Karuna: Hi, I’m Karuna, I’m the Founder and Executive Director of Mind Oasis, and with me here today is a dear friend and sangha member, Rosa Schnyer. Rosa, how are you?
Rosa: I’m good. How are you Karuna?
Karuna: Good. It’s been a busy morning for me. What’s your morning look like so far?
Rosa: It’s been a busy morning for me so far and it’s quite early.
Karuna: Yeah. Rosa, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live and what are you up to in this world?
Rosa: Oh, I live in Austin, Texas, and I’m a doctor of Chinese Medicine and am a Chinese and functional medicine practitioner. I also teach generally at the University of Texas undergraduate. I’m currently on leave for a few months and I spend my time primarily working with patients to try to facilitate their healing. I’m also passionate about teaching people how to awaken the healer within. That’s really my primary intention in my work is not so much me being the healer, but me facilitating people finding and awakening their own healer.
Karuna: Beautiful, and so your background is in Chinese medicine and acupuncture. What else about you and your world?
Rosa: Well. I’m a child of immigrants into Mexico. My grandparents were from the Middle East, my parents were first generation born in Mexico. I think that’s an important aspect of my life because it gives me a perspective about the human experience from a variety of different cultures. And also it puts me in touch with some of what’s happening in the world outside of my own personal experience at the moment. You know, like many of us, I live a pretty privileged, comfortable life. But I know that most people don’t do it, don’t necessarily enjoy the same comfort or privilege that I do. So part of my journey is to understand how can I bring my practice, my meditation practice, which started when I was 14. I was lucky to be introduced to practice at that particular point in time. And, you know, I have also been very fortunate to have access to a variety of different meditation traditions, from Rinzai Zen to Insight Meditation to Unfetter Dharma with my beloved teacher Kelly Lindsay. And really once I have been able to create a ground around my practice, then what is really my practice for or about and in that sense, what is my life for or about? You know, why am I here for? What for? So I think that kind of tells you a little bit. I don’t know what else you want to know.
Karuna: That’s beautiful. What it says to me is that you have an embodied practice that you have moved from where we sit for a few minutes each day to maybe calm our mind, maybe to experience more presence and things like that to where your practice is your life and your life is your practice. That’s what I heard.
Rosa: Well, thank you, I would say that that’s my aspiration. I would say that my aspiration is that, yeah. I struggle like all of us with life, you know, with the day to day, just like you said, your morning’s been busy. My morning, my week, my month, my year has been very busy. I was talking to a colleague of mine of how the experience of each one of us during the pandemic is so different. Because some people have said, oh, I’ve had all this time, I’ve written this book, have created this, I launched that, you know, and for some of us, especially those that are space holders, for others who are suffering, they need and the community is so intense and in many ways that it has actually been probably a more intense time than usual. So I would say that’s my aspiration, is to be able to show up in the world with an open heart. Do I manage to do that? I would say probably not often or not all the time. And an aspiration is an intention is an invitation. It’s not a demand. So I try to walk that path gently and give myself a little bit of room to not be perfect.
Karuna: Awesome. So you have an upcoming workshop on Mind Oasis called Resilience, The Awakened Heart of the Bodhisattva. And I’d love to hear you talk a little bit about Bodhisattva. Some of our listeners won’t know what that is. And yeah. Why don’t we start there.
Rosa: Yes. So let me first just preface that by saying that resilience has become the buzz these days. Right? Because resilience is understood as our ability to move through adversity with integrity and wholeness. And it’s been defined in a lot of ways. You could probably find a dozen different books on resilience. And I teach resilience as a way of awakening the healer within. Now, when I think about resilience, as in the awakened path of the Bodhisattva, is that, you know, the Bodhisattva is, as I see it is a human that sets the intention to devote their life and their practice for the benefit of all beings. And that our personal awakening is deferred until all beings are awakened and at the same time we understand that that’s impossible and that our own personal awakening, when… If I awaken, you awaken, and if you awaken, I awaken. So the Bodhisattva sets that intention of orienting their heart towards the benefit of all beings, and I believe it’s really difficult to make that transition in thinking. How exactly do you do I move through this very challenging time that we’ve lived collectively as humanity and we continue to live in different parts of the world. The pandemic was kind of like the cap on that really challenging time, not the end. But it put a cap on it. It put a focus of our attention on our shared human suffering. But it’s been rough around the world for a while, really rough you know, and if you orient your heart towards alleviating suffering for and devoting your life to the benefit of all beings, how in the world do you hold space enough to have resilience to move not only through your own challenges and difficulties day in, day out, but to hold space and to hold the intention that what you’re doing in the world is for the benefit of all beings? How in the world do you do you not lose hope and heart and energy? And how do you do that? That’s our challenge. You know, that’s the path that we are walking. That I am walking, that you are walking, that we committed practitioners are walking, you know. So it’s about taking the spotlight from just our own suffering and shining it in all of us and then finding an effective way to transform that in our hearts so that we can continue to show up and adapt, and you know, work through wholeness without breaking down and falling into empathic distress. I have found that the practice of Tonglen has really helped me do that.
