When I Am Not I

From August 15th to 21st, I attended The Summer Retreat, a six-day dharma teaching/meditation/yoga retreat (four days in silence), staged at The Governor’s Academy. Led by Lama Marut, and with an impressive roster of teachers, the retreat was nothing short of incredible. The ideas presented were as powerful as they were practical; the yoga practices available prepared my body for my first entry into a meditative state; the 96 hours of silence allowed it all to actually sink in.

I entered the experience without expectation and with an open heart; what follows are the notes I made during the several daily teachings. The speed and density of the information flow was a challenge to keep up with, and chances are that errors have crept in. Should you happen to be well versed in the dharma and spot anything off, please let me know and I’ll make annotated corrections.

The ‘+’ separators signify the passage of a day. Having heard what I’ve heard and felt what I’ve felt, this is something I have to share, even in rough form. Hopefully, someone somewhere can find this scattering of ideas useful.

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I have enough,
Ah hum.

Life’s goal: to be happy as quickly as possible. That’s it.

From “A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life”:
FIX THE PAST — Forgive everyone unilaterally and preemptively. Feel grateful for everything else.
FIX THE FUTURE — Pay attention to life in the present. If you do good, good will come to you. Have faith.
FIX THE PRESENT — Impossible. This is the perfect expression of past causes. But you can change your understanding/interpretation of it.

There are no problems. Only opportunities.

How to be an active agent in creating your life…
1. If you want something, make sure someone else gets it first.
2. If you don’t want something, don’t do it to others.
3. If you want to keep something, let it go.
4. Take responsibility. For the good & bad.
5. Become free from mental afflictions through discipline. Freedom comes from discipline. Happiness grows from discipline.

Think: Everyone else is enlightened but me. All teachers, each one here to enlighten me. How better could the angels reach me?

Everything is purposeful, empty. Everything comes FROM us, not AT us.

Every suffering is an opportunity to open the heart to others, to the world. Because of it, I lose my pride, I re-learn compassion, I become allergic to the behavior that brought me the suffering.

…which is to say: never let a good disaster go to waste.

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Nirvana is no worries.
Karma is work.

Freedom is NOT doing whatever you feel like doing — instincts and feelings cannot be trusted til they’ve been rewired.

The only protection that there is is the love in your heart for others and your wisdom on how things work.

Every action is for love
Every word for truth
Every thought for the perfection of others

Recognition, the identification of suffering, is the precondition for happiness.

The Three Poisons…
1. Wanting what you don’t have.
2. Dissatisfaction with what you do have.
3. Ignorance.

Freedom from mental afflictions/poisons…
• Cease identifying with the mental afflictions. Their occurrence is not my existence, and this clouding of identity makes them uncontrollable.
• Identify your worst mental affliction, and figure out the antidote (the opposite, typically). Identify the second worst, and so on. Best to study this when not in the throes of a major affliction.

The real enemies are within, and they have nothing else to do but harass. No more excuses, no more coddling. They have to go, these are our worst enemies, and they keep us enslaved.

Two aspects to practice: wisdom and compassion, encircled.

•Focus on the positive qualities, release all negative aspects. Allow the positive aspects to grow and recognize that all originate within the self.
•Replace NO with YES.
•Find someone who knows what you need to know, and observe. Everything they say is created to teach you alone, and it is true. Their power comes from me.
•Difficulty = progress, up close and personal.
•The conquerors (Lamas) and their followers (all sentient beings) are on equal ground, as all are necessary for my awakening.
•What you hear is valuable even if there is no specific application.
•Remain unbiased always, prejudice dispelled.
•Be conscientious — put that which is heard into practice!
•The purpose of a spiritual life is not to affirm the ego but to destroy it. Awakened beings are all the same; unhappy people are so uniquely.
•Find your guru, learn how to think about them and understand how to act towards them. Give them your material goods, give them with your time, put into practice what they teach.
•Recognize the opportunity to do something useful with this life, to make the pain of my arrival worthwhile.

Every morning, loll in bed, counting every blessing. Then recite the death meditation:

My death is certain,
I do not know when I will die,
And what will matter when I die?

On death, there is the loss of possessions, relationships and body. Only the spirit remains, and this is our workshop.

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Examine the objects, people or goals that contain desire as touchstones of happiness. Does this happiness objectively exist within it/them/there, or am I projecting it? Let go. Turn it upside down, open the fingers, and let gravity pull it away.

Have faith.

But get wise. Stop drinking low-level poison (pride, selfishness, possessiveness, inertia, fear, anger, etc.) every day.

