This week we will begin an exploration and investigation into THE most fundamental aspect of insight meditation. It is the foundation for accessing the liberative qualities of the mind. I’m talking about the 4 Noble Truths – the truth of suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path leading to the cessation of suffering. We will be spending a year with this subject. We will spend a month on each Truth and then a month on each aspect of the Eightfold Path (the 4th Noble Truth). There will be one post at the beginning of each month which we will explore, investigate and unpack throughout the month. This month, however, we will have two posts. Tomorrow we will get a feel for everyone’s understanding and connection to the 4 Noble Truths generally. I will write another post next week about the 1st Truth and we will spend 3 weeks with it.
The more fully we understand and realize the 4 Noble Truths, the more fully we will experience freedom and inner peace. Most of us are fully aware of the 4 Noble Truths. In fact, it’s generally considered a beginner’s teaching. But this is a misunderstanding of the Truths. I would be willing to bet a year’s dana that if Buddha himself were to reincarnate for another lifespan – he would still spend his life practicing the 4 Noble Truths. Why? Because he would know of no other way to remain liberated from the inclination of the human mind towards suffering. It is precisely because of his realizations around the nature of mind that he would know the protection afforded him by the 4 Noble Truths.
I think one of the reasons the 4 Noble Truths are thought of as beginning practice is because it is often taught as a simple teaching. But to me, the wisdom of each Truth is directly proportional to the depth of one’s understanding. The deeper one go into them, the deeper the wisdom that can be known about the nature of suffering and the capacity of the mind to protect itself from suffering. So for a beginner, the wisdom may just be about remembering what the Truths are; for a dedicated practitioner the wisdom can support a deepening into concentration and for a Buddha, the Truths would represent how we view the world.
I am saying this to encourage us all, regardless of our level of practice, to take on these Truths with renewed eyes and ears. Tomorrow we can set out on a new and exciting adventure but only if we are willing to let go of our current maps and trust an emerging unknown to light our path. I am also glad we spent most of last year working with the 59 slogans on cultivating kindness. We will need our work on kindness to support a wider look at suffering. In fact, thanks to Daniel we have a two page handout with all the slogans listed. You can find it at the top of the list on the Handouts page of this site or download it here – Lojong Practice (59 Slogans To Cultivate Kindness).
See you tomorrow:))
This week we will explore the final 4 slogans of the lojong mind training practice. They are Don’t Wallow In Self-Pity; Don’t Be Jealous; Don’t Be Frivolous and Don’t Expect Applause. Trungpa Rinpoche’s limited commentary seems to point these final slogans towards our relationship with the good fortune, praise and/or honor given to others. It seems so appropriate that we would end our exploration of this practice with our nasty habits around jealousy, resentment, envy and spite. These defilements really show up when we least expect them. We kind of assume that our “altruistic practice” will turn us into altruistic beings also. But this human mind is not designed this way. We actually need to cultivate altruistic qualities.
Without a doubt, the mind has the capacity for great joy, equanimity, love and compassion. I think the problem is that this capacity is diminished over the years of living in a society obsessed with winning, success, personal achievement and triumph over. We may not see how are habit for victory and praise is also creating a habit of self-pity, jealousy, resentment, envy and spite when we don’t win, receive praise, get the best, the most or otherwise end up on top. Can you see how (and why) this habit is practically guaranteeing a lifetime full of more lamentation, physical affliction and mental torment than happiness.
The slogans are pointing us towards intentionally practicing with and around these defilements to cultivate joy, kindness and gratitude. Norman Fisher suggests cultivating Sympathetic Joy. We do this by contemplating and reflecting upon the good fortune of others (specifically: benefactors, friends/family, a neutral person, a difficult person). We look for and pay attention to the celebratory situations for others. We learn to experience greater joy by including the joy of others. This is not an easy thing to do. But why not? If we could actually feel joy every time we hear of another’s good fortune, don’t you think we would seek out celebratory situations all day. Instead, we live with minds that grumble at the joy of another which can make us avoid hearing about it. These slogans suggest that maybe our bitterness is what blocks our experience of joy.
P.S. Don’t forget to register for the retreat! Next week, a new year and a new focus:))).
This week we will look at 4 more slogans
Don’t Misinterpret – Tibetan practice says there are six areas where we twist or misinterpret practice. The six areas are patience, yearning, excitement, compassion, priorities and joy. The misinterpretation or twist is that we may have these 6 in relation to worldly experience but not for practice. It is about putting worldly gain over practice. Norman Fisher provides a great guide to test your level of misinterpretation. If your practice is making you unhappy or you feel miserable/grim about it or you feel happy and peaceful about your practice to a level of arrogance towards people who are not having a similar experience – you are misinterpreting. Spiritual practice comes with highs and lows. Learning to live in the middle. There’s actually nothing to interpret.
Don’t Vacillate – Keep your practice regardless of what arises. If you don’t want to practice; practice with don’t want to practice. The point is that if your practice commitment vacillates and shifts all over the place you can’t develop strong certainty in the Dharma. I personally think there is a difference between one’s commitment to practice and how they practice. Our formal practice may not always look the same, but when we hold steady to our commitment towards non-harm, kindness and renunciation, the greater our sense of certainty in the Dharma.
Train Wholeheartedly – This is simple. Train your mind. Trust your practice. Trust your own experience.
