Agitation and Dullness occur when you are actually doing the practice.  You are engaged, but now you are experiencing all of this inner turmoil.  You either have all of these thoughts and emotions that are stirring like crazy, or you experience a heavy dullness and mental laxity.  You swing between these two states throughout your practice.

Inaction occurs when you notice this resistance popping up in your practice and you do nothing about it.  There is a thread of indifference in your practice.  As that thread builds on itself it creates a web in which we are caught up in not caring enough to remedy the situation.  We don't care to act and this continually drags on our practice.

Over-exertion occurs when we are doing the practice correctly, we are fully engaged, alert, responsive.  But we can't stay there.  We ask what's next?  What else?  We stray from the object of our practice into elaboration.  Unable to maintain a state of equalness, we continue to stir up more and more waves.  

Monday, November 30, 2015

Standoff on the streets (or dancing on the sidewalks).

Twice in as many weeks I have heard people comment on the standoff that occurs on sidewalks everywhere across the country.  Imagine it: you are walking on the sidewalk and someone is walking towards you, and you are both in the middle. 

Do you move out of their way, or do they move out of yours?

There is a common conception that people feel like they are always the ones to move.  The comments that I have heard is that people experience this as a display of power.  That not moving is a sign,
I am more powerful than you.

This standoff is perceived as a power play, and if you move then you are losing.  But is that true?  Are people on the sidewalks really power walking?

Indefinitely there are a few people out there who treat this confrontation on the sidewalk as a display of power, best of luck to them.  My bet though is that most of the people aren't power walking, they are sleep walking.

Yep.  Sleep walking.

They are caught up in their story lines.  They are habitually driven between point A and point B.  They are not aware of the world around them and they have no concern for the people around them.  They are checking their phones, their senses closed off behind headphones and just trying to make it in their microcosm. 

What about you though?

You're a mover.  You are alert and aware.  You notice the people around you, adapt to a change in their stride.  You're present. 

By moving you lose nothing.  You're not giving anything up.  This sidewalk, it's not yours.  You are being polite, respectful.  You are making a choice and standing up (or moving aside) for what you want to see in the world. 

You can walk with confidence and compassion, which feels like dancing on the sidewalks.  

No one will even notice, but you are being the change you wish to see in the world. 

So next time you are out walking and are conscious enough to be aware of the people around you, make a decision: Do you move or stand your line?

Ask yourself why?  What are you trying to assert?  What are you trying to defend?

Who is making this about a power play?  What if you are establishing a power play against someone who is sleep walking?

Maybe you are still learning what it means to be awake and this person, they are your teacher.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

So hard to get started.

Tibetan: lelo (actually pronounced lay-lo)
English: indolence, faintheartedness, procrastination

The Tibetan term lelo is a subsidiary negative emotional state that undermines one's enthusiasm for virtuous or productive activities.  Maitreya Buddha taught that this is the first flaw that we bump up against in our daily practice.  It is a flaw because it ensures that we do not start, that we don't apply ourselves.   It is a flaw because it ensures that we remain feeling stuck. 

We may want to do something important, want to accomplish an activity, but when we try to do so we run up against the inertia that is our own indolence.

There are three types of indolence:


This is the fatigue and laziness that we all experience.  It is heavy, sluggish.  I could get started or I could rest for a second.  I could do a little bit today, or I could wait until tomorrow when I feel better.

Obsession with pointless activity.  

We all know these... 


This is feeling inadequate or unable to start.  A lack of self-confidence that results in waiting or hiding.

It is easy to pass the blame to something else, something outside of ourselves.  But as a practitioner, or someone aspiring to be a practitioner, we need to look at our situation and our life.  We need to be honest with ourselves, our choices and our activities.

Are we really committed to making this happen?

To overcome these three types of indolence, Maitreya Buddha taught four types of remedies:

Belief. Intention. Perseverance. Pliancy. 

Belief is knowing there is something greater than this.  It is not blind faith, but rather our deepest aspirations and knowing there is a truth in them.   

Our intention seeks to purposefully accomplish our activity.  Clarify it.  Be specific. 

Perseverance pushes us to continue to show up.  Put in the time.  Do the work.  Make the effort.   

The result is pliancy.  We become adaptable, flexible, dexterous.  We become open to change, ready to change.  We become confident with the continuum of change which is life.

No longer too tired to go, too busy to go or too scared to go, we simply go.  We start, and figure out what else we need as we go. 

Are you going, or waiting?  What else do you need to start?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Two attitudes.

A practitioner needs two attitudes in their efforts to be generous, to make an impact and to benefit others- humility and confidence. 


The humble practitioner says, "I can do more." 

"I can do better."

Contrast that with the person who thinks what they have done is enough, that they have nothing more to do. 

The humble practitioner pays reverence to great teachers, profound teachings, generous acts and all those who are striving to make a difference.  The act of paying reverence is a display of humility.

Contrast that with the person who bows to no one, respects nothing even as their equal.  


The confident practitioner says, "I can do this."

"I can achieve that."

A humble practitioner who is endowed with confidence can do anything.  And they likely will.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Right livelihood.

In his noble eightfold path, the Buddha spoke about Right Livelihood and how to live a honest and ethical life.  As we try to integrate our practice with our life, our work often challenges us. 

The Buddha spoke of five lifestyles to avoid in our work in order to pursue right livelihood:

1. Ingratiation, or speaking kindly to others to win their favor.
2. Flattery, or praising others in order because one seeks to obtain something.
3. Self-promotion, or speaking of one's own qualities to advance your own interests.
4. Calculated generosity, or giving a little to receive a lot.
5. Hypocrisy, or putting on airs in order to receive gain or honors.

Those five lifestyles really come down to us being honest with ourselves about our intention.

Are we acting with our own self-interest or because we are wrapped up in the eight worldly concerns?

Or are we genuinely acting for the benefit of ourselves and others?

