This Is It

This Is It


by Nathan Gill



Nathan Gill



This Is It. This is all there is – life appearing as an endless display of changing images, with no inherent purpose other than this appearance itself. There is simply life with no one living it.


For no reason at all life is at play with its own imagery, roving as attention, engaging in a mesmerizing game of hide and seek which arises as a sense of separation with an integral urge to wholeness. Life restlessly seeks, yearning for itself. The seeking is the restlessness. This play of worldly existence is imbued with life’s haunted longing for itself, seeking but never finding within the imagery in which it seeks. What is sought all along is this in which the seeking is playing out.


In life’s play as humanity, thought assumes an exaggerated importance as attention spins effortlessly into myriad longings and desires, epitomized by the idea of seeking fulfillment through enlightenment. Reading texts, asking questions, surfing the internet, going on retreat, gurus, teachers, non-teachers, practice, no practice – any or all of it is possible but none of it is necessary as in actuality nothing needs to be discovered, understood, let go of or transcended. Life already is, and recognition of itself in the form of enlightenment, liberation, nirvana, et cetera, is superfluous, merely another happening in the endless now of appearances in the play of life.


Nothing other than the configuration of life as it is now appearing is possible. All is happening exactly as it’s ‘meant’ to. If separation and seeking are the case, then this is it. If recognition and resting are the case, then this is it. Whatever is now – however ordinary or extraordinary – is it.



Seen in clarity, life appears as a great play. You – Consciousness – play all the roles and it is part of the play that You usually play the roles without knowing Your real identity. But sometimes, as part of the show, there is recognition of Your true nature. When there is involvement as a character in the play without recognition of Your true nature the role is taken seriously and all the dramas of life seemingly appear from this. If a role is played where there is recognition of Your true nature, the play is seen for what it is. When Your true nature becomes obvious, the character doesn’t disappear in a flash of light, nor put on ochre robes and have disciples, nor teach ‘spiritual’ truths – although any of these is possible, depending on the pattern of the character’s role in the play. The character will likely appear as he or she did before recognition. The character is likely to continue to lead what is an ordinary life in the play. It is not even necessary for the character to tell anyone or communicate what is now obvious. The whole play has no purpose or point beyond present appearance. It is Your cosmic entertainment. You are Your play. It has no existence separate from You.

The 5 Levels of Motivation

The Buddhist Antidote to an Unmotivated Life:

The 5 Levels of Motivation



The Buddhist Antidote to an Unmotivated Life: The 5 Levels of Motivation



Most of us start off in life with high aspirations.


Build a successful career. Start a family. Accomplish something great. See the world.


But on the way, the vast majority of us get distracted, have doubts, forget, get distracted again, find something new, have a setback, have more doubts, get distracted…


Before we know it, our whole life can have passed us by and all we’ve done is played video games, explored Reddit, and eaten burritos.


The modern world is full of things that can hijack our aspirations.


Instead of becoming a dad or working for world peace, our life’s mission can in an instant switch to exposing people on Twitter and watching every episode of Stranger Things.


But the problem isn’t the internet age.


The problem is the timeless question of motivation.


Being born human, we will always want to be happy and feel good.


Happiness and good feelings are an important part of life.


However, if we let them become our highest motivations, then even the strongest of aspirations may be forever put off for cake and Netflix.


Everyone from the ancient Greeks to the positive psychologists recognized that we need to go beyond being motivated by good feelings and happiness if we want to get anywhere and make something of our lives.


The Tibetan Buddhists understand this more than anyone. Sitting still without being able to move or get distracted has allowed them to see deeply into how human motivation works.


They found that if we’re to live lives of purpose and not just pleasure, we need to be motivated by not happiness or feelings, but meaning.


To help make this shift, they mapped out five main levels of motivation (traditionally grouped into three), starting from our most basic desires and personal happiness and moving toward ever deeper sources of meaning, value, and inspiration.


1. Instant Gratification


Our world runs on instant gratification.


The bottomless social feed. Wall-less online stores. Infinite streaming on demand.


The point of such things isn’t to feel fulfilled or become our best selves.


The point is to scratch an itch.


Instant gratification is when our only concern is how to satisfy our most basic needs and cravings and desires right now.


This is motivation at its most basic.


And the worst time to go food shopping.


We can only see what’s right in front of us. There’s little freedom of choice.


We just want to feel better and avoid feeling hurt or bad about ourselves for a moment.


The problem is it is possible to do this now with just a click.


Today there’s barely a breath between impulsive, fleeting urges for pleasure and building harmful habitual patterns that destroy lives.


The modern world prioritizes pleasure and short-term thinking. Attention is big bucks and the quickest and easiest way to grab and keep it is to appeal to our most basic needs, desires, and cravings.


In social life, this type of instant gratification shows up when we see others as valuable only if they help satisfy our needs.


