Tag Archive | Chenrezig

Love letter to my fear

Jizo 25Hello my fear!
I see you standing there –
come into the light.
Do not be afraid.
I am sorry if I have hurt you
with the many unkind things I have thought and said about you.
You have guarded me so faithfully;
you have walked so many years by my side.
I know that you are weary;
you have been vigilant for so long.

Let me take your hand.
Let us find a place where you can rest.
Here, this tree is lovely.
You can sleep safely under her sheltering arms.

You do not need to need to worry about me any more.
I have a new guardian to walk by my side.
He knows how to listen to the suffering of beings.
He will teach me how to suffer well.
He will show me how to water the seeds of joy and understanding in myself and others.
With diligent and mindful practice, I will grow strong.

I bow in gratitude for your loyal service.
Close your eyes and do not worry any more.
Some day I will be strong enough to be my own guardian.
Then I will return here to sit by your side.
I will teach you all I have learned
and you will never need to be afraid again.

Reflecting on 100 days of practice

IMG_0747Today was the 100th day of my Buddhist practice self-challenge, which I began on my return from Seoul, South Korea. As I’ve previously written, I was inspired to choose a 100-day period after reading Anyen Rinpoche’s book Momentary Buddhahood: Mindfulness and the Vajrayana Path, in which he writes:

…there is not one person that does not have the ability to have a consistent practice of meditation on a daily basis. Every person is capable of doing that. Every person can do it without missing any days if they dare to make a serious commitment. Having this kind of commitment to daily practice is one of the main supports for Dharma as a whole. . .

One way we can work on developing a habit to practice is by considering for how long we could consistently commit to practice each day. It may only be five or ten minutes when we begin. We should take this as the minimum for our daily practice. Then, we should commit to completing at least this much practice every day for one hundred days. No matter what happens, we should resolve not to give up. At the end of the hundred days, we can reevaluate the length of practice time we have chosen. We may want to increase it, or simply keep it the same, before we make another time commitment for practice. If we work with short periods of commitment that are not too overwhelming, over time we will find that we have developed the habit of daily practice without falling into any self-defeating behavior.

Because I completed my 100th days this morning, I want to take a moment to reflect on how it went. Continue reading

Halfway point

CAM01932Earlier this week I crossed the halfway point of my 100-day daily practice challenge. I’m happy to say that I’ve maintained my morning practice every day for 54 days now, even including the days that I was in Denver for the Phowa retreat.

That said, I have modified my daily practice somewhat from my original plan due to physical difficulties and new commitments. In regards to the former, I’ve been having a lot of back and neck pain for some time. I’ve had difficulty with sitting meditation for a while, though I had hoped that my body would adjust in the face of consistent daily practice. This has not occurred. The problems worsened at the Phowa retreat where I was sitting for hours at a time on a cushion, often in great discomfort. Our daily session began each morning with a half hour of yoga, which definitely helped, but the pain would return later and pain medication was no longer helping. I realized I needed a new approach. Continue reading


IMG_2451I have returned from a wonderful week-long trip to Seoul, South Korea. It was my first visit there and I came away impressed and eager to return. The people were friendly, the city clean, and the public transportation reliable, pervasive, and easy to use. And the sites! Beautiful historic palaces and wondrous Buddhist temples are sprinkled throughout the modern city, which is itself cradled between mountains and river. I felt like I barely scratched the surface of all there was to see and do.

The highlight of my trip was an overnight templestay at Myogaksa Temple. The Korea templestay program has been operated for more than ten years by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, allowing visitors to participate in the life of one of Korea’s many Buddhist temples for a short time, learning about Korean Buddhist practices and teachings. It’s a wonderful experience, especially as several of the participating temples have English-language programs designed to be foreigner-friendly. I was very fortunate that one of the Seoul-area temples with an English-language program was hosting a templestay program on the weekend that I was there. Continue reading


Jizo 12I heard a discussion the other night about the difference between grieving and mourning. After acknowledgement that both terms get defined in many different ways, a basic consensus developed that grieving is the emotions felt due to a loss while mourning is the rituals undertaken to give form to that grieving. Based on that understanding, I’m about halfway through a period of mourning for a recently deceased relative, the period being defined as 49 days since the date of death, which, per Buddhist tradition, is the maximum duration of the journey from one life to the next.

This is not my first experience with mourning. When my beloved cat Fenris died a few years ago, I grieved intensely and found healing through mourning. In that instance, every evening for 49 days I read passages from the Thurman translation of the Bardo Thodol (The Great Book of Natural Liberation Through Understanding in the Between or Liberation through Hearing in the Intermediate State, commonly referred to as the Tibetan Book of the Dead) that are intended to guide the departed consciousness through the bardo (intermediate state) of death. Sitting there, exhorting Fenris to resist the allurements that lead to a lower rebirth and to instead focus on achieving enlightenment, rebirth in a pure land, or a precious human rebirth, I really felt like I was continuing to be helpful to him even though he was no longer nearby to feed or stroke or clean up after. I deeply felt the loss of this being who had loved me so utterly, completely, and selflessly. However, I didn’t want to hold him back with my grief. I was grateful to be able to lend my voice and my love to helping him complete his transitional journey.

As the most actively religious member of our household, I undertake the conduct of mourning rituals on behalf of our family. When a close relative recently was diagnosed with a rapidly progressing terminal illness, I contacted spiritual leaders in both traditions I currently practice in, to get advice about the appropriate mourning prayers to say after death. For the Plum Village tradition, I was referred to Chanting from the Heart: Buddhist Ceremonies and Daily Practices by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Monks and Nuns of Plum Village, which contains many prayers and practices, including ceremonies relating to death and dying. I decided that every seventh day after death I would recite the prayers contained in the ceremony for the the seventh and forty-ninth days after death. Continue reading