Here’s another installment in a series of emails that took place between Michael and one of his senior students beginning the Summer of 2009. May you find the exchange interesting and enriching.


Mar. 29, 2011 

Student: How are any of us to know for sure what we are supposed to do in life?

Michael: I don’t know. I mean I’d say that meeting every thing in life without clinging and then engaging from this openness works pretty well at helping us live amazing lives. I’d also say in this regard that vows help keep the practice alive. What’s your vow?

Student: I vow to meet and see Spirit fully in whatever form. I look forward to the spicy challenges here! Sometimes I desire things, like a marriage in which to explore relationship from this perspective, but increasingly, even that is given over. Maybe that’s not what’s in store. No matter. Because most of all, I just want to be helpful. Pretty simple if I continue dying to each moment and listening. Has your vow ever changed?

Michael: My vow is pretty simple: don’t defile Buddha, Dharma or Sangha. Basically, this means that I do my level best not to let what is small in me get in the way of the expression of the Big Self, the teaching, or the community. Even more basically, I work continually on not doing harm. So no, it hasn’t changed for quite some time. The implications of it, and the evolution of its impact, have continually shifted. But the vow helps me suture Samsara to Nirvana, earth with heaven, the relative to the formless, the real to the spiritual, in each moment.

Student: How have the implications and impact shifted?

Michael: It’s all gotten bigger and oddly more important. My family life has shifted, especially with the addition of kids. My marriage has taken on a different series of meanings as we’ve agreed to separate, keeping the kids as our main focus as we co-parent. It’s not easy but the practice of not doing harm has been amazingly helpful as we’ve watched our relationship to each other transform.

At the level of sangha, I would also say that the teaching moves through me differently and the teaching itself now hits more people. The teacher role has expanded. I have more worldly responsibilities and don’t have as easy a time maintaining the myriad levels of conscious practice as opposed to when I had far fewer distractions.

With all of this said, my vow has deepened this entire experience and allowed me to explore the subtleties of the vow to do no harm.

Student: Sounds like you’re leading a pretty normal life.

Michael: I’d say so.

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