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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How to Become Who You Want to Be part 4

What are obstacles you presently recognize preventing you from being the one that you could be? Even though we did not examine what caused us to crave a certain way of life, we have already made plans of who and what we want to be. The growth and cultivation of this plan might be like a carefully tended flower garden, or things crawling from a fermenting, stinking muck pit!

That reminds me of my first spring thaw here in Wisconsin. The thawing of the ground after the winter came as a big surprise! The basement flooded, coming in from underneath and from the walls. A friend went downstairs and then came upstairs to tell me, "Come downstairs to the basement and take a look.” I replied, "No, I am not going down there because there is dragon poop down there. Just get rid of it, please!” She looked at me strangely…. I do not want to look at dragon poop, and I could see it all over her rubber boots when she came upstairs! She had it halfway up her boots and I certainly did not need to see the source of that!

Like that, perhaps what is growing in the basement of the mind could become an unhappy resource of life planning! Perhaps the criteria we used to develop our personalities and wishes for how we spend our life could be coming from a flooded basement with the dragon poop. However, with careful reflection of memories, it is probably a mixture of the sports hero, teachers, parents, books we have read as well as stories that we tell each other and our self. All of this becomes part of our personal story and method for dreaming our dream. This is actually a rich source of material for quality inner work toward spiritual transformation. Anyone who says meditation is boring is not looking in the right places! This is cogitation meditation, inner work, cleaning, and getting rid of what is not healthy.

There is something important that we want or need that has not been realized so far, but there is no open space for it to arise yet in our everyday, ordinary life. There is something you truly want and truly need related to this question about creating new circumstances toward becoming the one we want to be. What is keeping us from doing it? It is because something in the perceptions is preventing us from becoming that. Why? What are some of the reasons?

For some, a poor habit is how they stay (or do not stay)on track. One seemingly good idea follows another, which becomes the enthusiasm of the moment. However, by following it, suddenly it is not there anymore, or another good idea comes along that sounds even better! Maybe our role model of how we would like to be is Brittany Spears, but she is no more! She is like useless! Now Brittany Spears is like so yesterday! So, forget Brittany Spears. Who is it now? Suzie Ubee! Now we want to be like Suzie Ubee, and we have a new person to emulate. This is the enthusiasm of the moment. I am going to do this, no; I am going to do that, no….Then we cannot do anything because we cannot decide what we want to do.

Similarly, I believe that our goals could have crossed purposes. For example, someone might want to be a sports hero, and want to be a cancer researcher/astronomer combination. Physically, mentally, and time-wise, they just cannot do all of those things. Many good people want to have an altruistic career by working in some non-profit and helping many people but also want to make a lot of money. This is a hard decision to make with crossed purposes such as this. What will win? I do not know.

To be honest, I believe the main reason that you are not yet the person you want to be is because you are just too busy to create new conditions. You did not have time to get the education you need to achieve the special goals you want. An unprepared education means that you do not know how to go about realizing your own possibilities, as well as becoming free of influences, and you do not have the information, or inner knowledge to prepare to be what you want to be.

One challenge we all face in our work of becoming our self is fear of ridicule. It is not easy to reveal the special you of your dreams because you could be ridiculed for it, and so you do not try. Another challenge is fear of failure. We might be afraid that this amazing dream of who we could be is something that we might not be able to do, and so we do not try. Is that like not having confidence? The possibilities or the opportunities could be right there, but fear or insecurity prevents us from even embracing it.

We are also often confronted and afraid because of insecurity, rejecting what is offered to us without even seeking favorable conditions that will arise the fulfillment of our life’s desire. In Milwaukee, there is a beautiful Calatrava designed winged building, the art museum. We might not think of getting on an airplane to Spain, and knock on his inestimable door to blurt out, "Mr. Calatrava, you are my role model, I want to be just like you. Will you teach me everything you know?" So, instead, what if Calatrava came to your front door and said, "Hi. I will take you on as my student, and I personally will teach you how to make incredible winged buildings." Would you say, "No, no thank you, I cannot do that.” Sometimes, even when opportunity comes, you do not take hold of it.

Failure to reach success can also be blamed on confusion by changing our mind and thinking that we are not sure that the goal we chose is the one that we still want. After creating stories to help achieve goals and finally decide what we want to do, we might then waver, and think that was not the right goal after all. Some people habitually reject a previous goal, later even drop that new goal for still another new ideal, and never accomplish anything of real value. This is like digging a hole here, digging a little bit of a hole there and dig a little bit of a hole over there. They never even get started before changing their mind!

