Q. I am finding my working environment very stressful. I feel that I am working within a culture of blame and the work is often dissatisfying. While my work has an altruistic dimension to it, it often feels lost, mainly by anxiety. I have only been doing the job a few months. I have been reflecting on whether I am providing myself with conditions which are undermining my dharma practice and am considering looking for something else. However, I have found your advice on 'sticking with it' helpful in other areas of my life, and am wondering whether the job actually provides valuable opportunities for working with strong emotions, like my desire to be liked and avoid blame. You have mentioned before your own difficult experiences of working in challenging work situations. My question is: How do you know when to stay with difficult conditions, as they may provide a valuable opportunity to 'stick with it', or when we should just leave them and give ourselves the help of a more 'supportive' environment?
A. This is often a difficult experience to call. As a general rule I would say, first, don't ever intentionally change your circumstances whilst in an emotional state; and, second, don't just compulsively walk out. Rather stay and bear with what you consider to be an unpleasant situation, and reflect. Your situation could be judged to be a bad one for practice (many are), but this is often difficult to see clearly. We generally find it easy to convince ourselves that the situation we are in, and don't like, must be wrong for us! Let things run for a good while; examine yourself to see if this is a situation that you have been in before, one in which you may be experiencing that familiar demon of restlessness and want to run away. Or perhaps you are simply coming up against aspects of your personality that you find difficult to open up to. If neither of these is true and your unhappiness doesn't shift, then look for another job. If after a while you find yourself feeling the same in the new job (because it is restlessness after all, or parts of yourself that you can't accept and open up to), then stay with this new job and learn to work with this powerful force of restlessness; or do your best to accept your limitations, learning to open up and bear with them while resisting the urge to try yet another work option.
Q. I was wondering, how does Buddha Nature arise? Could one say that it springs forth from emptiness?
A. I would say Buddha-nature arises from wholehearted practice, and springs forth from commitment. When you apply yourself to wholehearted practice, practice that you are prepared to take into the whole of your life in a consistent way, then you enter the transforming process that Dharma practice promises. If you stay with your practice and continue with this same commitment, one day your true nature will open in front of you, and all the questions that you have ever asked or pondered will be answered.