Monday, June 06, 2016

Finding the place that is all good

While my previous blog talked about mostly misery, this blog shows that there is always a way out. This past weekend I attended a retreat by my Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche in Amsterdam. The event was notable in that there were about 500 people--some his students, some completely new, all there to learn about the Buddhist teachings, or some ancient wisdom for the modern world. The weekend went from teachings about transforming the mind, to giving us a glimpse of what we find when we transform this mind, to showing us how to consolidate that glimpse by contemplating on emptiness and practicing noticing our moments of distraction. Evidently, all these topics passed by at break-neck speed, but I will try to gather a few tidbits that I found really helpful.
impression of the final teaching

joyful imitation of work frustration in the office, preparing the Notes Archive (picture by Jeroen Top)


The most important lesson I gathered was that actually I always take refuge in my work, which may not be very smart, because we never know how long we still have work. Actually real happiness can only be found by looking inward, and being content with what is. Obviously this does not mean that you should totally abandon all worldly activity, and all drive to be successful, but it's important to not put your whole being in those pursuits.

At the same time, it is really important to cultivate patience. This is an important lesson for me, because I always want to do things too fast, and too many things at the same time. Sogyal Rinpoche taught us that actually when you are patient, you are ready to receive the greatest gift when it comes. Patience in some sense also comes from a confidence that whatever needs to come, will come. When you don't waste all your energy trying to move faster than light you also have much more space to be aware of what is happening and therefore make fewer mistakes. This is a big habit I need to work on, so it was good to be reminded of that. I could already practise that a little bit in my retreat job, in which I took care of the archive with quotes and needed to both quickly and spaciously be able to find the right quotes when they came up in the teaching.

Another lesson was that when you take the time and space look inward, and look at where the thoughts come from, surprisingly there is a tremendous stillness and OK-ness in there. Then there is somehow nothing to worry about, all the hope and fear dissolve. This is such an important thing to keep in mind when going through the job-related anxiety I have been going through in the past months. Obviously the problem is that it is quite easy to forget this, so it is important to keep reminding yourself of this space inside you--as many times a day as possible. I think it is really worth trying to remind myself of that space when I have lots of meetings, lots of conversations, and a lot of thinking. I always feel I have no time to do that, but probably doing that can really help me to become more aware of what is going on (and potentially even where I am dropping the ball).

The final big idea that came up was seeing how a lot of our thinking and our habits are empty. A student of Sogyal Rinpoche said "having a (emotional) reaction (or judgment) is much more exhausting than letting go." We could practise with this extensively when Rinpoche provoked people in various ways. When you see that you reaction never really lasts, and actually completely dissolves if you don't feed it, that gives a glimpse of its emptiness. And when we practise seeing this more often, then things that originally look really intimidating (like someone else's judgment about you) lose a lot of their power. Many wise life lessons. Now on to trying to embody these!
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