Something that’s been on my mind a lot lately is bridging the gap between becoming familiar with Dharma teachings vs taking them to heart. In his books, Geshe Kelsang continually advises us that listening to or reading about Dharma should not simply be an intellectual exercise, and that we should take every teaching as personal advice. This advice itself is easy to understand intellectually, but how do I actually do this, and how do I quantify or identify my success?
There are some very practical and easy ways to do this:
- When reciting sadhanas, or prayers, rather than just reciting the words as if on autopilot, actually concentrate on the meaning. For example, while reciting “and I rejoice in the virtues of all” try to actually generate a mind of joy at others’ virtue. Here is a great article on sadhanas as a means to deepen our experiences in meditation. It takes some practice, but with familiarity anything is possible!
- When reading Dharma texts, at the end of each paragraph (or if that’s too much, choose a paragraph that seems to stand out for you) and ask yourself “What is the main point of this section? How does it apply to me?”. Try to think of some specific examples from your own experience that may show how you’ve improved your practice, or perhaps where you still need a little work. Close your eyes and try to remember, or try to imagine what it would be like to achieve what you’re reading about – for example, how would it actually feel to have equal love for all living beings? Maybe through this you will gain some special insight or determination that is specific to your experience – stop your contemplation and meditate on it for a few minutes, or if you don’t have time jot it down and try to meditate on it in your next session.
- In the evening, take just a few seconds to look back over your day. How many activities did you engage in for the sole purpose of improving your external conditions? We all spend a lot of time arranging the details of activities such as meals, errands, plans for the weekend, vacations, career goals and so on. We often spend a lot of time talking, texting, emailing and so forth about these activities. How much time did you spend thinking about and planning your internal activities – the activities of your mind? How much time did you spend thinking of and considering others? There’s no judgement or guilt involved in this type of reflection. Just simply try to gauge where you are right now.
I’d love to hear your feedback. What are some ways in which you have been able to personalize Dharma teachings, really take them to heart? (Or other spiritual teachings – whatever path you are on!)