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Seeing Everything as a Dream August 24, 2007 10:21 AM

Lama Shenpen

Shenpen Hookham, author of Buddhism Connect email teachings

Seeing Everything as a Dream

Summary: The point of thinking everything is like a dream is to break down that idea that we are inside and the world is outside and detached from us somehow. It also breaks down that heavy sense of thinking we know what everything is when we donít. Wake up, let it go, like letting go of a dream. Then maybe you will find a more intuitive way of relating to the world of your experience and your interaction with others - less of a heavy sense of knowing, more a sense of openness and wonder.

A student writes:

"Why does the mind training say to regard all phenomena as dreams? It says that when I dream the dream seems real then I wake up and itís not the same reality as the waking reality.

But isn't it a step further to conclude that the waking reality also isn't real as well?"

Lama Shenpen:

Yes it is - you are quite right.


"If the waking reality is not real either then there is no such thing as waking up."

Lama Shenpen:

Good point!


"In fact waking up would be a meaningless statement if we are to treat the waking world as a dream. In fact then there would be nothing to wake up to.

Why is Buddhism telling me to wake up and see everything is a dream?"

Lama Shenpen:

You are right. There has to be a difference between dreaming and waking experience. There is something about it that is the same though. The thing is to discover what that is.

There is a waking process from dream to waking experience and a further extension of that waking process from waking experience to Awakening. There is something very similar to the process as if the one were a deepening of the other.

But you are right there has to be a difference. The question is what. It is not a difference of there being things 'out there' - outside the mind or awareness. That is the point.

If we think of the world of waking experience as outside of awareness we have endless problems with trying to work out how our awareness could possibly access them. It can only access something in awareness that corresponds to them - it could never actually be them because by definition something outside awareness could never get inside it in order to be known.

This is where the dream example becomes useful. In a very vivid dream it seems that the things we are seeing exist outside of us in the world about us. When we wake we realise that was an appearance created by our minds. It was never like that.

Similarly the picture of the world we see around us is actually created in our awareness in just the same way. The question is how then are we able to have a consensus reality with other beings? Are there any other beings?

We strongly intuit that there are and if there were not then actually our own existence would become meaningless. It would be worse by far than death or hell to discover there were no other beings.

Our consensus reality and our sense of meaning come from contact with something 'other' even though that 'other' cannot be something that is actually outside our awareness.

We are relating intuitively to a reality that we are actually in close communion with - that we know intimately and directly. This is very exciting!

When we are dreaming there is not usually much consensus reality or stability - however if we could link to others in our dreams and if our dreams could be stable it would be like meeting in another world, a dream-world - but not so very different from our waking world which would be in some way another dream world containing a stronger network of consensus connections.

However, in a culture or for people for whom the spirit world is very accessible, connecting to other beings in other  [ send green star]

Busyness and Dharma February 24, 2007 12:17 PM

--Lama Shenpen Hookham

Busyness and Dharma

Summary: The real meaning of the Dharma is finding what goes beyond conditioning, what goes beyond dependence on particular conditions - what goes beyond birth and death - that is always reliably real and true and never lets you down. Not being busy in a worldly sense is the best situation for finding that reality.

A student writes:

"I have read some of the letters from students who complain that their busy lives place restrictions on their Buddhist practice.

But I wonder whether a thriving practice doesn't depend on a full and busy life in which one has family and career as well as sangha responsibilities.

One is nourished by the world as well as harried by it."

Lama Shenpen:

I think Dharma practitioners are often quite shocked at how difficult it is to just be with themselves when they are not busy.


"So one might well ask whether it isnít an advantage to be busy in order to practise Dharma."

Lama Shenpen:

I think the question is more a matter of how to keep one's spirits up both when busy and when not.

It is the same mechanism in both cases and actually as far as Dharma practice is concerned there is no particular advantage in being busy but if it keeps your spirits up it is at least helping us through the day.

It is only when the busy-ness stops and you can see how much you were depending on busy-ness to keep your spirits up, that you can appreciate the real meaning of the Dharma.

The real meaning of the Dharma is finding what goes beyond conditioning, what goes beyond dependence on particular conditions - what goes beyond birth and death - that is always reliably real and true and never lets you down.

Not being busy in a worldly sense is the best situation for finding that reality.

However if you fill your time with worldly thoughts, whether busy or not, then the result is just more samsaric misery.

It is as sure as fire burns and water wets.

Busy-ness brings the happiness that conditioned confidence can bring.

It can (but doesnít always) make one feel important, connected, part of life.

But itís impermanent and unreliable and cut short by death at any moment.

What we need is unconditioned confidence.

That is the whole point.

It needs to be reflected on again and again and again because itís the only thing we need.


"Complete freedom and independence from worldly cares would seem an ideal condition for spiritual reading and meditation -a kind of endless retreat.

But I find that a retreat that would never end is one that never begins."

Lama Shenpen:

Clearly itís the way one thinks that makes the whole difference here isnít it?

If, for example, you decide the next day or month is retreat and then you will take a break and do something that is Dharma but more connected to others and the world - then you could stop and start retreats as much as you wanted to.

--- By Lama Shenpen Hookham

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 November 21, 2006 9:20 AM

The body is temporary. The soul is eternal. Also the soul has its siddha deha or eternal relationship with the Supreme Being. If I learn how to serve Krishna nicely while here, then I increase the likelihood that I will qualify to serve that Supreme Being when I'm forced out of this material world.

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The Essence of a Person November 21, 2006 8:43 AM

Summary: What of us lives on after death? How we are not separable from any other person and yet we are distinct.

"A student writes:
My question is about the individual person and what happens at death.
Some weeks ago a dear friend was dying. I went down to see her several times. Quite a bit of the time I was with her, I was just sitting by her in silence, being there with her.
Then when it was time for me to go and I said goodbye. She struggled, her eyes didn't open but her hand moved towards me and she tried to speak.
She said, 'Thank you for coming.'
I was suddenly pierced through with understanding that she was there, in this dying body, already waxy and cold at the peripheries, but she, the person I loved, was there, in the middle of this experience of dying, in this body. And despite all she was suffering and experiencing at that time, she was reaching out to me to communicate with me.
I wondered what would happen to the individual her when she died. We spend so much time trying to discover something universal, our Buddha nature, but I was aware at that moment that it wasn't a recognition in me of something universal in her, but a recognition of her as an individual, someone other than myself, and it was that someone other, with their personality, their ego, that I loved.
So the question: when I die, is it all of me that goes on?
Obviously not my body but how much of me, the individual? Because however much I struggle with my own ego and habits that prevent my striving to follow the Buddha's teaching, I do love all of the things that go to make up the persons who are close to me."

