Sacred geometry


Date1st October 2006
Retreat/SeriesSilent Autumn Retreat, Finland 2006


I want to talk a little bit more about this quality of mindfulness, this concept of mindfulness that I started talking about this morning. Like I said this morning, in a way it's something extremely simple, but in a way there are aspects to it and levels to it and it's something we could really explore. So the first question is: why? Why bother? You can pretty much tell at the end of the first day of retreat, it's quite some hard work, you know? It's not necessarily all just smooth sailing. The question is why? So a little bit, first of all, to put it in a context, in a framework. Like I touched on last night, why are we doing this? All this, the purpose of mindfulness, is for the sake, we could say, of three things: for the sake of freedom, for the sake of truth, and for the sake of love.

What does that mean? What did the Buddha mean when he talked about these things? When we say freedom, what it means spiritually speaking is freedom from suffering in life, problems in life that are not necessary. So a lot, a lot, a lot, much of our suffering in life, much of the difficulty that we experience is actually not necessary. It arises because we don't understand. It arises because we struggle unnecessarily. So the Dharma, the teachings, the promise is that we can have freedom in this life from unnecessary suffering. That's what mindfulness is for. It's a tool towards freedom.

It's also for the sake of truth. Again, what does 'truth' mean? We use these big words. What does it mean? On one level, we can talk about personal truth. So I become more conscious of my particular patterns of mind, my particular ways I react to kinds of situations, my particular thought patterns, my particular difficulties in relationship, whatever they are -- a personal truth, "This is true for me." Maybe I notice I have a tendency towards irritability. Maybe that's my pattern. Or towards laziness. It's not always negative, so positive as well. But awakening to what the truth of our person is. That's the first aspect of truth, which mindfulness is in the service of.

A second aspect: what we might call universal truth. So what does this mean? It means a kind of level of truth that's true for everybody. So it's true for me, it's true for everyone in this room and everyone on earth, everyone anywhere, in fact. For instance, the fact of impermanence -- everything that exists will cease to exist, will stop existing at some point, whether in the next microsecond, the next moment, the next few minutes, hours, days, years, aeons even. So everything from the tiniest, smallest subatomic particle to vast galaxies, maybe even universes, arises and will pass, arises and will pass. This is a fundamental truth, a universal truth.

So that's also a level of truth that we open up to through practice. A third level of truth, we can talk about something deeper even than universal truths. We can talk about a level of what we might call ultimate truth. This is what the Buddha was pointing to when he talked about nirvāṇa, nibbāna. It's a level of truth that actually goes beyond the conceptual, beyond even concepts of impermanence or permanence. Something that it's possible for a human being, for the heart and the mind, to open to. That, in a way, is the ultimate goal of practice.

So freedom, truth, love. Mindfulness is also in the service of love, opening the heart to care for others, to care for ourselves and to care for others in an ever-widening circle. So it's not just those who are close to us, our family, our relations, our close friends, our lovers, spouses or whatever; this circle of people we genuinely care about grows and grows and grows until it has no limit, until it's boundless. That's the aspiration of the heart in practice. And again, mindfulness is in the service of that.

Now, we may hear that, maybe -- freedom, truth, and love -- and go, "That sounds fantastic!" [laughs] "Sign me up!" And then the next question is, "Okay, but how do I get there?" This is a really important question. It's a question that the Buddha devoted his life to teaching how do we as human beings travel that path. He came up with what's called the eightfold path. And I won't go into it too much tonight, but basically what it means is that every aspect of our life needs attention, needs consideration. So we give attention to our intentions in life. Are they kind intentions? Are they compassionate? Or are they selfish, unkind? Are they towards letting go, or are they greedy? We give attention to the way we speak to each other. Kobe spoke last night about the power of speech. We give mindfulness to speech, to the kind of work that we do, the kind of actions that we perform, the kind of things that we aspire to in life. What are we creating internally? And then actually the seventh aspect of the eightfold path is what's called Right Mindfulness. So mindfulness takes its place as one factor in the eightfold path. And then there's what's called Right Samādhi, right calming, right settling the mind, right depth of meditation, and Right View, Right Understanding. All of this together makes the path. So mindfulness takes its place within a much bigger framework.

