Welcome spring, welcome new beginnings – A Mesage from Lama Surya Das

Spring greetings from the fragrant hills overlooking Malibu, where we’ve just completed our annual spring Dzogchen Center’s weeklong Southern California retreat. The Franciscan mission-style Serra Retreat Center– built long ago on the burned out ruins of an original hilltop mansion here, called “The Castle of Emptiness”, created a perfect atmosphere of gentle quietude for our week of Dzogchen practice, sangha friendships old and new, and “koinonia” (spiritual communion and transformation). Their lovely meditation hall, complete with huge panoramic windows, coupled with vast ocean and mountain views, made skygazing meditations and prayerful devotions, along with daily mindful nature walks, all the more satisfying, especially in these tumultuous times. A new retreatant said she felt as if she’d “landed here at a retreat for angels.” Another told me, in a private guidance-interview: “I lived in a beautiful ice palace. This practice has really opened my heart, melted the frozenness, and almost ripped my guts out. I go home transformed and curious to see what’s next on this path.”

It was hard to beat the mid-March blizzard and get out of Boston by plane two weeks ago as I headed to Boulder, CO, where I was honored to give Naropa University’s Distinguished Lecture sponsored by the Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism. My visit allowed for time to visit with students and staff as well as teach a few classes. How wonderful to see so many avid young folks, and dedicated faculty and staff too. It was refreshing, inspiring, thought-provoking, and a bit challenging as well. Each and every Buddhist community is somewhat different. I finished my time in Boulder at Ken Wilber’s Integral Center, where our dedicated Boulder sangha held a day-long Saturday meditation retreat– the perfect way to end my stay!

This being my first travel in almost five months, unusual for me; it feels so good to be back in the saddle again. I’ve missed communing with my students and teaching actual meditation. And while my hip recuperation period is almost over, I’ll continue on with a bit more physical therapy and exercise, longevity practice, and chanting for a better world and more peace, harmony, mutual understanding, loving-kindness and cooperation. I hope to see ya in July for our next Dzogchen Center meditation retreat in Garrison, NY.

Welcome spring, welcome new beginnings!

With love and blessings,
Lama Surya Das

For more details about Lama Surya Das feel free to visit: https://lamasuryadasmarried.tumblr.com

Love Comes From Loving, Not From Outside

EJ valentine's day piece

Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite times of year. The Tibetan New Year is also a favorite, and because the two often fall around the same time, I make a practice of reflecting upon New Year’s resolutions relating to my loved ones, and renewing my commitment to cultivating altruistic compassion and an unselfish open heart—the very essence of authentic love.

These resolutions encompass opening both my heart and mind; listening better; learning to forgive and love even those I dislike; and accepting and blessing the world, rather than fighting or feeing it. Through “co-meditating” with everything as it appears; through “inter-meditation” and interbeing with it—rather than against or apart from “it”—I am able to see through the illusion of separateness. I also remember those who may not feel included in this so-called day for lovers. As Zen Master Dogen says:
To study the Buddha Way is to be intimate with all things.” This is true love.

How can we love and accept others if we don’t have compassion and love for ourselves? Some say we are here in this world to learn and to evolve in consciousness and open our heart as wide as the world. If we are open to this panacean medicine, among life’s greatest lessons is how to love and to love well, and as Ram Dass often says—be love, in addition to giving and receiving it. The answer is learning how to breathe love in and breathe it out, giving and receiving both, while cultivating loving awareness in action. I believe love is the magic ingredient for happiness, growth, harmony and fulfillment.

Many people have asked me, “How would Buddha love?” The Buddha saw every being, human and otherwise, as fundamentally like himself, and was thus able to treat and love them in the way all beings should be treated. We call this infinitely benevolent, selfless love the invaluable bodhichitta or the awakened heart, the very spirit and soul of enlightenment. One can find this taught elegantly in the Loving-Kindness Sutra, in Shantideva’s classic, The Way of the Bodhisattva, and in Atisha’s, Seven Points of Mind-Training and Attitude Transformation.

