Originally Posted by Still_Waters
though a lot of people can talk indefinitely with very little understanding.
Just going to plug along here and touch on the points made.
Refuge's not really about friends. I have created refuge in 2 different formal contexts: 1) in the ashram setting and; 2) In community service work. The latter provided safe conditions and the cultivation of trust, but definitely not friendship. The former applied to people I didn't even know, but they came to retreat and I had to look after them. In the buddhist sangha there are teachers, some I don't even particularly like, and none of them are my friend. What I'm saying here is so obvious anyway. or any practical purpose, refuge is about how it requires you to practice all the other things like respect, good-will and morality, generosity, metta and all that stuff - because that's what it takes to create a 'safe space'.
The spiritual context is a lot like the community service context in that it's mostly about truthfulness and trust, purification and overcoming sorrow, as per the stated purpose of meditation in Buddhism. It's not easy to do and it takes some special skill including a good sense of self-awareness - as we not only tend to project our own impressions and illusions upon other folk, but become highly reactive to them, and judgmental.
Trust is delicate. I imagine it like a spider web. If you pull out just a tiny strand it creates a gaping hole. The web has to be constantly tended and repaired. You put a foot wrong and trust is compromised. Bitterness and animosity starts creeping in, and if that is not tended to, the sangha will degenerate quickly and become impure and corrupt; then sangha is no longer safe refuge.
Maisy is right. Not abstract notions, but the real-lived experience. More than just what is being experienced, but the whole presence of conscious experience. I always tell the story of how the ego was revealed to me and I could clearly differentiate between the one who pretended to be me (but is not), and the one aware, which is...
I'm not going to say there is no method, because this occurred to me through methodical practice, but I will say that practice quite specifically involves not giving the ego what it needs to be 'me' - i.e. 'craving'.
Then... 'craving' is a complex little beast as well - it's all nuanced because we are really complex living things, so you really have to explore 'the reality' deeply, and instead of craving some sorts of experiences, just be really ardent for the truth. That was inspired by what Maisy said, so blame her