Seeing the openness in chaos

The Quiet of Dissolution with Schoolgirl

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Things are a bit unhinged.

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I want things to be a certain way for me to be comfortable. There’s nothing wrong with this. I like things to be orderly in my home. I like it to be neat as a pin, and I like it to be restful and beautiful.

There is now only the distant memory of when this place used to be like that. And I don’t mean that just for the past few weeks since The Wild Woman’s return with the grandkids and all of that chaos. It’s much deeper and longer-standing than that. That’s just the most recent layer. But for the last three years I’ve let the house fall down around our ears and the garden grow up wild around the house. Chaos has established a strong foothold and now I’m too listless and bored to take things in hand and chase it back out to the street. We’ve got one foot out the door as it were, and the weight and inertia of all that needs doing just makes me want to light the whole mess on fire and head for the hills.

Everywhere I look I see an ever-growing laundry list of chores to do, things to repaint, repair, rebuild. And when I do muster the energy to clean the stove or the counters or the bathroom or the floors, in ten minutes the baby destroyers of clean have undone my work with glee.

I’m curiously dead to it inside. I’m profoundly uncomfortable, but I’ve grown used to the chaos and I’m doing nothing to stop it now. Entropy increases.

Still, within this kind of physical and psychic discomfort with my nest and unhappiness with myself for letting it get into this kind of shape, I feel real joy in the midst of it all. I can let go of that discomfort when I see my grandkids laughing, playing with toy dinosaurs in the wild weeds and dirt, and I’m sanguine about spills and messes and broken shit when everything is a mess already anyway. And I know it’s all temporary. I have a huge amount of work in front of me that is going to start very soon, and a few months from now the house will be sold and we’ll be in our new portable, go anywhere nest, and we’ll be alone together again.

Peace will reign. Beauty and balance will be restored.

And meanwhile, let the shit-storm rage! I’m not able to control what’s happening, so I’m letting it roll, and trying to let it roll off of me. Sitting helps. Beer helps, too. But not as much as sitting. Sometimes it’s all I can do, though, so I do that. What the fuck.

I took old girl out to the woods this weekend, and it was lovely, dark, and deep. We tried to go to Big Sur, but it was just Big Disneyland from San Simeon to Carmel. We saw the thousands of cars parked along every beach access point and campground and pull-out and tourist trap and we looked at each other and said, “Fuck it!” and kept driving. We ended up having a beautiful lunch (beautiful, not delicious, but hey.) at the café at Nepenthe, then we drove hell and back out through this army base, Fort Hunter Ligget, and into the Los Padres National Forest and kind of hit Big Sur from the backside, from the east. We found a mostly empty campsite in the middle of nowhere and we spent the night outside talking and listening and comparing our north nodes- both correctly and not-so-correctly as it turns out- but we had a hell of a nice time. Hiked around some, sat by a beautiful creek and watched California newts free-fall through the water in slow motion, listened to the gurgling water, and reveled in the companionable silence and the taste of days to come.

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This parenting gig is non-harmonious for us, too. How much can we do, how much should we do, how much more can we stand? No easy answers. Just doing it, again and again, like getting into the same bathwater for twenty-five years in a row.

Still, what I’m getting at here is this looseness, this easy-goingness that has arisen in me. Shit’s all difficult, but at the same time it’s just shit happening. And in the middle of the storm there’s a cup of coffee, there’s a Star Trek re-run on Netflix, there’s a tickle-fest with the boys, there’s a shared glance, a held hand, a meal that’s not too bad and you get to sit through almost all the way. There’s peace to be found in there, wedged in the spinning, thrashing gears. You can’t reach in and grab it or you’ll get your goddamned arm ripped off, so you just watch as it briefly rises up out of the chaos and then descends again, and you breathe it in and then you breathe it out, release it, and let the chaos do its beautiful work on you and all the world.

I’m letting go of the steering wheel. You might think we’re going to crash, but we’re going to crash anyway.

I’m gonna stick my head out the window like the nervous little poodle I am and watch the mayhem unfold as it will.

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What are your plans?

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Love, goddamn it. All love, all the time, and fuck the rest of it in the ear.

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Woot.

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Retreat re-entry

Attending-to-The-Minor-Creatures

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So, back from retreat.

A week in the woods near Badger, population 140. Seven Circles retreat center.

We began each day at 6 am with an hour and a half of practice- for me this was prostration practice, just like always. Then breakfast, then another session, then a teaching, then lunch, then another session, then another session, then dinner, then another session, then a small group meeting, then study, then lights out at 10:30 pm.

Lots of practice. Lots of prostrations. Lots of Dharma. Some noble silence, some talking. Rubbing away the hard edges, burnishing, burnishing, burnishing, revealing the radiance that has always been there.

I am that radiance.

Of course, there isn’t any me there to be that radiance at all. At most, I’m this hollow mirage through which the radiance manifests.

And I’m still, at the same time, just the same old ordinary tearful dishwasher.

***

It’s hard to overstate how much I got out of this retreat. I wonder if any of you will experience the benefits from it- I certainly had you there with me for every prostration, could hear you reciting with me for every prayer. If you haven’t felt it yet, then start paying attention- something big is coming your way.

All I got, which was enormous, I dedicate to the benefit of all beings, I give it away to everyone. May you be happy!

***

I want to thank my wife for letting me take this time in the middle of a very difficult moment in our lives. It was a big ask, and she totally supported me. I am so grateful to her.

She’s a pretty big deal around here.

***

I hope you’re not getting sick of me, all this Buddhist stuff, not so much blood and guts and angst around here any more. Kind of quieter, more tranquil. I won’t be mad if you fall asleep.

I’ll bring you a blanket and a pillow.

***

I’m back in the real world, and I gotta tell you, it’s all just exactly how it is!

*

There’s so much unsaid here, like when you look out at the ocean, you know all that mass of water and life that’s underneath what you can see- the surface is just a thin little scrim…

Namaste.

***

For each other

How We Burn

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Look for the light.