Through the transformative magic of bodhichitta, each relationship and every single encounter can be a vehicle for meaningful spiritual connection. Buddha taught that this altruistic bodhichitta, or spiritual love, has four active arms, known as the Four Boundless Heartitudes, or the Four Faces of Compassion.

So how can we love Buddha-style? By practicing impartiality to all, freeing ourselves from excessive attachment or false hope and expectation, and accepting, tolerating, and forgiving those around us.

Buddhist love is based on recognizing our fundamental interconnectedness and understanding that all beings are like ourselves in wanting and needing happiness, safety, fulfillment, meaning and connection—and not wanting pain, suffering and misery. The Dalai Lama says, “If you want to be wisely selfish, care for others.” All the happiness and virtue in this world comes from selflessness and generosity; all the sorrow from egotism, selfishness, hatred and greed.

The essence of Buddhist relationship is to cultivate the cling-free relationship, enriched with both warm caring and impartial equanimity. It is essential in intimate relationships to communicate honestly, stay present, tell the truth of your experience using I-statements (rather than accusations and judgments), and honor the other enough to show up with an open heart-mind ready to really listen, feel, and mutually interconnect.

Heated passion becomes warm, empathic compassion when we bring it into the sacred path, when we recognize every moment in life as a possibility of awakening and intimately embrace whatever arises in our field of experience. In that sense, human love and sexual consummation are like the tip of the iceberg of divine love, an ecstatic intimation of eternity, a portal to infinite depths of the groundlessness and limitless space that transports us beyond our limited, egoic selves, to bliss and oneness with all that lives.

People often ask me how to find their “soul mate,” or even if I believe in such a concept. I think that rather than focusing on finding the perfect mate in this world, we would generally do better to work on refining and developing ourselves. Make yourself the “perfect” mate, without being too perfectionistic about it, and you will be a good mate with almost anyone. When your heart is pure, your life and the entire world is pure.

We all feel the desire to possess and be possessed, to love and be loved, to connect and be seen, embraced, and belong. However, I think that the most important thing in being together is the tenderness of a good heart. If our relationships aren’t nurturing the growth and development of goodness of heart, openness, generosity, authenticity and intimate connection, they are not serving us or furthering a better world.

I have learned that to truly love people I need to let them be, and to love, accept and appreciate them as they are—free of my projections, expectations and illusions. This is equally true for loving and accepting oneself. When I peer deeply enough into someone’s heart and see the baby Buddha or innocent, inner child their grandparents and parents cradled oh-so-lovingly in their arms—and how, in that way, that are just like me—who would I harm, fear, resent, put down, persecute or exploit?

I notice that children let go of anger and would rather be happy than right, unlike so many of us adults. Staying present in this very moment, through mindful awareness and paying attention to what is—rather than dwelling on the past or future, or on who I think I am or imagine others to be—helps free me from excess baggage, anxiety and neurosis. This opens me to true love, Buddha’s love, Christ’s love.

For more details about Lama Surya Das feel free to visit: http://www.surya.org/love-comes-from-loving-not-from-outside/

Newness-Awareness for a New Year

As I start to emerge from hip surgery fog of the last few weeks, I am overwhelmed and heartened by the outpouring of loving-kindness, compassion, caring and generosity shared by so many of you, my beloved community. I must admit, being out of it for several days was an interesting and fruitful sort of imposed vacation, although the circumstances weren’t ideal. But, as I’ve continued this personal health and healing retreat at home, by my tree-lined pond, I’ve had the time to reflect on many things, most importantly, the great gift of weakness and dependence—not an easy thing for someone of my age, a helper and caregiver (if not a caretaker), but invaluable as a “late” life lesson. I’m used to helping and being a strong and independent man! Helplessness is much harder to receive, to accept, to allow, to be with things as they are without much control or power of interference. One could almost live like this rather than against it!

