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Lions Roar : September 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2010 41 out of life? am I content to just keep impro- vising from day to day? am I going to ignore the vague sense of discontent that I always feel deep down when, at the same time, I am longing for well-being and fulfillment?” We have become accustomed to thinking that our shortcomings are inevitable and that we have to put up with the setbacks they have brought us throughout our lives. We take the dysfunctional aspects of ourselves for grant- ed, not realizing that it is possible to break out of the vicious cycle of exhausting behav- ior patterns. From a Buddhist point of view, the tra- ditional texts say every being has the poten- tial for enlightenment just as surely as every sesame seed contains oil. despite this, to use another traditional comparison, we wander about in confusion like a beggar who is si- multaneously rich and poor because he does not know he has a treasure buried under the floor of his hut. The goal of the Buddhist path is to come into possession of this over- looked wealth of ours, which can imbue our lives with the most profound meaning. TraInIng The MInd The object of meditation is the mind. For the moment, it is simultaneously confused, agi- tated, rebellious, and subject to innumerable conditioned and automatic patterns. The goal of meditation is not to shut down the mind or anesthetize it, but to make it free, lucid, and balanced. according to Buddhism, the mind is not an entity but rather a dynamic stream of experiences, a succession of moments of consciousness. These experiences are often marked by confusion and suffering, but we can also live them in a spacious state of clarity and inner freedom. We all well know, as the contemporary Tibetan master jigme khyentse rinpoche reminds us, that “we don’t need to train our minds to improve our ability to get upset or jealous. We don’t need an anger accelerator or a pride amplifier.” By contrast, training the mind is crucial if we want to refine and sharpen our attention; develop emotional balance, inner peace, and wisdom; and cultivate dedication to the welfare of others. We have within ourselves the potential to develop these qualities, but they will not develop by themselves or just because we want them to. They require training. and all training requires perseverance and en- thusiasm, as I have already said. We won’t learn to ski by practic- ing one or two minutes a month. reFInIng aTTenTIon and MIndFulness galileo discovered the rings of saturn after devising a telescope that was sufficiently bright and powerful and setting it up on a stable support. his discovery would not have been possible if his instru- ment had been inadequate or if he had held it in a trembling hand. similarly, if we want to observe the subtlest mechanisms of our mental functioning and have an effect on them, we absolutely must refine our powers of looking inward. In order to do that, our at- tention has to be highly sharpened so that it becomes stable and ➢ page 86 PhoTosBylIzaMaTTheWs