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How to Take Crisis as an Opportunity with Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

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Every form of disaster, crisis or setback is actually a chance for us to create an opportunity. It’s a great space to be in actually. You know, we usually say, “Oh, it’s good because we learn from these things.” And that’s great, of course. But it’s not just that we learn from difficult experiences. It’s that when disaster strikes, suddenly there’s an open space in which we can create something new. Through the very process of dealing with that crisis, we can improve –– we can work with our mind.

Some of the most wonderful experiences of realization, realizing the nature of mind, were born out of a crisis in the practitioner’s life. If you look at the life stories of the great yogis, great masters, you can see that. It’s sad, but true, that most of their awakenings arose during a crisis of suffering.

So if you want awakening or realization, you need to have some suffering, some kind of crisis.

If you ask, “Why aren’t there stories of people experiencing realization or awakening in the midst of a happy moment?” the answer is simply that when people are happy they don’t practice dharma.

Usually when you’re happy, you go out somewhere. You’re enjoying being with friends and so on. Usually we don’t practice that much at those times. But then you get into a fight at the party and you feel bad, so you go back to the dharma center. Sometimes we treat dharma like a Bandaid.

That’s the reason you don’t see many stories about realization taking place when the practitioner was happy. Some of the greatest realizations took place during a time when the practitioner was going through a great difficulty or in the midst of painful obstacles.

So in times of suffering or crisis, whether we like it or not, that’s where we find the greatest opportunity.

Take a Chance, Make the Right Choice

We often think we need to wait for opportunity to come to us. But opportunities are present in every moment. In every moment we have a chance –– a chance to make the right choice.

That’s a great opportunity, isn’t it? Every moment, we have a chance to make a difference in our life and in the lives of others. We have a chance to make the right choice.

What is the right choice? However you can bring your best to that moment, that’s the right choice. It’s not a matter of right and wrong according to some set of rules or regulations. It’s nothing like that.

Every moment we have a chance not to think negative thoughts. Every moment we have a chance, a choice not to gossip. Isn’t that nice? Every moment we have a chance, a choice, to Go Kind. We have a chance to be kind to others.

Every moment we have the opportunity to do all these things. Of course, we can also choose to gossip, and we can choose not to be kind. But that’s how we miss the opportunity, too.

The Time Is Now

How can we know when the right moment has arrived? When can we truly succeed in seizing the opportunity?

Your greatest chance, the best time for you to succeed is today.

We cannot succeed in the past. We cannot succeed in the future. The only time we can succeed in turning our opportunity into something beneficial, productive and fruitful is now. The chance to succeed exists right here in every moment.

The opportunities we have missed in the past are gone. There’s no need to feel stressed about them. And don’t feel too anxious about possibly missing opportunities that may arise in the future –– that’s a recipe for missing the opportunity when it comes!

Now is the time. This very moment is the best, the only, time when we can make a big leap and actually get something done.

Crisis: An Opportunity for Contemplation

Everyone has experienced suffering, pain and distress in their lives. Sometimes when we are in the midst of a crisis, it feels as if we are completely alone in our situation, or that our suffering is the worst suffering of all. But of course, that’s not the case.

The Buddhist practice called tonglen does two things that help us work with our mind in the midst of suffering.

First, it reminds us that, at any given time throughout the world, so many other people are experiencing the same or even worse pain than what we’re experiencing now. Remembering this can be somewhat humbling and can help us open our hearts with empathy. It can help us develop a strong resolve to be free of our own suffering and to remember the suffering of those we love as well as strangers or other people with whom we may have a difficult time.

For these reasons, tonglen is a direct and very practical method for dealing with our difficulty, by connecting with others and transforming this suffering into something positive –– a compassionate heart.

How to Do Tonglen Practice

Sit comfortably in a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed for at least 15 minutes. Make a commitment to yourself to dedicate the next 5 to 10 minutes to experimenting with some curiosity, to see what happens with your suffering when you open your heart to others.

