has decided that spiritual practice is worthwhile for some
reason. That doesn't mean that we have to go off in a monastery,
but our household life, our driving, our interpersonal relations,
they are our practice, and they require some working with.
The next level or the next step in this is Right Attitude
or Right Thought. One sees the value in inner life and sees
that frankly our happiness is based on our heart considerably
more than it is on external circumstances. When there are
difficulties around, if the heart is open or clear or understanding,
we can be happy. We can be in the midst of beautiful circumstances
and be miserable, be lonely or depressed, and know that our
happiness which we seek is really a function of our heart,
our interior life.
is the forerunner of all things." If you act based
on kindness and wisdom in the mind, happiness will follow
you like the wheel of a chariot follows the ox which draws
it. And if you act based on unkindness or you act from an
unwise state of mind, then unhappiness follows just as the
wheel of the cart follows the ox which draws it.
are three aspects to Right Attitude. The first is openness
or receptivity. In undertaking our practice, try not to make
it a certain way: "I want it to always be peaceful, I
want it to be calm, I want not to be angry" or "I
want my body not to hurt" or "my knees" or
"I don't want to be restless" or "I don't want
to be afraid" or "I want to come to a lot of light
or joy." Good luck! You get that sometimes. But if you
just look for that, what will happen in your daily practice?
A really simple thing happens if you're looking for that.
What happens? You're disappointed. And then what do you do?
You stop sitting. If you hold in mind how your personality
should be or how your body should behave or how your mind
should be, does it listen to you very much? Tell the truth!
You sit here and say, "Thoughts, don't come." Does
it help much? A little bit with some training, but just a
little. It's like the radio. The advertisements come, and
you can't say, "I want radio without advertisements."
It doesn't work.
have begun some investigation or awareness of what your personality
is like. Most people when they start to look at their personality,
after a little while say "yuk" because personalities
have that kind of quality to them. You say "God, maybe
if I practice hard, my thoughts will quiet down and I can
kind of change my personality." I have news for you!
Your personality is kind of like your body; you come in and
you get issued one for this ride. And you can get wiser or
kinder, but you kind of have it, and you'll be a wise character
of the same personality that you are as an unwise one, but
you'll be pretty much the same. Or you'll be a loving person,
whatever you are now, however you define yourself.
means not getting caught on, "I want it to be quiet or
peaceful, the body or the mind to be this way," but more
a quality of discovery, of experimenting, of seeing what you
are. "I'm going to sit and listen to my heart and see
what I really care about or where I'm afraid or what I hold
back on. I'm going to look at my mind and see what the patterns
are, what the desires are, and see what makes me happy and
what makes unhappiness, and how that works in the world."
are enormously rich and deep things to discover in our practice.
It requires this attitude of, "I'm going to look and
learn," rather than, "I'm going to make it a certain
a beautiful poem I'll read from the German poet Rilke. He
a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors and keeps on walking
because of a church that stands somewhere
in the East. And his children say blessings
on him as if he were dead.
And another man who remains inside his
own house, stays there inside the dishes
and in the glasses, so that his children
have to go far out into the world
toward that same church which he forgot.
wonderful poem. There's something in us, in our nature, which
compels us to discover. I remember a very powerful moment
with the old guru who I studied with, Nisargadatta Maharaj,
who taught the way of Nisarga Yoga. "Nisarga" means
natural. The basic translation of his name was "Mr. Natural".
He was this 80-year old cigarette-smoking man. He had a little
cigarette stand. He was kind of a combination like Krishnamurti
and Fritz Perls. He would put you on the hot seat when you
came in and ask you about your spiritual life.
we were in a room about this big. People were coming in and
asking questions. Somebody came in and asked a question and
was a little bit dissatisfied and left. And another person
raised their hand and said, "Maharaj, what will happen
to that person who came and asked that question and left?
Is it all over for them in this life? They didn't stay here.
You are a great guru, and they weren't interested, and they
went home." And he twinkled at that moment, he really
lit up, and he said, "It's too late. Even the fact that
they put their foot in this room, even if they hadn't asked
the question, means that somewhere in there there's a seed
of really knowing who we are and what this life is about.
