Aspiring to Live the Precepts

As our 5 Mindfulness Trainings transmission ceremony approaches, I’ve received a few versions of the question: Can I take the Trainings if I can’t yet fully uphold them? The answer is ‘Yes! And...'  Our culture is primed to see spiritual guidelines as commandments, which I view as behavioral proscriptions that an outside authority judges you to have passed or failed. Our Mindfulness Trainings are not commandments. They are aspirations pointing you in the direction of freedom and allowing you to cultivate qualities like compassion and generosity. At our monthly precepts recitation ceremonies, we don’t ask ourselves, ‘Have I passed or failed?’ Instead, we ask, ‘Have I made an effort to study and practice’ the precepts, knowing that these are vast, impossible aspirations that bring us closer and closer to ethical freedom without the burden of outside judgment. We formally take the Mindfulness Trainings when we commit to deepening our study and practice of them. This doesn’t mean that we must already be practicing them perfectly before the ceremony. We start where we are and vow to do better. But when we take the precepts, we find that the precepts also take us. We practice ethical behavior along with our Sangha and find ourselves carried along by Sangha energy. This helps us shoot ourselves in the foot far less often and spend less time enduring the consequences of our unethical behavior. Deciding to take the precepts can be challenging. The fever dream of our small-self struggles for safety, control, fame, power, accomplishment, and on and on, and waking up from that fever dream reduces the small-self’s sense of control. But here you are: Something has brought you to read these words, to consider letting go into a deeper sense of freedom, to take a rare path. I offer you my support as you consider waking up from the dream. Please. Take this precious opportunity. Don’t wait. Listen to the full Dharma Talk on our Podcast page. Listen on the go: You may also subscribe to Anacortes Mindfulness Community Podcasts on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

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