Close your eyes and connect with your difficulty or suffering. Really allow yourself to feel it in your body, without labeling it good or bad. It’s OK to take a break from telling yourself a story about your bad luck or stress.

From within that space of non-judgment, visualize yourself sitting in front of you as though you were someone else. Imagine breathing in your/their suffering as dark smoke and then breathing it out again as pure loving and peaceful energy in the form of white clouds. You can do this for a minute or two until you have a sense of transforming the suffering with love and kindness.

Now bring to mind someone you don’t know personally. It could be someone whose suffering you saw on the street or in the news. As you did with yourself, imagine breathing in their suffering and breathing out love, kindness and genuine care. Do this for a couple of minutes.

Next, bring to mind someone with who you have a difficult relationship, someone you know is suffering. Repeat the visualization process while breathing in and out. Connect with his/her suffering as a human being rather than thinking about the aspect of their behavior that bothers you. Notice your experience.

Now extend your visualization to include all beings in the world, those who are suffering right now as well as those who have suffered in the past or may suffer in the future. Keeping them in your awareness, repeat the same breathing practice.

Now open your eyes slightly and let the visualizations dissolve. As you do this, you can simply rest your mind for a few minutes, placing your attention in your breath.

To complete this session of tonglen, make a heartfelt aspiration that the difficulties you and others are facing right now may be transformed into kindness and compassion for others.

This practice can be very powerful and profound for opening up the tightness you tend to experience when you’re upset. As you imagine breathing in suffering as dark smoke, it’s not that now you have more suffering. Instead you’re focusing on your breath as though it’s a transformative filter. You visualize transforming your own and others’ suffering the way an air purifier removes impurities in the air.

When you find yourself in a situation of crisis or deep suffering, you can try practicing tonglen and notice your experience. You may find that it brings you some relief as well as greater perspective.


Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche originally taught on taking crisis as an opportunity during a public program given in Montréal, Canada in 2017.

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Eight Verses for Training the Mind
2018/19 Winter Retreat

Friday, Dec. 28, 2018 through Tuesday,  Jan. 1, 2019
Beautiful new location:  Copper Beech Institute, West Hartford, CT


Registration is now open!


Cultivate your path to deeper meditation practice…

Skillful compassion requires a foundation of calm abiding (through shamatha meditation) and the clarity of insight which we can cultivate through progressive stages of analytical meditation. This uncovers our natural joy and wisdom, and prepares us to skillfully interact with our world.

In this year’s 5-, 4-, or 3-day winter retreat over the New Year’s weekend, you’ll find strong support for all of these through the teaching and your own sitting and walking meditation practice.

Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen will teach on Eight Verses for Training the Mind by Geshe Langri Thangpa and will also guide analytical meditation practice.

Acharya Lhakpa Tshering will teach and guide the foundational meditation practice of shamatha (calm abiding) meditation.


open to all

This retreat is open to all, and best for those with prior meditation experience. It offers an opportunity for extended meditation and learning with accomplished teachers and an excellent community.  For more details and how to register, see the program and registration info below. There are discounts for Nalandabodhi members and affiliated groups. Register early by Sunday, Dec. 2 for the best discount.

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the teachers, facilitator

Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen is an accomplished meditation master, a classmate and close colleague of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, and a professor of Buddhist Studies and Tibetan language at Naropa University in Boulder, CO.

Acharya Lhakpa Tshering is likewise an accomplished meditator and scholar from the same monastic college and the resident teacher for East Coast Nalandabodhi centers and study groups.  Both Lama Tenpa and Acharya Lhakpa are wonderful examples of profound kindness, wisdom, and humor.  They are fluent English speakers and thoroughly attuned to our Western culture.

Damayonti Sengupta is the Chief Operating Officer of Nalandabodhi International and has studied contemplative movement arts and Buddhist meditation and philosophy for many years. She also has extensive experience as an educator, with a focus on experiential and intercultural learning, as well as organizational development.