Nowadays, there's such a lot of teaching around, you know, in Buddhism and all different spiritual traditions, and many different strands within Buddhism. So we hear a lot of different teachings. And it will be very possible for us to read something or hear something and come to a conclusion that the point of the path, what it's all about, is being mindful, being in the present moment, being with what is. But absolutely, absolutely, absolutely that's not the point, that's not the goal, okay? It's just a tool, one tool among many, to lead us towards freedom and truth and love. Another thing that we might have heard and maybe got a little bit of a misunderstanding from is that what we're doing is we're sitting quietly, in the stillness, and we're just paying attention.

Sometimes you hear this from different teachers in different traditions: what we're doing is you sit, and you're quiet, and then what happens is all this really uncomfortable stuff comes up. Your body starts aching, your mind's going mad, all these difficult emotions, and it's just an endless stream of difficult stuff. Sometimes you hear a teaching, "That's good. It's good because you're purifying your karma. You're burning off your karma. Everything that's bad is stored inside. If you just are mindful, it will slowly come out in the stillness and be uncomfortable, but then you'll be free of it." So again, the Buddha -- this isn't the Buddha's teaching. He made fun of people who actually believed that. It's rather that mindfulness is in the service of an understanding that frees. From the mindfulness comes an understanding of life, an understanding of death, of all these things, and from that comes freedom.

[10:08] So mindfulness has become a word that's quite common in the culture. Sometimes, even, you get big corporations, etc., wanting mindfulness training for their employees. The reason is so their employees can be more efficient in the workplace so the corporation can make more money, more profit. Mindfulness, as a spiritual tool, is not separate from the intentions that go with it. So the intention for mindfulness has to be about freedom, about peace, about service of others as well. If it's for greed, for selfishness, for profit, it's not really mindfulness in the spiritual sense. When we come to practice, what we notice is that maybe we don't sit down right at the beginning of our years of practice and have this completely altruistic wish for the welfare of all beings. That's a little unrealistic. I remember I was, years ago, I first started to meditate -- I was in university in England, and I was walking along one day, and I saw a poster that said -- what did it say? -- something like, "Meditation classes. Calm, clarity, power of mind," or something like that. I saw it and I thought, "Great. I'll go along to these classes and I'll get some of this clarity of mind business, and then what can happen is I'll be able to study more efficiently for my exams, so I'll have to study less, which means I can drink more." [laughter] Which, at the time, seemed to be the main point of university life.

Over time, over twenty-something years, my motivation has changed ... just a little bit. [laughter] So one can generally say that it's not that we have to start with this completely pure motivation, but this is something that happens organically in the practice. We don't have to start perfect. It's not realistic. But generally the motive is more and more pure.

Okay. So as the days go by, we'll be expanding the practice. Today we spent all the time working with the breath. We'll expand out the range of mindfulness. The Buddha really said everything, everything, everything in your life is worth paying attention to, is worth being mindful of. But in particular, he outlined four areas that need particular attention, particular careful attention. We'll be going into this over the days. I'll just briefly say what they are. They're called the four foundations of mindfulness. So the first one is the body, bodily life, of which the breathing is a part -- it's a fundamental rhythm of the body: the breath comes in, comes out. The body; the feeling life; the mental life; and what's called mindfulness of the Dharma, which is mindfulness of the teachings, of what we need to develop and cultivate in practice.

So these areas are areas where we tend to get stuck and suffer. We suffer around our body -- "Am I handsome? Am I ugly? Am I pretty? Do I look okay? Am I getting old? Am I losing my hair? Yes, I am. Oh, dear." We have a lot of suffering in relation to the body. "Am I going to get ill? Is it going to be painful?" That's why the Buddha says pay attention to the body, bring mindfulness to the body. And in relation to the feeling life, and the mental life -- what an enormous amount of confusion there is for us. So these are the areas where we want to pay particular attention. We'll be explaining this over the days. Paying particular attention to the areas where we get stuck so that we can get through them, so that we can get free. In this life, being born as a human being, there are so many things that we can give our energy of attention to. I could invest an enormous amount of energy, of attention, of mindfulness into getting rich, and some people do -- reading the stocks in the paper, what investments should I make; an enormous amount of attention goes to that. Maybe it's fine. I don't know. Maybe it's fine. But is freedom going to come from that? Is a really deep joy going to come from that? The Buddha is saying if you want freedom, if you want a really deep joy, pay attention to these four areas. Really, really, really pay attention.

