9 Jul
Posted in: Books, Groups
By    Comments Off on How to Dance

How to Dance

We had a great discussion at the Dancing with Life KM group last night. We’ve just started reading the last section of the book, which focuses on the Fourth Noble Truth: the Way Leading to the End of Suffering. This is where we look at the Buddha’s guide for purifying the mind: the Noble Eightfold Path, which is the training in ethical behavior (sila), mindfulness and concentration (samadhi) and wisdom (panna).

“As you have seen through practicing mindfulness, your thoughts, words, and actions have consequences; they condition future moments in your life that will create either suffering or nonsuffering.

“For this reason….you cultivate ethical behavior (sila) so that your mind is not disturbed by guilt and denial.

“You develop mindfulness and concentration (samadhi) both in meditation and life so that your mind is steady and awake during all your daily activities so that you are present to make choices that do not create dukkha (suffering). 

And finally, you cultivate wisdom (panna) through meditation, observation, and reflection so that you develop the discernment to know what brings happiness and what causes suffering. All three–sila, samadhi, and panna–act together to purify the mind.”

I have to admit that “purifying the mind” is not what I thought I was getting into when I started meditation. “Purifying” sounds painful! It sounds “puritanical” and conjures up all kinds of abusive messages about being “dirty” and “sinful.”

But that’s not what this is about.

Purification of the mind brings the steadiness and the clarity that allows insight to arise. Both purification and insight are necessary for genuine liberation.

“Purification practice without insight and compassion leads to fundamentalism, a fixed view about right and wrong. It lends itself to superstition, to condemnation of others, and to imposing your will on others.

“Likewise, insight without purification can result in nihilism or hedonism, self-serving ignorance, and lack of accountability such that any behavior can be justified or rationalized.

Even when you have profound insights they cannot be integrated into your life if your mind is unpurified. You are unable to move to a new level of consciousness, and you continue to cause suffering for yourself and others

“By contrast, the act of skillfully dancing with life through the Noble Eightfold Path brings about the precursors moments of well-being and freedom that move you forward to full cessation [freedom from suffering].”  

(image from: The Rehearsal Onstage (detail), by Edgar Degas)

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