Please check back here for updates on teachers and teaching topics for the retreat.

the program

The retreat provides an environment for silent shamatha (calm abiding) and vipashyana (analytical or insight) meditation.  The retreat includes:

  • Teaching by Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen on analytical meditation.
  • Meditation instruction by senior teachers.
  • Sitting and walking meditation, alternating.
    • 7-9 hours per day for meditation and teaching sessions (some of which are at your option).
  • Contemplation and aspirations for the New Year.
  • Practice of silence until lunch every day. Individuals can also choose silent days or a completely silent retreat.
  • Tibetan yoga (lujong) every morning.
  • Options for a 5-, 4-, or 3-day retreat, to accommodate your schedule.
  • All meals from Friday dinner through Tuesday lunch.
  • Lodging at the lovely Copper Beech Institute in either single or double rooms.

Some program elements and the detailed daily schedule are still being worked out, so check back for updates.

the location: Copper Beech Institute

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 2.54.38 PMCopper Beech Institute is a refuge of calm—an idyllic retreat center for meditation and contemplative practice in West Hartford, Connecticut. The aims of the Institute includes providing an environment for reconnecting with the things that matter most in life. The tranquil campus offers quiet places for rest, deliciously nourishing meals, and 48 wooded acres to explore, including a gorgeous labyrinth for walking meditation. The Institute is located on the idyllic campus of Holy Family Retreat & Conference Center, which has been a refuge for those seeking quiet, contemplation and peace for more than 60 years. Operating independently from the historic Catholic retreat center, it occupies a renovated, handicap-accessible wing of the facility with 210 dedicated beds and access to the space’s stunning grounds. The campus features lovingly maintained perennial gardens, sculpture gardens, labyrinth, and wooded trails. Copper Beech is located minutes from I-84 in West Hartford, CT—a bustling and beautiful town, ranked by Kiplinger’s in 2010 as one of the Top Ten Best U.S. Cities for the Next Decade. It is just a 25-minute ride from Bradley International Airport, and 15 minutes from Union Station, Hartford’s Train and Bus Station.

More information about Copper Beech Institute is available here.

5-, 4-, and 3-day options

If you are unable to attend the full retreat (Friday afternoon through Tuesday lunch, 5 days), you can attend Friday afternoon through Sunday lunch (3 days) or Friday afternoon through Monday lunch (4 days).

Schedule, Arrival, Departure

The schedule below is tentative and subject to change. Please check back for updated information. (Registrants will also receive an email with retreat details prior to the retreat.)

Retreat Check-In:  Retreat check-in begins at 4 PM, Friday, Dec. 28.  Please do your best to arrive by dinner time (6 – 7 PM). The first meditation session is from 7:00 – 7:30 PM. The first teaching session will follow.

Retreat Conclusion & Check-Out:  For 3-day retreat participants, the retreat ends after lunch at 1 PM, Sunday, Dec. 30. For 4-day retreat participants, the retreat ends after lunch at 1 PM, Monday, Dec. 31. For 5-day retreat participants, the retreat ends after lunch at 1 PM, Tuesday, Jan. 1. (If you are able to stay and help with take down for the retreat, we would be happy for your help.)

eligibility and registration, or RSVP

The retreat is recommended for people with some prior meditation experience.  (We want your experience to be positive. A multi-day retreat is a big commitment if you haven’t meditated before.)  Registrants are asked to fill out a short online background questionnaire.

There are discounts for Nalandabodhi members and affiliated groups. Register early by Dec. 2 for the best discount.

To register now, click on the REGISTER button.


If you’re not quite ready to register but are interested in attending, your RSVP to us will help (click to send us an online RSVP).

other practical details

  • This is designed as a residential retreat and we recommend that participants stay on-site. This serves to provide a more supportive container for our meditation practice. If you’d like to attend and it is important that you be able to stay off-campus, there are commuter options.
  • Meals are provided by Copper Beech Institute’s excellent culinary staff.  Vegetarian options will be provided, and the staff will try to accommodate special dietary needs. You can provide your dietary preferences and restrictions in the background questionnaire when you register.
  • Calendar page.