Lama Shenpen:
I found the question very interesting.
I often get asked this and I try to explain that we are each a mandala - we are not separable from any other person and yet we are distinct.
Everything is like that. Whatever you experience is completely distinct from any other experience and yet when you try to analyse what that experience is exactly - where it is, how long it lasts, whether it is inside or outside or whatever you do to try to pin it down and separate it from any other experience, you canít do it.
In the same way we are each inseparable from anything else and yet quite distinct Ė isnít that amazing?
Isnít it wonderful? Isnít it poignant?
So what about your question? How much of us dies?
Does our individualness as a person die?
It seems it is not of the nature of something that is born and dies.
It is a mandala that when fully manifest is an Awakened Buddha and when not fully manifest, is something like us or some other kind of being who thinks they are something they are not!
Does this address your question in any way at all?
--- By Lama Shenpen Hookham

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Looking at Impermanance September 26, 2006 9:26 AM

Looking at Impermanance
Summary: A detailed teaching on working with impermanence in meditation.
A student writes:
"When one meditates on impermanence does that mean that as the mind goes into thinking one brings one's mind back by thinking the word 'impermanence'?"
Lama Shenpen:
What a good question. I am surprised I donít get asked this more often actually. The answer must by 'yes' I think.
But what happens is that if we are not grabbed by the word, we just drift off again. So we have to find a way of linking meaning to the word so that we really want to come back to the topic and take it deeper.
Maybe one way to do this is that when we drift off, we wake right up into the moment and notice what we have been thinking and label that very experience and everything about it as 'impermanent'.
Even thinking about impermanence is impermanent! But itís not enough just to notice impermanence - if we do this then we can get a strong 'so-what' reaction and then itís very hard to keep focused on the topic. What needs to happen is that there is some growing sense of significance about impermanence.
So we have to do two things at once. We have to think about what is the significance of everything being impermanent and we have to notice the impermanence of everything we are trying to hold on to and control, everything that we think is oppressing us or trapping us - and then realise we can relax and just let it all go because itís impermanent.
That is the effect of having reflected on the significance of impermanence. Otherwise you might think, 'Oh everything is impermanent, life is meaningless, I think I will kill myself!' That is no good.
The reflection needs to go more like, 'Everything is impermanent, so there is no point in making a big deal out of things that are not going to last anyway, so I could just relax and be happy.í
You have to reflect in order to train your thinking to follow a meaningful line of thought. Then you can go a step further and start to notice that all experience is moving along all the time, nothing stays for a moment even.
You can actually meditate like this wordlessly - or almost wordlessly - you simply keep your attention on whatever is coming up right now in your experience and then notice itís immediately changed to something else - so you try to stay with only the present moment of experience.
That can give a very vibrant, alive sense of being awake and aware. It can even feel very relaxed (if you do not relax as you try to meditate like this you can get so tense that it feels horrible and in the end you are forced to give up) - you can only do it by relaxing.
The next stage is to really home in on the experience of a stream of momentary experiences that keep changing and gently question the whole experience.
Is there really something there that is changing moment by moment?
Am I really looking at the present moment or a 'copy' of the experience that has just gone?
Are there really distinct moments of experience?
Is there such a thing as a single moment?
If it has no duration itís not a moment but if it has duration it can always be divided into infinite moments, there is no limit to how much it can be divided. If there is no final single moment how can my experience be made up of a series of single moment?
Ponder on these questions and keep looking again and again at the experience that the questions are focusing on - there is experience and a question that focuses on the experience and makes you focus on it more and more precisely and clearly, but you cannot grasp it, you cannot make the experience fit into the way the question is framed.
So keep going back to the experience, the direct experience, and relax with it again and again.
Let the truth of the experience change the assumptions you have been making about it that are shown up in the inappropriateness of the questions - and then notice how even so the mind keeps going back into the mode of thinking that triggered the questions.
Notice the hold these wrong assumptions have on your mind and relax with the actual reality of your direct experience again and again. You just have to keep doing this again and again - and this is how the mind and heart open up more and more - they do this quite naturally as you stop clinging to those background hidden assumptions.
Well that is a pretty full teaching on how to reflect and meditate on impermanence - it should keep you busy for quite a while!
--- By Lama Shenpen Hookham
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True Compassion September 26, 2006 9:21 AM

True Compassion
Summary: Can we become more compassionate people by simply linking into our hearts and trusting our own judgement and sanity?
A student writes:
"All my adult life I have been working with different professionals to come to terms with a cruel and dysfunctional childhood, some of which is still present in adulthood.
Having done much therapy, research and study on this subject, I have found out that this unfortunate legacy does not die with the perpetrators. It lives on in the child/adult in many subtle and insidious forms.
I believe that this has surfaced again as I have become aware of the energy that is being drained from me as a result of trying to live as if all of that stuff had not occurred ... in other words blocking it. And so I feel like I have come to a fork in the road.
One road that has always been blocked (that of accepting the truth about my childhood and my feeling about my parents as a result of it) is now opening up to me.
I†want to go down that road. I want to free up that blocked energy. My view of compassion seems to be blocking the way.
Is it enough to be able to wish my mother and family members well and happy or does compassion require me to recognize the reasons why they may be the way they are and continue to be in relationship with them?"
Lama Shenpen:
I have quite a few students who have this kind of problem. It is a question that often comes up and itís a very important question to ask.
I think when you ask whether compassion requires you to behave in a certain way, what you are really asking is, 'To be a compassionate person (which is what I want to be) do I have to conform to some pre-conceived idea (more than likely originating in someone other than myself) or could I become a more compassionate person by simply linking into my heart and trusting my own judgement and sanity?í
Maybe just hearing the question reframed in this way is enough. Maybe you donít need me to tell you the answer but to reassure you that you are not missing something here. Your only real option is to trust your own judgement and sanity.
So the question is, how to do that with confidence and how to deal with all the screaming emotions and associated thoughts that are telling you, 'No - you canít do that!í
Actually they carry no authority. Do not let them deceive you into thinking they are more than thoughts and feelings. They are trying to stop you trusting yourself by coming at you as convincing little characters who take over the centre of your mandala and hold forth telling you and the world what's what.
They are just thoughts and feelings. They come and go. You donít need to let them drive you. Give the authority to the heart - and you know itís the heart because you can distinguish it from a feeling of panic. The heart is you and the panic is extrinsic to you - you can let it go and relax and then there would just be your heart and your sanity.
If you have the opportunity to step out of the social or family situation that is feeding the ego-characters that are confusing you the most - then I suspect your heart is telling you that this is your best chance to do what I have just suggested above.
I would advise you to go with that and stay with that until you feel you are confident enough to trust your heart and your own judgement sufficiently strongly to be able to actually help the rest of those involved in all this.
How can you help others if you cannot help yourself? Help yourself in order to be able to help others. That is a profoundly compassionate response to the sufferings of the world.
It was the Buddha's response.
This is not running away. Running away is to not trust your heart and judgement, but to react to outside pressures in a blind and insensitive way - trying to block things out, pretend things are not happening, blaming others and so on.
I hope this helps.
--- By Lama Shenpen Hookham