Temporary feelings of imbalance and dependence have spurred a new-found level of gratitude and appreciation, for those around me as well as those who are similarly affected, and has forced me to let go in ways I never actually experienced as possible. Genuinely letting go and letting be, melting into the ground of being via surrender and acceptance, trust, vulnerability and openness: the essence of true inner freedom. For this, I am profoundly grateful.

I am also grateful for all of you; those who open my emails, attend my retreats, workshops, and dharma talks, as well as those who take the time to read my books and blogs, listen to my interviews and podcasts, and follow me on social media. While I have always said that my mission is transmission, maybe it’s really been simply to pay attention and maintain positive intention, and share with others how to do the same– because the amount and quality of attention we genuinely bring to bear here and now is what really counts. This is wisdom’s timeless, evergreen secret. Though you may feel far from it yourself, it is never far from you.

Many people are relieved to see this year come to an end, and look ahead to new-found resolve, turning over a new leaf, or even a fresh start. Yet some are simply dreading more of the same spilling over into a new year, fearing that nothing will change for the better because the forces of greed, hatred, intolerance and illusion are simply too entrenched. Many despair of being too ineffectual to make a difference in the face of our massive challenges. So I ask you, how can we each contribute toward building a more harmonious community and world? Let’s be the changes we wish to see in the world, and do something extraordinary by joining hands toward a less divided, more equitable and sustainable world that works for all.

Let’s start by considering how and when to forgive each other and ourselves for whatever missteps may have been made. It’s nearly impossible to move forward and meaningfully evolve if negative energies such as resentment and regrets are still holding us back, weighing one down like old, excess baggage. Gratitude brings in more of the natural good, positive and healing forces; forgiving lets you release what is not healthy. Forgive and remember; learn the lessons so it doesn’t happen again. If you don’t learn now, you might get left back and have to go through very similar experiences again until you do, and can move on.

May peace, wellness and buoyant newness-awareness be with you and your families as we enter a new year!

With love and blessings,

Lama Surya Das

For more details about Lama Surya Das feel free to visit: https://www.tumblr.com/search/lama%20surya%20divorce

Ram Dass & Lama Surya Das – What is the Way?

Watch Ram Dass and his longtime brother Lama Surya Das playfully explore the meaning of Sadhana (daily spiritual practice) in their lives. Join them from May 4-9th on the healing island of Maui for a transformational retreat, accompanied by daily yoga, chant, meditation and spiritual talks at an exotic beachfront paradise.

My Metta Practice

Metta Practice With Lama Surya Das
Metta Practice With Lama Surya Das

As I travel on book tour around the country this month, my formal meditation sitting practice is really challenging but oh so necessary. I like to use as a Go-To the Metta practice I have evolved with over the years.

Metta (maitri) is the practice of loving-kindness meditation and friendliness taught by the Buddha himself, 2,600 years ago. It is a vital component of the Buddhist wisdom teachings and their daily practice as applied compassionately in life. I have taken the basic sacred phrases from the Metta Sutra (Loving-kindness Scripture) and added many of my own over the years as they come up for me in my own prayer and chant life; you are welcome to do the same

Try repeating them with loving-awareness at the conclusion of your own daily meditation, or at any time you wish, however briefly–in your car, walking, in an elevator or airplane, washing dishes, making the bed, or anyplace, anytime. The essence of loving-kindness is WOW, wishing others well. This can be applied at every single encounter, in every kind of relationship–human, animal and otherwise–and is a discreet Bodhisattva’s way of blessing, reverencing, and cherishing every single sentient being, of whatever color, or nationality, age or gender, religious or political persuasion– day to day, moment to moment, whoever you may encounter along the Path.

May I be happy, content and fulfilled.
May all beings be happy!
May we all be equally peaceful, safe and serene.
May all beings be free from harm, danger and fear.

May we walk together the path of wisdom and compassion.
May I practice loving kindness.
May I practice equanimity, acceptance and non-reactivity.

May I be free from suffering and enjoy peace and ease.
May my heart remain open.
May I enjoy and appreciate the holy Now.
May I awaken to the intrinsic Light of my own original true nature.