When we begin to live more and more with mindfulness, more and more from a place of mindfulness, what we discover -- and this may be difficult to believe at the end of the first day of a retreat -- is that living mindfully is actually a very restful, very relaxing way to live. Instead of being caught up in planning about the future, worrying about the future, regretting the past, or guilt, repeating the past in our minds, or worrying about what's in the present, or spacing out with thought, instead just simply present to the present moment -- becomes very restful, very easeful, relaxing, a beautiful way to live. Now, that may certainly involve effort to do that, to have that access to that kind of restfulness. It's not always so effortless. And it may also involve opening to what's difficult. So it's true that a part of practice is opening to perhaps sensations in the body that we usually just run away from -- a little pain, I don't want to deal with it; or difficult emotions, or difficult thoughts, difficult mind states. What the Dharma is saying is please, even give mindfulness to those, so that you can understand, so that we can understand and be free.

What we find is that when we live this way more and more with mindfulness, with attentiveness to our life, then the dullness that often kind of covers over our senses begins to be lifted. So it is quite common for people on retreat to say, "The food tastes more rich, more vivid," or someone says, "Is the grass greener here?" It actually looks brighter green, or the sky looks bluer. What's happening? Through the mindfulness, the sort of grime and heaviness and dullness that's usually covering our senses, our sight, our sound, our taste, it begins to be lifted, begins to be cleaned. When we slow down how much we are caught up in thought and in distraction, and just come to the present moment, there's a kind of cleaning, purifying of the senses that goes on.

When that happens, in a way it's a very small shift, but in a way it's something very significant. It's the beginning of something extremely significant. What we begin to find -- and this is often slow, usually slow -- is that there comes to be, gradually, slowly, more of a sense of satisfaction in life. Why? Because we're really there for life. We're meeting life. More of a sense of fulfilment in life. So how common it is for human beings to move through their life and actually feel a sense of not being fulfilled, feeling something's missing, something's lacking, "I'm not quite alive, I feel empty." Or how common it is to not feel quite connected with life. This is very common. I talk to a lot of people as a teacher, and just feeling like "I'm not somehow connected to others or to myself or to my life," or "I feel I don't even belong somehow. I don't belong in life. I don't belong in the universe," some feeling inside.

[20:01] When we give mindfulness to our life, that slowly comes, the reconnection, satisfaction, sense of fulfilment. And it's mindfulness of the ordinary. So we pay attention to the breath and to walking. What could be more ordinary? What could be more "so what?" than that? And it's through this connection to the ordinary -- so we're washing the dishes, and just how does the water feel, how does the heat feel, or when you wash your hands, how does it really feel? Connection to the most everyday and ordinary, somehow, over time, brings that sense of connection, fulfilment, back into our life. In so doing, in developing mindfulness, what can happen is that we become more and more sensitive in our life, more and more sensitive. So our body and the life of the body can actually feel more sensitive. We start to notice tensions, sensations, movements of energy, the way certain foods affect us or whatever else. We start to notice that more because the body, the life of the body, is coming alive through mindfulness. Some of that sensitivity is beautiful. Some can be challenging. Sometimes for some people it involves opening to energies that are quite strong or difficult or unusual, sometimes.

This sensitivity also spills over into our emotional life, and we become much more sensitive emotionally over time -- sensitive to our own emotions, to the emotions of others. And again, this may mean opening up to areas of emotion that we haven't even opened to in our life, that are quite inaccessible or shut off, and can be very beautiful or quite difficult at times. This sensitivity, though, the gradual cultivation of sensitivity is very much a part of what mindfulness practice is about. There's another word -- I'm not sure if it really translates, so maybe we can look for a Finnish word -- what I call 'receptivity.' Is there a Finnish word for that? Yeah? Okay. What do I mean by this? In English it's a kind of unusual word, so what do I mean? Gradually, slowly, as we develop mindfulness to the ordinary, to the everyday, we can begin to sometimes -- sometimes just moments -- sense something extraordinary in the ordinary. Most of us, most human beings, go through life and it's just "so what?"

