Learning to Step Back


The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Art of Dispelling Anger”

I study sentient beings.  I must have done it in another life, because as a child I knew this. I sort of woke up from my childhood knowing that all beings are suffering. And I understood somehow that it was a spiritual thing and that they needed love. No matter what it looked like, they needed love. That was as a child; as a child I understood that. Now as a woman and a practitioner, I understand what the Buddha has taught and it’s the same. And I understand that my fervent prayer is that should I leave a footstep in this world, it will be a living display of the bodhicitta through my students, through any works that I might do. That’s what I care about. And each one of us should participate in that dream. If you are really my student, then you must care. We should all care to advance the aspirations of our teacher. That’s part of Vajrayana. We may not individually have the power to give rise to a stupa or to give rise to an ordained Sangha, but we are part of that and we should take responsibility for making that dream come true. My dream is love. It is bodhicitta. Temporary love. Feed the birds. Feed people. Feed somebody that’s hungry. I feed everything that moves. If there was sputum in a jelly dish and I could prove that it needed food, I would feed it. This is how I am. I am crazy with it.

And then, you know, beyond that recognize them because they’ll never recognize themselves without a little help. Recognize them as being Buddha. Know that they are suffering because they don’t know what to do—not because they want to suffer—and do what you can to give rise to compassion. Make it a commitment. Disallow those rage things. Disallow that anger that we have to have when we have to go and punch a wall or something like that.

The way to do that is to get a little space from that. No suppression. We don’t like suppression. Suppression is bad. It makes us all crazy, and we’re crazy enough. You work it, you work it, you work it. The rage that we have, step back from it. The way you step back from it is you question yourself. And there are two different ways you can do it. You can do it the good old American way or you can do it the Buddhist way. The good old American way works too. You can say, ‘Now what’s really making me mad here?  Do I really mean what I am saying about this person?’ You can sort of take a step back and analyze it a little bit. Just look at it sort of cool, calm and collected if you can. I mean, you let yourself go back to your rage if you need to, but step back and tell yourself you can go back to the rage if you need to. But if you really do well and you think it through, you won’t. The rage will be gone because your understanding will have come up and your mind will be smoother. The mind gets inflamed like an arthritic joint, like with rheumatoid arthritis. It’s kind of like that. The mind gets inflamed.  The more we are emotional, up and down, up and down, and full of hatred, and judgmental and gossipy and stuff like that, the more inflamed the mind gets, the more unhappy we get and the more we blame other people for it, and the more unhappy we get and the more inflamed we get. That is the cycle of samsaric existence.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Warriorship on the Path


The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Art of Dispelling Anger”

The theme that we will work on today is working through one’s five poisons. I think it’s an important one. And I think what we should do is take our time and pick through it.  That doesn’t mean working through one’s five poisons.  That means getting rid of them.  In a sense when we take to the path, we think that, ‘Oh, I am going to be like the picture of the Buddhist where I get to sit on top of the Himalayan Mountains somewhere all by myself, and eventually people will climb up and ask me profound questions.’  But it really doesn’t work out like that.  When we enter upon the path we want to go forward with the most exotic practices and wear the most exotic robes and collect all the implements and learn how to use them.  I know there is the tendency to want to get into the customs and trappings and surroundings of Dharma. But really the first thing that should be done when we enter onto the path is to take hold of and begin to think of ourselves as a warrior regarding our own poisons.

Now when we say “warrior” everybody thinks they can’t be very Buddhist, because Buddhists are peaceful.  Well, Buddhists are peaceful.  We’ve never had a war that I know of.  We’ve been attacked, but we’ve never had a war.  There is no other religion that can say that.  Every other religion has brought about war and that has never happened in Buddhism. Yet we are warriors. And we consider ourselves warriors in the sense that we must take to task that which prevents us from attaining liberation, because the goals here are very different.  In other religions, there are lots of materialistic ideas about possessions, like how much land a certain religion should have or how many pieces of gold they should collect.  There is a certain materialism in it.  But with Buddhism, there is really no materialism.  In truth, students will give their last dime to make an offering to the three precious jewels.  There are many stories of practitioners whose generosity and unthinking faith—no, not unthinking, more like spontaneous faith—is so strong that they would offer even their last garment at the altar to give to the three precious jewels knowing that it is so much more important to gather the merit of making that kind of offering. That it is important to have done it.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Good or Bad?


