There are three layers, if you will, as I see it, and it’s not an original thought to the wisdom. There’s the reading and the early stages of studying, and then there’s a really deep study in the reflection. And that’s that’s the second one is where I had lived most of my life. And that’s the land of the philosopher. The philosopher can never be enlightened because the philosopher is stuck up here. The third is meditation, because when you get the what happens when one settles into meditation is there’s an opening up into and there’s the possibility of an opening up into the non door and it’s in the non dull that stuff happens. It’s, I mean the non is what we really are. So there’s an opportunity to experience that in meditation and then to bring some of the echoes of that initially, just some of the echoes of that back into our life. So what I experienced, Jack, is I had that shock. That initial shock was like, oh, my goodness, I’m missing what really matters. Very jarring. Um, and that jarring experience persisted for a while, so I knew there was a disconnect there, but I knew it as an intellect. I knew it as a it was something that was in my body, but I wasn’t really able to hear my body. What I heard was the, um, the shards or the little echoes again that came up into my mind. So there was just this persistent little thing going on that was resonant with the real experience of being disconnected. And there’s a deeper disconnection here because having lived my life in that very intellectual way, I really was disconnected from my body. I just didn’t know it. So this was a kind of a the body poking me hard enough in the mind to say, hey, I’m here. But it was the mind I was noticing. Um, so the initial hook was there were two hooks, actually. One was amplifying that physical, mental connection, which was the music. Because music is a physical thing we think of. We can think of mental structures, of music and so forth. It’s a very physical thing. So the message is coming down to me over the centuries when I was listening to these masses and whatever. So, um, and then even listening to like operas and whatever, I started to feel something spiritual in that. So the music was amplifying what was starting to show up. But then the, it was really important to me to find an intellectual way in because without that intellectual way in, none of this, you know, eventually it’s like the sunset over the Grand Canyon, right? You see the sunset of the Grand Canyon. It can be a profound out-of-body experience. Watching a baby being born can be a profound out-of-body experience. But we said, okay, that was beautiful. What’s for lunch? We come back and then you and I’ve got to return this phone call. Um, so without mentally keeping this going, eventually that would have broken. And I think that’s what I’m alluding to. When you talk, when I’m talking about people who’ve had cancer and end up doing the same thing because they’re not able to keep that body mind connection and to stay in touch with the fact of the disconnection. So and it wasn’t any particular any specific teaching because as I told you, it was Houston Smith. And so I still have some of them. I got rid of a lot of them, but I had books on Islam and Sufism and mystical Christianity and Sikh faith, Hinduism, Buddhism. I mean, there’s just a wide array of stuff, but they’re all pointing at the same basic truth, which is that happiness and meaning is to be found in this surrender into the loss of self. And there was some sense of truth in reading all of these parallel stories and all of these vastly different cultures in vastly different time periods and vastly different traditions in a all of these stories parallel each other. So if you you know, if you read the cloud of the unknowing or you, John, of the Cross or you read, um, some of Satan or see who is a Turkish Sufi scholar of the 20th century. Um, some of the, you know, the, the advaita readings, they all the different, but they all kind of lead to the same truth. So it was intellectually, you all these people saying all this stuff over these totally disconnected incidents is there’s something here, there’s something here, and there’s an aching it was an aching started to open up for wanting to experience that um, which is eventually that just built up to I’ve got to try this, um, so yes, the, the meditation experience itself was a fairly traditional Vipassana body scan, as you know, top to bottom, uh, but it was also, and it was also an intentional here that I’ve come to believe that the core practice is stopping and seeing it shows up again and again. All the great teachers, all the great lineages, those are the the parallel practices and they’re not really separable place emphasis on one over the other, but it’s stopping and saying smarter vipassana right? Um, so it was, yes, it was a traditional insight practice, but it was also a stopping. It’s, you know, I’m not connected with the world. I’m not watching TV, I’m not reading a novel and thinking about these stories. I’ve just stopped. I’ve stopped and I’ve moved to a place of just being aware and noticing. Um, and the point of saying that is, it’s, it could equally just been, you know, if the particular texts that are caught, my attention at the time had been a Zen, no mind text or and advocate guru or a Tibetan guru picture or a visualization practice. It would have done exactly the same because it would have been this stopping and being open to seeing the world in a different way. Um, so that’s how it started then. The continuation? Mm hmm. I don’t know where I heard this, but the longest journey you’ll ever take is from the head to the heart. And it’s true for many people. It’s true. And for me it’s true. So what that looked like, it’s important to keep the the body mind connection still there. Uh, otherwise, if you tend to live in your head like I certainly did, I still do to some extent. And as we train ourselves to do in this society, it is so easy to read, disconnect yourself from your body. So it’s really important to keep the body mind connection. And the body will then keep on reminding you and keep on bringing you back, which is, um, for me it was music, but it was also some of the is this, this ongoing reading and the reading, um, isn’t just intellectual fodder. The reading is reminding me of this deep connection, and it’s building a completely different set of habits. So the reading kept going. The meditation became a daily practice, and then it became a 30 minutes a day practice, and then it became an hour a day practice. At some point it became 2 hours every morning. It’s now not to us. It’s an hour every morning and then a bunch of reading. But it’s you know, at some point I was sitting for 2 hours every morning for quite a period of time, and that was in reality. That was during my Zen period. It’s fairly early in my practice. Um hmm. And then the rest reached a tipping point where there’s just no way back. It’s like of, Horovitz says, If I don’t play the piano for a day, I notice. So I don’t play for two days. My wife notices if I don’t practice for the practice for three days, the world notices. So the same is going to be true about my practice. Um, but in theory I can’t actually. But in theory I could quit my practice, but it would always still be there because I’ve crossed that point where there’s no going back, there’s no really leaving it behind that that meta awareness, if you will, that opening up to some kind of recognition of an awareness that’s beyond me being there. Um, you can’t make that go away. So there’s a tipping point in there somewhere and everybody’s different. I don’t think there’s a silver bullet here. In fact, I know there’s not a silver bullet because wise and wise are people. To me, the Buddha, for example, um, have failed to find the silver bullet. It’s just not there. So expedient means, you know, you were, um. I think everybody has these openings, whether it’s being in the delivery room or the room of the Grand Canyon or stubbing your toe on an incident with your kids. Everybody or having cancer, everybody has these openings. Mm hmm. The the the challenge is staying in that opening because it is so countercultural. Our culture is so linear, temporally linear, so purpose driven, goal driven, so financially driven that to allow ourselves to stay in that that’s the spiritual place. You know, when you when you see the sunrise over the Grand Canyon, that’s a spiritual thing to allow ourselves to stay there is so countercultural, it’s almost regarded as just an indulgence that we can’t have too much of. Is like chocolate. No, that’s enough. Um, so the great challenge, I think, is to allow ourselves to stay in that place. And if we can get over the place where we allow ourselves to stay there, then we can feed it and we can nurture it and we can recognize that’s real. And this isn’t I was very lucky because I have nobody to help me because I’d cut myself off from anybody who could help me. I just. So I was very lucky. Um, and if you take this forward to so what is the real, the bigger picture here within which within which we’re talking, it is the careening culture of social media, of instant gratification, of tick tock, and the purpose being driven by being noticed, being seen such an egocentric culture. And we’re allowing ourselves as a culture to get sucked into that, um, so the bigger picture to me is to show up as peace, to show up slower, and being willing to be seen, to be countercultural, to allow others to find peace and being countercultural in this way. And because it’s the entry that’s so difficult for people today, I think, Jack.
