Meditation can easily become myopic. In fact, it necessarily starts out this way. While concentration is low, attention needs to be held on very small, specific objects of focus. But in the long term, the name of the game is disidentification, which means widening attention to include the parts of ourselves that we are identified with (emotional sensations, thoughts/beliefs, etc.).

As concentration and clarity improve, a practitioner can include more and more of the periphery in awareness, both in practice and in life. As awareness becomes wider and more subtly sensitive, the practitioner is less and less likely to identify with one bit of sense experience while examining another. In the long term, he/she can experience all of life (and all of self) as a process–a flow.


On a recent retreat, I made the following journal entry:

Kinder kinder kinder. Gentler gentler gentler. It’s always sweeter and less effortful than you think. You spent so many days switching techniques looking for something to lessen the efforting, but the technique doesn’t cause the effort, the identification with an efforting self does!

Any technique is the right technique, with the right relationship to it. Kind. Gentle. Curious. Allowing. Without expectations.

The Enlightenment Trap

statue of lady with birds

One of my teachers, Shinzen Young, shared a comment that his Zen teachers used to repeat. “Today’s enlightenment is tomorrow’s mistake.”

He calls it the “enlightenment trap.” You have an insight, and walk away with expectations about the way things are/will be. The idea here is: don’t rest on your laurels. Don’t expect things to be how they’ve been. Forever newly curious. Continually letting go.

The Way Things Are

The more I inhabit the present moment, the less I get to choose what gets revealed. So, today: sadness. Embarrassment. Impatience. Even the unpleasant stuff is worth it. It’s such a relief not to run from the way things are.

The pain isn’t in the things. It’s in the running. …but don’t take my word for it.

Being Assertive

assertive sheep

It’s unfortunate to see how often equanimity gets misunderstood to mean that one is not supposed to have needs or desires.  This mistaken notion dovetails well with the general aversion to conflict that many people feel.  It runs so deep that a friend of mine recently mentioned she had started noticing people using “I’m sorry” as a sort of greeting in the cafe where she works.

Being spiritual doesn’t mean we don’t have preferences, desires, needs.  Sometimes the action that equanimity calls for is to allow the fear of confrontation to arise, and assert yourself anyway!  My metric is this: I can say anything as long as it’s kind, timely, true, and helpful.  None of that excludes confrontation.  Sometimes being assertive is actually the kindest thing to do.