The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Habit of Bodhicitta”

The problem there is not that you’re a good person or a bad person. Good or bad has nothing to do with this. And you should not do the next step, which is what everyone does, to evaluate themselves accordingly. Here’s what you have to get. We are all sentient beings and we are all exactly in the same position. If you think of yourself as better or holier than someone else, believe me when I tell you, you’re going to suffer because of it. And the reason why is because if that’s true, then someone else is going to better or holier than you. That is the truth. So that is not a game that you should play.

You should realize the absolute sameness of the condition of all sentient beings. It is not a question of good or bad. It is a question of habit. Period. End of sentence. Do you hear that? That is so important. Because in hearing that, you have a key that you didn’t have before. If you think that you are either good or bad, there is no way out of that. If you accept that idea, you are going to find reasons why you are good or bad. And believe me, if you are operating in the good or bad realm, you are going to come out bad, because there is always going to be something better than you. So if you are playing that game, you are going to lose. There is no way to win there. You’ll find reasons for why you are bad. You’ll find reasons in your childhood; your parents will give you reasons; your uncles will give you reasons; people around you will give you reasons. And your badness will continue in your mind.

So we have to work very hard to shift the emphasis from the idea of good or bad, better or worse, into the position of examining habit patterns or habitual tendencies. We already have habitual tendencies. We just have to examine them.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved


Protecting And Maintaining Bodhicitta: from “The Way of the Bodhisattva”

The following is respectfully quoted from “The Way of the Bodhisattva” by Shantideva as translated by the Padmakara Translation Group and published by Shambhala:

Protecting And Maintaining Bodhichitta:

That the original resolve of bodhichitta needs consolidation becomes evident from the very first stanzas of chapter 4, where Shāntideva takes stock of what he has just done and begins to count the cost. The undertaking to which he has committed himself in a moment of optimistic zeal is devastating. Hesitation is understandable. However, in view of the alternatives, and in order to stiffen his resolve, Shāntideva embarks on a graphic description of the dreadful consequences of retraction. As alway, the aim is pedagogical. Shāntideva is no tub-thumping preacher content merely to terrorize his listeners. The situation as he describes it is certainly grim, but he shows the way out and in so doing plots out a scheme of mental training that, for its spiritual profundity and psychological acuity, has rarely been equaled and surely never surpassed anywhere or at any time in the history of the world’s religions.

The first message is that, however immense the goal may seem, it is possible–provided that we want it and make the necessary effort. We can learn to be free and to become buddhas. Moreover, Shāntideva points out that having attained a human existence, we are at a crossroads; we have reached a critical point. According to Buddhism, human life, at once so precious and so fragile, is the existential opportunity par excellence. Of all forms of existence, it is the only one in which development along a spiritual trajectory is truly possible. And yet the occasion is easily, in fact habitually, squandered in trivial pursuits. Time passes and we “measure our lives in coffee spoons.” Perceiving the nature of the opportunity, and realizing how it is slipping through his fingers, Shāntideva responds with almost a note of panic.

For it’s as if by chance that I have gained
This state so hard to find, wherein to help myself.
And now, when freedom–power of choice–is mine,
If once again I’m led away to hell,

I am as if benumbed by sorcery,
My mind reduced to total impotence
With no perception of the madness overwhelming me.
O what it is that has me in its grip? (4.26-27)

