Happy New Year!
As support for “Upping Your Game,” the practice focus for this year, we are upping our newsletters to two issues a month. At the beginning of the month, we will receive the familiar newsletter with a new section, Everything Is the Buddha. Mid-month there will be a shorter issue entitled Musings.
The objective of this second issue is to explore the principles of practice, to enable us to get really clear on the "how" of this practice. Unless we're attending closely, we can be lulled into receiving the teachings passively, on the surface level of what is being said. But what's being said in this practice is "a finger pointing at the moon," a koan, a practical suggestion for the process of waking up and ending suffering. We might think of it as receiving coded messages. We "up our game" by learning the skill of decoding the messages, intuiting the meaning, looking where the finger points, allowing the moonlight to illuminate the teaching at a new level of "knowing."
When we are in life, the view is very different from when we are behind the veil of conditioning. The teaching is therefore a clue to an "in life" perspective. The teacher offers us that view, inviting us to follow the trail to the place beyond the veil. In shifting our practice from passive receipt to inquiring wonder, we realize that we are in life and the veil has vanished. The transformation happens in the movement and we are left laughing in delight at the sheer magic of the process.
This movement embodies one of the core principles of our practice: the process is the outcome.
So here is a preview of how a principle will be explored in each issue:
Student: Is it important to meditate every day?
Guide: If you want a practice that fits into your life, you can sit however and whenever you want. But, if you want your life to fit a practice, then you sit as if you mean it, as if it's important, as if you care. And there is nothing wrong with either choice.
Principle: The process is the outcome. What you get is what you do. What you practice is what you have.
This principle is an invitation to practice as if we mean it, for the benefit of all sentient beings. It is not a casual exercise but one we do as if our life depends on it—which it does! We sit diligently, with our whole heart in it, realizing it is essential, critical, and that it really matters to this human being. To sit this way requires devotion, dedication, compassionate self-discipline, lovingkindness and an element of selfless service. We don't sit to cultivate this attitude of mind and heart—though it does grow and deepen with time and practice—we sit in this attitude of heart/mind. We are exactly where we need to be to work out our own salvation diligently.
Decoding the mystery messages:
Choose something, anything, and practice it as if you mean it: sitting, washing dishes, eating breakfast, going for a walk, breathing. What is the experience of wholehearted participation in Life living?
Many people experience pain while sitting. This is because they sit on zafus (meditation cushions) that are flat because the kapok used to stuff the cushions has compressed. To sit without pain, make sure that your zafu is stuffed to a height that releases the tension in the back and the hips. Putting your cushion in the sun or near a heater can dry and restore the kapok. If that doesn't do the trick, purchase additional kapok and re-stuff your cushion.