Monthly Archives: September 2013

Wise Action

As you can see in the illustration, Wise Action, Wise Speech and Wise Livelihood arise like steam out of Wise Mindfulness.

This is not the traditional way these three parts of the Eightfold Path are taught. Usually these three virtue or sila practices are taught sooner than some of the others we have explored. But the teacher is always advised to consider the needs and nature of his or her students. For most of the past 2500 years, these teachings have mostly been offered to boys and young men in their training as monks, and to a lesser degree girls and young women training as nuns. They needed basic instruction in right and wrong. My students are women of a certain age. They not only know the difference between right and wrong, they have taught it to younger generations. My students are women with wisdom earned the hard way, through life experience. They consistently try to do the right thing. Even so, things don’t always turn out right, do they?

Say, for example, you put together a family gathering, try to make everyone happy, but then one of your adult children or a husband says, ‘Just relax, you’re stressing us all out.” Sound familiar? You might think ‘Why that ungrateful…After all I’ve done, this is the thanks I get?” or “You lout, if you had any clue to how much work and planning is involved to make something like this come out so you all can relax!” Oh yeah, you’re bound to get a little huffy. You’re exhausted and your feelings are hurt.

Exhaustion and hurt feelings are clues for us to recognize that something about this was not Wise Action. But what? This is where the Eightfold Path is so handy.

If we look back down the Cooking Pot Analogy to that little flame of intention, we can probably see that we were so focused on this future event, we forgot about the intention to stay present. And in doing so there were certainly times when we weren’t compassionate with ourselves or others. What were our motivations then? Were we fueled by fear that we would get the reputation as inept, slovenly or somewhat less than the hostess with the mostest? Quel horreur! Perhaps we can smile at our human foibles instead of defending or indulging them. With awareness and compassion, we can realign with Wise Intention.

When we look at the balanced campfire logs of Wise Effort, we can see that we got out of balance by striving too hard to make everything just perfect. As if perfection ever caused happiness! And, just so we’re clear, it isn’t balance to strive mindlessly for weeks and then after the event took to our bed for days. Balance is alive in every moment.

We can question if we were holding Wise View. Answer? Probably not. Probably we were mindlessly seeking that infamous Kodak moment, trying to prove something to ourselves or others, and finding fault with everything that didn’t measure up, including or most especially ourselves.

Here are some simple steps to understand Wise Action:
  1. Recognize an unskillful action, your own or someone else’s.
  2. Note the intentions, motivations, urges or impulses that prompted the action. Were they Wise Intentions to be mindful and kind?
  3. Note the effort used. Was it Wise Effort, balanced and anchored in Wise Intention and Wise View? Or was the action tense, fear-based, striving, over-efforting; or half-hearted, sloughing off, not really making much of an effort at all?
  4. Note the view from which this action arose. Did you believe you needed to shore up your separate sense of self in order to prove your worth, your right to take up space on the planet? Was it to grasp and cling at something, hoping to control life and create permanence?
  5. Note your state of mind during this action. Did this action come from a lack of Wise Mindfulness? Would a little more focused Wise Concentration have made a difference?

We all have plenty of examples of unskillful actions to work with: our own, someone else’s, or ones we see in books and movies. We can use them to learn what is skillful, what is mindful, what is wise. With compassion and clear attention we can see where things went wrong and why.

We will look at Wise Speech and Wise Livelihood in the coming weeks, but we begin with Wise Action, a huge subject that we will divide up into smaller pieces. In class I had the students call out the many areas in which we have action, starting with our bodies. Here are the areas we came up with:

Nutrition, sleep, rest, exercise, posture, mental stimulation, meditation, stress release, grooming, health maintenance, addictions, thinking, expressing emotions, dream, amusement, song, playing a musical instrument, creating art, play, moving in space (walking, driving, running, swimming, dancing, etc..)

Creating and recognizing our various communities of family, friends, neighbors, nature/animals, groups with shared interests, spiritual communities/sangha, ancestors & descendants, compatriots, fellow humans, government/politics, volunteers, fellow drivers on a shared road, fellow travelers, residents of places we visit while traveling, the Earth, the visible and invisible life force.

Looking at communities brought up a very interesting exploration when it came to people we don’t know. So I asked, ‘If you saw someone driving poorly and you (reacting out of fear for the danger they cause to you) have some negative inner commentary going on, and then you see that the driver is someone you know and like, does the inner commentary change?

