The Buddhist tradition uses a three-step model for the development of insight/wisdom. While it could be applied to nearly anything, we’re mostly interested in how it applies to the three meditative truths: inconstancy, not-self and dukkha.
Although, to bring it down to earth, imagine we really dislike cold weather. Whenever it drops below zero, we automatically become tense, agitated and grumpy.
In other words, our experience is of “dukkha”—the pain of wanting things to be other than they are.
However, after walking through the three steps detailed below, we learn to be in frigidly cold weather without getting tense or resistant. And, in turn, we actually feel a deep capacity to stay relaxed and engaged, not just during cold weather, but during just about all unpleasant life situations. Continue reading
In today’s post, we’re going to more directly explore the realm of meditative truth.
Of course, just as you don’t need to read about gravity to experience it, you don’t need to read about these to experience them, or to have insight into them. However, knowing where to steer your practice can sure save a lot of time.
As a basic formula, meditative insight largely comes through applying our meditation fundamentals: being mindful with a curious and equanimous attitude, moment-after-moment-after-moment.
Without further ado, here they are:
With any insight, the basic thing we realize is the truth. However, we can have insights into two different types of truth: psychological truth and meditative truth.
Psychological truths are unique-to-us, story-based, and subject to change—like realizing our life’s purpose is to be a community leader, what our true values are or why we always seem to be late everywhere. This is also referred to as relative or personal truth, and is often pursued in a therapy room.
Meditative truths are universal-to-everyone, nature-based, and will never change—like realizing that anger is merely a combination of fluctuating sensation, cognition and feeling, or that there’s a subconscious belief that gives rise to it. Or, deeply seeing that “I am not my thoughts,” and how “I have profound choice on whether to indulge a thought or to let it pass.” This is also referred to as ultimate or absolute truth, and is often pursued in meditative practice.
To this point in the series I’ve given two examples of insight. One was about a community elder who realized that people were more important than possessions. The other was about two people having insight into healthy eating.
Both of those were psychological truths. While both situations present insights that many people could relate to, they don’t deal with the fundamental building blocks of consciousness. Continue reading
When we strip away all the fancy explanations, everyone knows what an insight is. It also goes by the names epiphany, revelation, realization, paradigm-shift, deep understanding or awakening. If we look closely, most people actually have “mini-insights” pretty regularly.
It’s a moment where we have a deeper-than-thought realization that shifts our understanding or way of being.
I think of insights as being like a mind-earthquake, occurring on a 0 – 10 magnitude scale (like the Richter Scale).
The higher the magnitude, the deeper the shift in our understanding & way of being.
For example, a friend with poor eating habits once told me he had an insight about healthy eating. However, a couple weeks after his insight, we chatted again, and he really hadn’t made any tangible changes to his eating habits.
In a previous post, I gave my basic vision of mindfulness meditation as being like an archeological dig. We start with the fundamentals, stabilizing present moment awareness with the right attitude.
However, an archeological dig is not about digging for the sake of digging. Neither is mindfulness meditation about being aware for the sake of being aware. Rather, it’s about using awareness to dive into the depths of mind, and uncover insight and wisdom.
This is why “mindfulness meditation” is used synonymously with “insight meditation.”
I will now begin a six part series that breaks down wisdom, insight and truth in the world of mindfulness meditation! For starters:
What is Wisdom?
Wisdom means deeply knowing or understanding the truth.
Consider a wise community elder. They simply “get things” on a level deeper than the rest of us.
The deepest answer to the question “why meditate?” doesn’t come from an intellectual analysis. It comes from a heart or gut-level “inner knowing.”
It’s similar to how a toddler learns to walk. They don’t write out a pro’s and con’s list. They don’t procrastinate for a few years. Rather, they have some very deep impulse that pushes them into actually walking, rather than sitting around thinking about it.
Today, I’ll detail the four sources of inner knowing, and how answering “why meditate?” on this level is the key to having a consistent meditation practice. Continue reading
I relate to Buddhism not so much as a world view, religion or philosophy, but as a set of practices that can help us live very deeply.
The formal teachings are sort of like a road map. It doesn’t do much good to read or think about a map if we’re never actually going to hop in the car and go anywhere.
However, assuming we are prepared to hop in the “Buddhist vehicle” and engage with its practices, it’s very helpful to know the most important thing the map is actually saying.
To quote the Buddha himself, “I teach one thing and one thing only—dukkha and the end of dukkha.”
Note: the video is essentially the same as the text below. Pick whichever format you like best!
The working metaphor I use for mindfulness meditation is of an archeological dig.
In archaeology, a dig starts with shovels and pick axes, with tools and processes. Eventually, this culminates in the discovery of artifacts, fossils and other treasures.
Mindfulness meditation is very similar.
We start with method and fundamentals, learning to be present-moment-aware with an equanimous and curious attitude. After this stabilizes, it culminates in “insight” into the nature of our hearts and minds. Continue reading
I previously wrote about how the path of wholeness, awakening or sincerity is actually about integrating three different roads:
- The high road, consisting of joy, bliss, love and living our deepest aspirations.
- The low road, consisting of becoming intimate with our shadows/struggles, and working through whatever is preventing us from living on the high road.
- The middle road, consisting of our everyday life, a place where we come down to earth, find our sense of humor and embrace what is.
Today, we’ll talk about the role that mindfulness plays in walking these three roads.
The High Road
In a very real way, a moment of mindfulness is a moment of total engagement and intimacy with life. It’s a moment where our entire reality is vivid and lucid—colors are sharper, sounds are fuller, body sensations are more textured, our emotions are juicier and our love is more fluid. Continue reading
The Basic Framework of Different Meditation Approaches
In the practice of transcendental meditation (TM), a meditator repeats a mantra over and over, usually for a period for of 15-30 minutes. This mantra repetition tends to “override” the habit of thinking. In turn, it leads to a sense of calmness, peace and inner stillness.
In the practice of loving-kindness meditation (Metta), a meditator might repeat well-wishing phrases or consciously reflect on people or things they love the most. This practice tends to “override” whatever difficult emotions we are experiencing. In turn, it leads to feelings of love, kindness and warmth.
Often when people think of meditation, they think of these types of practices—doing some kind of mental judo in order to produce a certain effect, like a quiet or empty mind, or feelings of love and warmth.
While those meditations can be very powerful, the aim of mindfulness is a little different. Instead of trying to make the mind a certain way, like peaceful or loving, mindfulness simply teaches us to be aware of all things without reactivity.
To put it another way, sometimes the best mindfulness practice can actually happen when the mind is very active and chaotic, or filled with intense emotions. This is because instead of trying to get rid of difficult experiences, mindfulness teaches us to find freedom even while they are happening.