You can't be expected to lay down your own well-being and happiness in your work, but how often do we find ourselves scheming and throwing others under the bus?

Right livelihood is possible when we inspire others by our actions.  When we don't perpetuate greed, anger, desire and arrogance, we are acting with right livelihood.

The easiest way for our work to be a support for our spiritual practice is if we act with honesty and respect.  Be honest with yourself and with others.  Inspire them by your actions and they will support you in continuing your work and your practice.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Grateful for the opportunity.

I was just about to head out and drive to work today when my dog needed to go to the bathroom.  I let her out and she was back in a minute. 

So I left.

As I was driving to work, about to cross the Ballard bridge, I saw a terrible accident up ahead.  Several cars were involved in the accident and it did not look good.  A cop car was at the scene and there was an ambulance racing up from behind in the distance. 

I couldn't help but think, what if I had left a minute sooner?

Our life is so precious.  We can never be sure of the time and circumstances of our death.  We do our best to control all the variables, but when death arrives we have no choice.

Take a moment to express gratitude today.

Be thankful that you were able to share this day, how fortunate we are to have this opportunity, and how important it is that we use every day as if it is our last. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

A perfect day.

Each morning I wake up knowing today I have the opportuntity to be generous.
Generous with my time, my energy.  Generous in thought, word and deed.
I will have the opportunity to be receptive, available and present for those around me.
I will have the opportunity to make today meaningful, but I will face a lot of challenges.

I know I will have to rely on discipline today, 
Without a mindful awareness I will quickly succumb to distraction and idleness.
It will take discipline to hold me back from firing off a smart rebuke.
It will take discipline to remain in equipoise when it is much easier to turn my back and walk away.
Discipline will keep me aligned with my intention, but it's not going to be enough by itself.

I know I will need patience today.
Patience to sit with irritation and discomfort.
Patience so that I don't get caught up in purposeless arguments.
Patience so that I can remain open enough to continue, when it is easier to shut down.
Patience will allow me to continue to hold that space and to dance with resistance I am facing.
Patience will be a dear friend, supporting me in my efforts.

Diligence will allow me to carry through in my efforts.
Without it I will certainly succumb to laziness and distraction.
With it I will joyously persevere in my work, adversity and problems only fueling my fire.
Diligence is like a great steed, carrying me to my destination regardless of temporary circumstances.

All of this will rely on a singular focus-
To eliminate my own negativity and cultivate virtue so that I can fully bring benefit to the world around me.
With this single intention, meditation will allow me to work with resistance directly, loosening its shackles and the power of its influence.
Meditation will bring me clarity, stability and an appreciation of the illusory nature of all experience.
Meditation will give me freedom- freedom to move, freedom to act, freedom to decide.

All of this shall be accompanied by wisdom.
Wisdom that knows that this ground I stand on is not my own, that I am not its sole creator.
Wisdom that knows that this opportunity is a dance based on connection, a vast web in which our own neurosis will gladly play itself out if we let it.
I could dance and consume and have flashes of every emotional and mental state throughout my day, that could be my experience, and likely will.
I can see that, experience that, even live that.
But that is not my intention.

My intention is to use this day to bring benefit to myself and others, and so I practice carrying everything else onto the path.

Whatever I experience today will be the perfect opportunity to bring that practice to completion.

Friday, November 13, 2015


Stop looking for approval.  Stop waiting for affirmation.  Stop listening for consent.  Stop looking for signs of success.  Stop waiting for others to grant you accomplishment.

Your selfish concerns benefit no one, not even you.

Don't wait for permission.

Rely on initiative and generosity to secure the benefit of others.

Rely on your practice to secure your own benefit.

You know what you need to do.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Upcoming Events

We have some great meditation practice intensives coming up over the next few months.

Annual Sangha Winter Retreat

Join the Sangha on our annual winter retreat. This is a practice intensive retreat led by senior students and local coordinators. Practice with your local sangha or remotely on your own. The Winter Retreat will focus on the practice of tsa lung for all students and tummo for those students who have received previous empowerment and instruction from Rinpoche.
The retreat will follow a traditional four session format, starting at 7am each day and ending at 8pm. Because tsa lung and tummo will be practiced in the morning there will be several restrictions regarding diet and discipline. A complete schedule and instructions will be given to all those who have registered for the retreat.

Click HERE for more details.

100 day Ngondro Practice Intensive

We are going to start a practice tradition. Each year students of Younge Khachab Rinpoche will practice the Younge Ngondro together. Rinpoche strongly encourages all of his students to work on their ngondro, or preliminary practices. These practices form a strong foundation, prepare us for the path and allow us to overcome obstacles along the way.

This practice intensive will be a group of practitioners who are committed to the practice of the Younge Ngondro. We will have weekly readings, group discussions and senior student led Dharma talks. We welcome new students who are looking to start practicing a genuine path, and experienced students who want to recommit to their practice and have insight to share.

Practice daily at home and at your own pace. One day per section students will engage in the practice more intensely to deepen their experience and understanding of the various practices.

Click HERE for more information

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Instant feedback.

I think everybody dislikes being busy and having too much on their plate. 

The one good thing about being busy is that it provides instant feedback.

When you're busy, it's easy to see what you prioritize.
When you're overworked, it's easy to see your main neurosis.
When you're tired, it's easy to see how you handle negative emotions.
When you have no time, it is easy to see what you yearn for.

If you had nothing to do with your day- no appointments, no interactions, no stress- you would have no feedback for your practice. 

It can be difficult dealing with the intensity of our lives, but we have the advantage of using that intensity as a catalyst for our practice.  We have the advantage of using our life, as it is right now, as a means of accomplishment. 

Friday, October 30, 2015


Tibetan: bardo
English: intermediate state, in-between, gap

The bardo is a commonly used term to refer to the gap between lives, that in-between state where one life has ended and the other has yet to begin. 

