From the BlogMeet Ron


Dear friends,

Almost everyone who sits down to meditate is amazed by how much thinking suddenly seems to happen. Even though we try to focus our attention on our breath or body sensations, we are interrupted by a torrent of ideas, memories, and plans.

Classical Buddhist traditions have called this the first stage of meditation “Seeing the Waterfall” – of thinking, thinking, thinking.

Often, these thoughts can seem so repetitious we feel — what’s the point?

In one of his talks, the teacher Jack Kornfield quipped about seeing a cartoon that showed a car on a long western desert highway; a roadside sign warned, 

“Your own tedious thoughts next 200 miles.” 

We see how our sometimes ridiculous, repetitive thought stream continually constructs our view of who we are who others are in our world. Often through unexamined judgments, defenses, ambitions, and the whole nine yards of our mind. 

I particularly love the response the late Indian sage Nisargadatta gave when asked about the onslaught of thoughts in meditation:

“The mind creates the abyss, the heart crosses it.”

The thinking mind constructs views of right and wrong, good and bad, self and other. This are the abyss. 

When we let thoughts come and go without clinging we make use of them as a way to rest in the heart.

This heart knows the thoughts are only clouds passing through the empty expanse of the sky.

We simply pay attention in a way that doesn’t get sucked into whatever storms may arise in the mind, and let them pass, and rest in the heart.

Paying attention is key, but paying attention in a relaxed way, like an old grandmother watching children play, as Tarthang Tulku wrote in a book from the late 1970s, Gesture of Balance. This was the very first book about Buddhist meditation I ever read, and to this day I treasure it.

The poet Mary Oliver captures this essential quality of paying attention beautifully in her poem “The Summer Day” from her collection New and Selected Poems, 1992, Beacon Press, Boston.

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?


This is our meditation practice: to be idle, to rest in the heart and be blessed, here and now.

Have a wonderful rest of your week,

Tom, Katina, Kupaianaha … and Uilalani in NYC

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