The Beautiful Energy of Thoughts
with our thoughts is the greatest challenge in meditation—maybe in
life. SHYALPA TENZIN RINPOCHE tells us how we can experience them as
freedom not imprisonment.
habits and careless behavior are the cause of our suffering. If we seek
to live our lives fully, we should not become trapped in our routines.
When a bee settles on a flower to suck its nectar, it is intoxicated by
the taste. Unaware that night is descending, the bee is trapped in the
flower as the petals slowly close. As human beings, we should use our
intelligence and hone our awareness so that our habits do not shackle us
and rob us of our freedom.
thoughts and afflictive emotions obscure the naturally expansive and
luminous nature of mind. Awareness is lost when we narrowly focus on
ourselves and what the “I” experiences. This tunnel vision creates the
breeding ground for a strong sense of ego. When we cannot transcend our
ordinary, habitual ways of thinking, we become mired in our confusion.
Not recognizing the pristine nature of mind, we suffer because there is a
great deal of attachment to the “I.” An endless stream of thoughts,
with one thought linked to the next, traps us in a perpetual cycle of
confusion and pain.
thought should remain in its own place. It would not make sense to drag
a caterpillar from its cocoon and expect it to make honey; that would
be unnatural. Similarly, if you placed a honeybee in a cocoon, it would
not know how to transform into a butterfly. So the caterpillar should
remain in its cocoon, and the honeybee should make honey. When you
experience each thought in its completeness, the energy of the thought
arises and dissolves in its own place. Therefore, you do not need to
tamper with your thoughts. Further elaboration causes bewilderment and
confusion. When the energy of each thought is complete and independent,
it is liberated upon arising and leaves no trace.
you cannot see the nature of each thought as complete and independent,
it is because you are attached to the “I” and what the “I” creates. When
you think, “I am going to do this,” you create continuity for the “I.”
If you think, “I want this,” you mentally select one button, and if you
think, “I want that,” you select the next button. There is no space for
each thought to be complete and independent because you are thriving on
the illusion of continuity. One could say that an independent thought is
natural energy that is fresh, vivid awareness. It is not dependent upon
you follow your thoughts in pursuit of an illusory “I,” your
entanglement with each thought enslaves you. This mental confusion
compels you to follow the first thought with a second thought, the
second thought with a third thought, and so on, and so on. Therefore,
each thought does not exist independently. We write our own story based
on an illusory self. Bound in an endless chain of confused thoughts, we
suffer in a vicious cycle of misery, which we call samsara. Samsara is
the state of unenlightened ignorance. Unaware of the pure nature of mind
and experience, one is helplessly controlled by disturbing emotions and
karma, and one experiences an endless stream of mental and physical
stress and suffering.
the practice of meditation, we experience gaps in the flow of thoughts,
and this space allows us to relax and loosen the grip of entrenched
habits and reactive behavior. Glimpses of space in our mental landscape
slowly free us from a tangled web of discursive thoughts and allow us to
live more fully in the luminous present. Meditation is an effective
tool for breaking free of deep-seated habits. Other methods, such as
those offered in some self-help books, attempt to replace negative
habits with positive thinking, but this does not address the real source
of the problem. If we wish to free ourselves from our habits, the most
effective approach is to ask ourselves, “Who is bound by habit, and how
do these habits originate?”
frequently quoted metaphor of the lion and the dog illustrates this
approach. If you throw a stone at a dog, the dog will chase after the
stone. If you throw a stone at a lion, the lion will chase after you!
The dog will continue to chase stones, but the lion will be finished
with it once and for all. Look directly at the source of each thought
rather than following its trail. Habits are conditional and fabricated
by thoughts. These patterns of thought and action are the result of our
failure to discover their source. Habits are a form of energy, and
energy emerges and subsides like waves on the surface of the ocean. When
you recognize the source, the energy will selfliberate upon arising; it
will not result in more habitual behavior.
practice is to find the source of the stone. You can continue to behave
like a restless dog chasing after each thought, or you can pounce like a
fearless lion and discover that the source of your thoughts is pure
energy arising from emptiness. In this state of timeless purity, nothing
truly comes into existence and nothing solidly exists, so there is no
obstruction. If you have the courage to rest in this vast space, the
fictions that fuel your enslaving habits will find no fertile ground in
which to grow.
should not reject our thoughts and feelings, since they are all valid.
However, our thoughts and feelings cause us problems when we cling to
them as if they were fixed and unchanging. When we abide in the empty
and spacious nature of self and phenomena, we are free from all
confusion. Therefore, let everything arise as sheer inspiration. Let
everything be a celebration. Whatever arises is perfectly fine, but if
nothing arises, that is fine, too. With a flexible mind, we can direct
our lives with sophistication. We will be beyond corruption, and no
matter what happens, we will be above the fray, so to speak. When we
recognize the luminous quality of our true nature, clear essence will
appear everywhere. This is amazing indeed!
Tenzin Rinpoche is the spiritual guide of Shyalpa Monastery in
Kathmandu, the founder of the Tibetan Refugee Children’s Fund, and the
head of Rangrig Yeshe, a nonprofit that organizes teachings and retreats
throughout the United States.
Excerpted from Living Fully: Finding Joy in Every Breath,
by Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche. © 2012 by Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche. Printed
with permission of New World Library, Novato, California.