The bardo is often a terrifying state. 

We don't feel comfortable there.  We are propelled by all of our past actions and intentions, but we have lost our previous form.  We have yet to take a new form, so we feel as though we have lost our ground. 

Our mind grasps after illusory appearances, hoping to find something that sticks, something that we can become.  We yearn for form. 

We yearn for what is next.

Fundamentally, this is the mind grasping at experience.  Fixating on identity, we suffer in the bardo. 

This experience is similar to one's practice in meditation.  In meditation we experience all of our past thoughts, actions and feelings.  We experience fixation on our body, its sensations and pain.  The practice is to learn to let go.  To let them be as they are. 

As thoughts and emotions arise, we recognize them as the play of the mind and learn to relax.  As appearances entice us, we learn to let them fall away.  As hope and doubt stir, we rest in ease and contentment. 

This helps us maintain freedom in the bardo.  We can abide there, timelessly, content and at peace. 

And at some point we will see a form unfold in which we can make an impact, be generous, benefit others and fulfill our intention. 

At that moment we enter the bardo of becoming and we take on a new life. 

At that moment we arise from our meditation. 

Friday, October 23, 2015


Do you ever find yourself getting caught up in collecting information for the sake of collecting more? 

We have this tendency in our practice- our practice of being generous, making an impact, being open and available to others around us- we have this tendency to externalize the practice. 

We get wrapped up in ideas and concepts.  We make our practice this big project with all of these complicated pieces.  We gather and collect, piece together and reanalyze.  Maybe even start back at square one. 

We need to evaluate what is relevant to our practice.  The process of doing that needs to occur on the basis of what is going on inside of us, not outside of us. 

Where are we getting stuck?  What are we grasping at?  Where is our hope and fear? 

Obstacles that we encounter in our mind are the ground for hope and fear.  The cycle of hope and fear spring from the resistance that is occurring in our own minds. 

Information gathering becomes a hiding place.  It becomes busy work that keeps us occupied and safe.

When that happens, it is not relevant to our practice.

Identify resistance.
Internalize your practice.
Notice when and why you try to get away. 

When you break through the resistance, it is like a dam giving way, all the qualities that were blockaded naturally pour out. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

I must have missed it.

Have you ever been too busy to catch a detail?

To agitated to see the connection?

To caught up in the routine to notice something that has always been there?

Have you ever been stuck on something and then realized the answer was in plain sight?

To understand and realize our buddhanature and the nature of our own mind we don't need something new.  Our buddhanature is fully evident. 

We just don't see it.

We get caught up in thoughts, emotions and habits.  We get stuck on identity, appearances and our situation.  It is not that we are far away from the result we are seeking.  It is more that we cannot recognize that which is right before us.

It is kind of like not being able to see you own eyelashes.  They are right there.

We have a tendency to complicate the path.  Really it is quite simple-

Tame your mind. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

That doesn't look good on you.

Fashion plays an important role in any culture.  People care how they look. 

They care about the impression they leave on people.  They care about how fashion allows them to move through their day.  They care about embodying what they want to see in the world.  They care about the message they are sending, the culture they are shaping, and the standard to be admired. 

We all know the usual players of fashion- footwear, accessories, hair and makeup.  Those have been the stalwarts that have defined fashion for the ages.  But fashion also has trends, trends we use to explore our culture and our world.

How do you look wearing anger?
What statement are you making when you use divisive and hurtful speech?
What impression do others have when you are impatient and rude?

I am willing to bet it doesn't look good on you.  And yet, others might follow your lead.

Of course the art of fashion is to create the image you want to see shape the world.

Kindness. Generosity. Compassion. Honesty. Respect. Humor. Confidence. Patience. 

What do those look like?

What are you wearing?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What are you?

You have a physical appearance, but you are not your appearance.
You have feelings, but you are not your feelings.
You have thoughts and ideas, but you are not your thoughts and ideas.
You have perceptions, but you are not your perceptions.
You have experiences, but you are not your experiences.
You have habits, but you are not your habits.
You have preferences, but you are not your preferences. 
You have consciousness, but you are not your consciousness.
You have an 'I', but you are not your 'I'.

So what are you?

We bind ourselves when we get caught up in appearances.  But we are not those appearances.

We are naturally liberated.  Natural Buddhas.  

Monday, October 12, 2015


Tibetan: so-jong
English: so- to heal, refresh, restore, nourish; jong- to purify, cleanse

Sojong is a practice of purification and restoration.  It forms an important part of every practitioner's practice.  Traditionally sojong is performed either as part of one's daily practice or on the 15th and 30th days of the lunar month.

What is purified?

Our broken vows.  A lapse in our commitments.  Missteps we have taken on the path.  Laziness.  Our negative thoughts, actions and habits.  Our intention.

If we take a moment in our practice to acknowledge our faults, to shine light on our own delusions, we can restore our intention.  We can nourish our commitment, refresh our connections, heal ourselves of guilt and self-hatred.

The practice of sojong allows us to take another step.  And another.  And another.

We keep going.  Not because we have to, but because we can.

There are many methods to engage in sojong.  Common ones include:

Taking the one-day lay upasaka vow.
Reciting the hundred syllable Vajrasattva mantra.
Offering mandalas.
Fire puja.
Reciting sutras.
Saving lives of animals and helping the ill.
Resting in rigpa.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Upcoming Dzogchen Seminar

Join us for a weekend of Dzogchen teachings.

Younge Khachab Rinpoche will be teaching on Longchen Rabjam's famed Choying Dzod, the Precious Treasury of the Basic Space of Phenomena.  This text is one of Longchenpa's Seven Treasures and perhaps his greatest work.  In it he lays out the practice of trekchod, or cutting through, in a direct way that culminates in a state of timeless freedom.  Rinpoche will provide chapter by chapter commentary and give practical meditation instruction based on these profound teachings.  A rare opportunity to explore Longchenpa's presentation of Dzogchen at the foot of a modern day Dzogchen master.  

