And Again, Bring Whatever You Encounter In Life Back To The Cushion

This week we will take up the last slogan in the section on transforming bad circumstances – Whatever you meet unexpectedly, join with meditation.  Or Norman Fisher’s version – whatever you meet is the path.  Several of the slogans in this section point us back to the cushion.  Slogans like transform all mishaps into the path, drive all blames into and even the practicing with the four methods from the last two weeks seem to emphasis the importance or value of turning inward for answers.

I think this is because at it’s core – meditation, mindfulness, Buddhism and/or emptiness – (whatever you call your practice) is about returning again and again to the stability of the breath.  All practitioners understand, both intellectually and empirically, that whatever arises in meditation will fade away.  Our whole practice is around learning how to let go.  We try to release our resistance to the presence of some unpleasantness.  We try to observe when we are lost in thought, let go and return to the breath.  We try to sense into the felt sense of leaning into pleasure by relaxing and letting the moment pass. Our entire mediation period can become a process of grasping, resisting, thinking and letting go.

But then we get up off the cushion and go about life getting caught up in every little detail or situation that comes into existence.  This slogan is about learning to live our lives like we practice on the cushion.  What if we were to see the situations and circumstances in our lives as passing thoughts or stories?  What if we could observed everyday experiences from unentangled awareness rather than from some entangled web of control?  All it takes is a willingness to see all life as meditation.

When you think about it, that’s all that is really happening.  Sounds, sensations, thoughts, images all arise unexpectedly in meditation just as with life off the cushion.  Learning to let the sounds, sensations, thoughts and images simply rise and fall, appear and pass away is what brings peace and relaxation to our sit.  The mind can become gathered and still when it no longer has to chase after every thought, sound, sensation and image.  If we were to hold all life in this same manner, we would began to experience the same degree of stillness as we go about our daily activities.

So the invitation is to join whatever shows up in life with your meditation.  What do you think the implications of this could be?  Do you think it is possible to get as still in your daily activities as you are in meditation?  What if you are not still in meditation, do you still bring the unexpected to the cushion?  What do you think?





Now We Are Ready For The Battle; The Last 2 Weapons Of A Strong Warrior

Apologies for the late post!  Tonight we will take up the last 2 aspects of the Four Practices Are The Best Methods slogan.  We will explore what it means to make offerings to the dons and dharmapalas or as Norman Fisher says – appreciate your lunacy and pray for help.  I think these two weapons support us is reconsidering how we relate to life; especially how we relate to bad circumstances.  The first two aspects from last week point us towards seeing life through a kinder lens.  We intentionally cultivate kindness in difficult times and through this cultivation we see the truer nature of what we call “bad circumstances”  This is our internal practice.  Practicing within our own minds when we are faced with bad circumstance.

The second two aspects can be thought of as our external practice.  It is practicing with the external conditions that show up in bad circumstances.  First we make offerings to the dons.  From my understanding, dons are like what my native friends call “coyotes” and what I grew up calling “gremlins”.  Its like the negative energy that disrupts, destroys and/or complicates life.  It makes us crazy.  Every time it shows up we get caught in some neurotic temper tantrum, crying fit, bitterness, depression, worry – you name it.  It is our go to neurosis.  It feels like someone out there is laughing at us.  In trauma, it is called “crazy-making behavior” and is associated with the fickle, uncontrollable nature of a perpetrator.  When we look at life, we see this similar pattern.  Life is uncontrollable, unpredictable and ever-changing.  When we try to control, predict and make it permanent, we get crazy; neurotic.  Making offerings to the dons is like bowing to the craziness of the whole thing.  It helps us see the “lunacy” of the whole thing.  It lightens the weight of life, puts humor, laughter back into it, and helps us not take everything so serious.