Karuna: For the listeners who can’t see my face, I went from somewhere from like elation to tears filled up in my eyes to wanting to hear, well, how do we do that Rosa?. But but then Rosa shared about Tonglen and instantly, almost my body relaxed. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about the practice of Tonglen Rosa?
Rosa: As I understand it, you know, as I embody it. And with all due respect to knowing that this is a long tradition with a huge cultural history that I don’t share, you know, the way I understand this practice is about grounding myself, in my own body. I see it as having seven steps, you know, grounding myself in my own body, being able to come home to my heart, you know. Aligned with my intention. Know with clarity and understand with wisdom what’s possible in that moment? You know. Engage my own emotional well-being. And then once I’ve done the preliminary steps, then connect with our common humanity, with our human community and tune in on purpose with what’s actually happening, even if it’s not affecting me and sometimes I take a news from the day or the shooting that happened here or the grieving family there or one of my patients going through chemo…it depends, you know, and I create space around it and take it in. And then give it light and transform it. Just by giving it space. So that it can be. Not getting rid of it, but giving it space and then bathing it with light and the capacity, the understanding that suffering is truth. That the truth of suffering is there, but that the possibility of alleviating the suffering is also there. I don’t know if that helps convey. You know, a teacher would probably teach it very differently, somebody who has had the transmission in a different way. This is how I understand it. And when I practiced Tonglen, then I think I’m a better human being in the world because I’m not so wrapped up in my, you know 8 to 8 struggle or…
Karuna: I call it the small suffering self shmuck stuff.
Rosa: The self…which which, you know, which is part of human suffering, too, without denying it, you know. But it’s just like we are so wrapped up in it and but remember that I said there’s a preliminary set of steps. That’s what awakening the healer within is you know. And I know I didn’t go through seven because you have to figure out what your seven step is. You know? In that sense, but it’s just like you go through your preliminaries in your practice. I don’t mean just in one sitting, but you go through your preliminaries of contacting your own human suffering and then to make space so that you can then hold. And then come back and then do it again, because that’s what resilience is about. You just, you know. It’s moving through the faces of the human heart with integrity and integrity means you mess up and you have your schmuck little suffering, how you call it. I thought it was great. And then you realize that, you know, it’s…you took vows, you committed yourself to orient your heart to alleviate suffering, and what does that mean? You know?
Karuna: I find that to be a north star. We will wrap up here in just a moment because Rosie has a busy day she has to be the healer. But I have one question I want to ask you, and then I just have one little comment in all of this. Listeners know, and certainly my friends know that being kind hasn’t always been like the easiest thing for me. Like, it isn’t like I woke up as a child and was, like, just the sweetest girl on earth. You know, I have edge. But recently, just recently, though, I took my Bodhisattva vows I think in 2017 or 2016. Recently I’ve been using the idea of being a helper and a protector, kind of like a Mister Rogers or like Mother Teresa. Not that I hold any water close to them, but what it’s done is when my instinct is to go to anger or frustration or annoyance – that still arises – but there’s this seat belt of are you going to be a helper and a protector. And I can tell very quickly when I don’t do that. And so it also offers me an opportunity to not go down the road any further of instinct habit of being able to draw back and use my little seatbelt of compassion and insight and wisdom and all the beautiful things that you just shared. So my question to you, Rosa, we’ll wrap up with this, is what is your truth?
Rosa: That I have a lot of rough edges. You know. And that the one thing I know, the only one thing I know is that this breath brings me home.
Karuna: Thank you, Rosa. So Rose’s workshop on Mind Oasis, which is going to be stellar, is on Sunday, May 9th, and it’s at four o’clock in the afternoon Central and you can find it at Mindoasis.org under the tab “Learn” you’ll see Rosa there. And again, it’s Mindoasis.org and it’s the “Learn” tab. And it’s called Resilience, The Awakened Heart of the Bodhisattva with Rosa Schnyer. And I have to say, Rosa, in my eyes, you are bodhisattva. So thank you.
Rosa: Thank you. So are you. Thanks for holding this space for all of us.
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