In professional life, instant gratification is when we chase money, status, and anything else that just helps scratch our itches quicker.


At this level of motivation, the scope of our life is most limited.


There’s no worry about consequences. No care for tomorrow.


Happiness is chased in the immediate moment.


2. Long-Term Happiness


Brushing your teeth. Saving money. Exercising. Studying.


These are all things we do that benefit our long-term happiness.


They may not feel great in the moment, but they’re good for our future selves.


It takes perspective to delay gratification instead of just chasing pleasure or relief in the moment.


There’s an understanding that we don’t just live for today but we exist across time and space.


We also recognize that the actions we engage in now create what we become later – both the destructive and the constructive types.


This doesn’t mean the actions and plans are always well thought through.


We may still be driven by the need to scratch an itch but just more determined and ambitious about how to scratch it.


The self-improvement and wellness industry feeds on this level of motivation.


Do this today and you will get this tomorrow.


Vulnerable feelings and desires are exploited by wild claims and impossible standards, leading to the never-ending pursuit for the best version of You.


Work culture also hangs out mostly at this level – working hard and being miserable today in exchange for money and happiness tomorrow.


Being motivated by happiness over a lifetime is a step up from instant gratification and essential in living a good life.


But the perpetual search for happiness is a surefire way to stay unhappy and avoid pursuing bigger things.


3. Helping The World & Others For Ourselves


Most people have a desire to help the world and others.

But not everyone does so out of the pure intention of doing good and helping other beings in need.


We often help out simply to scratch our own itch.


Whether it’s gaining approval or status, relieving loneliness and existential distress, or feeling righteous and superior, helping feels good.


This level of motivation is also known as Idiot Compassion.


Idiot compassion is when we think we’re helping others, and also ourselves, but really, we’re just scratching itches and avoiding dealing with bigger things.


We do what appears to be the nicest or kindest thing, not speaking our mind, busying ourselves with good deeds, and pretending we’re happy, instead of doing what needs to be done and what’s the most beneficial for everyone.


Finding happiness and avoiding pain is still top priority.


That being said, our vision of why we do things and who we are is no longer limited to us but is much vaster and intermingled with the lives and desires of others.


Time and space have expanded beyond ourselves.


We’re not lone seekers of happiness, but a part of a connected culture of confusion in which every single person is seeking the same thing.


This can take some pressure off. Our motivation to be happy and feel good is shared among others.


However, sticking at this level can be dangerous.


Groups of people and even generations can be stuck trying to relieve their pain under the guise of helping others or saving the world. We may, for instance, work tirelessly to reduce suffering in the world out of an inability to deal with and be with our own pain.


4. The Shift From Happiness to Meaning


No matter how much beauty and success and material things you have, you’re still going to get sick, old, die and in the meantime be caught in confusion, attachment, and jealousy.


This is why good feelings and happiness can only ever be limited motivators.


To be motivated by happiness is to push away the very natural and often unavoidable feeling of unhappiness.


This level of motivation involves turning directly towards the root of the issue.


In Tibetan Buddhism, this is known as Taking Refuge.


Taking Refuge is when we see beyond the endless improvement and chasing desires and look at why we need improving and why we desire in the first place.


Focus shifts from trying to escape the difficulties and unpleasant parts of life.


Difficulties aren’t personal faults and shortcomings to beat ourselves up about and fix – The Fallacy of Uniqueness as Dan Harris calls it – but a universal part of being human.


We’re no longer seeking that golden pill that offers endless bliss and happiness and being pushed and pulled around by temporary motivations like instant gratification, pleasure, and happiness.

We’re instead motivated by the deeper, more expansive question of why we do what we do.

Why we do anything at all.


Our motivation shifts from being about achieving happiness for ourselves to being about finding our place in the world, connecting with others, living with purpose, knowing ourselves more, making change, and choosing the challenge over comfort.


The why takes us beyond living a life of momentary pleasures to living a life of a long-lasting meaning and purpose.


5. The Highest Source of Motivation


When we get curious about our motivations for doing things and being alive, we notice we’re a part of an interdependent network of billions of other living beings.


A quick look around and we also see we’re inseparable from and incredibly dependent on them.


We may also notice they’ve been kind to us. That they deserve happiness as much as we do. And that placing personal happiness above all else is a recipe for using others, living in fear, and endlessly trying to scratch itches.


Living for others and the world is the highest level of motivation.


Our problem isn’t distraction and struggling to get motivated, our problem is the narrow view of who we are and what’s possible in this world.


When we see ourselves as an inseparable part of everything, our sense of meaning is at its highest. Everything we do matters, motivation is inexhaustible, and taking action is endlessly rewarding.


This doesn’t mean you have to become Mother Teresa to live a meaningful life.

You could spend your days making neckties or selling pies or driving buses or working in insurance.