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Conditioned and Unconditioned Confidence July 29, 2006 9:22 AM

Summary: Looking at the difference between conditioned and unconditioned confidence. Letting go and relaxing.
A student writes:
"Iíve been going through the second ĎDiscovering the Heart of Buddhismí course book and reflecting about confidence. And a good time to think about confidence it is too!
Iíve been unemployed now for a while and looking for work, which has brought up all kinds of feelings of insecurity, restlessness etc.
At some level I donít have much ordinary, conditioned confidence at the moment. Or letís say Iíve been surprised (again!) at how easily that disappears."
Lama Shenpen:
That is such an important lesson to learn because that is how you come to realise that only unconditioned confidence counts in the end - our confidence in Openness Clarity and Sensitivity - our own true nature is all we are going to have in the end so best get used to that right now - asap!
"Also how much my mind wants to find a secure place, job, occupation, whatever."
Lama Shenpen:
Itís OK to want all that as long as you know that you could be happy even without it.
"So is there anything that I could call unconditioned confidence? I would like to think there is, but how do I know?
Even my open moments seem conditioned somehow."
Lama Shenpen:
Yes, they do seem to be conditioned donít they. They seem to be conditioned because they are so fleeting and we start grasping again so quickly!
A moment of freedom realising you donít need anything other than to just be and rest in your own true nature and then the panic! Oh no - what now!?! Help! Give me some security!
We have to train ourselves to not panic, to let the doubts and worries go or at least let them arise and cease freely in the space of awareness - there they are - there they are not - they come and go.
The spaces between are our non-conditioned confidence but most of the time we donít notice them. They just seem to be the prelude to the next panic attack - not anything in themselves.
So we need to learn to notice them as having a reality and power in their own right. When you feel relaxed and unworried, when you are not anxiously seeking to get something or to hold on to something, how is your awareness and your being at that time?
It is always the same and is always tremendously resourceful, it yields and yields, one good quality after another. All good qualities come from those times when we are at peace with ourselves resting in our own true nature and not trying to force things, make things happen, stop things happening.
Just being with the situation and responding naturally - when we are in a confident space like that - open to everything, ready for anything - its always the same - it is always so alive and wonderful. So you know that that is it!
Conditioned confidence depends on conditions; but then, as you noticed, clinging to conditions obscures our unconditioned confidence.
Usually there is a mixture going on - a whole lot of unconditioned confidence that is hiding behind conditioned confidence. When we have a good job we feel great, we feel successful and secure and it feels like we had unconditioned confidence.
When the change comes, that is when you can tell how much of it really was unconditioned confidence. If you are knocked sideways but quickly recover in spite of losing conditioned confidence - then you know you are not doing too badly - non-conditioned confidence is winning!
Sometimes you can do mind experiments to see how you are doing. Ask yourself how you would feel if you lost your job, wife, health etc. and if you feel that you could work with that then you are on the right track.
If you realise you would be completely devastated by that - then you need to keep working on it. Try to give up that sense that you absolutely need any of the conditions you are clinging to.
Really try to lighten up!
"Well, how could they not be if they are MY open momentsÖ?"
Lama Shenpen:
The 'my' is the grasping and clinging that comes after the genuine moment of unconditioned confidence. You need to learn to separate the actual experience from the grasping mind that cuts in almost immediately afterwards.
"Maybe the important thing really is to be able to distinguishbetween different kinds of confidence."
Lama Shenpen
T:hat is right.
"Thatís quite something actually, if itís real. Sensing the differenceÖ"
Lama Shenpen:
Yes it is Ė itís the key to the whole thing - deep and subtle - this is the point that liberates.
--- By Lama Shenpen Hookham
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 July 25, 2006 7:32 AM

Musings on the Nature of Reality

Summary: Developing experience of Awareness.

A student writes:
"You write:
ďThat is our awareness - that great space - and if we are remembering that then we are remembering the Dharma. That is our practice - that is it!Ē ( BuddhismConnect - Galvanising Ourselves to Practise)
But - what I fear - don't want - is to not be conscious any more, not enjoy the world etc. I might see nothing is there, as you remind us, and be terribly alarmed about that, as I was at first, but still it is familiar as it is and reassuring!
Please don't say this is loving samsara because I feel ok right now, because:

a)one of the results of searching for the truth is greater happiness, desired by Buddhists, as others.

b)it would be close to Christians who claim God made the world, and then complain about it!

Of course I don't know I wonít be conscious after death, but I know my consciousness is so bound up with my sensations and memories of these that it seems irrational to imagine it could continue at least in any imaginable and familiar way.
Just as you said 'The watcher is just a thought' (another Ah! moment), how do I know that the feeling of deep continuity, or calm or space or awareness - however we call it - isn't another thought?
That we are just that way (though mostly we don't notice it)."

Lama Shenpen:
You will have to keep exploring your experience - what happens when you let go of the thought that awareness might end some day? Is it ever more than a thought? Does awareness disappear when you let go of the thought that it could end?
Thoughts disappear but does the awareness that they arise in disappear? Careful with this one, itís a deep question that you will only be able to answer experientially. Anything else is just another thought. Thoughts of ends and beginnings - where do they arise? What is that experience?