As we bring mindfulness to the ordinary facts of living, the ordinary experience of living, sometimes we get a glimpse of -- what can we say? -- like a mystery, a profound mystery that permeates life. We just get a sense of that in the simplest thing -- the breath comes in and goes out, we take a step, outside and the breeze comes across the cheek, or we hear a bird singing, or even you're sitting and there's a pain in the body, and it's very uncomfortable, but somehow there's mystery there. We find this in the everyday rather than in the pursuit of -- where we usually look for our fulfilment is in things that are very dramatic or exciting. So, you know, we need to, as we get older, you need to kind of do more and more outrageous things to feel that sense of aliveness and connection, so we're going to go bungee jumping naked off the Eiffel Tower or whatever, and ... it's okay, but it's overrated. [laughter] Where are we looking? Where are we looking for our sense of fulfilment? Sometimes in the quietest and simplest presence, there's this mystery that is worth much more than anything else.

As the days go by and we expand the practice, we'll be moving through these areas, the body, the feeling life, the emotions, and the mind. So some of what I'll say tonight really applies to that, but I'm just kind of laying out the path a little bit for you in terms of mindfulness, and then if Sampo's machine works you'll have the CD as well.

So sometimes we can be sitting in practice and just experiencing a sense of difficulty. Either there's a lot of difficulty, or something doesn't feel right, or we're struggling with something, something in the body, something in the heart, something in the mind. At that point, it can be sometimes useful to remind oneself of some of the aspects of mindfulness and what might be missing at that point. So mindfulness has a lot of aspects; I want to say four right now. We usually say, "Just be mindful of whatever is going on," as we expand the practice, "Just be mindful." And you say, "Well, I'm sitting here, and I'm just trying to be mindful, but I'm still miserable. It's still difficult." So then you might want to check what's missing.

(1) The first aspect of the four: recognition. In other words, mindfulness is what recognizes what's going on. So do I actually realize what's going on? In other words, I'm sitting there, I feel I'm just somehow happy or uncomfortable. Do I recognize maybe there's fear there that I haven't noticed? Maybe there's sadness there. Maybe there's anger. Maybe the body is uncomfortable in an area that we haven't actually checked out. So just the bare recognizing, "Ah, okay. There's suffering going on. Let me look a little deeper and see quite specifically what the nature of that suffering is." So this recognition, just to check that that's there.

(2) Second quality of mindfulness: acceptance. So mindfulness doesn't judge, what I said this morning. As far as mindfulness is concerned, whatever is present is fine. If there is fear there, if there is sadness there, mindfulness does not judge that. If there's anger there, if there's pain there, if there's joy there, if there's love there, mindfulness doesn't judge that. I'll say more about this. This is one aspect, one side of what mindfulness means. It's just this acceptance. Sometimes when we feel like I am being mindful but it's still a problem, what may be missing is this piece of acceptance. So just to check: am I truly accepting what's going on in the present moment? Because mindfulness has that quality of acceptance.

Recognition, acceptance. (3) Third quality: investigation. Meaning, can I draw the attention quite close to what's going on? We'll talk about this, again, as the days go by. But if there's a pain in the body, can I not just stop at the label "pain," but can I bring the mindfulness close to what that actually feels like, towards the texture, or if there's an emotion -- fear, anger, sadness? Can I actually investigate what that feels like, draw close? Recognition, acceptance, investigation.

(4) The last of the four is a little bit more difficult, a little bit more subtle, difficult to understand at first: what we might call non-identification. What that means is not taking something personally, or not saying it's who I am or it's mine. So this is quite a deep idea. But what it means is there's -- say again there's fear going on, for example. Am I saying, "Oh, I shouldn't feel fear. It means I'm unspiritual or a lousy meditator or I'm a terrible person" or whatever? Am I making some conclusion about myself? So mindfulness just sees everything without saying "that's me" or "that's mine." This hook of identification comes later, it comes after mindfulness. So is it possible to actually just see something -- it's just happening, it's just happening? I don't have to see it so personally. Non-identification.

[30:29] So recognition, acceptance, investigation, non-identification. In English, the first letters of that would spell RAIN. So this is just a convenient way you can remember if you're really suffering -- "Okay, RAIN. What the hell was that?" [laughter] There's a lot of information. Don't worry. It's all on Sampo's trusted CD. [laughter] Maybe it's not!

