Bodhisattva Road

Bodhisattva Road February 1, 2022

Way back when I was 20 years old I started practicing meditation for myself. I was interested in my own well being.

I needed Buddhism. I needed something because I was really struggling. Many people really struggle when they’re young, when they come to terms with adulthood not being what they expected or wished for.

What do I mean when I say I started for myself?

I needed some calm in my life. I needed to learn how to have some equanimity. My spiritual practice was focused on those goals. I thought if I could just get a certain degree of mindfulness and concentration then I could live in a more awakened way and that could be enough.

As a young Buddhist I wanted to walk the path of the Zen Masters, those who sit on the mountain and dispense their wisdom to visiting students. Those great masters who are above the struggles of ordinary life and who are always quiet and calm. I don’t think anyone really fits that archetype in real life, but you probably get it. I studied with Zen teachers and I read Zen teachings and I thought, “Maybe some day, I’ll be wise.”

And that has all shifted now. By the way, at least one Zen teacher told me I was coming at it with altogether the wrong mindset in the first place, just so you know.

 

A funny thing happened as I entered middle age during a worldwide pandemic.

 

Now my practice is for connecting with others and connecting with my true self (whatever that means)

I’m not interested in dispensing wisdom from a mountaintop, whether that’s figurative or literal. I’m not even sure I’m interested in being wise, let alone dispensing wisdom. I just want to open my heart.

The center of my practice was mindfulness and concentration. Now the center of my practice is compassion and vulnerability. I noticed a shift happening a while ago. The spiritual path is made useful and helpful through our connections with other people. It’s not about being more mindful. It’s about being more loving and vulnerable.

I didn’t even know how to think about this or put it into words, but there it is. A big shift.

Some people would say, “It’s the ripening of your karma” or that it’s because of empowerments I’ve received from Tibetan teachers like Lama Lena planting seeds in my consciousness. I don’t know if I believe in that stuff but I am much more open to it than I used to be. It could just be from getting older, or where my personal life has taken me, or that pandemic thing that’s affecting all of us. I was really impacted by all the isolation and uncertainty that I’ve experience the last two years. And when I was really feeling low about all of that, it was those teachings I learned from the Tibetan Buddhists that helped me get through it. It wasn’t the quiet calm of those stories of Zen Masters. It was the Open Heart.

I just know I’m not really on the Zen path anymore. I was never really that good at it anyway, if I’m honest. I don’t want to study Dogen and Hakuin. I want to study Shantideva and Longchenpa now. That’s not to disparage any Zen teachers, but just to say there’s a reason why I struggled to really connect with any Zen teachers and it’s more than just proximity.

Now I’m on the path that takes the Open Heart as the road to awakening.

This is the Bodhisattva Road.

And you’re invited.

 

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