May I be healed and whole again;
May the planet be healed and restored.
May I recognize my intrinsic interconnectedness and interdependence with others,
And help overcome inequality and poverty through generous sharing and nonattachment.
May I live in gratitude and grace.

May I love deeply, and with full acceptance, and may I open my heart also to receive love.
May I forgive and be forgiven.
May I be free from suffering, stress and anxiety.
May I see the radiant light in all people and things, including those who disagree with me.

I bow to true Buddha-nature, equally innate in one and all.

I dedicate the merit of this Metta practice to the harmony and deliverance of one and all! May they be edified, awakened and free!

Original Source – http://askthelama.com/post/123033645788/my-metta-practice

My latest article in The Huffington Post – Mindful Anger Management and the 6 Rs of Intentional Responsiveness

We live in a violent, strife-filled era. Even Buddhist monks are prey to intolerance, nationalism and violence. Terror and fear surround us. This provokes all kinds of difficult feelings and emotions, especially anger and hatred. Yet it’s not what happens to us but what we make of it that actually makes all the difference. Just because the wind is blowing doesn’t mean we have to be blown away by it, or even driven helplessly in that direction; we can certainly learn how to understand the situation better and even to navigate and reset our sails. This is the secret of self-mastery, autonomy and freedom.

I personally have found that fear, anger, impatience and irritation are like an affliction, and a serious impediment to open communication and healthy relationships of all kinds. Discovering methods to deal with these challenging emotions is essential in leading a healthy and well-balanced, happy and harmonious life. I believe that it is important to realize that anger has its own function, intelligence and logic, and we should not entirely try to suppress or eradicate it — even if we could. Anger is not synonymous with aggression and violence, at least not yet. It is a feeling and emotion we can learn to simply experience, feel in our body, and process, before deciding what if anything to do about either now or later. After much trial and error, I have come up with my own self-awareness practice for regulating strong emotions, which helps me be more patient and authentically responsive through six steps to mindful anger management and intentional responsiveness. Conscious, intentional, principled responsiveness is far from that blind reactivity that so often leads us to regrettable actions.

Mindfulness cultivation is a spiritual practice that an act as pacific medicine for all that afflicts us, a soothing balm for our troubled times as well as the antidote to illusion and confusion. The virtue of patient forbearance and acceptance is one of the most helpful virtues when it comes to finding peace, harmony, and insightful wisdom in life. Anger is one of the most virulent poisons disrupting our happiness, serenity, and also our effectiveness.

Buddhism teaches that there is neither good nor bad, only the wanted and the unwanted. Shakespeare also expressed it: “…for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” The Buddhist virtue called kshanti means patience and forbearance even in the face of harm. It also includes learning to develop acceptance, openness, tolerance and a more broad and long term view of things, uncoupled from temporary pleasures and pains, losses and gains, praise and criticism. Anger can make us sick; patient forbearance heals our hearts. In this practice, we can learn to remain centered in the eye of all such storms and disturbances, which are actually only temporary weather conditions. Even emotional flux and flow are merely intermittent internal weather conditions, temporary and dreamlike. To practice patient forbearance in the face of upset, disappointment, or irritation simply ask yourself: “How much will this matter to me several months or years from now?” Then repeat the mantra, “This too shall pass.”

Patience means not retaliating with anger for anger, or harm for harm, and voluntarily bearing up under difficulties in order to live more harmoniously as well as progress on the path of spiritual awakening. Everything can become grist for the mill of awakefulness. The real question is how to actually be able to cultivate such patience? How to slow down our conditioned knee-jerk reaction to unwanted and provocative stimuli while speeding up our conscious mindful awareness? How to mind the gap between stimulus and response, to contemplate various actions rather than just falling into the habitual conditioned reactions? Finding this gap takes clarity, resolve, motivation and practice. It takes mindful awareness and alert presence of mind — paying attention, moment by moment — the antidote to sleepwalking dreamily through life.