So it's like a checklist. Can we go through and see what's maybe missing? Can help. So mindfulness has a lot of aspects. Years ago when I lived in America, I was part of a class. It was for people who had been meditating for quite a while. We had, I think it was a year-long class on mindfulness. I think it lasted a whole year. We met every week. There were about thirty of us in the class, and one week we sat around in a circle, and the teacher said, "We'll go around in the circle, and everyone just say one or two words of what mindfulness means to them." We went right around the circle of these experienced meditators and no two people said the same thing. So it has a lot of different sides. After that I wrote down some of the words people said. I thought it was very interesting.

So we talk about mindfulness, but we could also say 'bodyfulness.' In other words, the body, we're really inhabiting the body. We're really, in a way, descending into the life of the body. Bodyfulness. Openness. Spaciousness. Awake. Alive. Not lost in anything, not lost in anything that's going on. Not lost in the feeling in the body, not lost in an emotion, not lost in thought. Not lost. Presence. Being. Respect -- that's a very interesting one, respect. When we give mindfulness to everything, absolutely everything, in a way we're paying very deep respect to the whole of our life. We're saying absolutely everything, everything that arises is worthy of my respect. Can you get a sense what a beautiful way to live that is? Not saying, "I'm only interested in this. Get rid of all that. It's all boring, or I don't like it." Something very lovely, very beautiful. Everything, everything is worthy of respect. Heartfulness. So with mindfulness, the heart is involved as well.

Okay. So everything that I've said up to now, or most of it, has to do with what I would call one side, one pole of a spectrum of what mindfulness means. So everything that I've been talking about until now has a kind of passive quality to it. It just receives and accepts whatever's going on; it's completely equal. Just present in the moment, open to whatever it is, being with however things are. But mindfulness has another side to it. Involved in mindfulness is a kind of learning about what it is that we need to have, to cultivate in the heart, in the mind, in order for happiness to be there. What do we need to cultivate for happiness, and what do we need to let go of in order to let go of suffering? So what qualities of the mind and the heart do we need to cultivate for happiness? This is a huge question. The Buddha spent most of his time talking about that question, actually. And unless we have mindfulness, we won't discover for ourselves the answer.

In Las Vegas, in a casino, there's a big sign up that says, "You have to be present to win." [laughter] I heard that secondhand. I never ... [laughs] In other words, if we're not present we won't actually learn that when there's love in the heart there's happiness there. To people who have been practising a long time, this is completely clear. There's not even a question about it any more. Complete understanding and faith of that. When there's love, when there's generosity, when there's interest, when there's patience, when there's calmness, when there's equanimity, all these factors lead to happiness. Judgmentalism, irritability, anger -- anger's a bit complicated, but -- all these things lead to unhappiness. So part of the agenda of mindfulness is really learning from our experience: what's leading me to happiness? What's helping others be happy? And what's really something that I want to let go of?

And then, not just realizing that but cultivating it. So how do we cultivate the mind? How do we cultivate interest? How do we cultivate energy? How do we cultivate calmness, in this moment and in our lives? In other words, there's a passive side and there's quite an active side of mindfulness that has a lot to do with developing and cultivating and learning. Another aspect of this active side is what we call investigation. We've talked a little bit about some of this, but it's really investigation into our experience, investigation into what leads to happiness. Investigation also into the self. So we talked about what are my personal patterns and habits, what makes up me, to know myself -- not my assumptions about myself, but to know myself. Also, at a deeper level even, questioning -- and this is quite a deep level of practice, but this is the direction that practice is heading -- the whole notion of a separate self, the whole notion that this sense of self I have, of an ego, is something real. So mindfulness is also involved in that kind of investigation. Very deep investigation into the nature of reality, really.

