Once, by way of illustration, one of my excellent spiritual mentors used the example of taking a jar of clear water, adding a cup of dirt to it, putting a lid on it, and shaking it vigorously. What happens is no mystery to the observant. Obstructed seeing due to murky water. Put the jar down, let the dirt settle, and at least part of the clear water can be seen through. Clear seeing is better than not seeing clearly. Whatever side you're on, even a child knows this. This has been a year of agitation and settling. And of observing closely what happens in relation to each. When wondering if agitation is better, that example is a valid guide. Does change in broken rotten cruel structures, whether internal or external, come only from agitating loudly? From commanding that they change or stop? Or does deeper change emerge in response to space and silence too? Throughout this year, particularly when the George Floyd protests [...]
One of my spiritual mentors often speaks thusly: Why do we need to practice mental cultivation motivated by the meta-ethic of bodhicitta and non-harming actions?* Why do we need qualified spiritual mentors who have experience with this terrain to teach us? Easy. We don’t want to miss out. What don’t we want to miss out on? Peace of mind, mental and physical well-being and mental equilibrium, openings and opportunities that seem to manifest for those dedicated to training; the ability to gradually come to master our reactions, and as a byproduct of such training, the direct experience of an ongoing flow of inspiration, grace, rewarding interactions and experiences; the ability to retain equanimity in the face of inevitable difficulties. What prevents us from experiencing these? Mental afflictions such as belligerence, jealousy, arrogance, greed, inconsideration, hatred, etc., and karmic conditioning-- the "residue" left in the mindstream from repeatedly enacting unskillful actions of body, speech, and mind, which, when met with particular external circumstances and [...]
I receive messages from many about crises they are undergoing. Some express outrage at this devastating interruption to their routines, the inconvenience of the pandemic to them personally. All of this understandable. Some express hopelessness, fear, despair, confusion. Anyone who's watching is feeling something. But few are looking at those feelings themselves and starting there. We're all watching the screen instead of noticing the projector and why it's important to understand how that projector works. Who remains truly and completely untouched in this current crisis? And as importantly, who remained untouched before it by all kinds of intractable problems; by loss, hardship, injustice, sickness, aging, and death? But the pandemic is another layer of thick suffering on top of the layers many of us had allowed ourselves to ignore and distract ourselves from for far too long, resulting in shocking and paralyzing manifestations of vast, layered, and complex personal, interpersonal, international, and institutional dysfunction. Who needs or wishes for sadness and depression and [...]
This past Saturday May 30, millions witnessed live online the SpaceX launch. Outer space has been the fascination of much of the human population for a long time. Maybe we hope to find some escape from the stupefying problems on the ground, such as systemic racism, oppression, corruption, destruction of the environment, in every corner of our little plastic-strangled space rock. But inner space has become for me a far more compelling exploration, producing palpable changes in my experience. Maybe it would be worth pouring as much time, energy, and resources into exploring the inner reaches of space as world sages and contemplatives have advocated again and again. Thankfully, we don’t have to go to a cave or mountaintop to work with our mind, our awareness, no matter the circumstances, since our mind is with us wherever we are and whatever we’re doing. So, in protest against my mental afflictions, I turn the placard so the words face me, so the words [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
Boundless Love – May all beings have happiness and its causes. Boundless Compassion – May all beings be free from misery and its causes. Boundless Joy – May all beings never be separated from the joy that is beyond all misery. Boundless Equanimity – May all beings always abide in equanimity, not clinging to dear ones and hating any others. Boundless Health – May all beings recover completely from all illnesses of mental and physical pollution now and always. Boundless Ecological Health – May all beings be at ease in a pure and healthy outer and inner environment now and always. Boundless Peace – May all beings enjoy inner peace and world peace now and always.