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  2. Turning the Mind into an Ally
  3. Turning the Mind Into an Ally
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So we have to continuously remind our- selves of basic goodness. If we want to help alleviate suffering on our planet, those of us who can make our minds pliable must plant a flower on the rock. In Tibet we call this energy Lungta, "windhorse. As a lifelong student of medita- tion, I have a deep respect for its profundity as a spiri- tual path. I am interested in what people can really use in their life, and how to prepare people to truly hear the potency and depth of what an enlightened being like the Buddha has to say. I am grateful to my teachers for passing these teachings on to me, and grateful for the chance to share them with you.

The teachings are always available, like a radio sig- nal in the air. But a student needs to learn how to tune in to that signal, and how to stay tuned in. We can begin the process of personal development now by including short periods of meditation as part of our everyday lives. Tilling the ground of our own minds through meditation is how we begin to create a com- munity garden. In doing so we are helping to create a new culture, a culture that can thrive in the modern world and can at the same time support our human journey in an uplifted and joyous way.

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Such a culture is called enlightened society. Enlightened society is where the flower and the rock will meet. When I was in Tibet, I traveled through some of the most vast, spacious, and beautiful land in the world. Our caravan of land-cruisers drove through remote valleys surrounded by endless mountain ranges. For mile after mile we would pass no sign of civiliza- tion. There were, of course, no bathrooms, so we would stop to relieve ourselves along the side of the road. No matter how isolated we thought we were, someone would always come walking around the bend.

Then another person would come close to check out this strange group of travelers in his valley.

Turning the Mind into an Ally

I wondered where they were coming from and where they were going. I would think, "Are they born from the earth?


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They each had a destination. The simplicity of that environment made it so clear that this is what most of us are doing: traveling from one place to another, searching for a lasting happiness. There's an element of emptiness that we keep trying to assuage. We want to find something that feels good and makes sense, something solid that we can use as a permanent reference point.

Wisdom might tell us that we're seeking something we won't ever find, yet part of the reason we keep looking is that we've never quite been satisfied. Even when we feel great happiness, there's a quality of intangibility, as if we're squeezing a watermelon seed. Yet day in and day out, year after year, and, according to traditional Buddhism, lifetime after lifetime, we don't think beyond accomplishing the immediate desire to find the missing piece, the one that will bring us real happiness.

Since I'm a Buddhist, the Buddha is my role model for an enlightened being. He was a strong person with a healthy sense of self —a caring, clear-minded individ- ual in harmony with himself and his environment. After following many different spir- itual paths, he developed the strength, confidence, and motivation that he needed to meditate and rest in wis- dom.


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This is how he awoke to the deepest meaning of reality and was able endlessly to help others do the same. He was a bodhisattva warrior — one who culti- vates compassion and wisdom, who has the courage to live from the open heart. His journey shows us that we too can arouse our open hearts as a way to realize the meaning of being fully human. The Buddha was born a prince. Because he seemed to have a spiritual bent, his father decided early on that it would be better for him not to get too curious about the world outside the walls of the palace.

He didn't want his only son going out to seek his spiritual for- tune, which was a popular thing to do in India back then. So the king kept the world within the royal walls humming with all kinds of entertainment, activities, and sensual delights. The Buddha grew up with every- thing he needed, all within the walls of his own private world. When he was older, there were dancing girls and later a wife and baby. For a long time, he didn't get to know the world beyond the walls.

But then one day he rode out with a servant and saw sick people, old people, dead people, and a wandering ascetic. This completely changed his view. His father's worst fears came true, and the Buddha left the kingdom immediately. Dissatisfied with maintaining an illusion, he wanted to understand his life — and life itself.

Just like the Buddha, most of us also would like to learn some basic truth about our lives and get a bigger perspective about what's going on.

Turning the Mind Into an Ally

The path of meditation offers us this possibility. What the Buddha saw is that life is marked by four qualities: impermanence, suffering, selflessness, and peace. He saw that we keep butting our heads against this basic reality and it hurts. We suffer because we want life to be different from what it is. We suffer because we try to make pleasurable what is painful, to make solid what is fluid, to make permanent what is always changing. The Buddha saw that we try to make ourselves into something real and unchanging when our fundamental state of being is unconditionally open and ungraspable — selfless.

We discover this notion of selflessness in meditation, where we learn to zoom away from our thoughts and emotions and become familiar with these basic facts of life. Accepting the impermanence and selflessness of our existence, we will stop suffering and realize peace. That, in a nut- shell, is what the Buddha taught. It sounds simple.

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In Buddhist language, that is known as damdara. In Tibetan, the word is khorwa, which means "circular. We are spinning our wheels. We keep looking for something to be dif- ferent. Next time we will be happy; This relationship didn't work out — but the next one will. This restaurant isn't that good — but the next item on the menu might really do it for me. My last meditation session wasn't great, and the one before that wasn't great either — but this one's really going to be different.

One thing keeps leading to another, and instead of the simplicity and happiness we desire, we only feel more burdened by our lives.

Instead of relaxing into the basic goodness that connects us with every other living being, we suffer the illness of separation, which is just a trick of our minds. The Buddha said, "True suffering is the nature of samsara.

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But if we look beneath the surface, we'll see that suffering is percolating through like an underground river. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we sense that it's there and maintain a mental vigilance to keep ourselves occupied in an attempt to avoid it. Over and over again we come up with schemes to outsmart samsara. This is high- maintenance pleasure. It's what keeps us on the wheel. It's how we keep trying to make samsara work. We think, "I know it's endless. I know it's painful.

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I know what you're saying. I believe you. But I've got just one more thing, just one little thing. That is samsara. The Buddha was an astronaut who traveled into space and saw that suffering is a circle. We say "just one more" because we don't see it the way Buddha did. We're under the illusion that we're moving in a straight line. Yet just as the Earth seems flat as long as we're on it, we think we're walking in a straight line when actu- ally we're stuck in a circle of suffering. And though it certainly feels like an objective real- ity, this circle of suffering is just a state of mind.