At the beginning of each meditation practice I recite the “Refuge & Bodhicitta Prayer”. In this prayer I go for refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma (teachings), and the Sangha (spiritual community).
What is refuge? Initially, I associated it with taking “sanctuary” or when things get difficult then that is the place that you take shelter.
But I think that it is more than that because the Dharma is something that you “do”. It’s not just a matter of learning material and be able to repeat it back, it is necessary to apply the teachings in day-to-day life. This means changing the way that you think about things and respond to problems. The only way to change my behaviour is to learn alternatives to well-worn habits and patterns of behaviour. For me, this means opening myself up to the teachings and having a willingness to apply them in my life.
I want to change my behaviour and I want to be a better person. So I am trusting the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. I am working with them in the 3 phases of learning / studying, reflection and analysis between sessions, then through formal meditation practice.
I am not a trusting person. This trust did not just appear, it was hard won by my cynical mind and slowly built up over a period of years. Now, change is slowly happening. Over a period of years I see some small changes that are positive and beneficial to both myself and those who I interact with.