Not what you were taught in elementary school or what's on
TV or the newspapers, but a deep seed of knowing our true
nature, that wants to discover; it's like coming home. The
fact that he just walked in the room means that that seed
has started to sprout. And no matter if he tries to forget
it and goes back and gets lost, sooner or later that will
manifest in awakening."
not do it once we start. Trungpa Rinpoche in speaking with
his students at a big public talk one night said, "Frankly,
I recommend that you don't start the spiritual path because
it's painful and it's difficult; it's really hard. So my recommendation
to all of you is not to do it. You can leave now." Then
he said, "But I have a second recommendation, and that
is: If you start, you better finish. If you begin, then really
in us. I think it's the part that loves truth, or maybe it's
the part that loves connection with another being. Even if
we're terrified of intimacy - some of you may know that one
- or we're terrified of getting close and then losing things,
or we're afraid of dying, or it's hard to look at parts of
ourself, there's something in our heart that really wants
union, that wants to connect with people, with life, with
the world around us in a deep way.
then, the first part of Right Attitude, is this process of
discovery, of seeing what's here and opening to it, not trying
to change it but seeing clearly with mindfulness, without
judging our fear, loneliness, aggression, joy, happiness,
love, sorrow; our body, how we use it, how we exercise with
it; what we eat, when we're full, when we overeat. The beginning
is just this quality of discovery, because it's fantastic
then. That makes spiritual practice alive; it's not some rote
imitation. Then we can begin to learn, and we learn about
the forces of desire, of fear, of wanting, of love, that makes
the whole world go round, and really runs our lives. Whether
we're conscious or we're on automatic pilot, they still operate.
We start to discover who we are and how it works.
to the second part of Right Attitude, which is renunciation.
There is a saying in India, "When a pickpocket meets
a saint, he only sees the saint's pockets." What we want
determines what we see.
walk down the street and you're hungry, what do you see? Restaurants.
"There's a Greek restaurant. I could have feta cheese
or a nice salad. Oh, there's a nice natural food restaurant.
No, I think I'll have a burger. That's a good place for burgers."
You don't see shoe stores. Or if you come to the sitting and
you look around, there's break time, time for tea, you see
what you're interested in. If you like to talk to women, you'll
see the women. If you're interested in sex, you see people
who are attractive to you or your competition for those people.
If you're interested in astrology you kind of check out and
see whether there are lots of water signs or fire signs that
come sit. If you're interested in young people or old people,
that's what you scope out. If you're a barber, you come in
here and see who needs a haircut.
interested in determines and limits what you see. What renunciation
means is putting what we want aside for a little bit. At Achaan
Chah's, where I studied in the forest monastery for awhile,
we did a lot of work with a practice of the monks' rules as
discipline, and there are hundreds of them. At first they
seemed like a real pain in the ass. As I learned to work with
them, work with the discipline of not eating after noon, or
sitting in a certain kind of posture when you were with senior
monks -- there's a whole lot of ritual around it -- it required
a lot of surrender. And as I did it I said, "I want to
do it my way. This is 2,000 years old and it's dumb, and it's
modern times," and all kinds of resistance came up. Of
course, I didn't have much choice. I was a monk and I was
supposed to do it. I mean, if I had stopped, I suppose I could
have left or something. "Alright, I'll do this trip."
But I had all the resistance, and all the things of not wanting
to follow rules or not wanting to go against my habit. We're
spoiled in this country. You can drink whatever kind of beer
you want, eat whatever kind of food, travel where you like,
and we have a capacity to change our lives in ways that most
people in the world don't come close to.
it was, renunciation. What came from it was a discovery that
there's a strength of heart that comes when we don't just
follow our habit; and it brings a sense of well-being or purity
or something, because we begin to train ourselves. We don't
have to follow all of our habits and all of our desires.
Chah was great because he would psych you out when you came
there to begin practice, and if you were someone who loved
to meditate and loved it peaceful and quiet, he would assign
you to the monastery in the middle of Bangkok, in the traffic.
And if you loved to socialize and talk and be with people,
he would send you off to where everyone was in separate caves,
and you had to deal with your loneliness or your aloneness.
