Our potential as humans is vast and deep, and can be intentionally developed. There is a way that we can learn to open to all of our experience with kindness and clarity. As we begin to find this stability of heart and mind, wisdom will emerge.This emergence of wisdom, and strengthening of compassion, are the road to our individual and collective happiness and well-being.
At the end of retreat, there are often concerns about how to take "this" back home. If we define "this" too narrowly, with a dualistic mind, we will miss the chance to practice effectively when we return to the conditions of lay life.Lay life is different, and offers the opportunity for practice which is broader, more dynamic, and more relational than that done on retreat. The Buddha himself saw his teachings as useful and beneficial to lay people as well as monastics, sometimes in surprising applications. Some of his teachings for lay people are discussed, clarifying that the 8 Fold Path can be practiced outside of silent retreat, in daily life.
Our relationship with sense pleasure is complicated. Moving towards what is pleasant is instinctual,and we need to be able to experience what is pleasant without clinging, fear or attachment in order to be whole. Yet pleasant vedana (sensation) is not a reliable goal or guide on the spiritual path. Pleasure - like all conditioned things - has its limitations and does not work well as the orienting principle in our practice and lives. Like the Buddha, we need to be able to swim upstream, and not be limited by our conditioning towards ease.
Equanimity - that quality of mind which is balanced, steady, and non-reactive - is developed by learning to open skillfully to the full range of our experience. It is equanimity which allows the heart to feel safe enough to open to our own difficult states, and the difficult states of others. Deep equanimity is " the peace that passes understanding", a wisdom and equipoise which can hold it all.
Wholesome states of mind are often unnoticed, even though they are frequently present. There are reasons to turn the mind toward them, and to acknowledge the goodness they represent.
How and why to orient the mind this way, and a discussion of obstacles to this turning.
Effort and energy are necessary to liberate the mind, but the effort needs to be wise and the energy calibrated to the task. Often we don't need to "try harder"- we need to learn to let go, to surrender to things as they are.
Each of us is an open-ended process, matrixed with everything else. The very open-endedness of our nature allows for transformation in the direction of happiness, once we understand the lawfulness of things and act on that understanding. The fact that we are matrixed with other beinigs/things means our individual development has positive effects on others, beyond what we can directly observe/know.
Our minds have many mixed motivations, and they can be at play in meditation practice. This talk discusses some of the common "ulterior motives" which can be present, how to recognize them and how to re-frame them to make them into skillful supports-not distractions.
Our lives are the raw material for liberating insight to arise. Even outside of meditation, the three characteristics of conditioned things -- impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and not-self -- are present in all experience. Understanding this directly and continuously, in the context of the Buddha's core teachings, leads to liberation.
The Buddha took effort to its far point, bringing himself close to death in the pursuit of awakening. Then he had a change of understanding, let go of self-punishment and awoke. We too need to discern when our effort is skillful, and when we are out of balance in striving. How to recognize and let go of unskillful striving.