The Path To Bodhichitta

You start where you are, the practice will meet you there.

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Giving & Receiving

Last week, I had late night coffee with a dear friend. Our paths collided only in April this year, but our bond grew at startling speed. PS loves to talk and is a great entertainer, but this time, I took the reins of the conversation with a disturbing issue at work.

The abridged version is that one among us is struggling and we're all at our wits end as to how to haul him on board. PS thoughtfully swirled his skinny latte around before saying;

"Let's say I'm in love with you and you don't feel the same. But to win you over, I buy you a diamond ring, a house, a car and so forth. Would you accept the gifts?"

"Of course not!"

He leaned forward. "Why?"

"Because those gifts come with a certain obligation and expectation and if I know I can't reciprocate, then I shouldn't accept them."

"And would I be a fool for continuing to give you gifts?"

I hesitated. "I guess..."

He leaned closer, looked me straight in the eye and said, "So why then do you keep giving this person so much when he is obviously not reciprocating?"

We're a team, I protested. We should look out for each other.

"You care too much," PS said with his usual directness.

Of course I do. We're a team!

"No, you care TOO MUCH! You're taking responsibility for his success, which is not your job or your business. You're giving him all these gifts to succeed and he doesn't want to do what you're asking of him. So why do you keep giving them? Why do you keep trying to force your expectations on him when he is clearly showing you that he doesn't not want to live up to them?"

Lightbulb moment. I remained silent for a long while. PS was right. I care too much - about the result instead of the action. In karma yoga, we're meant to focus only on doing the right thing and not be attached to the result. After all, karma yoga is about voluntary actions and I am voluntarily dishing out all that help. It's difficult, though, to not expect the fruits of your labour. Then again, perhaps different fruits are flowering instead of the ones I had in mind.

So I will take a step back. Allow him to carve his own path and not feel frustrated when he makes a 'wrong' move that could have been avoided, had he accepted my help. And I will remember that life, like yoga, is easier without the burden of expectations.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Practice In Action

It was a drizzly Sunday afternoon. I was headed home from a morning meeting, on my way to an eagerly awaited girly tea party.

The lights turned green. I waited for the car ahead of me to move. And that's when it hit me. Literally. From behind. My first ever accident in all my eight years of driving. In my one-month old car.

I pulled over and without thinking, told myself to just breathe. By the time I was face to face with the other guy, I was clear-headed enough to calmly ask what had happened.

He had a stricken look on his face as he explained how new brake pads failed to work. Following his hand gestures, I saw the terrfied young wife and two toddlers in his car. Whatever slivers of annoyance I had disappeared. I kept breathing.

We examined my car. Minor scratches danced across the bottom of the bumper, but unless you looked really hard, you would miss them all together.

We examined his car. The entire bonnet would have to be replaced. I felt a rush of sympathy.

We exchanged cards and I suggested that he replace his brake pads asap. He told me to get my car checked out and he would pay for any respraying work.

It was only when I got back into my car that I realised my hands were shaking. But what really surprised me were two things. The first was how I had instantly and subconsciously turned to my practice for help in dealing with the situation. That realisation warmed me deeply for it proved that my practice is indeed a part of my life.

The second surprise was how my practice had aided me. Pranayama isn't the strongest aspect of my practice and I have been telling myself for years that I really should take it more seriously. With all my years of practice, I felt it was 'shameful' that I only knew kapalabathi and anuloma viloma. Yet, it was the basic abdominal breathing that came to the rescue. And in that, I was reminded that (a) it is what you do with what you know that matters, and (b) never underestimate simplicity.

I always thought I would fall apart in such situations. It was nice to discover otherwise and even nicer to know why!

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Eight Secrets

I will confess straight up that I am taking the easy way out with this post. The past few weeks have felt watching a movie on fast-forward and I haven't had time to pen a cohesive version of my experiences and observations. But I do have stories to tell,w

A collague recently sent me this snippet. Entitled 'Eight Secrets of Sucess For The Olympics and Beyond', it is an adaptation and expansion of The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

As I read the article, it struck me that these 'secrets' also apply to one's journey on the path. Here they are with my modifications in italics.

Secret #1
Practice self-awarenss and be aware of everything happening around you and within you, adpating yourself to its constant chnaging and staying always vigilant.

Secret #2
Love the practice you have chosen for yourself today. Keep your attitude always positive, especially when any difficulties are encountered on and off the mat.

Secret #3
Learn from everything you experience and from every teacher and student you meet, remembering there is no 'failure' but only 'feedback' which can be used to constantly improve.

Secret #4
Don't ever take yourself or your practice too seriously and never forget the power of humour to build bridges and heal hurt feelings and misunderstandings.

Secret #5
Speak always with intergrity, saying what you meana nd avoiding gossip about others. Always keep your word to others and therefore be careful about what you promise, ensuring that it is within your own span of control.

Secret #6
Don't take anything personally, especially when it comes from your ego. What others say is a protection of their own reality, their own yogic journey and their own dream, so don't allow yourself to become a victim of negativity or harsh criticism.

Secret #7
Don't make assumptions but find the courage to always ask questions and consistently communicate clearly and respectfully with others, and more importantly, with yourself.

Secret #8
Whatever the circustances - and circumstances will always be changing - always do your level best and you will avoid self-judgment, disappointment and regret.