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If gentleness is the key, the method is mindfulness. In a sense, speed is the disease of our times. It’s always there and it’s very hard to extract ourselves from it. But speed is in fact just a hallucination, a self-imposed reality that we can change. Being mindful cuts speed. Being present cuts speed. Paying attention cuts speed. If we cut speed and relax with what’s going on in our life right now, kindness and patience will naturally come about.
My father, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, said, “We hold in our hands the ability to help the world.” Even in the current atmosphere of trepidation and insecurity, it’s important to realize that our basic goodness has not changed. Good times or bad times, the basic-goodness meter does not go up or down. Its stock remains the same. Our own natural richness is here. The qualities of the Buddha are unwavering. We practice in order to remember that.
If we are practicing being present for our lives, we are doing the best possible thing, yet we may still face obstacles. When something is good or virtuous, it is often very difficult. When things are contaminated or bad, they are often easy and seductive. The Buddha faced big challenges before he attained enlightenment. In reading biographies of great teachers, I am amazed by the difficulties that they all went through. My father’s generation of great Tibetan teachers went through inconceivable hardships and unimaginable loss, from which they emerged with an unequivocal dedication to goodness, virtue, and the dharma.
Because as practitioners we are doing something that is good and wholesome, we too have difficulties. It’s important for us not to give up. We should not be foolishly seduced into fantasy, thinking that somehow something miraculous is going to happen. When it comes right down to it, the practice path is manual labor of the mind, and it’s hard work. But that doesn’t mean that there is no magic. When we pay attention to the details of our life, we do find magic. This particular magic is all-pervasive; it is something that is part of us all the time. Seeing it, we appreciate the honesty of this spiritual tradition that says we have to work to uncover it.
With gentleness and mindfulness, we can appreciate what we have. We are enormously capable and free, and if we begin to develop appreciation, our mind doesn’t dwell on what we do not have or on what we have lost. If we begin to dwell on all those things, we just worry more. Sometimes we feel that worrying might help, but worrying can only produce more worrying, and we are already tight at a time like this. Tightness of mind limits our ability. We need generosity in our mind, which is limitless. Generosity is the seed that allows us to receive help in the future.
The Shambhala teachings of warriorship tell us that a good society is not based on a quick fix. Good fortune—whether spiritual or worldly—has to be earned. We may not always want to acknowledge it, but it is clear that to bring about any accomplishment there needs to be virtue, whether it’s on a global, national, or an individual level. For example, people sense something strong in President and Mrs. Obama, and it is not complicated: virtue is like a daytime star that everyone can see.
No matter how strong our leaders are, we all need to practice responsibility and discipline ourselves. We must look at our own habits and begin to alter them. We can’t hire out our practice and have somebody else do the work, but we can do the manual labor with delight and decency. True relief lies in finding what lies under the chaos and negativity—our inherent awakened nature. The notion of fearlessness is finding it now.
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is the spiritual leader of Shambhala International, a network of Buddhist meditation and retreat centers. He is the author of Turning the Mind into an Ally and Ruling Your World.
From the July 2009 issue of the Shambhala Sun.
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