When a karmic seed flowers, it is a seed that is oneself and the other, without separation. The way to use people as a field for improvement is to regard them as a mirror. Examine their behavior. If negative, refuse to be that.

It hurts to practice this, to let go, and understand that the way forward is simple, but not easy.

Everyone, everywhere, is a mirror, always. The irritants, the challenging ones, are the holiest of all teachers. Again: HOW ELSE WOULD AN ANGEL COME?

This process is akin to shrinking the self, and it opens space for others to operate to their own full, sweet truth; the sweet truth of me.

The war with our own projections, our expectations, is what ages and destroys us. It renders our lives not magical.

There is no such thing as character — it is an agreement between oneself and the other, exactly as with the audience and performer. There is no innate nature to anything. This one writes the script, creates the set, lights the scene and plots fate. Transformation happens when one decides for it to be so.

The closer a teacher is to god, the harder they are to have faith in. This is a result of wanting freedom/salvation/enlightenment on our terms, not god’s. -And god has long since let the tiger out of the cage.

The spiritual life begins with the unravelling of one’s specialness. The difficulty, and energy devoted to being unique distances one from happiness. Be willing to be ordinary, humble. Awakening will be the greatest disappointment the ego ever had; one will not be there for it; the self will be gone.

“When you become a Buddha, they will not call you by your name.”

(When I am not I, who will I be?)

‘The Lamrim’ — essential codex.

The steps shared with those at lesser (vs. middling & highest) scope…
•Remember that things change; nothing exists as it appears. The things that we think are there are just labels on change.
•Remember the impermanence of death; if I die with poor karma, then what?
•Remember HOW things change, or ask: why is my perception of changing things the way it is? (Karma.)
•Seek refuge in the dharma (truth), in one’s own inevitable future awakening.

Choose: there are three logical explanations to all things:
1. It’s random. We’re victims.
2. God chose this. We’re victims.
3. Karma. We made this, and are equipped to change it.

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Mindfulness is being aware of the present moment with acceptance.

(Love, rescue me.)

Once suffering has been recognized, the productive response is compassion. This prevents the grasping towards freedom, converting the desire into a sweeter narrative, one that forgives oneself and allows a silence to build.

In guru yoga, the Lama is not your therapist, parent, lover or friend. The relationship exists beyond these paradigms — especially in light of the purpose of the alliance.

Love without respect is for one’s personal gain; a hysterical energy.

Respect without love becomes an intellectual exercise, and as a consequence, the heart never opens.

One must respect and love the Lama in equal parts. And when the Lama gives instruction, it is NOT the beginning of a conversation.

God is not self-existent, but she strives to reveal herself at all times. We need to rise to the emptiness of god; the Lama is a facilitator.

(You are what you think, you are what you think, you are what you think, you are what you think, you are what you think, you are what you think.)

Devotion itself is the goal, true devotion means the walls don’t hold you. Recognizing the god within another is to project it from within, is to be god.

Be stainless.

Enjoy the thought that god, guru, and myself are synonyms. Empower the Lama, and let them make you perfect. Meet them in a higher realm.

‘Leela’ — play
‘Karma’ — work
‘Maitri’ — living happiness

Learning to be free means having a joyful, spontaneous approach to life, with the mindfulness that grows from training, meditation, etc.

Level 1 — Stop creating new bad karma by hurting others with body, speech, or mind, and the process of suffering is cut at the root.

Level 2 — Start creating new good karma. Actions which are done for the interest of others, which are motivated by the desire to bring happiness and relief of pain to others, this does it.

Level 3 — Do something about the old bad karma. Regret it (but never indulge in guilt), admit it, stop it, do something to make up for it.

“Can’t heal unless you feel.”
—Lama Marut

Level 4 — Stop being a slave to karma. We are who we think we once were, what we think we did — this is the law of karma. Karma is not some abstract force in the universe, it is a process of self-identification. Break down the boundary of the self, recognize that there is no other through compassion, and the karmic system breaks. Oneself, the other, no difference.

Take the goal as the method, put your head in an enlightened space, and a habit forms. Practice perfection, essentially.



1. Find a guru
2. Learn how to see the guru
3. Learn how to serve the guru (with resources, time, and practice — see above)
4. Learn, baby, learn.

Lama Marut’s list of pursuits that actively create our unhappiness…
1. The pursuit of happiness through money and things. Self-evident.
2. The pursuit of happiness through profession, career. There will always be hoops to jump through, distant objectives to achieve.
3. Relationships. Other people can’t create a lasting interior happiness; it’s not their responsibility, and we set them up to fail with that expectation.
4. Entertainment/communication. These are empty addictions, like sugary drink substitutes for happiness.
5. The physical body, narcissism. This is a sandcastle, not more. Health is important, but vanity is a black hole.

