Ken McLeod

The Work is Up to You

"A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary."

~ Thomas Carruthers

From "What to Look for in a [Meditation] Teacher," by Ken McLeod, Unfettered Mind, July 2012:

There are three roles a teacher plays. He or she reveals to you possibilities, shows you how to train and develop the skills and capabilities you need, and puts you in touch with the patterns in you that inhibit your being awake.

You may find these three roles in one person, or, possibly, in three different people.

For the teacher as possibility, your interaction may be through ritual, it may involve transmission, or it may be just being with them.  Periodic interact is helpful: you see what being awake looks like in actual life. Regular interaction is not absolutely necessary. It is enough that your interaction awakens new possibilities in you, and you set out to cultivate them.

For that, you need an instructor. With the teacher as instructor you do need to have regular interaction. You first learn a practice, do it on your own,  and then go back to tell your instructor about your experience, what you have assimilated, what questions you have. You learn and assimilate, and then you are ready to learn more. As you develop the skills and the ways to build abilities, more and more responsibility shifts to you. You first learn how to do the practice, then do it until it becomes second nature, and then train still further until there is nothing left in you that inhibits it.

And that last level brings up the need for the teacher who points out patterns. You can't always do it on your own  — you need actual interaction, in person. Directly or indirectly, the teacher points out what you've been doing for years without ever being aware of it. It can be tough, experiencing this viscerally.

This is not psychotherapy, i.e., working with your therapist to work through the patterns. The teacher's role is to point out the patterns and show you how to apply your training to them. The work, then, is up to you.

Many people approach a teacher, or approach spiritual work, in order to give, or receive, or exchange a certain kind of attention. If you approach practice this way, you are reinforcing reactive patterns, the antithesis of waking up.


Everything Proceeds through a Process of Evolution

Excerpt from "There is No Enemy," by Ken McLeod, Buddhist Geeks Conference, July 31, 2011:

Why do we practice? We practice to create other possibilities in our lives. And it’s possible. That’s the amazing thing. The genius of Buddha and many other sages over the years has shown that this is possible. It’s possible to experience our life in a different way act [based on this different perspective].

We cannot control the reactions that come up in us.Riding the Ox Home A lot of people practice with the idea they’re actually going to be able to control your mind. No, you’ll never going to be able to do that. But by practicing, you can open up other possibilities...When we set out to change the world, we necessarily, almost naturally, almost unavoidably move into an us versus them.

Why? Because we have a vision of what we want the world to look like and it’s different from how things are now. So we think, Okay, I've got to get rid of whatever is making the world like this so that this can happen. There’s a little bit of problem in this perspective.

We’re here in World A. We want to get to World B but we’re ignoring how World A actually is. The only way we’re going to get from World A to World B is through a process of evolution...not revolution. [Evolution] is much more difficult. You have much less control. It takes a lot more work and a lot more effort. People get impatient and that’s all very understandable, but everything proceeds through a process of evolution. It can be faster or slower but it really is through evolution.

To Cultivate Attention

Excerpts from "Buddha Nature: Living in Attention," by Ken McLeod:

"It seems to me that the intention of all these practices is to cultivate attention, either by practicing attention directly or by removing what prevents attention from developing. Once attention is present, appropriate action, skillful means, bodhicitta, everything else flows quite naturally. There is no need for minute dissections of Buddhist ethics or philosophy. The phrase ‘Be there or be square’ acquired a new meaning for me. Very simply, attention reveals buddha nature and enables it to manifest in our lives...

Once I shifted my effort to paying attention to what was arising, doors started to open. I began to see a little more clearly what was going on. I'd had to let go of old ways of looking at things, some that I had learned in the course of my training, others going back much further to family patterns. The patterns became apparent. The function and purpose of the patterns also became apparent...

Bring the attention to what is arising and we know, directly, what needs to be done. This changed not only my own practice but how I tried to teach others. The source of that knowing is buddha nature. And the practice is very simple in principle: strip away whatever prevents it from manifesting.

Read the entire essay...

[Thanks, Kit !]

As Complete as Possible

Excerpt from "Happiness and Completion," by Ken McLeod:

For me, spiritual practice is now not so much about happiness as about completion, a way of experiencing life that is as complete as possible in each and every moment.

...when we see and accept what is actually happening, even if it is very difficult or painful, mind and body relax, and in that rest, there is an exquisite quality that comes through just experiencing what arises, completely, with no separation.

Some might call it joy, but it is not a giddy or excited joy. Rather it is a deep and quiet joy, a joy that, in some sense is always there, waiting for us, but usually touched only when some challenge, pain, or tragedy leaves us with no other option.

Others might call it truth, but this is a loaded and misleading word, carrying with it the notion of something that exists apart from experience itself. The notion of truth also sets up an opposition, with what is held to be false, and such duality necessarily leads to hierarchy, authority, and institutional thinking and its associated forms of mind killing.

... the desire for happiness itself is a form of suffering as it leads to a struggle with experience, e.g., in the context of relationships, the desire for continual happiness undermines emotional connection.

Thus, for me, the purpose of practice is how to be with whatever arises in this experience we call 'life', nothing more, and nothing less. Everything we do in practice is aimed at the development of the willingness, skills, and capacities needed to experience life this way.

Read the complete essay…

Equanimity Does Not Mean Fairness

justice “To practice equanimity is to understand that everything everybody ever does — I repeat, everything everybody ever does — is because at that moment, he or she feels that their action will improve their world. In other words he or she is just trying to be happy. The actions may be, and often are, tragically, catastrophically self-defeating, but that is the motivation at the moment of action. Equanimity, then, is a profound acceptance of each person's humanity. Fairness may be the result of equanimity, but it's not the practice of equanimity.”

~ Ken McLeod, from Rules for the Road