For questions, please e-mail philadelphia@nalandabodhi.org.  We’ll do our best to respond promptly.

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Difficult World, Peaceful Mind

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{Words of Wisdom from Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche}

We have so many kinds of suffering in our world––natural calamities, earthquakes, hurricanes. It seems as though all of the elements are attacking us. At least the sky hasn’t fallen yet.

We cannot control natural calamities, but at the same time we do have a hand in creating them. We may not be able to completely stop these disasters, but we can reduce them.

All our normal habits of desire are having a serious impact on our environment­­––the ocean is heating up, the ozone has more holes. And everywhere there are more natural calamities. Even those are interdependently arising. In any case, this heart of compassion and loving kindness is the primary way for us to change our world for the better.

And secondly, if we master the wisdom of working with the interdependent nature, then you gain a real sense of freedom. This freedom comes from interdependence, it doesn’t come from independence. We think freedom comes from independence. But the real wisdom comes when you can master interdependence. In this regard it is crucial for us to connect with one another and see how we can make each other’s world better, instead of only thinking, “How can I make my world better?”

How can we create less harm in each other’s world, not just in “my” world? It’s an important question to consider.

The approach of interdependence

America is in the North American continent, far away from everything. We in America tend to think the Earth’s pollution exists mainly in China and other countries. So we take care of our own environment and send all the polluting production to other places. Recently, however, due to extremely strong winds, this massive air pollution made its to America from Asia. So this approach is not going to work. If we want our own sound, healthy and beautiful environment, we also have to take care of other places. I remember that in India and Nepal, when you clean the area outside of a store, you just clean your own little storefront and push the dirt to the other side of the street. Then an hour later, two other guys from the store on the other side will come with their brooms and push the dirt right back to where it was in the first place.

What do we achieve when we only consider “my” world and not others? We actually become more irritable. We engage in more emotional actions and reactions that end up creating more suffering. And in the end, the whole world becomes a suffering world. But if you take care of yourself, while caring for others as well, it’s a different story.

When you ask your partner to love you, it doesn’t work too well, does it? Love comes naturally. There is a natural sense of giving and sharing. One of my students told me, “When you say to your partner, Why are you not making me happy? that is not love. But when you say to them, How can I make you happy? then that is love. When you say that, naturally they will make you happy. Just by seeing a little smile on their face, that makes you happy. Then everybody’s happy.

So if we just keep looking at our problems always focusing on them­­––why someone is not fixing this, why my president is not fixing that­––it’s not really going help us accomplish our goal. Instead, if we ask, How can I help? can you imagine? What if everyone in this whole room here begins thinking that way? If we all start doing it together, can you see how much difference we can make in our world?

Every challenge is an opportunity

Our world is really difficult these days. There are many leaders in the world who are very skillful at making you irritated. They are very skilled in making you upset and bringing out so many emotions. Generally we feel this world is pretty bad. We feel that we live in one of the worst times ever, and we feel it’s very challenging. On the other hand, if we look at it a bit more deeply, every challenge is an opportunity for us. If you feel there is no opportunity, then that presents a challenge, and see­­––right there you have an opportunity!

If you can see this opportunity, and if you can contribute in some way to make it better, then your contribution will be magnified thousands of times. Rather than doing what we’ve always done. We can put forth the same amount effort, but if we approach what we do with this attitude, we can make a huge difference.

It’s important for us to have more wisdom of interdependence, and more compassion, a genuine heart-to-heart connection with others. Because just getting angry or irritated doesn’t solve any problem. But when you understand interdependence, love, and compassion­­––then really there’s nothing we can’t solve.

Desmond Tutu once said in an interview that his father used to tell him all the time when he was upset, “Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.” Isn’t that a wonderful instruction? Instead of raising our voice and saying all of these not-nice things, we can look for solutions. We have a great opportunity here.

