I rode my bicycle to attend Gen-la Kelsang Dekyong‘s talk on Meditation and Modern Buddhism yesterday, and parked it on the sidewalk. The main idea Gen-la had for us was: Take control of your mind, and she left us with the parting message to think about how others are important and their happiness matters. As I walked out of the centre, charged with energy to carry out her teachings, I met my first hurdle. Someone threw an empty packet of potato chips into the basket of my bicycle. Immediately, I felt a quick surge of annoyance go through my core, but in a spilt second, it was quickly met with another virtue that left me calm and composed.

“When things go wrong in our life and we encounter difficult situations, we tend to regard the situation itself as our problem, but in reality whatever problems we experience come from the side of the mind. If we were to respond to difficult situations with a positive or peaceful mind they would not be problems for us; indeed, we may even come to regard them as challenges or opportunities for growth and development. Problems arise only if we respond to difficulties with a negative state of mind. Therefore, if we want to be free from problems, we must transform our mind.”

Gen-la addressed three questions that many of us might have trouble understanding and/or answering:
1. What’s the most meaningful thing I can do with my life?
2. How can I be truly happy?
3. What would we do when our life’s over?

As humans, we are prone to thinking that “we are like servants of our mind; whenever it wants to do something, we have to do it without any choice.” However, we should realize that this is untrue. An uncontrolled mind would lead us to voice out comments, judgements, and opinions of others before we can stop ourselves. We have the ability to train our mind, to cultivate patience, love, compassion and wisdom for ourselves, people and everything around us. We are not servants of our mind unless we choose to be.

“Our mind is like a field, and performing actions is like sowing seeds in that field. Virtuous actions sow seeds of future happiness and non-virtuous actions sow seeds of future suffering. These seeds remain dormant in our mind until the conditions for them to ripen occur, and then they produce their effect.”

The seeds of happiness come from achieving mental peace and clarity, brought about by virtuous actions like meditation. When we meditate, we contemplate on the preciousness of our human life; what we should abandon, practice, or attain; and train the mind to love. Once the mind has been fully developed, we will discover the inner richness that we possess, which carries through with us even after death.

In those few seconds after finding the packet of eaten chips in my basket, I was extremely aware of my bodily actions, speech and thoughts — a practice that I’m currently training myself to do. Over the past year as a cyclist on the busy Toronto streets, I have yelled nasty words at drivers (or trash-dropping folks) whenever things didn’t go my way. Coincidentally, Gen-la brought up the topic of drivers and cyclists, and how they would get frustrated at each other on the road. Sure, education might eventually gear us towards driving/cycling harmoniously together, but change starts from within the individual. In the past few months, I have been working to understand why I’d lash out at drivers and was frustrated with my inability to cultivate compassion of any sort for them. Through countless sessions with my yoga teacher, I realized that frustration and compassion have to exist in the same space, and neither side would win the other if our intention is to be mindful beings. It is human to feel frustrated but it’s the trained mind that allows us to feel compassion. And eventually, these two would come together as one. And hey, isn’t that the teaching of yoga? Yes, it’s the teaching of yoga — to yoke our mind and body together which then allows us to experience a greater, spiritual connection with our nature in the purest form.

After five years of practicing yoga, I’m just starting to understand little snippets of it. And all thanks to my bicycle, Toronto busy roads, and trash-droppers, I’m beginning to understand how to take control of my mind and contemplate on how others are important and their happiness matters. Thank you!

misscheryltan bicycle toronto

Quotes were taken from “Modern Buddhism” by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.