Pith Instructions

    —
August 17, 2010

Tami Simon speaks with Lama Surya Das, one of the best-known American-born lamas in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He’s the author of the books Awakening the Buddha Within and The Mind is Mightier than the Sword. With Sounds True, he’s created seven programs, including the audio learning programs Tibetan Dream Yoga and Buddha Is As Buddha Does, as well as a book/CD package called Natural Radiance: Awakening to Your Great Perfection. Lama Surya Das discusses recognizing our buddha nature, waking up to the nature of mind, and leads us in a Tibetan dream yoga practice. (57 minutes)

Lama Surya Das is one of the most learned and highly trained American-born lamas in the Tibetan Dzogchen tradition. For over 30 years, he has studied with the great spiritual masters of Tibet, India, and Asia. Born Jeffrey Allen Miller, he left home for college in the 1960s; went to Woodstock; marched in anti-war rallies in Washington; graduated Phi Beta Kappa from SUNY, Buffalo; then went to India and Asia on a spiritual quest. Lama Surya Das is the founder of the Dzogchen Foundation and the author of many books, including Awakening the Buddha Within and Awakening to the Sacred.

Author photo © PaigeGilbert2017

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Taking the Small Stuff in Stride

Especially during the holidays, it’s helpful to have a good perspective and take things in stride. Here, Lama Surya Das shares some of his favorite remindfulness practices for keeping the big picture in focus:

My own practice for not sweating the small stuff entails utilizing a few homemade quotes and potent slogans that speak to me. I keep yellow sticky notes and index cards on my desk, bathroom mirror, dashboard, wallet, and computer. I practice what I call remindfulness by remembering to look at these handwritten adages; they help me recall what is important in the bigger picture and in the long run — my values, principles, vows, practices, and goals. I let the wisdom of these maxims sink in, inevitably defusing the situation before it gets anywhere near out of hand.

Among these potent pointers, here are my favorite:

  • “This too shall pass.”
    • This slogan reminds me to practice patience, acceptance, and forbearance in the face of irritation and disappointment. I also remember to stay in touch with the long view, because things are cyclic and nothing happens without causes, even if not immediately apparent to me.
  • “How much will this matter to me a year or two from now?”
  • I also like to echo the Diamond Sutra, the world’s oldest printed book, which quotes Buddha saying: “See things as like a dream, a fantasy, a mirage.”
    • I usually add the word sitcom or movie, just for fun. This traditional Dharma teaching helps me remember to regard everything as like rainbows or the divine dance of illusion. It helps me take things a lot less seriously and leave room for my inner child and little Buddha within to stand up, play, dance, and sing.

Probably the most effective, practical yoga and meditation-related maxim is this:

  • “Breathe, relax, center, and smile. Nothing is as important as it seems at this moment.”
    • That really cools my jets, and allows for more intelligent decision-making and clear-headed thinking to proceed.

I’ve gotten my friend Amelia into the habit of singing (often in her head) the great nursery-rhyme mantra guaranteed to defuse any difficult situation:

  • “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream.  Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.”

If I have a good amount of time and feel inspired to co-meditate with the Masters for further spiritual relief and sustenance — perhaps when I’m sitting in a waiting room at the airport or somewhere — I either close my eyes and chant Tibetan mantras and prayers to myself, so only my collar can hear it (as Dudjom Rinpoche once advised), or I recite Buddha’s Metta Sutra (Maitri or Loving- Kindness Sermon) which includes the line:

  • “May all beings be happy and at ease!”

Or I might take St. Francis of Assisi’s Peace Prayer out of my wallet and read:

  • “Make me an instrument of your peace . . .”

 

I invite you to try my small-stuff slogans out, one at a time, and see how they work for you. Or find other one-liners and make up your own.

 

Looking for more great reads?

 

Excerpted from Make Me One with Everything by Lama Surya Das

Lama Surya Das is one of the most learned and highly trained American-born lamas in the Tibetan Dzogchen tradition. He is the founder of the Dzogchen Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Austin, Texas, and the author of many books, including Awakening the Buddha Within. For more, visit surya.org.

Making ‘We’ the New ‘I’

Lama Surya Das is one of the foremost Western scholars of Tibetan Buddhism. He is the founder of the Dzogchen Foundation and the author of many books, including Awakening the Buddha Within. In this episode of Insights at the Edge the good lama and Tami Simon discuss his newest book, Make Me One with Everything: Buddhist Meditations to Awaken from the Illusion of Separation, focusing on the concept of “inter-meditation.” They talk about inter-meditating in nature, inter-meditating with difficult emotional experiences, and even inter-meditating with people we could call our enemies. Finally, Lama Surya Das expounds on some of the book’s potent aphorisms for leading an enlightened life. (68 minutes)

Pith Instructions

Tami Simon speaks with Lama Surya Das, one of the best-known American-born lamas in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He’s the author of the books Awakening the Buddha Within and The Mind is Mightier than the Sword. With Sounds True, he’s created seven programs, including the audio learning programs Tibetan Dream Yoga and Buddha Is As Buddha Does, as well as a book/CD package called Natural Radiance: Awakening to Your Great Perfection. Lama Surya Das discusses recognizing our buddha nature, waking up to the nature of mind, and leads us in a Tibetan dream yoga practice. (57 minutes)

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You are invited to join them at Joanna’s kitchen table, and invited into a deeper sense of your belonging and love for our world.