The key is why.


Is it out of small, narrow motivations like pleasure, happiness, creating your legacy, etc., or is out of more expansive motivations that go beyond your feelings in the moment and your life and connect you with something bigger.


The more sense of meaning you find – the more you feel connected to yourself, others, and the world around you – then the more you’ll find yourself letting go of worthless pleasures and charging toward your highest aspirations.


Closing Thoughts


The point of the five levels of motivation isn’t to try get to the top and become a Buddha who never gives in to impulses or desires.


The point is to find a balance between all of the five levels and become more aware of what’s driving you.


By being more aware of what’s driving you, you give yourself a choice between being consumed by momentary urges and desires for happiness and building a life around what’s truly important to you.


Once you know what motivates you in this life, then if, at times, you still only want to eat cake and watch Netflix, well so be it.

The Most Compassionate Thing

The Most Compassionate Thing You Can Do

Isn’t Always the Nicest


Compassion isn’t just about being nice. It’s an act of courage.


by Joe Hunt



If you didn’t know any better, you’d think the image of Mahakala, with its three staring eyes, dagger-like fangs, and tiara of skulls, is meant to represent the Lord of Death.


And in some traditions, the Lord of Death is exactly what it is.


But in Tibetan Buddhism, Mahakala symbolizes the powerful and ferocious quality of the compassionate mind.


Compassion is often seen as a quality that’s soft, warm, and nice. Like a harmless fluffy pink bunny rabbit with big floppy ears.


Not as a scowling monster that’s more terrifying than death itself.


But without this other side, its darker, uglier side, compassion is a pale reflection of what it can truly be for inciting positive change in yourself and the world.


If we look at the origin of the word, compassion comes from the Latin root com, meaning with, and pati, meaning to suffer.


It literally means “to be with suffering.”


You won’t be able to be with suffering if you’re idea of compassion is a pink fluffy bunny.

But when you get Mahakala on your side, compassion can become an unwavering force that cuts through negative patterns, is unphased by fear and hesitation, and doesn’t let anything stand in its way.


The Common Idea of Compassion is Half-baked


Most of the advice on compassion centers around being nicer and kinder and gentler to yourself and others.


One of the top Medium articles on compassion talks about reminding yourself of life’s simple pleasures, being less self-critical about past mistakes, and writing a kind, loving letter to yourself once a week.


Such advice is no doubt beneficial. But as it is more or less the only narrative, it can paint a one-dimensional picture of compassion as being the simple and passive act of taking it a bit easier on yourself and not judging others so much.


Taken too far, this can kind of compassion can actually become a crutch that works against your true intentions.


The Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche had a name for this kind of overly nice compassion: “idiot compassion”.


Idiot compassion is when you do what appears to be the nicest or kindest thing, instead of doing what actually needs to be done and what would be the most beneficial.


This happens most often when you want to do good by someone or not hurt them, or don’t want to be seen in a negative light or disliked.


It’s the nodding and agreeing with your partner that he’s right so you don’t have to have another argument. It’s not taking a stand at work because you might piss off your boss or look silly in front of your colleagues. It’s walking away from your mom instead of speaking your mind so you don’t land in her bad books.


Idiot compassion is also something you do to yourself.


It’s cutting yourself too much slack and pretending that an extra hour in bed is an act of self-love instead of going to the gym. It’s convincing yourself that the environment isn’t actually that important to avoid the effort of sorting through the recycling. It’s pretending you’re happy in your current job or career and not making the uncomfortable shift.


This type of compassion is like shooting yourself, and those around you, in the foot.


When we see compassion as only having one face, it will only ever be a way of reducing short-term discomfort and increasing feeling-good feelings.


It will never be the powerful force it is for decreasing long-term harm and suffering and moving yourself and others in a more positive direction.


Without the terrifying and powerful qualities of Mahakala, compassion won’t take a stand and face being shunned, looking bad in front of others, or enduring the grind that is necessary for life-changing work.


When its two faces come together, however, then it can provide the strength, determination, and kindness to not have to avoid or push away these more uncomfortable sides of life—but to run after them screaming for a hug.


It becomes wise compassion: the courage to fully embrace all of life’s pains, sorrows, heartaches, and disasters with an open heart, and act in a beneficial way for yourself and those around you.


Wise Compassion is the Courage to Face Discomfort


This kind of compassion takes a lot of courage.


In today’s world, it takes a lot of courage to speak up in the face of being disowned, disliked, and canceled.


It takes tremendous courage to pick yourself up and do what you know is right in the face of an infinite number of distractions, immediate pleasures, and endless easy routes out.


If you only understand compassion as a soft and passive quality, you may decide it’s not worth it. You may decide to just take it easier on yourself, to lower your expectations to the ground, to quit being so righteous, and to give in to the desire for comfort and security and approval from others.


