Ngöndro No More

A friend named Michael, aka @Skandasattva, on Twitter said this morning “Dealing with insecurities and mental garbage this morning. Where the hell is the handle so I can flush this shit from my head?!”

My response was “the handle is in the same place as the shit, give it time, go slow and let the shit settle, than you’ll find it.”

I was a bit quick to respond, but reflected afterward on what I said, and in a way, I think I was talking to myself. I’ve felt similarly the past couple of months, in particular with my “practice”. It’s felt like I’m stuck in “Groundhog Day”, doing the same stuff day after day, after day… where’s the snooze button already??

Some may think I’m a quitter here, but, as many of you know I’ve been doing a ngöndro practice since roughly Labor Day weekend. Last week I decided to give it up. Why? Well, something seemed a bit amiss. More like a few things…

1. I’m not sure the path I “chose” as far as the ngöndro goes is/ was for me. It felt right at the time, but as time goes on, it feels like I’m just going through the motions. It doesn’t feel like a practice, it feels like something I HAVE to do. To me, that doesn’t gel.

2. The particular school/ tradition doesn’t feel right anymore either. While I was wholeheartedly into it, as time passes, it feels less and less like where I need to be. There just seems to be to much extra involved, and that is meant as no offense. There seems to be to much ritual, to much hands on training, so on. As time passes, I feel more and more disconnected from it. I loved it at the beginning and see the reasons why. I’ve recognized the reasons, and have come to the realizations that they are not the right reasons. The heart needs to be there and mine is not.

As I’ve said in the past, the beginning is where I need to go back to. What I am looking for, and hoping to find, is the bare bones. I am not looking for the hocus pocus, the magic or the religion. I am not looking for the history, the cultural overtones, the tradition, etc. Again no offense to anyone intended here. I understand completely that people choose their own paths, and that is fantastic, more power to you all for your comfort in doing so.

I truly have come to a place where I feel I need to try my best to be who I am. Who that is, I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure that out. Here I am five years later, back to where I started. I feel drawn to the path of the Buddha, nothing will ever change with that. But I think I am looking for a more stripped down version. With all the shit set aside, I am trying to look directly at the path that was laid out, without any obscuration.

I know it won’t be easy, this path never has been. We all fall down, the key is to get up. Like I mentioned above to my good friend Michael, it’s time to let the shit settle. I believe with time, and a sense of determination, under all that shit is something more beautiful than any of us could imagine.

I think what I am looking for is more miraculous than the present state of things. Thich Nhat Hanh said it best when he gave us this precious jewel, “People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”

The video below was an add-on, the title of the post sounded similar to the band name for some reason…


  1. Sounds like you’re in a healthy process to me, letting go of everything is essential to awakening, as you know. Even the organized idea of “Buddhism” — kill the Buddha when you meet him on the path (etc). I was in the same boat as you with trying to be the “perfect Buddhist” (which doesn’t exist).

    I did all the formal motions, bowing, rituals, etc. but didn’t feel like it was addressing the particular quirks of my persona. So, while I still do some of the traditions like bowing and bells, I practice my own form of Zen (based on Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings) mixed with nature based beliefs that are similar to Taoism. I think we all have to find our own path even if following the greater path of a particular sect. It is the analogy that Buddha used of teaching 80,000 paths for 80,000 types of different beings (karma).

    Even if we all belong to the same tradition/sect, we each need a slightly different version that best addresses our different karmic needs. Some things are obviously standard (three jewels, four noble truths and 8 fold path, etc) but the rest must be tailored to our specific karma to be of best use to us. I think channeling everyone into the same way of practicing the Dharma is unrealistic and not necessarily accepting the differences we have despite sharing a similar greater reality of suffering within samsara.

  2. Thanks everyone for the comments, and words of advice. I appreciate all of it!

    @Jeff – I understand where you are coming from, and maybe saying things like “this isn’t working for me” is the wrong way of going about it, but it’s where I am at. The short and tall of it is, my heart is not in the particular practice anymore. Without offending anyone, it just doesn’t fit.

    @Lee – I got to about 10,000 into it.

  3. How far did you get into the ngondro practice? I noticed that the first time I did a set of ngondro, I felt the way same, like I was dragging myself through the floor. By the time I finished though, it changed.

    All the ngondro practices I’ve done since then have been a lot easier. I would say the difference was that understanding that ngondro isn’t just about accumulations. When things get tough, it’s the time to really starting using Mind Training or LoJong practices. Otherwise, without using Lojong, ngondro is like pulling teeth

  4. Seems to me you are right in the middle of doing some important work.

    Like you I am attracted to most bare bone approach. Hence my return again and again to Vipassana practice. I have realized it is my true home.

    I wish you best in your continuing journey. That you may find a supportive community to practice with, and a teacher in whom you can trust.

    With metta,


  5. Not saying you should or shouldn’t be doing anything in particular, but don’t be surprised if any Buddhist practice, aimed at dissolving ego, at some point seems “wrong for you”. That is sort of the point, right? It may be wrong, just take a long view. Just stop for a while and see what happens.

    Maybe just say “I’m going to stop doing practice X for a while… we don’t really need to say “oh, this is better”, or “this is antiquated” or “this just doesn’t speak to me” or anything.

    This coming from a dude that has been doing Ngondro, on and off, for about 5 years.

  6. I appreciate the honesty of your postings. I have been through that path myself and I realized that I do not care about the religious and ritual aspects of the path, I want to focus on the path itself. I am interested in learning about them from a historic perspective but I do not want to follow them. If you haven’t already I would recommend Stephen Batchelor’s book, “Buddhism without Beliefs” and “Confession of a Buddhist Atheist”, the later book is related to what you are talking about in this posting.

    I am currently sitting with a group that does not follow any lineage and we enjoy our independence and self-discovery process. I wish you the best in your path.

  7. I have sat before with Zen groups, will probably practice with one that is close by, if nothing more for the community aspect of it. Right now it feels great to not be pigeonholed into one thing. We’ll see where it goes…

    I saw FNM in like 90 or 91 I think. They were opening for Billy Idol. Obviously I went for FNM, but Idol put on a good show too.

  8. I’ve been a lurker on your blog for a few weeks now, and I have to say, I appreciate your frank view on things. If you haven’t looked into Zen practice before, I would recommend that you find a Zen temple and give it a try. I had always been drawn to Buddhist concepts, and my parents themselves are Buddhists, but I couldn’t quite gel with the rituals and deities of the Vajrayana order they belong to. I found Zen to be a breath of fresh air. Perhaps it would do the same for you.

    Also, Faith No More rocks! I drove from Michigan to Brooklyn to see them play last summer. It was amazing.

  9. i know it feels like you’re walking away from something, but I think it’s great. you sound to me like a man who is throwing down his crutches ready to walk on his own.
    I won’t (zen) say anything (zen) about what you should do (zen) but there may be (zen) subliminal messages in my (zen) comment.

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