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Samantabhadra

Recap:

This post is part of a 5-week series in relation to the Five Bodhisattvas and a Reflection Group I put together and am part of with a few sangha friends of mine.

Bodhisattva literally means “enlightened being.” The Plum Village chant book defines it as such: One committed to enlightening oneself and others so that all may be liberated from suffering.

In our practice tradition, we are especially urged not to regard the bodhisattva’s as external separate entities but more as qualities in which to actively cultivate within our own self, for the benefit of all beings. While the Bodhisattva’s are mentioned as actual human beings – and disciples of the Buddha – in the sutras, we are encouraged to see them as representing skill-sets and capabilities in which to hone and sharpen in our own life.

We read and reflect on one bodhisattva at a time for one full week and then answer three reflection questions each Sunday, which we email out to the group of participants.

These are the bodhisattvas in the order most commonly encountered in our tradition:

Avalokiteshvara: Bodhi. of Great Compassion
Manjushri: Bodhi. of Great Understanding
Samantabhadra: Bodhi. of Great Action
Kshitigarbha: Bodhi. of Great Aspiration
Sadaparibhuta: Bodhi. of Never Disparaging

This last week was week #3.

Here is the verse, my journal entries, and my answers to our group reflection questions for Samantabhadra:

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We invoke your name, Samantabhadra. We aspire to practice your vow to act with the eyes and heart of compassion, to bring joy to one person in the morning and to ease the pain of one person in the afternoon. We know that the happiness of others is our own happiness, and we aspire to practice joy on the path of service. We know that every word, every look, every action, and every smile can bring happiness to others. We know that if we practice wholeheartedly, we ourselves may become an inexhaustible source of peace and joy for our loved ones and for all species.

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3/20

This is the bodhisattva I resonate with personally the most. This is the bodhisattva of Great Action, and I often refer to myself humorously as a Woman of Action.

There are so many lovely lines in the verse – and I find the especially lovely because I’ve personally encountered and experienced them in my life. I am someone who puts great emphasis on practicing joy on the path of service. And in doing so, I’ve seen firsthand how true it is that the happiness of others is my own happiness; how every word/look/action/smile can bring happiness to others; and how when I practice wholeheartedly, I am able to becomes an inexhaustible source of peace and joy for others.

For me, cultivating joyful-based actions is my highest and most important aspiration on my path of practice. When I set my compass in this direction, I see clearly the ripple effects that occur as a result, everywhere I go.

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Rituals

Immensely inspired by a video interview I watched this morning, as part of a free Wellness Summit happening online right now, entitled: How to Set Yourself Free From Pain & Misery, with Dr. Sean Stephenson, I was called to craft this post focused on my own personal daily rituals.

In Dr. Stephenson’s interview, he said: I have 16 rituals and if I don’t do at least 4 of them every day, my insecurities will eat me alive.

He said a lot more that’s worth mentioning – I took over 5 pages of notes during the 60-minute video! – but there is much greater value for you, my friends, in watching it yourself (click on link above). It is one of the very best mindfulness-based talks I have ever seen.

So rather than using this post to relay all of my notes, I will instead focus on sharing my daily rituals, which isn’t new for me to do here on my blog but has perhaps been a little while since last I did.

 

Nicole’s DAILY Rituals (for Self-Care and Cultivating Ease, Joy, and Solidity)

Waking up early enough to enjoy a period of time connecting with myself, amid the graces of quietude and slowness

Writing (if even only a little bit)

Sitting meditation

Gratitude practice (which I created myself and involves certain verses I say each morning, along with prostrations to the earth)

Saying a connection/gratitude verse before I eat each meal

Watering my seed of joy, with intentional skillful effort

Guarding well my sensory input (TV/films, music, books, magazines, conversations, social media, news…)

Resting (which for me typically comes in the form of taking a nap every day; even on the days I work, as soon as I get home around 4:00, the first thing I do is lay down to take a short nap before preparing dinner)

