Author Archives: Sangha

Don’t Lose Yourself In Meanness Just To Prove A Point!

This week we are going to explore three more slogans together – Don’t Wait In Ambush, Don’t Bring Things To A Painful Point and Don’t Transfer The Ox’s Load To The Cow.  I think these three go together in this section on Disciplines of Mind Training because they point to abandoning meanness. These slogans also help us look more deeply into the nature and impact of being harmed by another.  In some respects, there is no greater pain that the pain that comes from someone else’s behavior.  Such hurt, offense or wrongdoing can eat at us for months, years, even decades.  Long after the person has left us, we often remain consumed (entangled) by the pain of their actions.

These three slogans are aimed at working with that pain not reconciling or validating the wrongness of another.  In fact, the slogans assume the other person’s conduct was wrong – so what then?  Do we give up our inner peace?  Do we succumb to the rage or do we seek a more spiritual response?  These three slogans are connected to a spiritual response.  Don’t wait in ambush means don’t seek vengeance nor lay and wait to take advantage when the person who harmed us becomes vulnerable or weak.  It reminds us that we are causing greater harm to ourselves while we wait to get back at the person – it turns us into mean bitter beings.

Don’t bring things to a painful point (or as Norman Fisher says – Don’t make everything so painful) means don’t make a bad situation worst.  It points us away from the “tit-for-tat” antics of an argumentative, combative and/or contentious interaction with another.  This is about being true to ourselves so it means abandoning even the whispers to another, our under the breath comments and passive aggressive behaviors.  All of it, also traps us in meanness.  As does the last slogan, don’t transfer the ox’s load to the cow.  This is probably the hardest of the three to connect to.  It centers around separating the cause of our suffering from the act of the person who caused the initial harm.  When we can untangle the two we can find and stay connected to our heart source no matter the harm that comes to us.  This slogan is not denying or ignoring accountability.  Accountability may be warranted and necessary.  This is about releasing oneself from the sting of the harm; that only we can do for ourselves.  One way to think about this is what is the point of practicing if we can’t release ourselves from suffering.

We’ll talk more about it tomorrow…


P.S.  Rather than send a separate email, I thought I would note some of the decisions we made at the annual meeting this past Saturday.

We will be changing the starting time to 6:30pm beginning the first Thursday in Dec. (12/7/2017)

 I will be away on several retreats next year so we will began using and updating a blog calendar. 

We are going to look for a space so we can have a weekend residential retreat for just the Capitol Hill Meditation Group.  We will be looking for a retreat space in this area.

Finally, we are going to purchase a Buddha figure to set up on our cabinet.



It’s Time To Detox Ourselves From The Toxic Nature Of Judgment

This week we are going to explore practicing with the next three slogans – Abandon Poisonous Food, Don’t Be So Predictable and Don’t Malign Others together.  I think we can look at these three together because they point to the same thing – judgment.  Judgment that shows up as self-criticism, egotism, self- absorption and other ways we diminish and elevate ourselves.  Judgment that shows up as approving, comparing, condemning  and other ways we project our beliefs and expectations on to the world.  And, judgment that shows up as belittling, blaming, ridiculing, and various other ways we diminish another person, idea, or thing that doesn’t come from me nor related to what is mine or myself.

These three slogans seem to me to be pointing towards seeing and feeling into the habitual nature of this kind of conduct whether it comes from our thoughts, words or deeds.  It is connected to our discipline because it is connected to how we are in relationship with our practice.  We are fooling ourselves if we think we can aim our practice at altruistic goals of kindness, compassion and generosity and yet hold on to our judgments without question.  This isn’t even about beating ourselves up because of judgments – that would be taking in more poisonous food.

This is about seeing judgment as poison and practice as detox.  It means – starting to look at, become aware of, feel into – the toxic nature of the way we talk, relate and connect to ourselves and others.  We can start be considering how negative is our world view?  Are we trapped in a box that only dwells on the painful, the wrongs, the things we don’t like?  I’m not suggesting that we simply throw this out and live in some “pie in the sky” fantasy world/life.  I’m suggesting that we balance, or temper, that negativity with the cultivation of kindness.  I’m suggesting we feel both the pain of our judgment and the generosity of our kindness.  We need to feel pleasant, unpleasant and neither to truly be alive.  Judgment masks the pain of unpleasant just like any other toxic (but addictive) substance and it is slowly killing us just like sugar, nicotine caffeine, alcohol, weed, etc.

