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Patience Protects Presence

The practice of patience guards us against losing our presence of mind. It enables us to remain undisturbed, even when the situation is really difficult. It gives us a certain amount of inner peace, which allows us some self-control, so that we can choose to respond to situations in an appropriate and compassionate manner, rather than being driven by our disturbing emotions.

– Dalai Lama

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Community Spotlight: Rosa N Schnyer

Where do you live?

Austin

How did you come to meditation?

I was introduced to meditation when I was 14 living in Mexico City. I was then fortunate to encounter Zen in my early 20’s. After practicing on my own for a while, I went to live at Dai Bosatsu Zendo, a Rinzai Zen community in upstate NY. My travels took me eventually to Boston, where the gentleness of the insight tradition helped rekindle my formal practice and where I was first introduced to the teachings of Pema Chödron and the Tibetan heart practices. In Austin, I found a steady source of wisdom and inspiration in the Quiet Mind, Open Heart sangha led by Kelly.

What inspires you to meditate?

Meditation allows me to fully inhabit my life and to bear witness to the unfolding of this precious but challenging human existence. It helps me to engage with purpose and meaning, to feel connected to others, to overcome self-centeredness. It really is the backbone of my day to day life.

What does your meditation practice look like?

I sit for a good while just about every morning. At this point, I combine quietly sitting, complemented by loving kindness and Tonglen. I try to sit and study with others a couple of times per week, to continue delving into the teachings and exploring the big questions. I aspire to infuse my clinical work with the foundations of practice, and try to attend tenderly to the human heart. Often, my work in clinic and my sitting practice blend together. It’s a bit trickier to stay present with other day to day tasks.

Do you have any rituals or routines that support your practice?

A good cup of morning green tea, a sunrise bike ride, a brisk walk, and yoga practice.

How is your life different because of meditation?

There are moments when I can actually pause, before reacting, a huge task for my inner volcano! I see and feel with greater intensity what’s unfolding around me. I often feel immensely grateful. I’ve learned not to take myself so seriously.

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in your practice?

I’ve gone through periods of agonizing doubt. I’m not a devotional person, and I’m rather pragmatic, I have to feel the truth in my bones to make it real. That can sometimes be a challenge. It’s difficult to juggle everything and still be able to devote as much time and energy as I’d like to devote to practice.

What advice would you share with someone who is just starting a meditation practice?

Just sit and let your breath bring you home. With kindness and steadfastness, don’t get up until the bell rings. Let the practice ignite in you a sense of wonderment, and let the beauty of life as well as the suffering of the human heart, inspire your practice, everyday.

What does your heart most long for?

To make a long lasting difference somehow, somewhere. I would love to find courage and the know how to decrease homelessness.

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A Paradox

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.

 Do justly now.

 Love mercy now.

 Walk humbly now.

You are not obligated to complete the work.

But neither are your free to abandon it.

Rabbi Tarfon: Pirke Avot II 20

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The Perfection of Patience

The third paramita — kshanti paramita — is the perfection of patience. Let’s begin with a conversation about what patience is not, and what the perfection of patience is, according to the Tibetan Buddhist view:
Patience is NOT
Giving up
Resignation
Repression
Ignoring
Grinning and bearing it
Accepting everything
Not doing anything
Trying to get resolution on our own terms
Patience IS
“Getting smart”
Pausing and getting still
Being really honest with ourselves about how we feel
Creating space for our experience
Responding instead of reacting
Cultivating courage to sit with discomfort, discord, or disagreement (or any other “dis”)!
Patience is an antidote to anger and aggression. Here is a link to a great article from Pema Chodron:  The Answer to Anger and Aggression is Patience.
How Our Meditation Practice Leads to Patience
Our meditation practice helps us to cultivate patience because it teaches us how to be with our experience without repressing or indulging it, but rather witnessing it with kindness and curiosity. Meditation invites us to be fully present with ourselves in a kind and non-judgmental way, and this helps us to be more fully present with others….even those who push all of our buttons! No one said this was easy!
But Pema Chodron does say: “Patience is an enormously wonderful and supportive and even magical practice. It’s a way of completely changing the fundamental human habit of trying to resolve things by going either to the right or the left, calling things right or calling things wrong. It’s the way to develop courage, the way to find out what life is really about. … We discover that as a matter of fact joy and happiness, peace, harmony and being at home with yourself and your world come from sitting still with the moodiness of the energy until it rises, dwells, and passes away.” 
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Sky & Barley

Though your view should be as vast as the sky, keep your conduct as fine as barley flour.

~ Padmasambhava

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Community Spotlight: Kaleigh Carter

Where do you live?

Austin, TX

How did you come to meditation?

I came to meditation because my body forced me to slow down.  During this period of my life I was doing yoga five or six times a week and I loved the way the movement of my body could create a clarity in my mind—without having to sit still! “Yoga is my meditation,” was almost a mantra for me, which wasn’t entirely untrue; however, I recognize now that my relationship to it at that time was more about trying to escape my mind rather than make friends with it.

After herniating two disks in my low back I was searching for ways to continue to experience that feeling I’d come to cherish. Since I couldn’t move the way I was accustomed to, eventually I was led to meditation, which by no means gave me the same feeling when I started out, but has had so many more myriad benefits in my life since establishing a consistent practice.

What inspires you to meditate?