In the Buddhist teachings we have something called “ripening your aspirations in a timely manner.” There are three important elements here: aspiration, ripening, and timeliness. First you have to have the desire, or the aspiration. Second, you have to have ripening––that desire must actually grow with wisdom. It’s not enough just to have the passion or desire to change the world. And then finally, it must be timely––the perfect time is the perfect opportunity.

In times of crisis, compassion ripens

The world of crisis is a perfect time for your compassion to mature and ripen. You can see this even in the most ordinary sense. For example––don’t misunderstand me here, because I don’t know anything about economics––but I heard there is something called the “stock market.” We don’t really see anything, but there is something called the stock market. When it is volatile, that is a very good opportunity for someone to make a lot of money. When the world is volatile, it’s a very good time to make lots of points of loving kindness and compassion.

From dharma teachings I understand that, along with that increase in genuine compassion so deep in our heart, comes awakening, which we call enlightenment. Enlightenment is not necessarily restricted to some kind of meditation. It also can come from this deep heart of compassion towards sentient beings. This is really wonderful news, because in our daily life, with all our family obligations and everything else, we usually don’t meditate very often, do we? Most people do not do too much meditation. If you can do an hour a day, we think that’s a lot. But a day has twenty-four hours, so for that one hour of meditation, there are still 23 hours left to undo the positive effects of that meditation.

So how can we really get to awakening by means of loving kindness and compassion? Every minute of every day, we hear bad news on the TV and radio. It’s not because good things aren’t happening, it’s because people aren’t interested in good things! The media networks are business people catering to the market. When they do research, they find that people are interested in bad news. This shows that we haven’t yet developed a strong habit of rejoicing in others’ happiness.

When you see others’ good fortune there is usually jealousy. We think, “Why don’t I have that opportunity?” So it becomes crucial for us, not only to work with our compassion, but also to cultivate a sense of rejoicing or satisfaction. We can have sense of joy in another’s good fortune instead of instantly comparing that with your own situation. Opportunities to practice compassion, loving kindness, and caring for others are present for us 24 hours a day. Or 23 hours, if you meditate. Or if you meditate for 15 minutes, you have 23 hours and 45 minutes.

Awakening through compassion

If you do the math regarding the probability of awakening, there are many more chances for you to be awakened through practicing compassion than through sitting meditation. The opportunity to practice compassion is always there. When you raise a child, when you take care of an aging parent, or take care of your partner. You don’t have to look very far to practice compassion.

There are people throughout your country who also need your compassion and generosity. So we can look for opportunities right here, instead of only looking for opportunities far away in third world countries.

In everyday life, loving kindness and compassion is the key. You’re not only helping others this way, you’re also helping yourself. Studies were done in which they found that all beings naturally have this heart of compassion, that it is present in everyone to some degree. All of us, all human beings, have this heart of compassion. Sometimes you may not see it, but it’s definitely there.

Sometimes this heart of love begins with a biased view. That’s okay. In the beginning we have more love toward one person than another. That’s natural. The point here is how we bring that across the board. Once we are able to make that heart-to-heart connection with the people we naturally feel love for, how can we begin to have that sense of caring toward all others as well? That’s the key to making the world a little better.

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche originally presented the teachings in this article at a public talk in Rotterdam, Netherlands in October 2017.

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Questions & Answers on Mindfulness with Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

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Q: In the West today, mindfulness as a practice is being taken out of its Buddhist context and introduced without Buddhist language of any kind. We have mindfulness in business, mindfulness in the education system, and so on. What do you think of this, Rinpoche?

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche: I’ve been contemplating that quite a bit. And I think to some degree you could say that mindfulness practice has been taken out of context in terms of some of the approaches taken. But when I look back into the traditional Buddhist teaching, those methods are actually a part of it.

Buddha taught that there are two approaches or two vehicles. One is a mundane vehicle, and the other is the vehicle that will lead one to awakening––complete awakening. So I see some of these recent approaches as part of the mundane vehicle that Buddha taught, in terms of making one’s future existence more comfortable, more virtuous, and more abundant with both physical and mental health. So even though some of these approaches to mindfulness have taken a different route, so to speak, from the more traditional Buddhist approach, I see those as part of this first approach of Buddhist teaching, which is concerned with making our lives more mindful and more compassionate, more loving and in many ways more virtuous.