Think about this for yourself before reading on.

Several students commented that yes it would change their view. Why?
One answered, “Someone I don’t know I see only this one behavior and I assume that is how they are, whereas someone I know, I see this as only one incident. I know so many more facets to who they are, so I am more likely to be forgiving.”

How did you answer this question? Question your answer: Is this true? How do I know this is true? It makes for an interesting investigation. If you are up for a discussion, please comment below.

(Many readers of these posts do not notice the little pencil symbol below, which is an opportunity to comment. Comments are always welcome, and in this exploration  discussion, to share examples of unskillful action and try out using the practice to see how things went wrong. In this particular post, here’s an opportunity to share your own inner investigation.)

Next post we will continue this investigation.

Wise Concentration – The Four Jhanas

“Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise.  When we ignore it, it disturbs us.  When we listen to it, we find it fascinating.” — John Cage

Now in the Cooking Pot Analogy we are using to explore the Buddha’s Eightfold Noble Path, mindfulness isn’t like a stew you can just leave on the back burner to simmer while we go off and attend to other things. It’s more like a pudding or risotto, that we need to stir. The spoon we use to stir mindfulness is Wise Concentration.
If you meditate you have probably practiced a number of different concentration practices. You have focused on the breath or other physical sensations. You may have experimented with silently repeating a mantra, a sacred word or phrase, or chanting. Perhaps you have done a listening meditation as we did in this week’s class.

We sat outside on a warm September morning, closed our eyes and listened to all the various sounds as if they were made by a variety of instruments in a symphony. The instruments in this particular symphony were all manner of vehicles passing by on the road below, songbirds chirping and squawking jays chasing each other around in the trees, a helicopter, and a neighbor’s rhythmic hammer. We listened with fresh ears, allowing ourselves freedom from wishing that sound would stop or that other one would continue. We simply sat and listened to the symphony, unique to that moment in time.
You may be familiar with John Cage, the composer best known for his composition 4’33. At a performance of this piece in 1952, a pianist sat in silence for four minutes and thirty three seconds (with one break where he shut and reopened the piano!) The audience was left with their own thoughts, judgments and — if they were listening with the full attention they would have given the music of the piano — a symphony of sounds — shuffling of bodies, clearing of throats, coughs, whispering, etc. in the audience.

Were they being made fools of? Was this composer making a joke? As meditators we see clearly that he wasn’t. In fact John Cage was a student of Zen, so we know that at least one of his purposes in this composition was to show that life itself is a symphony if we are present to listen. In our habituated state of distraction, we are unlikely to experience it in that way, however, unless we pay for a ticket in a concert hall. When we practice wise concentration, fully present in the moment, we discover the symphony of life! And that’s how it was for us, sitting on the deck last Thursday.

Listening is one possible concentration meditation, but we can also use a visual focus.One meditator chose to keep her eyes open and focus on Mount Tamalpais. This is a good meditation, whatever the chosen visual focus, especially for those who tend to get groggy in meditation.

There are many varieties of concentration practice, but one needn’t be a ‘concentration connoisseur’. Experiment if you want, but find your main practice, most likely the reliable and portable breath focus, and stick with it. Beyond your regular practice, you will find many opportunities to sit and quietly observe the beauty of nature or a crowd of people; or you can shut your eyes and listen to the rain, the ocean, a babbling brook or city sounds as you sit at a cafe table or on a park bench. Focus on a candle flame or a campfire. Meditate on the stars. But let these activities be in addition to your regular practice. Why? Because there needs to be someplace we can go in our mind activity that we are not caught up in endless choices, where we can set our intentions to be present and kind, and simply sit, relaxed and alert.

The Four Jhanas
A jhana is a meditative state wherein the mind is fully absorbed in the object of concentration and is completely permeated with a quiet, spacious, joyful non-attachment.

Very rarely do teachers talk about what experiences one might expect from meditation practice. Why? Because it would probably set up expectation, goal-setting and comparative mind. We all have enough of that without the added pressure of hearing of bliss states we might attain!

But most of us have been studying together and meditating together for quite some time, and as we come upon this exploration of Wise Concentration, we are given these four meditative states the mind might find itself in, not as a taunt or a goal, but as a way to understand what we may be experiencing.