Renunciation does not mean the opposite of these things, it means reframing an understanding of them.

Pride, ignorance, greed/desire, aversion/hatred, wrong views, doubt. These are the primary mental afflictions that keep us from nirvana.

As one moves towards enlightenment, the ones around us will move towards enlightenment too. This is how you change the world. With true compassion and dedication, SAVE YOURSELF BY SEEING YOURSELF CHANGE THE WORLD.

(Best vacation ever.)

Anger is enemy #1 to a Boddhisatva.

This is the desire that pain & suffering befall another. Get away from this, forever.

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When you get on a path with all your heart, you will be taken care of. Just stay receptive, and remember always to surrender.

However: doubt is an essential part of the process. 100%, absolute certainty in the spiritual life is nothing more than fanaticism. Testing every teaching against one’s own truth is key. And the lessons that count come from the process of questioning, of personalized insight. This is a good doubt.

The speech of one’s Lama (the Dharma Jewel) becomes the concepts that one is awakened by, and one’s concepts create the world. The energy of speech has always created the world.


And remember: don’t overdo it. Understand what is right before you, and examine it critically. Everything is a teaching; engage with reality. Everything is empty, therefore everything matters. Don’t ever use the concept of emptiness as en excuse to indulge in nihilism, exempting oneself from life.

When confronting one’s mental afflictions, it is key to attack the affliction with an equal energy. If anger, get angry about being angry. Complacency will not work, and this is a war that needs to be won by any means necessary. If pride, get proud about being humble. Use it against itself to kill it.

When working to be free from the grasping of self, remember that there is nothing concrete to any hard and fast identity. It changes constantly, as the surface of a river. The self has never been there — there’s nothing to protect, nothing to grasp.

Meditate on this: identify the unchanging, independent, unitary ‘self.’ Find it. Look within the mind-body complex, look outside the mind-body complex. Turn over every innumerable part that constructs that ‘self.’ Try to find the unchanging part, as time and change cascade through us.

Things exist, I exist, but interdependently, and changing always.

For an object to be perceptible, it must be perceived. The seer exists dependently on a visible object that the seer sees. Everything in the world exists within this phenomena, and it carries over to the mental process.

(“Put that in your pipe and smoke it,” the big Lama then says.)

The spiritual life is a life of failure. Get used to it, and aspire to get better at it progressively. When mental afflictions win over the spirit, give it it’s due, but also set a limit. Never more than a day, ideally 20-30 mins. Break free, and work to desire strongly the state of no desires. But be kind to yourself along the way.

(Reinforced several times: guru yoga is the only true yoga. All others are cashing in on a body worship fad.)

The three forms of laziness…
•Torpor (antidote: review one’s leisure & fortune)
•Busy-ness (antidote: death awareness meditation)
•Low self-esteem (antidote: remember one’s Buddha nature, one’s potential to become awakened)

Lama Marut’s daily practice:
•Every night, get a good night’s sleep.
•Stop waking up to an alarm clock.
•Loll around in bed, acknowledging life’s beauty / perform death awareness meditation.
•Meditate every morning, 20-30 mins.
•Physical activity, something to move the prana with intention.
•Eat breakfast, alone and quiet if possible, plan for the day. Unresolved issues, good deeds, etc.
•Throughout the day, six times daily, stop and check The Book. Freedom comes from discipline, and this step is vital.
•Every day, do something kind for someone else, with intention. Anonymously, even better. Remember that the spiritual life should be fun, and this can be an expression of that.
•At day’s end, imagine the goal. Happiness, perfect love for all beings, contentment. Relax into these thoughts; this is a very high practice. Enjoy what it would feel like to be free.
•Study a sacred text; anything that speaks to the path of enlightenment will do.
•Get to bed on time.

Do this, and greater happiness is guaranteed.

(Said with some emphasis by the big Lama.)

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Rock your afflictions as though they were your baby. One does the best they can with the knowledge in hand, and it is learned no sooner than one is capable of understanding it. The growth process is error, regret, and learning.

Skillful means means meeting people where they are. Join in, and create an avenue to expose others to the light within. But remember always where people are coming from, and proceed without aggression. Everyone is part of your karma, and the matrix of energy can be altered by one person. Enlightened self-interest can repaint every relationship.

(Paradigm shifts coming.)

Nothing is fixed. Things exist on account of the spaces available. Flash freezing the world with fixed ideas is to never see the world, to never see the whole. This is a game of representation that goes only to the surface of things.

