RESILIENCY – a talk by Cayce Howe
September 24
Details: Some thoughts and reflections on the teachings of Ashin Tejaniya, a contemporary Buddhist teacher of our time.

In these times we need resilience. At all times our spiritual practice calls on us to be resilient. In fact, one can say that resilience is why we practice. How can we be in this world and stay resilient to suffering? There are a few tools that can help us along the way, tools that have been used for centuries.

Romantic Enlightenment
The problem with finding resilience is that we first need to deeply look and “be” with the uncomfortable. The very things that cause us to break down are actually the means for a breakthrough. For this to happen, however, we have to be willing to hold, and to befriend, what may be bringing internal strife.

Many times we want to do this in a safe way. In regards to our practice, this may manifest in configuring the teachings in a way that feels comfortable. This may be in what pieces of reality we choose to sit with, accept, and process. In many ways, we want the romantic version of enlightenment, a sense of freedom along with an egoic safety net.

“Enlightenment” is when we do not need a safety net. We let ourselves freefall. As a sage once said, “the bad news is that you are falling, the good news is that there is no ground.” Trust, faith, and devotion can buoy and support our practice long enough to experience for ourselves this truth.

What is Buddhism?
“Buddhism is a statement of our intrinsic goodness; and the possibility of discovering that intrinsic goodness. This is the simple answer, but complex questions can arise from that. Giving a simple answer is not always that simple. When I use the word goodness, I am not using it in the sense of nicey-nicey goodness, or piety, or sanctity, or holiness – ‘goodness’ here relates to complete value. This goodness is the goodness of freshly baked bread; the goodness of seeing a field of sunflowers; the goodness of birth and death; the goodness of being present. There is a basic goodness, a basic sanity with which we can connect. We have that – we simply need to allow ourselves the non-referential space to find it.”
~ Ngak’chang Rinpoche

The Five Poisons
In Buddhism the term the five poisons points to the five major negative emotions. When looking at resilience and ability to hold what we have an aversion to it is a good practice to look mindfully at these disturbing emotions as they arise. In doing so, one by one, over and over again, we can work with them. We could learn to recognize them upon arising, we can learn to look deeply into their insubstantial characteristics.

Each emotion also has an antidote to cultivate. One piece of the practice is to acknowledge that these negative emotions are empty upon “arising.” The other piece of the practice is to take a negative emotion and drop into its place a positive trait.

We can turn Jealousy into Rejoicing in the good fortune of others.
We can turn Aversion and Anger into Non-Violence and Compassion.
We can turn Attachment into Renunciation.
We can turn Arrogance into Humility and Appreciation.
We can turn Ignorance into Wisdom by being mindful of the suffering caused by wrong action.

Exchanging these negative aspects for positive traits takes practice. On Sunday, we did a formal meditation allowing these negative emotions to arise, after which we took them in and exchanged them for the positive. We can allow ourselves to experience, in a controlled way, the effect that these emotions have, both positive and negative, on our well-being. In addition, we are watering the seeds of our Buddha nature.

Thoughts lead to emotions, which lead to action. Before that, we can speak of intention. Within this chain of reaction, we can cut it short by looking deeply into the emotions. By changing course here, by transforming, by spiritual alchemy, we can move into a habit of resilience. Taking life’s challenges one by one, and growing from them. Each time growing stronger in our faith that either there is nothing substantial harming us, or, as spiritual beings, can we truly be harmed by substantial things.

Relax & Meditate

RELAX & MEDITATE with Wendy Block
Recorded: Sept 17
Details: Some thoughts and reflections on the teachings of Ashin Tejaniya, a contemporary Buddhist teacher of our time. We focused on right effort in our practice and maintaining awareness through daily activities.

If you would like to learn more about these teachings, there are several free downloadable books on the website: I recommend “Don’t Look Down on the Defilements” and “Dharma Everywhere.”

The Presciousness of Impermanence

a talk by Cayce Howe, Sept 10
Details: It is hard to find a teaching that is more freeing than impermanence. Yet, how we get on board with accepting impermanence is the challenge. We will speak of ways to sit with, befriend, and commune with this great all-pervading truth.

We need impermanence. Impermanence is what allows us to grow. Without impermanence there is no possibility of enlightenment. It is only because of impermanence that we have the opportunity to experience the full spectrum of life. The ups and downs, the sadness, the immense joy and exhilaration.

On one hand we have the three defilements of attachment, aversion, and ignorance. On the other side, we have the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. In times of challenges we can use the nature of impermanence to move away from ignorance, away from suffering, and instead use wisdom to move towards happiness and grace. Impermanence is our opportunity to purify the causes of suffering and create new causes of happiness.

When we act out of attachment we realize that there is no way to quench the thirst. When we act out of ill will and aversion there is suffering upon arising. If we do not have Right View and see the world through ignorance, there is no way to freedom.

There is a story of a Native American grandfather walking on a journey with his two grandsons. The grandson tells the story of how hot the journey was and how he lusted after the upcoming river, how the heat of the day baked him to the core and his craving for the cool water was relentless. When the three of them reached the river both of the grandchildren leapt into the water, drinking as they swam. On the water’s edge grandfather was seen praying to the river like he always did. Slowly and patiently reaching down and taking a mouthful of the sacred water. Afterward, one of the grandchildren asked grandfather, “How is it that you are not affected by the heat, so willing to be at ease with such harsh conditions?” The grandfather looked at his grandson with an expression and apprehension that was as if he was not sure the grandchildren were ready to grasp his answer. Finally grandfather uttered “because it is real.” Only when we can become attuned to this reality of ours can we be free from suffering.

We ended the session with a meditation called “Good Enough.” Releasing attachment and aversion is coming into a place of acceptance on how things are, how we are. To counteract grasping mind the meditation of “Good Enough” reminds us that our partner is good enough, our car is good enough, our house is good enough car, our job is good enough. So often we have things that are good enough and yet we have the constant craving for more, for better. But when does the more cease? When is enough enough?

Right now you are enough, I am enough. We have everything that we need here in this moment for Buddhahood to be realized. There is nothing more that needs to be done, everything is in place. This is the realm of impermanence, the realm beyond life and death, beyond enlightenment and non-enlightenment ; and yet it is not a realm at all, it is simply the NOW.

The Preciousness of Impermanence

No Mud, No Lotus

by Cayce Howe

“No mud, No Lotus”, I read on the shirt of a fellow practitioner as she came in the meditation hall. “So true”, I thought. Often times I find myself wanting perfect conditions to practice such as a retreat setting when, in reality, everyday life challenges are where I see most of my growth happening.

I had a chance to visit a dear Tibetan Buddhist friend of mine recently who had taken several empowerments. With his empowerments come daily lifetime commitments. Everyday he is committed to his practice; through all the ups and downs. I asked him about the challenges of having daily practice commitments.

He told me that it gets him closer to the dirt. When life is not going so well instead of not looking at it, he has to. But in going within and looking at it, he is taking the blessings and benefits of the practice with him, and even though it may be challenging the rewards are more than fruitful.

I have done my best to keep up a daily practice for quite a long time now, and it is always something that ebbs and flows. In my most difficult times I have noticed that it has been very difficult to practice; and I have learned that I have suffered more because of it. Because of those life lessons I now tend to lean on my practice in times of need, but my friends’ insight was a valuable one for me to remember.

Our practice is the very thing that can transform whatever hardship we are going through, we just have to trust in it, trust in ourselves and open up to the possibility of love over fear. Then we can turn the mud into the lotus, and grow in our understanding and wisdom.