One of the things that happened when I was starting this, it’s not when I started the practice. One of the things I realized as I was going down the path is that I really hadn’t been there for my kids. When Holly and I, my ex-wife and I separated, I moved to a house just around the corner, and I was very careful to get one that was just around the corner. I was actually on their path to their high school and got to pick their bedrooms. And it was all, you know, very nice. And they were going to come over for dinner once a week and at some point before that first dinner, my daughter Coby said, Daddy, Neil and I have been talking and we don’t want to see you right now. We love you. You’re a daddy, but we just don’t want to see you. Just leave us alone. Basically, it wasn’t her word, but just leave us alone. Best clients. But heartbreak. Hmm. So that I can’t remember how long that went on for. Maybe six months. It wasn’t a terribly long time, but it broke some really bad habits. It was a kind of a a clinginess in my behavior towards my kids. There were some unhealthy elements. And it also allowed us to just have a break so we could come back and start again. As I think about it, that’s probably important. I now have totally different relationships with my kids. Totally different. My son, 25 year old young man, not quite as open and emotive as a young lady, so less we are less articulate in our conversations. But with my daughter, who’s 27, we have wonderful conversations in which we can both acknowledge and talk about how I wasn’t there and how I now am and how wonderful that is. And she’s actually said to me, You know, Daddy, you’ve taught me something and I really appreciate it, which is that it’s possible to change as an adult. It’s possible to change. So that’s really profound. And it’s not something you can wish for or aim for or make an objective of practice. But it is a natural outgrowth of the practice. It’s all relationships shift in the business world. I was at BellSouth for a period of time while I was practicing. After I first started practicing for a number of years. And during that time I came slowly to realize, well, one of the things I did, I started just reaching out to people, you know, you’d be in BellSouth, you could you didn’t have to buy food because I could I could go to a breakfast meeting, on a lunch meeting. And then I was in one of those jobs where I’ve flown the corporate jet. Every now and again, you get catered meals on a corporate jet. So, yeah, you probably didn’t have to buy clothes because you went to the right meetings. They’d hand out the golf shirts and the branded clothes as well. So I was around a lot of people and I found myself just asking people who were in these meetings who I liked out for lunch just to get to know them as people. And I came to realize along the way that I used to show up to work in order to close deals, move money, move on and do the next one. It was this goal driven, outcome driven world. But I now realize that actually coming to work around relationships with people, around supporting people, around helping people and around just building relationships with people. And if I showed up, I remember saying to somebody one time, um, who was not very happy with the, what, the, what was going on at work and shoot it. It’s like I can’t remember exactly how this came up. I think this is something that she was actually doing. It’s like, okay, so if you stop off at the baker first thing in the morning and you buy that first loaf of bread at 6:00 in the morning on the way to the office, just think about it. If you show up and you smiles and you ask them how their children are doing and maybe bring them a cup of coffee or something, you have started somebody’s day off in a way that is just going to continue. If you go in there and you grow gruff, grumpy, you’ve done a profound disservice to everybody because he’s going to be gruff and grumpy to the next person who comes in for bread. So it’s not what you do for a living, it’s how you do it. And that’s one of the things that started to shift, is I started to realize it wasn’t what I did, but it was how I did it. That was really the most important thing, and that’s what I showed up for. Doesn’t mean I did it particularly well, but I started to realize that’s what was going on. So when I quit, I went to do my own thing. Um, it was complicated, of course. I spent a small number of years, four or five years, where I was doing a bunch of different things and I had a bunch of different business cards. Um, and I was trying to keep this artificial separation because the practice and the podcast and compassionate manager and all those things, they were important. But I was trying to keep boundaries between them in my professional life because I didn’t think that they would work well together. Actually, the podcast wasn’t in existence at that time, so I was trying to keep boundaries between my what was then my Zen life and my business life. And of course it didn’t work very well. It created lots of tensions. And one day and it was a it was this separation ran about the time of, you know, all the separations. We talked about stuff, but I just can’t keep doing this. I’m going to have to I’m just going to give up on that. I’m going to change this. I’m going to throw my business cards away. I’m going to rewrite my LinkedIn profile and all the rest of it. There’s just Garreth and Gareth does all of these things and I suspect what’s going to happen is I’m going to lose ten or 20% of my business, but my life is going to be simpler and that’s okay. That’s okay. If alimony and the divorce completely bankrupts me and I really thought it would at that time, I sincerely I really thought I was going to make the alimony payments. I was going to get the kids through school, come hell or high water, but I really thought I was going to believe my 401k and my IRA completely dry and I was going to be left with nothing and maybe actually have to declare bankruptcy and I was okay with that. So if this decision accelerates, that’s what I’m okay, but I can’t keep doing this. So I made that decision and I collapsed everything and my business grew by about 20% and then it grew by about 20% the next year and the next year. This is nuts. I had a conversation with somebody the other day. She’s somebody some in a what I do for a livelihood. I’m basically I’m a sales guy, so I build, you know, some they’re clients of CPAs and I, I help them with a sort of consulting, financial consulting, kind of service. So I’ve been introduced to somebody and she procrastinated for a while and eventually her CPA talked to her again. And she called me back and we talked to him and said, you know, I’ve decided that I do want to do this. And then I don’t do business with somebody without looking them up. And I looked you up and you’re all over the place on the Internet. And I think I can trust you. And that’s a very straightforward statement of something that’s profoundly true. There was a CPA in it was a CPA. The earlier my this part of my life, I wanted to meet I was working with one of his clients or one of the clients of his firm. It was a firm I wanted to get to know. And so I talked with the person who was the manager on that particular client, and we were setting up lunch with this guy. We picked a lunch date and it was on the calendar. And then I was looking at my calendar about two or three weeks before the lunch. The Oh, no, that’s right. In the middle of Ramadan, and I’m observing Ramadan this year, so I’m not going to go I can’t have lunch with him. So I thought about it for a couple of days and then I just emailed him and said, Hey, I’m really looking forward to having lunch. But I just realized I’m observing Ramadan this year and this is slap bang in the middle of Ramadan, so we can do one or two things. I’d love to come up and just sit down with you and buy you lunch. And while you have lunch, I’ll just sit there and talk to you or we can reschedule it. So what’s he going to think? He’ll probably never talk to me again. There’s this weird Muslim guy, right? But he emailed me back and he said, That’s fine, let’s just reschedule. And we became really good friends and I got to know him and I gave me a bunch of business and I helped his clients and I got there and we’d have lunch and it’s really cool. So what I have found consistently, consistently is people are interested in this. They people are much more interested if you show up as an authentic human being, if you bring yourself to the table, people a yearning. And the people don’t generally ask me about my practice. They don’t generally ask me about podcasts or Buddhism or whatever, but it’s kind of they’re in the background and see the Buddha kill the Buddha. The greatest manifestation of Buddhism is to not be a Buddhist. It’s profoundly true. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Right. It’s it’s living the right life. So people in this Internet age, people are going to look at your all your extended business cards out there, your LinkedIn profile, your website, all these other things. And they’re going to learn about you. If they’re smart, they’ll learn about you before they do business with you. But then that’s all just in the background, that’s context. Then it’s the relationship. And seeing that, my experiences, seeing that people are open to a relationship in a different way, maybe I don’t even think of it a different way because it’s just the way my life is. But I really enjoy talking with people. I really enjoy helping people. And I think for the most part, people enjoy talking with me, people enjoy working with me. And the reason I’m successful in business is precisely because of that. That’s actually, you know, you mentioned a podcast a couple of times I ran that podcast for a number of years, three or four years. The basic thesis of that, the new business mindset was this it was precisely this that my experience had been that by being truly authentic and showing up in that way, by having a spiritual practice and bringing that not forward as a thesis, but showing up with that in my life, it led to a different kind of business relationship, a different kind of business world, a different set of ethical behaviors in that an altogether happier world. One of the people I interviewed on the podcast, she was professional coach or something like that at this point in her life. But she, until a couple of years previously, she had run a call center. She owned a business which was a call center, and it was a debt collection center, consumer debt chasing people who weren’t paying their credit cards. And she said in the last couple of years, because I expressly asked to this, because I thought this would be the case, I asked her how if she changed her practices and she said, yeah, you know, in the last couple of years running this business, I decided we were not going to play hardball. And I told all my people that they would call people and they would talk to people as people acknowledge the problems and try to open up and see if this person was willing to work with us and be willing to work with the person. And what happened is her collections went up like 20 or 30%. There’s an unfortunate sidebar here, which is I do remember one conversation I had with somebody. I’m kind of glad I can’t remember who it was, but it was somebody who got wind of all of this and said he was going to practice paying it forward. And he really thought paying it forward was the way to go, but he didn’t do it anymore. Why not? Because it doesn’t work. I did it for two years and I’m net out of pocket, which is kind of missing the point. But the phrase pay it forward I think is a problem because it transactional is what we’re talking about. And it’s not to be transactional, guys. Good things happen. But if you do this for that reason, they don’t because you’re just totally missing the point. That’s not you’re finding a point where there is no point.
Student Teacher Relationship
Now the great question and it it comes back again to being a very personal thing. So I have the very highest regard for Joseph Goldstein. He’s an amazing human being. His teachings are deep and profound. His insight is deep and profound. Lisa, her center in Nashville is called One Dharma Nashville in honor and appreciation of his book called One Dharma. I own the website, the domain one Dharma, Atlanta. And at some point, I anticipate there being a one dharma Atlanta. How? Joseph Goldstein. In the very highest regard. I would not want him to be a teacher. He’s a rock star. He’d probably give me like 5 minutes a month. And in the in the day back in China, you’d have these big monasteries. And, you know, somebody had a 500, a thousand, 2000 people there. I suspect in that intense monastic environment where you’re there the whole time you’re seeing each other, you move it around and you get a lot from watching people and from just being with them, watching the way they pour a cup of coffee or eat their rights or whatever. So you get that. And because you’ve got so much stuff, you probably actually would get a lot more face time. But I think part of this picking a teacher is finding somebody where you build that relationship. So, yeah, that was a sidebar, but it came from personal. Personal. So somebody will write. Yeah, this is really interesting. Gareth, I want to read about this. What should I read? Tell me about your practice. Tell me about yourself. Tell me about your background. Because I can’t tell you. Do you want to read? Take that harm. Do you want to read Zen mind? Beginner’s mind. Should to give you Pema Chödrön. Tell me about you. I can’t tell you what to read until I know the context. So how to deepen practice. I maintain that stopping and seeing are absolutely foundational to every practice path. Right. So those are pretty universal skills. How they show up and how you capture them can be very different, but you can always come back to that, I think, as a common truth. But beyond that, for me to be an effective teacher in America today, I need to be reasonably well versed in multiple traditions and multiple practices. So yeah, I had tenure doing Jan. Lisa fills that out in that she has the the resi practice. So she when I ask her about, you know, what books that you read, she’s got a different very short list of books that she read because her practice had very little to do with reading and it was all about cones. But I know more about that piece of it. I’ve obviously done a lot of the inside stuff and the travel and stuff, and I’ve got a ton of Polish scriptures on the shelves that I’ve read and a ton of commentaries on that. I’ve spent quite a bit of time working with the Tibetan teachings as well. I’ve never had a Tibetan teacher, but I’ve been around it and I’ve followed some and so it is, I think, how to deepen one’s how to, how I help others deepen their practice. Firstly, I have to continue to deepen my own practice and stay grounded in my own practice, which is this daily practice. And then the periodic personal retreats that it’s incredibly important for me to continue to do that, because if I let that slip, I’m useless. It’s the Horovitz thing, you know, one day, two days, three days. The world knows I haven’t practiced. And then the other thing is, I have to be versatile enough with the diversity of different teachings that I can help people with. Those know my limits because I’m not a Zen master. I’ll never be a Zen master. So I can help somebody down that path a certain way. And then I do what the Chinese guys used to do. It’s like, okay, you’ve been in the back. If you read the old Zen things in China or Chan in China, somebody would be in a monastery for five, ten, 20 years and say, okay, I’ve taught you all. I can go see Fred over the hill there. And they’d walk 100, 500 miles over the tiger infested, snake infested mountains with straw sandals, risk of life to go to the next one. But yeah, so know my limits. But be able to help people up to those limits and then really listen. Because if I’m not listening, I’m not responding to need. And it’s not unless this is responding to need, it’s not going to be effective. Everybody’s suffering is their own suffering. And it’s very different. And to help people get deeper in their path, um. Yeah, I can give them books, I can give them practices. The most important thing, though, is to be there when they have questions. And my experience of the very best teachers is they never answer question. What they do is they hold mirror up and they help you find the question underneath the question you came with, let’s say you, and then you go where you work with that one for a little while and then they come back again, right? So, um, it’s, it requires great skill to do it well and it requires a great deal of listening. Yeah, I think that’s. That’s great. I think insight just because it requires a commitment for the student to be there. Yes, it does. That’s really where like it in not going to build that intimacy. That’s exactly right. And because I think you have to have to show up because they have to show up. One of the things that’s very difficult in the West is very difficult is there’s no way of living in this country without money. The government owns all the land because if I didn’t pay my property taxes, somebody come take this house away so I don’t really own it. The government and you start going knocking on doors and asking for food, you’d end up in jail pretty quick. So people who take on responsive relatives, Dharma teachers, most of them don’t have strong financial resources. And so they need to deal with day to day living and they need to anticipate that at some point in their lives they’re going to be old and they’re going to need to add some savings for that. So this is very unfortunate thing where teachers have to ask for Donna to support their teachings. Um, the positive to that is it is a way of a student showing some commitment to the teacher. So there’s an opportunity for student to literally buy into that commitment. Um, for me, just for grins, I’m in the fortunate position where I don’t have a mortgage and I do have some savings. I’m not rich by any stretch, but you know, I’m in a position where Beth and I anticipate that we can have a go at the rest of our lives, live modestly and hopefully be able to make it without asking anybody for any more money. So it raises an interesting question and one that, again, it becomes a very personal question. When there’s a student, what is that commitment? Because I do want a student to make a commitment. Students kind of a strange word. I use that and I’m ambivalent about that word. But the other side of this relationship, right, um, I want that person to have some commitment to the practice. Um, and I have to figure out what that commitment looks like. But you’re absolutely right, Jack. Unless that person has some serious commitment, it’s not going to work. And that serious commitment opens up this conversation opens up this ability to move into deeper intimacy and therefore, greater opportunities for growth and awakenings. Um.