But as you can figure, this is often extremely far from the most compassionate thing you can do for yourself, and for the rest of us.


If idiot compassion is believing the nicest and kindest thing to do is always the right thing, wise compassion is understanding that the right thing to do is often not the nicest or easiest or most pleasant thing.


And having the courage to do it anyway.


As is shown by the ferocious face of Mahakala, being compassionate does not mean being a pushover. Being compassionate does not mean living in a fantasy world where everything is all sunshine and rainbows and discomfort and conflict and haters and disagreement doesn’t exist.

It means being open and courageous enough to be with your suffering, to not close down or turn away from life’s difficulties, and to face them all head-on.


Of course, you need to remember compassion’s other side: its softer, gentler, and more patient qualities. You need to be patient when turning toward difficulty as it’s a process that doesn’t happen overnight. You need to be gentle as even when you choose the courageous act and take a stand or put in the effort, it may not always work out the way you wanted or intended it to.


But you also need to remember that compassion isn’t just a pink fluffy bunny with big floppy ears. Compassion is a massive, powerful, wise, and formidable death bunny that has everyone’s best interests at heart, but that doesn’t need to bow down to their every whim and demand to achieve them.


True, wise compassion is a force that confronts all of life’s inevitable difficulties and challenges and, instead of ignoring them or running away, stares them right in the face with its three eyes and breath of fire and gives them a big sloppy kiss right on the chops.


After all, the kindest and most courageous acts of compassion often come in the most unassuming and unexpected of forms.




Idiot Compassion and Mindfulness


by Derek Beres



Compassion is an important concept, and even more important practice to integrate into one’s life. Like all ideas, layers underlie the meaning. One of the most fascinating is what Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche termed ‘idiot compassion.’


His well-known student, Buddhist nun and author Pema Chodron, explains: It refers to something we all do a lot of and call it compassion. In some ways, it’s what’s called enabling. It’s the general tendency to give people what they want because you can’t bear to see them suffering.


Chodron exposes the danger in this: instead of offering a friend medicine, bitter though it may be when ingested, you feed them more poison—at the very least, you don’t take it away from them. This, she says, is not compassion at all. It’s selfishness, as you’re more concerned with your own feelings than attending to your friend’s actual needs.


Granted, saying uncomfortable things to someone close to you is no easy task. If they are violent or depressive, criticism could send them spiraling. Yet enabling is not good either. Stepping up and being a teacher in challenging situations requires great tact and care, and does not always work out how you intended it to.


As I’ve been exploring this concept this week in my yoga classes, I began thinking about the ways we enable ourselves as well. We are extremely good at self-deception, using bad habits as crutches for some future good we imagine is right around the corner. We trick ourselves with the ‘one more’ syndrome: one more cigarette, one more drink, one more email to the ex who refuses our pleas.


The issue is really expectation: we fear upsetting our friend, or ourselves, because we don’t want to make things uncomfortable. We choose short-term avoidance over what we perceive to be longer term suffering. Since we don’t inherently know what the future state holds, we choose what we think to be the most comfortable path, persisting in our folly without becoming wise.

The hardest part is not imagining the future. Hypothesizing is what our brains do, which is why suffering lies at the heart of Buddhism. Two things keep us locked in a perpetual state of conflict: expecting reality to conform to what we want it to be and demanding the future unravels as we hope it will. When one or both of these projections fail, we blame the situation rather than our expectations.


One powerful form of changing these habits of enabling is mindfulness meditation. As neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson has written, habitual manners of dealing with emotions are the product of both genetics and experience. Some of us are genetically inclined to be more resilient and compassionate than others, but it is our life experiences that define our outlook, and how we treat others (and ourselves). As he writes, Mindfulness retrains these habits of mind by tapping into the plasticity of the brain’s connections, creating new ones, strengthening some old ones, and weakening others.


In his research Davidson has found that mindfulness practitioners exhibit greater activity in the left prefrontal cortex—they are able to redirect thoughts and feelings while reducing anxiety and strengthening resilience and well-being. Put in Tibetan Buddhist terms, meditators are able to shift both their reactions to situations, as well as their reactions to their reactions.


Oftentimes when something happens in our lives, we say, ‘Why did that happen to me?’ as if the weight of billions of years of history has led to this moment just for you. Fortunately, meditation helps one overcome this overbearing sense of self. It loosens the grip of the brain’s ‘me center.’ You begin to view the world in terms of collectivity instead of individuality, and thus are able to process your emotions better.


When this occurs—when you are mindful of your thoughts from a third-party perspective and attain some level of control over the direction they unfold—idiot compassion becomes impossible. You no longer aim for long-term habits or short-term pleasure. Rather, you do what’s best for the present you, or the friend you’re engaging with. In that way, everyone benefits, even if it takes a little while for the medicine to kick in.