Given the week we have just gone through – maybe this is just the practice we need.  I’ll see you tomorrow…


Abandon Hope…Really???!!

Last Saturday a dear friend of mine lost her husband and I found it incredibly difficult to “do” anything.  Every time I even thought about writing this post, I would turn to something else; anything other than a post about abandoning hope.  But this is what we are going to explore this week and today I have the strength to take it on.  This week’s slogan is Abandon Any Hope of Fruition.  Norman’s title is simply Abandon Hope.  I think I got caught in the very problem holding onto “hope” causes.  The way we use “hope” in our lives can create more difficulties than we think.  We become stuck in a state of leaning into the future but not just any future.  We lean into a good future, a better future, a wanting something more than now.  That “leaning into” sets us up for two problems.

First, we can never be satisfied with where we are.  This slogan is primarily aimed at our practice.  So its not being satisfied with where we are with practice.  We are always seeking a better sit, more stillness, some sign that difficulties don’t or won’t bother us any more.  But we will never see this bright future because we never pay attention to the here and now.  Our practice is designed to support us in the present moment which means we need to be aware of what is arising in the here and now.  Letting go of some great practice state in the future enables us to be content with the state of our practice right now.  We can see that we have enough concentration, mindfulness, stillness and capacity to be with whatever arises if we are willing to just stay put.

Second, leaning into the future is not in keeping with right view.  It creates distortions around our ability to control life.  We think “oh I’ll do this now and I’ll get this later” or I’ll put that off until later when the time is right”.  We get a false sense that we can trust things to work out tomorrow because of our good efforts today.  Then we get discouraged, disappointed and dissolutioned when something goes wrong, we don’t get what we expected or we miss the opportunity.  The point is to let go of the idea or concept of “hope in the future”.  We put our faith in the truth of here and now.  We learn to trust in our ability to find whatever courage, confidence and/or inner wisdom to guide us through live no matter who or what shows up.

I think there may be an aspect of “hope” that keeps us connected to the here and now.  We’ll talk some about this tomorrow.  I’ll see you then…


Let’s Start With The Big Stuff And Work Our Way Down

This week I am finally back!  We will explore the 27th slogan – Work With The Greatest Defilements First.  All of these discipline trainings seem perfect to me but this one is particularly close to me.  Trungpa Rinpoche and Norman Fisher approach this slogan from two different angles so I would like to explore both.

Trungpa Rinpoche’s approach is to first recognize or accept that all of us have what we believe to be “abnormal” aspects of our behavior.  Some energy, habit, or way of being that doesn’t line up with our values or intentions for harmlessness/kindness.  It is present in our periods of reactivity, tension, passion, overwhelm, etc.  We know it is there because we hate the way we feel and do whatever we can to “feel better”.  This discipline practice ask us to work with the defilement first.  This means if someone or something makes you mad – work with the anger first before addressing the reason for your anger.  If you are anxious about some important thing in the future – work with the anxiousness first, then deal with the important thing in the future.  Basically, we stop trying to correct or change the outer conditions so we won’t or don’t feel something and instead work on releasing the feeling and then work on the outer conditions.

Norman Fisher titles this slogan – Work with your biggest problems first.   His approach also ask us to first recognize or accept that the appearance of defilements in connection to human behavior is both natural and normal.  Each of us, however, have behavior patterns, reactions or habits that we think are particular to us.  Some of them are bothersome, others are irritating and one or two bring the biggest amount of suffering to our lives.  This discipline practice approach centers around taking the biggest problem and practice seeing it in everything; getting up close and personal with it.  You don’t put it off.  As you work with it, it will lose its sting.  Then you pick the next biggest defilement.  Basically working on one defilement at a time.

Which approach would you prefer?  Until Thursday….  Tuere

P.S.  I know it’s late notice but just wanted to give you a heads up that I am starting a 6 week introduction to meditation class tonight at SIMS.  Click here for more information. If can start tonight or next week, afterwards the class will be closed.

