This is the card that I pulled today from Pema Chodron’s Compassion Cards – Regard all dharmas as dreams – with this explanation:
Whatever you experience in life – pain, pleasure, heat, cold or anything else – is like something happening in a dream. Although you might think things are very solid, they are like a passing memory. You can experience this open, unfixated quality in sitting meditation; all that arises in your mind – hate, love and all the rest – is not solid. Although the experience can get extremely vivid, it is just a product of your mind. Nothing solid is really happening.
Here’s why this is important to understand – a regular meditation practice can help alleviate the suffering from the fluctuations of the mind. Raja yoga – or the yoga of meditation – helps us escape these fluctuations by recognizing that these states are temporary and that change is constant, and, through practice, let go and release the grasp our thoughts have over us.
There is a great story about this in one of Mark Nepo’s books, The Book of Awakening. A master points to a boulder and asks his disciple if the boulder is heavy, which of course he responds affirmatively. Then the master explains that the boulder is only heavy if you pick it up.
We all pick up the boulder throughout our lives, and meditation can be helpful in breaking the cycle and putting down the boulder.
Recognizing your true dharma can be helpful in breaking the cycle. While there is no exact translation of the word dharma in English, it is generally accepted as your truth or your reality.
Many times in my life, I’ve wanted my dharma to be ideal and my path to be clear. In other words, I was going to graduate college, find the perfect job and meet the perfect man and we were going to have an amazing life together. This was not my dharma.
There had to be lessons and truths presented to me so that I could learn and grow. These lessons became the gifts that were given to me, although initially they presented challenges, struggles and failures.
If you are stuck in the fluctuations of the mind, identify the lessons and focus on the lessons. Let go of everything else.
Life is a state of constant change, yet our minds want to stay with permanence. Even if we want something to change, we don’t expect it to change. We suffer because we believe it is permanent, when in reality it is only temporary.
Recognizing the choice that we have to control our thoughts to relieve suffering and encourage growth is the real work of meditation.
One of my favorite meditation practices these days is to flip my thinking. If I want to be pessimistic and negative about something or someone, I try to flip the thought and be optimistic and positive and meditate on how this feels to shift the perspective. Rather than allowing a flood of thoughts and emotions to come up, I focus on a simple recognition.
As an example, I was passing a young woman on the street who I saw roll her eyes at me. As I approached her, she kindly said hello and I realized that the eye rolling was not directed at me and it was my imagination that she was hating on me. This simple exchange had deep meaning for me in not allowing myself to jump to conclusions when I have so little information.
Identify a simple exchange that you’ve had and meditate on flipping this thinking and recognizing the lesson. Regard all dharmas as dreams and let go of grasping.
Start with OM.