Reprinted with permission from "Awakening the Buddhist Heart: Integrating Love, Meaning, and Connection Into Every Part of Your Life" by Lama Surya Das. Copyright Lama Surya Das 2000. By arrangment with Broadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

All Buddhist teachers, and I am no exception, point out that all of our happiness as well as all of our despair arise from the mind. When we search for happiness and an end to suffering, the only place to look is within the mind itself. We each contain within ourselves all that we need for personal joy, bliss, wisdom, equanimity, and peace. There is no reason to look to externals or anywhere else. When one truly embraces this thought, there is nothing to fear. We are truly free.

Until we reach this level of spiritual peace, we are in some ways always at the mercy of external circumstances. We will continue to be affected by all events, great and small. The Tibetan text on turning unhappiness into the spiritual path says that "our hair is tangled in a tree," meaning that we are bound up in external circumstances that take over and leave us tied up. In a long prayerful poem, [my late teacher] Dudjom Rinpoche wrote, "May I tie around my head the lead rope that is attached to my own nose," meaning may we realize autonomy and self-mastery, and not always be at the mercy of things outside ourselves.

Difficulties help free us from our attachment to how we want things to be.

My teachers would often remind us that obstacles and problems could be viewed as blessings that should not be avoided. Difficulties help free us from our attachment to how we want things to be. In short, they help free us from the fantasies that keep us from awakening to the joy of enlightenment, the bliss of what is. When we take this approach, we find that we are able to see and appreciate the lessons and opportunities in each experience. This applies to both the positive and the negative. Just as we are often fearful and anxious of negative experiences, and thus fail to reap the lessons that are there for us, so too we can so easily overlook and deny the blessings and simple, everyday joys in our lives.

Many seekers today, for example, complain about the level of stress they are under from the pressures of schedules and responsibilities. Often this stress is generated by the demands we place on ourselves to be better parents, friends, partners, employees, employers, neighbors--in short, to be better people. Perhaps instead of viewing our obligations as burdens, we could incorporate them into a spiritual practice with a little prayer that further emphasizes our commitment to the awakened awareness and goodness of heart embodied in the precious Bodhicitta [awakened heart/mind].

We cultivate and reinforce our compassionate intentions to do good and to help, not harm, others. Because we love and care about ourselves, we naturally learn more and more to extend ourselves to others since they are really not much different than we are. In this way, each of us can transform and recondition much of our own selfish, egotistical behavior, and be more of a peacemaker and bearer of love, shedding light wherever we go.

We all long for spiritual blessings, protection, and wholeness. Yet it is often appreciated how many blessing we all have within us and in our lives. We remember the old spiritual admonishment, "Count your blessings" as we try not to overlook all that we have been given. Moreover we could practice giving blessings to ourselves and our own hopes and ideals; we could freely offer blessings to others from the fullness of our hearts. We need to over come any tendencies to be stingy with our blessings, mistakenly assuming that blessings come from someone else. Each of us is a blessed one--you too!

When we look at everything we are experiencing--good and bad--with sacred out look and nonjudgmental awareness, we further enhance our personal spiritual growth.The Practice of Pure Perception

One of the unique practices in Tibetan Buddhism is called "dak-nang," the practice of pure perception or sacred outlook. In this practice, we focus our energy on seeing this world as a perfect Buddha Field--a paradise-like realm--with all beings as Buddhas. This a wonderful practice to keep in mind whenever we find ourselves strongly liking or not liking an experience, and event, a feeling, or a person.