I was about eleven when I realized there was a problem. I couldn’t have explained it then, but I can remember the feeling in my body. I somehow knew that there was something fundamental that no one was acknowledging. The truth of this was terrifying.

How could it be that everyone was working together to ignore the truth of their lives? This was not acceptable to me. But I didn’t know what to do.

Years later, I started to realize how much pain I was in. And eventually this became unacceptable. I had read enough by this point to know that at least there were other people who had tried to address the pain of their existence. I resolved that I would do something to address my suffering.

Practice works, and these things have changed for me, but they continue to be what motivate my practice. I don’t want to suffer, and I don’t want others to suffer. And I still refuse to live in a way that is not true. I’m reminded of this when I feel that subtle (or not-so-subtle) tear in my body, when I look around me and see the confusion in the world.

—Bear Gokan Bonebakker, MRO

I am not sure if I have enough aspiration. It seems to build naturally, over time, like working out. At first, it hurts. Over time, it becomes compelling, more like eating.

For me, aspiration originates from three sources: 1) confidence in the Buddha’s insight and teachings, which seem obvious and self-validating; 2) from accumulated pain; and 3) from knowing the effects of plodding the path.

If my aspiration lags, my first instinct is to try something else. Quickly it becomes clear that there is nothing else. If I am lax, I try to remember the feeling of regular practice. I know how to access it.

I used to worry that I might be doing things wrong, or not enough. Now I don’t worry as much. It is the process itself.

When my practice lags, my daily life veers off the track. As my discomfort increases, my aspiration returns.

When practice gets difficult, I know that the time is ripe. Something is going on. If I keep plodding, things shift. I go through the motions, and problems evaporate. I trust this.

When practice gets stale or boring, I go to the Monastery or Temple. I let the sangha smother me. I just do it, no matter how resistant or inconvenient. Somehow the quiet, the incense, the chanting, the bows, the warmth and confidence of the sangha, their laughter, the sangha kids, the sound of the teachers’ voices, the bells: they all push me. Those places are food for aspiration. When I give myself over, practice arises. I have no idea what happens, or why. I know that it works. There is no other way.

Gary Choko Reese, MRO

I aspire to reconnect with myself in a way that takes place now. Having a to-do list full of good intentions that only leads to hopelessness and despair is a poor substitute for a life well-lived, for meaningful fulfillment, for realizing true happiness.

According to the Buddha, suffering ends. But not for do-gooders. Cynicism doesn’t reach it; nor does running around fixing things.

My practice can take me to the place where all beings want to go: home to my heart. Reactivity can be vanquished, neurosis uprooted—we can free ourselves from our cages. The world is much simpler when we abandon the property acquisition contest.

Sharing this life together, let us bring peace and harmony into the world and save all beings.

—Mn. Frank Kyosho Fallon, MRO