Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Our biggest challenge.

We are all looking for resolution to the problems in our life. 

Disease cured.
Work done.
Problem solved.

But resolution is momentary, impermanent.  Something is always arising. 

Problems keep coming up, more work needs to be done.  Aging, sickness and death continues to play itself out.

Our struggle is with the unresolved state.  It is uncomfortable, unpredictable, worrisome.  Not knowing how to work with it, we seek solutions in order to escape the unease.

Our biggest challenge is learning how to work with the unresolved state.   

Let's change how we orient ourselves to resolution.

Resolution does not equal done.
Resolution is allowing whatever is coming up to be free in its own place.

By changing our orientation we can work with whatever is coming up without being pushed over the edge.  The problem might not be solvable, maybe not even for many ages, but we simply work with our situation as it is. 

Then problems and illness become methods by which we engage in our practice of resolving whatever arises.  Resolving into their own place, we don't experience dissatisfaction from fighting against them.  We can occupy a space of presence, clarity and ease.  We allow for moments of enjoyment and reflection.  Generosity and abundance become possible amidst unfortunate conditions. 

The best part of learning to resolve phenomena in their own place is that we can enjoy the fruit of our practice now, not some day in the distant future when all of our problems are solved. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

The underlying drive.

Do you ever notice those people who always seem to be in control?

They are always seemingly poised and ready.  They exude confidence and strength.  They step into situations with presence and they always seem to take command and give direction. 

They are experts in controlling outer circumstances, like an air traffic controller, everything happening on time and in order. 

Except beneath that outer facade of control and poise is fear.

Fear of losing control.
Fear of feeling insecure.
Fear of being vulnerable. 

Fear is the motivating factor.  Fear is what compels them to get better at taking control.  Fear begets poise and confidence once the threat seems far off and distant, yet fear always lays in wait.

It is strange how far we have run, isn't it?


Friday, May 20, 2016

Ten kinds of spiritual practice.

Forego making plans for the years ahead,
instead devote whatever resources you have 
to your spiritual practice. 
~Longchen Rabjam 

Your practice shouldn't be another project.  It shouldn't be simply another check box to mark at the end of the day.  

Often we confound our spiritual practice with one or two particular activities and then struggle to fit those activities into our day.  

Actually, there are ten types of activities that contribute to the development of your spiritual practice, meaning the opportunity to practice is always readily available.  
1. Copying sacred texts or transcribing teachings
3. Being generous
4. Listening to teachings
5. Memorizing teachings
6. Reading scripture
7. Explaining the teachings to others
8. Chanting prayers and liturgies
9. Contemplating teachings
10. Meditating

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Preparation for solitude.

Retreats are often very intense experiences.  They are immersive in nature.  A retreat should offer no alternative to escape into mundane distraction and idleness. 

Solo retreats can be even more intense.  You don't have the support of other practitioners around you.  You don't have that companionship and the ability to simply share a cup of tea.  Those seeking to go on a retreat into solitude should prepare themselves.


Is your practice strong enough that you can be self-sufficient without the guidance and support of your teacher or fellow students?

Know how to work with resistance and uncertainty.

How will you work with doubt and uncertainty on your own?  How will you overcome emotional uprising and commotion?

Be healthy.

A retreat is not a time to work with illness or disease.  Enter the retreat in a healthy state of body and mind. 

Free yourself from mundane activities.

You are entering retreat with a strong intention.  You are committed to the practice and have isolated this brief moment in time.  Don't waste it checking your email, social networks, calling and texting your friends.  Pay your bills before the retreat, stock up on food and necessities and identify those moments when your mind is grasping for something to entertain it.

Be decisive about the view.

Understanding the view, all practices fall into place.  Doubts naturally free themselves and problems arise as opportunities to let go.  Resolve all doubt and uncertainty regarding the view with your teacher, when you are confident in the view you are ready for retreat.  

Monday, May 16, 2016

Four Dharmas of Gampopa.

Grant your blessings that my mind turn towards the Dharma. 
Grant your blessings that my Dharma practices progresses as the path.
Grant your blessings that the path clarifies confusion.
Grant your blessings that confusion dawns as wisdom. 

Gampopa wrote these four Dharmas as an aspiration prayer.  It is a prayer to set your intention, to fortify your resolve.  It acts as a compass, positioning you and giving you a reference to chart a course. 

'Grant your blessings'.

We make the prayer from a place of reverence and awe.  We are praying to our teacher, to the Three Jewels of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, to the hosts of arhats and bodhisattvas, and to the vast array of Three Roots.  We pray that they grant their blessings and that we are receptive enough to receive them.  

We pray that these blessings transform our mind.
That they give us courage on the path to work with our demons.
That they allow us to undermine confusion and resistance on the path.
That they moisten our hearts and give rise to wisdom.  

When we receive these blessings, our minds are transformed.  This transformation engenders a deep gratitude and respect, from which kindness and compassion naturally flow.  Ultimately that transformation is our ordinary samsaric mind transforming into the awakened mind of complete enlightenment, our inherent buddhanature.

The aspiration of our prayer, fulfilled.