By Ven. Do'an Prajna
Now that the Summer Bodhichitta Gyeolje is underway, I wanted to share with you some simple tips to help strengthen your practice, even in the midst of a busy, spontaneous summer season, where we struggle to maintain our minimum level of practice:
Tip 1: Check Your Attitude.
Ask yourself: what do you bring to your practice?
Our minds are so conditioned to expect that what we experience is wrong in someway. It is important to have a daily practice, but we often tell ourselves we don’t practice right, enough, or the quality of our practice is not good, etc.
We need to break down this conditioning.
We can’t progress if we’re vague about where we are. We must be able to honestly look at our current practice and determine where we are within it. This keeps us doing our practice rather than thinking we are doing our practice.
There are hundreds of ways to practice. What makes the difference in terms of spiritual freedom is our attitude we bring to it. If we think we should be doing it, that we are not doing it well enough, that we are not cut out for it, if we are not honoring the potential in us, it undercuts the process.
Often what makes our practice hard to keep up with is because we are learning to give to ourselves. If we are feeling unworthy, we interpret this self-compassion as selfish. We must remember that lovingkindness is a natural state. Regular practice will lead us to this natural state of compassion and lovingkindness will arise spontaneously from within us. It is already within us, we just need to drop our filters. Regular practice will help us do this.
Ask yourself: What is my attitude?
Check in with yourself. Ask what the quality of your practice is in relation to your attitude? How do you approach your practice? Are you compassionate? Are you hard on yourself? If you are too hard, too rigid or serious, light up. If you are too laissez faire about your practice, perhaps it will help to remind yourself of the benefits of a more disciplined practice.
Tip 2: Remember your Intention.
Bring to mind what matters most to you. Let your heart and mind be free and just see what is true.
In sitting practice, we tend to try to polish our skills or "have an experience". Sense, instead, this sitting is the last few minutes of your life—to just experience the moment. We are so used to always being on our way to somewhere else or doing something for the sake of something else. We forget where are right in the moment. Enjoy the walking the path, rather than race to the finish.
Our intention should encompass a relaxed attentiveness, that is receptive and compassionate.
Tip 3: Be Simple.
Often the reason we fail to be consistent is because we over complicate our lives. Our mind tells us that simple steps don’t matter and complex ones do. The reality is that all of our successes come from consistently taking one simple step after another.
Being simple also addresses our "need" to someday be an expert. Our goal is not to become an expert. Our goal is simply to practice.
Tip 4: Be Active Now.
Do it. Whatever ‘it’ is, do it the first thing before all other things. Go in the bathroom and lock the door. Roll out of bed to your knees. Hide in your closet if you must, but go to any lengths to practice your practice.
You can’t ride on the laurels of practice. Practice is simply dedication to the present—it is not about getting somewhere, striving for anything will only result in not being present.
A blog by the Lotus Heart Zen Meditation and Study Group members