"I think where I am is this: there is something existing, actually unknowable as it is, but knowable as we know it, thanks to our senses."

Lama Shenpen:
Careful when you say senses - I think you may be thinking that our awareness depends on our sense organs - but that is highly questionable. It is not at all clear what the relationship is between the experience of our life and the sense organs - which perhaps limit it - maybe our life would be richer without them.

"These are also unknowable in exactly the same way, which includes all of what I call me and these have to be connected (because of not being able, for example, so see things that aren't within my field of vision)."

Lama Shenpen:
Maybe there are other ways we could 'see' things if we werenít so fixated on our sense organs.

"Asking whether everything is in the mind is like asking if what I see is in my eye - in one way it is, in another, it isn't.
We have these questions because we are used to things being in space and time, but they are irrelevant here, however much it feels as though mind is in the brain, and also that everything is in the mind, however much I might notice this must be upside down, everything is in Awareness, including all I know as myself! I'm still using metaphors of position and these are inappropriate.
I'm feeling as if everything is so bloody obvious that I'm a fool not to 'have it', that I'm 'nearly there' like puzzling at an image that suddenly jumps (from old to young woman, I expect you know it) and yet I also know I'm miles away (still using spatial analogies!)."

Lama Shenpen:
It is good to ponder like this - as long as you keep a light touch. That is the right way to ponder, keeping the questions clear and open all the time. Donít let yourself get frustrated.
When you get frustrated notice itís because you are trying to grasp an answer instead of turning towards not knowing.

--- By Lama Shenpen Hookham

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 July 25, 2006 7:29 AM

Good point Sarvo! LOL I notice a lot of profiles state "no baggage" when looking to date.† I don't think that would appeal to me.† I would prefer someone who has had experience in life rather than a flawless person (or one who thinks they have all the answers today) Seeing how one learns and grows from their experiences 'good or bad' is how we all learn and benefit.† I guess, I'd rather a drug counselor, been down that road.† A police officer who learned from experience & choices he/she made.† To put a human being out there without experience (basically that is what a clean record means to me! lol I'll probably get slammed for this!) automatically creates a disconnect.† There's a lot grey area which gives us the tools to learn from choices we make and finding balance in those choices. To think we have conquered this grey area is just not reality to me.† If someone continues to make bad choices and disregards learning and rather blame the world around them...that's not something hidden!† That tends to stick out like a sore thumb and that is what makes karma all the more meaningful!
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 July 24, 2006 1:40 PM

There is no question about it. Because I was put into a situation where I was expected to view the possibility that I may have been born before in previous circumstances and conditions, a veil was pulled aside and now I have a clear understanding of some of my previous births. I know I was in India and have a clear recollection of sleeping on the back of a cow as she chews her cud in a warm grassy field. Also I can see myself in another era penning calligraphic illuminations in a book as I sit up on a high desk with quill in hand. And as I say many times to college or high school classes that visit the temple, "Back when I was a dog, I was very loyal. Now in this human body, I'm going to try to direct that very good quality in the service of the Supreme Being rather than in some fallible human master."  [ send green star]
Past Lives and Purification July 24, 2006 11:28 AM

Past Lives and Purification

Summary: An explanation of the Tibetan view of past lives and how we are purified by our faith in the Dharma and connection with those who have Awakened.

"A student asked about an experience he had had that seemed to relate to past lives and asked me what I thought. He also asked me about Vajrasattva practice as a way of purifying things he had done in the past."

Lama Shenpen:
It is an interesting question isnít it? Could we have had past lives and could we remember them or at least pick up the flavour of them in a subsequent life? From the Buddhist perspective there is no reason why not.
In fact Tibetans more or less assume that anyone they meet in this life is someone they have know from before and any difficulties they have with relationships stem from encounters in past lives. So none of this sounds weird to them, itís just normal.
Furthermore they assume that they have done every misdeed under the sun at some time or other and so have a generalised feeling of regret for all past misdeeds and dedicate their practice to repairing all of that as soon as possible.
Any Dharma practice can be used as Ďpurificationí. It is not really special to Vajrasattva although it is often expressed as if that were true. It is our faith in the Dharma that does the purification work really Ė and our connection with those who are Awakened already Ė the two go together.
Each has power in itself but the most power comes from the two together.
I hope this helps.

--- By Lama Shenpen Hookham

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Loss and Bereavement July 08, 2006 3:28 AM

Lama Shenpen Hookham

Loss and Bereavement

Summary: How to work with the pain of loss and bereavement by giving up clinging, letting go and letting be.

A student writes:"Iíve very recently left a job/workplace that Iíve been connected with for most of my adult life to move to a new area. This is a choice I made for lots of positive reasons, not one I think Iíll regret, and I always did expect to find it a wrench.
But Iím surprised by the strength of my reaction and the overwhelming feeling of loss, almost as though Iíd experienced a bereavement."

Lama Shenpen:† Well that is probably because itís the same as bereavement. Sometimes we feel very tender around the heart and it just goes on and on and it can make us feel a bit heady and disconnected.† There is nothing wrong in that. I think it must be something to do with how our heart connects in with the Universe in a deep way - when mandalas shift orientation then it affects the body even if we are happy about the changes and want them to happen. Does that make sense?

Student:"I know that probably sounds a bit over the top, as it was Ďjust a jobí but it was with a small charity that I was very committed to, and there was a whole mandala, so to speak, of geographical place and community, of having a particular role and working to achieve certain things, and more than anything the relationships I had with people there Ė all of which has now been swept away."

Lama Shenpen:† It makes complete sense to me - why shouldnít one feel leaving such a situation like a bereavement?

Student:"I am trying to have confidence in those relationships at a deeper level, but I think partly I am just trying to cling on to them and resist change, when in my heart I know that losing that shared, day to day contact means that change is inevitable at some level."

Lama Shenpen:† Yes I think we all experience bereavement as a mixture of emotions because we feel it all so intensely around the heart and we want to get off that spot.† One way would be to cling on to what we had lost and feel sorry for ourselves. But that goes nowhere - we just have to keep going - just letting go of the temptation to cling and winge.

