Forest Dwellers, Loving Kindness and Soul Wealth

I’m a thinker. That certainly doesn’t mean I am smarter than the average person.  But I do think a lot, and it is not repetitive drama very often. It is how I make sense of the world; through a larger mind than my brain, organizing the bits and pieces of information it has and assembling them into meaning. I make order out of thinking and writing. So when Nawang Khechog explained Analytical Meditation, it caught my attention.

Most of the mediation we associate with Buddhism is Single Point mediation. To explain the difference, Nawang said to imagine milk. If you are making yogurt, you add the enzymes and then it must be left alone, and through that stillness comes yogurt. But you can also churn the milk to make butter. Nawang calls this “wisdom storming” and his eyes twinkle as he says it. “I made these words up,” he says, with his remarkable, inclusive laugh. Wisdom storming is like brain storming but you call in all the best wisdom you have access to.  

Tibetan Buddhism considers the innate nature of human to be one that doesn’t want suffering and wants happiness. True for you? Analytical Meditation would say:

1-I want to be free of suffering.

2-I appreciate people who are kind/compassionate/loving to me.

3-All humans are the same.

4-Therefore all want to be free of suffering and all want kindness and compassion.

5-Therefore, I should strive not to make others suffer and to give them kindness and compassion.

The same mediation would lead us to the same conclusions with all sentient beings. We arrive at the truth of what is being chanted, said, written by our own logic.

Outrageous. How will you ever get ahead with such notions? What about people who are mean to you? The marketplace doesn’t give a hoot about this kindness stuff. People will take me to be weak. Etc.

So don’t consider this from any other perspective other than your deathbed. Mostly likely you are totally dependent on the compassion of others, just as when you were born. When my mom was in this stage of her life, she was poor in friends and loving family. She’d spent a lifetime being self focused and hadn’t noticed what that led to. She did observe the value of money, as most of us do, but she failed to see the wealth and value of friends and that love, compassion and kindness attract the same to themselves. The warm-hearted accumulate soul wealth as surely as the frugal or ambitious accumulate material wealth. It is a different kind. But it is the kind you can take with you.

Time for a laugh. Nawang would find a way to lighten this up. I am still learning, so I will simply laugh at myself, as he does himself. We are all just learning. But it is a conscious decision to choose this path. It is the hardest thing in the world. It is exceedingly simple and logical. It benefits you and all sentient beings at the same time. It is a lifetime practice.

More to come on this.

Forest Dwellers and Loving Kindness

This weekend I was reminded of the transitory nature of life. What? Doesn’t sound like a normal conversation you hear in America? I know.

I started my journey by ferry through exquisite island scenery and landed just 40 minutes away from home on Orcas Island. There, I went on pilgrimage to my 5th year at Indralaya. This leads me to one of the most important DIY tenets:  To deepen the sense of your own life, go on pilgrimage. I arrived confused by people and worn down by bureaucracy. I knew nothing about the speaker. I only knew it was a beautiful camp that I dearly loved, with a small cabin that would be mine alone to roam, and that the theme was “Awakening Kindness”. Right? That much would be enough. And did I mention the wonderful vegetarian food?

The speaker was Nawang Khechog, a Tibetan musician who now lives in Colorado, and who studied as a monk for 11 years, 7 of which were as a hermit. So, my theme is out of the box aging and becoming a Forest Dweller and his is that kindness, compassion and love are the “jewels of the universe”. I know that the measure of my life is more than the work I have performed, and I hope it is more than what my increasingly forgetful brain can hold. I am on task to grow my soul. That is what my purpose is now.

Nawang speaks gently, reminding us that everything changes; each cause and condition create the next change. He asks us to deepen our hearts in this wisdom so that we are not surprised and confused when it happens. Aging will happen. Translate “I am getting old” to “if I am lucky enough, I’ll be a graceful old man/woman.”

“We have come to be in the mandala of kindness,” Nawang says in a voice so quiet I had to still my own breath to hear. “We are gathered to nurture our heart.” The heart needs to be warm, you see. The warm-hearted are benefitted with being inspired, uplifted and rejuvenated.

On that first night, my thoughts about Forest Dwellers settled into a deeper understanding. We have to be wise and strong…and humble… to adopt love and kindness and compassion as our creed. The strength of the heart will keep us from being easily discouraged.  Loving all species that share this planet is not naive. It is wise. We do not lose beauty, we transform it by becoming more loving and kind and compassionate on the inside. Then, as Nawang says, “our wrinkles become like the painting of a great artist”.

If you are like me, you might think this seems like such a long way away, to aspire to live in such a space. I can’t help but want it now (read American).  But “spiritual progress takes time” Nawang said, and having said it, he rocked back and laughed. It is funny. Does it make sense to try to do this crazy thing in a world of competition and one-upmanship? Answer that by looking at our world. Which one is crazy?

I will explore this further in the next few entries.