Maintain consistency with when I eat each meal: breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Wake up at the same time every day (5:00am) and go to bed around the same time each night (between 9-10pm)

 

Nicole’s WEEKLY Rituals (for Self-Care and Cultivating Ease, Joy, and Solidity)

Attend sangha every Monday night

Participate in my self-crafted Mindful Morning Saturday practice

Watch a Dharma talk and/or mindfulness-based teaching video online

Spend time dancing and exercising

Devoting one morning (usually Sundays) to Lazy Morning practice

 

Nicole’s YEARLY Rituals (for Self-Care and Cultivating Ease, Joy, and Solidity)

Attend our two locally held and organized mindfulness retreats with my extended Montana sangha family

Prioritize solo sojourns

Spend extended, concentrated time on personal retreat (or amid other practice-related spells of personal quietude)

Attend local days of mindfulness and special practice events hosted by our sister sanghas as much as possible

 

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Fear of Ego

Sometimes, my fear of ego causes me to shirk back from what I have to offer, much to a detriment. For it’s helpful to no one when I dim my light.

To be clear: developing ego is NOT the same as shining our light. I must come to truly remember this, over and over again. Because I forget. Like, a lot.

There’s a great and powerful balance that can be cultivated. I can be confident and strong without being arrogant and overbearing. These are real elements that can coexist swimmingly together.

Still, my fear of ego often settles in next to me, whispering things like: If you do X, you know it’s going to make person X feel inferior and threatened and If you show up like this ______, you know someone is going to have something to say about it, and it won’t be pleasant.

The thing is: I’m tired of having to reel myself in in an attempt to mitigate another’s discomfort with their own self. I’m tired of dimming my light, pretending as though I’m nothing special. We’re all something special, for pete’s sake; each and every one of us. To deny this – to cover it up – is doing no one any good.

 

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Non-Attachment

In Buddhism, we have teachings centered around non-attachment. But how do we apply this and make sense of it as laypeople – with romantic partners and close friends and kids and family and pet people?

And aren’t we also encouraged – neigh urged – in our particular mindfulness tradition, to take refuge in the sangha? To lean on and lean into our people for love and support, care and connection?

How do we reconcile this paradox?

I think I figured it out. Ready?

I think what it comes down to is that it’s not that we need to love, depend, and rely on our people any less than we are – it’s not that we need to un-attach from them, necessarily. It’s that we need to simultaneously love and depend and rely on our own self too. We need to enjoy and revel in our own company, just as much as we enjoy and revel in the company of our closest people.

Perhaps non-attachment, then, refers to our ability to keep good company with our own self, right alongside of giving mad love to those we adore and cherish when we’re in their company.

 
 

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Sunday Morning Reflections

Self-created meme with a verse I wrote this morning

Sunday morning reflections, penned this morning:

So much unfolds on its own accord, without cause for input or advice. We could pitch a fit and throw it in the direction of so many a thing, but it would be akin to trying to flood the world with a garden hose. Absurd.

How much time is wasted on matters we have no sway over? How much hardship is generated by shirking responsibility over that which is entirely in our own hands and of our own making? On both counts, the answer is: a lot.

The combined daily total of world births and deaths a lot; the amount of times I’ve apologized in my 39 years a lot; the number of stars in the sky a lot.

Remember, a bird has cause to sing and a flower to unfurl each on their own time. If we were to attempt to take over the sun’s job as conductor, the world would be flung to the wolves for rapid devouring.
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My morning writings bear the brush strokes of my current influences. And since right now I am reading Mary Oliver, the grace of birds and flowers are finding their way onto the page.

And this simple exchange gives me ripe pause.

We often think of children as sponges and adults as stubborn, who become more set in their ways as they age. Yet, are we not just as susceptible to input?

Yes.

The answer emphatically is yes.

