Refugees from the Egosphere
Facing the world with openness and humility can be difficult, especially when we are faced with situations that promise pain or loss. And we are faced with such situations every day.
Threats to our wellbeing evoke our instincts of self-preservation and self- protection, and drive us back inside our "Egospheres", our defensive psycho-physical habit constellations.
Witnessing these feelings strongly, you may recognize meditation practice as a refuge. In Buddhism, we call taking the Buddhist vows “taking refuge in the tree treasures of the buddha, the dharma and the sangha.”
What does this mean?
First of all, taking refuge means recognizing that you are fundamentally a refugee from the common forms of safety, security and stability. The psychological armor that you have spent years reinforcing no longer serve you, and the socially accepted indicators of ok-ness -- a good paycheck, good health, good looks, loving partner, happy family, good values, problem-free life -- are no longer meaningful or convincing. In other words, you no longer seek refuge IN the Egosphere, but you are a refugee FROM the Egosphere.
As a refugee from the Egosphere, you instead seek to find your home in buddha (true self), dharma (teachings or truth) and sangha (community). Trungpa Rinpoche said we take "refuge in the Buddha as an example, in the dharma as the path, and in the sangha as companionship." Another metaphor I quite like is to say buddha is the doctor, dharma is the medicine and sangha is the nurse. Taking refuge in your meditation practice is honestly recognizing the affliction of your own confusion, and committing to a course of action to address it, accepting the resources of the meditation tradition to help you.
You can make this commitment at varying levels of depth. You may simply set an intention with your daily practice when you sit; you may formally take Buddhist vows, and commit to a specific teacher, lineage or practice for the rest of your life. Or it may be something in between. Ultimately, the most important thing is to be true to your heart. You must be honest about your own confusion, and humble in your acceptance of the gifts provided by your own practice tradition.
With this mind, you take refuge in your practice, and you activate the archetypal energies of buddha, dharma and sangha within yourself. This is transformative. Listening deeply to your own wisdom, you find your teacher (or doctor) inside; you see your own life as the teachings (or truth); and you bring forth your natural spirit of companionship and caring from the depths of your own abundance, compassion and generosity.
Taking refuge is a great source of strength. You find your home in the groundlessness of your circumstances, and your life becomes simply and clearly your life , which is not separate from the life of a buddha.
When you see your own pain, loneliness, grief, joy, confusion and fear clearly, they become your dharma, your teachings, your truth. You do not need to read scriptures or follow anyone else, or chase after some ideal for your self, your partner, your relationship, your family, your workplace, your society, or the world. Each of these manifest their own dharma; if you do not see them clearly and listen to their truth, but instead impose your own ideas and ideals upon them, you do violence, and create suffering for yourself and others.
And one more thing ... refugees love company. :)