Align - Love - Thrive
Our heart team proudly curates a set of teachings, practices and information each month and season to help you live a life of balance, alignment and connection: Yoga! Click through regularly to explore, learn and grow on the path.
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I wish to begin by thanking you for another awe-inspiring year together. The Sangha is not unlike a range of snow-covered mountains reflecting the sunlight of wisdom and compassion with the purity of noble intentions. Together we are reminded that we can pour real meaning into our lives. The practice, the texts, the ceremony, and all of the quiet moments in between support us to observe from a more stable and clear-seeing body-mind, getting us more directly in touch with each other and our own lived experiences.
We inquire, "what is this life all about and how do I live it meaningfully?" It takes curiosity and bravery to ask how the teachings apply to each of us personally and how they can come alive in our daily lives. It really comes down to our living attitude. So, if a kind and good heart is what you're after, then a kind and good heart is the place from which you must aspire to live. Living bodhichitta or good-heartedness is made reality in the way we live out what is ordinary: how we clean our homes, how we eat, how we converse with others, how we handle objects or open doors... The Buddha taught bodhichitta as the most basic principle for carrying out our greater aspiration (personal and universal) to be clear-seeing, happy and free from unnecessary difficulty - enlightenment.
From this perspective, the ordinary is quite extraordinary. What's more extraordinary is knowing that bodhichitta or good-heartedness is basic to our nature. Furthermore, this gift of great fortune is also something that we can cultivate and grow. Like tending to a garden with care, we can watch things blossom each time we extend honor to who we are and how we're showing up; every time we extend gratitude to being, breathing, living and loving to the best of our knowing and ability. Possibilities are as limitless, as there are different types of people, and all paths lead to one.
Expanding our capacity for bodhichitta is quite simple and proves to be beneficial not just for you but everyone. The Buddha provided three excellences to be woven into our training (literally sitting practice or any mindful activity). A living attitude of goodness requires the beginning, the middle and the end.
The beginning: Each morning, upon waking, begin the day with a noble thought. While there are countless options, I personally call upon the loving-kindness or metta prayer. "May all living beings be at ease... may they not suffer. May my actions, words, and thoughts contribute to the wellbeing, happiness and liberation of all." It's a beautiful, very simple and direct way to welcome the rising of the sun, to care for others, and to melt away ego, grasping & worry. Plus, it all makes sitting (and coffee) that much better. Spending time with bodhichitta is where it all begins. Think of the very real ways that goodness occurs in everyday life and then zoom out, taking the perspective of the sun, gazing upon our harmonious jewel of a planet.
The middle: With the aid of a good-heart we can now directly partake in this living attitude in a way that can ground and orient us. We can imagine a large group of noble-hearted people, all caring for self and others with wisdom and capability. Bodhichitta draws us closer to one another, into the sangha of Buddha. This is what is meant by taking refuge. Taking refuge in this way helps us to just sit and recognize that 1) it is possible to remain calm, 2) it is possible to see clearly, 3) it is possible to remain open, alert, caring and to be strong, responsive and kind. Right there on the spot, you touch the truth.
The end: Insert another good-hearted wish or dedication that our aspirations and living attitude (in the greater numbers of sangha) of stability, clarity, caring and strength come to help others. May our aspirations continue as we try our best to not harm, to be helpful and to rein in selfish tendencies.
These last 2 months we have begun to study the Prajñāpāramitā, the heart of perfect understanding. We continue in December by looking at another valuable piece of the broader text, entitled Vajracchedikā or the Diamond Sutra. These texts are meant to be read together as the Heart sheds light on personal liberation and the Diamond on universal liberation. A suggestion that you read the Diamond sutra via Plum Village by clicking HERE.
The Diamond Sutra (300 lines) continues the central theme of the Heart Sutra (25 lines) by way of connecting personal liberation to universal liberation. Here we observe a dialogue between the Buddha and Subhuti, one of his senior disciples. In the opening exchange, Subhuti asks the Buddha how to set forth on the path of bodhichitta and the bodhisattvas path. In his answer, the Buddha applies the wisdom of emptiness (no separate self) via two themes of high priority which is, to liberate others and to perfect the wisdom of giving. He further replies, "however many beings there are, in whatever realms they might exist, in the realm of complete Nirvana I should liberate them all…" The Dalai Lama, in his humor, smiles at this incredible project and with a chuckle simply says, "no rush!" While it may seem impossible to support all beings we can agree that the desire to help is real. Helping someone in need is more a spontaneous reaction than you might think.
That said, it's not perfect. We are human, our experiences are layered, we feel things and we require access to energy. This is where motivation is helpful and why vows are a common tool in the practice. I have been taking vows for years because I have no doubt about being human. The vow recognizes that my desire to help occurs in percentages depending upon circumstances, feelings, resource, etc. Reality requires grace. Vows point to the basic wish of living from a good heart: may all beings be happy and free from needless suffering. To desire such a thing is pure and boundless. There are no limits to the size of the wish or to the outcomes of that wish. There are no rules on how I can decide to do it and there is recognition that I must do so within my own capacity. No one benefits if I stretch myself so thin that I can no longer be effective. How much good can I actually bring to my neighbors or the planet if I am completely depleted?