The final aspect is similar except it’s a little more abrupt.  I like that Chogyam Trungpa says this is when we stray from the path and life hurls us back.  Dharmapalas are actually thought of a protectors.  They are the people and things that wake us up.  We can consider that whatever gets us “back on the cushion” is basically a blessing.  We can began to see dharmapalas because they show up over and over in our lives.  I spent a life time trying not to be angry and I kept noticing how angry I got.  I was always angry about something.  After practicing with this slogan awhile it finally dawned on me that this life was all about anger.  Understanding anger is my practicing and in order to understand anger I needed to be in situations where I was angry.  I gradually became least resistant to the people and things that “made me angry” and more appreciative for the opportunity to see through the fog of anger.  I suspect we will need to explore this a little more tonight.  Until then…


Now We Are Ready For The Battle; The First 2 Weapons Of A Strong Warrior

Tomorrow we will take up half of the next slogan – Four Practices Are The Best Methods.  The four methods are (1) accumulating merit; (2) laying down evil deeds; (3) offering to the dons; and (4) offering to the dharmapalas.  Norman Fisher’s version is a little more clearer – Do Good, Avoid Evil, Appreciate Your Lunacy and Pray for Help.

First, we will explore what it means to accumulate merit or do good as an act of humility.  This practice is actually the opposite of making us feel good by building up the ego around all our good works.  Instead, it is aimed at destroying the ego.  We do this by acting out of the energy of Metta.  We are friendly for the sake of being friendly, kind for the sake of being kind and generous for the sake of being generous.  We expect nothing in return.  No acknowledgement or return favor.   It means we disregard or suspend any hope of gain because of our actions.  We don’t act out of desire or fear.  We act out of Metta and for no other reason.

The mind generally has a field day with this kind of concept.  It jumps to fears about being mistreated or taken advantage of.  But you can see how this thinking is connected to our “selfing”.  The self is always protecting itself from some suspected harm.  It needs to be acknowledged and will never act or give unconditionally.   Thus, the point of this practice.  By accumulating merit or do good out of Metta – we strengthen our heart.  We learn to live freely without being foolish or naïve.  I believe that when we operate out of Metta there is no way we can be harmed but we may need to talk about this a bit.

The second method, laying down evil deeds or avoiding evil is connected to our accumulating merit/doing good.  In fact, it presupposes that as you accumulate merit/do good you will see more and more of your harmful patterns and began to drop them.  Cultivating Metta can be quite an eye-opener; even if we see how little we actually act out of pure kindness or friendliness.  This is more about seeing our harmful ways so much so that we become sick of them.  NOT SICK OF OURSELVES!  Sick of the acts of harmfulness.  It’s like recovering from an addiction.  We you get sick and tired of being sick and tired, you are ready to let go of the addiction.  The thing is, to get sick and tired you have to see yourself sick and tired often.  So much so that you can no longer stand it.

Often, practitioners use the practice to avoid seeing their acts of harmfulness.  This is what I would consider to be spiritual by-passing.  All we want to see is the goodness and sweetness of me.  Even though awareness keeps showing us where we are harming ourselves and others, we keep pushing that under the rug or behind the curtain by focusing on our wholesome desire or intention to do no harm.  This practice method (and more so with the last two) is aimed at getting us to get sick and tire of our harmful behavior so we can just lay it down and not pick it up again.  I know, I know – easier said than done:)

See you tomorrow night – Tuere



Be Kind To Yourself During Times Of Confusion And You Just Might Wake Up!

The traditional wording of this week’s slogan is a bit obscure – Seeing confusion as the four kayas / Is unsurpassable shunyata protection.  I’m not sure if Norman Fisher’s version is any better – See confusion as Buddha and practice emptiness.  Although the wording of the slogan may seem abstract, what it is pointing to is quite accessible intellectually.  Actual experience of it may be a bit more complicated and/or evasive.  But first, some definitions: The four kayas refer to the four stages of perception or how we perceive the world.  It seems closely related to what we call the five aggregates (we can talk about how the two compare at the sit).  Shunyata refers to a sense of openness.  It is non-judgmental awareness and is closely related to what we call non-self.

