Meditation + Talk: What Are You Doing Here? The Why and the How of Buddhist Practice
January 5, 2024

This Wednesday Night Meditation included a 35-minute meditation and a 47-minute talk about What Are You Doing Here? The Why and the How of Buddhist Practice.

If you’d like to read my notes from this talk and meditation, please scroll down past the videos.

I hope you find it helpful, and you are welcome to join my free Wednesday Meditations – which are open to everyone!


Download the Audio of this Meditation


Download the Audio of this Talk

Notes on “What Are You Doing Here?”

The Why and the How of Buddhist Practice

Buddha’s journey: reliable, stable, unconditioned basis for profound inner peace.

He found it. With the result of a mind free of hatred, greed, and delusion . . . a mind rested in love, contentment, and wisdom.

On the basis of sila – restraint, morality, virtue – and metta (friendliness, kindness, compassion), the aim of practice in early Buddhism is to be an arahant, one whose mind is incapable of hatred, greed, or delusion, and utterly empty of the presumption of self. With the presumption that there would no longer be the conditions leading to future rebirth.

As Buddhism and Buddhist practiceevolved over the next thousand years and spread outward from India into Tibet and China, the aim of practice was increasingly presented in terms of the bodhisattva ideal, one who is very developed in practice but postpones ultimate awakening until all beings are awakened as well.

From our perspective, we can imagine the combination of these two aims of Buddhist practice, including how they affect our daily activities, combining both rigorous personal development and profound far-reaching, prosocial, compassionate actions. We can certainly focus on what is immediately in front of us: feeling less afflicted by trauma, less caught by addictions, less prickly and worried and reactive. Absolutely important and worthy. And – the Buddha encouraged us to keep our eyes on the ultimate prize even as we practice with what is immediately in front of us.

So, how to do it?
How will you do it, this coming year?
What efforts will you make, toward what ends?

Personally, I find it really helpful to “be the change I seek.” Or “take the fruit as the path.” In other words, focus on particular qualities of being to call into being, and protect, and nurture, and grow.

This approach to practice is intimate with yourself. It’s experiential, emotional, somatic. It’s more about what you feel than what you think.

And it’s effective, since being is the wellspring of doing. Being is the origin point. And it tends to take less effort. You are giving yourself over to what is already true in yourself, and helping it fill your mind and carry you along.

For example:

Cultivate generosity, a life of peace,
and a mind of boundless love.

—Itivuttaka 1.22

So please consider what you would like to call into being inside yourself this year, and protect, and nurture, and grow. Are there intuitions about ways of being, attitudes, guiding principles, values, etc. that call to you?

Consider particular stressful situations or relationships. What ways of being would really help if they were more active or stable inside you? Perhaps add examples in the chat.

To nourish your reflections, consider if the Brahmaviharas, as ways of being, call to you, perhaps particularly one of these:

  • Kindness
  • Compassion
  • Happiness for others
  • Equanimity

These are good examples of “being the change you seek, taking the fruit as the path.”

Also consider these ways of being — which I cover in my Neurodharma book and online course — both fruits of practice and a path:

  • Steadiness
  • Lovingness
  • Fullness
  • Wholeness
  • Nowness
  • Allness
  • Timelessness

Stepping back, what are wise efforts here, related to what we’ve explored?

First, there is the effort of knowing why you are here, now, today, NOW, in this life . . . the effort of knowing what you value, and why. Like knowing one or a few ways of being that are a particular focus for you this year.

Second, there is the effort of being mindful of that way of being, feeling it, and enjoying it. Knowing what it is like, so you can return to it.

Third, there is the effort of helping that way of being to become more stable in you, more of a trait not just a passing feeling or attitude or other state of mind.

And fourth, there is the effort of course giving yourself over to that way of being, surrendering to it, letting it have you, letting IT being the current carrying you along in the stream of your life.

Let’s take a few minutes to imagine this happening for you this year. Personally, I wish this for you.

Let’s take a moment together to wish this for each other.

And you can open to knowing that others are wishing this for you.

These teachings are offered freely, at no charge. 

And if you like, you may wish to participate in the age-old tradition of generosity through making an offering yourself – called “dāna” – to support Rick and the Wednesday Meditations. Generosity itself is a beautiful practice that opens and gladdens the heart, relaxes the contraction of “self,” and ripples out into the world to touch many people – and perhaps, eventually, even oneself. 

Dāna offering:

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