December 26, 2011

The most meaningful New Year’s resolution: Bodhicitta.

I love a new year, even if it’s nothing but a faux calendar-based opportunity every 365 days to “start over.” I used to write gobs of detailed resolutions to improve every aspect of my life — physical health, relationships, career, yoga practice, and so forth. It was pretty absurd. For the past few years, instead of setting resolutions, I’ve framed my fresh intentions as new year’s solutions. The difference is subtle but essential. Goals can be a drag; intentions feel like a more flexible and intrinsic form of motivation.

My intention in the coming year, a year of inevitable movement, is to cultivate bodhicitta by studying, practicing and living my Dharma, my truth.

Bodhicitta is the authentic mind and open heart of a Bodhisattva, a peaceful warrior whose “weapons” are compassion, presence, wisdom and equanimity. In practical terms, a Bodhisattva recognizes the interconnectedness of all beings — the truth that we are all the same despite our outward differences in appearance and personality. No matter how difficult or unredeemable a person may seem, bodhicitta sees the imminent potential of redemption, of kindness, of love.

If you’re new to the whole meditation thing, here are some practical meditation instructions to help get you started.


In An Open Heart, His Holiness the Dalai Lama writes:

Compassion is the very essence of an open heart and must be cultivated throughout our journey.

Equanimity removes our prejudices and enables our altruism to reach all sentient beings.

Bodhicitta is the commitment to actually help them.


First, we must recognize our afflictive emotions and bad habits as evidence of our continuing state of attachment and consider, once again, their harmful nature. Second, we must apply the appropriate antidotes and marshal the determination not to indulge in these emotions further. We must remain focused on our commitment to all sentient beings.

At the beginning of your meditation you should say to yourself, “I will not allow my mind to be distracted by thoughts of the future, anticipations, hopes, or fears, nor will I let my mind stray toward memories of the past. I will remain focused on this present moment.”

Once you have cultivated such a will, you will take that space between past and future as the object of meditation and simply maintain your awareness of it, free of any conceptual thought processes.

Ceremony for generating the altruistic mind wishing enlightenment:

With a wish to free all beings
I shall always go for refuge
To the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
Until I reach full enlightenment.

Enthused by wisdom and compassion,
today in the Buddha’s presence
I generate the Mind Wishing Full Awakening
For the benefit of all sentient beings.

As long as space remains,
As long as sentient beings remain,
Until then, may I too remain,
And dispel the miseries of the world.

May your 2012 be filled with delight!

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