Contemplative practice unveils the innate creativity of mind to bring healing, resilience, and transformation to our lives...
Nowadays if we scan the field of meditation instruction in general, there is a sense that the whole point of meditation is to just like bliss out or get calm--some kind of palliative measure. In many ways, this coincides with the secularization of meditation, a teasing out of therapeutic benefits separate and apart from spiritual practice elements.
There certainly is truth there--a good deal of healing comes of meditation, including calming and ease, grounding and centering that occurs. This is of course wonderful.
There is also no shortage of discomfort that occurs in a holistic meditation paradigm, and, in our experience, the spiritual elements go a long way to welcoming and incorporating these less than enjoyable experiences in a manner that is not just healing, but transformative. What is wonderful about this is how practice helps us connect with habits that are not serving us--inner spaces that are not connecting with love, abundance, and joy. This vital inner resourcing is itself resilience.
These are benefits of meditation as well, yet, they rarely feel like blissing out. Meditation actually allows us to become familiar with our mind in all ways, just as we are experiencing it, in the midst of our embodiment, our sorrows and joys, the worldly context surrounding us. It allows us to soothe, comfort, heal and transform habits of seeing the world through anger, trauma, depression, compulsion, addiction--what have you. (This occurs in a manner that is distinct from psychology and self-help modalities, which are powerful, and at times, necessary adjuncts to meditation.)
While this topic is in and of itself a broad one, this article focuses on yet another arena that is overlooked, left out even from this discussion. In the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism that we follow, meditation is but one dimension of the rich tapestry of contemplative life. Formal meditation's role in the fabric of living the Buddhadharma is revealing, familiarizing, and aligning ourselves with the innate qualities of mind.
These vibrant and intrinsic qualities are numberless, and include caring, benevolence, tenderness, love, discernment, courage, resilience, power, heroism, and more. They manifest in ways that are quite obviously positive, as well as in ways that are more fierce in character, yet likewise in service of our own benefit and that of others. They are "positive" and "wholesome" in the sense that they resonate with the true nature of mind and reality, the infinite potential at the heart of our mind-blogging interconnection with all things.
Of course, we all have some measure of access to these excellent features of mind. We all know what it feels like to love, to be held in kindness, to feel interconnection with the earth and its living creatures, animate and inanimate. We all have ways of accessing these rich stores of positivity and beauty. Just not at will, oftentimes.
In the broadest, most inclusive, sense of Tibetan Buddhist spiritual practice, meditation is about connecting cohesively with qualities already present as our own nature. What happens when we do that? The mind increasingly resides in well-being, responsiveness, proper self-care and altruism in dynamic balance. We feel good, without ignoring the negativity that can arise within and without our experience.
This is the kernel of truth in the sense of meditation as feel-good technology. When mind is in well being, it feels at ease, and an easeful mind in well being is resilient, emotionally available, present, and agile. Among the many personal and social benefits that come of this inner well-being is a vivid and ongoing connection to mind's inherent creativity.
In this sense, "creativity" is not one that depends on conditions--a flash of inspiration coming from somewhere else, time away from stressors, just enough happiness to feel open and engaged. At Prajna Fire, a significant part of our mission is introducing folks to spiritual practice as abundance, joy, strength, and resilience, able and willing to connect with not only the transcendent, but the full range of immanent experience surrounding us--even heartbreaking pandemics and the social unrest that comes of unhealed collective traumas.
The abundance of mind's excellent qualities provide a inner space for connecting with the present moment--even when it hurts--from awareness, relationship, intelligence, and meaningful action. This vitality, this responsiveness, is not something we do. It is something we are, out of which our action aligns with mind's excellent intrinsic qualities.
This is what "sacred creativity" is about--not creativity in the sense of what we produce--a rather consumerist approach, isn't it? To think that there must be a piece of visual art, or a poem, a piece of literature, a performance, or something else tangible that we have produced limits and circumscribes creativity, however glorious the product. By contrast, sacred creativity explores creativity as something we are, rather than what we produce.
Fabulous, but what in the world does meditation have to do with all that, you might ask.
In our current series, Sacred Creativity: The Art of Spiritual Continuity, we lead formal meditation techniques as well as dynamic activities off the cushion, to explore how connecting with the innate qualities of mind in formal meditation releases bound up energies, that then express in creative ways of being, as well as doing.
