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Buddhism, partys and remaining natural

October 15, 2012

A friend of mine, who is one of the kindest most vivacious people I know, who really loves and is loved by many people, started going to meditation classes a few years ago, and very soon she began to ask me if I thought it was still ok that she drank, or had wild weekends, or climbed mountains or watched movies……….

I was very happy to be able to tell her, YES, absolutely, don’t change a thing. How awful I thought, if she suddenly changed and without realising it, stopped being this wonderful person who brought so much happiness to others. Instead I suggested that she simply became more mindful of her daily life, meaning she try to be aware of and explore her experiences and reactions to things in the light of what she learnt from meditation. Then gradually I would expect some changes, but principally in her attitude and perception, not in her activities.

That is actually the meaning of the word Kadampa, a person who applies Buddha’s teachings in daily life.

All feelings are in the mind

Many people become interested in Buddhism, not because they want to be buddhists, but because they want to be happy and they think that meditation holds the key to unlock their wish. And they’re right.

Buddha taught that “the real nature of our problems is our own feelings, which are part of our mind”. In fact all feelings both pleasant and unpleasant are part of the mind. Which means if we want to solve our problems (degrees of un-pleasant feelings) and if we want to be happy (degrees of pleasant feelings) then we have to look primarily in our mind. So what I asked my friend to do was understand the relationship between her experiences during her daily life and her mind.

For example, if I go to a party and find that people are boring and think

“I am bored because of these boring people”

Then I am NOT practicing Buddha’s teachings.  But if I think,

“I am bored because my mind is closed and won’t let me see how precious and interesting these people are”

Then I AM practicing Buddha’s teachings.

There is a third possibility too, reserved especially for people who have a formal practice:

“I am bored because I haven’t done enough meditation and now I am wasting my time at this party instead of doing more meditation”

Then I am NOT practicing Buddha’s teachings.

This third thought confuses the tool, meditation, with the material being worked on, the mind. Its really easy to get caught up in all the tools and teachings but forget what they are for; until at a certain point you can’t remember why you do all this “buddhist stuff” and walk away.

All our activities can be meditation

Geshe Kelsang says that as Kadampa’s we can use meditation day and night in all our activities. So we should never give credence to that third thought. Its always possible to work towards fulfilling our wish to be happy.

There are two types of meditation, placement and analytical. The first requires that classic stillness which we normally think of as meditation and might not be appropriate at the party! But the second is a mind which actively applies the tools of examination, reasoning and imagination to learn from and transform every experience so that it supports our basic wish to be happy and increase our wisdom and insight constantly.

Remain natural whilst changing your aspiration

Geshe Chekawa (from Universal Compassion)

Getting into Buddhism and meditation can make you feel like the way to go is to remain anything but natural. Maroon robes, shaved heads, chanted prayers, statues, words like Sutra, tantra, lojong, samsara, puja, sadhana … its easy to see how a person might think the way to go is change, change change change!. So I really understand where my friend was coming from, but the advice from Geshe Chekawa is actually a commitment we have to make, its a very serious and fundamental piece of advice.

So what is natural? The wish to be happy is very natural and the incredible capacity of the mind to do things like love selflessly are also innate natural qualities. Specifically Geshe Chekawa states that it means not changing our behaviour inappropriately or pretending to have qualities we do not (which I think its fair to say can also mean pretending to be someone we are not)

On that basis all the other stuff become the most fantastic tools we can use to fulfill our natural wish and realize the love and wisdoms which are the real nature of our mind.

