Category Archives: Teaching

Summer Teaching in NYC by Tulku Lama Lobsang

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A great chance to attend a fascinating teaching in NYC

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TOWARD AN AWAKENED HEART

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I once read a quote that really stayed with me:

“…The conceit of self is challenged and eroded not only by the circumstances of our lives but also by our willingness to meet those circumstances with grace rather than with fear.”

When word spread in the village of a beloved teacher’s failing health and impending death, well wishers gathered to pay their last respects and to honor him. Streams of people extolled his kindness, patience, eloquence and compassion.

The Master listened and smiled weakly as the visitors seemed to go on for hours. Finally, his wife noticed he was growing restless and asked that he be allowed to rest. Turning to her husband, she asked what was bothering him remarking that such wonderful things were being said about him.

“Yes,” he replied “It was all wonderful … But did you notice that no one mentioned my humility?”

The ‘conceit of self’ is said to be the last of the great obstacles on the path to full awakening. Cleverly disguised as humility, empathy, or virtue, conceit can appear as feelings of being worse than, equal to, or better than others. This in turn gives rise to the messy and jumbled world of comparisons, judgements, jealousies and insecurities.

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Hmmm …

Superiority Conceit is easy to grasp: Basically, this is where we consider ourselves better or worthier than others – it builds upon our appearance and achievements.
Who hasn’t (even for a split second) noticed a fellow meditator shifting positions on their cushion as we congratulate ourselves for remaining stoically still?
Or how about that great story we are itching to share, the one that highlights some ‘wonderful’ personal achievement, or quality we possess, only to discover our audience couldn’t be less interested?
In its obvious form conceit displays as arrogance and self-righteousness. There are also more subtle versions such as the immutable belief in our ‘rightness’ – which in turn blocks our ability to receive criticism or to truly listen to another person.

Inferiority Conceit is one everyone can relate to: Feelings of unworthiness, of ‘not being good enough’, which have become a common aspect of our competitive culture.  Oddly this conceit also builds upon our appearance AND the mental laundry list we keep of all the mistakes we have ever made.
This is the domain of envy, resentment, fear and blame … further reinforcing our belief in an ‘imperfect’ self.
Moments of personal progress are ‘mistakes or flukes’, achievements are the prizes of the ‘more perfect’ others.
When we break out of this cycle of self-judgement we develop our self-confidence and can see that each person, in each moment, has an equal possibility for joy, the capacity for compassion, and a potential awakening on their path.

Equality Conceit is not subject to the Goldilocks Principle one would assume: Here we fall into the realm of mediocrity. Why bother? Don’t we all share the same flaws and delusions? There’s a lazy comfort with this outlook, ‘sameness’ means we don’t need to strive toward higher goals alone … “Misery loves Company”.
When we notice that someone falls asleep during a teaching, suddenly we feel better about ourselves because we feel the same way. It’s reassuring to observe ‘apparently’ happier or more successful persons (than ourselves) and to focus on their flaws to somehow justify our own struggles.
Who hasn’t seen the chuckles when a celebrity trips and falls on stage at an awards ceremony?
The downside of this attitude is a constant sense of disappointment and cynicism about human nature.


Conceit perpetuates the dualities of “self” and “others” by taking the stories and identities we build for ourselves and using them as the foundation for how we relate with others and the world.

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To break out of these cycles takes hard work along with the courage to use each ‘conceit’ moment as a chance to practice mindfulness and restraint.

Life can be unpredictable, and as such, gives us many opportunities to practice letting go of control with sprinklings of hardships, illnesses, and other obstacles.

But it’s OK to face the limits of our powers and to let Life happen, because in doing so we learn to cultivate a heart that can unconditionally welcome all things.

Student: “What is the secret to your happiness and equanimity?”

Teacher: “A wholehearted, unrestricted cooperation with the unavoidable.”

This is the Heart of Mindfulness and Compassion.  This is an Awakened Heart.

Morning teaching on the way to the School Bus

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10 yr old – Mom, what’s karma?


Me – Well, if you plant peaches you are always going to get peaches, and if you plant tomatoes you will always get tomatoes.  You can’t plant peaches and wonder why you didn’t get tomatoes, right?  Do you understand what I mean? … Well, karma is kind of that way.


10 yr old – Oh, so if I bother my brothers they’ll bother me back?


Me – Yeah, sort of.  Hey, here’s the bus!


10 yr old – Thanks Mom, that made sense.

 

Whew!

What do You Have to Lose? … A Little Stress?

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Lu Jong is an ancient Tibetan movement practice from the Tantrayana and Bon traditions with origins dating as far back as 8,000 years.  It is a form of Meditation in Motion.