Once we make a quality decision about how we will use our life, we then must also be flexible to move from wishing to be, to an active stage of preparation. Otherwise, we might become like others who become so invested in wishing and wanting a goal that the wish becomes the thing and not the accomplishment. Would we really be happy or satisfied only wanting to be just the wisher of an extraordinary way of being? There has to be a point where wishing evolves to active preparation to become that one. To be continued….

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How to Be Who You Want to Be Part Three

Our actual needs and true talents are often inappropriately tied to a mythical process by which we are going to gloriously turn out to be the unknown person we are attempting to become. It is a quest, like Lord of the Rings for a mystical attainment of transformation that we can only hope has good motivation. On the other hand, we could be harboring destructive or counter productive demands of exactly how we are going to achieve a state that may not be the most healthy strategies, isn't that so?

For some people, the only way to become the person they envision must also be done with extreme creativity. It had to have a fluid changing quality so that each time a decision solidified of who they were, it had to be something brand new. Not only was the artistic model of personal development important, but also it could not be repeated. Since they could not do anything twice, or risk violating their principles, soon they might be doing things like running up and down the street in a chicken costume, doing random performance art, shouting strange and disconnected statements of freedom simply because it is different from anything they had done before. This kind of creativity is what I call the suffering of being ultra-contemporary.

Many spiritual seekers today were influenced by values from the hippy era of the 1960’s, a period of extreme alternative thinking, but not the same as the previous example. Based on those, they seek who they want to be, and even their careers, built upon ideals instilled during that creative time.

On the other hand, not as noble, but very real, are perceptions or wishes for fame or status influencing us. For example, wanting to be a movie star, because status perception decides this is very important. Perhaps someone wanted to be a doctor because doctors have some perceived high status, and so make long-term choices because of wanting to be admired as the owner of that status position. A not very nice example would be a mafia chief, a status of someone who does not care but has power.

A reason, using feelings of craving status and power-seeking is something that, of course, can be very dangerous but it is also common as a fantasy projection. For example, to crave the status of a movie star creates a flight of the imagination by mentally entering a star mode, so that what others are saying is not nearly as important. One does not even have to be an actual movie star, but in the mind, that one is famous. This thinking can even be a secret motivation in meditators! Wanting high status, perhaps by even pretending to be an enlightened being is wrong, and harmful, not only to the meditator but also to others.

My last submission for consideration in this discussion regarding influences, by no means exhausts this subject. I think location is a strong influence in how we became who we are. For example, living on a farm might strongly influence someone to be a farmer. Without having a huge variety of opportunities or options combined with family pressures and peer pressure, plus everyone around is a farmer, that person already lives on a farm, the family owns the farm, and so they are a farmer. This has nothing to do with loving it or not loving it, location strongly influences and perhaps limits choices. Maybe living in an isolated sheep country, makes you a shepherd. What are your choices? Shepherd, …nothing ….shepherd …nothing … This is like the choices faced by a yak herder or sheep person in Tibet.

Now you are already the result of your personal history and decisions of this life. For the wise, from here to the end of life, there is inner work that needs to be attended to, in order to have a high quality life that you can be proud that you made the best choices possible. Even then, this is not all about choices from now on, but about dynamics that feed the wanting to be something that is a something- something- something that not easy to define. Whatever the choices that you will make from now on, eventually, any defective criteria that thwart your highest potential must be destroyed. It is possible to work on it in within a transformative process.

A gnawing desire to want to know who you are, and to be something, is important. In most other cultures, so much freedom of choice does not exist, but in America, it is all about choices. Then, what is most active in Western people is how you express your choices. This does not happen this way in Tibet, but I am quite okay that you do! Why? Because that is the way it is! I cannot pretend that your society is something other than what it is. We are going to work with what it is, but we have to understand it first. To be continued….

Monday, September 14, 2009

How to Be Who You Want to Be part two

It seems as though we are inundated with influences all throughout life directing, guiding, or even forcing us to be who others wish us to be. We actually are less self-driven than we might think! In subtle and manifest ways, we emulate role models, such as a teacher, or a parent in childhood. As we begin to read, we are influenced by many other role models such as Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Napoleon, Alexander the Great, or Gandhi. Others might emulate rock stars, celebrity chefs, fashionistas, or even high profile criminals.