Encouraging myself

Whenever I get dis-heartened or disturbed so that I feel that no amount of Buddhism or meditation could possibly help, I remind myself of these points and particularly connect back to that wish for happiness. Its the ground for all my practice, its why I go for refuge, here are the sort of thoughts I have:

“O Buddha please bless me to transform my mind to be happy

O Buddha Spiritual guide please teach me how to transform everything I encounter in this world into the path that leads to perfect happiness

O Sangha friends please help and inspire me to stay focused on fulfilling this wish”

And its the basis for all the other realisations on the path,

“Just as I wish to be happy, so do all living beings, may I be able to fulfill their wish”

Its true for all of us

Staying natural, keeping it real, means checking constantly if our actions and our wishes support each other. I read recently that one reason Andy Murray was finally able to win a Grand Slam tournament was because he had finally got his un-helpful self defeating mind under control. It used to be that Andy was playing two opponents, one on the other side of the net and one in his head that said things like, “You idiot”, “Your useless” whenever things started to go badly. But he realised the contradiction in himself and has got it under control.

Its interesting to think about what happens, for example, when a tennis player “beats himself up”, its an ugly and un-pleasent thing to watch, and I think thats because at that time they are distorting themselves, fighting against themselves. If that is the effect in tennis, then just imagine the results of using your spiritual practices like meditation as an excuse to beat yourself up. Its very far from being natural and completely contradicts your wish to be happy, and if you are not careful it will even destroy the very tools that could help fulfil that wish in the process, because over time you will associate those tools like meditation, with the pain of those inner beatings.

It is said that a person who practices moral discipline is very beautiful because there is an inner harmony and a truthfulness which touches the beholder. I should say that my friend who I mentioned at the start of the article always seems very beautiful, and I think its because she has that harmony of action and wish and truth. I believe with that attitude Dharma practice will be very successful in fulfilling her wishes; she is a wonderful inspiration to me.

Daily life

My conclusion is always to encourage myself, no matter where I am by remembering my basic natural wish to be happy and using my experience to remind me that the problem and the solution are both in my mind. And the I feel very lucky to have been taught some amazing tools for working with my mind, and with that happy mind, I just need to get on and use them!

I hope that has been useful for you – i´d love to hear your comments, experience, thoughts and ways of keeping your Dharma practice alive and relevant every day, so please do use the comments box!

Thank you 🙂

From → Fundamental

  1. I am so fascinated by the teachings of Buddhism. For someone who is interested in learning more, where do you suggest I start?

    Thank you for the great post.

  2. Dear most likely to marry, a good place to start could be with volume 1 of Modern buddhism which is a free ebook. There is a link on the right of this blog page..

    I had a look at your blog and its clear you are in the process of really learning and exploring, I found it very moving. You have a great attitude. If you search google or amazon you can see there’s a lot out there, so see what connects with you and give it a try. It’s definitely good if you can find a Buddhist centre where you can join classes and meet other people. I practice within the NKT, and you’ll find a directory of their centre’s on their web site ( But there are many different schools of Buddhism each with its own flavour and feel, again, have fun and explore!

    Here’s a link to a video I really like, I hope it gives you an opportunity to quickly start getting some benefit from meditation.

    Thanks for liking my post – and do come back, I’d love to hear how you get on.

    • Thank you so much for your input. I really appreciate it. I will definitely look into the advice you gave. I am looking forward to exploring it and seeing if it resonates with me. I have a feeling it will.

  3. Great post! Beautifully put. I love that you show how accessible Buddha’s teachings are to all of us. We don’t need to morph into anything we’re not to follow the Buddhist path, we simply need to be truer to the person we really are deep inside, slow down, ‘be mindful’ and appreciate other people and the world around us. It’s actually quite simple?!

    The ‘party’ scenario is an attitude I’ve learned to cultivate and practise more and more lately, as well as trying to be less self critical…it’s nice to know we all share our bad habits with such champions in the sports arena!

    I’m still very much guided by Buddhism in every aspect of my life, which incredibly has calmed my wilder side without taking away my ‘fun’ outlook and zest for life. Thanks. YOU really are an inspiration. kxx

  4. Edwin permalink

    ‘This third thought confuses the tool, meditation, with the material being worked on, the mind’ – great insight!

    • Thanks Edwin – what do yo think is your number 1 deceptive thought which actually stops you practicing Dharma in the present moment? Assuming that ever happens to you 🙂

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