Q: What is required for the second vehicle––the vehicle of awakening––that people might not learn about when they are only introduced to the practice of secular mindfulness?

DPR: What is taught in the second approach of the Buddhist teachings is a deeper sense of working with our mind, and a deeper sense of working with our confusion and the roots of our suffering. So the second approach requires a little more contemplation, more meditation and a little more sense of acquiring the wisdom necessary to see our confusion and where it comes from.

Mindful Activity & Instant Gratification

Q: It seems like I’m often looking for instant results, or instant gratification, when practicing loving kindness, or practicing mindfulness and awareness. How can we let go of always wanting instant gratification?

DPR: Not everything takes effect right away. Some things take a little longer time to get the effect, and with some things it takes a shorter time to get the effect.

If you are doing some kind of mindful activity to help others, that is helping the world. You’re making someone happy, giving them what they need, or doing whatever you can do. You can rejoice in that action and feel the happiness you managed to give. If you can feel that happiness, then just rejoice, instead of looking for a reward.

It’s natural, of course, that we tend to look for some kind of reward or payback. Even when we don’t expect a reward, we’re usually looking for some kind of result. At the same time, I think that looking for a result from our efforts sometimes blocks us from experiencing joy and happiness. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s natural to expect something in return. But when we do, that’s the cause of disappointment for sure. The same thing happens with our children. If we expect too much from them in return for our care, then our children are a cause of disappointment for us.

And in some cases I think the result may be there, but we are blocked from seeing it due to our mind’s habit of expecting a result or a return right away. In the 21stcentury we face the challenge of instant gratification. This is one of our biggest challenges. We want the result fast––we want the fastest possible enlightenment. Like everything else, fast is not necessarily best. Think of fast food. Or if you are in an auto accident, faster is not very good, right? If the accident is slower, it’s better. It doesn’t cause so much physical harm.

Not everything is going to be in our favor, but that’s what we want. We want our Internet browser to be faster. We want Netflix faster, YouTube faster. And they’re making the devices faster––tablets and phones. But then those faster devices use more space, too. When the hard drive becomes full, then the speed comes down, so in the end it’s the same. In fact, it’s more irritating, because you expected the new device to work faster and it doesn’t. In our century, technology presents challenges of its own.

So regarding instant gratification: if everything begins to go faster, it may not be such a good thing in the end. Consider if your web browser were to open at the speed of thought. Whatever you’re thinking about, right away it opens and shows you that. It could be an embarrassing thought. That could be quite a problem, especially in your workplace. Then we would need to develop another program to block those thoughts at work––like an antivirus, but an anti-certain-thoughts program. So fast is not necessarily best. When we expect a result right away, I think it becomes an obstacle for us.

Success Is Not the Goal of Mindfulness Practice

When we’re on the path of practice, the path of awakening, we must try––try to be mindful. Our aim here is not to succeed. We don’t need to succeed all the time. It’s not possible, right? Why can we not succeed every time we engage in mindfulness practice? The same reason we cannot succeed in winning every time we buy a lottery ticket!

You cannot succeed all the time. And that’s not our goal here. The purpose here is to try, just give it a shot. If you didn’t succeed, that doesn’t mean you didn’t practice. That’s part of the journey. So keep trying. Give it a shot.


Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche taught on these aspects of mindfulness in an interview with Sounds True in 2017 and in a program on the methods from his book Emotional Rescue in Rotterdam, Netherlands in 2017.

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“How to Be Kind to Yourself”: Sage Advice from Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

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Dealing with Loss, Anger and Sadness

Q: My partner and I just broke up. I don’t want to feel anger or jealousy, but I feel it anyway. I feel anger. How can I have compassion for myself?

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche: There are two questions here actually––one about hating someone and one about losing someone. In both cases it’s important to be kind to yourself.

