Next week is Buddhist New Year: Feb 22, to be exact. In the Shambhala Buddhist tradition, the week or so preceding the new year is called Dön season and is thought to be a time of obstacles, difficulties, and stuckness. I don’t know about you, but when I find myself feeling trapped and frustrated and “I need things to move!!!” my confidence begins to wane.
During a time of obstacles (whether or not you find yourself in one right now), there are steps we can take to meet such obstacles head-on. These steps have nothing to do with slashing through limitations and everything to do with trusting our experience. We will always meet with periods of greater and lesser limitations and we can work skillfully with every kind of experience. When obstacles arise, we can acknowledge them and shift our presence to relate with them intelligently–without feeling (as I so often do) I’m doomed, this is the big one, I have royally f-ed everything up–which is so deeply unhelpful. Similarly, when we find ourselves in periods of flow, we can ride these energies by simply letting go into them–without feeling (as I so often do), I’ve made it, this is awesome, it’s all clear sailing from here–which is simply irrelevant.
Buddhist thought has many value-free suggestions for meeting both obstacles and the dissolution of obstacles with intelligence. I would like to share the super-practical, super-awesome recommendations of my teacher (Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche) for rousing confidence in the face of limitations. As you will see, they are very, very basic but also quite brilliant. The underlying theme is to simplify, slow down, pay attention to details, and have faith–not as an act of wishful thinking, but because as you take these steps you see that your life is actually unfolding with a sense of order. They are:
1. Eat good food. This doesn’t mean become a vegan or do a detox fast. It means that when you buy, prepare, and consume food (and drink), make sure it is of excellent quality, procured decently, prepared thoughtfully.
2. Wear nice clothes. I thought this meant I had to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe. For better or worse, it does not. It simply means to wear clothes that are clean, pressed, fit you well, and make you feel cheerful.
3. Clean up your space. It goes without saying that when we live in chaos, we feel chaotic.
4. Spend time with people you love. Requires no explanation.
5. Spend time in the natural world. Our world is good. Cold is cold. Purple is purple. Water is wet. When we touch in with what is most elemental, we remember our own basic goodness.
Of course the most important thing to simplify, trust, and turn toward is our own mind. Meditation practice is exactly this.
To establish a meditation practice, please sign up for The Open Heart Project.
PS Yesterday we passed over 4,000 members of The Open Heart Project!! I am so grateful for this growing community of dedicated practitioners from all over the world.