Buddhist Philosophy

Preferences, Habit, Practice

Preferences dominate our thinking most of the time whether we consciously note them or not.  We carry them into our meditation practice. But is that smart? We like or we dislike–often intensely. And if we are practicing meditation, we may be surprised to notice that we spend a lot of time pursuing or discussing our own preferences. Moreover, we may invest preferences with a lot of power.

Often, we decide that we don’t like a particular practice. And then we decide we shouldn’t continue it. Some people react strongly against ritual practices, for example–and think that they are happier just sitting in meditation quietly. But is that really so easy?

Preferences: Just Habits and Patterns

Here, instructor Erric Solomon points out how we subtly cling to our own preferences, opinions, and habits. Now, we can’t just turn this thinking off–we’re wired that way.  But, we can start to develop a curiosity about our own mind. Preferences don’t have to rule our reactions–instead, we can use them as an opportunity to observe our patterns.

As we do that, we can gently begin to explore practices we may have found irritating or frustrating. We may not feel immediately comfortable–but can we be open to that experience?  Holding on tightly to our own preferences may feel powerful, but do we really benefit from continually repeating our old habits?

Reflection Exercise

In the next month or so, take a few minutes to check in with yourself as you approach your meditation practice. Where might you feel resistance, even if it is subtle? What might you learn from that slight dislike or discomfort–what is being challenged?

These investigations can be quite interesting and you may find yourself uncovering layers of subtle patterns. Take some time to play with this, and to discuss your findings with Dharma friends and your teacher.

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Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.