Monday, February 29, 2016

Leading the next generation.

Encourage curiosity and questions.  Create a sense of wonder and awe.

Build connections.  Start dialogue.  Promote conversation.  Give them resources. 

Send them on their way in search of an answer. Ask them to share their findings.

Challenge them to go deeper, see connections, draw out implications.

Ask them to contribute.  What do they see?  What questions do they still have?

Keep going. 

Who's next?

Friday, February 26, 2016

The warrior's life.

It is one thing to study war
and another to live the warrior's life.

-Telamon of Arcadia

Truer words have never been spoken.  Try out your own:

It is one thing to study art, and another to live the artist's life.  

It is one thing to study mindfulness, and another to live a mindful life.

It is one thing to study compassion, and another to live a compassionate life.

Today, everyone has all the information they need.  We are all comfortable in our concepts and the data at hand.  Everyday I see a new study professing the benefits of mindfulness or meditation.  We feel safe in what we know and act as an expert in that sphere.

But we are living in a bubble.  

The lived experience is raw, naked and exposed.  The lived experience is one of working intimately with failure, fear, doubt and uncertainty.  Those who actually go out to battle know that those concepts have tastes and textures.  

The warrior has scars that give them conviction.  Conviction that this battle is worth fighting.  

The warrior knows that giving into the resistance means certain loss.  
The artist knows that giving into the resistance means art not done.
The mindful practitioner knows that giving into the resistance means a wandering mind.
The compassionate soul knows that giving into resistance means turning away.   

If you haven't bridged the gap between study and the lived experience all you have to do is identify the resistance.  When you encounter it in your life, stay with it, work with it.  That is the practice- this is the path forward.

Welcome to the real world. 


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Householder tradition.

A vital aspect to the living Buddhist tradition that we experience today is the presence of the householder tradition in Tibet.

During the 9th century the Dharma faced numerous attacks from the Tibetan king and it was the householder tradition that allowed the Dharma to be continuously transmitted and realized.

Someone who belongs to this householder tradition is called a Ngakpa, or Ngakma for women.  A Ngakpa is someone who has taken a non-monastic vow.  They are men and women who practice within the Vajrayana tradition and do so within the context of their normal, daily life.

The householder tradition is often called the White Sangha, because they often wore white robes or had the traditional red and white striped robe.  They were artists, doctors, architects, writers and farmers.  They were professionals dedicated to their practice.  They were highly educated and held important roles in their communities.  They often had families and worldly responsibilities, but they also devoted significant time to retreat and practice.  

The ngakpas practice is one of immersion.  They were the working basis through which the teachings expressed themselves.  Their practice isn't purely philosophical; it is felt, lived.  Samaya is the root of the ngakpa vow.  This samaya or heartfelt connection is what the ngakpa or ngakpa upholds.

There are family lineages of ngakpas, where a particular practice or lineage of teachings is passed from one generation to the next.  A ngakpa may also be any individual who upholds that heartfelt connection and is immersed and engaged with the teachings under a qualified lineage holder.  

The ngakpas organized themselves into Houses, often naming a House after a particular region, like the Rebkhong House to which Shabkar belonged. The ngakpas organized themselves and their lives around their practice.  No one really knew who the really great practitioners were.  They weren't spiritual materialists who were caught up in wearing the right costume.  They were dedicated to their practice and concerned with upholding that heartfelt connection and then sharing it with others.  The genuine ones gained accomplishment as siddhas and the lineage flourished as a result of their practice and determination.   

This householder tradition continues to this day.  It is in contrast to the monastic tradition, but it is no less important.  It remains a vital life line for the Dharma. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Contrived paralysis.

What we are doing is important.  There is a seriousness to this work.  We are serious about it.  It is important to us. 

And so we are contrived in its seriousness.  Contrived in its importance.  It's 'big deal'-ness.

Magic never arises from contrivance.  Art never arises from overtly conceptualized effort. 

It manifests spontaneously.  Naturally. 

We need to relax. 