So Mike, the teaching has evolved and I mean, period waves have gone through. So when I was teaching in the Zen tradition, I could probably recite more koans than anybody of the Zen Center, and I probably knew the lists of more ancestors. And you know, when I’m really interested in something, I’ll read densely and learn a lot about it, and it just soaks in. Mm hmm. And as I posited, Zen is the most intellectual of the Antilla intellectual movements. So in that environment, strangely, that works. At least it did for me. That kind of approach, that kind of intellectual approach works. Um, when we form red clay. There was some harm for some of us coming out of the our previous experience. So a lot of the, there were three of us who were ordained priests in the Zen tradition. Of course, we no longer ordained priests once we were at Red Clay, but we had that formality, you know, that history. So we were notionally the teachers. And but looking back, an awful lot of it was sort of a wallowing reflection on the past and thinking about how we do that better in the future. So it wasn’t it was tainted, if you will. It was not. It was a private conversation among those among a relatively small group that matured. Mm hmm. And as my horizons shifted, I started reading much more widely in the Buddhist tradition. So I was reading in all the Pali Scriptures and a bunch of different futures out of the different Mahayana traditions and the Tibetan stuff, so forth. So in the same way that there was this kind of self-indulgent side to the first couple of years, there’s much more of me getting excited about teachings and bringing forward these wonderful teachings. But what I found has been happening in the last few years is it’s relevant, shifting much more to being there for people rather than having something to offer people. Dijak who you may or may not know. He’s a furnace mountain up in Kentucky. He’s a Korean lineage guy, sung sans lineage. He said to me one time that I’ve stopped teaching. I’ve stopped suggesting to people that they should practice. I didn’t understand it at the time. Now I think I do. So, yes, I have to bring content when I teach. In this regard, data is a perfect example for me. Mr. Goodhart was a self realized Hindu, self self-reliant Indian mystic in the Sonata, the Dharma Di 1982, something like that. He owned a little cigaret shop in the store and he after realization he the the upstairs room became like his meeting room. And so every day he’d go sit up there and he’d invite people to come and ask questions. And the discussions are a couple of people, right? I’ve got six or seven books of the discussions he had. His insight was staggering. I mean, he’d just knock you sideways. These people would come at me, just knock him sideways. There’s just an incredible, incredible teacher and Jack Cornfield. There’s a video I’ve got of him as well. It’s like or a video was put together and one of the people who was interviewed is Jack Cornfield, who visited him and had some lovely things to say about him, but initially that he didn’t have any teaching, he didn’t offer content. He showed up. People would ask him questions and he’d answer the questions and he’d answer them in the most penetrating way. One of my Turkish friends with the Sufi group, he said that his father, he followed his father’s tradition, actually, and his father, when he was a young man, was very cynical about all these tweets and these mystical Muslims. And so somebody took him to see this teacher and same thing. He went into this room where this teacher was out there and he answered questions. And the teacher read from a book and he put it down on the on the table on top of the Koran, which you’re absolutely not allowed to do. And so Khan was that was like disgusted and was about to walk out. And this teacher just looked at him, picked up the book, swapped them around and put them back, and then carried on. Believe what you like about that. But that is such a personal response, right? So that’s, I think, how teaching really works. Yes. I can stand up there and pontificate and wax eloquent, but it has to really connect with people and the way it really connects mostly is it becomes really personal. I’m increasingly so. One of the things that’s wonderful, really wonderful about Lisa and one that I hope to emulate, though it’s a very, very high bar, is she is so intimate with the way she brings herself to her, teaching the stories of herself that she’s able to bring forward and willing to bring forward a just profound and they break people’s hearts open. So story. It’s not about the lists of ten this is and five that so it’s the stories and making them as personal as you can about you and about ways that connect.