This slogan points to the need to understand the mechanics of the mind.  It is about learning, observing and practicing experiencing how the mind operates – mechanically.  The mind is a pretty well-oiled machine.  It operates out of its own mapping without paying us – or the present moment – any attention.  It moves automatically and habitually.  This means that the mind follows whatever sequencing we have around emotions such fear, anger, sadness, happiness, peacefulness, etc.; people, such as family, friends, co-workers, enemies, neighborhood business workers, etc.; places, such as work, school, home, dentist office, grocery store, department store, etc.; and things, our cars, phones, favorite objects, food, etc. regardless of whether we are aware of the sequencing or not.  The problem is that this sequencing is controlling our lives.  Unless we pay attention, we cannot interrupt, change, delay or prevent our reactivity or actions within the sequencing.

It is hard to see this sequencing when our intellect seems clear and knowing.  We rarely find the space to question to truth of experiences, opinions, views or perceptions that seem fundamentally correct.  The easiest way to see the fallibility of perception is when we are confused.  There is a gap in confusion that allows the liberating qualities of emptiness to protect the mind and thus “this being” from the mindless habits of mind.  This possibility shows up in confusion because the mind has not connected all the dots (that is why there is confusion).  In my opinion, this slogan is saying – use that confusion to see the mechanical nature of mind.  Be like Buddha – sit and observe the mind.  Allow the confusion to protect you from the absoluteness of mind.  We spend the bulk of our lives in absolutes – let the moments of confusion be an opportunity to awaken.   And how do we do this…….?

Be Kind To Yourself During Times Of Confusion!

See you tomorrow night – Tuere


The Starting Point To Accessing The Most Powerful Aspect Of Being Human

This week we will be exploring two more slogans from the transforming bad circumstances section.  The two are Drive All Blames Into One and Be Grateful To Everyone.  Keep in mind all 59 slogans are ultimately to help us train the mind.  They are not designed to teach us how to end our suffering/difficulties or make our lives better.  They are to allow us to cultivate kindness – the most powerful aspect of being human – and the longer you contemplate them you will see how ingenious they are at that cultivation.

Take drive all blames into one which means we stop looking outside ourselves around any harm, suffering, pain, challenge or difficulty in life.  Instead we take personal responsibility for it all.  There isn’t enough space in this post (and you would hate the length of the email) for me to fully unpack this but if you think about it, we are forever trapped in the harm of others.  The fact is people cause harm.  We are destructive beings and there’s no questioning that fact.  There is harm all around us regardless of where you stand on any political, environmental, religious or social issue and most of it stems from the wrongful conduct of another.

An untrained mind will take this unfortunate state of humankind and spin in a vortex of trying to solve, correct, fix the situation by making the offender acknowledge the wrongfulness of their conduct and take it back.  But even as I type this (and you read this), we know it is impossible to change other people.  So we are left with the spinning.  In this first slogan, we don’t fall for the mind’s spinning trap.  Instead we turn inward to release whatever suffering we feel from the awareness of the harm regardless of its source.  From this inner door we can let go of the need to blame and free up the mind’s spinning energy which then allows us to be responsive to the harms in our lives, our communities and our world.

But first, we have to be willing to acknowledge we are spinning and not actually “responding” to harm.  Which brings in the second slogan – be grateful to everyone.  No one survives alone.  We are all interdependent on others.  Being grateful doesn’t mean we turn into some door mat.  There’s actually a strong reason for practicing gratitude.  Gratitude softens the mind.  The softer our minds, the more we can clearly comprehend the harshness and futility of our spinning.  Once we unentangle ourselves from the spinning – we can get on with doing something about the harm.

See you tomorrow – Tuere:))

What If There Really Is A Point To Everything That Happens To Us In Life

My apologies for the late post.  Time completely got away from me :).