Student:"It brings up questions for me about how I relate to other people and how to work with loss - people we lose through death, or drifting apart, or in this case through changes in circumstance.† Is there any way I can work with this in my practice?"

Lama Shenpen:† Yes - that is what you are doing isnít it? Maybe you are just surprised at how much it hurts. That is all - just experience that - just experience the whole thing and notice how hard it is to just be simple and not try to somehow give in to the temptation to cling and winge.† Then when we have given in - how it is ok. We just need to let that go too.

Student: "Because I seem just to be moping around feeling miserable and rather overwhelmed by it all."

Lama Shenpen:† That is ok. That is your experience. Keep noticing it and how it changes, from hour to hour, day to day, moment to moment, week to week.† What is that experience anyway - what is it really? What is any experience?

Student:"Or is the answer just to sit with this (I do tend, I think to get into mental tangles wanting answers to things rather than just giving them space)?"

Lama Shenpen:† Less trying to work out some kind of solution that will avoid the pain and more just turning towards the pain itself and exploring what it is - what is that experience really?† Not what to call it or how to explain it - but how you are really experiencing it?

Student:"I suppose the positive thing it has made me realize is the depth of loving connection that itís possible to develop with people even in a situation that I wouldnít naturally think of as an intimate one."

Lama Shenpen:† Absolutely - that is something to feel really happy about.

Student:"But does it really have to hurt so much?"

Lama Shenpen:† Probably - you just have to learn not to mind that - that seems to be the Bodhisattva's way.

--- By Lama Shenpen Hookham

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Body and I June 06, 2006 9:16 AM

Body and I

Summary: How 'I' relates to 'body'

A student writes:† "I have been trying to catch where my sense of 'I' originates. I have†noticed that it seems to be tied to my feelings of control, specifically in relation to my body.
The fact that 'I' can make my body move as I wish (to a degree at least) seems to make†me feel that I am really there. I have noticed that I unconsciously and inaudibly 'voice' my††††† thoughts too (I can feel the tension in my throat) so that again I feel as though it is†something I am 'doing'.
I have read about people who lack any kind of motor control and so feel that they are trapped in their own bodies - their feeling of threat is perhaps like the other side of the†same coin in that their lack of control jeopardises their sense of self."

Lama Shenpen:† Yes, that seems to be right doesnít it?

Student: "While one is alive, I can't imagine how it would be possible to go beyond this†sense of identification with the body. (Is there a way?)"

Lama Shenpen:† Well that is a bit contradictory isnít it? Because a person who cannot move their body feels trapped inside their body as if they were one thing and the body another.
Itís only because the body responds to our volition that we think it is us. So we are not†really identified with it are we Ė itís more the volition itself that we identify Ė donít you think?

Student:"And more interestingly, I find it hard to conceive of a way of being that didn't†include a body. Even when I hear talk about 'bodies of light' and the like, it still seems to†me that there's the same desire to be an active agent through the medium of a body."

Lama Shenpen:† Yes that seems to be right doesnít it? As soon as there is a movement of†wanting something or to be something, there is immediately a sense of that moving†within an environment of some kind and the inter-face where the volition is moving within that environment is the body isnít it?† That will automatically be there.

Student:"Could I be putting the cart before the horse? If one could overcome that need to†control (which I'm guessing has at its root some profound sense of fear) then would that grasping after a body dissipate, do you think?"

Lama Shenpen: I think there is a difference between control and wanting something to†happen. If I want to move my hand then when it moves I am pleased and say 'I moved it'.††If I donít want to move my hand and it moves I am dismayed and say 'I didnít move it'. So†the 'I did it' comes after the event. It is most peculiar isnít it?
So what is this idea of 'I' and 'I am in control'? What is the actual experience of the 'I' bit of the whole thing? How is it different from the whole sensation of the hand moving.† How†do the volition and the movement relate - are they the same thing or are they different?
It is good to relax into this kind of exploration - it will go on and on for years and years -†endlessly opening up new levels of meaning!

Student:† "Or are these the kind of thoughts that get one nowhere?"

Lama Shenpen:† They are just the kind of thoughts that trigger genuine exploration and allow us to let go of subtle hidden assumptions about the nature of experience and the universe that actually get in the way of our seeing it as it is.†So keep going with it and talk to me sometimes about what you are discovering.
As for the question about the fear that causes us to try to control things and to grasp†after a body - yes that is what is going on. Having made the assumption that 'I' am†something, then itís very scary to not know anything about anything - to just hang there† in space, powerless and useless.
So that fear of being cut off and out of control makes it grasp onto things as somehow†itself and in its control. It is good to explore that again and again - what is this so called†'control'?

--- By Lama Shenpen Hookham

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Thoughts and Helping Beings May 12, 2006 3:58 AM

Advice on turning towards thoughts and recognising them as "thinking" in the space of awareness. The nature of the Bodhisattva's heart wish and how an understanding of reality is needed to accomplish it.

A student writes:
"I am once again reminded of the reasons why this course feels like a perfect fit. I find that the reflections and exercises continue to deepen my understanding of Buddhism and myself in a challenging and loving way.† As a result, I find myself having more compassion for myself and others. However, sometimes I find that I cannot sense the appropriate compassionate response in some situations. I wonder if you could comment on compassion ... what it is and what it is not."

Lama Shenpen:† I think this problem of not being sure if we are responding appropriately is going to be with us for a long time. Sometimes we are just not going to get it right and the practice is to turn towards that with confidence and not mind too much that we don?t know. It?s an on-going open situation - just open out to not knowing - and still have confidence to keep going. I don?t know if this helps or not!

Student:"In meditation, I am having an abundance of thoughts. Sometimes, at the end of a session, I feel exhausted from bringing my mind back to the outbreath so many times."

Lama Shenpen:† The feeling exhausted is actually a thought. It may not actually be verbalised but the thought is there - something like, 'Oh dear I really worked hard' or, 'Oh dear I can?t seem to meditate.' Catch that underlying thinking and recognise it as 'thinking'. It goes with thinking, 'Oh I should ... '† So turn towards it and recognise it?s thinking and that thinking is in the space of awareness and the thought, 'I have been having lots of thoughts' is a thought too! So no need to look back with regret, just stay in the immediacy of the present experience of 'thinking' .† Give it lots of space because it is actually very spacious - thinking is in space - it is not in your head. There is no boundary to the thinking it goes on forever, so you can open out into it and relax.† I wonder if that helps. Maybe you should look up and out into the sky and wonder where it ends - that is the space of your awareness ? isn?t it?

