What if Human Life is Good?

We are lucky to be here.

I just want to say that. It can be so hard to have a positive view of human life, the world, our place in it, etc etc. When things are hard, we struggle. And things are always hard. The older we get, the more we see that. Things get worse and worse sometimes.

You fall in love and have your heart broken. You finally buy a house and realize the associated expenses will keep you poor forever. You find some courage and believe in yourself and then get kicked in the face. And often it can seem like the very worst people in the world are the ones getting all the success in life. The Buddha said that life is full of suffering and it can seem sometimes like that’s all there is.

But it’s not.

Life is a struggle. There is no doubt about that. It’s a struggle for everyone; even the most successful person in the world has to deal with struggling and pain. But we’re still lucky to be here. And lucky to be born at this time in human history.

Longchenpa said we have a, “Human form endowed with precious freedoms and advantages.”

We were not born in a time and place where we could not receive this message. There is no reason why you exist here and now, but you do. This is where you are. That alone is enormously meaningful.

We live in a time and place with soap, running water, modern medicine, accessible clean food and the internet. For so much of human history these things were simply not available, but to us they are almost an afterthought. Wondrous things that lift our lives up are just normal to us because for most of us they’ve been around a long time.

That’s a part of this. That’s something to be thankful for.

The advantages of our life circumstance are giving us unprecedented access to spiritual teachings and other forms of knowledge. There is almost nothing you can’t learn about if you put forth a small amount of effort to track down the information. That is amazing.

In ancient times Buddhist teachers saw how lucky they were to have the kinds of advantages of circumstance that they had.

I don’t think they could have really anticipated the world we live in. But they saw their life circumstances as amazing because Buddhism was available to them. They had the perspective to realize that in another time and place this path wouldn’t have been available and they wouldn’t have been able to reach their full potential.

So, we could get excited about things. We could reflect on our opportunities for spiritual practice and for a relatively comfortable life and we can take joy in that. We can be grateful instead of spending all our time and energy on the things that don’t make us happy.

We can rejoice and be glad.

And, also, we can recognize we have this big opportunity. We can strive to live in a more awakened way and reach our full potential and we should recognize this as a wonderful chance to transform our lives and the lives of people around us. Strive on because you have attained this fortunate existence.

 “Just like a beggar who has chanced upon a treasure of great price,

Reflect with joy upon your freedom and advantages.
In doubt and apprehension that you might be dreaming,

Implement the sacred Dharma –

Source of happiness and benefit in this and future lives!”

-Longchenpa, Finding Rest in the Nature of the Mind

What is Sympathetic Joy (video)

Can we extend our circle of joy?

Why is it easier to share in the suffering of others than it is to share in their joy?

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Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

Why Bother Meditating?

Meditation is challenging.

Anyone that tells you it’s easy is probably trying to sell you something. It takes time, energy, and determination. Often in life we feel like we have a shortage of these things. It’s tempting to avoid meditation. I could meditate, but I’d rather watch Netflix or sit and drink beer. These days it’s so easy to fill our time with many things that are either productive or pleasurable. We always have things to do. Is it worth our time to stop and do nothing for a little while?

Why should we spend our time meditating?

We do this because life and hard and it helps. Every one of us is a mess. We may think we are and some people aren’t, but we’re wrong. Everyone is a mess. We’re confused, we struggle to be happy, and we’re distracted. A lot of the time we’re just sleepwalking through life, missing everything. We have difficulty being fully present.

There is a way we can learn how to live our lives more fully. That what this is about. We’re trying to learn how to be more present and aware, to see more clearly, and to be more genuine. There is depth and clarity in our lives that we’re missing.

Sometimes we get stuck in an “if only” perspective. If only this or that was different, then I could be happy. That can easily steal all our joy. We have a pervasive mental habit of always wanting. We spend a lot of time labeling the world around us, putting things into categories to try to make sense of the world. Good, bad, boring, fun, etc. We put things in categories then decide how to react. And sometimes we don’t even know we’re making those judgments ourselves. When we call something bad we want to push it away. When we call something good, we want to try to hold on. We always have less power than we’d like to push and pull these things. No matter how hard we try to hold onto good, sometimes we can’t. No matter how hard we try to push away bad, sometimes we can’t. And when there’s nothing good or bad, we’re often bored. We have put ourselves in chains of grasping our likes and pushing our dislikes. We’ve put ourselves in chains but the truth is we have the key.

