This Sunday at our benefit day, “Living with a Joyful Spirit and a Wise Heart,” Jack and I, and some of our oldest friends on the path, will share the teachings that mean the most to us after a whole lifetime. We will ask a group of master teachers questions about what they have learned to trust, about the deep Dharma experiences that have changed their lives, and what understandings they most they want their students to know.
We will have this dialogue not only to hear the wisdom of these celebrated teachers, but because we want everyone listening to answer the same questions for themselves! Dharma practice invites us to discover what is true for ourselves, to trust the process of inner discovery and to see its connection to the world around us.
From my years of practice, I have learned to trust that my own experience, whether good or bad, when honestly encountered is a doorway into the mystery of being alive. Meditation has brought the confidence to be with all the funky, gnarly experiences of my life, and still take my place at the table of self-compassion and self-respect. When the so-called “barriers and hindrances” to spiritual practice are [...]
During silent meditation retreat, a young man raised his hand after the morning instructions to ask: “What is the nature of mind?” This is a profound question that some of the finest neuroscientists are wracking their brains to explore.
Let me tell you a story from the great 19th century Tibetan yogi, the “enlightened vagabond,” Patrul Rinpoche, who vowed never to sleep indoors. A couple hundred years ago, he and his disciple, Nyoshul Lungtok, were lying down on a hillside. Nyoshul Lungtok had asked Patrul Rinpoche the same question, “What is the nature of mind?” Rinpoche said, “Just come be around me.”
So there they were, 28 years later, relaxing on their backs and looking up at the stars, when they heard dogs barking in the monastery below in the valley. Patrul Rinpoche said, “Do you see the stars?”
“Do you hear the dogs barking in the distance?”
Suddenly Patrul Rinpoche shouted, “THIS IS IT!”
That was Nyoshul Lungtok’s introduction to the nature of mind, the ground of his being. Every moment of awareness, when we’re relaxed and open, this is it – a stream of momentary experiences we call our life. Fleeting, vivid, tragic, joyful, bittersweet life . . . Seeing this, we are [...]
I’m from New England, where these last days of October end our swimming in freshwater ponds. Below the sparkling surface, when you put your foot down on the bottom, you can sink into squishy sludge from the dead leaves and a decomposing ooze enveloping your feet in cool soft muck.
Sometimes air bubbles up from where you’ve stepped into the pond. It can be stinky from decaying organic layer under the fresh, clear water. It’s a bit like releasing a fart; we’re ashamed of creating that bad smell. We want to pretend it’s not ours, looking around innocently at those nearby.
We usually have muck in our lives somewhere, don’t we? We want to ignore, transcend, or pretend it doesn’t exist, hide it. We push it outside of our awareness because it’s … mucky. Yuck.
But when I bring loving awareness to these experiences, I remember the verse offered before each meal in Zen retreats: “May we exist in muddy water, with purity, like the lotus. Thus we bow to life as it is…”
Muddy water – that’s where the lotus, sacred flower of India, grows — its thick stem rising from deep layers of slimy swampy muck at the bottom of a river [...]
My name is Beth Mulligan, and I teach Mindful Eating and MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) and the MBSR Practicum at InsightLA. For the next ten weeks, I am in residential Zen training at Yokoji Zen Mountain Center. For this time, my life has simplified considerably. I have many fewer choices and have noticed something quite striking: the simpler my life is, and the fewer choices I have, the more content and satisfied I am with whatever is here right now.
One area where this stands out is food and eating. We are served three simple meals a day. We offer a verse of gratitude before each meal. We eat in silence, with mindfulness. What’s unusual is that I very rarely experience cravings for any particular food. I’m eating less. I feel peaceful and satisfied with what I eat.
I discovered the power of mindful eating in a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class. During the first class, we learn to eat two or three raisins mindfully. We look at a raisin as if we are exploring this strange object for the first time. We feel the texture, hold the raisin up to the light, smell it, then finally taste it. Many people report [...]
I recently returned from a residential retreat with Buddhist teacher and author, Gil Fronsdal. During our retreat, Gil told a story from the time of the Buddha about a monk who had attained enlightenment. While walking on alms rounds, the monk came to a rushing stream. To avoid getting wet he lifted his robes and unceremoniously pranced across the stones to the other side of the water.
As an aside, Gil explained that monks don’t wear underwear. The other monks were very upset by his behavior and went to the Buddha to complain, “How can this monk act so inappropriately and be an awakened being? There must be some mistake!”
The Buddha explained that there was, in fact, no mistake; the monk was an awakened being who had lived for five hundred previous life times as a monkey. Lifting his robes and dancing across the stream was just the monkey in him coming out.
Whether we believe in past lives or in neuroplasticity, the habits of the mind are strong. Our practice requires patience. When our old patterns arise in spite of our insights, we can remember with compassion the teaching of Korean Zen master Chinul (1158-1210) “sudden awakening and gradual cultivation.” [...]