The sutra gets more fun... after the Buddha encourages the bodhisattva's path, he continues by saying... "and though I thus liberate countless beings, not a single being is liberated, and why not Subhuti? A bodhisattva who creates a perception of a being cannot be called a bodhisattva, and why not, no-one can be called a bodhisattva who creates a perception of the self, who creates a perception of a being, a life or a soul." Here the Buddha checks the ego. The diamond is cutting through the trap of becoming a "rescuer". A rescuer is someone who disrupts growth and learning by taking responsibility for another person in some inappropriately zealous way, and this often involves competing with other 'rescuers' to be the special helper in the lives of others. Rescuing can be scaled up to become a mission to save everyone, a "savior complex". This is not the living attitude of bodhichitta since it tends to produce resentment and grudges about the ingratitude of others. Falling into this trap of separateness leads to perfectionism, disappointment, guilt and delusions of control... to the lack of benefit to all.
The Buddha said there is no separate self, no separate being, no separate life. This means there is no separate self who is giving rise to the thought of liberating all beings. In practicing according to the Diamond Sutra, we repeatedly set the notion of separate self to one side, knowing that there is no separate self to help and no separate being to be helped, no separate life to be saved, no separate soul to be rescued and therefore no function for a savior.
Anyone can be a bodhisattva so long as they try their best to dispel ego; to live with wisdom and generosity. Apply the wisdom of no separate self (emptiness) by giving freely and without attachment. When greed arises, give through material generosity, food, medicine and so on. When hate arises, give kindness, protection, and listen completely. When delusion arises, take refuge by seeking sangha, guidance and support - dissolve the illusion of separateness. We are one.
A bountiful, easeful and loving holiday to you all!
With noble heart,
Shastri Meg Lucks / Konchok Dzeden Zangmo
PS: Thanks to all of you who have donated to our community Warmer Together drive for Project Concern - offering continues through Dec 21st. Also, thanks to all who have voted for us as a finalist for The Shepherd's Best Of MKE- we are grateful to be in such good-hearted company.
PPS: This newsletter is LONG. Suggestion to open it up within a browser so as not to miss anything!
December 2023: Bodhichitta
November 2023: Prajnaparamita2
October 2023: Prajnaparamita
September 2023: Om Mani Padme Hum
August 2023: Mahamrtyunjaya
July 2023: Gayatri
June 2023: Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
May 2023: Om Santih, Santih, Santih
April 2023: Om Gam Ganapatye Namaha
March 2023: Om Purnam Adah, Purnam Idam
February 2023: Om Namah Shivaya
January 2023: Sat Nam
December 2022: Self-love as Dharma
November 2022: Practice is the Antidote
October 2022: Happiness is the Path
September 2022: Taking Your Seat
August 2022: A Crowded Mind Leaves no Space for a Peaceful Heart
July 2022: Yoga is the Journey of the Self...
June 2022: Practice and All is Coming
May 2022: The Altruistic Intention
April 2022: Being Mudra
March 2022: Receptive Listening
February 2022: There is No Enlightenment Outside of Daily Life
January 2022: The Source of a True Smile is an Awakened Mind
December 2021: The Practice of Touching the Earth
November 2021: Rejuvenation: Nourish Your Entire Being
October 2021: Contemplative Interbeing
September 2021: The Nobility of Silence
August 2021: Dissolve Your Fixation with Self
July 2021: Let's Linger
June 2021: I am in the Flow of the Universe
May 2021: Lighten Up
April 2021: We Travel the Path in Good Company
March 2021: Om Mani Padme HumM
February 2021: Embodied Dharma
January 2021: "Everything can be a 'that'; everything can be a 'this' "
December 2020: I Am a Sanctuary
November 2020: In the One is The All
October 2020: Ready, Set, Rest
September 2020: Attract Beauty Today, Create Tomorrow
August 2020: Refuge in One and blogging by the sangha
July 2020: Awaken Your Voice
June 2020: The Spirit of Sangha
May 2020: Just as You Are
April 2020: The Next Buddha is Sangha
March 2020: You and I Are Essentially Infinite and blogging bits by Heather Kolvenbach
January 2020: I am
December 2019: Give the Gift of Presence
November 2019: We are All Royalty by Roy Grant
October 2019: Rekindle the Heart
September 2019: Where Your Intention Goes, Energy Flows
August 2019: Come Home & Be Anywhere
July 2019: Paradise is Now
June 2019: Let Peace Be Your Superpower
May 2019: Play is our Pathway to Possibility
April 2019: Give Yourself Room to Bloom
March 2019: Living Your Highest Truth
February 2019: Out of Love, Our Path Can Lead us to Serve
January 2019: True Belonging is the Spiritual Practice of believing in and belonging to yourself...