If you have experienced these states, then it is helpful to learn about them, to recognize them. And if you have not experienced them, let learning about them help you to reset your intention to be fully present in this moment, and compassionate with yourself when you are not.

If you have studied the Eightfold Path before and have been following along in this year-long investigation of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, you may find that your understanding of the Eightfold Path is deepening.

For example, when we studied the Awakening Factors, we looked at concentration and the other arising mental qualities of mindfulness, energetic attunement, joy, tranquility, equanimity and insight. And now we see them again.

Let’s go through the Four Jhanas one by one:

The First Jhana is the enveloping joy that comes from ‘withdrawal from chasing sensual pleasures.’

In our lives we are given so many options, choices and distractions. What do you want for dinner? What movie do you want to see? What do you want to watch on TV? How about another drink? There’s ice cream in the freezer, what harm would another little bowl do? Oh, look at that cute pair of shoes! What I wouldn’t give for a beach vacation, a good night sleep, a romantic interlude, etc. etc. You get the drift. Whether we are in dire circumstances and dream of riches, have an addiction or a ‘weakness for’ something, or are wealthy and healthy but find it challenging to navigate all the options available, we as humans have an ingrained knack of creating suffering for ourselves!

Buddha’s teachings to the rescue! When we meditate, we experience a delicious release from the constant fray of seeking out the next excitement, the next entertainment, the next distraction. Letting go of all else but this, we experience the First Jhana. Ah! Bliss!

This becomes especially apparent on a retreat where things get very quiet and very simple. You take a vow to abstain from sensual indulgences, perhaps with a bit of trepidation, but then discover a quality of freedom you may never have known before.

Remember that the Second Noble Truth is about the causes of dukkha, suffering: Craving and aversion. When we purposely withdraw from that unending wheel of desire, we are liberated. This liberation combined with the regular practice of meditation, gives us access to an unqualified sense of joy. You might say that in this state you have fallen in deep love with this very moment, become enthralled with it. There is a quality of being so fully permeated with this quality, this jhana, that there is no room for anything else.

The Second Jhana, like the first, has a quality of being fully permeated. It arises from the natural stilling of thoughts and inner commentary. Imagine a pond where the silt has been stirred up by all sorts of activity. Now the silt settles and the pond becomes clear. Pleasure arises from a sense of complete composure and confidence in this quality of full awareness.

You might remember that when we were studying the Five Hindrances we learned to recognize what it is that keeps us from this kind of awareness, what muddies up the pond: Desire, aversion, sloth/torpor, restlessness/worry, and doubt. Now as we explore the Jhanas, we can see that we are actively releasing them.

In the Third Jhana, we discover that this enthrallment is not the end all purpose of these concentration practices, but just part of the journey. Now the enthrallment fades, and a natural and sustainable pleasant abiding of being mindful and alert, filled with equanimity. In this state there is a return of the ability to enjoy sensory pleasure, but there is no attachment to them. We hold them the way we would enjoy a butterfly alighting on our open palm, enjoying the experience but understanding the fleeting nature of it, understanding that to try to make it stay would be to create suffering and to deaden the experience.

On retreat, after so many hours of dedicated meditation practice, when you are out walking about, you can be in this state and enjoy the feel of sunshine on your face, delight in the appearance of a bird, lizard, deer, commune with a tree, note the patterns of light, savor the taste of the food at your meal, eating mindfully, honor the earnest sangha members who like you are practicing mindfulness, and feel a deep and pervasive love for all you encounter.

The Fourth Jhana is a lightness of being, a pure bright awareness, an all pervasive equanimity where there is neither pleasure nor pain. When we practice with a balance of attention and infinite loving kindness, we experience this lightness of being — perhaps in brief glimpses, perhaps in long stretches. This is a state beyond time, so if you experience it, don’t get attached. Just be open and grateful. Hold it with an open embrace, neither grasping or clinging.

When you are sitting in meditation, following the breath, being present and filled with loving-kindness, you can put some of your attention on your closed eyelids. There you will find a spaciousness and light that you can rest in and allow that quality to fill your being. The spacious lit eyelids are a reminder of this state. You don’t have to stay focused on them.