This situation is certainly perilous, but what is it that constitutes the danger? It is the kleshas, defiled emotions: “Anger, lust–these enemies of mine.” These are the roots of sorrow, to which every suffering be it on a personal or cosmic scale, can ultimately be traced. And yet the kleshas, however terrible they may be in their effects, are nothing more than thoughts: intangible, fleeting mental states. To become aware of this fact, and to see therefore that our destiny lies in the way we are able to order the workings of our minds, is the theme of the fourth chapter. How is it, Shāntideva asks, that mere thoughts can cause so much havoc? The answer is simply that we allow them to do so. “I it is who welcome them within my heart.” With these words, the battle lines are drawn. The enemy is the afflictions, the thoughts of pride, anger, lust, jealousy, and the rest. The arena is the mind itself. Shāntideva steels himself for the fray, giving himself confidence by stimulating his own very characteristic of Shāntideva’s pragmatic approach–a sort of psychological homeopathy, in which an attitude normally considered a defilement is consciously and strenuously adopted as an antidote to the defilement itself. The theme is developed at greater length later on in the book, but for the time being, chapter 4 concludes on a ringing note of aggression. Emotional defilements are the enemy; they must be destroyed. “This shall be may all-consuming passion; filled with rancor I will wage my war!” Paradoxically, the conflict need not been an arduous one. Thoughts after all are merely thoughts. Through analysis and skill, they can be easily eliminated. Once scattered by the eye of wisdom and driven from the mind, they are by definition totally destroyed. And yet Shāntideva reflects, with sentiments that must go to the heart of every would-be disciple: “But oh–my mind is feeble. I am indolent!”

Once it is clear, however, that the problem lies in the mind itself, or rather in the emotions that arise there, the simple but difficult task is to become aware of how thoughts emerge and develop. This is the theme of the fifth chapter, on vigilance. Again, we find the same note of practical optimism. Just as the mind is the source of every suffering, likewise it is the wellspring of every joy. And once again, the good news is that the mind can be controlled and trained.

If, with mindfulness’ rope,
The elephant of the mind is tethered all around,
Our fears will come to nothing,
Every virtue drop into our hands.

Pulling the Threads: Hope, Fear and Stabilizing the Mind

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Mindfulness of Cyclic Existence”

The subject of this teaching is the difficulty that Westerners have in coming to grips with some of the concepts that are foundational to Buddhism. They are so foundational as to be almost invisible at times. Yet the concepts are difficult for us because we have our own concepts and philosophies that argue against these that are also so foundational that they are practically invisible. They are so much a part of the fabric of our perception and our thinking that we often don’t realize these thoughts are affecting us deeply.

What happens is that when we try to get a grip on Buddhist philosophy, or when we try to become mindful in a constant way, we find that there is difficulty. We may not understand what that difficulty is, or we may find that even without our knowing we have a very superficial understanding of Buddhist concepts, or we may find that we feel there is some superficiality about our approach to the path. Yet we can’t seem to get a grip on it.  We can’t seem to understand what it is that is bothering us.

I think that this particular subject is not only of importance to Buddhists, or to those that are even thinking about becoming Buddhists, or even to those that are peripherally Buddhists, but I also think it’s a subject that bears recognition by anyone who does any meditation of any kind.

In Buddhist philosophy, a tremendous amount of thought and energy goes into making one understand how to stabilize the mind. In fact, if you could boil down Buddhist philosophy, and even Buddhist practice, the underlying goal would be how to stabilize the mind. It’s a difficult concept to understand because we as Westerners and Americans have our particular idea of what stabilizing the mind must be like. In one way, we could understand stabilizing the mind by understanding the opposite. We think of a person who is unstable as being mentally deranged or something like that. We don’t realize that most ordinary people, according to Buddhist thought, have unstable minds. We don’t realize that this is actually one of the symptoms or conditions that is prevalent in what Buddhists call samsara, or cyclic existence. But in fact this is true, and we must learn to recognize the lack of stability in our own minds.

One of the first ways in which that lack of stability is addressed is by addressing the attachment or the attraction that we have, or even the grasping that we have, toward hope and fear. This is something that you hear about again and again and again in the Buddha’s teaching: how attached we are to hope and fear, how difficult hope and fear are, and how these things lead to an unstable mind. It’s very hard for Westerners to understand. I would like to describe some of the Buddhist thought on the attachment to hope and fear, but more I would like to concentrate on why it is that Westerners have such a difficult time with this concept. If we can understand why we have such a difficult time with it, we may understand that in one way we have never really isolated the ideas of hope and fear, put them out in front of us so that we can really examine how much a part of the fabric of our minds these concepts are.

