Appreciation of our Life – Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. Shambhala


One of the most powerful themes in meditation training, especially in Buddhist training, is what we call the Tibetan lo dup nam shi, or the four aspects or four things that turn our mind towards the dharma or the truth. And it’s the notion of turning our mind towards what’s important and helps in maybe…a more modern way of looking at it is the four things that ground our mind or bring it into a level of reality. And it’s almost like we’re saying it’s a “reality check”. So one of the themes is appreciation, or tal djor, the notion of really reflecting on how fortunate our life is, how fortunate we are. So we think about how rare it is just to be born. You know, how being a human being is incredibly precious, compared to, for example, animals or other beings who may be beautiful in their own way but basically don’t have a lot of control over their destiny. We say a lot of times, you know, an animal we can tell them they’re going to die tomorrow. But they have no comprehensive way of experiencing it. If we are told we’re going to be dying tomorrow, it has a profound effect on everything that happens. And in that way, we actually reflect in saying, we could die tomorrow, I mean, something could happen and we don’t know how long we could be living, so reflecting on how precious is what we have. So I think it’s a very powerful tool because essentially what it does is it makes a day a lifetime. I always felt that was very powerful. A lot of times we live today; we say we have today and we also have 365 more days just like today. The reality is that, theoretically we kind of understand what that means, but experientially you can’t live all those days at once. You have to live one day at a time, one moment at a time. So it’s actually, it’s not just being overly poetic or a simplification, it’s the reality. A lot of what happens is, when we think we have a lot more time than we do, we pay less attention to what is happening. Each action becomes meaningless because we say, you know, “There’s more of them”. It’s like if we have a lot of fruit or we have a bunch of eggs in the refrigerator, if we had just one, obviously that egg becomes a lot more precious. When we have a lot of friends and then we only have one friend, you know, whatever it is, it comes down to when we realize what we have. We realize that we only have one life; we have this moment; we have this day and how we can relate to it. We get spoiled, and when we get spoiled we get careless. So if we don’t respect the life that we have, we don’t resepct the people or the friends we have, they become more dispensable. And what we do becomes more dispensable. Living life this way creates a more superficial level, shallow level. So the contemplation in which we’re grounding our minds is just reminding ourselves, you know, “Something could happen. We should appreciate who we are, what we are”. The day, from when we get up to when we go to bed, is what we have and what are we going to do with that day? The way I think about it is, the mind works on habits. So if you begin to habitually train your mind to be shallow, to be careless, that’s how it’s going to be more tomorrow. If you train to be more deep and insightful, it will be more deep and insightful tomorrow. So what happens is, by our getting up in the morning and thinking, “Another day, who cares? I have to rush to do this” we’re actually ingraining that habit. So tomorrow we’re more likely to rush and to be less caring and less interested tomorrow. So we think, “Oh, when it’s really important, I’ll be more caring”. But it’s going to be hard because we’ve is a sense trained ourselves the opposite way. So a lot of times when something really important happens we just don’t know how to deal with it, because we’ve actually trained ourselves the other way. So the notion of training ourselves, or grounding ourselves…. I think the mind is very powerful because most of us, when we have the time to relax and focus, meditate and focus, all of the sudden the reality comes through and we’re really affected by it. So we have a day, it’s a lifetime. What do you want to do in this lifetime? What do you want to do in this day? What’s important? Well, clearly, if we have friends we say, “I want to tell them how much I love them. I want to listen to what they’re saying. I want to see them. I’m not going to just lay my trip on them. When I’m eating my food, I’m not just going to gobble it up and throw it away; I’m going to enjoy each bite”. And again, it doesn’t have to be slow motion. We don’t have to become…our time doesn’t have to stand still, but just the attitude and appreciation. So that’s the notion of “free and well-favored”. We are free; we are well-favored; we are fortunate. Why don’t we realize that and why don’t we wake up to that? If we can wake up to that, I feel like it’s like really good hot sauce on — life, you know, you put it on until it makes everything tastes better. And what we do is that we’ve taken all the taste away from our life and so we need to put that back in. And from the wisdom that we have, if we put that back in, using this technique of, or this practice of reflecting on how fortunate we are, we don’t know how long it’s going to be here, how long we will have it… and we’re not stupid, we realize that’s not some sort of mental game or trick– this is reality. Okay, if we don’t have tomorrow, then how are we going to live today? Well, more appreciatively, more carefully. And then in the back of our mind we think, “Oh, this good. This is helping me deepen”. So if I have another day, it will be a deep day; it will be a more important day. That’s what we call a full life, fully enlightened life.

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