We can find this clear open space and conscious awareness through practicing what I call the Six Rs of Intentional Responsiveness: recognizing, recollecting, refraining, relinquishing, reconditioning and responding. In combination, these six gestures of freedom are like a cool, fresh breath of mindful awareness, helping us to relax and let go, releasing a great deal of built-upon negativity amidst the tumultuous bumper car ride of stressful modern living. They can profoundly free us from falling into all kinds of regrettable reactivity and the inevitably undesirable outcomes usually caused by impulsively retaliating in kind to anger and harm — what is usually called giving tit for tat.

My Six Steps to Freedom and Intentional Responsiveness

1. Recognizing: Notice with equanimity a familiar stimulus that habitually pushes your hot buttons and triggers an unfulfilling, retaliatory response — such as harsh words or unfair treatment, which might very well provoke retaliation in kind. Stop for a moment, however brief, simply to breathe, collect yourself, reflect, and relax.

2. Recollecting: With re-mindfulness, remember the downsides and disadvantages of returning hatred with hatred, anger with anger, harm with harm. Buddha said, “Hatred is not appeased by hatred. Hatred is appeased only by love.” And recollect the upside — the significant advantages — of practicing patience, forbearance, tolerance and stoic acceptance of karma and its repercussions. In this second step, find and mine the sacred pause. Rest in it. Breathe, relax, center and smile. Take a breath break; do yourself a favor.

3. Refraining and restraining, through reframing: See things through the other’s eyes/point of view; cultivating feelings of genuine compassion for those who harm you, knowing that they are merely sowing the seeds of their own unhappiness and bad karma. Examine things from the others’ perspectives: Turn this over like a gemstone to see all sides, recognizing others’ predicament, mentality and suffering. To take it one step further, practice recognizing the adversary or critic as a teacher, a friend, an ally in helping us develop patience and overcome unconscious, habitual, and unproductive reaction patterns. The most difficult person or situation can become our greatest teacher, our greatest opportunity.

4. Relinquishing: Give up habitual conditioned reactivity and let go of impulsive urges in favor of more consciously chosen intelligent responsiveness. Accept the fact that such urges arise, don’t suppress or indulge them. Let them be without acting on them, reflect upon them, and watch them pass by and dissolve. Change is the law. It’s not outer things that entangle us; it’s overmuch attachment and fixation which entangles us.

5. Reconditioning and deconditioning habitual reactivity through remindfulness: Recall the entire situational dynamic you have now reviewed, while refraining, relinquishing and reflecting on how little it will matter in a few months and years, and letting go of unwholesome reaction patterns.

6. Responding appropriately, intelligently, consciously, choicefully — proactively, rather than reactively: In some cases, this may translate into doing nothing or in other cases responding with equanimity; ultimately making wiser, more skillful decisions based on conscious awareness and experience.

The Essence of Awakening

As a young child playing hide and seek outside, with my cousins and siblings, in both Brooklyn and suburban Long Island, I learned an early meditation lesson: the more I stopped, and simply tuned in and sensed, directly, in the immediacy of the moment–the more focused and still I got, in body and mind– the more I saw and could see. And when I was clearer, everything became clearer. This was my youthful introduction to the harmony and oneness available via a heightened, wakeful, present awareness. I can almost see now how mind-reading works, when you utterly still your own body & mind, breath and energy for a moment.

So what does awakened awareness mean in this Modern World? What does it look like in our distracting OverInformation Age? Can the non-dual awakened state of inseparability and oneness be shared collectively, offering a unity consciousness and global banquet table for one and all? This earth our altar, all beings like the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, gods and goddesses arrayed upon it; this is BuddhaVision, sacramental vision. What a wonderful worldview that is and can be.

Emaho!

To find out more about Lama Surya Das, visit http://www.surya.org/.

For more information on Surya’s books- visit http://www.surya.org/books/

You can also follow Lama Surya Das on  Twitter @LamaSuryaDas

Connect with Lama on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/lamasuryadas.