As a Westerner, there is actually an underlying – and even, I think, overt attitude – that is considered to be admirable or noble. We certainly have our particular norms, our own particular standards, our own particular attitudes that are unique to the Western world and specifically unique to Americans. Without going to the trouble of isolating all of them, I’d like to say that we have a certain picture or image that we’ve grown up with. Of course, it changes from generation to generation, but until very recently not that much. Still, there are some threads that continue generation to generation. We have our own particular image, our own particular ideal. What usually happens is if we grow up with an image or an ideal, it becomes so much a part of us, so ingrained, so woven into our particular emotional and mental and philosophical tapestry, that we don’t notice it, in the same way that you might look at a woven blanket and see a certain array of colors within the blanket. You really wouldn’t pick out the pink in there or the blue, or really isolate them in that way. In the same way, we have attitudes that are woven in. They are part of our structure. Therefore, they are never pulled out. The thread is never pulled out, never really isolated. Hope and fear certainly are in there, and our particular attitude toward hope and fear, as a Westerner, should be examined. When looked at next to the Buddhist ideas about hope and fear, we might come to some shocking awareness.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Mindfulness: Letting Go of Reaction

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Stabilizing the Mind”

If you can get to a place of natural awareness, you can remain mindful in a way that isn’t really describable in words.  You can begin to sense a little bit of space between the calm, natural awareness and the reaction that you have quite automatically, instantaneously.  It’s really necessary to develop the skill of sensing that little bit of space, because your tendency is to run off and react to every thought that you have. Just look at what you’re doing in your mind right now.  What are your thoughts?  You’re reacting.  Everything is a reaction, and you’re floating on it.  You’re up and down with it all the time.

If you can just begin to sense a little bit of space between that natural awareness and the reaction, you can begin to have the skill to not be so at the mercy of the conceptual proliferations of your mind.  That little bit of space is exactly what you need to begin to disengage the ego, to begin to disengage desire.  You need space in your mind to meditate even on the problems that desire brings up for you.  You have to have some space in your mind to meditate on true nature.  You have to have some space in your mind to meditate on emptiness.  That kind of space can be developed all the time.  If you practice in that way constantly, or at least as often as you are able, to remain mindful, and increase that mindfulness and increase that kind of practice, you’ll find yourself doing it more and more naturally.

But don’t try to keep yourself locked up.  That’ll make you crazy.  That is not a solution.  You make yourself crazy when you say, “I’m not going to be happy now.  I’m not going to be unhappy now.  I’m not going to follow my mind around the block.  I’m not going to do that.”  Really, that is not a good solution.  If you practice the spaciousness in your mind in the gentle way I have just described, you’ll begin to be able to be more mindful and more aware of the validity of the Buddha’s teaching.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Spaciousness: The Foundation of Practice

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Stabilizing the Mind”

If you are romantically involved with Dharma, then you have developed no space in your mind and you will be constantly up and down, skating on your own dramatics with no stability in the mind.  And you are completely at the mercy of suffering.  Where there is no space, there is nowhere to go.  There’s no quiet place where you can rest.  You are either going to be suffering or feeling exhilarated — an intensity of a different kind.  Ultimately it’s all suffering.  You’re going to be into the intensity with no spaciousness in your mind.  You’ll be stuck there with nowhere to go.  You just ride on your emotions.  If you have not developed spaciousness in your mind, you are the victim of the highs and lows and the mind’s conceptual proliferations.  For example, you’re completely at the mercy of pain.  Have you ever had really intense pain?  It can make you lose all awareness.  It’s unbelievable.  You just lose consciousness, and it’s because there’s no space in your mind.  Pain is a concept; it’s something in your mind.

