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Buddhadharma : Summer 2015
summer 2 0 1 5 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 17 sallie JiKo tisdale: Let’s begin with the fact that you have more than thirty years of experience. That means more than thirty years of returning to the present moment. Thirty years of accepting your conditions and dropping judgment about good and bad. Let’s begin by noticing that you know how to do this already. One of the most important things we bring to practice is an open mind. You don’t have to “lower your expectations” if you don’t have expectations in the first place. It’s easy to focus on what we lack rather than what we have. But your practice won’t look the same from year to year or even hour to hour. Everything is always changing. Practice is sometimes sharp, sometimes dull. So get curious about feeling dull. Investigate your weakness. If you can’t do a full prostra- tion, bow at the waist. Bow in your heart. If you can’t sit on a cushion, sit in a chair or against the wall. Or lie down. Or stand. If you can’t do an entire retreat without rest- ing, then rest. These changes are only a big deal if you make them so. Notice the comparing mind: this is not how I should feel, this is not how others are, this is not how I expected it to be. Don’t compare yourself to another or to how you used to be. While you are condi- tioned by the past—by your accomplish- ments and lessons and struggles—you are not your past self. If you’ve ever meditated with a bad cold or a strained knee, then you know how to do this. I see quite a few people in my sangha sitting in chairs for zazen— and I sometimes do as well. I notice many physical and mental changes as I get older, but I also notice the experience of many years. I may not get up from the (lEFT–RIgHT):marylang,nicolasgounaropoulos,Kimcampbell asK the teachers i’ve been practicing for more than thirty years. It’s getting hard. I can’t sit on a cushion anymore. Prostrations became impossible a few years ago. I can make modifications in how I do things, but it’s not just my joints. I have less energy than I used to. I feel this in every aspect of my life, but especially in the practice—everything is less sharp than it used to be. Does one’s practice necessarily weaken with age? Do I have to lower my expectations? NArAyAN HeleN liebeNsoN is a guiding teacher at Cambridge Insight Meditation Center GesHe TeNziN WANGyAl riNpocHe is a lineage holder of the Bön Dzogchen tradition of Tibet sAllie jiko TisdAle is a lay dharma teacher at Dharma Rain Zen Center in Portland, Oregon