So another aspect of the investigation that goes with mindfulness is what we might call -- when there's suffering, when there's some kind of difficulty or struggle going on in our life and we experience that, looking at, investigating what is it that is supporting that suffering, what is it that's helping that suffering to be there. So again, sometimes we can get the idea that when there's suffering, all we need to do is just be with it, just feel it and just be with it; if I can just be mindful of the suffering, that's what Dharma practice is about. What we often then don't see is maybe there's a whole range of beliefs, of thoughts, of assumptions, of reactions, of mood, mind state, that's actually affecting and causing and supporting the suffering. We don't see it. So part of the agenda of mindfulness is actually to look, look a little bit around the experience and see what's supporting the suffering. A little while ago, someone I work with who is not -- I'm not in a teacher relationship to them, but I work with them -- I went into their office and they were quite upset, really miserable actually, quite unhappy. We were talking a little bit. She was saying that she was having a really difficult time with her boyfriend, and explaining the whole situation. She told me a little bit of the story. And then at the end, because she practises, she's a practitioner, she said, because she knows I'm a teacher, "I know, I know. I just need to sit with it. I just need to be with it. I just need to be with the suffering."

And I'm not in a teacher relationship with her, so I actually at that point didn't say anything. Maybe I should have. But what I was thinking was actually no, that's not what you need to do, because everything that you've told me is all about a misunderstanding of what she and her boyfriend, what the agreements were, what the view of the relationship was. There was this misunderstanding going on and lots of assumptions that hadn't been discussed, and so of course there comes this collision and the suffering comes. You can be with the feeling of suffering -- in English we have a phrase -- "until the cows come home." Do you have that here? No? Okay. You don't have enough cows. In Devon there are a lot of cows. [laughs]

[41:02] Sometimes just to be with the suffering, sometimes it's what's needed. Oftentimes it's not. We need to look a little bit bigger. What is supporting this situation? What am I assuming? What am I believing? How am I looking at it in a way that's contributing to the suffering? This is a very important aspect of mindfulness practice. When we begin to do that, we see that whenever there's suffering, there's something supporting the suffering. There's something that's going on in the present moment that's helping the suffering to be there, and we can begin to change it. In a way, suffering is like a house of cards, and you just take -- this takes time in practice, but it's possible -- you just see how it's being supported and you take the cards out and the house collapses. We can see what needs changing.

Sometimes, again, especially in Buddhist traditions, and especially Theravāda Buddhist tradition -- the old tradition of Buddhism -- we talk so much about mindfulness. Every day you hear about mindfulness and being present and da-da-da-da-da. And you can really get the idea that this is what it's about. And if, hopefully, you realize that's not what it's about, then something else might happen which is a little bit unfortunate -- you might get the idea that if, when I'm mindful, I start to feel good, "Oh, I'm a really good meditator. I'm really doing it." And when I'm not mindful, I start judging myself: "I bet everyone else has completely uninterrupted mindfulness." What's happening? What's happening there? Because we talk over and over and over about mindfulness, the self, the ego, starts wrapping itself around the concept of mindfulness, like ivy around a tree, and just feeds off this concept. And then how mindful I think I am, how mindful I feel myself to be, becomes how I judge myself.

Mindfulness is another condition. It just comes when the conditions are there. A retreat, we're setting up the best conditions for mindfulness. And then the more you practise mindfulness, the more it becomes a habit. It has nothing to do with ego. It has nothing to do with self. So, if possible, to leave that out of it. But this is quite common at meditation centres. Not so much at Gaia House, but there's a centre in the States where they really, really encourage a lot of mindfulness, all the time talking about mindfulness, and so -- well, let me tell you another story. When Beethoven, the composer, was living in Vienna, he would go walking down the streets of Vienna, going shopping or whatever it was. People would see him and they would look and say, "Here comes a great man walking down the street." In my opinion, Beethoven was a great man, but. And then some years later, Wagner was a person who was so caught up in himself that he started writing his diaries when he was alive, knowing that they were going to be published, intending for them to be published, so creating stuff about himself. And Wagner would come out of his house and walk down the street, and people would say, "Here comes a man walking like a great man walking down the street."

Sometimes when we emphasize mindfulness too much, you get this phenomena of meditators, yogis, walking very, very slowly down the street, and they walk past the teacher in the corridor, so hopefully the teacher says, "Ah, there's a mindful yogi ..." [laughter] Or maybe it's, "Here comes a yogi walking like a yogi walking mindfully down the street." So not to have too much self in this; it's just a condition. It's not as big a deal as it might seem.

