The Choppy Seas of Conversation
Like surfing, staying present is always a challenge, but doing it while interacting with others tends to be like managing in choppy, cross-current seas. We have not only our own thoughts and impulses to contend with but also those of our conversational partners. So if we can stay present and compassionate when, say, a coworker is kvetching, odds are we can do it anytime.
Welcome to the Revolution
The Buddha was a revolutionary, a radical advocate for personal and social transformation. He rejected the religious forms of his time and renounced all forms of greed, hatred, and delusion. He dedicated his life to going “against the stream,” to the subversive path of an outlaw transient. He wasn’t afraid to speak out against the ignorance in this world’s political, social, and religious structures, but he did so from a place of love and kindness, from an enlightened compassion that extended to all living beings. The Buddha’s teachings are not a philosophy or a religion; they are a call to action, an invitation to revolution.
When the clarity of practice becomes obscured by the dark and swirling energy of emotional distress, it is useful to have some clear and concise reminders to bring us back to reality. The first reminder is to awaken aspiration. On an elementary level, to awaken aspiration means simply that we remember to practice. Once we remember to practice, to awaken aspiration means that we see our particular distress as our path. Instead of seeing our distress as the enemy, as something to get rid of; instead of giving it juice by solidifying the thoughts around it into the heaviness and drama of “me,” we learn to view distress as our opportunity to see and to open.
We Will Our Lives
We will our lives with activities. Many of them are really very good activities but if we are not careful, they can just be an escape. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do good and necessary things, but there has to be breathing in as well as breathing out. We need to have both the active and the contemplative.
The Controlling Faculties of Mind
Acquiring skillful attitudes involves developing two qualities: continuity of awareness and insight knowledge, which is the progressively refined intuitive understanding of impermanence (anicca), unsatisfactoriness (dukkha), and conditionality (anatta). Stabilizing the mind and refining wisdom are the natural results of developing faith, energy, and awareness through insight practice. These five qualities togetherfaith, energy, awareness, stability of mind, and wisdomare known as the controlling faculties of mind.
Sangha is Essential
Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are three precious jewels in Buddhism, and the most important of these is Sangha. The Sangha contains the Buddha and the Dharma. A good teacher is important, but sisters and brothers in the practice are the main ingredient for success. You cannot achieve enlightenment by locking yourself in your room. Transformation is possible only when you are in touch. When you touch the ground, you can feel the stability of the earth and feel confident.
The Importance of Giving
Giving needs to be practiced and developed because our underlying tendency toward attachment, aversion, and confusion so often interferes with a truly selfless act of generosity. An act of giving is of most benefit when one gives something of value, carefully, with ones own hand, while showing respect, and with a view that something wholesome will come of it. The same is true when one gives out of faith, respectfully, at the right time, with a generous heart, and without causing denigration.