Bringing Your Practice into the World, by James Baraz:
About James Baraz:
I try to convey that the wisdom and compassion we are looking for is already inside of us. I see the practice as learning how to purify our mind and heart so we can hear the Buddha inside. In doing so, we naturally embody the dharma and help awaken that understanding and love in others we meet.
So, you’re probably well aware that the retreat is ending tomorrow. Does anybody not realized that? And as it’s likely to happen when you can see the end in sight, you see the finish line there, and the mind goes to, “Oh, what am I going to do when I get home?” or “Oh no, do I have to go home yet?” One or the other, you know, “Oh, I can’t wait,” “Oh, I have to go.”
One way or the other, you’re probably having the return in your mind an in your heart. And you might be asking yourself now that as that part of the retreat is nearer, “Now what? What do I do with this?” Maybe, “What have I learned?” or “How can I apply this to my life?” Hopefully, you’ve learned something here that can be useful to your life. And it might not even be so obvious just yet. Sometimes, the seeds that you plant and you have all planted, many seeds of mindfulness and awakening, and at least, good intention and good will to become more conscious, they most definitely will sprout and bear fruit in their own time. And it might not be so obvious from day to day or tomorrow or the next day, but I wanted to talk a little bit about that, about bringing our practice into the world tonight. And tomorrow, we’ll share a bit more. But something’s that seemed, since I have the opportunity, seemed useful to share.
First of all, people will probably ask so. “How was it?” “What was it like?” And it might be good to have a very simple answer. Guy Armstrong, one of our colleagues, says, “Just say ‘It was great.’” Or “I learned a lot.” Mostly people want to know, “Are you okay?” “Did you join a cult?” or you know, “Is your brain cleaned or washed?” or one or the other. And, “Gosh, how did you make it through all those days without talking if this is new to them?” Or, if they’ve done retreats before, “Oh yeah, did you get an insight like I got last night?”
I would recommend, don’t share your whole retreat with them, with people. You, especially if you’ve touched some important or rich, valuable understandings, don’t give it all the way. There might be one or two people who, it seems, important to share your most precious moments with, but if you start sharing it by the 8th or 9th time, you tell about your precious understanding. It’s more of a story than a lived experience. So, let it just be there and do its thing and its magic while it’s still fresh. And the seeds will keep on sprouting, weeks, months. Sometimes, a month or a year, later, you look back and say, “Oh, that’s what I got from that retreat.” I remember the first time I did a long retreat, the fall retreat in Insight Meditation Society, and people would ask me, really it is still down to, you know, I saw in some inexplicable way that it’s just not worth of ripples in my mind to do things that I’ll regret afterward. Not that I learned that forever, but I got the lessons somewhere deep inside. And it kept on, it’s kept bearing from.
And actually, before we go on, just take a moment and reflect and go inside, and not that if you have any right answer or wrong answer, or a need to come up with some brilliant gem, but just ask yourself for a few moments, what have you learned? Maybe something’s become clearer to you, or something that maybe that you’ve heard about or read about, but now, it’s a truly personal lived experience or understanding.
And just take it into your heart. Let it register. And let it be, perhaps, an ongoing instruction exploration perspective that can support you as you go home. And whatever you’re getting in touch with right now is probably much more important that what I might say.
Okay, you can come back if you’d like.
I want to share some things that I find useful to keep in mind along with whatever your own personal understandings are.
First as been said, I find it very helpful and important to realize that this path is a path about happiness. This is not just about endurance or acceptance and resigning ourselves to open up to the ___– what life has for us. And that certainly is a very important thing to learn. Very profound that you don’t have to be afraid of suffering and there are ways to work with it. But sometimes, it can be lost in our emphasis on suffering or the way the teachings are set up that this is the path of happiness. You hear the four noble truths. There’s suffering in life. There is a cause of suffering. There’s an end to suffering. And there is a path leading to the end of suffering. That’s a lot of suffering. And, even if you know that it’s about to end, it’s still, yeah, suffering, and the end of suffering. But Buddha was called the happy one. And he said, go for the highest happiness and all the other true happiness can be yours.
In the ___, I think I quoted it earlier in the retreat, there is one most direct, wondrous way as it’s sometimes translated to overcome sorrow, lamentation, and grief, despair, pain, anxiety, and realize the highest happiness. And that is the establishment of mindfulness. That is what we’re doing here. And perhaps, you know if you’ve read the Dalai Lama’s book, The Art of Happiness. And the first line in that book, which I love, says, “The purpose of life is to be happy.” You might think, “Gosh! That sounds kind of frivolous, or self-indulgent.” But really, if you discover true happiness, which is what the teachings are pointing to, then all of the goodness inside of you shines through and everybody gets the benefit of it. Not just you.
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