Meditation

jordand_patch-meditationMeditation is essentially training our attention so that we can be more still, more aware, more in touch with our True Nature. Our True Nature is Pure Awareness. From this Pure Awareness springs forth the Bodhicitta Mind — Wisdom and Compassion — the basis for transforming the world, by transforming ourselves.

The more we deepen our practice of meditation, the more we manage to cultivate that serene stillness, the greater our sense of remarkable resourcefulness and the awareness of our intricately woven interdependence, which allows us to lead lives that are organically more free, more energetic, and more full than ever before.

Our path is a path of stillness. One learns to hold the Śakti, rather than allowing oneself to be controlled by it. While we recognise that this calls for greater spiritual maturity and commitment, we must always allow space for those whose paths call for more or less stringent or focused practice.

As Sharon Salzberg reminds us:

“Meditation may be done in silence & stillness, by using voice & sound, or by engaging the body in movement. All forms emphasize the training of attention.” (fromThe Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Programme for Real Happiness)

Not long ago, two of the students I felt showed the most promise for the guiding the future of our Order chose to leave the teaching. They claimed that I was too hard on them, and that my consistently calling them on their shit was “abusive”. From a Westerner’s perspective, they were probably right. And if we were founded as a Western Order, perhaps my approach would have been a little more New Age, Airy Faerie, Unicorns and Rainbows.

But that’s not who we are. And it’s not what this teaching is about.

I will always miss those two students, and know that if they would have dedicated even 15 minutes a day to their spiritual practice, sitting in quiet meditation, their journeys would have been dramatically different. Their experience of “harshness” and “abuse” might have been viewed as the concern and guidance that it was intended to provide.

normal_Cherry_Tree_Blossom_1If more of my students practiced meditation even fifteen minutes a day, I wouldn’t have to ask people to support the Dharma work and service to the poor that we undertake. They would open their hearts and their wallets regularly, because they would recognise this as THEIR work… THEIR community. THEIR Order.

Through meditation, our understanding the true nature of things — seeing things as they really are —  becomes the ground of wisdom. And from that fertile ground, our practice takes root and blossoms, like never before.

Why Do We Struggle?

dogenDogen Zenji, founder of the Soto School of Buddhism, reminds us that a flower withers and dies, even though we love it; while a weed grows, even though we consider it unwanted. So why do we struggle to control those things which ultimately are beyond our control?

Take time today to worry less about those things beyond your control. If you are in pain, allow yourself to just “be” with that pain. Notice that it isn’t always unbearable. At times, it subsides, and at others, it becomes quite intense. But it won’t last forever. Nothing ever does.

When I find myself in pain, such as this morning, when I’ve crushed a tooth due to clenching my teeth, (a symptom of the Parkinson’s Dis-ease), or when this herniated disc, which the doctor believes may have blown, makes it unbearable to stand or walk, I don’t try to escape the pain. I just try to remind myself that I can choose to consume this pain, and use it as fuel, or allow it to consume me. I choose to be the victor, not the victim.

At this moment, the circumstances of having had to extricate ourselves from a toxic situation recently, has taken a personal, emotional and financial toll on us temporarily. Why do we struggle to let go of the concerns that temporarily cause us physical pain, or financial stress? Getting worried, stressed or angry about it won’t change things.

Have you ever noticed any time someone mentions that they are in pain, some folks immediately feel compelled to express how much pain they are in, as if you were somehow taking away the attention they’re starved for?

Whenever that happens, I immediately ask myself what that is reflecting from my consciousness? When do I feel like someone is stealing the attention I imagine myself to need?

Perhaps I need to forgive myself for all those times when I felt the need for validation, sympathy, attention or praise. When I return my awareness to the five-fold mantra, “I love you. I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you, and Namasté.”

I change the cosmos, because I change my relationship to it.

Be gentle with yourselves, and know that you are appreciated and loved.

Namasté

khenpo gurudas sunyatananda

♥ मा मा मा ♥

Contraction is a Natural Part of Expansion

Monarch chrysalis emergence 3Before the butterfly can emerge into this world, it must endure what I would imagine could be an agonising period of contraction and constriction as a chrysalis. It is a common misconception that the butterfly pupa lives within a cocoon, but in fact, the chrysalis does not emerge from a cocoon at all. It’s hard, constricted, shell-like exterior is all part of the chrysalis itself.

Life can seem, at times, like it is constricting, even contracting all around us. Perhaps our relationships, our work, the world around us seem like they are in shambles, crumbling in on all sides. We might even imagine that we’ve lost our sense of spiritual practice and inner compass.

I can clearly recall sitting in the temple, at Sarvodaya – Jaya Aśram, on that Friday night last year, staring in complete disbelief at the computer screen, at the words announcing the sad news that my Root Guru entered Mahasamadhi, and left her physical body. My chest felt tight… my stomach felt like someone kicked me repeatedly in it… and the night seemed especially dark, rainy and cold. I remember at one point stabbing the phurba deep into the earth, crying out, “MA!”

