Buddha statue quiet lake
Self-Improvement and Self-Acceptance
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Self-Improvement and Self-Acceptance (11 min.) MP3
Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing
June 16, 2013 - Dallas, Texas

Thank you, dear friends, for your practice tonight. No frills. Simple and silent. I just came back this afternoon from teaching a class for yoga teachers who are learning how to teach meditation. During our practice of walking meditation, one of the yogis had her two Chihuahuas in the building, and they were barking the whole time. But that was okay because part of the practice of mindfulness is just to be aware and accepting and to just include whatever is happening in this moment.

Later on, I learned from this yogi that, first of all, I know that dog spelled backwards is god. I told everyone, "Well, sometimes you have to listen to the messages from the divine in various ways." It is also a challenge, and it was a good challenge for us to see how accepting we could be. Then the yogi pointed out to me that the dog's name was Buddha. So Buddha teaches us in many ways. The divine teaches us in many ways.

So today I'm feeling very tired, I am noticing, and I am accepting that. I noticed that during the meditation this evening, my sleepiness would cause a lot of thoughts and wandering, daydreaming, sleepy kind of mind. But I accept that. That reminds me a few days ago when I was practicing at home. I had a similar thing that was occurring, and I had a thought, well, sometimes practice is just to do it, just to do it without any expectations, without trying to get anything out of it, just to sit and breathe and be for a few minutes, just to experience this moment, just to open yourself to whatever is happening. Because that is actually our whole life.

There is a saying, life is yoga or yoga is life. I think the same is true of meditation. Life is our meditation. Meditation is our life. So when we sit and just be and accept in our formal meditation practice, that supports us in our life practice. Being able to walk through our whole life with a more open, accepting heart, just being and experiencing everything as it arises.

So tonight, in the spirit of no-frills practice day, and in the spirit of Father's Day, I would like for us to just share any reflections on insights or challenges in our practice and in our mindful relationships, especially to those who are father figures in our lives or not. It is up to you. And if you want to raise an issue or a question for further reflection, that is fine also. Maybe then that will stimulate my sleepy brain.

Last week, in my Monday meditation group, I heard myself saying something about self-improvement and self-acceptance. So I thought maybe I would share a little bit of that with you. In a balanced spiritual life, we have to cultivate both self-improvement and self-acceptance. However, because we live in a culture that overemphasizes self-improvement, we need to over-emphasize self-acceptance as part of our practice. So don't worry too much about motivating yourself for self-improvement. I would advise just keep practicing acceptance, not just self-acceptance, but acceptance of everything. And that is actually what mindfulness partly is about. It is about not just awareness but also acceptance. It is an inclusive awareness.

So, when we practice sitting and walking mindfully and just living mindfully, a very major aspect of that is learning to just open and include and be completely accepting of what is right here and right now. Because if we are too focused upon self-improvement, when self-improvement exists without the balancing factor self-acceptance, self-improvement very quickly degrades to self-judgment, self-hatred, self-rejection. That is why it is so important to practice the acceptance aspect of everything, too.

So, if the same thing is true when we look at our meditation practice. Don't just go into meditation with this goal-seeking attitude. I'm going to meditate because I want peace or I'm going to meditate because I want to be enlightened or I'm going to meditate so I can feel good. Don't go into it like that. Go into it as a practice of just acceptance, just to be. This is the practice of spending 20 or more minutes with the opportunity to just be, just accept. So accept this body as it is right now. Accept this mind as it is right now. Accept that noise as it is right now. Accept that thought as it is right now. Accept that leg falling asleep as it is right now. So I think of meditation practice of the practice of acceptance. It is just your daily or weekly opportunity to practice acceptance, and hopefully that will overflow into the rest of your day and week.

But the neat thing about this practice of acceptance is the more you practice this meditation of acceptance, the more your life does improve, and the more your attitude improves, and the more your ability to be at peace with others improves, and the more you are able to improve your world around you. You don't have to worry about it. It is natural. It is an organic, automatic process that happens if you practice acceptance. So our part is to practice acceptance, and that improvement will happen naturally.

On the other hand, for those who do not regularly practice or are not regularly part of community, I would probably say a very different thing to them. I would say stop being so lazy. You know? And start making changes in your life. Don't just think that you can float along and everything will just kind of happen by itself. You have a part to play. And I probably would say something more like that to them.

But for you guys, most of you, I would think I would just say our practice really is just to come to a place of acceptance.

Bobbie: ChiSing, do you think that is also what Thich Nhat Hanh talks about, the still water reflecting? It is reflecting exactly what is without judgment.

ChiSing: Mm-hmm. All right. Well, thank you so much for your practice and for sharing in this very simple, no-frills practice day. Next Sunday will be the opposite because we will be celebrating the full moon and the Summer Solstice, with lots of music and chanting and longer teaching time…

Transcribed by Jessica Hitch

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