This lightness of being can also be experienced as a celebration of the I don’t know mind — a kind of easeful surrender, an unburdening. Becoming aware of how little we know is a great release. This is not to say that knowledge is a bad thing. In fact, it is a delight to learn! But when we are struggling, we often think it is because we don’t know the answer. Guess what? We don’t and that’s okay. Our desire to know everything is a desire to be in control of our situation. It’s more realistic to understand that we are not in control here! We inform ourselves as best we can to deal with whatever life might present us, but to some degree we have to let go of the false belief that there is any armor out there that will truly protect us from the nature of impermanence.

For example, perhaps you, like many of us, have experienced as I have some medically unexplained physical phenomenon. You’ve had a bunch of tests and the doctors can assure you that it is none of the life-threatening things they are concerned about. But it’s your body and you may be uncomfortable not knowing what exactly is the cause of this strange symptom. Even if the symptom is not bothersome, you still want to know. This hunger to know may be your body’s wisdom asking for one more test to reveal some hidden clue, but maybe it is just the restless mind wanting to have things all tied up in pretty bows with fancy latin names.

But life is not like that, is it? No one knows everything. We might want the experts to be super-power experts. But the medical profession has become wiser, and part of that wisdom is in being a little more humble, a little less certain. This is a good thing. If we can open to the possibility that we don’t need to know everything, we suffer less. We can delight in the world as it is. We can delight in the mystery. We can love the question itself.

So these are the Four Jhanas, and we can see how such states as described here would be desirable. Yet it’s that very desiring of them that gets in the way of experiencing. It is good to know about them only in order to develop confidence in our practice. Whether or not you have experienced any of these states is not a reflection on your meditation practice. If you sit in order to get to these states, you will wait forever. If you are aware that these states are possible, you will welcome them when they arrive.

These states are much more easily experienced in a long silent retreat, and I encourage you to go on one and do the intensive, and pleasurable, practice offered with Wise Intention and Wise Effort. There is a shift that happens when we allow ourselves to experience a sustained period of practice, where we have set aside any sense of striving and struggling in our lives, and are simply present in the moment.

One thing to know is that even a brief glimpse of these states is enough to infuse your awareness, to awaken what has been dormant for so long. So make yourself available for these experiences by developing a regular practice of meditation, by attending regular classes and longer retreats. But let go of your hunger for them, that drive for fulfillment or enlightenment. It doesn’t work that way.

So why do we study the jhanas if we are not meant to make them into a goal? Well, let’s look at them again. Each one offers a useful technique we can incorporate into our meditation and into our lives.

The First Jhana inspires us to stay more present, and being present, we let go of imagining the next meal or other sensory experience. We let go of our expectation that it will somehow make everything better.

The Second Jhana reminds us that through focused attention, we create clarity, and our thoughts settle down. If thoughts are present, we don’t have to chase them or get lost in them. We can simply be present, anchored in physical sensation.

The Third Jhana reminds us that bliss experiences do not endure but that there is an ease of equanimity that infuses all the moments of our life.

The Fourth Jhana allows us to open to the experience of the light of awareness when it comes. Just knowing this is possible, a gift of the practice, allows us to enjoy it and to rest in it. And we can let go of the burden of proof, of having to know the answers to everything.

These states come and go, but the more we develop a sustained meditative practice, the more likely it is that we will experience them and that they will be sustained.

Wise Mindfulness — the joy of being fully present

As you read these words, sense in to what is going on in this moment. Your eyes are activated. What else do you notice? Can you feel the pull of gravity as pressure on your seat or feet? What else? Pay attention to all your senses that anchor you in this moment.

Mindfulness is noticing what’s happening in this moment rather than getting lost in thought. The habituated mind is zoned out and often does things that are unskillful, acting on impulses and other murky motivations. The mind that is attuned to the moment uses all senses to register the various components that make up any given experience.
People think meditation is about getting rid of thoughts and they don’t feel this is possible for them, so they don’t think they could meditate. This is an unfortunate misunderstanding that keeps so many people from a natural healthy activity that makes such a difference in how we experience life.

In meditation, we don’t need to bother racing around trying to herd our thoughts. It would be like wrangling cats. An impossible task! Instead we create a quality of spaciousness in which the cats can play, but lo and behold they eventually settle down. If you pay attention you can see that there’s much more – and less – in this experience of spaciousness than just busy thoughts.

In the experience of being fully present in this moment, we may notice many sources of information coming through our various sensors. We can register ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ or ‘warm’ or ‘chilly’. We might notice a response to the temperature: pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. We might notice physical responses: sweat, chills, goose bumps; and the urge to put a sweater on or take one off. These are all going on all the time, but we have been on autopilot.  Now we take the time to really notice all these ‘automatic’ activities.

