Last spring we looked at the Eight Worldly Winds: pleasure & pain, gain & loss, praise & censure, status & disgrace. Each of us is always in some relationship with these ‘winds’. If we are not experiencing them, perhaps we are chasing after them or running away from them.
You can notice this for yourself. Consider each pairing in regard to your current state.
Sense into your body to notice any pain you might be feeling, and then notice if there is any place that feels pleasant. Is there any pleasure your craving, maybe looking forward to a meal or an outing? Is there any pain you’re perhaps concerned might recur?
Looking at loss, perhaps you have lost a loved one. Looking at gain, perhaps there’s a new member of the family to love. Perhaps you have lost an ability, like your hearing or sight or physical stamina. Perhaps you have gained a new one, maybe from studying and practicing a new language or musical instrument. Perhaps the stock market has taken you on a ride, your bank account is dwindling or you have lost all your worldly goods in a disaster. Or perhaps you have received a financial windfall.
Looking at praise & censure, think about something nice someone said about you that made you feel good, something unkind that made you feel badly. Think about who you may be trying to please. Think about who you fear judging you. Take note of your own inner censor and how harshly it judges you.
Looking at status and disgrace, consider your ‘standing’ or reputation in your community — within your family, your group of friends, your profession, or the world, if you have ‘made a name for yourself.’ At this moment are you held in high regard? Do you actively build your reputation, polishing up your life on social media, perhaps? Or have you fallen into disgrace? Has your reputation taken a hit? Do you have a negative reputation that haunts you? Is there a sense of people talking about you behind your back? And in either case how does it make you feel? Before saying or doing anything, do you take into consideration how it will affect your reputation?
If you did this exercise, it probably provided a lot to think about. If you don’t have time now to do it, bookmark this page for when you have more time.
Our relationship with these Eight Worldly Winds best illustrate how we cause ourselves suffering through craving and aversion. We tend to crave pleasure, praise, fame and gain. We tend to have an aversion to pain, blame, disgrace and loss. We’re programmed that way! And to a certain extent these instincts keep us from doing harmful things. But not doing something harmful because we are afraid of being blamed or getting a bad reputation is not as skillful or wise as not doing something because we care about all life. And it takes a lot more mental activity to keep gauging the external effects every time we do or say something than it does to cultivate compassion for ourselves and all beings.
The Eight Worldly Winds are the vicissitudes of earthly life. We can’t make them go away, but we can develop a skillful way to be present with them. Consider the gyroscope that I proposed in the last post as a simile for how we can maintain a balanced ethical way of being in the world. It is also a good way to think about how we can balance ourselves as these Eight Worldly Winds blow through.
The inner circle of the gyroscope, when spinning, keeps the gyroscope balanced regardless of what is happening in our lives. And how do we keep that inner circle spinning? Through the regular practice of meditation and quiet time for self-reflection.