Making progress when access to a center is difficult:  Keep your daily practice alive

Sometimes our family or partner may create obstacles to our doing our meditation practice, feeling we should be spending time with them instead.  There are several solutions to this problem.  First, wake up earlier and do your practice when everyone else is asleep.  The reason why we are exhausted at the end of each day is because our delusions tire us out.  We will be far more rested sleeping seven hours and meditating one hour than sleeping eight hours for the simple reason that we won’t be carrying around as heavy of a burden of delusions throughout the day.

Second, we should ask ourselves, “what does my partner/family want from me?”  Then, show with your actions, not your words, that the more you practice the more you become what they want from you.  They want you to be a good spouse, parent or whatever.  Show them that when you do your practice, you are able to be a better spouse, parent, etc.  When they make the connection between your practice and what they want from you, then you doing your practice will become a priority for them.  Then, your wife will go from being an obstacle to your practice to becoming the Dharma police making sure you did your practice that day!  Third, you should save up all of your relationship capital for one purpose alone – the ability to do your practice.  Ask for nothing else other than time to do your practice.  Let the rest of your family choose where you go out to dinner, what movies you watch, what you do on the weekends.  If the only thing you ask for is the time to do your practice, your family will come to understand that it is important to you and they will come to respect it.

Outside of our formal meditation session, we should try make effort to practice Dharma all day long.  Make a list of all of the routine things you do every day, such as getting ready in the morning, transporting your body from one place to another, eating, going to the bathroom, going to bed, sleeping, etc.  Then, make it a habit to always do the same mental practice every time you engage in this daily activity.  For me, when I am getting ready in the morning, I mentally engage in purification practice.  When I am transporting my body around, I recite either the “single pointed request” or the “Eight lines of praise to the Father.”  When I am eating, I imagine I am making offerings to my Spiritual Guide at my heart.  When I am going to the bathroom I imagine I am dispelling delusions and impurities from my body.  When I go to bed, I usually read my Dharma books, and as I go to sleep I contemplate what I just read and then engage in the yoga of sleeping.  The point is make it routine.  When it is routine, we remember to practice; when it is not, we don’t.  Every time we practice Dharma we create the cause to encounter it again in the future.  Where do we encounter it?  Usually in a Dharma center.

Christians, Jews and Muslims all have a tradition of keeping the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is a special day set aside for receiving spiritual teachings, remembering their meaning and making a special point to put them into practice.  Some people criticize saying people are spiritual on Sunday, but then act like a jerk the rest of the week.  But isn’t it better to set one day aside for spiritual practice than none at all?  Again, some is always better than none.  While as Kadampas we do not have a tradition of the Sabbath, I see no reason why we cannot also make this a tradition of our own.  Even if we do not go to the center on this day, we can mentally dedicate at least one day a week to primarily focusing on our spiritual trainings, or at least focus more so than we usually do on other days.  We should likewise come to view our gompa area in our home as our personal Dharma center.  It does not matter if we do not have a special room for our meditation practice, even a small corner of our bedroom can be mentally transformed into a holy place.  Just this one mental recognition alone enables us to have a daily relationship with our Dharma center.

Many years ago when the New York Temple was being finished, Geshe-la gave Highest Yoga Tantra empowerments at a hotel nearby.  During that festival, I met a guy named Jerry.  Jerry had spent the last several years in a nearby Federal prison, and he had many years left to go on his sentence.  For most people, prison is hell on earth.  For him, his prison cell was Milarepa’s cave.  Somebody, at some point, made an offering of Ocean of Nectar to the prison.  For those not familiar with this book, Ocean of Nectar is by far the hardest and least accessible of all of Geshe-la’s books.  But Jerry was seized by the book.  He studied it thoroughly, memorized the root text and the condensed meaning, and spent many hours each day mixing his mind with and meditating on its meaning.  He told me, “there is no prison.”  Somehow, he found out that Geshe-la was giving Highest Yoga Tantra empowerments, and he worked really hard to be a model inmate to earn a furlough to be able to attend the empowerments.  At the end of the festival, with a copy of Joyful Path of Good Fortune, Meaningful to Behold and Essence of Vajrayana in hand, he eagerly looked forward to going to back to spending 20+ hours a day in his prison cell so he could put his newly acquired Dharma into practice.  Prior to coming to that Festival, Jerry had never stepped foot in a Dharma center, but I think we would all agree he had spent more time in a “Dharma center” than most of us.  If Jerry could view his cell as his center, surely we can do the same with our meditation corner at home.

5 thoughts on “Making progress when access to a center is difficult:  Keep your daily practice alive

  1. You helped clarify a question I’ve been walking around with — how best to direct spiritual gifts. I have some of Geshe-la’s hardbound Dharma texts that I’d like to give away. As individuals at our center, we’ve just given whatever hardback Dharma books we’d like to filling a new Buddha Shakyamuni statue, but I have a few left over. I was thinking of giving them to a friend who visits a jail each month handing out donated books. But I was mentally trying to pick and choose which books might be appropriate for inmates (as if I had any wisdom about that), thinking some might be “too hard” or “too Tantric” or something. You reminded me that, conjoined with my intention to benefit others, to trust that Dharma wisdom will go where it is needed and where there is the karma to receive it. Thank you. Beautiful story about the so-called prisoner, Jerry. What an example!

  2. […]                                                                                                    Kadampa working dad en Español                                                                                                                              Por Kadampa Ryan […]

  3. I learn so much from you/re posts, Kadampa Ryan. Thanks for sharing your practice. So very helpful. Just what I needed.

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