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I tend to think of myself as good, as basically good and sound and sane, and kind of under constant assault by an outer world that is basically not very good- a world where stupid people doing stupid things in stupid ways are always threatening my own happiness and sense of things being okay. I tend to fundamentally believe that I’m good and if I could just be left alone I would be happy pretty much all the time, I’d have things figured out, I’d be good.

But there are people at work who don’t get me, who don’t understand how hard I’m working, how much I have on my plate, how things look from my perspective- they’ve got their own prejudices and those blind them to how things are and so they’re a huge pain in my ass and I wish they’d just leave me alone.

Same thing with the people in my family. Same thing with the people on television, on the news. The corporation people in their big corporation buildings being all corporationy. The medical community. The military industrial complex. Republicans. Democrats. Iranians. Serbs. These people, those people.

I’m good.

They are not.

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What’s maybe not so easy to realize is that we carry this kind of irritated, aggressive stance with us in our encounters with each other. There’s a subtle aggression and distancing in how we look at each other. In the most intimate setting, in the simple act of encounter. Our minds are under siege, and we’re distrustful, guarded, on edge, and that colors how we engage with each other. I’m not saying you’re a bad person, not that, no, probably you’re fine, that’s why we’re friends, it’s those others, it’s everyone else, and aren’t they terrible- here’s what they’ve been doing to me! And what did they do to you?

This is like, eighty percent of every conversation we ever have.

By we and us I’m saying me. This is what I do. This is how I behave.

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Imagine instead what it’s like when you encounter someone who is genuinely happy to see you. Who sees you, really sees you directly. How we open to that experience, how we relax into it, how it can be like a fresh breeze blowing into a dank, shut-up room. We’ve all had this experience.

It’s heavenly.

It’s healing.

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I don’t think this should be or needs to be such an exceptional encounter. It could be how we treat everyone. How everyone looks at us. But it isn’t going to happen, I’m never going to encounter this or give this experience to others as long as I maintain my siege mentality, as long as I continue to view the outer world as dangerous and threatening and trying to harm me. And this requires a huge shift in our thinking, in our way of being, of relating to the world and to experience.

It requires courage. It requires of me a willingness to be directly hurt by what and who I encounter. I really do have to drop my shield and my sword and stand before you empty handed- as long as I keep my sword and shield gripped in my hands I can only see you as my subtle enemy. Maybe you’re not trying to kill me right now, but I’m going to keep my eyes on you all the same.

But if I can do this, if I can let go of all that and not try to protect myself at all, then I have a shot at actually seeing you as you are. And maybe that’s good and maybe that’s not so good, but at least it is how you are and not how I imagine you are. This stance allows me to at least have a chance of meeting you in a way that doesn’t harm you, either, that allows you to be seen.

Which might encourage you to drop your shield an inch or two. You don’t have to put it down all the way yet. But you might really meet my eyes over the edge of the shield and feel something happening inside. That opening feeling, that sense of ease, of healing.

The thing is that I’m the one who is responsible for the aggression and fear that surrounds me. I bring it with me in every single encounter I have with the outside world.

Maybe this resonates with you a little bit.

If it does, I want to encourage you to try this with the next person you encounter. Drop your shield, just totally drop it, and open your arms to them, stand naked before them, and try to see who it is you’re dealing with. You don’t have to love them up, you don’t have to have a big goofy smile on your face, you don’t have to act in any way at all. Just be your whole, naked self and be willing to accept whatever is presented to you.

I wonder what this might do to your day?

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I’m headed off for a week of retreat starting Sunday. I’ll be at the Seven Circles retreat center in Badger, CA, with my teacher Khaydroup and a small group of ten other practitioners. This retreat is focused on personal practice, so I’ll be doing lots and lots of prostrations and meditation. We’ll have a daily dharma teaching and we’ll get together for vegetarian meals and we’ll be in a mix of silence and a little bit of talking in small groups.

I’m taking off when my wife, daughter, and grandkids need me to be around for them. I’m leaving them in the lurch. I am so grateful to them for allowing me to go, to spend these few precious days in retreat.

I feel the tug of family obligations every single time I go on retreat. Sometimes I feel bad about this and wish I could just go on retreat without feeling like I”m giving my family the short end of the stick. But actually it’s a lovely and powerful reminder that I’m not a separate thing- I’m part of them, just like I’m part of everything. You can’t tug on one separate thing without having an effect on everything else that is.

So, in that way, I’ll be taking all of you with me into retreat. Because it can’t be avoided but also because I love you and want you there with me. I include you all in my practice because you are my friends and I want you to be happy.

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Namaste.

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In the dugout

baseball-skull-copy

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I drink too much and I eat too much bad food.

I am lazy.

I am self-cherishing.

I think I’m wonderful.

I think you should recognize me.

I resist change.

I resent things.

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I should get rid of I.

***

I got this feeling right now of everywhere I look is the dharma. Mind manifesting as mind is inside me and mind manifesting as objects is outside of me and what’s looking in and what’s looking out is mind. I think I’m thinking something and the dharma is there asking me “who’s thinking what?” and I can’t find it. I think I’m looking at something and dharma asks, “who’s looking at what?” and there’s no answer.

The dharma looks at the dharma and asks the dharma questions the dharma can’t answer because there is no dharma.

I sit and look out at mind with mind. I sit and look into mind with mind. I follow the breath with mind and lose following the breath with mind. Mind comes inside the mind with the in breath and mind goes out into the mind with the out breath. I get up with mind and walk around in the display of mind, lose awareness of the mind inside the mind and outside the mind, with the mind.

Mind gets in a bad mood with mind because of the mind. Mind laughs at all this activity and then creates more. Mind seeks comfort in the mind and mind tortures the mind with mind.

Where am I in all of this. Where are you. You’re out there, in my mind. You’re in here, inside my mind with your mind, where I am. All the Buddhas and bodhisattvas are here and here are the hell realms and the hell beings, the hungry ghosts and the gods and the animals and there’s you that doesn’t exist with me that doesn’t exist, samsara and nirvana all dependent upon the endless, dazzling display of mind in mind.

