Jan. 25th, 2015

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The openness and warmth of bodhichitta (awakened mind) is in fact our true nature and condition. Even when our neurosis feels far more basic than our wisdom, even when we’re feeling most confused and hopeless, bodhichitta—like the open sky—is always here, undiminished by the clouds that temporarily cover it.

We can try to control the uncontrollable by looking for security and predictability, always hoping to be comfortable and safe. But the truth is that we can never avoid uncertainty. This not knowing is part of the adventure, and it’s also what makes us afraid.

We can practice for years without its penetrating our hearts and minds. We can use meditation to reinforce our false beliefs: it will protect us from discomfort; it will fix us; it will fulfill our hopes and remove our fears. … Trying to fix ourselves is not helpful. It implies struggle and self-denigration. Denigrating ourselves is probably the major way that we cover over bodhichitta. … (L)asting transformation occurs only when we honor ourselves as the source of wisdom and compassion.

The three difficulties are (1) acknowledging our neurosis as neurosis, (2) doing something different, and (3) aspiring to continue practicing this way.
Acknowledging that we are all churned up is the first and most difficult step in any practice. Without compassionate recognition that we’re stuck, it’s impossible to liberate ourselves from confusion. “Doing something different” is anything that interrupts our ancient habit of tenaciously indulging in our emotions. We do anything to cut the strong tendency to spin out. We can let the story line go and connect with the underlying energy or do any of the bodhichitta practices introduced in this book. Anything that’s nonhabitual will do—even sing and dance or run around the block. We do anything that doesn’t reinforce our crippling habits. The third difficult practice is to then remember that this is not something we do just once or twice. Interrupting our destructive habits and awakening our heart is the work of a lifetime.

This is the time to ask, “Why am I doing this to myself again?” Contemplating the causes of suffering right on the spot empowers us. We begin to recognize that we have what it takes to cut through our habit of eating poison. Even if it takes the rest of our lives, nevertheless, we can do it.

When people ask me how long this will take, I say, “At least until you die.”

We might assume that as we train in bodhichitta, our habitual patterns will start to unwind—that day by day, month by month, we’ll be more open-minded, more flexible, more of a warrior. But what actually happens with ongoing practice is that our patterns intensify. … It’s not something we do on purpose. It just happens. We catch the scent of groundlessness, and despite our wishes to remain steady, open, and flexible, we hold on tight in very habitual ways.

If we train to become a “good” warrior or to escape from being a “bad” person, then our thinking will remain just as polarized, just as stuck in right and wrong, as before. We will use the training against ourselves, trying to jump over issues that we’re avoiding so as to attain some idealized notion of all-rightness. I’m not meaning to imply that this is unusual. Welcome to the human race. 

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