Our interest here is not to decide what are healthy or unhealthy role models, or how we “should” behave, but instead explore the dynamics of influence. In that way, we can become clearer regarding which influences we might wish to continue that relationship with and free up our mind to explore new role model influences. However, as we explore, we must be mindful, as there will be lingering disarray from unhappy modeled influences.

How we decide toward what we wish to direct our own life is also influenced by what we seem to have a natural talent for or what we are attracted to enjoy because we are skilled. For example, if you are good at math, you might want to become an engineer. Someone with a natural talent for art and feels a love for it might seek to become an artist in order to continue enjoying that their whole life. However, how do you know you love art? How do you know you love math? Behind that, you could reflect how you decided that you loved math or art and became attracted to it as part of developing another kind of growing up process.

Some might say that it just makes sense to love what you are good at, but there are other decisive factors hidden behind. There are many people as tall as basketball players who are not basketball players, so we can say that there are tall people out there who could be and are not. In much the same way, it is not enough to dismiss a careful logical progression by using circular logic saying we want to do the things that make us feel good, and so we enjoy them, and practice them. Becoming more skillful makes us better at that activity, so we must continue in order to maintain loving them.

If we begin by reviewing the ordinary dynamics that cause us to become one kind of person and not another, we can understand by tracking experiences using our ordinary memories. If we use our own ordinary life as our research, we can discuss a mechanical process of decision making like scientists. We can see it more easily, and then we can see how those same decision dynamics might be alive in our spiritual wanting as well. This is the way of dharma inner and outer work toward transformation. We gradually remove the obstacles that prevent us from being awakened, and the awakened state will arise, as though we could not help becoming enlightened!

Friends often complain that society told them not so much what they could be, but what they could not be. For example, one friend said “Well, I wanted to be president, and they said, ‘No, there are no girl presidents,’ then I wanted to be a doctor, ‘ and they said, ‘No, you cannot be a doctor. You have to be a mother.’ I remember saying that I wanted to be Jesus, and I was told, ‘You cannot be Jesus.’”

So the possible criteria for how we decided who we wanted to be was equally filled with negative conditioning telling us what we could not be. A further point is how we react to that negative conditioning. Unfortunately, I think many believe it and try something different and less controversial. This is not just for girls. Boys also have negative conditioning from society telling them what they cannot be. They cannot be sensitive, cannot be spiritual, they cannot have awarenesses… They cannot cry.

Another kind of influence on us in formative years (which we are still in, by the way) is gratitude. For example, there could have been a doctor who saved your life, and you think, 'I want to be like that one.' I have also heard that yoga teachers often have a story about how yoga helped them recover from something that they had been struggling with for a long time, and now they are a yoga teacher to contribute back to society.

Still another interactive influence for your seemingly spontaneous choices of how you want to lead your own life is your body and its physical abilities. For example, you might have a body especially suited for running. I watched a story about runners in Kenya who have extraordinary, long muscle fibers in their legs and certain physiological characteristics that make them suitable for running. Because their body is suited for running, many take up careers of running, especially those from poor families. Perhaps someone has a body type for sports. Earlier was mentioned tall people and basketball, but perhaps short, small ladies are encouraged by physical type to doing tumble dives or gymnastics. They can only be short and of a certain size.

Someone else might have a body suited for ballet. I saw a movie about ballet students. I thought it was quite amazing; they all looked identical, like little parts of some game. Young ladies with little, round skirts around their waists, holding their arms up, and they were going on their toes. It was so strange to look at it from my point of view. Maybe you look at it differently, but I find it strange for people to get up on their toes that way. They all looked identical, hair almost identical, it was very interesting.

In another way, if your parents are very intellectual, you might be genetically disposed through mental gifts for scholarship. If your parents are artists, you may be genetically disposed to have art talent, as well as growing up in that environment. You may have some mental genetic imprint that stimulates you to decide who and what you want to be.

We are not really talking about careers, but the mental component of decisions that you have already made about yourself. These led you not just to decide who you want to be, but how you are going to go about it and what you expect to gain from this thing that you want to be, isn't that so? Therefore, we must also include your expectations, as well as your emotional, mental, and spiritual influences, especially if you do not have a meditation-type process in your life at this point. To be continued….

