Taking Joy Where You Find It: Lama Kathy’s Dharma Blog
With the stresses and pressures of modern life, joy can seem hard to find. Personal finance troubles, hassles at work (or the search for gainful employment), and interpersonal difficulties can consume our waking thoughts and energy all by themselves – to say nothing of the feelings that can wash over us when we read about warfare, crime, and politics both around the world and here at home.
In this midst of all this, joy seems to be a distant dream at best – or, at worst, an unrealistic fantasy.
Knowing where to invest our energy in a world in which everything seems to cry out for it can be bewildering. Some folks get glued to the headlines on the web or on television, thinking that their attention will somehow make the news take a turn for the better, instead of the worse.
The Buddha’s teachings give us a way through this modern gauntlet of stressors. Meditation gives us a small measure of control over our attention; the simple discipline of placing one’s attention on the breath, and then gently noticing when our attention drifts – and re-placing that attention on the breath for a fresh start – can empower us in a simple but profound way.
Knowing that we have the potential to move our attention consciously from one topic to another can help us step in and interrupt a train of thought (or worry, or whatever) before it carries us too far down the tracks of mental affliction. We can stop the train through this recognition, and then hold it in place with our breath – shifting our attention to the breath in moments of stress and pressure, just breathing through it and allowing it to begin to dissipate.
And once we’ve started interrupting thoughts, we can also begin to replace them with other thoughts – more worthwhile thoughts such as the Four Immeasurable Meditations:
May all beings be happy and have the causes of happiness,
May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering,
May all beings have that great joy that is freedom from suffering.
May all beings dwell in great equanimity, free from attachment and aversion.
Being able to stop the flow of negative mental afflictions opens up the possibility to change our thoughts, and it’s from those changed thoughts that the joy in life can begin peeking through.
In his Second Noble Truth, the Buddha said that the cause of suffering is “clinging and fixation” – to people, to things, to ideas – but most especially self-fixation and self-clinging. Furthermore, the Buddha reminded us that everything we think, say, and do under the influence of this self-fixation produces internal pain and suffering that can lead us to think badly of, and harm, others.
Quiet sitting meditation, therefore, can help us open the door for joy. But there’s another step that will bring joy closer to us; we’ll discuss that in next week’s blog post.
Meanwhile, look for opportunities to stop your train of self-fixation this week; find a moment to breathe, and imagine you are opening that door to joy. More next week!
The Journey Home: We Did It! First Goal Reached. Now…
Gratitude is overflowing at Columbus KTC, as we’ve reached our first goal – completing our $108,000 emergency fundraiser.
In seven months we raised $114,000 – enough to cover most of the losses that weren’t covered by insurance. It’s a good feeling to know that folks saw our need and stepped up – we can’t thank you enough.
Now we’re working toward the next goal – a “nest egg” of cash to lay the foundation for our new home.
The effort kicked off in grand style at the annual 10-Day Teaching program at our “home” monastery, Karma Triyana Dharmacharka.
Every year, about 80-100 people attend this teaching, given by our beloved founder Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche. And every year, KTD uses the occasion to raise money for worthy causes.
Most years, the cause is KTD Monastery itself; in past years, the 10-Day Teaching students helped pay down the construction loans for KTD’s new Residence Wing, and last year raised funds to help pay for repairs and renovations for the main temple (called “Gompa” in Tibetan) at KTD.
But this year, KTD President Khenpo Karma Tenkyong said that as KTD is experiencing financial stability and Monastery renovation is under way, it is time to help the KTCs, and the Columbus KTC was a prime candidate.
So this year’s silent auction, raffle, and pledge drive was all for the Columbus KTC. People from all over donated items for the effort, and KTC brought its popular “Keep Calm” T-shirts and “Columbus KTC” lotus carry-all bags to offer in exchange for donations.
At week’s end, $10,000 has been raised for Columbus KTC! And Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche stunned us when he gave us the entire proceeds from his end-of-teaching offering – more than $3,000!
So we are off to a running start with our Capital Campaign. More information will be coming on this in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.
Journey Home: Neighborhood and City Approval Process
We’re in the process of asking the City of Columbus to allow the Columbus KTC to rebuild on its Grubb Street property. It’s a complex process involving many steps – two Neighborhood Zoning Review Board approvals and two City of Columbus Building and Zoning approvals.
Our first two “concept” reviews (with the East Franklinton Review Board – our Neighborhood zoning commission – and with City of Columbus Building and Zoning officials) went well, and now we are working with our attorney, architect and engineer toward creating plans for final review meetings this fall. If the Neighborhood and City approve, we move on to the next phase – interviewing contractors and starting our Capital Campaign to raise funds for the actual construction.
At this point, we don’t quite know how much the final building cost will be, but you can be sure that you’ll be hearing more about this in the weeks to come.
In the meantime, thank you for helping us get to this first goal.
Creating sacred spaces and sacred objects for this generation and the generation to come is a worthy endeavor; your donations – past and future – will produce a ripple effect that will bring more teachings of awakening to Columbus. Thank you – and may all beings benefit!
A native of Columbus, Ohio, Kathy Wesley (Lama Gyurme Chötsö) has studied Tibetan Buddhism since 1977. She has been active in the Columbus Karma Thegsum Choling since its inception in 1977, and has served the center in a variety of roles, including meditation instructor, newsletter editor and secretary. From 1986 until 1991, she was the center’s administrative director. Lama Kathy now serves the Columbus KTC as its resident teacher.
From June 1993 until May 1996, Kathy participated in a three-year retreat led by the Ven. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche at the Karmé Ling Retreat Center in Delhi, N.Y. You can learn more about her at lamakathy.net
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