Thursday, August 12, 2010

From Zambia - Conditioned mind’s self-improvement plans


Yesterday the leadership team from the Cooperative in Kantolomba came to Castle Lodge for our first big powwow of this trip. At these meetings we always attempt to look at specific issues and big picture items.

The Cooperative, quite on their own, came up with the year 2030 as their target date for Compound-wide sustainability. Not just the forty or so families involved directly with Living Compassion, but the entire thirteen-thousand-soul population of Kantolomba Compound. To choose 2030 as the sustainability goal for our primary group would not be impressive, but 2030 as the sustainability goal for the entire Compound is an outrageously ambitious proposition.

As we’ve read and listened to conversations among development people, we’ve learned that two things are important: 1) metrics (exactly how much of this, how fast, verifiable and preferably replicable, and 2) a solid exit strategy (we want to go in there, get it done, and get out). Sitting in that meeting yesterday I had a couple of, for me, helpful insights and a few peaceful chuckles.

Egocentric karmic conditioning, as we know, is very serious—about itself. Who it is, what it does, and what it thinks is terribly important and meaningful. That perspective goes a long way toward keeping other illusions-of-selves-separate-from-life focused on believing this illusory world of ego is the only reality and must be the recipient of all time, attention, and effort. This should not be a surprise to us.

I bet each one of us can find our own “personal” relationship with that very same process. There is something about you that has been identified as a problem or simply in need of improvement. A plan is formulated. Expectations are established. A timetable is created. Standards are applied. And, where has that landed us?

If we’ve fallen for enough of conditioned mind’s self-improvement plans (in which “it” puts forth a plan to improve a “me”), we get it that the whole process is never going to achieve the stated goals because the whole process is set up not to achieve the stated goals but to achieve a set of “unstated goals”—failure, guilt, blame, recriminations, discord, and suffering.

We have several guiding principles in our practice, familiar sayings designed to assist us in navigating our way through the landmines egocentric karmic conditioning unwaveringly directs us toward.
~~It’s not what; it’s how.
~~With the ideal comes the actual.
~~One process does not lead to another.
~~You will do for the love of others what you would never be willing to do for yourself.
~~Here/Now/This is all there is.
~~There is no self and other.
~~There is nothing wrong.
~~What you have is what you do.
~~The quality of your life is determined by the focus of your attention.
~~What you practice is what you have.
~~The person who realizes intrinsic enlightenment in the morning does not mind dying in the afternoon.

2030 may arrive and some or all of us may be here to see it. Does that matter? Not a whit. All that we have, all we will ever “have,” is This/Here/Now. We have the amount of air we have in our lungs and the amount of love we have in our hearts. That’s it. If we waste a single second of this most precious gift of conscious, compassionate awareness we call life in order to try to fix or change something, we are in danger of missing the point entirely. In other words, “Always we hope someone else has the answer, some other place will be better, some other time it will all turn out. This is it; no one else has the answer, no other place will be better, and it has already turned out.” -- Lao Tzu



  1. I just learned of the advanced cancer, a tumor behind the heart, of my best friend.

    It was if I had arrived at a fork in the road of conscious choice:

    Do I weep and lament the loss of the miles and miles of nature hiking we shared for 25 years?

    Do I celebrate the miles and miles of nature hiking we shared for 25 years.

    But one thing is certain:
    Conditioned mind wants me to suffer.

    So, the choice is to suffer as a reflex.
    Or, to invite Loving Compassionate Awareness to support me in the grief process.

    And what I discover is that ending suffering is not wishful thinking. It is actually available now. Here.

    Deep Gassho to the Ancestors who have preserved the Dharma, the Sangha who maintain it and the willingness to live it.

  2. " . . . ~~You will do for the love of others what you would never be willing to do for yourself . . ."

    Don't know why this is true, but it applies to me. Big time.

    Don't know where I'll be in 2030, but I know I can offer a kind word to someone who is dealing with the loss of a dear friend that makes me sad, but aware that friend will have someone with them as the soul moves on . . .

    michael j
    Conshohocken, PA USA

  3. I loved this post! Yes, because funders are obsessed with metrics, many development projects have come up with a "system" to "measure," to "prove that it's working."

    I just read in the Gray Lady about a women's co-op that took off and was doing great -- until their husbands pulled the plug (it was in Pakistan I think). Many, many things we can't forestall, and I just think about that starfish metaphor, it's the only thing that makes sense -- if it matters to one, in the moment, then it matters [thanks to whoever taught me that, I'll bet it was you :) ].