Monday, August 3, 2015

Lasting Medicine by Michelle

Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche Blog

Michelle from the US

The reality of the day to day suffering that many people face when it comes to meeting their basic needs, living through conflict and at times fighting for their safety is far removed from my peaceful Taipei life. An interesting job, safe home, great friends, fresh food and a wonderful teacher and spiritual community are my reality.

Although I have faced some difficult times, the greatest suffering and difficulty in my life probably hasn't been circumstantial but rather formless, a kind of nameless and shapeless stress that resides in my chest and varies in its power over my body and mind.

When I first started studying with Rinpoche, this stress was such a big part of my daily internal landscape that I took it for granted. Doing yoga and meditation offered temporary relief - still does - but wasn't and isn't a permanent fix or solution. Mornings felt so sad to me. I could ignore the intense feeling if I was out and about and busy but if it was just me looking at myself at home, it was crushing. The worst part about it was that I didn't know how to communicate about it or fix it.

After a year or so of studying with Rinpoche, I started doing more practice every day. This had a profound effect on me - it left me sad beyond belief almost daily and sometimes in tears. I easily became angry and impatient. It wasn't so much that the practice gave me these feelings, rather the process created space inside my mind to allow me to access what had always been there but I had effectively bottled up inside of me for so many years. I didn't get it at the time, but now I realize that through the power of this practice and the blessings that come with long-term effort, I was purifying myself of a lot of negativity and mental confusion. Over time, these feelings passed and it was like my whole life shifted irrevocably for the better.

Rinpoche himself had and continues to have this kind of effect on me - just being around him for a while helps me to see my thoughts more clearly and stuff that needs to come to the light does. He is just like the still clear water of the early morning lake that allows you to finally see your own reflection clearly. What often follows from that clarity is a lot of intensity and challenge, but in the end I always emerge a clearer, more stable and open person.

Back when I started studying, I used to see myself and my emotions as separate. I didn't want to accept myself. Therefore, I was always internally struggling with myself and needed a lot of time away from people and noisy places to digest. The gift that Rinpoche has given me over the years is the ability to observe myself with much less resistance and more acceptance, allowing all of it to be as it is. This is not always pleasant but much more natural and far less tiring. Most of the time, I can integrate my practice of watching my mind with whatever situation I am in.

Another gift that Rinpoche has given me is the ability to think beyond myself and to try to see the needs of others more clearly. I can't say that I am able to understand compassion and bodhichitta at all. However, I do know that the best way to spend my time is in expanding my mental and physical energy to include others. Turning my attention to other people and helping them or taking part in one of Rinpoche's myriad Dharma activities is truly the best medicine. It is much more rewarding and meaningful than any of the things I could think of doing to just make myself happy.

Today I found myself feeling particularly stressed and uptight. It just felt like my whole heart area had seized up and I felt so depressed about it. In the early evening I was meditating, and I realized that I was telling myself that I was stressed and tired. When I looked at this cycle, I realized that I simply needed to remind myself to direct my thoughts elsewhere. I changed my mental focus, prayed to Rinpoche and the lineage, and then consciously let my thoughts move from myself to others and the tasks that I needed to focus on. This wasn't repression but rather a process of acceptance and moving on. By doing this, from moment to painfully repetitive moment, I got myself out of my funk and became naturally able to have a very productive meeting and communicate with others in a relaxed yet focused manner.

Maybe my tendency towards depression and sadness is still here, but I now know that I can choose to access something else. Rinpoche teaches us that it's all about your thoughts and the mind, and you can change your reality according to how you think. Nothing has been rejected, in fact everything is accepted just like the sky and the earth accept whatever comes their way. I hope that I can continue to practice to the point where I can view all phenomena with true non-differentiation, equanimity and compassion. I know that Rinpoche can teach this, it's just a matter of how hard I am willing to work to get there.

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