Just finally, I want to say a few words on the connection of mindfulness and love. At first, it might not be that obvious: why is there even a connection of this quality of mindfulness, of being present, and the presence of love, of kindness? They seem like two separate things. I feel, having practised for a while and having been around Dharma scenes, that actually one of the real signs of a mature practice, someone who has really gone deep in practice, is actually the presence of kindness. Kindness grows in them and they kind of exude kindness.

Sometimes we have the sense that people who are really deep in practice, maybe they should kind of glow in the dark or something, really have this aura to them, and, you know, there's a lot of just misconception around. The Buddha actually said you can't tell how deep a person's wisdom is until you really talk to that person a lot and about deep things; then you begin to see where they're at. I also feel that the presence of kindness is a sign of deep practice. Why is it that being mindful leads to kindness? How does that connection come? Partly it's a mystery, and we don't need to go into it. But just to say a little bit. This quality of acceptance that I talked about -- so mindfulness in its passive form has this quality of just accepting the moment. Beautiful moment, difficult moment, pleasure, pain, I just accept. There's acceptance. That quality of acceptance is very similar to kindness. So when a friend comes to us, someone we love, and they come in need, in difficulty, what we show them, if we love them, is acceptance. The quality of acceptance that mindfulness has is very related to the quality of kindness. And when we, over and over, practise this mindfulness with the acceptance, then the kindness grows naturally because of that. It becomes a habit.

As mindfulness grows, too, some of the things I was talking about -- we become less entangled in things, less worried and caught up in things, and there comes more happiness inside. We just feel, gradually, slowly, that there's more of a sense that we have enough happiness. And because we have enough, we are more available to others, more available to listening, to sharing, to giving to others because we feel we have enough. When, through mindfulness, we are touched by life, we are touched by existence, by just the fact of our existence and by consciousness -- becomes, like I said before, something that is amazing, wondrous, and we open to that.

We become touched and moved by the particulars. I was at the ocean the other day in England -- no two waves are the same, no two stones, no two pebbles on the beach are the same. No two people, no two breaths, no two emotions, no two moments are the same. Something about this -- because we're present, we notice the particular, the unbelievable diversity, endless diversity, and that touches us. We also see the commonality as well. We see what all of us as human beings have in common. We begin to sense a oneness. Through showing up to life, we sense the oneness. And because we sense oneness and the beauty, also, of individuality, we sense these two opposite things together, because we sense that, love has to come out in the heart. It has to. When there's a perception of oneness, love follows. The heart opens. If we spend enough time in our life looking inward, looking at ourselves, basically it's very hard to take ourselves very seriously after a while. We just see what a load of crazy stuff there is in there -- this and that and memories and bits we got from the radio thirty years ago or whatever. We take ourselves less seriously. We become less preoccupied with ourself. Again, we become more available to others because of that. We don't have to go through this life taking this ego, this self, so seriously.

We begin, also, to notice the interconnection of things, how everything is interwoven, interdependent. Everything affects everything else. Through mindfulness, through having a bigger sense of things in mindfulness, we begin to see that. We sense, even, the inseparability of everything, that we cannot separate any two things in the universe. And again, when we see this inseparability, the love comes. It cannot help but come. When we move to really deep places in practice, when the mindfulness gets very strong and a lot of quiet comes, a lot of stillness comes in the mind, in the heart, one of the things that mindfulness can do is it begins to relax this struggle that we habitually have with the moment. So usually something is present in the moment, in the environment or inside us, and we're either trying to push it away or trying to hang on to it. Most of the time we're struggling in some way with the moment. As the mindfulness deepens, because of this acceptance quality of mindfulness, it doesn't struggle so much with the moment.

This pushing and pulling, pushing and pulling begins to get calm, begins to lessen and just quieten down. When that grasping, pushing and pulling, that grasping relaxes, somehow in that space that opens up there is an effortless sense of love, somehow. Somehow the love comes. When we stop struggling with the moment, love is there. There's a kind of -- you can see, because there's a real non-violence there. To push or to pull or to hold on, there's a subtle kind of violence with the mind. When we relax that violence, there's no violence, what takes its place is love. There's a beauty and an innocence there. This is available when people are committed deeply to the practice of mindfulness.

Okay. Shall we just sit quietly together for a minute?

Sacred geometry
Sacred geometry