Teaching in the West
I’m going to let me do one thing before you before I do that, which I think is a really important question I want to. But what you were just saying before that maybe go to a different place about the. The way my teaching. The way my. Yeah. The way my teaching has evolved. So you brought up, and rightly so. The way this shows up in the West and in America in particular is very different than it has done historically, historically. For the most part, when the original the early Buddhist communities, when they were the mendicant, wandered around with Buddha, they were all there weren’t such things as monastics, and they were all home leaders. But relatively early on in the Indian tradition. It became a monastic practice. And so it became separate from the public. And one of the arcs of the Mahayana story was to recover that and make it available to the lay practitioners and fortunately, over time, that lost it, too. And so much of Mahayana Buddhism became monastic. And the tradition was for people to sit in the monastery for up on the hill and have the opportunity to offer. Right. So people in Japan, for example, would go to the Buddhist center for service and then go home in America and in the West in general, Buddhism has been adopted by the laity as a practice, not as a doctrinal system or beliefs, system or system of worship or weekly service. It’s a practice, and that’s huge. And the way that has to show up is it has to be top to bottom a practice and it has to be an everyday, ordinary practice for everybody. So there are a couple of things that happen in that that I think are real and there are a couple of risks or challenges that I think are really important. One is this I think it would be called a mindfulness movement, which on the one hand there’s great, it’s great. The world is so much better off with a mindfulness movement with everybody aware of mindfulness. There’s an edge to that and adding a difficult edge to that, which is it is easy for that to be disconnected from the spiritual side. I remember several years ago now I read an article in the New York Times where there was a mindfulness group that had been opened up in Manhattan. It was business people to get together and network with other people, people who practice mindfulness. So they’d go, they’d have a glove, a couple of glasses of wine to talk to business people who practice mindfulness and then do deals together. It was a business networking community. Nothing wrong with that. But it’s not what you and I understand when we talk about mindfulness. There’s a real risk of us losing sight of the spiritual, of the mystical, of the deeper developmental side of the mindfulness practice. In the same way, the shift of teachers to lay teachers really important, really valuable. There’s an edge there. There’s an edge there. Yes, we can set up the at the Buddhist seminary and you can get a whole bunch of people go through a Buddhist seminary. So how are you going to graduate them? They’re all going to sit some little test and they’re all going to know their list of five this and seven that. And they’re all going to done the two week retreat in order to be eligible. Doesn’t mean they have any insight or wisdom at all. So is that really any better than the lineage where the teacher says to the student, You get it? I transmit. It’s just I’m not saying one or the other. It’s just this. There’s an edge there that we need to be really thoughtful about and really careful with as we move into this world, because it’s unexplored territory and there are obstacles there that we’re going to find that we haven’t really dealt with before. Um, so to read Clay Sangha, which is a lay community and it is a, it is a leaderless or a peer led community, it has been a really wonderful experience. And we routinely, as a Sangha, talk about how wonderful it is. It has given us the opportunity to have, um, Zen teachers. I mean, if you were to look at our website, you’d see like half a dozen teachers listed there. We have Lisa was originally a Zen practitioner, and then she moved to the insight to Harvard tradition. Um, Teressa Fitzgerald, who’s been one of our teachers. She was originally in San Francisco Zen Center and then she flipped. Take not hands attendant. So she traveled to that island and was transmitted by TechNet. And we’ve got somebody who is a current Zen transmitted Zen teacher all over the map, which is wonderful. We have all these different teachings and we invite each teacher when they come in to bring their practice, as it is not to shape to what we want, but to show us what they do, which is great. We get to see and experience all of that. Um, we, the best way to learn something is to teach. We maybe have eight or ten folks in the Sangha who will occasionally open on Sunday mornings. And one of the things that happens is they’re then the one who brings content for the discussion. So typically someone will bring a little bit of content, maybe 15 minute talk from it, and then a 45 minute discussion that they will facilitate and lead. So it’s a great opportunity for people to grow. We’ve got one of our members has taken on Dharma study sessions and she right now does. I think we’re up to four or six, I think it is this year on Saturday mornings. So of course she does a ton of work studying and preparing for this. It’s great for her practice. And then she shares that with everybody is great for them and there are other people who are stepping up to lead those as well. So it’s a really great environment and we I guess it was before COVID, we drove down to Montgomery to the Aggie Museum and memorial down there. Um, and I think we had 30 or 40 of us go down there together and we came back and we started a justice and equity group which talks on Sunday lunchtimes Sunday early afternoon, once a month. Um, so there’s a lot of wonderful community connectivity, mutual support, mutual growth, wonderful stuff. But there’s a limit to that. At least for me. There is. The pilot community does not collectively have the wisdom or insight of this or data or or tickner at heart, right? I mean, you’re not going to get that. You’re going to get wonderful stuff and wonderful balance. And these are mature, insightful people who are going to help, but you’re not going to get that penetrating dot from the deepest place. Uh, and you’re also not going to get what in Zen is called the turning word. Um, there are a handful of teachers over the years who have been incredibly effective teachers because they’re able to really see in the same way that that Sufi story I told you where flipped the books, they’re really able to see into somebody and from seeing into somebody be able to do just the right thing, smack them upside the head, slam the door on their foot, tell them to listen to the rock hitting the bamboo or the stream running down them. They’re able to do just that. One thing that, oh, right. And a community doesn’t have that skill. Um, the relationship with the community doesn’t have the ability to go deep in the same way that a truly one on one relationship does. It can get so deep, but members of the community come in and out. So, yes, there’s trust, but there’s an edge that, you know, you’re not really going to be comfortable going beyond. And even if you are the people on the other side and they’re not going to be comfortable going beyond that because there’s not the same level of knowing and the same developed trust. Mm hmm. So for me, it became really important. Um, at that point in my practice to find a teacher to take on. And what I found, um, in my earlier life, I’ve talked about these relationships where I gave up my power and that was like a unit. I was just like a as unilateral, but it was all of us is also instantaneous, like, okay, you’re my teacher. Here’s my power. Done. Um, that doesn’t work. It just doesn’t for me. I don’t think it does for most people. Um, but what happened with Lisa, it’s much more organic, much more natural. And I think it is in the West, the model for successful student teacher relationships is we moved into it together. So it’s like, okay, I’ll be your teacher, let’s work together and see how this is going to work. And it’s a conversation where I’ll love the guard a little bit and she’ll will work with that and then she’ll lower her got a little and we’ll move this together. So it’s not this sudden leap into total trust. It’s a trust. It’s like when you’re dating somebody, you know, this, there’s something there and you know there’s something there and you’re playing around with it a little bit. And you push here and you see what happens and you push there and you yield here and over time, this the boundaries come down both sides and you both expand. But the edges are soft, and as you expand, the other person expands into you. So the the the sense of separate self really disappears. And that as you you both expand and leak into each other. And that was very much my experience working with Lisa. It’s something that grew over time and I absolutely would trust it with my life in the most ridiculous of situations. She’s just very dear to me and very wonderful. Um, and it’s different, totally different than any other relationship I’ve ever had or I can imagine ever having. Um, and yeah, she transmitted me. I still talk to her every month because one of the things that I think I bet dollars to donuts on this one if you find the the successful teachers on them successful is the wrong word. If you found the teachers who you would admire and the people you would consider, as you know, you said you’re at this stage in your life. Well, maybe a teacher, maybe. I kind of got my antenna up. If you look at the people who you talk to, who knew who you would seriously consider as being a teacher, look at two things, and I bet you’ll find that they both have this. Number one, they will have a strong personal practice. They will take retreats for themselves. They will go on a retreat with another teacher or a personal retreat. They’ll do this on a regular basis. And number two, they will have a teacher who they talk to. They will have somebody who they go to for accountability, somebody they go to when they hit something difficult somewhere. That is a constant reminder that they, too, when they show up, are a sack of skin and bones and they’re just as flawed as any other sack of skin of bones. Um, so, yeah, taking on a teacher is to me, um, there’s a point, there’s a tipping point in practice, and we each reach it at different times. Um, but there’s a point at which you realize you want more. You need more than a peer led community can offer you.
