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Excerpt from “108 Reflections”


from the short text, 108 Reflections on Practice:

  1. Practice is a way to connect the highest aspirations, hopes, dreams and so on, with the actual practical realities of reality. It can be easy to not have these two things meet- dreams and reality. Often, it’s easy enough to read about high concepts, but also too easy to allow this to stay in the realm of concept and not shake the foundations of everyday living.
  2. Practice is a way to protect your mind. In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, it’s said that shunyata, or “emptiness” is the best protection for the mind. Why even protect your mind? Because if you don’t, it gets chaotic, dirty, unpleasant to live with. You can get what one teacher called “mental halitosis.” Emptiness can refer to wisdom beyond concept, or the fact that reality is never quite concept. Reading this is one thing, experiencing somewhat something else. Practice allows for “tuning in” to this kind, or way of experiencing more directly, away from labels and ideas.
  3. Then again, concepts are powerful and useful, and inescapable. Again, it can be hard to connect the deep philosophy written by people in the past, and moment to moment experience. This doesn’t mean that words or ideas are garbage, though. They have a huge impact on what we do, and how we do it. So practice doesn’t just let you experience and understand emptiness, it lets you work with ideas in different ways, seeing them from different angles. In a way, an idea is like a vivid mandala manifesting in empty space. It’s like a colorful cloud, or rainbow. Your mind is full of these clouds.
  4. Practice lets you see your own limitations and issues. Sometimes it’s easy to know your own limitations, sometimes it’s not. Having a routine of practice involves some discipline. There’s really no way around that. If you can do a practice regularly, every day, then you’re doing it. If you can’t, then the discipline isn’t there. In terms of issues, again, everyone has some idea what is “wrong with them,” but practicing shows you your own mind, from a slightly different perspective. If there’s a problem, you’ll see it there.
  5. We may never become completely fearless, but fear is something you can work with. It can become part of your path. It’s a very basic, profound experience. It would be strange to ignore it, if emotions are part of your process.
  6. Practice accomplishes things. There’s no promise it will make you pretty, or perfectly happy, or wise, but it does process you. People who have practiced are different. This is one highlight of being part of a community of practitioners: you get to see others who’ve “been there before.” They probably won’t be perfect, and many won’t be easy, but they should have some qualities of having grown.
  7. Practice has implications for the entire world. This is as personal as what is accomplished for practitioners. It’s not just about going to a temple, or praying at home, but also about what you do once you’re interacting with the world.text by Jacb Karlins 2012

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