We need to take the practice seriously, but not ourselves so seriously.  We still need to show up, everyday.  We still need to put in the work, put in the time and effort.  We need to commit and be dedicated and have a sense of urgency. 

Just don't get too hung up on yourself and your practice.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Upcoming 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.

Sunday February 28, 2016
10am - 12pm
1716 NW Market St 
Seattle, WA 98107
Suggested donation $10


For more information contact Greg at

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What happens just before you leap?


You need it to jump.
To break away.
To cut through.
To get started.
To reach out.
To lend a hand.
To stand up.

Gumption.  It's a spirited initiative and resourcefulness. 

It is essential to your practice.  Make sure to keep cultivating it.   

Monday, February 15, 2016

A complete practice.

As a practitioner, we all struggle to integrate our practice with our daily life.  We struggle to carry our daily practice off the cushion and into the world.  We struggle with trying to figure out how to act in the world after we no longer buy into the rat race of money, status and power.

These are problems that we try to solve as practitioners.

In order to relieve the tension we often feel between our practice and our daily life, we need to develop a complete practice.  A complete practice isn't just what you do on the cushion.  It starts with how you see the world, includes your meditation, your activity in the world and the result of your practice.

View.  Meditation. Conduct. Result.

View.  How do you see the world?  Is it possible to transform your vision?  What is your outlook and your intention?  Is your view informed by wisdom or by biased perception?  Your view can be like standing on the top of a mountain in which you can see everything below very clearly.  It can be like a vast expanse of space without border or limit.

Meditation.  Your view leads to meditation.  If you see how all things are dependently arisen, you will see subtle connections in meditation.  If you appreciate the impermanence of all phenomena you won't fixate on meditation experiences.  Meditation deepens your appreciation of the view and cuts through conceptual constraints.  Meditation is a vehicle.  It elicits your buddhanature in all its fullness- originally pure and naturally present.  As we gain confidence with this unique state, we awaken to timeless freedom and great compassion.

Conduct.  How do you carry your view and meditation into your daily life?  What does that look like?  What do you do with the freedom that you have gained?  We engage in the conduct of the bodhisattvas- we share generously, know how to work with our emotions, have patience to work through resistance and problems, and joyously persevere with a focused mind.  We carry wisdom into our homes, communities, work, life. 

Result.  Your life is your spiritual practice, the result is the path.  Every step you take.  

Never finished, yet never bound; such is the complete practice of the bodhisattvas. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

A wicked cascade.

A discriminating mind gives rise to feelings.
Those feelings are interpreted and lead to craving or aversion.
Craving and aversion both affect our choices.
Choices create karma.

That is why renunciation is important.
That is why we need to appreciate impermanence.
That is why we need to eliminate perceptual bias.

Meditation is the vehicle that allows us to let go, to see clearly, to see truly, so that we can eliminate the discriminating mind.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Space to fail.

My teacher, Younge Khachab Rinpoche, has been extremely generous with me. 

He trusts me a lot, and I work hard because of that trust. 

He told me back in 2006 to start a local Sangha in Seattle.  I wasn't ready.  Sure I knew the teachings, I knew the meditation techniques, I knew the uniqueness of the lineage and the impact these teachings have.  I knew the mechanics, but I wasn't ready to lead.  I was just settling into my own practice, how was I to lead and help others? 

In 2007 we had a small, intimate group of Dharma practitioners.  A close-knit Sangha that was committed to practice.  Rinpoche told me to start a public meditation group.  I wasn't ready.  I was more comfortable leading a group.  I was more comfortable setting a course and leading discussions, answering questions.  But I wasn't ready to put myself out there.

In 2008 we started a public meditation group at Embrace the Moon.  Kim Ivy was generous to open up her community, to provide us a space to do work that we were passionate about.  That was a tremendous learning curve for me, to have to teach a wide variety of students with a diverse range of meditation experience.  That experience is invaluable.  That experience deepened my practice because I still had a lot of work to do. 

Rinpoche, more than any other person I know, gave me the space to fail.  He pushed me, tore down my boundaries.  He never let me get comfortable.  He always exposed me, made me vulnerable.