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Manjushri

We invoke your name, Manjushri. We aspire to learn your way, which is to be still and to look deeply into the heart of things and into the hearts of people. We will look with all our attention and openheartedness. We will look with unprejudiced eyes. We will look without judging or reacting. We will look deeply so that we will be able to see and understand the roots of suffering, the impermanent and selfless nature of all that is. We will practice your way of using the sword of understanding to cut through the bonds of suffering, thus freeing ourselves and other species.

– from the Plum Village Chanting & Recitation book

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3/12

There is similar language in this verse as there was in the last verse on Avalokiteshvara, but instead of saying “listen” it says “look.” This makes sense, as Avalokiteshvara is the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion and Manjushri is the Bodhisattva of Great Understanding. Compassion and understanding are closely related.

Perhaps to listen is with the heart and to look is with the mind. Both parts are necessary to create the whole picture of self, and to come into full relationship with the world.

It’s easy to regard these Bodhisattva verse teachings as pertaining to our actions relating to other people but it’s also important to apply these to our self. When I am able to look at myself with unprejudiced eyes and without judging or reacting, it is only then that I can truly offer those same curtesy’s to others.

How I treat myself inwardly translates directly to how I treat others externally. There is no separation.

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3/14

…the impermanent and selfless nature of all that is. When I am in touch with nature of impermanence and selflessness (which is another way of saying: interbeing), which underpins all of life in every situation, then I am able to see and understand more clearly the roots of my own suffering. Most – if not all – suffering stems from seeing things/people/self as permanent/fixed in place and/or seeing things/people/self as being separate/disconnected entities.

How much time and energy do we expend in wishing that a particular moment was other than as it is?! Probably a lot.

Part of this verse involves a profound understanding of how everything is part of life – nothing and no one is separate. That goes for: bad days, inclement weather, feeling hurt by someone, stubbing our toe, anger, heartbreak, stress, a flat tire, that gal we don’t like who works at our grocery store, that politician we wish weren’t in office, and so on. Using the sword of understanding to cut through the bonds of suffering, involves cultivating the art of full acceptance of what is going on, verses getting caught in wishing things/people to be different to the extent that it causes us to fight against the reality of what’s unfolding around us.

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3/15

To understand deeply means to have insight penetrate through our surface knowings and our intellectual processing. Just as we must get out of our own way in order to listen deeply, we must do the same in order to look deeply.

We must get out of the way of our ego and limiting notions and social constructs of thought, in order to look deeply into the heart of things and into the hearts of people.

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Lessons in Non-duality

For those of you who haven’t read my most recent posts, you may be surprised to know that the picture above (taken yesterday) is of a person (me) who has been home sick for the past 7 days. I haven’t eaten a full meal and have only left the house to fetch the mail since last Friday. I have no appetite and am mostly bed bound, as sitting upright is taxing and uncomfortable after only a short period of time. I even did a short stint in the ER on Saturday, due to having a fever, weakness to the point of not being able to walk on my own, and belly pain.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I think this is a pretty good real-life example of what the heck the teachings of non-duality are all about.

It’s easy to look at this pic of me and think I look totally healthy and without cause for hardship. It’s easy to look at this pic and be totally surprised to find out that I’m barely able to get out of bed. We all get caught in dualistic thinking on the daily. Meaning, we don’t think two things can operate at the same time. Things either have to be this way OR that way. That’s what dualistic thinking is all about.

Non-dualistic thinking, on the other hand, involves being able to hold two seemingly opposing realities at the same time, allowing them to co-exist together as two parts of the same reality.

In this case, being able to accept and rest in a state of non-duality equates to seeing that both of these things are true: I am sick and not feeling physically well AND I’m able to smile brightly and keep a positive outlook and attitude. I am both sick and happy at the same time!

The more able we are to sit with ease in relation to life’s many paradoxes, the more content we will be as a result. The more we fight against them or attempt to figure them out intellectually, the more we will suffer.

It’s like two of my very favorite teachings say:

 

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