Better Yet, Don’t Fret Over Other People At All

This week’s slogan may seem like a repeat of last weeks but it is a little subtler.  The slogan – Don’t Ponder Others – ask us to go one step further.  Last week we talked about not causing further harm to another’s injured limbs.  This week is about letting go of the need to pick at, complain about and judge others.

This seems like a good to time to remind us that these slogans are held within the section Disciplines of Mind Training.  This is not about making you or me a better person.  This is about restraint.  The more we learn restraint, the more disciplined our conduct.  The more disciplined we are in our conduct, the more we live a blameless life.  The more blameless our lives, the happier and confident we feel.  But it all starts with practicing the discipline of restraint.

One of the most insidious habitual tendencies of being human is the constant picking, obsessing and projecting of our opinions on others.  This slogan says use restraint and stop that.  Let people be themselves – however they show up.  This is particularly important for practitioners.  When we practice, our “suffering radar” is heightened.  Its seems as though we are extra sensitive to pain.  Understandably, we feel compelled to help others reduce their suffering by offering the wisdom of the Dhamma; wisdom that has reduced our own suffering.  We push and push even though we know, at least on some level, we cannot force another to change or do what we want.

Everyone must find their way on their own.  We can be supportive and offer compassion, but people must walk their own paths.  Can you see a correlation between the practice of restraint and the cultivation of equanimity?  Could true equanimity  (not indifference) come from something as simple as refraining from picking at, obsessing over and/or projecting onto other about their lives?  Until Thursday…




Take Care Not To Further Harm Injured Limbs

This weeks slogan – Don’t Speak of Injured Limbs – is about letting go of the need to point out the faults of others.  This is not so much about whether the conduct is offensive, harmful or cruel. It is about our need to constantly point out the fault(s).  It is like being trapped in aversion and/or desire.  We go through the world constantly pointing out the wrong behavior of others.  No wonder we can’t see our own harmful, offensive and destructive ways.  We are too busy looking away from ourselves.

I like they way this slogan treats “faults” as injured limbs.  It helps us learn to see another’s faulty behavior as an injury like a missing leg, deformed arm or being in a wheelchair.  We would never point out or make a big deal about a another’s physical injury.  This slogan helps us see that faulty behavior comes from injury also.  So pointing out another’s fault is like making fun of their injury.  In a way, you are causing additional harm to someone already in pain.

I’m pretty sure this slogan will raise all kinds of red flags around behavior that is dangerous.  The mind is probably bursting to point out that we should not let such conduct go unnoticed.  Keep in mind, however, this practice is about cultivating kindness.  It isn’t about whether you speak so much as how you speak.  Norman Fisher titles this – don’t talk about faults.  He notes that if you practiced not pointing out the faults of another regularly you would become a more likable person.  You decrease the need to find fault with others and, if you do correct or address the faulty conduct of another, you do so from a place of compassion rather than judgment.

My question for the week is – what do you think this would do to you if you stopped talking about your own faults.  What if you saw your own faulty behavior as an injured limb, do you think it would help you generate care and compassion for yourself?


Keep It Real!!

Tomorrow we will take up another slogan in isolation from the Disciplines of Mind Training Section.  The slogan is Change Your Attitude, But Remain Natural.  This title seems pretty self-explanatory and is connected to the type of attitude we bring towards any experience.  The longer we practice, the more our relationship with suffering, discomfort, and judgment begins to change.  We can feel this shift as expansiveness and strength.  We might even find ourselves singing praises of our practice to everyone we meet and .

Practice can inspire us to change everything from our eating habits to our willingness to forgive.  With all this change, we might develop a sense of self-righteousness where we might be tempted to impose a lot of rules on both ourselves and others.  We might get stuck in our concepts of what a practitioner should be like leading us to continuously try to make ourselves and others become “better” people.  Our practice efforts become focused on being more generous, more kind, more loving rather than simply being with whatever is present; be it kindness or anger, generosity or stinginess.

This slogan is about remembering to keep it real.  We are not enlightened and until we become enlightened, we are not perfect.  Remaining natural means accepting our humanness in all its glory.  I like Norman Fisher’s version of the slogan – Don’t Be A Phony.  Don’t try to act like you are something you aren’t.  Don’t put on airs or pretend you are more than you are.  This is connected to discipline because it means we need to be willing to keep ourselves in check.  Above all, to thine own self be true.