I think it’s quite common that we sometimes experience a kind of hatred toward certain individuals. Hating, just feeling this sense of aggression itself, is not a problem. The problem is when you reify it, when you make it strong and solid, and you spin your head around it again and again with projections. That becomes self-destructive. It causes problems deep in our mind.

So when you experience this element of hatred or anger, if you direct your mind toward this experience, inwardly, then you can see the energy or power of this emotion. You can feel it vibrating. You can see, you can feel mentally, this anger. The energy itself is pure. It’s perfectly fine, just as it is. The question is how you express this energy.

If you express this energy of anger with thoughts––spinning thoughts––or with action, then it becomes painful to yourself and others. One way you can deal with it is to simply experience the energy, and then when your mind starts to go spinning, say to yourself, “Oh don’t do that . . . .” Do this instead of saying, “Don’t be angry.” Because that’s almost impossible. But you can stop the projections.

Our projections based on anger and hatred are not too accurate, that’s the problem. In fact, our thoughts’ projections are usually proven wrong by thought itself. Right? You can see that by taking a look at your thought projections from the past––how you believe this or that is true, or that it’s real or unreal, that it’s a good thing or a bad thing, or “This is really cool. This is a really cool jacket.” You can see how you believe in that, but then the next year, it’s not cool anymore. Right? So your thought itself proves the earlier thought was wrong. When we reify and invest so much in the thought, it’s a problem.

So let’s leave the projections for now and then let’s work with this energy. Just be with and relax in the anger energy. In that way you develop a sense of kindness toward yourself. You’re not telling yourself it is bad that you’re angry. There’s nothing bad about feeling anger.

Sadness comes naturally with a breakup of a relationship. That is difficult, but I think sometimes we miss a certain point here. It’s like the four seasons. No matter how much you like the summer, you have to move into the autumn. No matter how much you dread the winter, you have to move into the winter, too. Similarly, the whole world is changing constantly, and with this change comes the experience of losing.

Losing a friend is part of the nature of change. And I know it’s easier said than done because when you lose your parent or a friend, it’s very difficult. But what really helps me sometimes, though not always, is to think of loss in this way. That this is the changing nature of things. Spring changing into summer, autumn, then winter. So sometimes we have to let ourselves accept that. We have to accept the change then move on to the next thing. That doesn’t mean we can’t have good wishes for our partner, or good feelings about what was lost. But at the same time, to accept that change is inevitable.

Dealing with Self Hatred

Q: How do you deal with self-hatred?

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche: It’s okay to feel self-hatred, as long as you don’t hate others. Self-hatred, or low self esteem, is actually pretty common.

What I understand is that the sense of self-hatred has to do with poverty mentality. You’re always thinking that what you see outside is better than what you see inside. That’s what the Buddha taught was the basic human suffering. I was happy to see that confirmed by the song from The Rolling Stones, I can’t get no satisfaction. I mean, if [Mick Jagger] can’t get no, then who can? There is a sense of dissatisfaction or discontentment, some sense of poverty. We think, “That other person is so good. They’re so relaxed and I’m so bad,” and so on.

When you focus on this kind of thought too much, then self-hatred becomes too intense. Another aspect of it is just a cultural attitude––the sense of an originally negative, sinful nature, as well as the conditioning that comes with your upbringing. Each person’s upbringing is different, of course.

Instead of getting down on ourselves when we see something negative, we must think, “Nobody is perfect. We all have pros and cons.” When you see the negative side in yourself, you can say, “Oh this is a great opportunity for me to see and change this.” So I think the most helpful approach is to see that everyone’s imperfect. We all have habits and attitudes we need to work on.

If everything is perfect, then it’s not samsara, you know. We’re working with the elements of samsara here. That’s why my teacher Khenpo Rinpoche always says, “Erring and Erring, we walk down the unerring path.” That’s a mantra for me.


{Published Feburary 16, 2018. http://www.dpr.info/articles/how-to-be-kind-to-yourself/)


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