This meditation was transcribed and edited from an Insight Timer Live session on November 21st, 2021. I chose to publish it in written form because I thought it also had a bit of a blog feel to it. Here is the audio. A dharma talk and meditation combined- in some traditions the dharma talk happens as the practitioners meditate, allowing the talk to guide them when needed, whenever it enters their awareness. In this meditation we consider the inconstant nature of things- despite impermanence we prepare with provisions for the path. This brings to mind another word- provisional. It’s temporary, but what will suffice? What skillful choices can we make in thought and action on a path to happiness instead of misery. Thank you to Pexels for the beautiful image.
We all have many choices, many things we could be choosing to do in this moment- thank you for choosing to be here. This idea of choices lends itself to the consideration of provisions, what we choose to bring with us to sustain us for the moment, and the provisional nature of things; we begin to see the inconstancy, the impermanence of things, and yet, with that information we don’t just conclude that it doesn’t matter and lay down and wait for nature to take us back- we keep going, we use the provisional, temporary things along the way. So when we’re setting out on the path, sitting down for a meditation, it’s like packing provisions for a hike or a trip. Of course, we generally have a consideration of limited space for packing, but luckily some of these qualities can be understood as unlimited, like goodwill. You can fill yourself up with as much goodwill as you can imagine, be brimming with it, and you can still give as much of it away as you like, to the outer reaches of your imagination. It never runs out; it’s not a limited resource. This is the kind of thing we’d want to pack, something like a tool that can be used over and over without wearing out. So good will is an appropriate topic for the mind, a place to rest the mind to cultivate concentration. In the Buddha’s simile, Concentration is like provisions, food for our fortress- it’s what sustains us. It’s the closest thing to constancy in the practice in a way. In setting up our intention, good will is a helpful tool for concentration, so we bring up feelings of good will and spread them. You can use this at the beginning to incline the mind, and then turn the attention to the breath. When we say turning the attention to the breath we are looking at form, or our body. The breath is the element in form that’s most closely related to spirit, and it can train and give insight into the mind- when we’re still, it is still moving, has an energetic, flowing quality. So we do the practice of staying with each moment of the rising breath, each moment of the falling breath, the space in between breaths, the felt sensations in the body associated with breathing, the ever changing shifting sensations. Let the mind rest in a place in the body within those sensations of breathing, or elsewhere that’s most conducive to concentration for you- really anywhere the mind can rest comfortably and stay. How do we stay in the fortress with reasonable provisions, food for the mind? Find the space in the body where you can rest the mind. Connect with feelings of refreshment- feel how it’s easy to stay there. That becomes the place we direct the mind back to. The mind wanders, we remember the spot that felt easy and we return. And then when some consistency emerges, when staying and returning becomes easier, quicker, when wandering off becomes less frequent, we can further inhabit that space to spread that feeling of ease throughout the form. This is where we get the idea of breathing into different parts of our body- we know the basic breathing function is in the lungs, but in our minds eye we can understand a more energetic component, crossing the boundaries, the barriers, to breathe refreshment and open our awareness to reside in ease throughout the body. So gradually breathing into, becoming conscious and aware of our entire body, making it the resting place, the home, the refreshing place. And even moving beyond the boundaries of our skin- the space, the energetic mesh in which we reside, like a luminous sphere…… Any step along the way in this concentration practice, you can jump back to any place in the process, even the very beginning with feelings of good will, then find a resting place in the breath- the body- where the mind can rest easily, and be intent upon resting there, bring the mind back gently if it wanders, again and again. As the consistency builds, grow into the whole body and beyond, feeling the whole body resting in this space, being held, being nourished…… When we understand things as being inconstant, being stressful, not self, it’s not a throwing in the towel, it’s an understanding of what not to cling to, how not to bring greed, ill will, delusion as our provisions- these things are unworthy of this journey; instead we understand that we can, through these provisional actions, move into the world with good will, generosity, with concentration and more direct understanding- a calm mind and body as the stable platform for insight and understanding.