So, I promised you I’d give you some activities or things that we could do to help rebalance the ecology of the heart.
There is a big list and because we live in the information age you could literally Google “What to do to help the environment personally” and you’d find some awesome lists. I am not saying the list I have is the best at all, I just think it’s really cool because it comes from His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, who is a Tibetan lineage holder.
I share this with you as a resource, and please Google away if you want. The reason I like it, my favorite part of it is actually these eight strategies. It’s way down on the 7th page, under “His Holiness the Karmapa emphasizes in particular the following eight strategies.”
The first one is “Create a mandala of nature. It should be a special place.” He is talking about monasteries at this point but I’m thinking of land near us where we could do that. He states, “It’s an offering to all wonderful things in nature, flowers, trees, water, recognizing the earth itself is an offering. This will be in keeping with the Kagyu tradition…” and he goes on. So that is a little idea for you.
What I would suggest as a takeaway, besides these lists, is picking one or two things that you can actually do that you haven’t done.
Another one I love, a simple activity, this is so easy. The Zen Center in the town I used to live in did this. They do beach trash clean up because we were on the beach and we would go down and just pick up the trash. So simple. So fun. It feels good. It’s not going to save the world, and it’s important. It feels like an offering and it is! The community sees you and people say thank you!
I know in the late 1970s there was a No Broken Windows Policy because there was all this vandalism and crime and broken windows and graffiti and things, and one of the approaches was just to fix all the broken windows and have people cleaning up trash. The instances of broken windows totally dropped. It’s an historical thing. Now that doesn’t mean all of the policy was great, I’m sure there were bad things about it, but I just bring up the idea because, isn’t it interesting, if we do care and show care inside or outside of our home, it has an effect. There is something to that. Very simple practice that actually feels really good.
The most important one that I want to share, and again, you can look through these cool lists online if you want, I encourage you to find some little things you like to do, pick a few, just one or two. Try different things that you can do that are a little bit of an offering to the environment and your world.
I do think connecting action out of our practice of connecting with the senses is super important. If it just stays here and we don’t act on it, there is a little bit of we’re not as nature, and we want to hit that fourth stage where we start to protect our environment, our earth, because we feel a part of it, just like we take care of ourselves.
I feel like it’s such a false dichotomy to say “You can’t fix it all so your little things don’t matter.” That is not true. That is not a nurturing view and it’s not even how human culture and perception work. Little things do matter. The systemic changes will also have to happen, but I think they go together.
That is the humility, that each of us is just a person and we do our best, but doing something small feels good, even if you look at it as just a practice, just an offering. Even if one person sees you cleaning up the trash it is kind of like that moment when you see the beautiful ram on the mountain and everyone is going crazy. There is that little reminder of “Oh, wow. Thank you!” or “Huh. I could do that!”
Sometimes we get so overwhelmed and we feel like there is nothing we can do, but even just doing one little thing. Again, it’s back to my aspiration prayer at the beginning, it seems so tiny and fragile but that is the kind of bravery that we hold as practitioners. We nurture those fragile wishes. That is what our tradition is.
That is why it is so brave and courageous. It’s not because we know we’re going to win. That’s not courageous. We’re like “Okay, this is tender, I’m going to do it anyway.” That is a beautiful practice.
I also promised you a way to connect with your local dralas and that is the last thing I want to share because I think it is the most important.
In Tibet there was a tradition of incredible indigenous wisdom. When Buddhism came, and especially a couple of hundred years ago, some of the Nyingmapa or Dzogchen lineages started connecting with these ideas of windhorse or life force, drala, and authentic presence. These things have been around for hundreds of years in Tibet.
There was a feeling that raising one’s life force was essential to counteracting the dark age because one of the qualities of the five degenerations of the dark age is that literally the light in your heart, the sense of life force, gets dimmer, so sickness and mental illness increases. We’ve seen that! As your life force is dimmer, you’re less resilient.
So there was a formula that was developed, and I don’t mean this in a cheeky way, I mean it with true respect, but it was a formula, or a practice instruction, let’s put it that way. It is very simple.
How do you increase your life force? Well, there are many ways, one is to connect with your senses, and through connecting with your senses and connecting with the brilliance and beauty of nature, and having sense perceptions, you raise your life force by going into nature. When you connect with nature and raise your life force by appreciating your senses, you start to notice what is called drala, which very literally is perception beyond aggression.