Compassion is in here, kindness, too. Mind takes mind by the hand and leads it towards compassion, leads it towards wisdom, leads it towards equanimity, towards resting in its own nature.

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What I imagine is this:

apophysis_mandala_by_sya-d4bsyl7

Okay that’s not what I imagine because it’s flat and it’s too ordered, so imagine that this image is a cross-section of a sphere and then twist the sphere in on itself a billion times and then expand it to encompass infinity in all directions and scales.

Dude i’m trippin.

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What’s the point of all of this?

To be a basically good person. To be kind to myself and to others without making any distinction between us. To love in as big a way as possible. To do no harm. To bring an end to all suffering. To stick around and help for as long as help is needed.

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That seems doable.

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Here’s a conversation I had with Kaleb last night:

Kaleb: Why you’re policeman, Paw-paw? You fight those other boys? You scared them? They hurting you? You take away the bad mans?”

Tearful: “Yeah, I take away the bad mans. I help the good people.”

Kaleb: “You not scared thems?”

Tearful: “No. Paw-paw is brave.”

Kaleb: “I brave, too, Paw-Paw. I want be policemans.”

Tearful: “Well, if you are brave and good and want to help, you can be a policemans when you grow up.”

Kaleb: “I want be policemans. I be a T-Rex policemans.”

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Namaste.

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Happy 80th Birthday to HH The Dalai Lama!!

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How fortunate we are to be alive and share this earth with this holy being!

My wish is that we can all let him take up residence in our hearts and guide our thoughts and our conduct, so that we may live with peace inside us, and radiate peace to the world and all beings in it.

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hh dalai lama

                                                                    

Last week I dreamed about him. He smiled at me, patted my head a few times, “Yes, yes, yes,” he said to me, laughing.

“Yes, yes, yes.”

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Khenpo10

I had the good fortune to attend a three-day teaching on Shentong Madhyamaka with Khenpo Tsering over the July 4th weekend. It was a more in-depth examination of Buddha Nature Mind that we were introduced to with Lama Jampa Thaye’s presentation a few months ago on the Shentong.

Khenpo’s approach was totally different to Lama Jampa’s, so the benefit of getting both views felt profound to me. Both of them are accomplished scholars and practitioners and they impart a very pure Dharma. I feel so lucky to have received these teachings.

Khenpo taught from a text written by the Third Karmapa, called “A Teaching on the Essence of the Tathagatas- The Tathagatagarbha”, which is itself a commentary to “The Treatise that Teaches the Buddha Nature” by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye the Great.

Khenpo gave us a great teaching, going fully into the root text and unpacking each word, each sentence, each stanza, with great care and attention, and providing us with real world, concrete examples and explanations of what can seem quite esoteric when first encountered.

And after the teachings I hung out with my kid and babysat the grandbabies and I managed to fit in a couple of very good practice sessions in the mornings and evenings, so the days were quite full. Life and the teachings and practice all mixed together, like it should be!

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In other news, my wife may soon return from her travels!

Yippie-kai-yay!

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May you be happy, may you be at peace, may you be free from suffering,

and may you bring joy and happiness to everyone you encounter today.

Namaste.

***

photograph of HH Dalai Lama by Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

In Post Meditation, Be a Child of Illusion

Leaving The Island

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Illusion does not mean haziness, confusion, or mirage. Being a child of illusion means that you continue what you have experienced in your sitting practice [resting in the nature of alaya] into postmeditation experience.

You realize that after sitting practice, you do not have to solidify phenomena. Instead, you can continue your practice and develop some kind of ongoing awareness. If things become heavy and solid, you flash mindfulness and awareness into them. In that way you begin to see that everything is pliable and workable. Your attitude is that the phenomenal world is not evil, that ‘they’ are not out to get you or kill you. Everything is workable and soothing.
 

It’s a very strong phrase, ‘child of illusion’. Think of it. Try to be one. You have plenty of opportunities.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

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When I was in school I remember my science teacher explaining how if you put, say, a chair, at the top of a glacier, if you left it there and came back in a few years it would be down at the bottom of the glacier, or out to sea on an iceberg. What looks solid, what looks like the most frozen, stable, immobile mass of ice is actually flowing just like a river.

This reverberated in me at the time and the reverberation still echoes. Like a bell that sounds for a lifetime.

Who knows why it struck me as it did, but I’m grateful for it and grateful for the image. I bring this up this morning because that way of seeing things is going on in everything I look at right now. I feel my “self” as this one frame in a time-lapse image that includes me as an infant, as a toddler, as a child, a young man, a man man, an old man, a dead man. And I am putting on a shirt that used to be cotton growing in a field and now I’m wearing it and then it will go to Goodwill or my wife will sew it into a quilt that years from now some stranger will use to wrap their dog up in when they bury it. And I’m getting in a car that used to be all over the place, in the ground, in factories, on a car lot, and will someday be in a crusher in some junkyard and maybe it will be uncovered by erosion years after it was buried in dust and silt and some new creature will stub its toe on it. And the street signs. And the streets. And everyone behind the wheel of their cars on their way to jobs that used to not exist and someday won’t again, and now there are babies driving to work and children and old people and dead bodies rotting and skeleton and dust and nothing at all driving and on and on.

Everything describing this parabolic arc from becoming to being to unbecoming, rise and fall, rise and fall, rise and fall, rising into the air glittering and falling back into non-being with a soundless splash. You and me, him and her, all of us, everything, all the time.

Hard to imagine getting worked up over any one moment of it.

It’s fucking beautiful, is what.

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Another thing I forgot to say yesterday about Khaydroup’s teaching, and this one is really good I think, really beneficial. Here it is:

You don’t have to do anything to make the changes that practice brings. You don’t have to accomplish these changes by will power or intelligence or doing it the right way.

The beauty and power and magic of the practice is that it does what it does without your interference.

