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Buddhadharma : Winter 2017
88 Buddhadharma: The PracTiTioner's QuarTerly state can become unwholesome. Sleep is another indeterminate fac- tor—we need to sleep in order to remain clearheaded and energetic, but we must also take care not to become lax or lazy. In order to integrate Yogacara teachings into your practice, it’s not enough to memorize the mental factors and intellectualize them. Practitioners engaged in the Yogacara project of identifying the numerous negative mental factors run the risk of reifying them as discrete things that must be destroyed. This can easily become another form of greed or aversion, fueled by ignorance. In order to truly appreciate these teachings, it’s important to remember that they, like all Buddhist teachings, are simply expedient means. InTegraTIng yogacara In your PracTIce Yogacara provides meditators with a useful conceptual framework for understanding the workings of mind, but we also need a practi- cal model for integrating the Yogacara teachings and transforming our thoughts and emotions. For this, I teach a four-step process: rec- ognizing, embracing, transforming, and freeing or letting go. These four steps are neither theoretical nor linear. In order to be of use, they must be experiential, reciprocal, and continuous. Let’s examine how this process works in light of what happens when we become distracted during meditation. Many medita- tors mistakenly believe it’s the mental factor of conception, which enables us to create symbols through words and language, that causes distraction in meditation, but that is not actually the case. Rather, it is craving, one of the unwholesome factors, that causes us to lose attention. When we are distracted, it’s most often because we wish the moment to be other than it is. We may be subtly seek- ing calm and clarity, so the unwholesome mental factor of craving for something better has set in. The fact that other people may not be distracted by whatever is calling our attention means the external stimulus can’t be responsible; we are distracted because of our own craving for something different. We need to first recognize this. In order to embrace this reality, the second step, we need to accept the reality of both our own craving and our distraction. In essence, we are embracing the truth that our own perceptions shape the world. To transform this experience, the third step, we must relax the whole body. When we become distracted or stressed, cortisol is released throughout our bodies, making us tense. In such situations, we are at a disadvantage to do anything about our craving and tend