to all beings, everywhere.
May they be at peace.
Never say anything that doesn’t improve on silence.
― Richard Yates, A Good School
What is Right Speech? Refraining from…frivolous speech.
― The Buddha
I have nothing to add.
Place yourself into the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into your life. Then, without effort, you are impelled to truth and to perfect contentment.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
I love Emerson’s suggestion. There are many ways to place oneself into the stream. Yesterday, I did so while painting the inside of a house. Most days, I do so through meditation. And I am deeply content. Even while waiting for insurance authorization of my radiation treatments. Even while bone weary from painting. When I remember that I’m in the stream, as a Zen Buddhist monk once said to me, “I don’t get disturbed.”
I’ve been accepted into a 7-year study and practice program entitled “Gateway: Journey into the Heart of Machig’s Lineage.” This is a reference to Machig Labdron, an 11th Century Tibetan Yogini. I’ve studied some of Machig’s practices before, but what I know is really just the bare beginning.
The teachers are Lama Tsultrim Allione (with whom I’ve been on retreat 3 times so far), Tulku Sang-Ngag Rinpoche, and Khenpo Ugyen Wangchuk. The program includes approximately 2 hours of practice daily and various week-long retreats throughout the years at Tara Mandala in Pagosa Springs, CO. The teachings and practices incorporate what historically would be covered in a 3-year retreat. For us householders who can’t get away for 3 years straight, it’s going to take 7 years. :)
Topics of study include the following:
The program begins in late June with a retreat at Tara Mandala. I’m already preparing by memorizing the various chants I’ll need to know in Tibetan.
May all beings benefit!
My spiritual practice has taken many forms over the years. One thing I’ve learned is that the line between “spiritual” practice and other practices is purely imaginary. Here are the things I’m doing now which I consider parts of my spiritual journey:
It all adds up to 90 minutes per day. I could never do it if I saw these things as tasks or chores. Luckily, I enjoy each part of my routine, even mindfully brewing my tea. And it sure beats watching television. At the end of my life, I may wish that I had meditated more, but I doubt I’ll wish that I had watched more television.
There’s but little breath left
on the boundary of this life and the next.
Now knowing if I’ll here next morning,
why try to trick death
with life-schemes for a permanent future?
~ Milarepa, Drinking the Mountain Stream
This passage really spoke to me when I read it today. I’m currently in treatment for breast cancer, and though my prognosis is good, I’m constantly reminded that I don’t know how long I have left.
Of course, I didn’t know how long I had left before my diagnosis, either.
Still, according to this quote by Milarepa, should I plan for retirement? It’s like the old argument new meditation students often bring up when learning to focus on the present moment. “But if I live in the present, I’ll have nothing in the future!” The solution is simply that sometimes the present moment is the correct time to plan for the future. “What am I doing in this moment? I’m reviewing my 401K.”
More to the point, should I plan for a life after cancer? If so, how far into the future? I think what Milarepa is pointing to is that nothing is permanent, so planning for a permanent future is futile. As they say in the movie Fight Club, “Given a long enough time line, everyone’s survivability drops to zero.”
So I bought a house. The house is already older than I am, and it will outlive me. I think that’s kind of cool. I like the idea that I’m merely one of a series of occupants in the house over the course of its existence. I don’t plan to own the house forever, just as long as I live. That’s impermanence.
I’ll close with this question from Pema Chodron: “Since death is certain, and the time of death is uncertain, what’s the most important thing?”
I’m taking a wonderful course called Awakening Joy. I’m taking the online version, since the live course is in Berkley, CA and I’m at the other end of the state. It’s presented by Buddhist teacher James Baraz, whom I had the pleasure of hearing speak recently at Insight L.A.
One of the many terrific practices James recommends for increasing our happiness “set point” is that of gratitude. There are several ways of increasing our gratefulness: noticing good things when they happen and taking a moment to savor them; keeping a gratitude journal; writing a gratitude letter to someone and then reading it to them.
I’m using both of the first two practices. And recently, I created some accountability for myself by exchanging daily gratitude emails with a dear friend. Wow! I can actually observe my mind moving from a “glass half empty” mentality to a “glass half full” attitude.
It’s been a delightful experience, so I pass it along for what it’s worth. May all beings benefit.