Student:"My thoughts seem to center around planning and regrets. I become annoyed with all the planning thoughts and seem to grasp at the feelings of regret as though I 'should' do something about them."

Lama Shenpen:† See above - it really doesn?t matter what the thoughts are about - thinking is thinking.

Student:"I am also concerned about my deepening understanding of the futility (suffering?) of what I see in the world. Would I do well to both feel this and look for the underlying heart wish? And, if I do this am I doing anything to help the world condition or do I have to get out there and 'do' something?"

Lama Shenpen:† The Bodhisattva's heart wish is to get on with helping all beings forever, so first the Bodhisattva has to understand the nature of reality in order to do this. Meditation and reflection - studying Dharma to deepen one's understanding is getting on and 'doing' something.

--- By Lama Shenpen Hookham

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Ego Mandala May 09, 2006 11:47 AM

Lama Shenpen Hookham

Ego Mandala

Summary: A discussion of how the ego mandala works and how we can learn to respond differently.

A student writes: "At first I think I didn't understand this idea of the ego mandala trying to protect itself. I don't know if this is what you meant but I have realized that I do tend to spend a lot of time wanting and not wanting things, liking and not liking things.† Maybe that is where judgmental tendencies, the tendency to label things as good or bad, positive or negative, are coming from. I have seen myself doing that with the people around me, seeing their words and actions through the distortions of my own wants and likes, etc.† I hadn't realised I had been doing that before and now I can begin to see how things can get so misunderstood, and the emotions that arise from that. When I have tried to turn towards those feelings, it has been like getting a glimpse of insight into the situation. 'Ah, so that's what's going on.' Normally, though it is still an after-sight.† Is that what you meant about the ego mandala?"

Lama Shenpen:† Yes it is - the 'I' that separates off from the experience and tries to control it or make it this way or that way, or at the very least categorizes it and tries to pigeon hole it as fixed as good or bad or this or that.† The whole thing comes from the not wanting to just open to situations and experiences as just being expressions of openness, clarity and sensitivity. We want them to be more than that, something graspable that can make us feel secure, as if we knew what we were and what the experience was and itís all sewn up and sure.† That is what the ego mandala is trying to do all the time, to pin things down and secure its ground so it doesnít have to face the openness that threatens its whole existence. It doesnít want that much clarity and sensitivity, it would rather have something that it could control and establish its own existence in relation to.† That is what all the liking and disliking and heavy judgementalism is about Ė itís all about securing 'me'! When you notice you donít have to do that - that you can relax and just let the experience come to you just as it is and respond to it naturally - then the ego mandala collapses and a whole different response to the situation becomes possible.† So basically yes - you are right.

--- By Lama Shenpen Hookham

Mandala Coloring Book††Mandala Sample†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

Everyone's Mandala Coloring Book††

†I found this and thought it was†really NEAT! <--yes...I am a dork!


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Thoughts are Marvellous April 18, 2006 7:22 AM

Complete Enlightenment

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† "Complete Enlightenment"

Summary: The nature and value of thoughts.

A student writes:
"It occurs to me that pretty well all my thoughts are rubbish and completely worthless and almost uncontrollable, not worth worrying how long they last this life, let alone any others - as a loose collection that is, each thought hardly lasts any time at all."
Lama Shenpen:† Thoughts are marvellous. We create the whole world, our whole life out of thoughts. Thoughts trap us in samsara, thoughts lead us to Awakening - thoughts are magic and very, very naughty Ė isnít it amazing how they are so autonomous! They come and go without our bidding and then when we bid them come they pretend they are not there.
:"What might perhaps have value is my emotions and actions, but only insofar as they may benefit other living beings in the world we believe mistakenly is real."
Lama Shenpen:† What are emotions without the thoughts that shape them? They are astonishing too - without the thoughts it is hard to say what emotion is what. Maybe without thoughts emotions are just raw sensitivity - always present - always responding - maybe itís Bodhichitta itself. Look for that constancy of emotion that never changes.
Student: "As I cannot see what I am beyond a ragbag of fleeting thoughts, even though I may occasionally hold myself up by feeling wonderful in this beautiful world, I seem to have fallen into a nihilist hole."
Lama Shenpen:† Yes that happens when you treat your experience as if it is yours and of no account. If you were to treat it with more respect you would realise there is much about it that is not fleeting and that is the interesting part.
"Fortunately, thoughts may do this dirty deed to me, my emotions do not. But Buddha puts intentions first, actions second. How do I know that my intentions are good?"
Lama Shenpen:† That is a question to keep coming back to again and again. We will never be in the position of knowing 'my intention is good' as something we can somehow grasp at as a proof of some kind.
Instead we can know that we are being as open as we know how and looking always to be even more open still - and from that place our intentions are naturally moving in line with our deep heart wish - that wish that genuine wish for the happiness of ourselves and others.
It gets distorted by our clinging and grasping so all we can do is to try to be more open - just going back there again and again to try to see more clearly - that is the path really.
"They may be self-serving, to keep me alive and happy in this delusion I love so much? Help!"
Lama Shenpen:† There is bound to be an element of confusion in most of our intentions and actions but the trick (if that is the word) is to align ourselves with our deepest wish or intention and that will carry us through all the confusion caused by more superficial concerns - like saving our own skin!
I hope some of this helps.
--- By Lama Shenpen Hookham

††††††††††††††††††††††† ††Zen Balance†††

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† "All things in balance"††††††††††


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Love April 15, 2006 6:13 AM

Lama Shenpen Hookham


Summary: A discussion of loving within personal relationships.
A student writes:
"Before I started Tibetan Buddhism, I was a once a 'normal' worldly person who used to indulge in crazy love affairs, enjoy those infatuations, those waves of passion. Whenever, it ended, I felt sad, yet I felt relieved also in some mysterious ways.
After I engaged in Buddhism, there was a period which I though �Ah, the spiritual path is everything I am looking for, this mundane love is not what I want.� Sometimes, I oscillated between these two 'heart-wishes' There seemed to be two world existing, a choice to be made.
Observing myself more, I suddenly realized, I have merely switched from grasping on a mundane kind of conditional love to what it feels to be a kind of limitless love to satisfy my own grasping without being challenged. I have to admit a pretty ugly fact that I have not truly loved anyone before.
It is a shocking discovery, yet liberating. Even tears starts running. How subtly I have been cheated by my own grasping. Although I am so shallow on the aspect of love and compassion, I aspire to it. I only have a little tiny seed of compassion to cultivate from but I can imagine how beautiful, how vast it will become one day.
So, earnestly (or even desperately), I start findings ways to cultivate and expand it - through meditation, through studying, through selfless service (voluntarily work) basically anything I can think of. At some point, it seems the concern about my own 'passion', how I feel, the kind of love that I want, how I compare to others �and so forth, have dropped. It also seems that these two worlds - the mundane versus the spiritual - start integrating. It is indeed invigorating.
My question is: what does personal relationship mean in the Buddhist perspective?"

