Many of us struggle to stay afloat these days. We have increasing social, financial, and work burdens that often stretch us in many different directions at once, and a meditation or spiritual practice can unfortunately easily slip into just being one more thing on the to do list.
On the Buddhist path we have three shelters that we take refuge in in order to avoid the trap of having our meditation practice turn into yet another burden.
On an ultimate and longer term level this involves uncovering our own inner qualities of awakening gradually through the path of meditation. On a relative level this involves being willing to ask for help sometimes.
But who do we go to for help? Classically, we seek help or refuge in the three shelters of the Buddha (the teacher), the Dharma (the path), and the Sangha (the community).
Another way to think of these is the mentors we bond with who impart and demonstrate the path of inner wisdom, the perseverance and effort we put into growing this, and the friendship and advice of like minded people.
Although all three shelters are considered a necessity for maturing in our meditation and spiritual practice, the mentor is key, in that they not only impart, but model the very possibility of inner transformation.
Spiritual mentors like His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama are not only impeccable human beings, but are incredibly developed Buddhist practitioners. We are fortunate in that even though we may not be able to have a personal relationship with these kinds of mentors, we can easily access their teachings and writings, and can learn a lot from them.
On a personal note, I have had access to many great mentors within the Buddhist lineages I have had the fortune to study and practice. Some are well known and some are not. Besides their precious advice and teachings, some of the biggest benefits I have received simply come from the diversity and varying degrees of experience, knowledge, and proclivities that each mentor brings to the way they teach and guide students.
I've found that it's often the mentors that I have had more regular access to that have been the most transformative for me, as from within that access they shared both their spiritual wisdom, and what it means to be fully human.
After all, and wether we are a novice, or a more fully developed practitioner, it is the altruistic intention to meet the temporary and long term needs of the beings that surround us, that gradually becomes the primary cause and driver of our own spiritual development.
Although striving to bond with the most spiritually qualified and developed mentors we can find is highly beneficial, mentorship can also be cultivated with different levels of meditation/Buddhist teachers. This not only allows accessibility to regular and crucial practice advice, but can round out the teachings and benefit we have received from more well known meditation masters.
Overall, a compassionate and experienced mentor can take us a long way in our personal development regardless of their status, name recognition, or social media following. They become part of a skillful support team to help us inwardly thrive and avoid the meditation doldrums.
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