The style of practice which really is relevant to our lives,
is to look into that which we're afraid of, which we run away
from, or which keeps us moving all the time.
a little fire. Practice has fire. If it doesn't have fire,
it's not interesting. Yeah, you sit and you hold hands at
dinner and you do a little "Om" and it's kind of
peaceful, and you eat. It's not very interesting. If there's
fire, it transforms your body, it transforms your heart, it
makes you feel your loneliness and your desire, and you look
at places where you hold tension in your body, and what it
means to be unhappy or to be happy, to look at your suffering,
to look at your expectations -- that's juicy, that's interesting,
and that's where liberation comes.
step is renunciation. It means beginning to work with areas
of our life where we've been unconscious and which we can
identify.. I mean, I could go around the room and just ask
you, and you could all name off the things that could use
a little work, not that they're bad or anything, but because
you can empower yourself through it.
take a moment now and think of an area to work on this next
week, maybe a very small one. It might be a simple a thing
such as biting your nails. Think of one thing for yourself
that you really want to look at and discover more about, that
you're caught in -- it's a habit, it's a compulsion, or a
fear, or whatever. Do you have one? I'm sure you must be able
to think of one. Okay, fine. Here I want to give an assignment
which you're welcome to do. If you're the kind that resists
assignments, please don't do it. The assignment of working
with openness is to just look at it for one week. Make the
resolve in your mind, whether it's nail biting, or being afraid
of this, or compulsive about that, whatever it happens to
be that you choose, that for one week you're going to be a
botanist, and you're going to study it, when it comes out,
is it a night creature or a day creature, what it's mating
habits are, and what it eats, and how long it's there. So
you're really going to study it. First you'll see the superficial
nature of how often it comes. Count it for a day, whatever
it is. It might be a mental state or an activity. See how
often it comes. Then start to look deeper. See what's there
when it comes. When you bite your nails, when you pay attention
to your heart and your mind, you see, "Oh, I start biting
them when I'm afraid. Alright now, what happens? I'm afraid.
What's there with the fear? Oh, I get lonely. Maybe that's
what it is." So you see it's loneliness, and then fear,
and then chomping away, or whatever it is that you're examining.
yourself take a week and go from the activity itself, really
seeing how often it comes, and what it's like, and also look
at the heart and the mind under it, and see if you can discover
the mental states that come, and see how they come and go.
Let it be a practice of a deeper insight than that. You see
the content, you see the sources of it in your feelings, and
then you also see how the action and the mind states come
like clouds for a little bit and then they pass away.
your assignment, to study it for one week. Then the second
week's assignment, which I'll give you tonight in case you
don't come next week, is to stop it for just one week, whatever
that particular thing is, either the outer activity or the
inner one if it's there. Try to stop it and watch what happens
when you stop it, not that it's bad or you're going to get
rid of it completely, but then make your observation and your
experiment to see what mental states and what experiences
come when you don't do that. Does this give you some sense
of what I mean by "fire" or being willing to work
with yourself? It's discovery; it's not that bad. You may
do it for the rest of your life, but you can begin to sense
this capacity of inner strength, of directing your attention,
concentrating your mind, and seeing with more clarity. We
start with little things and we see how we're bound. It's
really the question of bondage and liberation, from biting
your nails to the deepest inner things. We can start to see
what it is that creates bondage, and that to discover this
resource we have to be freer inside.
as Ram Dass put it, connoisseurs of our neurosis. It's not
that the neurosis goes away necessarily, but you have, "Wow,
look at that example. Isn't that fantastic! I really did it
that time." And there's a sense of humor that you can
bring to it. When you observe, after awhile either there comes
despair or humor, depending on which you want to pick. After
awhile you get tired of despair, and you see, "My God,
there it goes again."
thing in Right Attitude is openness; that it's not a thing
of "I'm going to perfect myself and make a perfect personality
and a perfect body and a perfect mind." I don't know
anybody like that. But it's a quality of really discovering
and opening. And the second is a willingness to work, not
to just follow our habits, but to put ourselves into it a
little bit, to put some effort out, renunciation. And the
third is the quality of non-harming, or loving thoughts, and
how to evoke that, how can we bring this quality of loving
thoughts, how can we evoke that quality in our spiritual life,
which means becoming more conscious of what we do in what
is to see the events that come to us as gifts, especially
the difficult ones; not necessarily as good gifts, but gifts.
Don Juan calls them "challenges."
to really discover this quality of love is to see that we've
got a big playpen. I'm getting into baby metaphors these days.
You have to understand it's my new conditioning. We have a
big playpen and a lot of toys, some of which are hot and they
burn, some of which are cold, some are pleasant, and some
aren't. Our life is limited; we're born, we're going to die.