Translator: Tenzin Bhuchung

October 24-25, 2015 
10am-12pm and 2-5pm
Private Residence

515 N. 64th St

Seattle, WA
Please contact for work study options.

For questions please contact Greg at

Younge Khachab Rinpoche

Rinpoche is a renowned Rime scholar and Dzogchen master.  He is the Younge family lineage holder and holds the titles of both Geshe and Khenpo.  His teaching style is direct, warm and engaging, extensive yet practical; he condenses teachings into their essence and takes a personal interest in each of his student's practice.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The goal.

The goal of life is to be happy. 

What is difficult is making choices that support happiness.

It is hard to act on circumstances that are conducive to happiness.

It is challenging to deal with our thoughts and emotions in a way that leads to happiness.

It is really rare to surround yourself with people that promote your happiness.

It is even more rare to come across teachers who teach you methods that produce happiness.

So much of what we do for the sake of happiness leads us down the rabbit hole of suffering and dissatisfaction. 

The goal of life is to be happy, but the purpose of life is to act on the causes of happiness. 

The actor caught acting in the act.

Worse than not recognizing the play of the mind is the fact that we get caught up in it. 

We become ensnared in what is happening. It determines our choices and actions.  We get caught up in the story-line, wrapped up in our identity which isn't even real.

We are blind to it, continually perpetuating the charade that plays itself out again and again in endless loops. 

We long for freedom, for it to stop.  But how?

What happens if the actor drops everything?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Tibetan: nyingpo
English: potential, seed, womb, essence

Never having existed as anything whatsoever, 
it arises as anything at all. 
~Longchen Rabjam

There are two ways to think about potential.  One of them is that it is latent, the other that it is naturally present.  The latent approach likens potential to a seed that can gradually ripen into a fully formed fruit.  It requires effort and energy.  Drip by drip. 

The naturally present approach is a sudden encounter, a direct experience with our potential.  This can be compared to a mountain climber being introduced to a mountain, and then climbing it.

What is potential?  How can we relate to it?

It is not something tangible.  Not some thing.  It is completely pure and undefiled, beyond all expression or imagination.

Yet it is palpable, vibrant, luminous.  It is naturally and spontaneously present.

And it is responsive and dynamic.

We can learn to recognize our own potential.  We can learn to rest in that potential even amidst suffering, painful feelings and negative thoughts.  We can find rest, for that potential is the nature of our own mind and the nature of our entire world.

Everything is pure potential.  

Our practice is the tool by which we encounter our potential.  Our practice can use the latent approach, drip by drip.  Our practice can also use the naturally present approach, a direct encounter with the fullness of our potential.

Which approach do you use?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Questioning ourselves.

We often question ourselves, our worth and our value.

Are we good enough?  Are we worth it?  Can we really do this? 

Questioning our value is pretty common.   Why don't we ever question our fear and uncertainty?

Is it worth it to be angry?  Is it worth it to be jealous of others achievements? 

What do we get out of this worry and anxiousness?

What do we get out of feeling bad for ourselves?

We over invest in our thoughts and feelings, which are like clouds drifting through the sky.
We under invest in our potential, which is like the spacious sky.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Fix your house.

So many people are overwhelmed with where to start.  They want to make a difference, make an impact, live a purposeful life, have a job with meaning, but don't know what step to take next. 

Fix your own house.

Fix a leaky faucet.
Fix a crack in the foundation.
Fix your roof.
Fix here.  Tweak there. 

Once you become more confident with fixing your own house, it won't seem so daunting to extend yourself to others.  You'll know where certain mistakes tend to come up, you'll have some experience dealing with problems and have a better idea where to go when you are stuck. 

Fix your own house and you will learn how to help others fix theirs. 

The same goes with training your own mind.

Monday, September 28, 2015


What supports your practice?

Your teacher.  Teachings to contemplate.  Your daily activities.  The community around you.

What challenges your practice?

Your teacher.  Teachings to contemplate.  Your daily activities.  The community around you. 

What's missing?

Friday, September 25, 2015

When do you decide?

Have you ever watched people trying to park in a parking lot?

Most people circle around the aisles trying to get the close spots, waiting for people to load there car and back out.  If nothing is open at the time they will swing back around and take another go at it, maybe get lucky. 

Why don't they just drive to the back of the parking lot and park?

Why not just do that right away?

Park.  Walk the extra distance.  Get started.

Maybe this isn't the right spot.  Maybe there are better spots out there to start.  Better places to be in, more conducive situations.  You might make a bad choice.

There are a lot of reasons to put off starting our practice.  Even more reasons to prevent us from going deeper.  At some point you just need to decide.

When do you decide?

Monday, September 21, 2015


I watched an interesting TED talk the other day by David Eagleman about how we experience the world.  David and his team are doing breakthrough research for deaf people using technology to allow deaf people to actually hear.  It's pretty amazing stuff what they are doing.   

In his talk he mentions the German word umvelt, which means the surrounding world.  David argues that our experience is constrained by our sense perception and that the reality that we experience is defined by the limits of our sense organs.  He also talks about what would happen if we use technology to increase our sensory experience, such as being able to directly perceive UV light or infrared light.

Would that increase in sensory experience expand our umvelt?  Would it lead to a more expansive experience of the world?

Surely.  Without a doubt.

But how does that actually benefit us?

When I was in college, me and my roommate got in a heated discussion with one of his friends about the use of LSD or other psychoactive drugs.  The basis of his argument was that our brain is wired to only experience reality a certain way and by taking drugs you could expand that experience and presumably gain something in the experience.

Is it our experience of reality that limits us?

It is without a doubt in my mind that we could experience more, indefinitely so.  We could experience an expanded visual consciousness, a wider auditory consciousness, a more subtle olfactory and taste consciousness, and a much more discerning perception of touch.  We could do all of those things.

