Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bodhicitta - Get your Givin' on

I once heard an olympic athlete say in an interview that he doesn't let a day go by without training, physically and mentally, to be the absolute best that he is humanly capable of being.

Imagine if we all thought like that? Imagine instead of waking up, rolling out of bed, feeding our pets, driving to work half asleep with a drive-through coffee cup warming our hands, staring at a computer screen for 8 hours, driving home, making dinner, sitting in front of the TV, feeding our pets, and going to bed - we changed it up a little?

It's hard for me to get up every day and do a little home practice of yoga.  My bed and tempurpedic mattress are 2 things I look forward to every night...and every morning when I hit the snooze button and snuggle into them for another 15...ok...30....okay, fine 45 minutes.  What brings me to my mat, though? The memory of how much better I feel on those days that I do yoga.  Conditioning my body and mind daily for the past several years has resulted in a pattern that is now hard to break.  And "conditioning" is the key word here.

We can condition our bodies and minds to do just about anything we tell them or show them.  On many occasions, upon hearing me speak french or italian, two languages I learned well after my adolescent years, people often remark, "I always wanted to learn another language but it's too late - I'm too old." Or when I explain to people who are constantly complaining of stiff joints, muscles and ligaments that a slow, steady practice of yoga will surely benefit them, I hear often, "Start yoga at this age? I can't even bend over! I'm not flexible - I'd be horrible at it."

We tend to do things we are used to doing - things that are part of our routine - things we are comfortable with.  And then we are bothered if this routine is interrupted.  We also think we don't have any time to do anything outside of our routine. Practicing Bodhicitta will rid you of that feeling of being "bothered" at all and might even allow you to break your old habits and integrate some new ones into your life.  To explain bodhicitta (bow-dee-chee-ta), the following quote:

"Boundless joy is the joy you should feel when you see gifted and learned beings who are happy, famous or influential. Instead of feeling uneasy and envious of their good fortune, rejoice sincerely, thinking, "May they continue to be happy and enjoy even more happiness!" Pray too that they may use their wealth and power to help others,...performing...worthwhile deeds. Rejoice and make a wish: "May they never lose all their happiness and privileges. May their happiness increase more and more, and may they use it to benefit others...."
Pray that your mind may be filled with boundless equanimity, loving-kindness, compassion and joy--as boundless as a Bodhisattva's. If you do so, genuine bodhichitta will certainly grow within you."
p.49) --from The Excellent Path to Enlightenment, by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, translated and edited by The Padmakara Translation Group, published by Snow Lion Publications

My father always said, when I felt bad or dumb for not knowing something, "You know what you know and you don't know what you don't know." Simple, eh? We're all on different paths in this life and you can't judge someone for not knowing something that you may know...because it's almost certain that they have knowledge of something that you lack. Why not create bodhicitta and reach out to share what you know, instead?

In many of the spiritual texts I have read, it states over and over that without developing bodhicitta, spiritual growth cannot be attained.  It also feels damn good to help a brotha or a sista out. :)
Didn't have a date for Valentine's Day? Spread the love! Instead of pouting like 5 million other people on this planet, be the one that helps one of those Debbie Downers feel better about being on this earth.

It is very easy to be jealous of somebody.  It is very easy to compare ourselves to others and to want something - the job, the life, the relationship - that someone else has.  It is very easy to keep things only for yourself. But what we are doing when we are focusing our energy on these types of things is just that: giving our energy away to somebody else and creating negative energy inside ourselves. 
What if we practiced sharing our knowledge and congratulating others on their positive force in the world?

Imagine if we could diminish that feeling we get when something doesn't turn out as expected.  Imagine if we were never disappointed in anyone.  There's a way to practice this.  During a time when normally you would expect your husband or your friends or your family to do something for you, turn that expectation around and beat them to it.  Instead of waiting, hoping and wishing for gifts or accolades, give to somebody instead. Give your love, give a gift, cook a meal, lend a hand.  If we ask for something we want or think we might need, this actually diminishes our boddhicitta. 

This week - try to add a little giving to your routine. Buy a coffee for somebody else.  Let somebody go ahead of you in traffic. Get up early and do a little yoga sequence for yourself (this will help others, believe me!) Smile. Say good morning...and mean it.  Condition yourself to make giving part of your daily agenda and to be the best that you are capable of being. You'll be surprised what good things will come. 
"Silhouette of Autumn" by Ashley Daige of