This week, Sharon digs the into some of the reoccurring challenges we all encounter along the path.
Our path to liberation is not a linear one of progression, in which we clear hurdles that never return. Instead, it is a circular journey that keeps coming around and influences all aspects of our life. The wisdom our practice cultivates affords us the opportunity to approach these challenges in a better way each time they present themselves along the path.
Circular Path (Opening) – In Theravada Buddhism, there is a path to liberation that is non-linear. This practice is more like a continuous loop, coming back around and around again. Each time challenges arise we are afforded an opportunity to move past them in a better way than before.
Foundation for Practice (3:50) – The path begins with how we live day to day. Part of our practice is building qualities like self-respect and ease of heart that allows us to be with things in a more spacious and healthy way. When the Buddha taught lay people, he often spoke of generosity. He did so because it gladdened the heart.
Ethics (6:55) – Ethics are another part of the path. Living a life of complexity and secrecy just makes things harder for us. Instead, by living honestly and simply, we lighten the load as we continue down the path. Shifting ourselves to this place of lightness and simplicity gives an ideal platform to begin or practice and cultivate qualities like concentration and tranquility.
In the Middle with Mindfulness (09:30) – Operating from this point of centeredness allows us to work with the development of wisdom. Theravadan practice calls this wisdom insight, the engine of which is mindfulness.
“Mindfulness is said to be this place in the middle. Where we go, ‘ Oh, this is what is happening right now.’ We can connect to it, and take an interest in it. In a way, we are free in our relationship to it, and that give us the opportunity to see much more deeply into what is happening.”
This tradition does not consider mindfulness to be the same as calming down or tranquility. Instead, mindfulness is taking a keen look at our experiences to see them in a different way.
One thing we often find in this place of mindfulness is fear. Fear manifests in so many ways, practicing mindfulness allows us to watch how this fear works. Doing so allows us relief and space to move past the fear which holds us back.
Nothing is Forever (18:00) – When we have a bigger picture of things, it is easier to remember that the situation we are in is not forever. Change is a universal truth that is reflected in every experience we have.
“So much in this society, and so much in this world, is designed to try to offer us totems against change.”
Dukkah (20:50) – The most common translation of the word Dukkah is suffering. However, Dukkah is perhaps better explained as a sense of poignancy, that some things are very painful. In Western culture, we are conditioned not to acknowledge this fact of life.
While suffering is unavoidable, there are extra layers of suffering that make things worse and can be avoided. However, the first kind of Dukkah teaches that there is a core friction and difficulty to our experience which cannot. Another form of Dukkah is more subtle than others. This pain comes from the instability ever-changing nature of things.The third type of Dukkha is conditionality. Nothing happens apart from causes and conditions to make it happen. We must make things happen, and the process of so can be a trial or burden.
“This is a part of what we see as kind of a universal level of truth, of wisdom. To see this is wisdom, all of these are what we share; it’s not just me. It’s part of what we share. It’s part of how we learn to relate to one another and care about one another because we are all living in the same larger reality.”
Selfless (30:00) – A common hurdle we struggle with along the path is what some schools call selflessness or emptiness. It is not that our individual selves disappear, but realizing the interconnectedness of things. We exist in a network in which everything we do matters.
Another aspect of selflessness is understanding that we do not always see things accurately on every level. What we are challenging is ignorance or limitation of view.
When it Comes (39:30) – One of the trickiest parts of developing certain qualities in practice is that they rarely reveal themselves in practice, they show themselves in our lives.The changes that we want show themselves in our daily life, which is where we want them. We do not practice to become a great meditator; we practice to have a different life.
“That’s when they say wisdom is for the sake of liberation, the sure heart’s release. It’s for transformation; it is not a commodity. It is for the transformation of our being.”
Loving-Kindness Meditation (44:00) – Sharon leads a poignant, loving kindness meditation along with insight on the practice.
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