Lama Shenpen:
Thank you for your e-mail, I found it very interesting. I always think to myself that when you really love you don't really realise it. You are so absorbed in being happy with and for the other person and being with them in their sadness that you don't notice any? me? that is loving someone.
In fact it feels rather the opposite, one never feels one can love enough. One becomes so aware of all one's limitations. I always find that when one loves, one always wants to love more - just as you say above it's the same isn't it?
Loving makes one realise that there is so much more meaning to it that is still just beyond our reach (probably because we are reaching in a too ego-centric way!) - but still, the more we love the more our longing to love increases - just as you say - our vision of what it could be expands!
I often get asked the question about personal relationships in the context of Buddhist non-attachment and universal love and equanimity. The best answer I find for me is to think in terms of ones personal mandala.
Those who are close and therefore to whom one has a bigger responsibility form the particular configuration for this time and place. In future, in future lives, the configuration will change and there will be different people in the centre of my mandala - so my commitment is to always take special care of those who are close to me whoever they are in all my future lives.
This of course is to take on board the whole Buddhist cosmology of countless future lives and that connections go from life to life. It means that those on the periphery now will be near the centre and vice versa in regard to my personal mandala.
So at some time or other I will be caring for all beings as literally my own child. Enemies will becoming friends and friends will become enemies, but still I am committed to love them all equally in whatever guise they come. But at any one time I will have more involvement and loving feelings towards those close to me than those more on the periphery.
I agree with you that close personal relations are important for learning how to love and for others to act as a mirror for us - reflecting ourselves to ourselves in all our failings as well as our capacity to love. If we only ever idealise our love, then there is nothing to challenge us and make it real.
--- By Lama Shenpen Hookham

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Heartwish or Longing Continued April 01, 2006 9:39 AM

passion of the heart wish - that sense of longing goes deeper than deep. Itís unfathomable - it just goes on and on.
We tend to think it is necessary to satisfy this longing to make it go away and if that is not possible then to somehow disregard it so that it will fade away on its own - kind of give up - but that is just as useless.
Instead we have to take the more difficult route of simply being with it and letting it open out into a deeper and deeper longing, and then notice that the suffering associated with it is all in the way we 'think'. It is the way we 'think' that makes that longing a problem.
I put 'think' in inverted commas because itís not the thinking as such Ė itís the way we buy into what we are thinking - we buy into it so strongly we donít even notice we have done it - things are just like that. We think our experience confirms it.
For example I might think, 'Oh I canít bear this!' - then I notice and stop thinking it out loud but still I am thinking it wordlessly in the way I am - the way I hold myself physically and mentally - I am blinkered by the idea that I cannot bear it.
And then somehow I stop 'thinking' that - there is no 'I' and no 'it' Ė itís all much simpler than that - and somehow the aliveness of everything is all there. Often it manifests in a big grin or laugh but it might just as well be tears or inspiration. Something wells up from that sudden gap in the 'thinking' that has somehow battened everything down.
I donít know if this addresses your question or not.

--- By Lama Shenpen Hookham

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Heartwish or Longing April 01, 2006 9:37 AM

BUDDHISM CONNECT††††† Lama Shenpen Hookham
Summary: A discussion of the heartwish and the longing for loving , spiritual relationships.†

A student writes:† "My experience with the course books was that the parts about confidence and heartwish have been most important and inspiring for me Ė the heartwish did just make tremendous sense in terms of my suffering, my spiritual engagement as well as a practical instruction I used to Ďforgetí all the time ...† Seeing the difficulties around this area, I am pondering whether the term 'heart-wishing' or 'sense of longing' wouldnít, indeed, be a better pointer."†

Lama Shenpen:† Yes - I think there is a lot to be said for using this phrase, but there again maybe at first it manifests just as a wish. It takes a while to recognise itís actually a longing - at least for some people I think.††††††

Student:† "Last winter, my whole practice consisted of connecting to this tender place in the center of my body awareness, and there was just so much opening happening ...† I was also thinking a lot about the involved wishes for relationship(s), loving and being loved, giving and taking in a partnership. In my different relationships I have always felt a deep discontentment after a while, on all levels of being together.† Naturally, I have felt guilty for years and tried with therapies to Ďimproveí my feelings. But I havenít succeeded Ė it has always stayed a mystery why I was so disappointed.† Only after deeply engaging with the dharma I have seen that I have been longing for an intimacy on another level, for understanding and closeness on a much deeper level. I think I have been mixing the worldly expectations and the expectations of my deepest heart in a very unskilful way."†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

Lama Shenpen:† That is an interesting observation.†††††††††††††††††††††††††

Student:† "I think I have maybe failed to be clear, and in this way been unable to live a relationship on a manageable level, and certainly there was too little patience and too much of blind passion on my side. I am admiring all those who are relating better to their relationships and find ways that it can grow Ė maybe even in a shared spiritual path."††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

Lama Shenpen:† Yes, this can go in different ways. Sometimes people grow spiritually and somehow this leads them to go their separate ways. I have often seen this happen - both spiritual ways - but separate.†††††††††††††††††††††††

Student:† "Anyway, for me seeing this clearly was like cutting through all sorts of romantic errors and self-accusation. I recognized the importance the spiritual yearning had for me Ė and how easy it is to burden a partnership with the wishing for happiness - asking too much from it which it will never be able to give.† I find, ultimately, the facing of the pain and just letting go of any Ďhopeí a real relief. Mostly, I try to wriggle around it Ė actually, thatís my normal way of being every day Ė but when I can make this turning to the feeling of something missing, something not quite right, it has always the touch of liberation. It feels true Ė sometimes on a lonely or sad level.† Strangely, it doesnít seem to have so much energy since all my passion behind my wishing is also cut through Ė maybe I am making a mistake? I would be glad to hear your experiences with passion and the quest for truth and intimacy ... "††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

Lama Shenpen:† I am never quite sure what people mean by passion actually. I think the danger is that we try to avoid disappointment by a kind of apathy - a trying not to care.† Maybe that is what you mean by lack of energy. It is important to link into the caring - the intense caring and I would say pas

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Letting Go and Having Fun March 28, 2006 4:24 PM


Letting Go and Having Fun
Summary: A student describes how they use imagery to relate to principles of meditation and receives advice from Lama Shenpen about working with feelings of guilt.

