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Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Tonglen Life

I became aware during Tonglen today that the point of my life has always been to be a blessing with the living of this life. To me, apart from that, there is just the act of survival, and we all know how successfully that ends. Everybody dies. The only way to do it well, is to leave a trail of benefit in one's wake.

It seems common when people speak of recognizing this that they couch it in apologies for past selfishness or cluelessness. I can't do that. I have been living a life of service since I was 15 and started my first public service venture, a countywide high school youth council that among its many projects in that first year organized and put on a two week summer crafts camp for elementary school children. I am not writing to describe the turning of a page of awareness, but to reinforce a message that is already within everyone reading this.

I am writing to say, do it bigger, more frequently, and without any doubt that it is in fact the point. Life is that simple and direct, no matter how pervasive the false teachings of "masters of the universe" mentalities that control our media and seek to define our culture.

There is awakening, the path of letting go of our false beliefs about reality, particularly our false sense of a separate self. And then there is also navigating relative reality, which we were not born into by accident. As well as the awareness of ultimate reality, there is making something out of this experience of the relative. As far as I can see, the only thing worth making out of it is the alleviation of suffering around us and the spread of joy, love, and support in more and more creative and effective ways.

Phone Buddies came out of such a desire, as have many other projects I've been involved in over the years. What is your offering to our collective experience to be these days? What would you like to gift us? If you have tried already to bring your heart gifts out into the world, you already know that working to help others is still hard work. The world does not pave a path of gold for you just because you want to do something good. There will be many people who will be threatened by your desire to make a positive difference. Some will be jealous and not want to see you succeed. Others will not let you help them, they will reject your help because they don't want it to come from you.

This is a very frequent experience of people of color who seek to help people of all races, including the dominant racial group of whites, often because the intended beneficiaries hold a self-perception of superiority that does not happily accept assistance from "inferiors." In my twenties it was hard for me to learn this lesson, both in terms of being difficult to comprehend and also painful to accept. Yet I kept on working to give benefit wherever I could regardless of race or racism, because it is who I am, and I could not snuff out that inner drive however difficult the journey.

I am writing to encourage all of you who have ever thought you wanted to do something with this life more than survival, beyond even creating additional lives (children) and seeing them grow. There is something more than service to self or to immediate family. There is service to the community of life itself. And in the end I truly believe that is all relative reality ever adds up to over time. The rest is timeless and unconditional. We are meant to have both joys, which is why we were created with both aspects of reality such integral parts of who we are.

If you are still looking for your "calling" or your next "service idea," I would suggest adding tonglen to your daily routine. Breathing in, visualize your Buddha nature drawing all the suffering and inner conflict out of everyone on Earth. Breathing out, visualize your Buddha nature fanning the flames of the inner fire of Truth and Love within the heart-minds of all beings. After however many cycles of breath you have time to devote right then, rest in the glow of a world of happiness, health, wealth and wholeness. Do this at least once each day, and as much as once each hour, depending on how quickly you want to birth the vision into reality. I would say "good luck," but that's not what you need. Just do it.

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