546859_10151268546062392_1104576104_nAs I write this, a couple days short of the one year anniversary of Tenzin Yangchen Ma‘s passing, the tears again flow… the chest tightens… and the knot returns to the stomach.

At times like these, we can only return to the breath, remembering that we are Pure Awareness. There, in the moment, there is no separation. There is contraction… at times, constriction… there is emptiness… groundlessness… but there is also Primordial Compassion — the pure Essence of the Mother Herself.

And just as the chrysalis is nourished, struggles through the pains of its personal transformation, and eventually breaks free to reveal its beauty, and to live out its true purpose as a butterfly, so too do we emerge from these periods of contraction and constriction, darkness and despair… stronger, more vibrant, more beautiful and more aware of our true purpose.

Speaking on this path… the lion’s path of transformation… Ma would write:

When you begin to analyse your life and you begin to ask the question “Who am I,” you realise that you are not bound within the limits of a mind and the senses.  When you realise this, you transcend unhappiness.

Unhappiness is nothing but the perception of a certain limitation within your own being.

Go beyond yourselves, my chelas.
Feel the essence of your innermost spirit.
Feel the Guru in this place.

Ramana Maharshi is and was one of the greatest teachers of His time. Our Baba and Our Swami had and have the greatest respect.

He is also one of your Guru-ji’s teachers.

“Why,” I asked this great man, “do you want so many to ask the question WHO AM I?

He answered me in this way:
“Some thoughts die from meditation.
Some thoughts die from japa.
Some thoughts die from karma yoga.
Yet all thoughts die from this wonderful inquiry.”

“Be a lion, Ma,” He said, “when you teach your children – and teach them to be of the lion lineage.
Let them ask from the depth of their souls who they are.”

And so, no matter how heavy my heart feels today… no matter how much every breath reminds me how much I miss her… I embrace this contraction for whatever time it fills the moment, knowing that this chrysalis will again emerge as a butterfly.

Namasté.

Jai, jai, jai Śri Mata Jaya Sati Bhagavati, Santa Maharajni. Ki Jai!

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Honouring Our Parents & Teachers

momanddadIn the Digha Nikaya, we read the Muni’s advice concerning how we should care for our parents, when they become old and infirm:

“Once I was supported by them; now I will be their support. I will perform the duties they performed and maintain the family and its traditions. I will preserve my inheritance, and make myself worthy of my lineage.”

The admonishment above, from the thirty-first line of the text, is clear. Our responsibility and debt to our parents never ceases. It only increases, and with it, the profound understanding and gratitude we feel for what they have provided for us in this precious incarnation.

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When a Buddha Becomes Ill

photo-mindfulnessLately, I have had time to reflect quite a bit on illness, dis-ease, and on the role mindfulness plays in our own and others’ sicknesses.

For much of the past eighteen years, I’ve not awoken in anything less than debilitating pain, living with a burdensome fatigue, intense skin sensitivity that comes and goes for hours at a time, and intermittent, annoying fevers. Since the onset of this hypothyroid challenge, which I don’t believe is anything I will have to deal with longterm, all of these things have intensified.

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Mindfulness… Another of Institutional Buddhism’s Casualties

mindfulnessquote-kgs

One of the casualties of this tendency we have to turn the Dharma into an “ism” (i.e., Buddhism), is that the arts and sciences that make up the Dharma often become homogenised into some sort of “religious doctrine”, stripping away all of the freedom and value the practice once had.

Mindfulness is the art and science of bringing our awareness to the moment. It is the practice of experiencing our True Nature, as Pure Awareness.

The Buddha Śakyamuni is said to have advocated the practice of mindfulness in one’s daily activities, as a means of grounding oneself in the calm awareness of the transitory and impermanent nature of all phenomena, one of the key facets of the path to awakening.

But you see, that’s just it… he didn’t say we need to “believe something about mindfulness”. He didn’t even find it necessary to define mindfulness. He simply said we should practice it.

And that’s where the religion of Buddhism fails in a postmodern world.

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Beginners’ Eyes

Ma Jaya once reminded us that the only things that ever really grow old is our clothes and our limitations. Every cell of your body is constantly being replaced by brand new cells.

forever-youngTherefore your entire body is new, every few months. 

The beliefs you have which limit you are, from the moment you recognise them, old and chaotic data. They come from not being present in the moment. Fear can only arise when we are replaying old stories, false perceptions and memories of the past, or when we are projecting nonsensical, baseless stories about the non-existent “future”. The past and the future are imaginary constructs, created by the ego-mind to give a “context” to the chaotic data, drama and false ideas, it tries to impose over reality.

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