Attendees at this weekend’s teachings with Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche at Karma Triyana Dharmacakra in Woodstock, New York (“Exploring the Four Foundations of Mindfulness”) may have heard a different approach to the dharma than they had expected.
The Four Foundations of Mindfulness is one of Buddhism’s most famed frameworks for working with the mind and awareness, both on and off the meditation cushion. By settling your mind and investigating the true nature of your body, feelings, mind, and the world around you, it is possible not only to connect with a natural calmness, but also to uncover profound insights that bring freedom from suffering.
Ancient teachings, yet still as effective as ever at calming and awakening the mind. When such revered teachings are delivered by Ponlop Rinpoche, the depth of the presentation would be enough. But add to that the astonishing irony of Rinpoche’s teaching metaphors, and participants expecting a typical talk on mindfulness drop the presuppositions they came in with, and listen with renewed interest.
With the casual creativity of a beat poet or a rap genius, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche surprises and delights his listeners with wordplay, and with allusions to the brand names, news headlines, and musical icons of urban culture that tug at our minds, and so often cause us to lose our mindfulness.
A few moments from Saturday’s program:
“‘Emotionally stable’ sounds strange. What do you call it? Oxymoron?”
“Being fully present in the now means to be mindful with undivided attention — with a one-pointed mind on the object of interest. Like for example, a sniper.”
“From a mindfulness point of view we ALL have attention deficit disorder.”
And always Ponlop Rinpoche offers a boost of encouragement, with the relaxing twist that makes awakening feel warmer, closer, and less like the ultra-serious project we tend to make of it:
“Our goal in practice is not success, but to give it a try. You aren’t supposed to succeed — at least not all the time — but what we’re looking for is for genuine effort. We can’t achieve enlightenment if we expect to be successful. Let go, just try . . . and enjoy.”