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5 Tools to Create More Space in Your Mind

Busyness, distraction, and stress have all led to the shrinking of the modern mind.

I realize that’s a strange thing to say. Most of us don’t think of our mind as something with space in it, as a thing that can either be big or small, expensive or claustrophobic.

But just think about the last time you felt overwhelmed, stressed, or out of control. Chances are, you might not even have to think that hard. You might be experiencing that state right now as you read these words.

What happens in these moments? 

First, our mind wanders. It spins through all sorts of random thoughts about the past and the future. As a result, we lose touch with the direct experience of present time.

Second, we lose perspective. We can’t see the big picture anymore. Instead, it’s like we’re viewing life through a long and narrow tunnel. We become blind to possibility, fixated on problems.

Put these two together and you’ve got the perfect recipe for eradicating space in the mind. The landscape of the mind begins to feel like a calendar jammed with so many meetings, events, and obligations that these neon colored boxes cover-up even the smallest slivers of white space. 

So it could be nice for our partner, for our kids, and, mostly, for our ourselves to consider: how can we create more space in the mind?

Here are five tools for creating mental space. If you want to go deeper, check out my new book with Sounds True on the topic called OPEN: Living With an Expansive Mind in a Distracted World.

1. Meditation.

You’ve no doubt heard about all of the scientifically validated benefits of this practice. It reduces stress. It boosts productivity. It enhances focus.

That is all true. But here is the real benefit of meditation: it creates more space in the mind. To get started, try it out for just a few minutes a day. Use an app or guided practice to help you.

2. Movement.

So, maybe you’re not the meditating type. That’s fine. You can still create space in the mind by setting aside time for undistracted movement.

The key word here is “undistracted.” For many of us, exercise and movement have become yet another time where our headspace gets covered over by texts, podcasts, or our favorite Netflix series. 

There’s nothing wrong with this. But it can be powerful to leave the earbuds behind every once in a while and allow the mind to rest while you walk, stretch, run, bike, swim, or practice yoga.

3. Relax.

When it comes to creating headspace, we moderns, with our smartphone-flooded, overly-stimulated, minds seem to inevitably encounter a problem: we’re often too stressed, amped, and agitated to open.

Relaxation – calming the nervous system – is perhaps the best way to counter this effect and create more fertile ground for opening. When we relax – the real kind, not the Netflix or TikTok kind –  the grip of difficult emotions loosens, the speed of our whirling thoughts slows, and, most important, the sense of space in our mind begins to expand.

How can you relax? Try yoga. Try extended exhale breathing, where you inhale four counts, exhale eight counts. Try yoga nidra. Or, just treat yourself to a nap.

4. See bigger.

When life gets crazy, the mind isn’t the only thing that shrinks. The size of our visual field also gets smaller. Our eyes strain. Our peripheral vision falls out of awareness.

What’s the antidote to this tunnel vision view? See bigger.

Try it right now. With a soft gaze, allow the edges of your visual field to slowly expand. Imagine you’re seeing whatever happens to be in front of you from the top of a vast mountain peak. Now bring this more expansive, panoramic, way of seeing with you for the rest of the day.

5. Do nothing.

Now for the most advanced practice. It’s advanced because it cuts against everything our culture believes in. In a world where everyone is trying desperately to get more done, one of the most radical acts is to not do — to do nothing.

Even just a few minutes of this paradoxical practice can help you experience an expansion of space in the mind.

Lie on the floor or outside on the grass. Close your eyes. Put on your favorite music if you want. Set an alarm for a few minutes so you don’t freak out too much. 

Then, stop. Drop the technique. Drop the effort. Just allow yourself to savor this rare experience of doing absolutely nothing.

Nate Klemp, PhD, is a philosopher, writer, and mindfulness entrepreneur. He is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Start Here and the New York Times critics’ pick The 80/80 Marriage. His work has been featured in the LA Times, Psychology Today, the Times of London, and more, and his appearances include Good Morning America and Talks at Google. He’s a cofounder of LifeXT and founding partner at Mindful. For more, visit nateklemp.com or @Nate_Klemp on Instagram.

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