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Buddhadharma : Summer 2013
54 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SUMMER 2 0 1 3 had teachers who opened their compassionate hearts so I could take refuge in their compas- sion until I learned it for myself. Compassion is one of the great salves, one of the great medicines of the practice. I think one of our challenges is that we live in a culture of instant gratification, with such blind attachment to seeking pleasure. One of the teachers I’ve been working with lately in Burma, U Tejaniya, has said many times that the practice of meditation is not a hundred- yard dash, it’s more like a marathon. We really have to look at it that way. Many years ago I heard an interviewer ask His Holiness the Dalai Lama, “Have you made any progress in your practice?” His Holiness replied, “Oh! After a year, not much progress. Five years, maybe a little bit. Ten years, some progress. Twenty years, yes, I can see some progress with practice.” I’ve been very grateful for those kinds of reality checks along the way. BUDDHADHARMA: Let’s look more specifically at how to work with obstacles that arise. We haven’t talked much about dullness, so let’s start there. If we feel there’s not much life energy in our practice, that we’re just going through the motions, what should we do? JUDITH SIMMER-BROWN: I think dullness is one of the hardest obstacles to work with because it tends to defeat any momentum to do any- thing about anything. The classical texts say that people who have this kind of dullness need to be around death, to feel that their hair is on fire or a snake is coiled in their lap—that is, to lean into the urgency of life and death as a way to wake themselves up. My teacher, the Vidyadhara Trungpa Rinpoche, said that getting heavy-handed Whenever an obstacle arises, we need to ask ourselves, Can I see it not as an obstacle on the path, but as the path itself? — Ezra Bayda DEVELOP A FOLKSY ATTITUDE When you have an ordinary, folksy attitude toward your meditation, says Chögyam Trungpa, you’re less likely to forget your technique on the cushion. The antidote to forgetfulness is developing a folksy attitude toward your mind and your practice. When you put toothpaste on your toothbrush, you don’t forget what you do next; you automatically brush your teeth. You naturally develop such folksy and ordinary behavior patterns. Likewise, during sitting practice, when you forget to work with the technique or posture, your mind is brought back as an act of natural coordination. Whether you are sitting on your cushion or talking with someone after- ward, you naturally and automatically maintain mindfulness. Mindfulness has become a natural process, almost a habitual pattern. The dharma has to become fully domesticated, a part of your world, so that it is not a foreign word. You can lead your life decently: you pay your income tax, pay your bills, write your checks, wash your clothes, and take care of your babies and children. That’s the idea of folksiness. Dharma can be accommodated so well into your whole being, your whole system, that you don’t have to say, “Now I’m a dharmic person. Do you see me?” and then, “Now I’m going to become Joe Schmidt in the street.” Instead, there is a way for everything to hang together based on wakefulness, on watching the mood of every day and every hour of your life. It is very simple: your whole being can be worked with altogether. Developing a folksy attitude means that you have made friends with your prac- tice. You do not regard it as foreign or unusual, or something that someone has made you do, as if you were an animal in a circus. As a human being, you are fit to sit. You are equipped to sit on a gomden, and once you sit down, your posture is automatically right and your mindfulness of breath is automatic. It all follows very ordinarily and simply. Dharma is sometimes referred to as the most sacred thing of all. But if you make too much of it and put it on a pedestal, it becomes unworkable. The dharma is ourselves and we are dharma. That is what is meant by taking a folksy attitude. It is very direct. From The Path of Individual Liberation: Volume One, The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma, published by Shambhala Publications © 2013 by Diana J. Mukpo