The practice is comprised of a series of body movements done in conjunction with rhythmic breathing for the purpose of self-healing.  With the release of internal blockages and the redirection of stagnant energy within us,  we can develop resistance to disease, mental clarity, and balanced emotions, resulting in a greater harmony of our physical, mental and energetic levels.

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Lu Jong has been transmitted directly from Master to student, to this present day, primarily by means of oral teachings.

Opportunities to learn Lu Jong with a certified teacher are rare, but DO exist for the curious … this week!

http://www.tibethouse.us/programs/full-calendar/view/673792/114

 

 

 

 

Expectations and Adventures in Parenting

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Parenting is one of those skills that is never quite as clear-cut in Reality as in Theory.

 
We all had grandiose ideas about what we would “never do or say when WE became parents”, and all those places where our own parents “didn’t quite get it right” wouldn’t be problems for us.  Hah!

I remember back in the “Pre Chaos & Disposable Income” days of yesteryear, I had a friend who imagined her future child as a well-mannered, mini adult. She described how they would spend intellectually stimulating afternoons at the galleries, dressed in light shades of cream and white linen; finger foods and television would be unheard of, bed times never up for discussions, and she would magically be able to continue her successful legal practice AND be the perfect PTA mom.

 
Yes, I too had my ‘confusions’ … I envisioned ONE little girl to whom I would pass on my knowledge of cooking, knitting, embroidery and globe-trotting.  We would live in the city yet always have our backpacks ready for an adventure.

Well, here we are:  My friend has an athletic, tomboy who excels in engineering, rock climbing, and dirt bikes, and would rather die than be seen wearing a dainty dress for afternoon tea.

And how did things work out for me?  I can’t complain, I have THREE young men (none of whom have any interest in knitting) and I ended up trading the city for a bunch of acres in the country.  I get to have exciting “jaunts” to the supermarket and soccer fields.

loveAs I considered the few things over which I still think I have some control.  I realize that what matters most is the quality of person I bring into the world.  That means instilling core values such as integrity, compassion and mindfulness.

An awareness of how we affect other people, to be respectful of differences, and most importantly to maybe even generate a little happiness when we interact with the world.

Two things I try to inculcate in my sons are the principles of Patience and Non-Stealing.

Patience, as I present it, is an internal practice.

We all fall prey to the need to hit the elevator button a couple of extra measures because it will somehow make it ‘come faster’; and kids have little innate tolerance for long lines at the supermarket (or any other place for that matter).
I take the time to explain that such impatience is not only hard on themselves, gnawing at their insides even when they ‘appear’ to be calm outwardly, but that it is also hard on the people around them.
Bumps in the road will happen, delays are even more frequent, that’s Life – however, we DO have the power to decide how to react to these challenges.  They can choose to be miserable, or calm and serene, but either way the delay will run its course.
I read somewhere that a synonym for “Patience” is “Self-Possession”, I like that … to be in charge of yourself.

What opportunities do I use to illustrate my lesson?

  • I say ask yourself,  “What’s the worst that can happen?” and is it worth the hissy fit you are sharing with the world?
  • If you feel you are behind on your school project, try to look at what you have accomplished instead of grousing about what is yet to be done.
  • In an argument, try to count or take a couple of deep breaths before you let loose your snappy reply – “Engage your brain before your lips”.  I still struggle with this one.
  • And, remember to thank others when they are patient with you.  Try to remember how they make you feel by not grumbling at you, and be a person who can do that for someone else.prayer

Non-Stealing I express as an outward focused practice.

This isn’t the obvious rule about NOT taking physical things or the dangers of relying upon plagiarism to get that school report done on time.  This is a much more subtle teaching about the value of the intangible but equally valuable assets of Time, Energy and Praise.  It’s about showing consideration for someone’s possessions AND needs.
People who are always late, the chronic complainers … the little drips that wear away at the stone.  Who hasn’t experienced these people?

How do I try to inspire some “non-stealing”?

  • I express that debts should be repaid promptly – whether it’s money or a favor, it’s not kind to make people wait for having helped you.
  • Punctuality is always appreciated because it says that you recognize the value of the other person’s time.
  • Be honest when you catch a mistake at the register, give back extra change or the cashier will have to pay for it.
  • Pay attention when someone speaks to you, and be generous without thinking about potential rewards.  Generosity is more than giving money, it is also about giving some of your time or talents.  Generosity is the extreme version of ‘non-stealing’.

I can’t make these teachings lengthy exchanges or their eyes will glaze over, but sprinkled here and there I can only hope that some of these seeds will sprout and then … Victory will be mine!!!

Er, ahem … I meant … they will hopefully carry these lessons forward to their own children.  Whew!

 
Now, if only I could manage to teach them how to knit …

“Meditation is not escaping from life: it is escaping into life.”- Osho

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Right On!!