There is also pressure, the interaction of the force of gravity on our body, pressing it into the ground or the chair. When’s the last time you really noticed that sensation?
What are the other senses, and how do you experience them in this moment? Sounds? Textures? Odors? Light and dark? Color? A twinge, an itch, an ache? The breath drawing air, pulling it down, and then releasing it?

All of this is going on, and yet most of us are oblivious to it. We don’t pay attention these ongoing experiences because our minds are caught up in storytelling, problem solving, judging, planning, rewriting history, placing blame and wishing.  All of this is going on in our thoughts, yet we are rarely aware of it – rarely aware that we are having those same thoughts over and over and over again.

Have you ever spent a lot of time with someone, and find that they just keep repeating themselves? Yes? Well, they’re not the only ones. We each have interior monologues – maybe we don’t all voice them and bore other people with them – but if we pay attention to the ongoing brain chatter, we quickly find we’ve got a rather limited set of reruns on a continuous loop! What’s more, if we were to trade thoughts for a day with another person, we’d find that these thoughts would have very similar patterns. We explored this in the Five Aggregates and found that our thoughts and emotions are not who we are, they don’t make us unique. In fact, human thoughts and emotions are universal in their limited range of possible reactions to situations.

Given all this, why would we want to be mindful? No wonder we go on autopilot! Strangely though, paying attention, being in the moment, isn’t at all boring! Yes, there’s the noticing of patterns of thought, but then we see the judging of the patterns, and then we see the struggles. If we can bring metta, loving kindness, into the mix, then our active attention becomes Wise Mindfulness.

Without loving kindness, there will always be a struggle, maybe even a civil war inside. No wonder we suffer when we are constantly enduring and reenacting a battle of rude comments, harsh judgments, and hurt feelings.

Universal loving kindness is a tapped-in understanding that doesn’t make excuses, doesn’t provide justifications. It simply provides spaciousness and tenderness with which to hold all of what is going on.
How does a wise parent or grandparent or teacher handle a child having a temper tantrum? With attention and kindness; not indulgence, but a deep understanding of the nature of being human. Wise Mindfulness is this level of attention infused with universal loving-kindness.

With our cooking pot analogy, Wise Mindfulness is the contents of the pot, the soup or stew we are cooking up. Next week we’ll talk about the spoon that stirs the contents: Wise Concentration.

But until then give yourself every possible opportunity to experience Wise Mindfulness. Commit yourself to a regular sitting practice. Infuse mindfulness into regular activities, like walking the dog, exercising and doing household chores. Mindfully listen as a relative, friend or co-worker talks. Let go of any sense of a goal when you are running errands. The errands will still get done, but you will have been fully in the moment, experiencing this body moving through space with ease. 

Wise View — Seeing what blinds us to seeing what is

We continue working with the Cooking Pot Analogy, and like all analogies it works to a point, but don’t push it. When we come to Wise View, this is especially true. Yes the pot itself is a means of holding, and we ‘hold views’, so it seems appropriate. But in looking at the Eightfold Path, it’s important to remember that all of the parts are completely interconnected and work to support each other. This is certainly true with Wise View. Without the skillful practices of the others, we could not arrive at a Wise View. So for the purposes of our analogy, imagine this is a cast iron pot that is seasoned by its contents of Wise Mindfulness. Furthermore, remember that the pot, like all matter is not as solid as it seems, simply a pattern of atoms, etc. so don’t get attached!

Just as Wise View depends on mindfulness, intention and effort to be wise, we find it much easier to be fully mindful, exert Wise Effort and set Wise Intention when we practice Wise View.

But what is this Wise View? We all have our own way of looking at things, so where does anyone come off claiming that one particular view is the wise one?

Wise View in this case is not about opinions, but seeks clarity, an undistorted vision of reality ‘as it is.’ It incorporates an understanding of the nature of impermanence, Anicca, (as revealed by nature in the seasons as well as in the mirror — yikes!) and the concept of no separate self, Anatta, (revealed when we do inner exploration as we did with the Five Aggregates); and the understanding of how lack of understanding these two concepts causes suffering, Dukkha.