A student writes:
"It is amazing how I can hear you say one thing nine times, only for the penny to drop on the tenth! Itís very mysterious - especially given that we are only linking into what we really are!
I've been trying to relate to thought in an open way - turning towards - as part of my work on the Openness course book. I think the penny dropped on the instruction to treat thoughts as guests. Can I run it by you?
I find I get to grips with this instruction in quite pictorial terms, though of course in the meditation I don't picture it. Previously, I had pictured a sullen queen-like figure standing at the door of a party, saying hello to her guests, and then ushering them on.
I think this was a rather negative view. Partly, I think, I have been using 'let go' in slightly the wrong sense. Like sort of forcing the thought away, so that I can get on with the focus on the meditation.
Now, this evening I suddenly pictured a large courtyard, in which a jovial king walks. Itís like there are many friends wandering in the courtyard, each of which the king nods cheerfully to, but does not engage in conversation."

Lama Shenpen:
Good image.

"So, for me the instruction that works better is 'let be'. Itís like I let those thoughts be there, but keep on gently with the breath.
Is the 'letting go' referring to letting go of the grasping to the thought?"

Lama Shenpen:
Yes - that is an important question - a subtle question. At first we only understand letting go of the thought or letting go of tension. Itís more subtle to realise it really means letting go of the grasping at the thought or grasping at anything for that matter.

"You let go, but this is letting the thought be, and then a rich space seems to open up."

Lama Shenpen:

"Anyway, I suddenly found space opening up in a wonderful way, so I can feel that I'm on the right tracks."

Lama Shenpen:
Your intuition sounds right.

"My second question does not relate so much to meditation, but more to the heart wish coming out into the world.
It struck me today that I often feel quite guilty about living so much in the world ie socialising, listening to music, having fun. Although the guilt is just a thought, I still feel it needs exploring."

Lama Shenpen:
Yes it does - it suggests you could do more to make socialising, listening to music and having fun your Dharma practice. That is a subtle point but that is where you need to look.

--- By Lama Shenpen Hookham

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Caddy Shack: Dan Murray ~ Classic scene. March 22, 2006 10:11 AM

So I jump ship in Hong Kong and make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at a course over in the Himalayas. A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I'm a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald... striking. So, I'm on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one - big hitter, the Lama - long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga... gunga, gunga-galunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness." So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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Fear, Stress and Anxiety March 22, 2006 10:01 AM


Fear, Stress and Anxiety

Summary: Lama Shenpen responds to a student's questions on the problems of fear, stress and anxiety.

A student asks for advice on fear, stress and anxiety.

Lama Shenpen:
You ask Ďjust a little questioní Ė what is the essence of fear. You call that little!!!!!
But then you ask about stress and anxiety and what could be positive about them. Maybe the good thing about them is that they are the essence of dukkha Ė they are what suffering actually is.
We tense because we are not opening out into the situation completely, we are cutting off from it, making ourselves feel more real and separate. I am here and I donít want that there to happen or to be. How can I make myself solid enough to withstand it?
That is the kind of impulse behind it and so itís a marvelous trigger of awareness. It is whispering to us all the time, ď Which way are you going to jump? Are you going hang on more tightly or have the confidence to let go?Ē
You are on a knife edge and the choice is there for to make at every moment and it feels dreadful. It is telling you this is samsara, this is it! I can choose the heart Ė to have confidence and open - or choose to tense up and be stressed.
Somehow that choice is the essence of the whole thing, isnít it? If you choose to trust the heart and relax, have confidence and let go, you can open up more and more. Maybe only a little at a time but there is a sure direction there. Tensing up is the opposite.
Is this any kind of answer?
--- By Lama Shenpen Hookham

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 February 16, 2006 6:52 AM

This is why vaishnavas lament for the condition of the mayavadis.

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The wisdom of Lama Shenpen February 16, 2006 6:06 AM


Unrequited Love

Summary: Desire for another person is quite beautiful and poignant. Even as one reaches out, the object of our desire is disappearing under our touch. The moment is always gone...Unrequited love is just as good for practising with as requited love actually. What a roller coaster! There is a living quality to it all that is beyond grasping. That is what we are seeking to rest in.

"A student asked a question about how to deal with the persistent feeling of attraction arising towards someone he isnít going to become involved with. He asked how he can stop this happening."

Lama Shenpen:
The problem is your wanting it not to happen so strongly is making it more real. Intensity of feeling is not a problem, and even the thoughts that go with it are not a problem. Believing they are a problem becomes the problem.
There is no need to feel tired and fed-up with the same thoughts and same feelings arising all the time. Admire the whole thing - is it really you doing all of that? The thoughts and feelings chasing each other round and round. Relax and open out into the whole thing. It is quite splendid.
Desire for another person is quite beautiful and poignant. Even as one reaches out, the object of our desire is disappearing under our touch. The moment is always gone. How to be with it at the moment of its most intense beauty? How to just be with that? Unrequited love is just as good for practising with as requited love actually. Both are very interesting.
There are those moments of melting pleasure and then the grasping - the wanting or the not wanting, the sadness, the disappointment, the empty feeling and then off we go again into the mounting joy and pleasure. What a roller coaster! Yet it is empty, like magic, like a dream - appearing but empty, ungraspable and in essence it is something real beyond grasping. There is a living quality to it all that is beyond grasping. That is what we are seeking to rest in.
Does this give you a few hints to go on?
--- By Lama Shenpen Hookham

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