Full Circle Dharma

When the Buddha laid out what he had realized in his Enlightenment, it was a complete guide to finding peace and joy.  The Eightfold Path is often divided into three categories, called Wisdom, Ethics and Practice, which cover the full circle of our days.  We are told what it’s all about: how to avoid being dissatisfied with life.  We’re given guidelines on not harming ourselves and others.   Finally, there’s guidance for developing mindfulness and concentration, and how to use these to cultivate good mental habits. 

We gain Wisdom by learning the many teachings of Buddhism, which have been handed down through the millennia.  The first step on the path, called Wise Understanding, clarifies why we often feel at odds with life, and how to end our unhappiness.  The other half of the Wisdom category is holding the Wise Intention not to harm any being, which includes ourselves. 

Beginning the day with this understanding and intention guides our responses to whatever confronts us.  An angry person is more easily recognized as someone who is suffering, and we’re less inclined to take their harsh behavior personally.  That lets us deal with them more calmly and skillfully, to avoid escalating their suffering – or making it ours.… Continue reading

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How’s Your Practice?

We often greet people by asking, “How are you?”  Even if it’s automatic, it shows concern for their wellbeing.  Why not do the same with our meditation and daily life practice, which serves us so well in dealing with all our experiences?  The intention that leads us to meditate stays strong when we regularly ask ourselves:  how’s my practice?

A good friend compares the need for practice reviews to physical therapy.  Often trauma, or the way we move habitually, can injure muscles or joints.  By re-assessing what we’re doing, we can make changes that will improve our mobility and comfort.  Similarly, we can check every so often to see how we feel about the way we meditate or use mindfulness during our day.… Continue reading

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How We Relate to Our Bodies

We all have a relationship with our bodies, even if we never give it a thought.  It can focus on our health, abilities, appearance, etc.  Meditation gives us a way to relate to the body from inside it.  That’s where our consciousness resides, continuously informed about the body and its environment by the five physical senses.  When we focus on their input and let thinking fall away, we begin to perceive our real nature as embodied awareness.… Continue reading

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Letting the Impulse Pass

The “Bliss of Blamelessness” is mentioned in early Buddhist teachings, and it’s a wonderful feeling to be free from remorse.  Of course, we can’t undo the past, but we can avoid the nagging discomfort of most future regrets by resisting impulsive actions.  

Sure, but how?  If it were easy, life as animals who depend on social interaction for survival would be so much more pleasant.  We can’t intervene in the impulsive reactions of others, but we can curb our own, thus reducing the amount of unpleasantness that others react to.  It’s a net gain for all humanity and other species, too.  All we have to do is set the intention to let impulses pass, and then practice doing it.  And practice some more.… Continue reading

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Stay for the Joy

I’ve often said that most of us come to practice for the stress reduction, and stay for the joy.  Early on, I taught meditation to substance abusers in a recovery program that saw this as a way to reduce stress.  Those moments in meditation when our punishing thoughts quiet down bring a sense of relief that can motivate beginners enough to establish a practice.  In these early months, it’s all about relief from stress.

After a while, many begin to ask, “Why can’t I get better at meditating?” but that’s not so important.  Any session of meditation is going to be what it is – that’s its nature.  Our job is simply to be present with it.  What’s needed at this stage is to understand what we observe during meditation.… Continue reading

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