Through meditation, we cultivate familiarity with these innate qualities. Alongside that, we train up immediately accessible yet often neglected metacognitive faculties of mind that foster presence and recognition of awareness moment to moment. We bring these powerful mental qualities into the meditation "laboratory" so we can cultivate them, encourage their growth in breadth and strength, then activate them in the "wild," amidst all the beauty and sorrow of our lives as we live it.
Not the generic sense of meditation as sitting and waiting for something to happen to us from the outside in. Meditation in this light is active, engaged, in our hands, cultivated from within, and radiating out in our actions. In other words, we craft a contemplative mindset intentionally in mediation, using it to seed a lifestyle that nourishes harmonious conditions for turning the mind towards a living practice organically, with joy and vigor.
For example, using the meditation techniques of tranquility (Skr. shamatha, Tib. phoen. shinay) and insight (Skr. vipashyana, Tib. lhatong), we habituate ourselves to recognize awareness; connect with intelligence on somatic, relational, emotional, and cognitive levels; and reconfigure our habits gradually to make discerning insight the operating system for engaging with all that life tosses our way.
As we connect to qualities intrinsic to mind's nature--indivisible from it--then, implicitly, we also become increasingly aware of what is superficial to mind, separable from it. What is superficial to mind is what we most often experience as uncomfortable, painful, unfulfilling. It might be anger, confusion, obsession, unworthiness, or any of the things we experience as heavy or burdensome.
Have you ever wondered why these emotional experiences feel heavy and burdensome? Because we do not need to be carrying them. They are superficial to mind. What meditation in Buddhist practice does is help us to slough off and clear away what is not serving us, what is unnecessary and counterproductive. In recognizing their character, we can let go.
What happens as we become familiar with mind as it is, clearing away more and more that is superfluous to our being? Ultimately, we are left with the pristine, crystalline, gorgeous qualities of mind--abundant, joyful, wise, kind, connected, fearless. This is full-fledged, resourceful resilience, able to be with all of the things in the world, all of the chaos that surrounds us, not out of apathy, but the exact opposite: presence, awareness, complete and utter caring that does not shy away. Because it has nothing to fear.
This even-handedness is boundlessly able to act responsively without being invested in fixing everyone's troubles (not always the healthiest mission statement for our existence), yet effortless offering up all the richness available to us for our own and others' good.
In our experience, a living contemplative practice such as this, harnessing the creative tension amidst immanence and transcendence, helps align us with our deepest intentions for ourselves and others. This is innate grace, quickened from deep within, motivating us spontaneously to enact our aspirations beyond platitudes, on the cushion and out of the stuff of our daily lives.
The Buddha makes his teachings and practices available to everyone, placing his wisdom with care in the hands of anyone willing to take up the instructions and experiment. Thus, we offer Sacred Creativity: The Art of Spiritual Continuity to anyone irrespective of spiritual identity. (The mandala for the current six-week series is now sealed. Join our community to keep informed on for future series.)
For those wishing to explore the techniques of tranquility and insight within the traditional philosophy and praxis of the Kagyu lineage, the Buddha's contemplative technology of integrative practice --listening, contemplating, and meditating on his teachings, permits deepening and integrating Buddhadharma directly into life.
Prajna Rising: Buddha's Contemplative Technology
Weekend practice program focused on the Buddha's own technology for cultivating experiential knowledge of the Dharma through what we call "integrative practice," a multidimensional combination of three seminal techniques: listening, contemplating, and meditating.
Hosted by Kagyu Sukha Choling
Saturday and Sunday, May 15 and 16, 2021
10:00 AM to 1:00 PM USA MDT each day
3:00 PM to 5:30 PM USA MDT each day
Zoom Online Video Conference
Alternatively, practitioners may learn the techniques of tranquility and insight in the context of Mahamudra practice of the Kagyu lineage, itself an intricate and complete path of investigating mind.
in Investigating Mind
Intensive practice weekend focusing on methods to meet, befriend, and greet our own mind, right within the thoughts, emotions, and experiences of everyday life alongside formal meditation.
Hosted by Kagyu Mila Guru Sangha
Saturday and Sunday, June 12 and 13, 2021
Morning group instruction: 10:00 AM to noon USA MDT each day
Individual meditation: 1:00 PM to 1:45 PM USA MDT each day
Afternoon group instruction: 2:30 to 4:30 PM USA MDT each day
Zoom Online Video Conference