9 May
Posted in: Talks
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What Could Stop You?

I’ve been listening to some of Phillip Moffitt’s talks on Awareness lately and came across this particularly helpful little bit of dharma wisdom:

“One of the big understandings and training that comes out of meditation is that we learn to start where we are, and we learn to start over.

“We connect mindfulness with clear intention, because mindfulness without a clear intention succumbs to the ego.

“So we are mindful and we have a clear intention. Then — when we add patience and persistence — we are a force to be dealt with.

Why? Because we are always willing to start where we are. And we are always willing to start over!

“For example, we’re in a situation and we get thrown off. We become aware: Oh, I’m off center. OK. Come back to center.

“We don’t go into: Oh, I always get off center. You know, ever since I was a child and I didn’t get that support I needed… Or: I’m never able to stay centered…or any of this judging and comparing. No: Just start over. But we can’t start over from somewhere other than where we are. We’re lost — so we start from there. And then we move back to center.

“So often we try to start from where we are not. It’s easy to see this in meditation. We sit down and we have an idea of what mediation is, or how this meditation is supposed to be, and we’ll try to start from where we think we should be. But the truth is that we’re sleepy, or we’re tired, or we’re something else that’s other than where we think we should be. And the effect of that is actually to lessen our effectiveness as meditators. We’re better off recognizing the sleepiness: Oh, sleepiness is like this. 

“An awareness of the sleepiness and a skillful relationship to it will make it less likely that we will succumb to it, not more likely — as long as we have intention. As long as we know that in this moment: I intend to be awake and meditate. (If that’s the truth. Sometimes that’s not the truth for us. We actually don’t mind it. We’re thinking that we’re just going to doze through this one.) I’m not saying that’s wrong. Just know we’re doing it! Just know that we’re making that choice…

Starting where we are requires patience. Starting over requires persistence. With those two, plus mindfulness with intention — What do you think happens? What’s someone going to be able to do to stop you, if you’re willing to start over from wherever you are?

“Oh, I’ve just been defeated! OK. Starting from ‘defeat,’ here’s where I’m going….

It’s very powerful.

“So powerful that I always remind people that we must take responsibility for what we learn in the dharma. As we gain more impact, more personal empowerment, it’s very important that sila — the commitment to ethical behavior — comes with it.”


This excerpt is from a daylong course taught by Phillip, called Awareness of Awareness. It begins at about 8 minutes into this talk and has been edited for readability.

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