What did we just do in our last practice? That is a way to see dralas! I taught you how to see dralas!
I don’t mean literally like there will be a funny little mustached creature on a horse going “Hi!” It just means you’ll be sensitive when you’re not buying into your thoughts telling you that “You can’t see fairies, they’re not real!” I’m not talking about seeing fairies, although it’s cool if you do.
The mind is beautiful. Let yourself open. It’s more like just seeing your thoughts as part of nature. That is perception beyond aggression. Do you see what I’m saying? You’re not telling the world what it is. You’re not ‘splaining the world and saying “You’re this…” You’re just opening, and then you feel things! Oh my gosh! Surprise, surprise! We know this. I don’t need to tell you.
So going into nature, opening the senses. Find a spot in nature where you open your senses with this practice that I’ve given you, and then when you feel something, start to make a friendship with those feelings or energies in a particular place.
Some of us have an outside sit spot. That comes from the indigenous wisdom traditions all over. It doesn’t have to be one spot where you sit, often there is a spot, and it might look like a tree.
I want to tell you a really beautiful little story. A friend of mine was once with Trungpa Rinpoche in Colorado and Rinpoche said “I want to introduce you to someone.” He walked out into nature with this person and he was kind of nervous. According to this person, he was so excited, he said “This is a drala!” and he pointed to this juniper tree. He stepped out of the way like “I’ll let you two connect.” The person was like “Uh, it’s a tree…” But they opened, they relaxed, and they did feel something!
You know when you touch a tree you feel something. Practice touching different trees or feeling them. Often for me it’s a tree or maybe at the convergence of a little river, or the way certain rocks are. Look for rocks, look for moss.
There are signs in the environment, but more importantly, let your heart and your feelings connect you to a spot, and then make a relationship to it, make offerings to it. They don’t need to be physical offerings necessarily although you can offer a little tea or something.
More importantly even when you don’t go there physically you can bring this spot to mind and imagine just shining a little light up and out as an offering. So find a little spot and then imagine when you’re home that whatever that energy is it can land on the top of your head. Literally just once a day during your practice in the morning just revisit this place that you found.
I have done this and I cannot tell you how powerful it is. When I go back to the place, the place feels different to me, I’m more sensitive to it, and even if I don’t go there, when I connect to it, it raises my life force to have drala on the top of my head, quite literally imagining that, and it’s local drala, meaning they are connected with the web of perceptions around us and the auspicious coincidences are somehow connected to this too.
In other words, if we touch into that energy, we touch into the auspicious coincidences that are around us in our social and environment. It’s fascinating.
The last element is our authentic presence. When we connect with that drala, local drala specifically, I find that I have more energy and I shine out a little more because my life force has been nourished.
It’s like a little circle. You raise your life force by doing the sense perception practices, going into nature, making a friend of the energy in nature, and then call upon it, invite it, then feel some sense of authentic connection or presence, and then do it again. It’s like a little formula that way, it’s so simple, but it was literally shared with us so that we wouldn’t succumb to the degenerations of this time.
So, find a spot, make a friend! You can have an invisible friend! Opening the senses, the way that we described, really is what helps us see and feel the energies of this sense of drala or local drala.
If you’re in your head and you’re thinking and evaluating your experience, it’s almost like a block, you can’t see, it’s like a veil. If you feel something and it’s benefitting you, then it’s happening in your experience and it is real in that way. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone.
This is also something that connects us to being a part of nature, even when we’re not in it. When you remember the spot that typifies and has that energy you can connect even when you’re not there physically and then it changes the way you feel in your home.
May we all experience and share in this rebalancing the ecology of the heart.
This is the last in a series of blog posts.
Ecology of the Heart Part 1
Ecology of the Heart Part 2
Ecology of the Heart Part 3
Ecology of the Heart Part 4
Ecology of the Heart Part 5
Ecology of the Heart Part 6
Ecology of the Heart Part 7
Ecology of the Heart Part 8
Ecology of the Heart Part 9
Ecology of the Heart Part 10
Ecology of the Heart Part 11
Ecology of the Heart Part 12