Aligning with reality

8.5 mins read

impossible jigsaw puzzleDo you ever find yourself attempting to fit all the jigsaw pieces of life together to make a perfect picture, the one they promised on the box, only to discover (yet again) that life is not remotely neat or tidy, much less perfect? Moreover, our outwardly-oriented desires are constantly bringing us into conflict with others, who have different ideas of which pieces should be placed first or go where, or — more often than not — have a different picture on the box!

On the other hand, when we drop from our head into our heart and experience some depth and peace, we can feel our inner energy winds starting to draw inwards, toward our heart, instead of flowing outwards. If we pay attention, we can actually feel some absorption or gathering of winds taking place (a bit like water absorbing into a sponge, or waves gathering or sucking back into the ocean).

Carrying on from the themes of these two articles, Deep healing and The most important journey of our life.

Why do we need to know this? Because, bottom line, we could all do with more inner peace.

Check this out for a moment: Where do you feel peaceful? Is it in your head? Where do you feel things most deeply? Is that in your head?

No, it all happens in our heart. Everyone knows this really (even those who insist the mind is the brain); which is why ❤️ is the universally understood symbol for love.

love uWe drop into our heart by simply believing we are now centered there, not in our head. Just close your eyes for a moment and imagine you are there, starting to feel that extra bit of space and peace.

We immediately start to feel less of a gap between “in here and out there” – and more peaceful. There is less of a pull toward sorting out everything and everyone “outside” and a deepening feeling of being sorted out already inside.

How do I do this???

The question on your lips now may be, “Okaaay, I sort of get it, but I am so used to being in my head! Do you have any useful tips for dropping into my heart?!”

Yes, I do, actually. One is feeling that our awareness at our head is like a dense drop of water that falls into a clear ocean-like awareness at our heart. Another is to imagine descending in an elevator.

Even a simple breathing meditation, such as this one, can help us drop into our hearts. As can the clarity of mind meditation.

Spending a few minutes turning the mind to wood, as described in this recent article, is another really good way to be heart-centered.

Mantra recitation and/or focusing on a seed letter at our heart is always very helpful.

Spiritual Guide at heart

And what I probably find most effective is to start all my meditations by dissolving a trusted holy being into my heart. He or she comes to our crown, facing the way we face; and then his body of wisdom light diminishes to the size of a thumb and he enters our crown, gradually sliding down to our heart. (If we want more detail on that, we can imagine that he descends through our central channel — like a drop of dew rolling down a blade of grass). We go with him, feeling this powerful holy being at our heart, and even feeling our mind mixing with his mind like water mixing with water.

Aligning with reality

Abiding in our heart, we come to rely less on the push and the pull of aversion and attachment, resting beyond the fray in the space of our own peaceful mind.

Gradually we come to understand that there is in fact no “out there” or, for that matter, “in here”. Our dualistic appearances subside and we come to experience how everything is the same nature as our mind. There is no gap between subject mind and object things, like a reflection held in a lake is inseparable from it, unextractable. Where the reflecting lake goes, the reflection goes, and vice versa.

Moreover, we can also come to observe and realize that everything is the same nature as not just an ordinary mind but as the bliss and emptiness of enlightened mind. Enlightenment is, after all, reality. Reality is enlightenment.

lotus from mud

In Tantra we can learn not only to recognize and experience the infinite bliss and emptiness of enlightenment, but to identify ourselves with it, thinking “This is me”, Buddha Heruka. Even more profoundly, we can learn to impute or label ourselves on the infinite bliss and emptiness of our Spiritual Guide’s enlightenment, Guru Heruka, mixing our mind with his.

The self or ego that we normally perceive, on the other hand, is conflated with a contaminated or inherently existent body and mind, aka a sore meaty body and a deluded mind. For example, when our body is sick, we think “I am sick!” And when our thoughts are irritated, we think “I am irritated!” No wonder we feel bad a lot, but it is pointless because, in fact, we are neither our body nor our mind.

Here is a brilliant quote from Kadam Morten Clausen, when he led a six-week retreat last year at the Arizona International Kadampa Retreat Center near the Grand Canyon:

Abiding in correct self-identification in alignment with reality is an essential part of our practice. We need to get to the point where we WANT TO BE Buddha Heruka—shining, instead of hiding and hoping no one notices how much pain we’re in.

Fall Festival

Where is my real, limited, painful self?

This self that we normally perceive — that concrete, limited, often painful self — is just the object of an idea, a really stupid idea at that, made up by our self-grasping ignorance. However, relating to it as if it actually exists makes us want stuff for it all the time and to constantly try to push its problems away with aversion.