You are completely at the mercy of emotionalism of all kind, and you know that of yourself.  You follow your emotions constantly.  They’ve been high, and they’ve been low.  They’ve been big, and they’ve been small.  They’ve been in, and they’ve been out.  Have your emotions ever made you happy for a long time?  Have your emotions ever been dependable companions?  They never have if you really think about it.

So if you develop spaciousness, you have at least a fighting chance, if you will excuse the phrase, to begin to practice in such a way that your mind has some potential for liberation.  In other words, there’s a little spaciousness in which you can practice.  It’s very, very important for you to try to do that.  If you develop a little bit of space, you can start building up these bricks of the Buddha’s teaching.  You can evaluate the teachings for yourself.  From that calm place, from that place behind all of the concepts, you can see that following the mind leads to no happiness.  You can see that desire is the cause of suffering.  You can sense the potential for enlightenment or at least for disengaging from that phenomenon that you are so involved in.  You can sense that there is something behind all of your concepts that’s very profound.  You can begin to build the solid blocks that are necessary in order to follow the Buddha’s path until you achieve supreme enlightenment.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

How to Practice Mindfulness During All Activities

An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Stabilizing the Mind”

While you’re practicing you have to find a way to stabilize your mind.  I cannot emphasize mindfulness enough.  It is what will result in a stabilized mind.  One of the best things that you can do, no matter what experience you’re having – whether you’re getting excited about something new that you bought, some new project that you’re doing, some new idea that you’ve been presented with, some new relationship that you have, or depressed about the loss of any of these things, whether you’re having a high or low experience – ask yourself in the midst of that circumstance, “Who is the taster here?”

When His Holiness Penor Rinpoche was giving the Rinchen Terzod, he gave us lemon juice and then honey, and he asked, “Who is the taster? Who says one is sweet and one is bitter?  What is the meaning of this taste?  How does taste come about?” It is important to remember that taste is a perceptual thing.

You should practice this type of mindfulness when you’re feeling intense emotion of any kind – whether great joy, great sorrow, great pain, great physical pleasure, even during sexual activity, during any of those intense experiences that run the gamut of human emotion.  Center into a natural awareness.  A good way to do that would be, for instance, to just watch your breath with gentle attention.  It’s not forceful; don’t go, “OK, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in…”  It isn’t like that.  It’s a gentle, nonintrusive, passive attention on the breath, a light awareness.  Just lightly watch the breath for a few moments, and let that be what you’re doing right then.  Then observe, while you’re breathing,  “Who is the watcher?”  Observe the natural awareness that occurs when you just gently watch your breath.  Try to sense that natural awareness.

If you really ask yourself the question, “Who is watching the breath?”  then your mind is going to come right back at you and say, “I am.”  Then you have to play the game with your mind that goes, “Who is I?”  And you get sort of tense about that.  So you don’t want to really ask yourself who is the watcher.  There will be a sense of peeling away layers until you get to a place of pure awareness.

What you want to do is to gently sense the watcher without forming any conceptualization about it.  Just sense and go behind the concept.  If you gently observe what you are doing, you have a concept about the watcher.  Go behind that concept and sense behind that.  And if you develop another concept about the watcher, go behind that, gently, gently, gently.  You can practice this technique quite naturally while you’re typing or doing anything.

It’s also good to use this technique in meditation, but there are more formal techniques that you can use at that time.  This is a good, ordinary technique that you can use while you’re doing anything – while you’re listening to music, while you’re thinking, “I’m having a good practice” or “I’m having a bad practice” or whatever it is that you’re reacting to.  Take yourself out of the realm of reaction and watch the breath.  Just concentrate on your breathing for some time with light attention and go behind the concepts one after another until you have somehow gotten gently behind or underneath all of the concepts that you have about who the watcher is, until you get to a place of natural awareness where there isn’t so much the question of who the watcher is.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Right Mindfulness

An excerpt from a teaching called the Eightfold Path by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Right mindfulness has to do with cognition.  Everybody perceives.  We all have perception.  If you took any two people and asked them what their perception of a certain situation was, or even to describe a certain situation, it would be radically different.  And it’s not that they remember differently, it’s that they saw differently.  That’s the interesting thing.  The cognitive process begins with the impact of phenomena and how it meets our habitual tendencies.  It’s that meeting which is our perception.  If we were able to perceive something, such as a person, without moving forward in cognition and having opinions, and concepts and ideas about that person, life would be beautiful.  If we could just meet each other metaphysically naked and accept one another and let it go at that without hatred, greed or ignorance. Oh mani pedma hung.  What a wonderful world that would be.