Liberate Yourself By Examining And Analyzing – Watch your mind. Examine it. Analyze it. Consider it’s habits; its nature. Basically – take as much care for understanding your heart and mind as you do understanding your job, your finances, your partners, your life.
I’ll see you tomorrow…
If you’ve been coming on Thursday nights you likely have heard that we’re planning a retreat. We’re happy to announce our first Sangha Retreat will be held at Camp Sealth on Vashon Island, April 27-29, 2018.
The retreat will be held in Noble Silence, with a mix of sitting and walking meditation, Dharma Talks and interviews. The cost of the weekend is $125 including dormitory sleeping accommodations and meals from dinner Friday through lunch on Sunday. The fee is set as a sliding scale. Please pay what you can. The generosity of those who pay more than $125 will help to cover the needs of those who are not able to do so. Transportation costs and Teacher Dana are not included in the fee (dana is optional). Any funds over costs will go directly to Tuere as additional Dana.
You can complete and submit this form to register online. Then you must ALSO click the PayPal link to actually submit a payment of your choosing. Please be sure to leave the default “Friends & Family” checked to avoid us paying a fee. You will not be registered until your payment has been received.
There is not a confirmation email. Feel free to post questions in the comments below. In the meantime here are a few helpful points:
- We’ll be at Camp Sealth’s Wrangler Retreat Center.
- Camp Sealth is about 30 minutes drive from the Vashon Ferry. We are exploring renting a van as so many have indicated wanting to carpool and few have offered rides.
- Sleeping will be separated male/female in open dorms.
- There will be vegetarian meals and we can accommodate vegan or gluten-free. Meals included are from Friday dinner through Sunday lunch.
- There will be chairs but no zafus or zabutons provided on site, so you’ll need to bring your own.
This week we will explore 4 of the remaining 12 slogans.
First – Train Without Bias In All Areas: This seems to point to our selective way of practicing. Maybe we don’t practice when we are on vacation or away from home. Maybe we wait until retreat or only when we “feel like practicing”. Then again, maybe we send lovingkindness and compassion for just the people we like or are concerned about but not to people we don’t like. What gets excluded from your practice? Consider the who, when, where, and how of no practice and ask yourself why that is. Why are these not the main areas of practice?
Second – Always Meditate On Whatever Provokes Resentment: Don’t you just love this. How much clearer can this slogan get. In case you missed the seriousness of the aforementioned slogan…now this. It makes sense if you think about it. If we learned to really stay close to our resentments we could learn to let go of a lot of the defilements. I think the stickiest, toughest, most cutting of all the defilements is resentment because of it tangled web of righteousness, hurt and our sense of decency. It seems to be the hardest to let go of. What do you think, if we practiced specifically within the areas of our resentments, should not the rest of the defilements be easy peasy?
Third – Don’t Be Swayed By External Circumstances: This is quite simple. Don’t let the comings and goings of your life affect your desire to practice. Trungpa Rinpoche has a great saying “if your situation is right, breathe that out; if your situation is wrong, breathe that in. Norman Fisher suggests that while we want to be resolute in whatever comes our way, we should also be flexible. Allowing our external circumstances to have some affect upon us can be skillful. The question is, how would we determine when we are letting our external circumstances affect us too much?
Fourth – This Time, Practice The Main Points: This feels like it is for those who believe in rebirths but as Norman Fisher points out – this time is the only time. I think the point here is to accept that we have be working at awakening for a long time (even in just this lifetime). At this point, the best course of action is to stick with the basics.
See you tomorrow – Tuere
Please note that starting with this week’s sit we are beginning at 6:30 PM. We’ll be sure to have some chairs by the door for latecomers. You’re more than welcome to arrive whenever you need to. The sit will by 6:30-7 PM and we’ll be ending at 8:30 PM.
This week we will turn towards the 3s by exploring four slogans together – Train In The Three Difficulties; Take On The Three Principle Causes; Don’t Lose Track; and Keep The Three Inseparable. It may not seem like it at first pass, but all 4 of these slogans are embodied experiences. It starts with being able to feel difficulties are around our unskillful impulses, triggers and neuroses. We learn to recognize their coming; overcoming them once they arise and preventing them from returning through the felt sense of the tension they bring. To do this we need to first pay attention to what happens in our lives when we let our impulses, triggers and neuroses control us. We need to see the results of this messiness (not from shame, but from genuine interest). Then we learn to watch for whatever is the instigation of this process and try to stop it at the beginning. If we fail to stop it in the beginning, we try to release our clinging to it during the middle. If we fail to release our clinging during the middle, we vow to prevent its arising in the future. The more we acknowledge and get to know the difficulties of working with our messiness the easier it will be to feel the instigation of when, where, how and why this messiness exists.
Next, the three principle causes. They are around three realizations (1) the necessity of a teacher; (2) the importance of training the mind and (3) the truth that each of us has all we need to awaken. These three principle causes are embodied experience of devotion. We need this devotion to be willing to keep looking for, feeling and dealing with the above difficulties.
Which bring us to the last two slogans. We really need to keep a connection with the threes. We need to keep our devotion tied to the difficulties and our difficulties tied to devotion. We notice when the difficulties are present and when they are not. We notice when a impulse, trigger or neuroses is present and when it is not.
I’ll see you all this Thursday! Tuere