By Tyler Lewke
I made a sign one day on an old piece of wood, it says “Enter the place you already reside,” and I hung it above the doors to my meditation room.
I entered there often, however the place where I reside was harder to find.
I didn’t search far and wide; I had done that before but this time I searched deep and narrow. I stayed and cooked and rooted around in the silence—in the crazy, in the pain, in the joy.
Meditation is all those things for me.
Over time the fruit of my earnest effort began to show up. I found more than just the place I reside, I found a path—a set of principles to guide me and a peaceful home inside myself where I can always return. It was always there of course; I just had to access it.
I really believe we are all needed now more than ever. Our world is on fire in so many ways and the only choice is to start healing ourselves first so we are able to go into the world and help others.
I am sure there is no way out but in, so in I go. I tried for a long time to find my own way and I’ve realized it’s easier with a basic set of tools and principles and guideposts such as noble friends and wise people to help show us the way and keep us deepening and growing.
I decided a while ago to take The Five Precepts. They are so simple and straightforward to me and I felt I was already living them so I wanted to affirm my commitment.
The Precepts are a form of ethical practice. They are like The Ten Commandments of Christianity, however as with most Buddhist traditions they are only recommendations and only suggested as something to strive for if it feels right to you and if it’s your truth. That’s what I love the most about Buddhist teachings: just take what you need, what feels right to you, and forget about the rest. Do the best you can, blow it, then try again.
They are written in different ways, with different words however the spirit of them is the same. Thich Nath Hanh prefers to call them the Five Mindfulness Trainings and I prefer that as well.
Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.
Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to cultivate loving kindness and learn ways to work for the well being of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am committed to practice generosity by sharing my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.
Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of others, and myself I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I am committed to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.
The first time, I took them I did it in private. I really felt like it was a personal thing just between me and my few noble friends that I wanted to have assist me in accountability.
A year later, I felt compelled to do it in a larger group, as a renewal because my life improved so dramatically as a result of living this way and I felt doing it in a larger community would give me more noble friends to assist in the daily re-commitment and accountability.
Then, years later I found myself in Sri Lanka, experiencing the most significant Precepts Ceremony I could ever have imagined. It was of vital importance for me to take the Precepts here because I’ve come to believe this tiny little island contains the ingredients for what will save our world. That’s really the only reason I was there, to help cultivate this incredible spirit they have and find ways to bring it to our western world that seems so under developed spiritually in comparison, during a time where we need it most.
We traveled to Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka and took our precepts under the Bodhi Tree, what many claim as the most historical Buddhist treasure in the world.
For Westerners, especially from America, to come to this sacred holy place and make this vow of ethical practice and commitment to a spiritual path is most significant and an incredible honor for us and for them. Paying respect to these beautiful people who’ve been the keeper of this Wisdom is the one of the most sacred acts we could do.
I’ve never been surrounded by so many people that are so deeply moved and committed to the cultivation of an inner life. They came witness, to celebrate and to be part of this history. Even the news media showed up and we were on the 8pm news a few nights and getting recognized out in public.
Bhante Sujatha escorted us thru a processional of Monks and dancers and lay people who came out to celebrate. We carried the cloth of a monk’s robe. It seemed like several city blocks long, along the parade route to the Temple where we then went in and requested permission from the Chief Monk to take the Precepts. Granted, we proceeded to the Tree where monks chanted and wrapped the base structure of the tree with the robe.
Our noble friends and monks had traveled hours by bus to join us and we were literally surrounded by thousands of people full of joy, devotion and commitment to what matters most.
I won’t ever be able to convey with words what this was like.
Later that night I thought about how to express what had happened, what is happening and I know I can’t however I realized I could represent thru my daily actions what it all means to me:
I am responsible for the cultivation of wisdom and the practice of mindfulness in my own life.
Every day is my opportunity to add more love to the world by discovering the parts of me that can benefit others.
Every moment is an invitation for me to observe my breath and move to the middle path.
Within me is pure beauty and grace and to express my gratitude for these treasures, every day I re-commit to living the 5 precepts to the best of my ability.
Thru the practice of loving-kindness towards myself and all living beings, I accept my responsibility to add more love to the world and will use all my actions to the benefit of humanity.
Tyler Lewke is brutally irreverent, often way too direct and it gets him in trouble. He’s an optimistic pessimist, a grateful dad and friend, a hardcore capitalist, and a deep-seeking mindful and compassionate guy who’s most inspired by helping people through the bullshit parts of religion and spirituality to define a life of joy and contemplative service to others.
Tyler was born months before the official end of the Vietnam War on the Campus of Washington State University to a hippy mom and a heady scientist dad with an IQ that rivals Einstein… a combo that has left him totally out of place in the mainstream.
Tyler lives in the sky in downtown Chicago, in a 100 year-old bungalow in suburban Illinois and from his backpack as he explores the world. He teaches meditation and mindful leadership, has written as a form of art and spiritual practice every day for as long as he can remember. He shares his personal stories of integrating a spiritual life into a daily mainstream existence through his daily blog where he posts his raw, firsthand joys and struggles of trying to practice these mindful principles in all his affairs. Tyler thinks we all have only one real job, to add more love to the world.
Photos: Provided by author
Editor: Dana Gornall