At a personal level. When I started this practice, I was I was very selfish, very selfish. I didn’t realize it. I just had no idea. But I was very selfish. Uh, I did not truly pay attention to people around me, even my family. And again, unaware of it, I just thought I was a good, loving father. I thought I was present and so forth. I just unaware of it. Um, incapable in many ways of self-reflection because self-reflection requires being able to step outside yourself, to look back, um, and being able to step outside oneself. It’s trainable skill, but it is a skill and we’re not born with that. When you know our early lives, maybe we are born with it better already lives train us out of it. I don’t know. But I didn’t have it. And I don’t think most people in our society have it. Um, I was neurotic and I was anxious and I over engage and I was an alcoholic. I am an alcoholic. I still am. I just don’t drink. So I lived a goal oriented life. It was really important to me and my career to get the next promotion, to get the bigger paycheck, to be able to afford a big Christmas for the kids, to have a nice, expensive vacation, to get the big bonus to pay off all the debts I incurred last year and doing all of this so we could carry that on. I did not understand. I remember this clearly. I was at a fairly high level at BellSouth and it was clear to me that I should move up to the next level, that I should be given businesses to run and carry on. And I didn’t understand why that wasn’t happening. And it’s it’s now clear to me why it wasn’t happening because I just didn’t have the spiritual or emotional maturity. Yes, I was smart enough. Yes, I could organize that stuff. But there was something that was missing or more appropriately, I added something that was getting in the way, which was this, um, very driven, narrow, egocentric view of the world. Mm hmm. So what happened with the practice and how that changed me? A very obvious thing. I told you earlier that, uh, when I first started, somewhere along the way, I quit drinking, and then I became enlightened so I could start drinking again. And that didn’t go so well. And then I quit drinking well. Over a period of time. I went in and out of drinking, but I attended like three AA meetings in my life and I quit drinking and it was the practice, only the practice that led me to stop drinking. I can’t really explain that. Um, I think it was, uh, Mother Teresa said when she was asked about how she prays, she said, When I pray, she says, What do you say when you pray? She said, I don’t say anything. I just sit and wait for God to talk to me. She says, What does God say she does? He doesn’t say anything. And the person interviewing got confused and she said, If you don’t understand that, I’m sorry, I can’t help you. So this what happened? How did I quit drinking? I can’t really explain it, but somewhere out of this growing level of self-awareness, this growing level of interconnectedness with the world and consciousness of the consequences of my actions somehow or other, it was just natural that I not drink. And I just started to happen. And there were hiccups, but there aren’t anymore. And they haven’t been for, I don’t know, ten years or something. So that was a huge one. And just the trajectory that the practice naturally led to that happening I think is quite a profound statement about the practice. Um, I may be coming across as really fast and all the rest, but I promise you are much slower than I used to be. Much slower. And you have slowed down a lot. Uh, I used to when I go on vacation, I plan out our breaks. It would drive my ex-wife nuts. We’d have everything scheduled. I just don’t do that anymore. Bethany would jump in the car, and we’re going to drive up to visit my daughter up in western Mass. I couldn’t drive to drive like that. And, uh, we don’t know where we’re going to spend the night. We think we’re going to arrive on this day. If we don’t, we don’t. Um, so there’s an openness to just coming out of the practice and acceptance. There’s actually, I think a word would be humility because I don’t take myself anywhere near as seriously as I used to, still probably take myself way too seriously because that’s ingrained pretty deeply. Um, so those are things that have changed. Um, my relationship with my wife is something that’s really wonderful. So Beth and I got together shortly after, um, my first wife and I separated. Um, we were both conscious. We’d both come out of marriages that failed for while the marriages that failed. And we were both conscious that moving into a relationship without intention and without a lot of work would probably result in the same thing happening because most, most people doing what we were doing, it fails within the first year or two. So we attended a thing called Couples College, which is intentionally working on the relationship and we put a lot of effort into our relationship. Beth is also a Buddhist and a practicing Buddhist. Um, and I did not think having a human relationship like I have with my wife was possible. It’s amazing. It’s just we don’t. I mean, of course, we don’t always see eye to eye. We disagree, but we don’t argue. I don’t think we’ve in the last five, seven years or whatever we don’t argue when occasionally one of us will get upset with the other. And then within an hour or two, it’s like, can we talk about that? And we do. And it’s like, oh, shoot, I’m sorry. Yes. Or, you know, I was really upset there, but thinking about it, I realize that what was happening is something out of my childhood with my relationship with my dad or my mother or my sibling was triggered. And so that showed up for me. We’re both in this because that showed up for me, so I need to own that behavior. But I’d ask you to be aware that when you do those things, that wakes this up for me. So, you know, you can do this, you can have these wonderful relationships. It’s amazing. And it’s a great lesson because it shows me I can do that with every other relationship. It’s possible, right? So that’s something that the relationship I have with Beth would not be possible without this practice. Just wouldn’t be possible. Um, the teachings that get us there, um, we talk about all the different vehicles, all the different schools at its heart, though, to me, Buddha said, I teach two things. I teach suffering and the end of suffering. And another word to me for the Mahayana is superior. Skillful means, expedient means, appropriate means. How we want to translate it? Um, and you go back to the Pali Canon, you look at all the Mahayana sutras, you look at most of the body of Tibetan teachings that I’ve read. Um, there are dense lists and there, there are dense intellectual studies in there. There’s a lot of stories that all the ones that we bring forward, they’re all stories. They’re all similes, they’re all parables. Um, these are all ways of helping us see the way through this, um, so the teachings are actually really simple. They’re really, really profoundly simple. Doesn’t mean they’re easy, easy and simple of different things, but they’re really simple. It is simply stop and look. Stop and pay attention, Buddha, but means to wake up or to understand. I wake up in the morning, here I am. I’ve left behind the world where I wasn’t aware, I wasn’t paying attention. But actually I’m not aware of paying attention most of the time here, so I’m not really awake. We have to truly wake up. We have to bring awareness, presence, be present. The present moment is often a lot of stuff is said about the present moment and a lot of it is there’s a lot of nonsense said about the present moment. To me, it’s it’s as simple as be present, be truly present. And if you’re present, then stopping and seeing are possible. And with stopping and seeing all the other stories, everything else can work. Everything else can work. If we stop and we start to see clearly, we start to bring an end to our own suffering. And from a place where our own suffering is starting to subside, we move into that wonderful, virtuous cycle where we are easier to be with other people, find us more pleasant. They can start to settle down as well, and together we move through this calming and opening and connectivity and mutual compassion. So it’s it’s incredibly simple, but it just requires a lot of persistence and a lot of effort.