You do have to set the conditions, though. You have to do the work, you have to get on the cushion and keep doing that, keep following the instructions, keep tweaking them, experimenting with them, evaluating your experience, checking in, adjusting, but that’s it, really. You don’t have to know how to change the quality and nature of your mind- practice takes care of that by itself.

You just keep bringing the practice in.

So.

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In ngondro the first practice is taking refuge and prostrations, and in prostration practice you are working with the body and mindstream together and the mindstream part is this intricate visualization of the refuge tree- you imagine this big tree in the middle of a lake in front of you, and the tree is filled with the lineage masters and Buddhas and bodhisattvas, all the whole shebang, and then you imagine yourself in front of the tree doing your prostrations and chanting as you, you know, actually do your prostrations and chant. But you are not alone in this imagery. You imagine all sentient beings in human form doing this activity with you. Your mother and father, your family, everyone you know, and right in front are all of your enemies and those who have done you wrong- they get the special place of honor.

Anyway, after you finish, you dissolve the whole refuge tree into light and that light then dissolves into you. Then you do some tonglen practice, sending and receiving, where you inhale and take on all of the suffering of every being- here on earth and everywhere else, in every realm, and you send out healing light to them in exchange.

I mention all of this just to say that it is really mind altering to expand in this way, to put everything good and wise and perfect out in front of you like a giant Christmas tree and everything bad and terrible, too, everything and it goes “outside” of you and then it comes “inside” of you, you are the tiny supplicant, then you are what is supplicated to, you are, you become, for a moment, what you really are, which is everything.

I keep feeling it like bending a piece of steel, back and forth, this way, then that way, this way, then that way.

You begin to feel things heating up at that point where the steel is bending, becoming malleable. You sense things can’t continue to stay connected in quite the way you were used to anymore.

I feel a bit like a window. Or a hollow tube that flexes itself inside out again and again. I feel a bit like everything that is.

You can begin to get a sense that things are limitless.

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I miss my wife, off on her big adventure with the monk. But I’m happy that our daughter is home again with the grandbabies, happy that I can be of service, that I can help her in her time of need, that they can be provided for. And happy beyond caring to be back with Kaleb, in all of his perfect boyness.

I want to be used up but I am limitless. Wear me away and I keep regenerating.

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May you be happy, may you be at peace, may your suffering come to an end.

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Namaste.

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Does Happiness lead to suffering?

working-the-seam

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So this weekend Khaydroup was giving a teaching on “The Progressive Stages of Meditation” or the Anapatasatti Sutta and she said a few things which struck me in a new way and I wanted to talk about them a little bit and to explore my thinking and understanding around them. You may be excused if you don’t have any interest in this topic, but please come back to class before third period begins so I don’t get in trouble with Mr. Slanson, thank you.

One of this difficulties in attending teachings and working with them is that they are unavoidably filtered through the medium of our own cognition- in other words, I don’t actually receive the teachings in pure form- I get only a rough approximation of them- really, I hear what I want to hear or what I’m ready to hear, and the rest remains unavailable to me. So please don’t think that what I’m talking about is really what’s in the teachings in a pure way- it’s just what’s left after I get through leaving out most of what’s important. But, still, it’s valid to take in what you can and really process that- otherwise, you know, it’s a lost cause.

Okay, enough disclaimers.

1. “Human beings hate suffering, but we love the causes of suffering.” This was a quote from someone, I think one of Khaydroup’s teachers, but I didn’t catch the name. This little gem describes my predicament pretty succinctly. It’s the grossest part of our confusion, I think, this grasping on to the causes of suffering thinking that they will actually make us happy. Instead, they reliably set up the conditions for our continued suffering. Even once we begin to catch on to what we’re doing, we still think there’s an exception when it comes to our behavior.

There is not.

2. She was talking about how in meditation there is the mindfulness of the body first, then mindfulness of feeling, then mindfulness of emotion- and how if you just watch that progression you can begin to understand how emotion is kind of an end stage manifestation of something arising earlier and not a thing in itself. We have a physical sensation first, then we have a reaction to that sensation, we either like it or we don’t like it or we’re neutral about it. And how if we’re able to remain mindful then when the mental formations of emotion begin to assemble, we don’t have to buy in to them as solidly real in any way- they are just the natural activity of mind, manifesting in response to causes and conditions.

Anyway, she explained how we can have this feeling of sadness, say, that begins as a sensation, we then react to that sensation with aversion, we don’t like it, it’s bad, it’s unpleasant and we don’t want it, and then the mental formation of sadness assembles into this thing and we feed it and make it grow and make it into something solid with our own attention to it. And so it doesn’t collapse on its own, it doesn’t shift into something else, it maintains itself and we begin to shift our behavior and our thoughts and our whole awareness in relation to that mental formation of an emotion. And that’s really a mindless, knee-jerk reaction, but it need not be. It can be interrupted and broken down by merely being aware of what it is and what’s happening.

And this made sense to me, I do this all the time with negative emotions, but it was the next step that I had never really explored and that really blew me away. Happiness is the same thing.

Happiness is the same thing.

Happiness, as an emotion, begins as this physical sensation. Then there’s a reaction to it, there’s this feeling- hey, I like this, I want this to keep going, I want more of it. And then we’re off to the races. We build this up, we make it into a whole solid thing, and begin to shift our words, actions, thoughts, and behaviors toward supporting this new formation, making it stick around, not letting it be taken from us. But, invariably, it is taken from us. It does shift, the mental formation collapses altogether. And then another one arises. But we still want that formation of happiness to be there, to be the one solid thing, and it isn’t, and then we’re on to the negative emotions, over and over.

So this understanding really helped me to see my own myopic view- I’ve been pretty willing to do away with unhappiness, but I still cling to happiness. I still don’t see anything wrong with it. Or, at least, I didn’t until now.

