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Buddhadharma : Winter 2017
18 Buddhadharma: The PracTiTioner's QuarTerly kAkuMyo loWe-chARde: If we hold back from practicing for the sake of all beings in the belief that doing so might strengthen our own ego conditioning, then all we’ll have left is our ego condi- tioning. Rather than drawing lines in the sand to distinguish “pure” and “impure” forms of practice, we can simply notice how comforting and reassuring it is when we believe we are on the right side of those lines. And if we persist in noticing, we may discover that the need to draw lines, to create a right and a wrong side, is rooted in fear. If, in a given instant, we can open up and allow ourselves to feel this fear, it will morph into something else—perhaps grief, compassion, or remorse. And when that happens, we increase our capacity for choice. Over time, as we gain progressively more solid footing in our practice, it becomes easier to resist the most blatant forms of “selfing,” but there are always increasingly subtle layers to peel away. We must all navigate our own personal thicket of delusions, habits, assumptions, biases, and predilections. These days, the realization that I’ve allowed some aspect of my practice to become ego-fodder is all too familiar. But now I’m also more likely to respond with curiosity, gratitude, and humor than with surprise or shame. We can’t always steer clear of the subtle snares of ego, but by practicing awareness we can respond to them with kakumyo lowe-charde is co-abbot of Dharma Rain Zen Center equanimity. As dharma practitioners, we cultivate a quality of awareness that allows us to access deeper layers of vow, compassion, perception, and communion. This awareness pares away the compulsions of ego that spur on our verbal, active, “me-driven” momentum. The more frequently we engage with the vastness, luminosity, tender affection, and immediacy of this awareness, the less likely we are to become caught up in con- ditioned, reactive patterns. For that to happen, our practice needs to become “lived in.” Have you noticed how places or objects that have been marked by repeated, intimate contact have an unmistakable quality? There is potency in the sweat stain on a bowing mat, the edges of a stone threshold soft- ened by many pilgrims’ feet, the luster of a well-used mala. We, too, can be marked in this way. By continually taking up the practice of awareness, this contact slowly changes how our minds look and feel. Then, when we notice we’re engaging conditioning-driven contortions, we can meet that discovery with awareness and adjust. We can’t do the work of adjusting, though, if we’re unwilling to risk mak- ing a misstep. Over time, if we practice awareness with repetition and intention, this practice becomes lived in; it starts to look and feel more and more like a part of us. This, in itself, is bodhisattva activity. genKorainWater