Nothing will stop that. No matter how fast we run, or how
much we jog, we're going to die anyway. Because it's limited,
it makes it interesting to experiment with. Let's learn in
this time that we're here; let's really look at it.
because it's easy to love kittens and puppies, babies when
they're not crying, and pleasant experiences. That actually
doesn't have much to do with love. That's kind of an ease
of mind or sentimentality or something. I think, really, love
manifests when things get difficult. That's when you really
know it. That's when the fire melts whatever barriers we have
in our heart. Our hearts want to be melted. The pain isn't
so bad. It's much better to have that all happen than have
it all still, solid and barricaded.
requires in practice, this quality, is "constancy"
-- Suzuki-roshi's word.
de Sales says:
of knowledge, a barrel of love and an ocean of patience.
In a way
this quality of love and patience are so related. Our practice
will go through cycles. Sometimes you sit at home and it will
really nourish you, and you'll feel rested afterwards; other
times you'll sit down after a busy day and the body will be
tight and the mind will be spinning, and you'll be hating
this person, and worried about that, and you don't want to
feel it, and you don't want to look at it. Feel it, look at
it; work to nourish that quality of constancy, of what's called,
"a long-enduring mind." It's not a short game. You
know, we're used to instant food, drive-through, tell the
lady through the speaker, "Yes, I'd like a Big Mac, fries
and a coke," or whatever it is. You drive around and
you get it and you can eat it while you're driving; you don't
even have to stop. Instant gratification. This is not an instant
gratification thing. It is the longest thing you'll ever do
because it's your whole life. It's really to discover how
to transform your life from being on automatic pilot to being
conscious, to discovery, to play. And it's wonderful. So it
means that you don't complete it, you actually learn how to
play the game and make your life into that.
many cycles. There will be many times when it's hard to sit,
maybe more than when it's easy. And even in the good moments
they'll come. You know what happens when something is really
sweet and good, a wonderful taste, a great sexual experience,
a good concert, a piece of music, or some wonderful sitting?
What happens? There's this little voice that comes in the
middle. What does it say? "It won't last. Can I get it
to stay? How much longer?" There's that worry even in
the middle. We can't kind of enjoy it because there's that
thing inside that tries to grasp it.
is also this development of patience or love or constancy,
that you go through so many cycles.
you a poem from Gary Snyder called "The Avocado".
Dharma is like an avocado.
Some parts of it so ripe
you can't believe it it's so good,
and other parts hard and green
without much flavor,
pleasing those who like their eggs
And the skin is thin,
the great big skin around the middle
is your own original true nature,
pure and smooth.
Almost nobody splits it open
or ever tries to see if it will grow.
Hard and slippery it looks like you should plant it,
But then it shoots through the fingers and gets away.
it sometimes, or we touch it, we touch something really deep,
and it's beautiful and it's tremendously important. Then what
happens? Bleep. Slippery seed. That's fine. You pick up the
avocado seed again, or you plant it, or maybe make a garden
of avocado seeds, avocado trees.
As I speak
I'm trying to translate the talks and concepts that I've used
so often in intensive retreats to try and find ways to really
make them applicable in our situation of jobs and families
and driving, and all the rest of it. I did a radio show today
on KCBS which will be on in a couple of weeks. And at the
end of it I taught a driving meditation, knowing that people
listen to the radio when driving. "Don't close you eyes.
Hold the steering wheel. Now relax. That's right." It
was great fun. But that's the quality of beginning to make
what we do our practice, through this openness or discovery
rather than some ideal that's spiritual; through some willingness
to renounce or a little fire, and finally through a tremendous
amount of patience or constancy.
another exercise I want to give you. Pick one day next week,
and maybe next time we'll have a little pairing at the end
and see who did it and just share with one another in a pair
what you discovered. Pick one day next week and see how many
moments of impatience you can count. Even if you get to 500,
don't judge them, don't try and make them go away, but in
one day of your life see how many times you can count impatience,
50, 200, 500. We'll have a contest. The person who comes with
the most moments of impatience they saw in a day will get
can even be used to understand impatience, because if you
look at it, you start to see what's there when you feel impatience.
We discover love by looking in places where it's not. Actually,
we discover deeper or truer love. Don't look at what's romantic.
Forget that part. Look at where it's hard, and you can really
learn about love.
exercise. I'll give you a little bit of a hint. You get impatient
when the kind of experience is happening that's unpleasant,
when it's painful, when there's some experience of body or
mind that hurts a little bit. For the heart to open you have
to be willing to feel pain, joy, pleasure, hot, cold, the
whole thing. When you open the door, what do you get coming
in? You get what's there. And if you open the heart, you get
the experience of what our humanity is, what's rich. You can't
open the heart for pleasure and not feel the pain. The world
is dual; it's up/down, light/dark, hot/cold, and when we open,
we discover a kind of capacity for joy and for understanding
which allows for the fact that life has pleasure and pain.