And I don’t think this means all kinds of happiness, or any good feeling at all, because there is a deep joy, a bliss, that is the state in which advanced meditators exist- but one that is grounded in equanimity. It is a deeper, oceanic experience I think than this simple “happiness” which is perhaps more like the waves on the surface.

And so what? What does this mean on a practical level?

Well, for me, it means that I’m suddenly feeling much more aware of how much of my suffering really is caused by this chasing after “feeling better.” Right? I am pretty sure that beer or two is going to remove my unhappiness and replace it with feelings of happiness. And, really, usually, it does. Mission complete! Happiness on scene!

But that relief is so short-lived, and it brings with it all of these negative consequences, a whole train of physical, mental, and emotional sufferings- some subtle, some less so. Same with procrastination, or eating too much, watching Netflix instead of getting to the cushion- all of these are really just my mind trying to get comfortable and not really understanding what it’s actually doing, what the results are going to be.

I hate suffering, but I’m in love with the causes.

Ha.

So, I think this is such good news. I hope the understanding has an effect on my thinking and my behavior. I believe it will.

3. This third thing isn’t really related to Khaydroup’s teaching, it’s from Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche’s teaching I watched over the same weekend.

Near the end he talks about what giving up the ego is like in the most beautiful way. (Okay, I think maybe not this video, but one from this series. Anyway, it can’t hurt to watch this one and take in what he’s saying.)

So he’s talking about giving up the ego and for us it’s like a child at the pool, terrified, grasping at the ladder on the side of the pool- we want to stay safe, we want very much to stick with what we know, what we understand, what we’re used to. And it’s terrifying to let go of solid land! It’s definitely not safe! There’s nothing to hold us up, to protect us, to keep us from drowning!

And what we learn to do is like learning how to swim, when we give up the ego, when we give up solid ground- yes, it’s true, there’s not solid ground we can rest on anymore, it’s gone- but we can swim, we can enjoy this much greater level of freedom and ease that egolessness can provide.

It hit me in a visceral way as being exactly correct, it aligned with my own experience and I think it’s a beautiful way to express what’s being asked of us.

So.

***

This week I watched a Frontline on the holocaust and another one on the Syrian war that showed the aftermath of the chemical weapons use by Assad’s forces. Sarin gas. All of these dead babies, little children, a room just full of them. Adults, too. Suffocated by lung paralysis. Terrible way to die.

And the images of the thousands of dead and near dead in the camps in Germany.

I don’t know what to do about it, about any of it, but it’s been a powerful activator of my own bodhichitta. I see the dead body of everyone I encounter as vividly as I see their living body, and I know that they are the same thing. Our time is brief, our suffering is endless.

And I’m not trying to fix anything here. I simply want to see it all. I want to attend to everything.

And give whatever I have, whatever I am, towards easing that suffering for everyone.

***

The other thing that’s happening in my own small awareness is that I really have the experience, the feeling, that none of us is limited in space or time. We’re limited in our perception, but our actions, our thoughts and words and deeds, ripple ever outward, interlacing with everything that ever is or ever will be. Our thoughts are things in a way that things aren’t even.

So, you know, your prayers are important. Your thoughts are important. Your compassion is important. Don’t be fooled because it doesn’t seem to be having an effect.

It most certainly is.

***

Okay, class is over. Wait for the bell before you guys run out into the hallway, and don’t forget next week everybody has to bring in a picture they drew of their favorite person!

***

Namaste.

***

Calling the Lama from Afar

Calling the Guru from Afar

A Supplication to Pierce Your Heart with Devotion

Namo Guruve. This style of supplication called Calling the Guru from Afar is known by everyone. Nevertheless, the key point for invoking the guru’s blessing is devotion inspired by disenchantment and renunciation, not as mere platitude but from the core of your heart, from the very marrow of your bones. Chant the song melodiously with the confidence of having resolved that your own guru is none other than the Awakened One.

Guru, think of me.

Kind root guru, think of me.

Essence of the Buddhas of the three times,

Source of the sublime Dharma of statements and realization,

Sovereign of the sangha, the assembly of noble ones,

Root guru think of me.

Great treasure of blessings and compassion,

Source of the two siddhis,

Enlightened activity that grants all wishes,

Root guru think of me.

Guru Boundless Light, think of me.

Regard me from the expanse of the unconstructed dharmakaya.

lead me, wandering throughout samsara because of my evil actions,

To rebirth in your pure land of Great Bliss.

Guru mighty Avalokiseshvara, think of me.

Regard me from the expanse of luminous sambhogakaya.

Completely pacify the suffering of the six classes of beings

And churn the three realms of samsara from their depths.

Guru Padmasambhava, think of me.

Regard me from Chamara, the realm of Lotus Light.

As I am without refuge in this dark age,

Protect your helpless disciple with your swift compassion.

Guru Yeshe Tsogyal, think of me.

Regard me from the celestial city of great bliss.

Though I have done much evil,

Free me from the ocean of existence into the great city of liberation.

Lineage gurus of the Kama and Terma, think of me.

Regard me from the expanse of the unified wakefulness,

In my mind, a cave dark with confusion,

Make the sun of realization dawn.

Omniscient Drimey Ozer, think of me.

Regard me from the expanse of the five lights of spontaneous presence.

Having perfected the great strength of realizing primordial purity

Help me reach culmination in the four visions.

Peerless Lord Atisha, father and sons, think of me.

Regard me from Tushita while surrounded by hundreds of deities.

Cause bodhichitta, emptiness suffused with compassion,

To arise within my mind.

Supreme siddhas, Marpa, Milarepa, and Gampopa, think of me.

Regard me from the basic space of indestructible great bliss.

Help me to attain the supreme siddhi of Mahamudra, empty bliss,

And awaken dharmakaya in the depths of my heart.

Mighty lord of this world, Karmapa, think of me.

Regard me, from the basic space, taming beings to the reaches of space.

Help me realize that all phenomena are false, mere illusions.

Cause experiences to arise as the three kayas.

Masters of the four great and eight lesser Kagyu lineages, think of me.

Regard me from the Buddha field of pure personal experience.

