Attending my first buddhist teachings: 2 days with the Dzogchen Ponlop Rimpoche in Vancouver

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

You may have noticed my blog entries as of late have been sporadic at best, and non-existent for the most part. In fact, you probably wouldn’t have noticed because you don’t read this blog anyways – who does – it’s not written particularly for anyone; keeping a blog was meant to keep me dedicated to my meditation and fasting. A place to report to everyday about my progress. I’m being brutally frank when I say that I’m not writing for others, I’m doing it for myself.

Well, as of late, there is much to report. I haven’t really been fasting – it’s turned into more mindful eating (I hope) and learning to eat when I’m hungry not when I think I should be hungry. The all-day every week fasts became too difficult to adhere to – I’m usually so active physically that my body is used to the fuel-burn-refuel rhythm and to suddenly go into stasis once a week is a shock to the system. Fasting also requires significant mental prep work and I began to tire of the mental stamina required of me. Not to mention the effect of a woman’s cycle which makes fasting very easy on certain days of the month and very difficult on others.  These aren’t excuses, simply observations. I’m feeling into new ways to fast and cleanse and rest the digestive system – ways which would allow the process to be more intuitive so that it can happen when its meant to happen not because a calendar entry says so.

Meditation – again, I realise that a regular meditation practice is one, if not the most important thing for my mind and being at this time in my life. I continuously observe the mind getting caught up in many stories, as it creates its own paradigm and continues to act from fear and fixation. Understanding and learning to quiet the mind is a crucial part of connecting with my heart and also with my intuition. It is with this intuition that I make so many of my choices, after all.

The buddhist teachings that I was able to attend these past 2 days in Vancouver have been a friendly, necessary reminder as to why a meditation practice is so important in my life. I take up the mantle of a daily practice yet again, the realisation still fresh in my mind.

My notes from teachings with the Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

The Rinpoche begins by asking a very valid question: if we are all so excited about transcending and going beyond, do we even know what it is we are wanting to go beyond? The trick is to know what to transform. This thing is the mind.

We enter into a discussion about happiness. Happiness is extremely personal – what makes one person joyous may be miserable to someone else. How we hold on to, create and pursue this elusive happiness is all rather complicated. But what is quite simple to us is the following: the nature of our own mind. We are in it, with it and a part of it every moment of our existence. It is not mysterious to us. Ultimately our own mind is much simpler and easier to understand than, for example, the idea of happiness.

The mind is like our roommate. One with which we’ve signed a life-long contract. Befriending the mind is important. It is the mind that creates every experience for us – the interpreter through which we experience all suffering, joy, every emotion and thought.

Sometimes, oftentimes, knowing the mind is not a comfortable thing. It is a very personal knowing. The patterns woven there should be acknowledged. They weave an intricate web of layers upon layers of pattern. Ultimately however these can be summed up into two categories: fixation and the emotional mind.

Thinking and fixation evolve from some level of fear. However, at its very core, a genuine sense of knowing at the heart level exists – this we call naked awareness or “Rigpa”. But there is no way to rest in the true and naked nature without knowing and understanding the mind first.

Day 2 teachings

What is Dzoghen? It is the natural state of our being. The state that is fundamentally free and aware. It is our real nature. The Dzogchen teachings help us to discover, or rather rediscover, this nature of Rigpa. Notice that the difference between Buddha nature and a confused mind lies in awareness. The difference is in the recognition of the mind and state of mind.

When you let go of your daily habits and of the clinging to the mind you are already going beyond. Taking that genuine leap (no safety cords attached!) you are able to experience a piece of that awakening. Working on that “ordinary” level, with the seemingly mundane everyday tasks, truly allows you to go beyond.

What do you do to bridge the gap between method and realisation? The only way is to be genuine, honest and brave. Have the courage to make mistakes!

Notes continued:
The in between: the meeting point between subject and object. Where they unite. That contact is where we experience awareness. This is what we call experience – when subject and object meet together. That’s where we find freedom. Awakening is found right here, within our experiences.

Remember: there is method and there is realisation. Methods (ie technique) are our tools – like meditation, prayer, awareness – these bring us to the realization.
Key point: work with the mind. If you don’t know the mind you cannot know Rigpa.

1152050_XAbout fixation: to simply experience, to be the observer and to simply experience, is difficult for a mind used to fixation.  A practice: close your eyes, and turn your head to one corner of the room or space you are in.  Open them and shut them again quickly.  Allow yourself just a flash of the visual before you; it is enough to discern the images before your eyes but not long enough to allow the mind to begin judging and labeling that which you see.  Close your eyes again, turn your head in a different direction and repeat the exercise.  Observe what it is to work with appearances and what it means to remain calm and to simply experience things the way in which they appear.  Fixation begins when we begin to own things… when we feel that we own our thoughts.

An interesting analogy: think of a dumbbell, a weight of about 30 kg, for example.  Imagine that you are holding this heavy weight in front of a mirror.  Look at what you see in the mirror – does the weight of the dumbbell show up?  Even though you see a reflection, the very moment that it appears, it does not exist there.  Our entire life is like this reflection – there is no weight attached.  Do not identify with your own experience and you will see how beautiful and liberating it can be. Leave appearance in its own place.

chainThoughts: a single thought in and of itself is not dangerous.  It is like one link in a chain; a link that stands alone is not a problem – in fact, like a smoke ring, it is beautiful alone – it is the many links bonded together that create the chain.  It’s that solidification process in which we think things through, and think them over again and again, that brings out our compulsive nature – the very nature that keeps us within the Samsara.  Have you noticed that we repeat the same actions (and thoughts) time and time again hoping for a different result? (Is this not the definition of insanity!).  Release and let go of thoughts – don’t hold on to them!

A word to the wise: if you ever feel jealousy, take that opportunity to rejoice for that person and their success!  You get free merit if you do this 😉

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