What We Mean by Practice
The Meaning of Practice
In contemplative traditions like Tibetan Buddhism, “practice” refers to something we do and experience on a daily basis, that we can use to train our minds—much like through practicing guitar and training our fingers to play complex and beautiful music, over time. In this case we’re training ourselves so that we can calm the waters of our minds … and see to the bottom … our true selves. Then bring it out in the most skillful ways.
To paraphrase Shantideva, an eighth-century Indian Buddhist monk:
The ground can be rough, hard, and painful to walk on. We could cover the entire world with leather to ease the pain or we could wear shoes.
That is, we can try the impossible task of “fixing” the world and the people around us, or we can change our own habits of mind in order to live with more ease and joy. When Gochen Tulku Sangak* Rinpoche landed in prison at age 13, he suffered terribly. But masters there taught him these practices, and he used them to transform his experience into a meaningful and truly joyful one.
The practices of Namchak lineage seek to do just that: to help us build new ways of being and behaving, ultimately increasing happiness and meaning in our lives.
In Tibetan, the word for meditation means “to gain experience.” Through a daily practice, we create a very well-crafted experience for ourselves that deeply affects our brains. Through that we slowly begin to transform and create new habits of mind—allowing us to pause a moment before our habitual, knee-jerk reactions, and to be more aware of the present moment instead of constantly drifting into the past or future.
The Namchak lineage begins with the three foundational practices common to all forms of Buddhism: Shamata, or “Calm Abiding”; Tonglen, or “Sending and Receiving”; and “Clearing the Stale Energies,” a pranayama or “breath” practice that helps clear the mind in preparation for meditation.
Wondering how to get started? Learn how to meditate with easy to follow instructions in Lama Tsomo’s book, Why is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling? Plus, sign up for the free Namchak eCourse, Always Smiling: An Introduction to Tibetan Buddhist Practice to learn foundational practices in a multimedia format delivered to your inbox each week. Or, visit the meditations library to listen to guided foundational practices from Lama Tsomo.
* Sometimes spelled “Sang-Ngag”