Having dissolved the confusion of the four states,

Lead me to the end of experience and realization.

Five Sakya forefathers, think of me.

Regard me from the expanse of samsara and nirvana indivisible.

Combining the pure view, meditation and conduct,

Lead me along the supreme path of secrets.

Unequalled masters of the Shangpa Kagyu, think of me.

Regard me from the Buddha realm of total purity.

By properly practicing means and liberation,

Enable me to discover the unity beyond learning.

Mahasiddha Tangtong Gyalpo, think of me.

Regard me from the expanse of effortless compassion.

By practicing the discipline of realizing the absence of concrete reality,

Enable me to master prana and mind.

Only father, Dampa Sangye, think of me.

Regard me from the basic space which accomplishes the supreme activity.

With the lineage blessings entering my heart,

Cause auspicious connections to arise in all directions.

Only mother, Machik Labdron, think of me.

Regard me from the expanse of prajnaparamita.

Cutting through the subtle pretense of clinging to a self,

May I see the truth of the simplicity beyond self.

Omniscient Dolpo Sangye, think of me.

Regard me from the basic space endowed with the supreme of all aspects.

Having stilled the breath of transference within the central channel,

May I attain the vajra body beyond transference.

Jetsun Taranatha, think of me.

Regard me from the basic space of the three companions.

Having travelled the secret vajra path unimpeded,

May I accomplish the celestial rainbow body.

Terchen Chokgyur Lingpa, think of me.

Regard me from the all-pervasive realm of dharmakaya.

Having let dualistic thought dissolve into the state of non-arising,

May I re-assume the seat of natural awareness.

Orgyen Dechen Lingpa, think of me.

Regard me from the self-luminous realm of sambhogakaya.

Enable me to realize, beyond abandonment and attainment,

The great spontaneous presence of the five kayas and wisdoms.

All-pervasive Shikpo Lingpa, think of me.

Regard me from the compassionate state of taming beings.

Discovering the jewel of mind within myself,

May the fruition be perfected within the ground.

Sempa Padma Nyugu, think of me.

Look upon me from the realm of the Magical Net.

May I be inseparable from the supreme wisdom king,

The sovereign of the four kayas.

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, think of me.

Regard me from the basic space of the wisdom of two-fold knowledge.

Dispelling the mental darkness of unknowing,

May I spread the light of supreme knowledge.

Osel Trulpey Dorje, think of me.

Regard me from the expanse of five-colored rainbow lights.

Having purified the stains of essences, winds and perception,

May I awaken within the youthful vase body.

Pema Do-Ngak Lingpa, think of me.

Regard me from the expanse of unchanging empty bliss.

Grant me the ability to completely fulfill

All intentions of the victorious ones and their heirs.

Ngawang Yonten Gyatso, think of me.

Regard me from the expanse of the unity of basic space and wisdom.

Rending my clinging to an apparent reality,

May I bring whatever arises onto the path.

Son of the victorious one, Lodro Thaye, think of me.

Regard me from the expanse of loving-kindness and compassion.

Knowing all beings to be my kind parents,

May I acquire a pure, altruistic heart.

Pema Gargyi Wangchuk, think of me.

Regard me from the basic space of luminous great bliss.

Having liberated the five poisons into the five wisdoms,

May I destroy the duality of loss and gain.

Tennyi Yungdrung Lingpa, think of me.

Regard me from the basic space in which existence and peace are equal.

Genuine devotion having grown in my mind,

May the great realization and liberation be simultaneous.

Bokar, mighty Vajradhara, think of me.

Regard me from the supreme realm of Akanishtha.

Having realized all apparent phenomena as Mahamudra,

May I attain non-meditation, the dharmakaya.

Kind root guru, think of me.

Regard me from the crown of my head, the abode of great bliss.

Having met dharmakaya, natural awareness, face to face,

May I accomplish Buddhahood in a single lifetime.

Alas! Sentient beings like me, with negative karma and evil deeds,

Have wandered in samsara from beginningless time.

I continue to experience endless suffering,

But I never feel even the briefest moment of regret.

Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.

Bless me that renunciation may arise from the depths of my heart.

Though having attained the freedoms and riches I squander my life,

Always preoccupied by the pointless affairs of this world.

When applying myself to the great pursuit of liberation, I am overcome by laziness.

As I return from the island of jewels empty-handed,

Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.

Bless me that my human life may become meaningful.

Not a single life on earth escapes death,

Even now, they pass away one after the other.

Soon, I too must die. I am a fool, think that I will remain forever.

Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.

Bless me so that with no time to waste, I will curtail my plans.

I will be separated from each of my loved ones.

All the valuables I have hoarded will be enjoyed by others.

Even this body which I hold so dear will be left behind.

And, within the bardo, my consciousness will wander aimlessly throughout samsara.

Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.

Bless me that I may realize the futility of it all.

The black darkness of fear confronts me.

The fierce gale of karma pursues me.

The lord of death’s hideous thugs club and beat me.

Having to endure the unbearable sufferings of negative rebirths,

Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.

Bless me that I may be liberated from the abyss of the lower realms.

My faults are as large as a mountain, but I conceal them within me.

Though others’ faults are as small as a sesame seed I proclaim them far and wide.

Though I lack the least of qualities, I boast about how great I am.

I call myself a Dharma practitioner but behave to the contrary.

Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.

Bless me to pacify my selfish pride.

Within, I conceal my nemesis- the demon of ego-clinging.

All my thoughts only cause disturbing emotions to increase.

All my actions result in non-virtue.

As I have not so much as turned towards the path of liberation,

Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.

Bless me that self-grasping be severed at the root.

Just a little praise or blame makes me happy or sad.

A mere harsh word causes me to lose my armor of patience.

Even when I see helpless ones, compassion does not arise.

When needy people come to me, I am tied up by a knot of greed.

Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.

Grant your blessings so that my mind blends with the dharma.

I hold dearly to futile samsara.

For the sake of food and clothing, I completely abandon lasting goals.

