The Truly Advanced Practice of Everyday Life

The everyday practice is simply to develop a complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions.
— Trungpa Rinpoche

"After rousing a mind and heart that care for others, we enter into daily life carrying that motivation, the strong wish to be of benefit to others. Eventually, like being swept along by a powerful rushing river, this stream carries us into action: giving material support and encouragement, being patient, extending ourselves to lighten someone's burden — and then extending ourselves again. For most of us, there is no foreseeable shortage of opportunities to work with the anguish, suffering, and despair around us.

"The skillful approach is to use the daily challenges of family and work relationships as ways of awakening the heart, steps on the path of compassion. From the smallest irritations in a home ('Dammit, who left the refrigerator door open again?') to the increase of rude behavior in public spaces (road rage at being cut off in traffic), all our interactions with others involve communicating. The way we drive our morning commute or ride our bicycle, the way we speak, the way we hand someone a file folder — either we're expressing mindlessness, carelessness, and speed or mindful consideration and respect for others.

"Human beings are sensitive to the actions of those around them. Some workplaces are filled with backbiting and snide remarks, undercurrents of barely concealed resentment and jealousy. We dread returning to such environments not because of the workload (which often looms fearfully larger than it really is in such surroundings) but because we hate the atmosphere that radiates discouragement and quiet desperation.

"Walking the path of awakening the heart means stepping into any environment with the strong motivation of care and appreciation. If we are in touch with our own heart, our way of being is naturally encouraging to others, supporting their bravery and genuineness. The French word Coeur means 'heart.' It's the source of the English word 'courage.' The Tibetan teacher Patrul Rinpoche is said to have greeted people not by asking, 'How have you been?' but instead, 'Has your heart been kind?' A worthwhile contemplation at the end of each day would be to think back over our activities and whether what we did or said was discouraging or encouraging for those around us. This self-reflection is not a matter of seeking praise or blame, a gold star or an internal reprimand. The point is daily mindfulness of our state of being and its expression. We are not only born into certain situations; we are making the environments we live and work in. As the title of a book of poems has it: 'The life you ordered has arrived.' This daily contemplation is simply asking ourselves: what kind of life are we ordering and making for ourselves and others?"