Our Me or I cannot be found anywhere in the body or the mind – when we go looking for it, it disappears like a mirage, as explained in detail here.

So although we normally perceive it, upon analysis we can never find a self that exists from its own side, concretely, in and of itself.

To give you a bit more sense of what I’m talking about, here’s an example. I was looking at Denver recently from a great distance, being as I was up a big mountain. Someone standing a few feet away from me pointed for their friend, “There’s the city.”

But where exactly? I could see even with my eye awareness that none of the buildings in the distance was a city – each one was not a city, was not Denver, whatever we imagine Denver to be. We cannot find an actual Denver in any one of those buildings; it could never fit.

If we have a clear idea of what we think Denver is, we should then spend some time letting it sink in how each building is NOT Denver, because Denver for a start couldn’t fit in each building and there is far more to Denver than one building.

If we do take the time to let this sink in, then when we look at the collection of buildings we can see clearly that it is just a bunch of things that are not Denver — non-Denvers.

Yet, take those non-Denvers away, and Denver is not there either.Denver graffitti

So what is Denver? Just a name or label that we are smearing over those buildings, like mayonnaise or something. Denver is mere name, mere label, mere appearance, as explained more in this forest example. If we try to find something behind that label, we can’t. Denver disappears upon analysis, which means that it’s not really there, which means that it exists entirely in dependence upon thought/conceptual imputation/projection.

And since our thoughts are free and we are able to choose how we impute or think, we are free to impute or think something new and different, such as Heruka’s blissful mandala, and that will function for us. This is called correct imagination.

This is true of EVERYTHING. Nothing exists concretely, findable, from its own side. Everything depends on mere name. Including me. Including you.

Look, even this kitten has figured out that everything is mere name and so there’s no real problem …

Living from our heart

Some of you know all this, so for you (and me) all I’m doing here is encouraging us to be a bit more direct and to go for it. We can stop approaching Dharma from a timid place. We don’t need to keep being intimidated by our ordinary suffering deluded self – instead, whenever it appears to us, it can simply be a reminder that it doesn’t exist!

We can be very happy in the fact that our ordinary suffering limited self doesn’t exist, so nor do any of its neuroses or issues — which is by far and away the best thing about them. This leaves us free to relate to ourselves as a being with boundless potential instead. And I mean from the get-go.

After all, the inherently existent self doesn’t exist so it has no hope of changing or attaining enlightenment, so what is the point of even attempting to meditate from its perspective?

Therefore, before we do anything else by way of meditation practice, we can take a few minutes to dissolve this self away by realizing it cannot be found anywhere. Then we can start by already being who we want to be and who we need to be for our own and others’ sake, Denvermeditating from that perspective, bringing that result into the path. And we need to do it today, before ordinary appearances and conceptions close back in again, and because there is (literally) no time like the present.

For those of you who are newer to meditation and Buddhism, I’d just like to encourage you to get into good habits from the start – in particular, before you do anything else, by dropping into your heart to sense some depth and peace, and letting this remind you that you’re actually a being of boundless potential. Be confident in these methods you’re learning because they are not incremental but revolutionary, and can work very fast if you go about them the right way.

This theme sort of continues in this article Heartspace, more on how actually to get into our hearts.

Over to you 🙂 Feedback and questions welcome.

Related articles

Unleashing our potential

Moving from the head to the heart

Relaxing in your heart  

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

34 thoughts on “Aligning with reality”

  1. Love all your articles..
    Hope that you are well and going through live peacefully during these Covid unprecedented times.
    I haven’t been receiving any new articles?
    Please add me if I’m not listed anymore.
    Thank you Luna.
    Much love

  2. I saw it this morning 3rd March 2020 on Facebook. Then I lost it. Please forward. Buddha’s BLESSINGS to u. Thank you.

    Kind regards Hazel Naidoo

  3. Thank you for another great article Luna,for reminding us that we need to keep reminding ourselves every moment of every day and every night that we and all other precious mother living beings truly are blissful,enlightened beings.