Though I have everything I need, I constantly want more and more.

MY mind is duped by insubstantial and illusory things.

Guru, think of me, regard me with compassion.

Grant your blessings so that I dismiss concern for this life.

I cannot endure even the slightest physical or mental pain,

Yet I am so stubborn that I have no fear of falling into the lower realms.

Though I actually see the inevitability of cause and effect,

I still do not act virtuously but increase my wealth of evil.

Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.

Grant your blessings so that conviction in karma arises in me.

I hate my enemies and cling to my friends.

Groping in dark delusion as to what to accept and reject,

When practicing the Dharma, I fall prey to dullness and sleep.

When involved in non-Dharma, my senses are clear and sharp.

Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.

Grant your blessings so that I conquer my enemy, the emotions.

From the outside, I look like an authentic Dharma practitioner,

But inside, my mind is not mixed with the Dharma.

Like a poisonous snake, emotions are concealed within me.

When I encounter difficulties, the signs of a bad practitioner are revealed.

Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.

Grant your blessings so that I can tame my own mind.

Failing to notice my own shortcomings,

Pretending to be spiritual, I am anything but.

Naturally skilled in negative emotions and karma,

Again and again good intentions arise, again and again they come to naught.

Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.

Grant your blessings so that I might see my own faults.

As each day passes, I come nearer and nearer to death.

As each day passes, my heart becomes ever more callused.

While following a teacher my devotion gradually fades,

And my love and pure perception towards my Dharma friends diminish.

Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.

Grant your blessings so that I tame my wild nature.

I take refuge, engender bodhichitta, and supplicate,

But devotion and compassion are not felt deep within my heart.

Since I give lip service to dharmic action and spiritual practice,

They become routine and don’t touch me.

Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.

Grant your blessings so that whatever I do becomes Dharma.

All suffering arises from wanting my own happiness.

Although it is said that Buddhahood is accomplished by wanting to help others,

Though I engender bodhichitta, secretly my aims are selfish.

Not only do I not benefit others, I casually cause them harm.

Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.

Grant your blessings so that I exchange myself for others.

Although my guru is the Buddha actually manifest, I think of him as simply human.

I forget his kindness in imparting the profound instructions.

If he doesn’t give me what I want, I lose faith.

I obscure myself by seeing his behavior through doubts and disdain.

Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.

Grant your blessings so that my devotion may not fade but grow.

Although my mind is the Buddha, I don’t recognize it.

Although my discursive thoughts are the dharmakaya, I don’t realize it.

There is an unfabricated natural state but I cannot keep to it.

Letting be is the way things are but I don’t believe it.

Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.

Grant your blessings so that natural awareness is liberated into itself.

Although death is sure to come, I can’t take it to heart.

Although applying the genuine Dharma is sure to help, I am unable to practice it.

Although the law of karma is certainly true, I do not act properly.

Although mindfulness is surely needed, I don’t apply it and am carried away by distraction.

Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.

Grant your blessings so that I maintain undistracted mindfulness.

Through previous bad karma I was born at the end of this dark age.

All I have done only results in suffering.

The bad influence of others has cast its shadow upon me.

My practice of virtue is overcome by the distractions of meaningless talk.

Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.

Grant your blessings so that I can persevere in the holy Dharma.

At first, I thought of nothing but the Dharma.

But in the end, the results of my actions only cause further samsara and the lower realms.

The harvest of liberation is ravaged by the frost of nonvirtue.

Like a savage, I destroy what is of lasting value.

Guru think of me, regard me with compassion.

Grant your blessings so that I will follow the holy Dharma to completion.

Grant your blessings so that I give birth to deep sadness.

Grant your blessings so that I dispense with leisure and cut short preoccupations.

Grant your blessings so that I take to heart the certainty of death.

Grant your blessings so that conviction in karma arises in me.

Grant your blessings so that the path is free from obstacles.

Grant your blessings so that I am able to exert myself in practice.

Grant your blessings so that difficult situations are brought to the path.

Grant your blessings so that I continually apply remedies.

Grant your blessings so that genuine devotion is born in me.

Grant your blessings so that I meet the natural state.

Grant your blessings so that insight is awakened within my heart.

Grant your blessings so that I destroy confusion and projections.

Grant your blessings so that I attain Buddhahood in one lifetime.

Precious guru I supplicate you,

Kind Dharma lord, I cry out with longing,

Unfortunate though I am, my one hope is you.

Grant your blessings so that my mind mixes inseparably with yours.

***

I am posting this here with the aspiration that it benefit all beings, and that specifically someone may read it and find in the prayer something that opens their own mind and heart and brings them benefit. Also, I pray that I may soften my own mind and open my own heart to the truth of this supplication, and I give thanks to the guru, the Buddha, the precious Dharma, and the the sangha for the limitless blessings they have already bestowed upon me.

***

Namaste.

***

White Lily

Tending-to-the-Raiments-of-The-Lord-copy

***

What Fassbinder film is it?

The one-armed man goes into the flower shop and says

What flower expresses

days go by

and they just keep going by endlessly

pulling you into the future

days go by

endlessly

endlessly pulling you

into the future?

And the florist says: “White Lily.”

-White Lily

Laurie Anderson

***

It’s difficult to express how the Dharma has shifted my relationship to everything I encounter. I want to take a moment to make an attempt at taking stock, because it’s really become the salient feature of my practice at the moment and I want to wrestle with it here. Mostly to see if I can take the measure of it, stake out some kind of map of the territory.

In the beginning I was kind of interested in the Dharma, you know, looking at it from the outside and thinking it was pretty cool. There was meditation, which seemed like a good thing, and there was this exotic flavor to everything that seemed like it might make me kind of special if I dressed myself up in it, it might be a way to stand out- not so that others would see me as special so much as I would see me as special. It might make me feel better- I could be spiritual and exotic, which would kind of prop up my always faltering ego. And you know, it might help with my crazy and my depression and my rageyness.

And I drifted along like that for a long time.