Sunday, September 13, 2009

New Ideas about Ancient Principles part four

Specifically now, how do we become happy? It is so simple, because we become happy by making others happy. As mentioned in previous parts of this series, we could be suffering from pride of education, technology, pride of culture, and especially pride of living in the West. Our relationship with others could be already damaged because of influences preventing us from experiencing true kindness and commonality from our own side.

To make it worse, we can become infected by the poor self-image of others who believe you to be superior and themselves inferior in ways that prevent good relationships and can even flip to anger toward you. For example, in traveling to other countries, some might view you like a kind of god realm being, (not in France, by the way).

We become happy ourselves by making others happy. We have found a common denominator applicable to all places and times when we focus on this need. "Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared." This is a quotation by Lord Buddha Shakyamuni.

The next issue is: How do we learn to get along with others? Perhaps we should just make them behave and do everything that we tell them. However, since this rarely works, some believe that our defective relationships to others are based on the perception of fear. To overcome this, when we attempt to be more open to others, it diminishes the fear. Some might say that by accepting others as they are, it lessens fear. However, I think it depends upon what you fear. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Diamonds and rubies and pearls, oh my! Pickles and toast and ice cream, oh my! However, I can agree that fear would be a definite block to getting along with others, especially those that we want to be close to but fear prevents us from quality relationships.

To continue thinking about how ancient principles could encourage us, we need to reflect further about human issues that are the same now as in ancient times.

A student said to me, “ I think it is important to not see us as separate from others. What you do to one extends to others, so by learning how to get along and helping the other person overcome a difficulty, we help ourselves.”

I answered, “ Here, hold out your hand. I am going to prove it. (Smacks her hand) There, I just smacked George Bush. How long will it take to reach him? Now you stop that war in Iraq!” Joking aside, I do agree that the harm we do to a single sentient being harms all beings, because it harms our relationship to all sentient beings. In that way, if we become incapable of helping others, their suffering remains.

So, how do we get along with others? We do that by reducing our own selfish grasping and neediness for others to accommodate us so that we do not have to force them get along with us. The way to get along with others is to stop grasping at them.

Along with that, I quote Franklin Delano Roosevelt: "Selfishness if the only real atheism. Aspiration, unselfishness, the only real religion." This is your own president during World War II.

This suffering position of selfish needs can cause our commonalities with human needs and conditions to become complicated. Then the answers become so complex and convoluted that we cannot be satisfied with the careful and simple answers of healing ancient principles.

How do we learn to become fearless, and what do you think the ancients said regarding this issue?

Student: It is about being in a state where fear cannot exist.

Rinpoche: does this mean that the simple answer is- that it is not even the question.

Student: Isn't it about learning courage?

Rinpoche: No, no. That is the roller coaster of war and hatred.

Student: We settle into the all-encompassing basis.

Rinpoche: That is exactly right. This is the ancient principle. We learn to become fearless by returning to primordial purity that was never born and cannot die.

In the Buddhist scripture called Sutra of the King of Contemplation: “Pure, clear, and inwardly radiant, undisturbed and uncompounded, is the nucleus of the Sugata. It is the reality that abides from the beginning.”

Student: I do not think it is possible to stop everyone in the world from suffering.

Rinpoche: That is not true. We must begin somewhere so we meditate on the nature of suffering in manifest suffering and then subtle forms such as the suffering happiness. We definitively stop all suffering by first entering into communion with the nature of reality and then inviting others to enter that state. When all living beings are in that state, suffering ends forever. The deeper answer however is because suffering is illusory, you cannot fix suffering. You have to enter into a place where suffering does not exist.

This quotation by Lord Buddha Shakyamuni respects and honors these wisdom principles: "We are formed and molded by our thoughts. Those whose minds are shaped by selfless thoughts give joy when they speak or act. Joy follows them like a shadow that never leaves them."

In conclusion, we need to have practical perceptions to work toward. We need to change so that we can be a model of beneficial change for others. How can we become that zone of safety and peace? Think about how it would feel to be devoid of pride of education and culture, and arrogance of superiority of technology. Be plain, simple, and careful in your inner inquiry.

I believe we cannot force ourselves to become peaceful, but we must become peaceful by embodying peace. We cannot do peace. We have to be peace. Here I quote, from one of your own cultural heroes, Helen Keller, who was blind, deaf, and mute. "I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding that bringeth peace.” If Helen Keller can express such thoughts as these, imagine what you can do, having all of your faculties. The end