  4. The video of the kitten is great, reminding me eminations come in many forms. Thanks.

  5. Always uplifting and inspiring. Thank you Luna. Family and friends shall not disturb my peace….its all emptiness. Regards Hazel

  6. Thank you for the inspiring and life-changing article!

    There is one concern I have about enlightened beings. Their minds pervade all phenomena, which would include the sufferings of all beings, and since they exchange self with everyone, they experience their suffering as their own. Is that correct? If it is, isn’t a Buddha’s mind more full of suffering and more intimate with suffering than any sentient being’s mind is? I don’t think I am that intimate with even my own suffering as my life is interspersed by sporadic enjoyments, how will I be able to hold the sufferings of countless hell beings in my mind? If I attempt it, I am afraid I will become like Langri Tampa who was always grim-faced as he was identified with the suffering of all sentient beings.

    I find a joyful perspective by imagining all sentient beings are liberated and enlightened when I self-generate but I bypass thinking too deeply about their suffering. Is that escapism or keeping my head in the clouds? At least that’s the way I can comfortably express my compassion right now. Am I somehow ‘chickening out’?

    Do you have any advice for me?

    1. Hi Yona,

      This is a very interesting question!

      Someone once asked Geshe Kelsang how an enlightened being experiences the suffering of a hell being and his answer was something to the effect of: There is no relationship between the experience of an enlightened being and the experience of a hell being.

      I am not going to pretend to understand what that means, but it seems to me that Buddha knows us better than we know our self, but he does that through relating to our potential, not to our hallucinated suffering.

      xx Paris

      1. Thank you Paris! So there is no relationship between the experience of an enlightened being and the experience of a hell being, but there is definitely a relationship between the enlightened being and the hell being. Perhaps I can care enough for other beings to wish them to be free without necessarily dwelling in their experience. I wonder if that is wisdom or chickening out.

        1. Compassion and love are developed from contemplating their suffering and lack of authentic happiness. If doing that doesn’t give rise to a peaceful, positive mind, then you may want to re-examine your approach.

    2. Hi Yona,

      Try contemplating, for a while, these lines from Saraha in the context of what you are asking and see if this sheds any light:

      “If your mind is released permanently from self-grasping, there is no doubt that you will be released permanently from suffering.”

      (How to Understand the Mind, page 291).

      1. Thank you Luna, I will contemplate this. I think I am looking for a perspective to access compassion more deeply where I am at right now and I experience obstructions such as this one. For wisdom, I don’t have any realizations but at least I see the path very clearly with no obstructions. Perhaps I can just be content with the correct belief that “even though mother sentient beings are experiencing unbearable suffering right now, its arising only from ignorance and they will all be free soon”?

        1. This is a way to access compassion more deeply because it takes the self out and therefore the reluctance to look deeply at others’ suffering. Saraha’s quote is deep — ALL our feelings of suffering come from self-grasping, so how will it be not to have that and be focusing on the sufferings of mother beings in the hell realms.

          1. OMG, I get what you mean now, sorry I can be very slow. Now I understand that the sadness, unpleasantness and cold feet are arising from self-grasping thats mixed with my training in compassion and NOT from compassion itself and I have been mistakenly attributing them to compassion and resisting compassion due to this misunderstanding. Thank you!

            I do have one last obstruction remaining (new ones may arise going forward!). Avalokiteshvara cried that he had liberated countless beings and yet countless more beings remained in samara. I have heard teachers say that at some point all sentient beings will be enlightened and it will be one big party. However, taking on the wish to liberate all sentient beings seems like taking on a wish that may take many many aeons to come true. Is that true? I should just accept and make peace with this fact that countless beings will continue to suffer for aeons despite my getting enlightened and doing my best?

              1. here’s no alternative to enlightenment, I get that. I am looking for encouraging ways of thinking that are in accordance with reality without me cooking things up in my head. I once thought with all the centers being established in this world, this world is heading towards turning into a peaceful pure land’ish world. It turns out that it was wishful thinking not in accordance with reality and I was crushed to learn from Great Treasury of Merit that this is in fact the last flickering after which dharma vanishes from this world and the conditions here deteriorate rapidly (until eventually Buddha Maitreya shows up).

                Are these ways of thinking in accordance with reality:
                (1) Of all the sentient beings that I currently think exist, many of them (perhaps as much as 50% or more!) are actually emanations already, they are not the ones who need to be liberated but are actually part of the ‘Buddha army’ destroying delusions in covert ways.
                (2) The responsibility of liberating them all won’t be on one future Buddha (that I aspire to become), but I will be joining an already existing force thats already powerfully working towards that goal.
                (3) Even though there are countless sentient beings suffering, there are also countless Buddhas. We may reach critical mass soon when there are more Buddhas than sentient beings and that would mean all remaining sentient beings will be liberated in a jiffy!