All of this is based on the assumption that we have insufficient data or information, and that insufficiency limits us.  It limits our experience and our experience equals...what does more experience equal?

More experience could equal more humility, more awe and insight.  I think that is really the hope.  But truly, more experience usually equals more ego.  What if we could become like the gods and know all?  How marvelous would we be?  Our amazing experience would mean that we are amazing.  The significance of everything that we experience would translate to our lives being significantly significant.  We would find our lives meaningful.  Having experienced EVERYTHING, our lives would be fulfilled.  Maybe we would even finally feel satiated.

What really limits our experience is that we crave experience for our own sake.  Then we fixate on that experience of reality as true, having experienced it ourselves.

Craving and ignorance, those are our real inadequacies.

Craving keeps us in a cycle of consumption.  Ignorance fixates on me and mine.  Neither are fulfilling.  Both constrict our experience.   



Friday, September 18, 2015

The practice of compassion.

What do you think about when someone says to practice compassion?

Do you think about helping someone.  Lending a hand.  Tending to the suffering, feeding the hungry.  Do you think about a mother caring for her child.  A father picking up their child from an accident.

We tend to think of the practice of compassion as an act.

But what if the practice of compassion was to be open, available and responsive?  What if the act of compassion was to remain open, available and responsive?

The practice isn't about doing, it is about being.

Being open, available and responsive- you could help someone, lend a hand, tend to their suffering, feed them when they are hungry.

You could also simply maintain that space for them.  Be there, with them, not doing anything.  And not needing to.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Upcoming workshops!

Join us for a practice intensive.  Receive meditation instruction,
ask questions, engage in discussion with other practitioners. 
Clarify your practice.  Let your practice clarify you.
Sunday September 27, 2015
10am - 12pm 

Sunday November 8, 2015
10am - 12pm
1716 NW Market St 
Seattle, WA 98107
Suggested donation $10

For more information contact Greg at

The cup is clean.

There is a popular Zen saying:

Have you eaten your rice porridge? Then you had better wash your bowl.

I am not a Zen practitioner, never have been.  There are many layers of meaning that you could overlay on that advice and maybe there is a right interpretation, but here is one to think about:

The bowl is already clean.  

We don't wash away the bowl, we wash away the dirt and remnants of food.  We wash away that which is adventitious.  It is because the dirt and filth of our activity is not permanent that we can even wash it away.  

Our life is messy.  We are a mess most of the time, but our nature is pure.  Our buddhanature has never been contaminated.  The nature of our mind is already perfect, just as it is.  

So we practice.  We don't practice to improve our nature, our nature is already perfectly manifest.  Our nature is a perfect vessel.  We practice to remove that which is adventitious and recognize our original condition.  We remove the filth and the extraneous.  The result of our practice is that we are left with our originally pure condition.  

We can learn to rest in our genuinely pure nature, our clean vessel, our fundamental condition.  Then as we go through our days collecting dirt, we don't get too hung up on the filth because we know it is momentary.  

Start each day with a clean vessel.  We can do our work, go about our activity, fulfill our function.  We can get dirty.  We can make mistakes, poor choices and even feel nourished by what we share.  

Then, wash your bowl.  Rest in your originally pure condition.    

Monday, September 14, 2015

The best thing about past karma.

Most of the time we look at our karma as a burden.  We are conditioned by all of our past decisions, actions and experiences, and perhaps we look back and wish how things could be different.

The best thing about our karma is that it has brought us to where we are today.

All of that hardship, pain and misfortune has brought us here, now.
All of those problems, lessons and bad decisions have allowed us to stand here, awake, at this moment.
If we had done things differently, we wouldn't be who we are right now.  Maybe we would still be asleep.

Maybe we needed to learn something through all of that pain and hardship.
Maybe we needed to work through something.
Maybe what we have to share is hidden in that struggle.
Maybe the wisdom needed to truly benefit others had to be experienced directly. 

So today, everyday, is a grand juncture.  We are the total sum of our past decisions and actions, and what we do with that now determines what and who we will be in the future.

The choice is up to you.

Friday, September 11, 2015

What informs our intentions?

What informs our intentions and aspirations?

Hope for gain, fear of loss.
Concern for praise or blame.
Striving for happiness or avoiding pain and dissatisfaction.
To be famous, or insignificant.

Those are the eight worldly concerns, which invariably inform many of our decisions and actions.  The Buddha taught that our karma is based on our choices and the actions that it produces.  We all want to be happy, to have stability and accomplish our aims, but what informs our intentions keeps us bound in the cycle of suffering and dissatisfaction.

We want to choose actions that produce happiness, but our choices are informed by the causes of suffering.

We are informed by hope and fear for the eight worldly concerns.  Our choices are conditioned by attachment and aversion, ignorance, jealousy and pride.  Biased perception clouds our vision.   

With that information, it is a miracle that we ever make a good decision.

But we do. 

One of the best choices we can make is to practice, because all that that poor information is easily removed through practice.  Clarify your practice, let your practice clarify you. 


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

I choose happiness.

I choose happiness.

But it's not that simple, is it?

Despite our best intentions, we have all these negative emotions to deal with.

Despite our best effort, we have all these bad habits that reinforce and influence our actions.

Even when we think we have all the information needed to make a good decision,
we suffer from short sighted vision and biased perception.

We really want to choose happiness, but we cannot do that until we clear our heads, learn to control our emotions and start to see more clearly.

Monday, September 7, 2015


Tibetan: Sempa
English: volition, to will, intention, a choice

The variety of the world arises from karma, 
Karma is volition and that which is produced through volition.
Volition is mental action,
it gives rise to two actions, bodily and vocal action. 

Our lives are created through action, both the individual and collective.  The key to understanding karma is to understand that it is a choice.  We made that decision and we are responsible for its result. Our intention gave rise to our actions and our actions determine our reality.  