Trusting someone enough to give them the space to fail, what more of a guide could we hope for?  

How do we be that person for those that come after us?

Monday, February 8, 2016

This might be your chance.

Suffering.  Pain.  Death.  Fear.  Anxiety.  Problems.

Don't push them away.  Don't run.

Look deeply at what is presenting itself.  Sit with the irritation and pain.  Relax into it.  Don't hold onto it, but don't push it away.  Just look directly at it. 

This might be your chance.  This might be the moment you gain insight into the nature of the problem.  This might be your opportunity to change.  This might be the moment you experience freedom from whatever is manifesting. 

Don't waver. 

This might be your chance. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Confusion and dishonesty.

Bad habits.  Poor choices.  Careless deeds. 

Confusion permeates so much of what we think, say and do.  We often find ourselves acting out of impulse, our behavior not driven by intention as much as it is driven by what we did yesterday and the day before. 

Amidst all of this confusion we find moments when discerning wisdom dawns.  We have moments when we can see clearly.  There are times we find ourselves in a gap between the clouds.  We are able to see our shortcomings, see where we have strayed, see what we could have done better. 

There are moments when the truth reveals itself.

In that moment, we have an opportunity to be honest with ourselves.  We have a moment of clarity to reflect, to examine and to change.  Our own discerning wisdom creates a gap in which we can leave behind confused habit patterns and neurotic behavior.

But often in that moment we lie to ourselves.

We shift the blame.  We minimize the damage to our self-image.  We protect ourselves from failure, from being wrong.  We do our best to avoid the irritation of whatever our wisdom is revealing to us.

We preserve our dignity out of dishonesty.  And the wheel of confusion turns...

Wednesday, February 3, 2016



The word guru has a really negative connotation in the West.  We have a natural distaste for it.  It could be our Judeo-Christian upbringing.  It could be due to the fact that we don't like to put others above us.  It could be a lot of things, but we are missing one important point.

A guru is a spiritual teacher.  Our spiritual teacher.  My spiritual teacher.

That is not a title that comes easily.  It is not and should not be easily given.  Very few deserve this title, regardless of their achievements or renown. 

When we think of spiritual teachers that impact our life, we think of Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi.  These are people that have impacted us as a society and we can receive their wisdom, their truth.  We can digest it and make it our own.  They are spiritual teachers and we could have a strong connection with them, but in most cases it is often a safe connection.  Safe in the sense that we can enjoy their teachings and their message from the privacy of our own comfort zone. We don't need to extend ourselves at all, we don't need to form a connection, we can just stay in our comfort zone. 

The Tibetan word for Guru is Lama.  Lama has a connotation of being heavy, or serious.  Seriously heavy.

Heavy in this sense doesn't mean a burden on one's shoulders.  Heavy means that you can never pay back the impact that your spiritual teacher has had on your life.  You can never pay back the impact they have had on your mind and how they have transformed your path.

We don't worship the guru as an idol.  You shouldn't worship a guru as an idol.  We pay reverence to the spiritual teacher because they have impacted our life and our life is precious.  Their generosity, their kindness, has transformed our being.

We aren't the same because of them.  We will never be the same because of them and their teachings.  We can only work from this point.  We move forward and we hope to repay their kindness.

We become the working basis.  We become the teaching.  Each step.  One by one.  We start out as a likeness of their generosity and kindness, until the likeness becomes inseparable and we become generosity and kindness.

Then there is nothing left to hold onto, nothing left to repay and no one to repay to.  Everything is complete.  Your mind and the guru's mind inseparable.  

Monday, February 1, 2016

Errors of worldly meditation.

Grasping to the experience of infinite space,
grasping to the clarity of infinite consciousness,
grasping to the state in which experiences dissolve into nothingness,
grasping to the state of non-conceptuality.

These are the four errors of meditation as they occur in worldly meditative absorptions.

They are worldly because they still rely on mind and subtle craving that occurs within the domain of mind. They are errors because you are still bound by grasping and fixation and thus the root of selfishness is not cut.