WHY DO WE GO TO OUR CUSHION? 

In TRAINING by Cary Twomey1 Comment

Bodhicitta is the heart-mind set on awakening for the benefit of everyone and it cuts through all self-centered seeking. It has one goal, to remove the suffering of others and support their evolution on the path. It is the wish-fulfilling gem that gives everything that we desire, the wish-fulfilling tree that always bears fruit and never dries up, the moisture in the air when everything is arid and dry. It is the soma nectar of the heart and is the most important thing to be practiced and cultivated every day until it is the only way that we live.

The supreme thing to know is bodhicitta.
The supreme thing to learn is bodhicitta.
The supreme thing to practice is bodhicitta.
The supreme thing to meditate on is bodhicitta.

Bodhichitta is two-fold, relative and absolute. The teachings say that both are necessary. We need both in order to hold an authentic human relationship with the world around us as we return again and again to the unbounded source that is radiating without limitation, giving birth to everything that is. In terms of relative bodhicitta, we return to the cushion in order not to drown in our unconsciousness and all the ways we delude, confuse and obscure experience. In clarity and open heart, there can be a more clear presence for others and for interacting in the world. Relative bodhicitta touches the mundane human level and allows our humanity to be included, our imperfections, our vulnerabilities, the places that are more difficult for us. It inspires us to get out of bed each day to enjoy the gift of this precious life because to live fully is the purpose of life and other people need us. We need one another. Because although we may feel we stand alone, this is an illusion. We are interdependent and this means we are never alone.

Meditate upon bodhicitta when afflicted by disease.
Meditate upon bodhicitta when sad.
Meditate upon bodhicitta when suffering occurs.
Meditate upon bodhicitta when you get scared.

 

We need a centralizing sense of order, a mandala that we dance within. This is where relative and absolute bodhicitta become quite an important teaching for us. It addresses our human level of day-to-day life as well as the possibility that we could become an extraordinary human being, where our capacity to be unlimited in benefiting others and supporting the world increases as we become more refined. HH Dalai Lama says that the bodhisattva needs a strong healthy sense of self in order to endure the work that must be done. As long as we are in a human body, there has to be a healthy centralizing force that organizes our experience of being. This becomes less contracted, more flexible, larger, less uptight, more clear, subtle and radiant the more we are opening to the pure flow of bodhicitta.

Our confusion and obscurations are all happening simultaneously. If we are able to shift our perspective, we can open to the unbounded nature instantaneously, allowing our sense of self to flow, remaining available to softness and breath. We might begin to experience our bodhicitta nature as a fullness, that radiates outward in all directions like a jewel; presence with an enormous clarity and capacity for detail, richness, joy, love, flexibility, creativity, and unlimited skillful action.

 

Absolute bodhicitta is the huge, sublime and seemingly out of reach on the human level, aspiration to attain enlightenment for the purpose of unending benefit to others. The thought that our existence could somehow lift and help everyone near and far is beyond the scope of understanding by the ordinary mind. We can return to the cushion for this reason, that it is possible for this to occur. When we make a visit to the cushion a part of our daily routine, like brushing our teeth whether we feel like it or not, it becomes the outward manifestation of returning to the ground of being. We return day after day to relax and open the lens wider, reminding ourselves that this is the reality that is there all the time, whether we recognize it or not. Then we get up and go outward again to meet life with a warm and caring heart. We dissolve back and then again go out, but each time we are becoming, not more of this or that, but becoming more vibrant with the extraordinary force of love that is beyond all conception.

It is because of bodhicitta that one gives up
the pleasure of meditative concentration,
and in order to relieve others of their suffering
goes down to the deepest hell as if into a pleasure park.

Absolute bodhicitta reminds us of that which is beyond all limitation, where we can go beyond a sense of me, me, me, and become love and become compassion in our actions and embodiment-we become the embodied manifestation of these qualities in action. At first, it may be intentional and taken as a discipline, but that is where we begin. Eventually, it is effortless wisdom in action, spontaneous and without a subject, object or action.

The natural expression of emptiness or openness is compassion. When we release the contracted sense of self, we will automatically have compassion flowing. It will be there without effort, that is the beauty and that is what we can trust. But we must first give it to ourselves. If we are doing this, the contracted sense of self can relax and expand. Giving love and compassion to oneself is a first and foremost requirement on our path. Taking care of our bodies, eating healthy food and caring for our daily bodily needs are important. Organizing our home to be a respite, taking care of our bills and being wise about handling our money, tending familial relationships, preparing healthy nourishing food-all this is our precious human life. The basic day-to-day grind matters. It is our earthly embodiment and is important. Spirit and matter must be united to create wholeness. One without the other is incomplete. Relative life is the ground for ultimate bodhicitta to manifest.

Through learning, reflection, and meditation, gradually all that covers our buddha nature is removed leaving only the jewel of the heart of compassion and love. Beyond all thought, with no beginning or end, the power of this golden flame is indescribable. When all meaning is lost, when the heart despairs at the continuous absurdity of darkness that seems determined to rule, there is only one thing to hold on to, only one thing to lean back on, the only thing that is actually real, bodhicitta.

Holding both relative and absolute bodhicitta is our goal and the final result. The two wings of the bird. The two-sided Chö drum beating like the heart…relative and absolute, relative and absolute…beating back and forth until the final release into the unbounded AH and off to our next rebirth to become someone new.

Begin with bodhicitta, do the main practice without concepts,
conclude by dedicating the merit.
These together and complete, are the three vital supports for progression
on the path to liberation.

Today, we are here in this body, and if we are reading this page, we are certainly endowed with a precious human birth. We are this particular person now and have something of value to do here on this planet. How do you want to spend your precious human life today? What is that particular thing that you can offer into the fire of awakening and the flow of bodhicitta?

Begin in a simple way, start with yourself. Go to your cushion, raise bodhicitta, take a few deep breaths and relax. Take a moment to remember who you really are. Give support and encouragement, love and kindness, acceptance and compassion, nourishment and encouragement. Take care of yourself with a warm meal and tend to what you really need. Once your basic needs are met, you can stand grounded ready to give your heart to the moment fully. For the benefit of all beings, may our life be lived fully today and every day.

If one investigates to find the supreme method
for accomplishing the aims of oneself and others,
it comes down to bodhicitta alone.
Being certain of this, develop it with joy!

About the Author
Cary Twomey

Cary Twomey

Cary Twomey is a Jungian Analyst, a Practitioner of Ayurvedic Medicine and holds a degree in Dance. She has a great love of working with others through dreams, psyche, movement, and Dharma. She and her husband Lee are founders and resident teachers of Midwest Dharma Wheel, a contemplative center in Lincoln, NE where they offer Jungian Therapy, Dharma, Meditation, Mentoring, Movement, Pilates, Yoga, and Ayurvedic Medicine. Cary is a Teacher and Mentor in Ayurveda, Dharma, Meditation, and Movement programs. She offers one-to-one sessions and mentoring, as well as group retreats and classes around the world. Cary's Articles: Ayurveda's Wisdom For Winter and Why Do We Go To Our Cushion? View her website: midwestdharmawheel.com or email her at: info@midwestdharmawheel.com

All quotes are by Khunu Rinpoche and Longchenpa. Featured image by Mohamed Hassan, Egypt.

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  1. Thank you Cary for the beautiful piece

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