But that’s not our habit.  Our habit is that when we see a person, we decide, “I don’t like what he’s wearing.  That’s not my color.  I don’t like that haircut.  I don’t like him.  I don’t like the way you wear your robes.”  You know?  We have all these opinions.  And of course we keep them to ourselves and smile but it’s those opinions rattling around in our brains that are causing us so much trouble.  We never stay with a mere impression and leave it wholesome.  It never happens unless we are practicing right mindfulness.  It takes a supreme effort to practice like that.  We conceptualize.  We write our own inner script for instance.  We have an original perception and we react toward it.  Reaction is the name of the game of the five senses.  Whatever that reaction is we build a story about it.  And then you have a whole house of conceptualization wrapped around that person.  And it has nothing to do with them.  But you projected your whole brain onto them.

What we do is we interpret according to our own thoughts and experiences.  And here’s where the conundrum is.  If we haven’t practiced proper view for instance or engaged in proper effort, then when we come down to mindfulness, its going to be really hard to unscramble things, and what we are going to have left is our usual habit.  And that is conceptual proliferation.  Two people can have exactly the same experience and react 180 degrees different.  And it’s all because of our previous habits, our previous judgments.  Judgments don’t go away.  They pile on top of each other.  And pretty soon, you have a formula, and once you have a formula, it’s over.  So, the mind then posits concepts.  Joins concepts into constructs and weaves those constructs into complex interpretive schemes. Its what we do.  We can get all turned around and wrapped up in our little mental conflagrations, and somebody can come up and say, “Well, I saw it this way, boom, boom, boom.”  And suddenly your whole game is down.  What do you do now?  Another person has a completely different view about it.  But you’re still circling around the path.

That’s how sentient beings do.  And on the path the job is to bust that game.  Really bust that game.  Very difficult to do but its possible.  And does it take a short time?  Can you do it in a weekend?  No!  It will take the rest of your life and then some more lives, if you don’t go to Vajrayana, and then achieve liberation in the bardo.  If not, you have to practice the Eightfold Path for lifetime after lifetime after lifetime.  That’s how long it takes.  Nobody is being mean to you.  That’s how long it takes.

We make up all these complex constructions.  Most of it happens only half consciously and for some people it is completely unconscious, but for some of us, its only semi conscious.  I’ve come to understand that sometimes a person acts oblivious.  They act like they do not know the effect that they’re having on another person, and you corner them.  You break it down with them.  You find out that they actually know.  But they don’t want to deal with it.

You know on some level.  It can be a very subtle level, and maybe somebody like a friend or a therapist has to help you bring it out or point it out for you, because it may be so subtle that you didn’t catch it.  It’s not that you don’t see it, it’s that you don’t catch it.  That’s why it helps to work with your Vajra brothers and sisters and be willing to receive their thoughts about you.  For instance, the ordained practice sojong, and sojong is wonderful because you really open up in front of the other ordained and you become metaphorically naked in front of your brothers and sisters.

Sometimes it helps when someone points it out, but really if you sat down and honestly little by little practiced self-honesty and looked at yourself, you could get a long way ahead.  Be willing to love yourself through seeing how naughty you can be.  What an absolute jerk you can be from time to time. “Oh God, I can’t stand that I did that!”  But you have to see it. It helps.