And we can improve that by seeing clearly.

Another thing we struggle with is change. Things are always changing when we want them to stay the same. Change is the nature of the universe. When we learn to pay attention to our minds we see that there’s plenty of change there too. Our thoughts come and go and lead to others thoughts, sometimes so fast that we  don’t even know how we got from one thought to another. People come and go in our lives. Good things come and go. Bad things come and go too. It’s all about change. And, of course, ultimately it becomes increasingly clear to us that we’re getting older. Our bodies are, slowly but surely, going too. Change is inevitable and hard to accept.

What it all comes down to is this. We are carried around by a subtle discontent that I call suffering. We can learn how to manage that by learning how our minds work and training them. We can learn how to recognize our desires and not be controlled by them. We can want or fear something without becoming unreasonable and/or obsessed.

Through meditation we learn to see how our minds work, then we can learn to see ourselves more clearly. That’s where the magic happens. When we see ourselves clearly we can really learn how to manage our suffering. Mental cultivation through consistent meditation practice is a powerful method transforming our relationships to ourselves and to the world. Meditation purifies our minds. It cuts through the baggage and the bullshit and shows us what’s really happening. This brings us clarity and helps us develop wisdom, mindfulness, and compassion. Meditation softens us and opens us up so we stop making enemies out of everything all the time. Meditation can make us deeply aware of the world and our place in it. Meditation also helps us sharpen our concentration so we can pay attention, really pay attention, and experience the world in a more full way.

Why meditate?

Because I want to live my best life. I want to see the world in a more clear and full way than I ever have before. We may not be able to add years to our lives, but we can add life to our years.

Why not try?

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Want to come meditate with me? I’m at Ubuntu Village Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Becoming Free

When we really understand ourselves we become free.

The purpose of our meditation practice isn’t to stop thinking or to banish wandering thoughts. It’s to learn how to stop grasping at them. We want to see our thoughts and feelings for what they are, temporary phenomena that are passing through our minds. You are not your thoughts and you are not your feelings. You have thoughts and you have feelings. Thoughts and feelings come and go and they’re always changing. Seeing thoughts and feelings as they are, without attaching to them or being distracted by them, is the essence of meditation. Realizing that thoughts and feelings are fleeting and changing is wisdom.

The truth is our minds don’t have to be dominated by these thoughts and feelings, or by labels, baggage, attachments, or any other names we give to the activity of our minds. The nature of our mind is originally free, just distracted by junk. If we can learn how to get some stability and cultivate freedom in our minds, then we will see things more clearly and we will suffer less. We can only understand ourselves and the world if we learn how to see clearly.
Our suffering depends on how much we wish things were different, our attachment to views and ideas about the world. When we attach to them, we let go of our freedom. If we allow ourselves to be open instead, then we can remain free.

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Want to come meditate with me? I’m at Ubuntu Village Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

The Second Arrow (video and podcast)

This talk was recorded at Fountain City Meditation on 11/25/19.

We talked about how we sometimes tend to make our own suffering worse and how mindfulness can help us out with that.

Here’s the audio of the talk:

The Second Arrow (podcast)

Here’s the video of the entire session:

Meditation: 0:0028:00
Talk: 28:0040:13

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If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

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Want to come meditate with me? I’m at HDKC Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear Talks!

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

 

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Three Things About Life

The Buddha taught three things  about human life. These are what he discovered in his spiritual journey. They are all connected. They are: suffering, impermanence, and no-self.
Human existence is full of pain and frustration. Careful examination of our situation in life makes this very clear. If we don’t immediately see pervasive suffering in our own lives, we can certainly see it at any moment by turning on the news.
Why do we suffer?
Because all things are impermanent. Most of us live our lives as though things will last forever. A lot of our trouble arises because of our expectation that things will last. No matter how good or bad things are, they’re always going to change. This includes things like our thoughts and emotions, as well as big things like mountains and forests. Accepting this reduces our suffering.
No-self is the one people struggle with sometimes. Meditation is what helps us to detach from our idea that we are fixed beings, separate from the world around us. It’s our sense of self that makes us cling to things and also lash out. Holding onto this small self, what I call the “I-Me-Mine” that brings us a lot of suffering.
Looking at life, the Buddha saw that ignorance of the real nature of things causes people to be trapped in cycles of suffering.

