Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mindfulness is an Attitude, by Neil Swanson

Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche Student
Neil from Canada
Mindfulness is an Attitude & the Rewards of Sacrifice

I often reflect on what exactly it is I’ve taken away from my studies with Shang Rinpoche. Having made a conscious decision to stay in Taipei for so many years, I must have derived some benefit, right? The answer to this question is a resounding YES, I have benefitted greatly from over a decade under Rinpoche’s guidance. In a word, I’d say the biggest change I’ve experienced is ATTITUDE. If you knew me as the introverted adolescent I once was, you would also see that compared to then, my attitude towards life now is as different as night and day.

When facing an unexpected challenge, all I need to do is to bear in mind any one of the many encouraging talks I’ve heard Rinpoche give and my heart is immediately steadied and calmed. When an emergency arises, all I need do is apply any one of the dozens of methods Rinpoche has shared with me over the years, and my mind is immediately relaxed and sharpened. When physical ailments strike without warning, I have the strength of mind to deal with them, and a plethora of physical tools such as qigong techniques, meditation practices, Chinese medicinal principles, nutritional tips, and more, through which to regain balance.

Now in my mid-thirties, this attitude, which is based in mindfulness and bolstered with self-confidence, has allowed me to pursue my dreams with more vigor than when I was a young man. Though I’m not there yet, I feel that it is because of the attitude engendered in me through Rinpoche’s guidance all these years that I finally have the persistence and resolve to master skills which require years and years of continual effort. At the same time, I feel that this mindfulness allows me to appreciate the fullness of the moment in a way which I would otherwise miss out on, simply by being mindful of the experience of the present. This awareness often grants me a childlike sense of joy at the simplest of experiences, as if any small occurrence can reveal the miracle of our existence.

My goal while staying in Taipei all these years has been to learn how to benefit myself and others with the traditional methods and wisdom of Buddhism. Of course, any great goal requires sacrifice, but to me anything I may have lost along the way seems insignificant. And though some may say I've given up a lot, when I reflect on what I’ve gained during this time, I am filled with gratitude for the many priceless gifts - a broader perspective, a touch more courage and resolve, more wisdom than ever before, not to mention a loving community which supports me like family - that I’ve received.

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