If you have been in class or following along on this blog over the past year of our exploration of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, this will sound familiar. If not, you might want to read more about Annica, Annata and Dukkha. And if this all seems a little too conceptual and you just want to meditate, don’t worry about it.

Coming to this Wise View is not something that can be transmitted just by talking about it. This is where the regular practice of meditation comes in. The more time we spend being fully present in this moment, anchored in physical sensation, the more clarity we get as to the nature of being. The more time we spend experiencing and observing the natural world, free from the frenzy of obligations and distractions, the more we understand the nature of impermanence and no separate self. The dharma reveals itself in this way.

Metta universal loving-kindness, is also a direct path to understanding, because when we open to the infinite nature of loving-kindness, we come to see the fallacy of the distinctions we thought kept us apart disappear. We might experience a sense of oneness of being, but this too is not some solid state but a sea of constant change, a whirl of ever-changing systems intrinsically combining and falling apart. When we feel ourselves to be separate, then we are tossed about on that sea. When we open to the true nature of experience, then we are alive in the movement itself. We are the sea.

I confess that this is all a lot easier to understand if you ever had the ‘jump-start’ of psychedelics. Many westerners came to the Buddha’s teachings, and other Eastern traditions, through this wondrous glimpse into the wholeness and lightness of being. The problem is that it’s not sustainable. You can’t stay high, and the body-mind cannot take much of that kind of chemical abuse. I never went to India or Southeast Asia like some of my contemporaries, seeking nirvana. I stayed home. But home happened to be the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco circa 1966. Turn on. Tune in. Drop out.

Each time I would drop LSD back in 1966, mid-high — no matter how wondrous it was — I would turn to my friend and say, ‘Remind me not to do this again.’ I would never recommend mind-altering drugs to anyone, ever. Especially when there is this dependable, healthy means to a sustainable ‘high’ — meditation.

That said, when it comes to Wise View, that little glimpse does take the ‘Huh?’ factor out of the mix. If you are in the huh? phase, do not despair. Your body thanks you for your wisdom in choosing the slower more natural course. Find spaciousness in the ‘I don’t know’ mind. That is premium Wise View.

Being where we are with what we’re thinking and feeling, noticing it, that is mindfulness at work. Questioning our assumptions, our previously unquestioned beliefs, is equally important. This is an ongoing practice, not just when we are beginning. We ask, ‘Is this true?’ and then ‘How do I know this is true?’ about all the thoughts that come up. This is not self-doubt where we second-guess everything and get entirely stuck, but instead a state of inquiry that allows us to delight in the mysteries of the human mind.

When we looked at the Five Aggregates, those aspects of experience that we tenaciously believe ourselves to be, we practiced this kind of questioning. Through that inquiry we came to understand the concept of no separate self. Maybe it didn’t sink in, maybe it never will, but at least the seed has been planted, the question is there. And as Ranier Maria Rilke is so famously quoted in his letter to a young poet, “try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is,to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you win then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.Read Rilke’s whole letter.

With regular mindfulness practice, especially spending time in complete silence on longer retreats, we can see our view opening and expanding. We might begin to see cracks in the limited view that we’ve held most of our lives, the one we bought into because it is convenient for managing the details of life to see ourselves as separate. When we come upon these cracks, we bring kindness to our exploration and the understanding that our misunderstanding does not reflect poorly on some separate being that is ‘me’, that must be shored up and protected at all costs. Instead we delight — yes delight — in discovery, in opening to the world with an “I don’t know’ mind, with the understanding that everything is not as it seems on the surface. That there is no way to EVER know everything, and it is not required or even desirable to carry the burden of answers.

What happens when we find ourselves able to access this Wise View? The world doesn’t become a blur of whirled cellular activity we get lost in. Not at all. We still operate much as we did, but the underlying shift is there for us to deepen our awe and lighten our suffering.

How is this idea of impermanence the least bit comforting? How can you relax into it? It has to work in tandem with no separate self, the understanding of all life as complex dance of process, not a collection of isolated objects traveling through empty space.

It’s like struggling to swim, giving up, lying on your back and realizing that the ocean supports you. We can float in this awareness of process and intrinsic beingness.

I leave you with one last analogy, a traditional one: Coming to Wise View is like a hen sitting on an egg. All the hen has to do is sit there. There is nothing she can do to hurry the process. The egg is taking care of all the internal growth that is needed, thanks to her being there, sitting.

So just sit! That’s the practice.