My first experience as them was a very strange one. The Atlanta Citizens Center was meeting in what was what used to be a garage. So it was like the old. It used to be garage down in an older residential part of town. I walked into the door and it was it was not a big place. It was all old granite stone sort of control granite stone. I walked in and they had a bunch of Shoji screens set up and see what ran this little maze. And you come into the room and there was a guy in blackness, not well-lit, of course, and you have black cushions all around the wall. And they were actually on benches that were about this kind of height, sort of two foot six off the ground, knee height. So two foot off the ground. And in the middle of the room. So somebody met me. So she was just putting flowers in actually. And I walked in with her and there was a guy sitting slap bang in the middle of the floor. He had his mat in his cushion and he was in his black robes in the middle of the floor, just facing the doors. What am I getting into? What is very strange. So the external manifestation of Zen can be very intimidating. Very intimidating. Anyway, some are other. I’d sum it up. This is like this weird thing to go there anyway. So somewhere on there I’d summon up the courage to go there in the first place. And there’s a stubborn streak in this. I’m going to stick with that. So I went in there and sat. Then that’s Zen. So there’s a couple of there’s a number of different things about Zen that worked for me. Um, and there are a couple of things about Zen that are troublesome to me as you know, that everything has good, some bad, right? So there are a couple of things that edges on that that I think opportunities for improvement, shall we say, at least for me. Not for everybody, at least for me. Um, the core practice of Zen and it was so not Zen, so it wasn’t common practice. We used comments but for discussion of, not for meditation practice. Um, so the core practice was just sitting in silence, so you’d sit and stare at the wall, literally. You should have your eyes open. You’d be sitting and looking at the wall. Um. Mm hmm. And the purpose is simply. It’s just sitting chicken thighs just sitting, uh, so without purpose, it’s just sitting. But of course, you’re spending a lot of time with your mind, and you’re getting really frustrated when the mind’s talking and you’re trying to make your mind quiet, even though that’s not what you’re supposed to do. Right? But over time, what you think is you keeps on showing up because you’re just sitting there with it. There’s nothing else. One of my there’s this thing in citizen called DocuSign where you go present a question to the teacher. So Shizuka Okamura, who is a wonderful teacher, um, he was visiting and leading a retreat and I went to him with DocuSign and I just had this sitting experience where I, when I said so, uh, I was just sitting and I realized I’m not sitting, it’s sitting. And he looked at me and he said, It’s raining. So this is one of those, it’s like, Oh yeah, well, thank you, thank you. But it’s one of those, one of those openings, right? Because if you if you’re just sitting still and you’re allowing your thoughts to come up, not I mean, yes, you’re resisting one little bit, but you’re not distracting yourself by watching TV. You’re not distracting yourself by reading books or going and shouting at somebody or kicking a football about you’ve got nowhere to go. And as these thoughts keep coming up, you have no choice but to pay attention to them and no choice. And they have no choice but to allow themselves to be scrutinized. And as they are scrutinized, they start getting a little sheepish and they start shuffling off to the side and hiding a little bit and a bit more. Open space opens up and they start realizing that the gig is up. They’re not fooling you the same way anymore. You’re not getting caught to think This is me and this is me. You’re not allowing yourself to get sucked up and saying, okay, my foot scratched, itching, I’m going to scratch it now. I need to go get a cup of tea. Um, so as that space opens up, opportunities for it was sitting, it’s raining which then becomes this opening into non duality. Um, they start showing up. So the practice, the just the raw sitting practice, the sitting, an object. This meditation was really the center of it and that’s what I go on retreats for is just, you know, 10 hours, 12 hours a day of that, um, uh, now I start, I still have some of this, of course, because you see my room, there’s lots of books in there. There’s this pseudo intellectual in here, right? Um. Mm hmm. Zen is the most intellectual, non intellectual tradition I have ever encountered. It’s bizarre. I loved it. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it. But you could read all these books about these ancient Chinese masters and all the things they talked about. And you get D.T. Suzuki. He was an academic and you get Chako Comoros and some wonderful books. But he writes very intellectually and you get tired. And then Leighton, who is an academic, you get all these great writers, these great teachings, and they’re really intellectual, which is cool, right? But it is. It’s really so, you know, this is fading body and mind. It really is. And it is feeding the mind in a way that keeps that body mind connection open. Right. I mean, pointing at this deep truth that resonates with everywhere else. Um, and then, um, sangha. Sangha is really important. I don’t know if this is a standard Zen thing. I think it probably is, but it was certainly very true where the Atlanta Soto Zen Center. Um, in some ways Sangha was emphasized, but in a lot of ways it wasn’t would be very welcoming to new people. But in a way where nobody knew each other’s names is very strange. So Sangha is it was important to me, but it was a kind of strange thing. And the sangha I experienced there was nothing like the sangha we have at Red Clay. But but as a as I experienced it, it was really valuable. Um, and one of the, one of the other things that is increasing that is really important, I guess, um, if you show up a lot, you get asked to do stuff. So, so I showed up a lot. So I increasingly found myself, uh, helping with something and then leading something and then leading a lot and then leading the reading group and then being ordained and, um, but that is a very organic move from just sitting and staring at the wall and to bringing that back out and living a compassionate life. Because yeah, going and working on food shelters and rescuing food is really, and helping put rooves over the homeless, the heads of the homeless in bad weather. Really important. Really, really important. I’ve done, I’ve been involved in that. Um, but that’s not what the Buddha did. Buddha said, you know, that’s important. But what’s more important is teaching the Dharma. And what’s more important still is the gift of fearlessness for which read Freedom. So we use the expedient means of the Dharma to help people find freedom. And that getting involved increasingly in leadership role within the community. Um, was moving into that in the Zen tradition, it would be an expression of the, but it would be Bodhi Cheetah moving into Bodhisattva Honor. Um, I live my Zen practice there. Yeah, I think that’s some last.
