Sharon shares four reflections on the Dharma for sustained practice.
Who in the Western world can imagine sitting in silent meditation for years at a time? What can we do, especially as novices, to remind ourselves the purpose and importance of our practice? Sharon asked the same questions early in her practice as well. What she learned is that there are reflections for sustained practice which shift our perspective and move us forward on the path.
Contemplations for the Long Haul (Opening) – Sharon discusses what it means to commit to practice. When she began meditating, Sharon had a difficult time conceiving of spending extended periods of time in silent meditation. Like most of us, she had a hard time imaging sitting for a month, let alone for years.
Sharon began asking questions about how people maintain that kind of commitment that seemed so beyond belief to her. What she learned is that there are a series of daily reflections that people did daily to reinspire themselves and bring a fuller commitment to that journey day after day.
The Unlikely Path (3:30) The first of these daily contemplations focuses on the preciousness of human birth. Which not only means birth in this realm but having a life where all the conditions have come together in some way to enable one to practice the Dharma.
“The human birth is considered a fabulous place for the pursuit of enlightenment, because of the precise mixture of sorrow and happiness that exists in this realm, compared to others.”
– Stephen Levine
Another condition required for the practice of the Dharma is that an enlightened teacher, such as the Buddha, arise to teach the path clearly so that others may come to self-realization.
Even when these essential conditions are met, it is unlikely that circumstance will come together to place a person on the path of the Dharma. This first contemplation is truly appreciating the myriad of conditions required to coalesce before the ability to practice the Dharma arises.
Here Today, Gone Tommorrow (13:30) – Impermanence is the focus of the second daily contemplation. To see that conditions always change and that anything with the nature to arise must pass away.
“What would I do if this was my last day? Is this what I would do?”
This reflection teaches us not to be complacent in any way about having another tomorrow. Engaging in this mindset endows us with strength to persevere through difficulties because we don’t deflect, give up, or have difficulty in arranging priorities.
Dukkha (17:40) – The third contemplation is that of Dukkha or suffering. Reflection on Dukkha is the contemplating of suffering that takes place in the mind and body in a world of constant change.
The goal in practice is not to suffer as much as possible, but to see clearly and stay balanced. Most of us are not capable of letting the suffering in all at once. We must let it in slowly, little by little.
Reflecting on this aspect of our lives also makes us fearless. Inspiring us to be entirely wholehearted and honest in an ability to open to what is.
Karma (24:00) – The fourth reflection is that of Karma, which says that things do not happen at random. If you plant an apple seed, you will not get a mango tree. In this way, we can direct the flow of our lives.
“One does not plant a bitter seed and reap a sweet fruit.”
– Sharon Salzberg
We must keep this quality of cause and effect in mind in regards to the Dharma. It is not enough to encounter the teaching. We must put in the effort to apply it to our lives. Only then will sweet fruits of Karma begin to grow consistently.
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