Karma is simple.  It is living with the results of our choices that is not.   

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


We spend a lot of time and effort to make ourselves comfortable, secure, safe.  That notion of comfort and safety really pulls on our hearts and minds, maybe because we think we can do what we really want to do once we have it secured.

But there is something to be said for being exposed.

Raw. Naked. Vulnerable. Exposed to the elements. To pain and adversity.  There is something about being exposed that makes us feel alive.

I don't know if other people get the feeling that they want to be exposed to the raw elements. 

I know I do.

Do you?


Monday, August 31, 2015

Compassionate activity.

Compassionate activity doesn't mean that you need to be emotional. 
You don't need to shed a tear to show you care.

Compassionate activity means being open, receptive and present.
It means be generous with your presence,
disciplined enough to not react with carelessness,
patient enough to sit with the resistance,
and that you persist in doing the emotional hard work of caring.
Without wavering in the face of problems and obstacles,
and with the insight to see the connections between the agent, action and patient,
you can engage in perfect compassionate activity.    

Friday, August 28, 2015

Upcoming Meditation Workshops.


Join us for a practice intensive.  Receive meditation instruction,
ask questions, engage in discussion with other practitioners. 
Clarify your practice.  Let your practice clarify you.

Sunday September 27, 2015
10am - 12pm 

Sunday November 8, 2015
10am - 12pm
1716 NW Market St 
Seattle, WA 98107
Suggested donation $10

For more information contact Greg at

Monday, August 24, 2015

Following in their footsteps.

In the beginning, we give our teacher our attention and interest
by listening, contemplating and deepening our understanding.

In the middle, out of respect and devotion we offer them our support-
investing our time and energy because of the impact their teachings have had on us.

In the end, it is our responsibility to preserve and share the teachings,
so we choose to embody the teachings, to become their working basis.
That is the way of commitment and generosity, the way in which we follow their example.
This is the greatest offering we can make to our teachers

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


She is open, responsive, all-embracing.
She is without border or limit.
She is receptive, always available, even vulnerable.
She has a natural grace, a timeless presence.
Naturally radiant yet confidently grounded,
she is compassion.
As compassion she abides.

Her activity is her expression,
yet she is fully manifest without action.

Monday, August 17, 2015


Tibetan: trulpa
English: confusion, deception, misperception, distortion

Confusion is a false way of seeing the world.  It is misapprehending a situation, deceiving ourselves about what is really happening.  Confusion creates a lot of problems for us because it affects our actions and what we stand for.  If our view is distorted, our actions are likewise misaligned and we experience more anger, more frustration and more fear.   Confusion polarizes us and our world. 

Confusion is really difficult to deal with because the confused person thinks they have knowledge.  A distorted view of reality makes no difference if it is the reality you experience and all the stories you tell yourself confirm that reality.

Confusion has its own logic, its own arguments and its own justification.

So how do we uproot it?

The first step is to understand that we all have a lens through which we see the world.  I have my own lens, you have yours.   When we realize that there is some shared basis between those two worlds that we can talk about and discuss, then there is some possibility that I can undermine my own confusion.   
Knowing the relativity of our own lens opens us up to the truth.  It opens us up to empathy and genuine understanding.  With empathy and genuine understanding we can reduce the distortion of our own lens and see the world more clearly.

We cannot change the minds of others.  We can only show them another lens and start to ask questions.  

Friday, August 14, 2015

Three cornerstones of your practice.


Discipline gives you structure.  It gives your practice form.  It provides reinforcement and direction. 
Meditation allows you to dig deeper, cut through the layers.  It allows you to let go, gain stability and clarity.  It is your workshop.
Wisdom allows you to make connections, draw out the implications.  It is insight and clear seeing.  It is direct, no BS. 

Discipline without meditation or wisdom and you become rigid, narrow minded and overly analytical.  You become confined, bound by rules.  You become like a well trained rat in a cage of concepts. 

Meditation without discipline and you lack the skills to act.  You are like a carpenter without tools, confident sure, but unable to construct anything meaningful.

Meditation without wisdom and you get stuck in absorption.  You are like a circus elephant in the mud- happy, joyful, relaxed- never wanting to leave.  All your pride has you confused and you forget that the circus still owns you.

Wisdom without discipline and you are like a madman, unable to connect and relate to others.

Wisdom without meditation is like a flash of lightening in the night, it will illuminate the darkness for a brief moment but it is unlikely to set anything ablaze. 

Monday, August 10, 2015


Tibetan: Lenpa
English: Grasping, clinging, fixation, hooked, to hold, to perpetuate

When we encounter a problem in our life- stress, anxiety, difficult situations or decisions- we think the problems themselves are the actual problem.  The problems are to blame for how we feel and how our day went.  You know, when something can go wrong it will go wrong.

And it does, all the time. 

But what if the problem wasn't the actual problem.  What if it was our fixation and grasping to the problem?  What if it was our habit of getting hooked and perpetuating the problem? 

Problems come and go all the time.  We can either fight them tooth and nail and let them continue to torment us and our sleep, or we can see them as reminders of why we need to continue our practice.

If we don't get hooked there is a chance we can work through them.  In that way problems offer us a chance at liberation

Friday, August 7, 2015

Meditation Workshop.

Meditation Workshop 

Join us for a practice intensive.  Receive meditation instruction,
ask questions, engage in discussion with other practitioners. 
Clarify your practice.  Let your practice clarify you.

August 16, 2015
Sunday 10am-12pm

1716 NW Market St
Seattle, WA  98107

Suggested donation $10
Please contact for more information.

Gregory Patenaude is a pharmacist, writer and Tibetan translator. 
He has been leading meditation groups and retreats in Seattle since 2006 
under the guidance of his own teacher, Younge Khachab Rinpoche
Contact Greg at:

Helpless and Stuck.

As the mind develops, we move from a world of sensory perception to a world of causality.

