December 30, 2013

Discovering Your True Nature: A Teaching with Andrew Holecek

As historian Arnold Toynbee once said, “death is un-American.” Author and Buddhist teacher Andrew Holecek uses this quote to open "Transforming Our Greatest Obstacle into Our Greatest Opportunity," his January online retreat on forming a spiritual relationship with our own death. Holecek notes that if we approach death—our greatest obstacle and the one thing that is certain in life—with assertion and confidence, we can turn it into our greatest opportunity for spiritual progress. Watch this special introductory teaching, and be sure to check in to his retreat, available beginning January 6th, 2013.

Download a transcript of this retreat. It has been edited for clarity.

Share with a Friend

Email to a Friend

Already a member? Log in to share this content.

You must be a Tricycle Community member to use this feature.

1. Join as a Basic Member

Signing up to Tricycle newsletters will enroll you as a free Tricycle Basic Member.You can opt out of our emails at any time from your account screen.

2. Enter Your Message Details

Enter multiple email addresses on separate lines or separate them with commas.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
karnup's picture

Looking forward to this retreat. As a hospice volunteer for the past 12 years, and with family members over the years, I have witnessed the mystery of death. I used to be almost pathologically afraid of death (and at the same time, rather obsessed with it, even as a child) - when my sister was dying, and I was providing care for her, I learned how to face that fear and open up to the experience. I have been with many people who are dying - few of them fight against death, and some of them openly express acceptance and even the gift of death and what may lie beyond... So much to experience, so much to learn.

wilnerj's picture

Staring at the results I am faced with stage one CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease). On the internet the classification becomes stage three because my GFR (Glomerular Filtration Rate is below 60). But leaving this all aside as this is nothing but nomenclature; it matters not what early stage this is but that it is incurable. Is it a death sentence? One can live for years with this. So what if my kidneys lost thirty percent of their functionality. They can function at 20% of their capacity symptom free. At this time nothing is urgent, no alarm bells, no symptoms, no dialysis. I keep my fingers crossed. But the results are a reminder of my mortality as I research ways to delay the course of protein loss.

Letting go of this seemingly bad news my thoughts slow down, chitta vritti nirodha .-- karma ceases for a while. Still, my heart beats, though intermittently at times, as the halter monitor had indicated. And I breath ever so slowly lazily drawing in air and releasing it -- punarjanma (rebirth in every breathfull)... . .

highervista8's picture

We each can focus on transformation for the new year.
Love, Ron

Both a skeptic and responsible in 2014?

Last winter, I gazed out my office window at the gentle snowfall on the trees stretched out over the lawn during their mid-winter slumber. As I approach my senior years, I know it’s been a long slow path atop this lifelong apprenticeship seeking spirit with a hold on mournfulness and an eye out for what could be. I live in a culture fetched away of critical thinking that dismisses some to trial for their beliefs and leaves each of us longing to love.

I was a mischievous child at school and often took pleasure at challenging authorities. I once was busted in class for attempting to write with a pen firmly placed between my teeth and lips – paper in hand. A metaphor, upon reflection. Then, I fashioned myself a self-made rebel. I frequented punishment by the school basketball coach who proudly drilled-out a 29” wooden paddle that occasionally rested on a nail placed predominantly in the wall behind his desk when it was not firmly held in his right hand.

I admit. As a young political skeptic, conflicted I nearly joined the Navy, while protesting against the war in Vietnam. My inner turmoil about the Vietnam War and the 40+ conflicts, 'police actions', smaller and larger wars since that time has been settled a while ago. Is it that all wars are banker’s wars fought by the fodder of the common folk? Some, like me, protest silently against the continued government policy on the export of war to other nations. As a country, the common people hand over upwards of 68% of our collected federal taxes for military appropriations, accounting the interest expense for excessively large and future-leveraged military purchases. But, I respect our children for their bravery while I deplore the policies that have put us into this bind. Many of us have now hung up the phone on national politics and the geo-insanity instituted by big banks and the multitude of war profiteers. Continuous wars bring on a river of profits and blood, while our children are the ones responsible for carrying the burden of death and destruction for bankers and politicians who sit comfortably in their respective offices in D.C. and New York. Is it now time to heed our responsibility in this dance?

There is also a silent protest simmering against the overly structured and on-going militarized approach to religion as well. I’ve seen young and old preachers speak every other word about the love of Christ while the words spoken in-between are of pure hate. Oddly, many religious institutions support our absurd war spending as our country’s number one export and gift to the world while lambasting healthcare for all citizens. Our country stands vastly apart from other countries on the compassionate care of their citizens. Moreover, structured religions now fit uncomfortable for many like a deep wedgie. Does this leave skeptics in an odd middle land? In a posture that lingers one somewhere between pure thought and utter despair? Can you be both a skeptic and responsible? We must remember that skeptics are those who intentionally grasped their crayons in a tight fist and scribbled outside the lines when they were in third grade. Often done in quiet protest.

Many years ago on Whidbey Island outside of Seattle a fisherman reminded me that it is the smallest change that can often have the most profound implications. He exclaimed that “…it is the trim tab on the rudder which will create the greatest change in course”. It is the smallest incremental and seemingly inconsequential alterations that can make the biggest impact in our lives. Later that year in Portland, Oregon I heard an ancient monk state authoritatively “I come from brilliance and I’ll return to brilliance. What is this?” Through the misty rain that day, his clamoring was the trim tab that subtly pointed out the on-going unsustainability of our ill-thought in this world that we’ve each co-constructed. Do we take on this responsibility?

As a silent skeptic I commit to taking on my contribution to this world in a more positive frame. As the New Year approaches, the skeptic in me is reminded that subtle changes can make vast differences. I take on that responsibility. Yes, we can be skeptics and yet remain responsible. Continue to ask the question “… what is this?” and take something on in 2014. Make it a small trim-tab type of change during this next year.


Ron McFarland
(c) 2013 Ron McFarland, Highervista, CowboyHaiku

JoseBuendia's picture

"Life is death we're lengthy at -- death the hinge to life."

E. Dickinson F502(1863)

dpoarch1's picture

I have renewed my membership to Tricycle's on line community so I can take this class. What is the next step? I've downloaded the transcript. I am looking forward to Andrew's teaching. The intro sounds like it is exactly what I have been looking for. I identify with Buddhism more than any other spiritual path. However, I do not believe in reincarnation. I guess that takes me out of the Buddhism category. I hope I can still gain some insights from this class.

wilnerj's picture

It is not about belief though we possess many such things as these. It is about coming to terms with life.

Namo Buddhaya


gr82brees's picture

My belief is that your belief is not required. The question is, can you hear the dharma? If the answer is yes, then perhaps you are home :) Beautiful New Year to you!

boiester's picture

looking forward to taking the journey with your guidance.'s picture

My very human self asks, "does this include wrinkles?" But as you speak I feel an opening of my heart. Thank you!

myers_lloyd's picture

"Death in slow motion."
Thank you.