I’m inspired to meditate by my firm conviction that meditation can lead to a happier and more peaceful life that will ripple out to in turn create a happier and more peaceful world. I have a deep yearning to help make the world a better place, and I used to believe that this would be something I would accomplish through a job or career or by some act of going out into the world and doing.

Now I realize that I can make a huge difference by going within and learning how to be in the world. This doesn’t mean lack of action in the world, it means that because of my time in meditation that I can act in different and more beneficial ways. This is oftentimes what motivates me to get on my cushion when I’m feeling resistance.

I recently found great inspiration in this quote, which I feel sums it all up:

“The principle of nowness is very important to any effort to establish an enlightened society. You may wonder what the best approach is to helping society and how you can know that what you are doing is authentic and good. The only answer is nowness. The way to relax, or rest the mind in nowness, is through the practice of meditation. In meditation you take an unbiased approach. You let things be as they are, without judgment, and in that way you yourself learn to be.” – Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

What does your meditation practice look like?

Right now I’m in Dakini Meditative’s Meditation Teacher Training and we’re studying Culadasa’s instructions for shamatha meditation as elucidated in The Mind Illuminated text. So, every day my practice is 20-30 minutes of meditating with my breath as the object. My current focus within each session is on finding or conjuring a felt sense of joy in my body while I meditate so that it becomes something I automatically want to return to day after day.

Do you have any rituals or routines that support your practice?

I have a little altar with my Dakini meditation cushions set up in front of it (I use both a gomden and a zafu for extra height and support for my low back). My altar has pictures of people who inspire me to meditate, pretty artwork, and crystals on it. I try to always take a few minutes to move my spine before I sit, and I burn Palo Santo to cleanse the space. At the end of every practice I dedicate my time sitting in the hopes that all beings will one day be happy and free from pain.

How is your life different because of meditation?

I feel like I’m a completely different person since meditation has come into my life. Since it’s one of the most important things in my life now I take it into consideration during most other activities of my life. I don’t drink anymore (which was a big part of my life pre-meditation) mainly because I know the headache the day after will prevent me from meditating. I try to stay well-rested so that I can have a shot at having a good practice.

In addition to practicing better self-care because of my practice I also have healthier relationships with myself and others in my life. Meditation allows me to have clearer seeing of my habitual responses, and often (not always) helps me find the ability to pause so that instead of reacting in my instinctual way I can choose how to respond to a situation. I have much more patience because of my practice and I feel like I’ve become more generous and more compassionate to myself and others.

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in your practice?

I’ve probably faced all of the challenges in the book: doubt, resistance, dullness, agitation, physical pain, finding consistency… One of the biggest challenges was when I was doing a practice that required elaborate visualizations. My brain isn’t that great at conjuring up images, so I constantly struggled to have the motivation to practice. Then I would hear about others who were doing the same practice and having amazing results and I would judge myself, leading to huge resistance to practicing. Another challenge I’ve faced is simply the ability to find the right time of day to practice. Even when I’m well-rested, it’s hard for me to wake up and feel alert enough to practice first thing in the morning, however if I wait until later in the day it’s easy to forget or end up just fitting it in right before bed.

What advice would you share with someone who is just starting a meditation practice?

There are three main things I would share with someone who is just beginning.

1) Don’t get discouraged when you begin meditating and it seems like you’re actually having way more thoughts now! It’s actually just that you’re becoming aware of all the thoughts that were already there. And, they’re not supposed to go away… Contrary to popular depictions, the point of meditating isn’t to stop your thoughts and only feel calm and peaceful. It is to welcome whatever is there, just as it is, with no judgment— even if that is a racing mind, angry thoughts, sadness, joy, boredom—whatever! It’s all okay.

2) There are many “flavors” of meditation. If you try one and it doesn’t work for you, don’t give up on meditation altogether! Keep trying different styles until you find the one that makes you want to keep doing it, while also keeping in mind that meditation doesn’t come naturally to us and that whatever type you land on will feel different to you every day according to your particular circumstances.

3) Find a meditation teacher. There’s only so much you can learn from reading about it on the internet. Finding a real, live meditation teacher will help you to overcome the resistance, the doubt, and other obstacles that will certainly arise in your practice.

What does your heart most long for?

My heart most longs for a peaceful, loving society that is based upon mutual respect and understanding of the fact that all beings (not just humans) want to be happy and free from suffering.

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Be Constantly Present

In everything you do, question how your mind is, moment by moment. By being constantly present and aware you bring about what helps others — this is the practice of a bodhisattva.

~ 37 Practice of a Bodhisattva, Verse 36

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Kindness is Strength

Don’t ever mistake my silence for ignorance, my calmness for acceptance or my kindness for weakness. Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.

~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama

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The Perfection of Kindness

The shila paramita, or perfection of kindness, encompasses all of the teachings on ethics and morality, and all of these teachings can be simplified into one word: kindness. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Be kind to the world. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has often been quoted as saying “My religion is kindness.” He suggests that we contemplate this every morning:
“Every day, think as you wake up: Today, I am fortunate to be alive. I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all of my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve Enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts toward others. I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” 
In much the same way that we begin our meditation practice by setting an intention and close our practice by offering a dedication, we could begin and end each and every day this way. The more we pay attention to the goodness that we sow in our bodies and hearts and minds, through our actions, words, and thoughts, the more we water those seeds of goodness so they can bloom.
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Morning Blessing

Every day, think as you wake up: Today, I am fortunate to be alive. I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all of my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve Enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts toward others. I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.

~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama

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