An infants initial experience of the world is simply what it perceives in its immediate surroundings- its mother, father, sights, sounds, feelings, warmth, emotions, pain and hunger.  If the child does not experience something it does not exist.

This is wonderful because it is an immersion in experience.  It is simple, direct, empirical.

But an infant is helpless because it doesn't know what to do with the things it is experiencing.
Pain is pain.  Hunger is hunger.  Fatigue is fatigue.  Warmth is warmth.

An infant who is hungry doesn't worry about anything else.  At that moment, hunger is the child's world and it doesn't know how to fix that. 

A parent who cares knows how to soothe a baby and it teaches it how to soothe itself

Somewhere along its development, the infant starts to realize that things still exist even if they cannot directly experience them.  This is called object permanence and it marks the beginning of a rational, logical mind.  It is the beginning of a mind that can plan and act based on intention. 

This is a grand development, but not without its own problems. 

Neither of these two ways of perceiving the world are true seeing.  If your world is your experience and nothing else you are helpless, failing to understand the significance of cause and effect.  A world in which we operate within cause and effect but get wrapped up in its objects and we get stuck.

A parent who cares teaches their child how to get unstuck. 

Teach your child to get unstuck, how to solve a problem and how to avoid getting wrapped up in a mess.  With that skillset, their innate curiosity coupled with the ability to choose and act will carry them to places that you could never imagine. 

Which is pretty scary, as a parent.

That is why you need to teach them to get unstuck. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Object permanence.

Object permanence is a big development for an infant. 

Prior to the development of object permanence when things leave their field of perception they cease to exist.  Hide a toy, who cares- still happy and content.  Mother leaves the room, no worry here. 

Around six months of age children start to understand that things do exist when they leave the room.  Mom is gone, and that is a problem.  Why did you take away my toy, I was happily enjoying chewing on that.

This is a key development because it allows the child to develop an understanding of causality and learn to problem solve.  Object permanence allows for a rational, logical interpretation of reality.

What no one talks about is that object permanence also brings with it a host of emotional baggage. 

Hope and fear, attachment and aversion, gain and loss are all dependent on our expectation that things we want will stick around and things we don't want will go away.  The problems is that things that we want don't stay for long, and situations that bother us tend to stick around longer than we like. 

Our rational mind has little power over these strong emotions.

Object permanence is a big development for an infant, but many adults still struggle with the implications that it brings to their life.

When was the last time you were really well prepared with your plan, had it all worked out in your head, and then it fell apart.  How did you react?  How fixated were you on that object?

What is it that you are really hoping for?  What happens if none of it works out?

Are you going to be able to talk your way through it?  Do you really know how to work with your emotions when the going gets tough?  Or is anger and disappointment going to spill over into your day and your relationships?

Object permanence. 

What's the alternative?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Four thoughts that turn the mind towards genuine practice.

We are very fortunate to have this life,
to have some freedom and opportunity,
to have some leisure and resources.

This life has great potential.

But, it is also momentary.
The days, weeks and years keep moving faster.
This life is like a fragile vessel,
one in which we can cross a great sea,
but must be left behind upon reaching the far shore.

Which is why our actions are important.
Our thoughts and actions can lead us astray, change our course.
Our actions create our world and influence innumerable worlds.
Our situation is not a prison in which we are stuck,
it is an opportunity to liberate ourselves,
an opportunity for awakening. 

But time and time again we get hooked.
We get wrapped up in our problems.
Our minds become ensnared in fear and uncertainty,
giving rise to waves of negative thoughts and emotions.
We are plagued by discontentment and easily slip back into dissatisfaction.

We have the opportunity to care, to be generous and kind.
We have the potential to do something meaningful,
but we need to actually do the work.
We need to actually practice.

And we need to do it today.

Friday, July 31, 2015

A natural radiance.

Tibetan: rang dang
English: natural radiance

In the Dzogchen tradition we emphasize the luminous quality of the nature of mind.  Meditation is not simply resting in some peaceful, non-conceptual absorption.  It is luminous, inherently clear and naturally radiant.

Something is always coming up.

The significance of this subtle point has profound implications.  The great meditation masters of the past have said that the nature of the mind is the basis of samsara and nirvana, bondage or liberation, a life of dissatisfaction or awakening.

What determines our experience?  How we relate to what is coming up, what is arising.

In meditation this occurs on a very subtle level.  We deal with grasping and fixation, attachment and aversion, hope and fear on a very intimate level.  It is not very easy to see what is going on in someone's practice, but in our daily life it becomes very easy to see how we relate to this luminous quality of our nature.

Do we get caught up in our experience?  Are we entangled in a web of thoughts, emotions and neurotic behavior, or do we cut through the resistance?

If the resistance is winning on the outside, it must be winning on the inside.

And yet, our nature is always naturally radiant.  It always has been, since the very beginning.  We just don't recognize it.    

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The struggling artist.

An artist is someone who is generous, open and vulnerable.  Their medium is connection.  The result of their work is that they have impacted another life, brought about a benefit or change.

We all have to work with what is coming up.  Something is always coming up.

The artist is able to cut through the resistance and willing to care enough to make an impact.

The rest of us get caught up in the resistance, entangled in struggle and strife, dissatisfied in our search for meaning

We're struggling artists.

The difference?  How you relate to what is coming up in your life. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Changing the story.

I am continually inspired by my brothers and sisters on the path who are dedicated to their practice and generous with their time and energy.

One of the people who has inspired me is Seth Godin who introduced me to a new definition of an artist.  An artist is someone who makes an impact, benefits someone and effects change.  In this sense we all have the opportunity to be artists, regardless of our profession.  We all have the opportunity to take a moment, lend a hand, to truly listen and share generously.

We all have an opportunity to care. 

The thing about being an artist is that you don't create art all the time.  Not everything you do in your day is about making an impact.  Most of your day will be spent doing your job, working on the tactics, getting things done.