(Just go where you’re needed.)

When meditating… Focus on a high karma object, ex: a parent, imagine them in their best form, and concentrate on their eyes. Then imagine the eyes at half size, then half again, then half again, then as a grain of sand. If the mind wanders, throw a soft rope around it to take control of the experience.

(Play the love. This is what the audience always comes to see, always. This is drama. Play the love. Play the love. Even when a conflict is presented, even in the fight scene, play the love as the undercurrent, always there, ultimately animating the actors no matter what the script commands. Play the love. Play the love.)

“We are beings of light. We are not here to be seen, but seen through.”

Another meditation…
Imagine oneself very upset — enraged, fearful, jealous, whatever. Pull the anguish out of this image, like smoke. Let it enter the self through every pore. The self expands and expands to accommodate all of the knots and burls in the heart. Let the self expand to the size of the universe, and when all the smoke is out, let it trickle out to the nothingness. This can also be practiced as a method to pull the suffering from others.

Everyone wants to be happy, free from fear, loving and loved. This knowledge can be carried into every encounter. Everyone is your mother, everything is one. And lighten up, by the way. Enlightenment is the blissful path to bliss.

(May I see with new eyes.)

Ignorant desire, right channel. Aversion/anger, left channel. The goal is to get centered. Anger, hate, completely binds one to the irritant, forcing thoughts of them to mind in an inverse of love. The only way out is to take control of the situation through internal evolution.

Thought exercise: what aspect of the self grasps most strongly on the outside world? Which is to say, where is the compulsion? Any compulsive act is a restriction. This is a major key to progressing towards awakening. One way forward is to not identify with the role(s) that the compulsion(s) foist upon the self. It is important to fulfill a (positive) role in life, it’s another thing to be compelled.

You will get exactly what you want when you stop wanting it, and want it for someone else.

The second naïveté — an aspect of the goal. To be simple again, to live an uncontrived life, awestruck. The complexity and sophistication of learning is unravelled by wisdom, and the engine runs on wonderment, free from a conceptual ordering of the world. In touch with what is. One reaches nonconceptuality through an expertise in conceptuality.

(Jackson Pollock was a deadly figure illustrator, it’s true.)

The are no enemies when you love them. The proper response to broken behavior is compassion.

DON’T RECALL, let go of what is past;
DON’T IMAGINE, let go of what may come;
DON’T THINK, let go of what is happening now;
DON’T EXAMINE, don’t try to figure anything out;
DON’T CONTROL, don’t try to make anything happen;
REST, relax, right now — rest.

Anything asserted is fundamentally untrue — on account of the assertion. The dharma is like a raft. It will take you to freedom, to the other shore, and then it too can be discarded. Who needs a raft on shore?

The progression through a spiritual life…
•Move from a nondisciplined state to a disciplined state.
•The embrace of paradox.
•Graduate from paradox to silence.

(I do my best… It’s the best I can do.)

A person that has ended all suffering in their life and seeks only to eradicate suffering in others is considered an individual of highest scope.

Wisdom means understanding the way things are, as opposed to how they appear.

Depression is a caricature of the cause of depression; the cause of depression is self-obsession. To escape depression, start thinking about everyone else.

The Skillful Means…
1. Perfection of generosity;
— With material goods
— With love
— With protection from fear
— With the spiritual truth
2. Perfection of ethics;
— Individual freedom vows
— Boddhisatva vows
— Tantra vows
3. Perfection of patience;
4. Virya, the perfection of JOYFUL effort, of working hard and having a good time;
5. The perfection of meditation;
6. The perfection of wisdom.

Things don’t come from themselves; they can’t come from completely different things, either. A cause must resemble the effect: a seed leads to a sprout. The sprout comes from the seed retroactively. Every moment is based on the parts of the moment. There are no partless part of time or space. The mind shapes this. If cause and effect were happening on their own, objectively, we should be able to identify which came first. But… The sprout can’t come before the seed. Is the seed the cause of the sprout before the sprout? No. The observer imposes, projects this causality.

Things are coming from us, not at us.

Further proof… There is no third option between singular and plural. One or many. Consider eyeglasses. Consider the parts of the eyeglass. Separate the eyeglasses from perception and isolate them in an objective world. It is empty.

EVERYTHING is empty, and this is good news.

With a universe of projection understood, a world of peace and love can be constructed, a better world can come into being.

Things exist dependent on a mind to projects onto it, and no more. And of course, the mind is a projection itself… The presence of an absence.

For this is samsara, a broken realm.

I have enough,
Ah hum.

22 August 2011, 17:20

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