              2. I attended a class on compassion today where my teacher said that enlightenment of all sentient beings is not just possible, its actually inevitable. Can I hold the view that every being is already eventually bound for enlightenment and I am merely helping expedite that already-powerfully-in-motion process?

                If I start from the eventual result of everyone free and joyful in Keajra, can I hold this view and every person, including every hell being, is moving towards Keajra moment by moment even though their path may be taking detours to more samsaric rebirths momentarily?

            1. Hey Luna,

              Sorry for bombarding you with questions. I have been contemplating compassion a lot lately. In the practice of taking for example, we (i) think about the suffering of others, (ii) identify with their suffering and find it unbearable, (iii) practice taking, feel that they are now free from suffering and generate joy.

              I’m earnestly trying to find ways to make step (ii) joyful, or even blissful but feel stuck. Do you have any advice for me please?

              Thanks and love,

  7. Thank you — again — for these beautiful observations and reminders.
    I’ve been scraping and printing each of your blog posts and sending them to my pen pal on death row, who is trying his best to learn Dharma and be ready for what awaits him. Just wanted you to know that your words are reaching him, beyond the internet, behind very thick walls.

    1. Wow! That’s deep. You had mentioned this before and it is so good, thank you. Please say hello to him for me. Does he have questions that he sends you? How long have you been friends?

      Have you sent him How to Transform Your Life, How to Solve our Human Problems or Joyful Path? Let me know if i can donate any of Geshe-la’s books to him.

      1. Hi – I will pass along your greetings. We’ve been friends just since last summer. He has HTYL, and How to Solve. Also NMH. Thank you for your offer to donate books. Unfortunately the prison system tightly controls, well, everything,including the source of books and they can come only directly from big recognized sources, like Amazon, and so that’s where I send them from. His name is James. Perhaps you could pray for his mental peace. Several men in the prison he’s in are scheduled to be executed in a week or two, a traumatic time for everyone there.

        Thank you for this blog. I love it.

        1. Yes, that must be very weird. It’s a terrible life on death row, inhuman. Thank goodness you became friends and he has been able to meet Dharma, how amazing that is. I will certainly keep James in my prayers, as well as the men about be executed.

  8. So many profound lessons in one article – arriving at exactly the right time for me today! Not only reminding me not to internalize outer problems but providing a simple yet beautiful method for quieting all the craziness and focusing on moving from my head to my heart. I was so frazzled by the time I got to work this morning that I sat in my car and put it into practice. What an amazing difference just 15 minutes made to my day! Thank you, dear Luna.

  9. “We don’t need to keep being intimidated by our ordinary suffering deluded self – instead, whenever it appears to us, it can simply be a reminder that it doesn’t exist!” So helpful to be reminded of this as someone who tends to pile on and beat myself up when delusions arise thinking I’m a lousy practitioner and desperately need to purify (which is true and can only help). Even though my wish is to get to a point where delusions never even arise in my mind, in the meantime I can be using them (and lucky they are coming fewer and far between since practicing Dharma these past nine years) into a deeper understanding of emptiness, not identifying with them. When the delusions rear their ugly heads, we can pause, watch, ask what we’re meant to learn, ask our Spiritual Guides for help and use them as stepping stones along the path to our ultimate goal, instead of letting them crush us like a giant boulder falling from a mountain. This week, I experienced some strong self-grasping ignorance. Unfortunately, my first response was to speak out loud to others. Internally, I wanted to flee, quit, resign, give up. Then as some time passed, I realized I can’t give up. There’s no turning back now, knowing what I know from Geshe-la and his teacher/disciples. We have to keep coming back over and over and over to our potential and goodness. Meditating on emptiness has to be a daily practice. Time needs to be set aside for it. And our delusions keep reminding us of this truth.

  10. I love the simple yet profound teaching “Reality is enlightenment.” it is a great reminder for me to let go of a mistaken view and plug in to truth of the enlightened beings. So grateful for this teaching Luna. Let’s get real!! 😊

  11. Rare to be able to drop into the heart during meditation, some folks have very different karma

    1. Hi Randi, what do you mean “during meditation” — are you saying you are in your heart at other times? In which case, a useful tip is to clock those times, notice why you were in your heart, eg, were you feeling gratitude or sympathy, and relax back into that feeling when you start meditating. But don’t push or stress, be gentle with yourself. Here’s an article showing the importance of starting where we are, in case its helpful:

      (And perhaps don’t set yourself up for failure by believing it to be more mysterious or rare than it actually is. Sometimes a little confidence is required to get the job done).

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