Tonight we will begin to look at slogans around transforming bad or difficult circumstances.  There are several slogans in this section.  Its probably best to look at two or three together.  But first we need to get clear about the view (or lens) we are using to explore the slogans in this section.  If we approach this section with the wrong view – much of the slogans will have a sense of demanding we simply “suck it up and keep moving”.  The way I have learned to approach this section is to consider the slogan as a light to help me see through the darkness of delusion.  We have often talked about things like attachment to pleasure, opinions, a sense of self, expectations, etc.; all of which bring let downs, disappointment, dissatisfaction – the foundation of suffering.  What we need is a light, a warning sign, to let us know to where we are or a bell to remind us to tread lightly.  That is how I hold the slogans in this section.

We will start with exploring the first slogan (as a stand alone) – When the world is filled with evil, Transform all mishaps into the path of Bodhi.  To me this slogan basically means that everything that arises in our lives can be seen as support for our awakening.  This is similar to the conversation we had last week about training with the slogans in everything we do but it takes us to an even more subtler way of abiding.  What if the whole point of this human existence was to awaken the mind?  It would require us to turn our view from an external perspective to an internal perspective.

To do this we need two assumptions – (1) wisdom comes from obstacles so we need them to awaken and (2) awakening has more to do with how we hold or relate to experience rather than the experience itself.  It like welcoming the obstacles in life because they help us awaken.  The more we are able to see our life obstacles as generous gifts, the more illuminated our path becomes and the more confidence, courage and capacity we have to move through life.  Rather than spinning around worrying about the rightness and wrongness of the obstacles and experiences of ordinary life, we look for the stickiness in any situation first.  It’s not that we don’t care about rightness or wrongness.  It’s that the our practice (the path of Bodhi) uses the causing of harm or non-harm as it’s gage rather than the judgment that is stuck to rightness and wrongness.  Paying attending to the stickiness first allows us to move through life with the least amount of harm even as we stand up for whatever truth we believe.

We’ll let the wisdom of the group bring this idea out more tonight…


What Is The Wisdom Of Dharma?….. All Life Is Practice!

This week we will look at two slogans together – Three Objects, Three Poisons and Three Seeds of Virtue and In All Activities, Train with Slogans.  These two slogans represent one of the main reasons I love Buddhism.  Everything about this practice points to finding the truth for oneself.  We can listen to Dharma talks, read books, follow meditation instructions and talk over our difficulties with a teacher; none of which will liberate the mind.  Freeing the mind requires a willingness to turn the practice, our insights and our understanding towards oneself.  The Dharma works in the application not in the learning.

In the first slogan, the 3 objects are friends, enemies and neural persons; the 3 poisons are passion, aggression and delusion (or ignorance); and the 3 seeds of virtue are the absence of passion, aggression and delusion.  When you initially consider these it may seem like this practice forces us to strip ourselves of all the goodness and power of life (given that virtue is pointed to the absence of passion, aggression and delusion).  I believe, however, this slogan points towards seeing with wisdom.  The labels we put on people, places and things is what makes something a friend or enemy or unworthy of any attention.  It is not about getting rid of the label but rather recognizing that the labels come from our own minds not the object.  Likewise, with our passions, aggressions and places of delusion.  Until we are willing to see our part in these forces of nature, we will be slaves to their reactivity.  When we can see our part, we will still have passion or aggression but we will also have the wisdom not to be pushed away from our values by it.  We can find a way to live in relationship with the objects through the seeds of virtue.

The second slogan reminds us to view all experiences as an opportunity to practice.  The more we see life as practice, the more capacity we generate to deal with anything that arises.  Thus, we you find yourself stuck in some aggressive state you can first look at the labels and judgments you are bringing to the table.  When you are able to remove your mental add-ons, you can deal with the situation from a place of wisdom.  I believe wisdom is far more powerful than aggression.  What do you think?

We’ll explore this together on Thursday.  Until then…