Photo by David Devine

President Chuck Lief’s address to Naropa’s fall graduates:

I am happy to welcome all of you to Naropa University’s 2015 winter graduation. A special welcome to the graduates, and your family and friends. I know that many of you will be able to join us next May for the larger and somewhat more elaborate ceremony. But, I really enjoy this more intimate ceremony honoring your diligent work and marking a powerful moment of transition.

We’re enjoying a seasonal transition today, which is providing the backdrop for all of us to pause for a moment to consider where we stand on our personal journeys, and to contemplate what might unfold. And as good contemplative practitioners we might, from time to time, drop the “what might happen” narrative and just see what happens next. That is somewhat risky and in many ways goes against the way in which we are supposed to be prepared.

In many ways we have been prepared meet the sharp edges of the world by starting in our closet where we have a designer collection of padding-down filled coats for the cold, SPF 50 sunscreen for the rays, steel toed shoes for the rocks, as well as aggression so we can repel what seems threatening, passion so we can grab something or someone before another does and ignorance so we don’t have to experience real truth or suffering.

Chuck Lief Naropa
Photo by David Devine

But the protective nature of the padding is precisely what blocks us from directly engaging the world. I think that in order to effectively act on a heartfelt desire to relieve suffering in the world, we need to first be able to directly experience our own suffering and that of others. That takes courage, strong intention and diligent practice. There is no sudden insight. Naropa’s founder, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, once said that sudden zaps only work in your microwave and that the contemplative practitioner cannot expect a transcendental microwave oven.

Peeling away the layers of protection is a gradual process and the decision to do that work is completely up to each of us individually. Contemplative education is shorthand for that effort and commitment. It is a privilege for the Naropa faculty and staff to support the container in which you have been able to work on honing skills, deepening compassion and committing to be of service to others.

Thank you for sharing yourselves with our community, adding your stories to the thousands of stories of those who came before and who will find themselves in our cauldron in the future. It is a joy to mark your accomplishments today. ')}