It's got them both. If you don't want pain, go to another
planet, because this one has light and dark, sweet and sour,
hot and cold, and pleasure and pain. That's the game.
want your heart to open, study your impatience. It's a fantastic
place to look. Count it through a day, and just see what the
things are that evoke it as you look. Don't try and change
it. There are wonderful things you can learn from it.
from the Sufis again:
any bitterness that may have come
because you were not up to the magnitude
of the pain that was entrusted to you.
the mother of the world
who carries the pain of the world
in her heart, each one of us is
part of her heart and therefore
each is endowed with a certain measure
of cosmic pain.
are sharing in the totality
of that pain and are called upon
to meet it in joy instead of
a judgment but rather realizing we have this capacity, we
have a beautiful capacity to suffer, and we have a beautiful
capacity to love, and we have a beautiful capacity to open
to the richness of our experience which has all that in it
-- what's joyful, what's unpleasant -- so that the attitude
of practice is like a flower blossoming. You started, so it's
happening anyway, but you can help it. You can give it a little
plant food or you can water it. By sitting every day you water
it, and the plant food and the nourishment comes from the
sangha, from coming together, from listening to the Dharma
and discussing it, and getting those extra kinds of nutriments
that help you when you work in your daily life.
do that, then we can find the dharma that's true. We can work
with it in traffic on Highway l0l, in our kitchen, with our
children, in our office, and in the times of our inner solitude,
and then things really do become rich and wonderful.
I wasn't too preachy tonight. I speak in a way to remind myself
of these things that just make it a lot better to live. It's
not that you should do it, but these are just laws of what
makes life richer or happier in some way.
to close by telling one more story. The story, which to me
is a wonderful illustration of openness, is of a physician,
Larry Brilliant, who was involved in a campaign to put an
end to smallpox in the world. He was working in the villages
in Nepal and India. Almost everyone had been inoculated. There
were a few small areas where it still existed. They had to
go in because if they didn't, then it would spread, and the
whole thing would start all over again around the world. There's
blindness that comes from smallpox and in some cases terrible
disfiguration and brain damage. So it was really a very important
to this village and the villagers refused to be inoculated.
They said that smallpox came from God, and God brought both
disease and life, and that that had to be honored as it came.
Here's this guy, Larry Brilliant, who's a very devoted spiritual
person, and here are these people saying it's from God, and
he has to make some choice. He and the people with him say,
"God or not, we don't want another l00,000 children in
the world next year to be blinded by smallpox." So they
went into the village at night with their jeeps. They first
went to the house of the chief, and the doors were barricaded.
They broke the doors down, and they went in with nurses and
doctors, and they wrestled the chief and his wife to the floor
-- she was apparently tougher than the chief -- and they gave
them their shots. They were screaming and saying, "No,
no," and whatever, and for him it was terribly traumatic
because his values had been that you respect the religion
of all people, and so forth. Working in spiritual practice,
it's not so black and white, it's not so easy. I'm sure you
have seen that, haven't you? Making choices.
happened after that? Already that was difficult. So they're
sitting there, and after inoculating the chief and his wife
and the family, then the village was easy to inoculate. The
chief goes out to his garden -- very small garden, it's a
really poor village -- and picks a couple of squash, some
of the few vegetables that are in the garden, and brings them
in and hands them to the doctors, and says, "I would
like to give these as a gift," and then starts to prepare
a meal with the very little they have, and they're astonished.
They say through the translator, "Why is he doing this?"
And the chief explains. He said, "You came to my house.
It is my religious belief that smallpox is a gift from God,
among the many things in this world, and following my religious
belief in my heart, I had to resist you. It is your belief
that it is the best thing in the world that everyone be inoculated.
Following your belief, and given the fact that there were
more of you than there were of us, you inoculated us. Defeat
is no shame! Now you are a guest in my house and I would like
to treat you as such."
tells the story it was one of the most wonderful awakenings
in his life. It was the kind of awakening to see that you
are in a difficult situation. To live is difficult, and we're
always in these binds Can you stay open, can you discover
what's new? Can you allow the people around you to do surprising
things? Can you yourself do surprising things?