Analyzing Suffering

There is freedom in seeing our suffering as it really is. We can analyze our experience, seeing how we feel, who we are, and gaining some understanding into our habitual feelings and tendencies. In an analysis of ourselves we can come to understand that the core of our being is basically good and that we have innate wakefulness, or Buddha nature.

There are layers of delusion that keep us from understanding our true nature. These are things like the small self and it’s habitual patterns and the baggage we carry. If we really look into this with insight, we can see that way we see our selves doesn’t really match reality that well.

One of the ways we can do this kind of analysis is by studying the four noble truths: the truth of suffering, the causes of suffering, the end of suffering, and the path of the dharma. The first two truths represent an explanation of the situation we are in. The second two represent how we hope to transcend it.

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The Third Noble Truth: All Things Must Pass

When I think of the Third Noble Truth, I think of that wonderful George Harrison song, “All Things Must Pass”.

That’s really the message of this truth. All things come and go. And this includes our suffering. Our suffering is impermanent. And if we have a rational understanding of our suffering, then we know this. It’s like that trite self help line “This too shall pass”.

Everything we perceive is always coming and going. Enlightenment is really just seeing this nature of things intuitively, seeing our situation as it is. We think of ourselves as individual beings who came into existence and will some day die. The Buddha described human beings as a stream. We came into being, but so many aspects of ourselves are just a continuation of other things. The whole universe is this way. When did you really begin? With your birth? With your conception? With your parents birth?

So, what do we do?

We manage our craving by not feeding it, letting go of our neurotic patterns so we don’t make all our problems worse and make enemies out of everything all the time. Waking up to our true nature of interdependence yields freedom.

 


 

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The Second Noble Truth: Three Forms of Craving

Suffering arises out of craving, wanting, trying to get things or get away from things all the time. Craving often appears in 3 forms:

  1. Desire: This applies to both physical and mental desires. All the things and stimulation that we want.
  2. Existence: This is the our wish to avoid the fact that we will get old and die.
  3. Release from Pain: This is the idea that we want our pain and discomfort to go away.

Almost all of our struggles in life come from these three things. We’re often unaware that these factors are even at play. Because we’re unaware of what’s going on, we are consistently trying to satisfy ourselves by consuming. We tend to think some combination of money, love, and respect will create contentment for us. And even if we’re unaware of it, this problem keeps coming up because we are so confused.

Our purpose here is to become more and more aware of our desires and how they arise and cause us harm.

 


 

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The First Noble Truth: Three Kinds of Suffering

As long as we’re living in delusion, our lives are full of suffering. If we examine our suffering deeply, we can see that in usually comes in three forms. The are usually called: Pain, Change, and Being.

1) Pain: Pain is an inevitable part of life. This isn’t just physical pain, but emotional pain as well. We might reduce or avoid our pain for a while, but we can’t escape it altogether. Mental suffering is what occurs when we don’t get what we want or we’re forced into something that we don’t want. We can’t turn away from pain, really. We can only deal with it by facing it.

2) Change: Every aspects of our lives is subject to change constantly, especially our thoughts. We wish we could stop the changes we don’t like. We sometimes try hard to make things stay the same. When we’re happy we still know that change is inevitable. We are desperate to deny the reality of change and for this reason we suffer. We try to control everything or make enemies out of everything because we’re so worried about change. Just becoming aware of our relationship to the suffering caused by change, we work on it.

3) Being: This is harder to understand. As long as we see ourselves as individuals we see ourselves as coming to an end, while the world goes on without us. We have big things that we don’t understand about the world and our place in it. This is the root of the suffering of being. We essentially suffer from confusion, not really understanding the world and our place in it.

 


 

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