Then, for whatever reason, I got more serious. I think it’s because the pain I was experiencing in the world and in my head and heart just became more than I could bear and I thought I could get some relief there, kind of fix my mind a little bit. And then, due to sheer blind luck or the workings of karma or the benevolence of my teacher, the Sharmapa came to our tiny center when we were meeting in a conference room on a golf course, and gave a weekend teaching. I went, and at the end of the teaching, I took refuge, formally becoming a Buddhist.

For me, the experience was sudden and unexpected, but happy. I really did not understand the significance of what I’d done, or the significance of the manner in which it happened. I thought very much at the time that it was simply something I’d decided to do, to go attend this teaching, and once there, when refuge was offered, it seemed like a good idea to go, to do it, and here was this teacher from Tibet who was supposed to be the real deal, so why not?

Of course, from here the whole thing looks completely different to me. I’m so much more overwhelmed by my teacher’s benevolence and kindness in coming all that way and in scooping me up out of the ocean of samsara, bringing me into the Dharma in such a powerful way, in such a complete and perfect way. It feels very personal, but I know that it’s the opposite of personal. He wasn’t looking for me, not in that way. I was just one of the limitless beings he was intent on helping. And through some merit and good karma of my own, I managed to put myself in his way at the right moment. And I managed to take the leap- no one made me do that.

At least, I think I managed that on my own. I’m actually not sure about that.

And then I almost immediately went into the most difficult years of my life. I quit going to the center, I never really established a practice, and I fell (I thought) away from the path. I still read a lot of Dharma and studied and contemplated, but I didn’t practice and didn’t attend teachings. I was, at least in my own mind, alone. And these were the years of my daughter’s drug addiction and getting arrested and in and out of jails and rehabs and also the years of immersion in the meatiest years of my job, working SWAT and detectives in a very toxic environment. I look back on those years and it is as if everything was in flames the whole time, although I know that’s not actually how it was. It was actually just how it is now, which is just how it has always been. Everything is happening all the time, constantly. What determines our reality has more to do with how we see than it does with what we’re looking at. And at that time, I was seeing things through the eyes of a hell being. I was constantly under assault, under dire threats. My daughter was destroying everything in her path like the very embodiment of Lord Shiva, and our safe little life was in flames and at work people were trying to kill me and also there were bad guys trying to kill me and it was very fixed somehow. The suffering endured.

And then, somehow, almost ten years later, I got serious. I started practicing, went back to the center, and started attending retreats every chance I got. I dove in, hard, fast, completely.

And it took.

And now it’s been about three years. I found my teacher, and then lost him(although this loss has really been an immeasurable gain for me- a true teaching about what death is and how it did not diminish what he is in any way). I got a whole raft of teachers through him that keep me going now. I still seek out teachings wherever I can, and do as much retreat as possible. I practice with joy and as much diligence as I’m capable of. My whole world looks different to me- again, not because suddenly there’s no more pain, no more bad things, no more old age, sickness, and death- not that at all, but how I see and experience things has irretrievably shifted. And that makes my reality different from what it was. And also, I think that actually there are somewhat fewer bad things and somewhat more beautiful and good things, because I’m causing less harm now. I’m creating the causes and conditions for positive things- it’s not just a matter of a change in perspective.

And right now I feel like I’m moving into a little bit of a more mature phase of development. I’m losing a bit of the heat and passion that I got swept up in in the first couple of years of serious practice. I was like a teenager in love- very sincere, very devoted, but kind of over the top, too. A little too hungry for my teachers in a way that still was fueled by ego clinging and neediness, a little overeager, a little bit convinced of my own specialness as a Dharma student. Beginner’s error, and not at all a problem, but I see those traits fading now as I get down to the actual business of this path.

I see now that it’s not possible to leave the path, that whatever I do is the path. I can do it well or poorly, that’s it. And the choice is entirely mine. If I leave the dirty dishes in the sink, they will stay there for all time until I do them. I can have all kinds of games in which I relate to those dirty dishes- ignore them, drape a beautiful cloth over them, wall up the entire kitchen, move house, wait for my wife or my boss or the lady in line at the grocery store to do them- the possibilities are endless. But really, I simply have to get to it and do the washing up.

And that’s where the dishwasher finds himself today. Washing the dishes, right where he belongs.

***

May you be happy, may you be at peace, may you be safe and cared for, and may you be of benefit to others.

Namaste.

***

R.I.P. Kalief Browder 1993-2015

Gonnerman-Kalief-Browder-320

***

Rest easy, brother. I’m sorry for what we did to you.

***

I guess I don’t believe in the chances  of making a system where what we did to him just isn’t possible. I think it’s inevitable, given the numbers and given our human frailties.

Still. We should admit it when it happens.

I feel sick in my human soul for it.

***

I ran into someone at the store after work. She came up said hi, gave me a hug. She’s someone I used to arrest a lot back in the day. She said I saved her, in a way, said thanks for being who I was, how she always felt like I kind of gave a shit about her, that I didn’t just see a junkie. It was sweet. She’s real sick now, says she doesn’t have much time left.

You don’t know how you might be affecting things. You might sometimes do a small measure of good. It’s possible.

***

I got called out to the lobby today- in my job when there’s a “dangerous” person causing problems for the lady at the front desk, I’m the one they call. I’m on my way there, ready to go stomp a mud-hole in this guy, but I end up sitting with him in the lobby and in a minute he’s in tears and I’m handing him a box of tissues. He goes out like a lamb, thanking me.

***

You think I’m an exception, but I’m not. And you probably think I’d never be the guy who puts a bunch of bullets into some unarmed kid. But I could be that guy on the news tomorrow.

You just don’t know how things are going to shake out.

***

My Grandma is in the hospital again, fell and broke her hip. Second time in a year. She’s 93. I sat with her a while today, just trying to soak her in, be present, make her laugh a little bit.

I can see the fear in her eyes.

I guess it’s always a shock.

***

I’m glad to be here, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

***

How are you?

***

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