Don’t go into the mind, into meditation, only when the conditions are good. Think of going into the woods to build those small bridges on forest trails to let hikers avoid giant puddles. The larger brooks and streams are obvious even when it’s dry, but you have to go in when it’s been raining and the ground is saturated and boggy to find those places that fill in with water, which are hard to see when all is fair. Use this analogy for meditating with difficult mind states. Where are the problem areas of the mind and how can I use my skills, the tools I have developed, to make little skillful bridges: when a vision of a person who makes me angry comes up, I might place some goodwill; if I’m feeling overwhelmed, I might try to discern the pieces that come together to cause this stress and view them one at a time; if there is a pain in the body, I might try to cultivate mindfulness of breathing and find a simple pleasure inside. And we don’t have to fix all of these areas when the conditions are the most harsh; we can go in and locate some of the problem areas and take note, leave a blaze on a nearby tree, and remind ourselves that when it’s a nicer day we should revisit here with our dry shoes and sharpened tools.

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