Thursday, March 31, 2011

April Daily Practice: Enlighten Up!

April.... it's Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, but if you're in the Southern Hemisphere, it's a good time to "enlighten up" as well!

What do I mean by "enlighten up?" Primarily, it's not taking ourselves all that seriously all the time. It's learning to smile at our 'foibles' and 'follies.' One of my favorite "Dalai Lama Stories," is told by Sharon Salzberg. Apparently, the Dalai Lama was interested in having a tour of Gethsemene Monastery to see how they managed to be self-sufficient. As usual, he was accompanied by a retinue of other Buddhist teachers (including Sharon) as well as the ever-present media.

During the tour, the Dalai Lama learned that the monastery makes both cakes and pastries as well as cheese. At the conclusion of the tour, the abbot presented the Dalai Lama with a big wheel of cheese. The Dalai Lama took the wheel of cheese in his hand, looked at it, then looked up with that marvelous twinkle in his eyes and said, "But I was hoping for a cake!" And then he burst out in his famous belly-laugh! When I heard Sharon tell this story, she remarked that in that moment, she realized that if she had been in the Dalai Lama's position, she too would have preferred the cake, but would have played the "Spiritual Person" part and accepted the cheese with a smile (while feeling disappointment inside).

The Dalai Lama, however, showed that he could not take his role, his identity, or his preferences so seriously that he couldn't laugh at himself!

So, this month, perhaps we can remember (sati, usually translated as "mindfulness" actually refers to remembering) to 'enlighten up' when we catch ourselves taking ourselves overly seriously. We can set the stage by sitting up at the side of the bed when we awake in the morning and placing our hands in anjali, (palms pressed together at the heart) and smiling while taking three breaths.  Then, throughout the day -- whenver we find ourselves lost in that serious drama in our heads -- we can pause, practice smiling anjali, and take three breaths. If we are in mixed company, we can skip the anjali, but please, don't skip the smile and three breaths!   :-)

AND, really.... I would LOVE to hear from more of you! There are 124 "Followers" of the blog, and I would really like to hear from you! Please offer any ideas for future "Daily Practices" as well as sharing how these practices are for you.

in metta, and with a big smile,
poep sa


  1. A favorite lyric: "The best thing you've ever done for me is to help me take my life less seriously--'cause it's only life after all!" (Closer to Fine, Indigo Girls). Great practice for the month. Thanks.

  2. I am certainly worn out on being serious. Life has just been too much about how important this or that is and we just have to concentrate and work on this problem and later it will be better and we can relax then....on and on.
    This last year we have been much happier just doing our best and accepting that and being happy right now - not waiting until some future date when all the problems are taken care of (yeah -right!)
    This practice will be a good early morning reminder for me to be here right now - living in drama of some problem is a creation of the mind.
    Oh - And I love the Indigo Girls! :-)

  3. Thank you Frank.
    In my practice, this reflection of peace happens when i get to my seat before meditation in the morning. To bring this a step up to the actual waking moment, I can imagine will have a positive infusion into the day.
    I'm going to try it...
    Hari Om.
    Eila Devi

  4. thanks for that reminder Frank! :) when I find myself in mental drama, it takes a minute to recognize and then once i see it, I typically just focus on breathing and sensing. It works pretty well, but the last few days this little mind of mine has been in overdrive, making it very difficult to release its drama for longer than a minute! this daily practice suggestion may do the trick though!!! and if it doesn't, i'll just remember to laugh. :D

  5. I really like this simple practice, Frank! Coincidentally, I recently picked up Thich Nhat Hanh's amazing book "Peace Is Every Step." He gives a similar mindful breathing exercise, and suggests a simple verse that can be used with it:

    "Breathing in, I calm my body.
    Breathing out, I smile.
    Dwelling in the present moment,
    I know this is a wonderful moment."

    I look forward to your monthly practice suggestions! Thanks!