We Can Too Stop the Wheel

It’s worthwhile to observe that it is pain that trumps (sorry) kindness, and the openings, insights, and healing that kindness can lead to. But not always. To experience pain and still manage to be genuinely kind is the domain of those who have insight into reality and to the mechanisms that drive our suffering. When we are in pain, whether physical, emotional, or mental, we find it hard to be kind or generous in our viewing and interpreting of events. Not high math. Completely natural and automatic for most of us. Forget kind or generous in our viewing, we can’t begin to be accurate in our assessments of situations. Without training it’s hard to be any other way. When we resist letting our pain cause ourselves and others more suffering by restraining impulses to retaliate, backbite, demonize, etc, we bring the wheel to a grinding halt. How does this work? Someone says something to me that I don’t like. In that moment, I [...]

By |2019-02-08T21:47:46-05:00January 23rd, 2019|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Take out the Garbage

Recently an excellent Lama named Lobsang Choegyal Rinpoche gave a beautiful talk about garbage. Paraphrasing, he asked his students: What do you do when your garbage can is full? You get rid of it immediately don't you? Why? Because it stinks doesn't it? And yet we don't get rid of mental garbage, do we? Instead, we keep it with us as if it was our best friend. What is mental garbage? Unkind, self-absorbed thoughts, fear, worry, regret, guilt, rage. Replaying our suffering and misery in our mind over and over again: he did this to me, she did that to me, I don't have this or that, how dare s/he do/say this or that to me? Why is the system so corrupt? Why do I have to suffer so much? Why is this happening to me? This Lama then admonished all of his students to get rid of mental garbage as quickly as we would get rid of our household garbage. Get rid [...]

By |2018-07-09T19:29:44-05:00July 6th, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Engaging Multiple Perspectives and Dakshen Nyamje

In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, there is a practice called Dakshen Nyamje (phoneticized Tibetan), which means, roughly: recognizing our sameness with others and trading places even if only in imagination until we have an insight that allows us to understand directly that others are as or more important than ourselves. There are plenty of extraordinary commentaries in the Tibetan Buddhist literature that will tell you what Dakshen Nyamje is and how to practice it, but I would like to offer some words about what this practice means for me, not having really practiced it or much less realized it at all, but being inspired by it nonetheless, and as a way to remind myself of why I embarked on the Mahayana path to begin with. How are we all identical? Since few if any of us wake up in the morning and confidently declare: Bring it on! May I have a stress-filled day full of perfect bullies, petty tyrants, impossible situations, long tech [...]

By |2018-09-01T05:58:21-05:00June 9th, 2018|Insight|0 Comments

All You Need Is…

"Twelve long years of austere practice in solitary retreat had brought the noble Asaṅga to an extraordinary level of spiritual maturity. In turning to Maitreya, Regent of the Buddha Śākyamuni and embodiment of perfect love, his heart and mind had become profoundly receptive, moistened and nourished by the waters of love. Yet while his spiritual awakening was soon to set in motion a liberating wave of events that would reach millions, Asaṅga was not aware of the deep changes that had been taking place within himself. In fact, he saw himself as a failure. His heart was as cold as ever, he thought, and the vision of the profound reality that the Buddha had discovered remained a distant and elusive dream. During his many years in retreat he had been at the verge of complete despair before, but each time some incident had occurred that would remind him both of the futility of mundane pursuits and the power of perseverance. This time, however, [...]

By |2018-06-09T11:31:52-05:00June 9th, 2018|Insight|1 Comment

Red pill or blue pill?

How do we collapse our story in that moment of mounting friction, hostility, and contraction around a perceived so monumental difference? We can start by recognizing that whatever narrative, whatever story we cleave to is but a narrative; one among billions. We can bring our awareness to observe thoughts come and go the way clouds cross the sky. Have trouble identifying what a thought is? Two main forms: mental image, and mental talk. We most often animate painful experiences by calling to mind mental images and thoughts of that past moment, often long past moment, which is not this present one. See how we get stuck in stories and our often facile conclusions of what went down? When an image or inner talk occur; we can just notice that they are occurring. Whether a thought's content/meaning is worth your time can be determined on the basis of whether that meaning furthers habitual knee jerk reactivity or a meta-perspective. We can recognize the limitation in believing [...]

By |2018-06-09T11:31:59-05:00June 9th, 2018|Philosophy|0 Comments

Cognito Ergo Sum

Today discussing with friend Sam the infamous Descartes decree: Cogito Ergo Sum, Sam said: What? Isn't it CogNito Ergo Sum? No, I replied, it's recorded as Cogito; Cogito Ergo Sum. Then I said, yeah, wonder if it was a typo at which I was seized by a cathartic fit of laughter. Missing N. Imagine that? And how different the planet today would be if we recognized, in our direct experience from one moment to the next, the vital difference between Cogito Ergo Sum and Cognito Ergo Sum. Cognito Ergo Sum: I am aware therefore I am. I am not a Latin scholar, so if I mis-conjugated Cognito I request your clemency; you get the idea. Thank the heavens I am not my thoughts; not my compulsive or even ordered thinking. Without first awareness wherefore thoughts? How does it help me to embody fullest presence to be identified with thoughts? Anything I can observe, including thoughts in the form of mental images and mental talk, [...]

By |2018-06-09T11:32:04-05:00June 9th, 2018|Philosophy|0 Comments

Proceed with Love

Decades after his apparent demise, Martin Luther King is still inspiring. How? His love: Poor Peoples Campaign We all get sick, some old, and all die. We might live and die with a "net worth" of billions, the glorified success paradigm of an ultra materialist and capitalist society. But the real worth is what we offered to uplift, educate, heal, and empower others. We might think our privilege and trinkets will always be there to protect us, but the human heart was made to love, nurture, and share, not to bully and hoard. The Buddha said in the Tamonata Sutta that there are four kinds of individuals: those who go from darkness to darkness, those who go from darkness to light, those who go from light to darkness, and those who go from light to light. The Buddha gives examples of each so that we can discern the right path. The necessary consequence of greedy self-importance is demise. Cherish others, ache for their freedom from [...]

By |2018-06-09T11:32:12-05:00June 9th, 2018|Insight|0 Comments

No Additives

Kindness is not just an additive, something we add to our normal behavior to make us better more adaptive people. Kindness expresses itself radiantly and creatively through absence; through the stilling and eventual stopping of what the Buddhists call <em>kleshas,</em> or mental afflictions (harming mental states) like anger, jealousy, pride, greed, etc. A very special wisdom allows for the eventual stopping, but more about it later. There is an incredible body of literature dedicated to identifying and describing the mind and mental factors in Buddhism. Without knowing which mental states are toxic for ourselves and others, which ones inhibit or distort progress on the spiritual path, regardless of the path we follow, we may endlessly experience misery and never connect the dots. For example, kindness naturally surfaces through checking, reducing, and eventually stopping anger, whether expressed through what the Buddhists call the "three doorways of body, speech and mind": in gestures/expressions, verbal habits/patterns, or thoughts. We think our thoughts are "private".  Um, okay, [...]

By |2018-06-09T11:32:22-05:00June 9th, 2018|Insight|0 Comments