So, when we practice right mindfulness, we become aware of the conceptualization part because in order to practice right mindfulness, you have to study your own reaction.  Play this game with a friend.  Have somebody brought over that you’ve never met before.  Bring them into the room when everybody’s eyes are closed, and then open your eyes and look at the person.  And watch what your mind does.  Don’t obsess about the person.  Watch what your mind does.   Your mind is going to run all over that person from the shoelaces to the hair barrettes.  You’re going to notice how they dress, how they smell, how they look, what their expression is.  And all of these things are going to form into a pattern for you that means something for you, and probably is your projection on that person that has nothing to do with that person.  It’s really interesting.  I think one of the most fascinating parts of the path is when you really get to know your own perception and you can see how it works, and then you can move on.  You can forgive yourself for it, and move on.

What we are trying to do is practice mindfulness, which is a clear perception.  A perception, which is free of all these constructs.  A perception that’s more naked.  Where you just behold a person.  If you could manage not to engage in all that impression stuff, and construct stuff and story making and all of that, you could actually see that person’s true face.  You could actually behold their capacity, their Buddha nature.  Nothing would stop you from loving them.  What’s not to love in the primordial wisdom nature?  The fact that we don’t have that kind of love is because we are stuck in wrong mindfulness.  We are literally wrong-headed because we let our minds run away with these concepts and ideas, even to the degree that we say, “This person’s really got it in for me.” Even your own child, you think, “God, this is a plot.  This kid is plotting to drive me nuts.”  What parent hasn’t thought that? Of course we all have, but that’s crazy thinking.  That’s your human projection.  So, when you catch yourself with that, back up. Ask yourself, “What do we have here?  We have a child.  A child that does what children do.”  Or if it’s an adult human, “What do you really here?  Well, you have a human being with all that amazing potential and that capacity to be Buddha.”  Wow!  What if you could look at everyone and perceive that?  What a joyful state to be in.

If we give rise to right mindfulness, we become aware of our process of conceptualization and the way that we can construct it into scenarios and stories and use that as the foundation for mindfulness.  Just as I’ve been saying.  You use it to examine every reaction that you have.  You look at it from a distance.  You say, “Oh, that’s me having that reaction again.  Oh.  Interesting.  Where does that come from?  Wonder about that?”  The very act of stepping back from an instant reaction gives you something that’s called spaciousness in the mind.  The very act of just stepping back.

Most creatures have no space in their mind at all.  I don’t mean literal space.  I mean metaphorically there’s no relaxation.  Everything is automatic reaction.  Take for instance, a snake. A snake is like a reaction machine.  If you stick a rat in front of it, it’s going to act predictably.  And if a snake in the wild is frightened, it’s going to act predictably.  Species wide, you can predict how a snake is going to act.  There’s no space in that’s animal’s mind. It doesn’t even have enough space in its mind to say, “I’m hungry.  I’m going to catch me a rat.”  It doesn’t do that.  It just goes.  It goes and does what it does as a response to feelings.  And the response is bam, bam bam!  It’s like a nerve firing.  Almost plant like in the sense that a plant will react to stimulus.  Too much sun, it will go down.  Too much cold, it will go down, but it is an automatic thing, like a Venus Flytrap.  Did you ever see one of those when you were a kid? Do you think the Venus Fly Trap says, “I’m hungry.  I want a fly!”  It doesn’t.  It doesn’t even have that capacity.  If anything touches it, it could be a toothpick, and it will grab it.  So, that’s having no space in the mind.  Plants don’t have any mind, but a snake is a being that has a brain but has no space.  When you are able to practice being able to step back and say, “Oh.  Look at that reaction.  Wow.  Well, that’s a whole load of horseshit I had connected to that.  My goodness.  Well let’s back that up and unpack it, shall we? “  When you start thinking like that, you start to develop some spaciousness in your mind, and you have a little bit of time between perception and reaction.  That’s when you start to practice!  That’s it!  Once you have that going, and not every practitioner does, that’s when you’ve got it.  Stepping back from reaction is a real milestone in practice, and it comes by right mindfulness.  By perceiving, and catching your perception.  What’s your perception?  What’s the trigger?  What’s going on here?  What do you perceive?  What’s the story that you are living?  Step back and see what’s really happening.

© Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

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