The artist can be busy and still make great art.

For me, this relieved a great burden, something I actually struggled with for a long time.  I was carrying a lot of frustration and aversion to being busy and working hard because I wasn't able to devote myself fully to making an impact.  I felt that too much of my days, weeks and months were wasted because I could be doing something better.  I could be doing better work but my work itself was preventing me from actually doing that.  That resistance to the nuts and bolts, ground level experience of my job (and life) prevented me from seeing and seizing those moments when I could act, when I could be generous.    

The function of our work is to make an impact, but not all the time.  We struggle to find meaning in our work and in our life, but we need to create meaning.  If we could even spend 10% of our time seizing those opportunities to make an impact and to care, we would find great meaning in our life.  It would even allow us to be really good at the busy, mundane, daily responsibilities that we need to fulfill because they would further create opportunities to create art. 

I can tell you that even 10% is hard.  It is too easy to hide in the busy tactical aspect of your life, too easy to keep your head down and keep plugging away at what you are doing.  We hide in the busy and then complain when our work has no meaning.  We fight internally against the resistance, but the resistance often wins and prevents us from stepping away and actually caring.

That is the fight, the struggle.

If we can recognize and identify that resistance, then we can actually find ways to reduce it.  Once we know what it looks like and what it is trying to do, we can push through the resistance and strive to make an impact, strive to care.  Start to create art.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Even though the path is formless, groundless and beyond what we can know or imagine;
your practice gives you a sense of control.

Even though the path is continually arising and ceasing, manifesting in infinite forms and possibilities;
your practice gives you confidence.

There is great satisfaction to be found in having a practice that teaches you how to maintain a way of abiding amidst uncertainty and fear.  

Monday, July 20, 2015


Tibetan: rangdrol
English: self-liberation, naturally liberated

In the Dzogchen tradition we talk about self-liberation, or natural liberation; liberated just as it is, in it's own place.  There are three types of self-liberation- like a snake uncoiling itself, like meeting an old friend, and like a thief entering an empty house.

Rangdrol like an uncoiling snake.
When a snake is resting coiled up it doesn't tie itself into knots when it moves.  It simply and effortlessly uncoils.  It doesn't need to think about it or create a plan of attack for uncoiling itself, it naturally goes on its way.

We struggle at this.

When we are tied up in knots we plot our best to escape.  We fight back, try to break out or just give up in exhaustion.  We struggle.  We see all of the struggle in our life and we know we are tied up in knots.  We also know that we don't know how to get untied.

The way that we experience self-liberation is to experience the nature of mind and the nature of phenomena directly.  It is not a conceptual process, we don't talk ourselves through it into a state of cessation or acceptance.  It is a direct experience.  This is what Garab Dorje talked about in the first of his Three Statements.  When we experience the originally pure and uncontrived nature of mind directly, we encounter the naturally liberated state.  Recognizing that we come to experience the timeless freedom of the nature of mind and the way in which all experiences, whether good or bad, are naturally liberated.  In this way, the knots of whatever is manifesting in our experience are naturally uncoiled and liberated in their own place.

The distinctive feature of this first stage of self-liberation is that prior to this experience you have been trying to use the craftiness of your mind to bring about freedom, freedom that has never manifested or never lasted.  Here in this tradition, you are using the direct experience of the nature of mind.

Rangdrol like meeting an old friend.  
It doesn't matter how busy you are, how crowded the place or even how long it has been, when you see an old friend you immediately recognize them.  "Oh, hello.  There you are, I recognize you dear friend".  It is a moments recognition, nothing more to do.

You are already intimate and familiar with the natural state of being and the experience of timeless freedom, yet there are moments when you get caught up, moments when you get tied up in knots.  So at this stage you are becoming more proficient at recognizing the naturally liberated state and dealing with problems and obstacles as they arise.  For you, problems and obstacles start to arise as friends.  As negative thoughts and emotions arise you instantly recognize them as a dynamic dance, free in their own place with nothing more to do.  You see them, but they don't necessarily bother you.

The key feature here is the familiarity you have gained familiarity of the naturally liberated state.  Familiarity allows us to recognize the natural liberation of thoughts, emotions and habitual tendencies as they arise, even though we may have a moment of distraction.  This is really a process of working with doubt and uncertainty in your practice, really sitting so that you start to gain that experience of liberation upon arising.      

Rangdrol like a thief entering an empty house.
This one is a bit more obscure conceptually.  The metaphor here is that the thief has nothing to gain and the house has nothing to lose.  This experience of self-liberation is connected to the essence of liberation in the Dzogchen tradition, which is liberation upon arising.  Normally what is manifesting in our experience can be viewed as an enemy or a problem, a thief.  Our house is secure, a safe zone where we experience freedom and peace of mind.  So our normal experience is that something manifests in our life and we lose something, our peace of mind or freedom get stolen from us and ultimately we get tied up in knots.  In this situation, the thief that arises- whether it be negative situation, thoughts, bad habits, karma or ignorance- doesn't threaten the house because the house has nothing to lose.  The nature of mind, your house, cannot be ruined by negative thoughts or emotions, it cannot be bound up in any way at all.   

Sometimes we are also the thief looking for valuable experiences and qualities.  We might start to have some 'real signs' that we are accomplishing something or be looking for confirmation or validation, but truly there is also nothing to add or improve upon in the nature of mind.   

The key feature here is that whatever arises in your experience is free just as it is, liberation is simultaneous with arising, with nothing to gain and nothing to lose.

You can always tell when you have fallen from this realization when you start to see thieves all over the place and long for the experience of a peaceful house.  Your work is a thief, those people, this problem, this thought, this emotion, all of it starts to tie you up pretty good again, doesn't it?

In the beginning, you discover the naturally liberated state,
In the middle, you recognize it again and again amidst confusion,
In the end, you realize that there is nothing to gain and nothing to lose.