Buddhism and Capitalism
I’m not sure I can shed much light on it because it’s a pretty dark space, both dark as in unknown and dark in that it’s it’s not pretty. What is it? Money is the root of all evil. I think that’s misquoted, but it’s close. Um, yeah, it’s really difficult and I have seen families, siblings fall apart and never talk to each other again. After a will is read and they go through the settlement of an estate. Um, as you know, my business life, where I’ve been helping business owners, sort of fraternity brothers running a business together, they become the worst of enemies over money. They’ve been brothers for 20 years and something goes wrong. They can’t stand each other. And it’s it’s either about one of them having an affair with the other one’s wife, or more often it’s money. Money is so difficult, so difficult. And we have monetized everything. We’ve put a price on everything. So yeah, you’re putting a price on the teaching and a suggested, you know, it’s a spectrum and um, you know, Donna for a month the conversation Donna for a talk suggested donation 50 to $100 suggested donation 100 suggest it’s a price. I’m sorry, it’s a price. It’s very difficult. And then you couple that with the point you made, which is churning out teachers, um, and I see no alternative here but that it becomes like yoga. And again, as we talked about with the mindfulness movement, we’re better off for that. We’re better off having that than not having that. We really are. We’re better off having a whole bunch of teachers than having none. We really are. Um, but there’s no way that the vast volumes of teachers being churned out by Spirit Rock and all the Zen teachers around and all these other communities, there’s no way that all of these have deep inside, just no way. I wish it were true that they did, but there’s no way they can have and that people approaching it with a great heart. But heart isn’t what or heart is not enough in this world, right? Because what you’re doing, um, when you step into that role, um, you are accepting responsibility for others, taking your teaching seriously, um, and doing that without having really deep wisdom at one level is irresponsible, but it’s not irresponsible. They’re doing their best, you know, but there’s a, there’s a gap there. Um, I’ve forgotten the guy’s name Skehan, who was the founder of the New York Zen Center back in the thirties. Um, he’s written up an astonishingly good commentary on the city of Hong Kong, so if anybody’s interested in that, it’s a wonderful book. But somewhere in that book he talks about exactly this point in that, um, his teacher told him, uh, you know, you hear when, when you’re ready for a teacher, the teacher will show up. That’s hackneyed, but actually true. Um, and true in ways that aren’t obvious until you go through the experience. But it’s true. But his point was, when you’re ready to teach, the Sangha will show up. You don’t go looking to teach. You don’t go put up a sign and say, I’m a teacher. You live your life. Somebody will show up and say, Jack, you are incredibly wise. I love the way you look at life. Would you be my teacher? I never thought of that before. Let’s talk. Let’s see what that looks like. Um, so somehow or other, in this culture, we’re approaching this backwards, and it’s like you mentioned yoga. Nobody says they’re a yoga practitioner. Everybody in their brother and sister says, I’m a yoga teacher and I’m going to a retreat in Costa Rica for yoga instructors. Right. I mean, we’re approaching this the wrong way around and it’s very difficult. It’s very difficult. And it does lead to strange distortions, because if you’re approaching this from that side without the deep wisdom, which again, I submit most of the people coming out of those kind of teaching programs, there’s no way they can create that, because this kind of wisdom is built up over ten, 20, 30 years. Ten years is nothing. It’s built up over 20 or 30 years. So if you go on a five year training program at Spirit Rock or the Zen Center or whatever you can’t have it. You just can’t. So if you’re coming in and saying, okay, now I’m a teacher, um, you’re going to be approaching this livelihood question in a very, in a way that is going to heavily compromise your ability to show up as a teacher. And it’s going to become very confusing for the world of teachers. And the world of practitioners really is. And I think we have some confusing years ahead of us. Jack. I don’t I don’t think there’s an easy answer to this because, again, it’s not altogether a bad thing. It’s not totally a bad thing. There’s some real, real positives in this, some great positives that, on balance, probably outweigh the negatives because it is much better to build building this culture of kindness, this culture of intentionality, this culture of stopping and saying, which is what we’re doing. It’s much better to be moving in that direction than to be getting overly hung up about the finances. But it does mean for the more serious practitioner, for the person who really wants to go deep, it becomes a much more challenging landscape to navigate. And I don’t have any easy answers. What I do when somebody shows up at Red Clay or in my life and they say, you know, I’m looking for a center, tell me about your answer. Yeah. So we come to ask right now, I’d encourage you go to the Vedanta Center, go to the Taiwanese place. That’s on Hendersonville, go to the Zen Center. There’s lots of different practice. Go, go to a mosque. Go to I mentioned a couple of churches, a couple of synagogues. See good writer. They tend to be more culturally separate. But, you know, go try all these different things and see what fits you see what fits you. Because ultimately, you know, this is the point about when you find that teacher and you start, don’t leap all the way and first let it let it build because deep wisdom, accessing deep wisdom is really profound. And deep wisdom knows you already know. But by making decisions too quickly, by jumping ahead, you kind of smother that deep knowledge, right? I say you I mean one right. But, uh, so the way to approach that environment I think is with an attitude. So it’s bringing the practice to the way we approach the practice, if you will, bringing an attitude of stopping and seeing to the very act of engaging in community practice, bringing a little bit of wisdom to how we engage in that, where we engage in it. And part of that wisdom is moving slowly.
The Tibetan preliminary practices and those preliminary practices. I would submit that they’re formalized in the Tibetan practice, but they’re actually they’re in all Buddhist practice and a very simple level. If you are not following the precepts, you can’t have a meaningful meditation practice because it can be stuff coming up. So and I think it’s formalized as two years of practice, a minimum of two years. It could be longer, I suspect, to go through the preliminaries and then taking refuge in that tradition is a big deal. It’s a really big deal. For me, it wasn’t. It’s just kind of something that happened along the way. But there are these formalized milestones, which I think it’s a really it’s actually a really healthy way of looking at practice. And it’s something that what we were talking about, which is the easy accessibility of a whole raft of teachers, can easily lose, Oh, I’m going to be a Buddhist. I’ll show up over there and look, I’m a Buddhist. I meditated yesterday. No, no. This is getting to intentionality about how we live our lives, um, in the poly canon. And I think it’s mirrored in the Tibetan tradition you were talking about earlier. Um, there’s the precepts which are necessary in order to have a meaningful meditation practice. The precepts do not include generosity, but the Buddha talked about generosity first. So the sequence is generosity, and then the precepts and then the practice. And they’re not linearly separated like that. Temporally separated. But there is a there’s a development. And until you move meaningfully through cultivating generosity, there’s going to be a gap in the depth of your preset practice. And until you’ve really moved deep into precept practice, there’s going to be a barrier. You’re meditation practice is not going to be able to really settle down. Um, so I bring this up because it goes partly to what we were talking about before around this growth of teaching environments and opportunities. Um, the practitioner, in order to manifest as a Buddhist in the world, lived the compassionate life, lived the body set for life. Cultivate personal wisdom. Yeah, half the practice, generosity. And you have to live the virtues, practice the precepts, whatever you want to call it. And so recognizing these, you don’t need a teacher to do this. The teacher can help you. Sure they can. But let’s start with the basics. Unless make sure we’re all doing this. And if we’re all doing this, the meditation practice will come out of that naturally. And as it does if we’ve been working with this over a period of time, there will be some level of maturity that will allow us to move more slowly as we start contemplating. Now, where should I ground my practice? Which community, which teacher would actually be a good fit community and teacher may be different answers, by the way, which is one of the things I like about the pilot community, because otherwise you can very easily find a sangha you really like. The teach is not quite right, but it kind of stuck with them or vice versa, right. But I think recognizing the preliminaries and the importance of the precepts and giving precepts also allows some more thoughtful development of practice over time and some recognition of the need for the passage of time.