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overview of the journey

Everything is in flux.
One of the most fundamental insights of spiritual practice is that despite all the safeguards civilization provides, the feelings of security we achieve through work, relationships and family, etc, we remain inherently vulnerable to abrupt loss and change. Everything is in flux: the world, people in our lives, moods and thoughts arising and passing in our minds. This fundamental change includes the way we relate to people, places and things: each new iGadget feels exciting and promising out of the box; months later it brings little more than a momentary diversion to the day.

So, what can we can count on in our march through time? 
With age we'll lose control of our bodies, eventually we'll be separated from everyone and everything we love. Given this lack of control, for long stretches, if not entire lifetimes, we'll grasp at fleeting solutions that provide false shelter. We'll acquire countless commodities to avoid feeling powerless; we'll people please to relieve shame, guilt or unworthiness; we'll chase sex and relationships to avoid the experience of loneliness. And the relief we'll experience will always be temporary, setting us up for another hit. The grasping for false security keeps us from pausing and settling into the present moment, which is viewed as something to get through to a magical future that will never arrive, or a heaven that doesn't exist. Right now is the only time where any true peace and security can be established.

So, what provides us with real ease?
We can awake to the way life is now, letting go of the expectations, greeting the actual sensations of embodied experience without resistance. We attend to our setbacks and losses with compassion, we witness pleasant experiences with an appreciation free of clinging, knowing these experiences pass. Eventually, with practice, we can let go of the focus on the various objects passing through our awareness (from the outside world to our inner perceptions etc), and become aware of the knowing mind and of itself. What is aware, rather than the events of which we're aware. The observing mind is luminous, spacious, immune from the ravages of change that surrounds us. This is enlightenment, the liberation from suffering promised by The Buddha.


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5 ways to resist obsessive thoughts (Vitakkasanthana)

The mind can be thought of as a committee
Our thoughts are present by many "voices," some skillful and unskillful
W there are some skillful voices in there, focusing on useful ideas, there are also the many voices in the "committee" that cause us suffering by advancing and encouraging useless, stress inducing ideas, plans, worries.

Some examples of unskillful, stress producing obsessions
—are dedictated to figuring out the worst possible outcomes (fear) of any situation
—fixate on unknowable future events, i.e. what will we experience later in life?
—try to figure out what other people are thinking about us
—compare ourselves with others, especially in material concerns
in general, the buddha broke these down the thoughts of craving, aversion and delusion.

How unskillful internal voices persuade us
some of these committee members try to get their way by
—most work by repeating the same thought over and over
—some split into thousands of variations that seem different, but are …

The Two Arrows of Suffering

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—The Buddha, The Arrow Sutta
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As many of us begin our meditation practice and spiritual journeys, we may start out with an agenda of silencing our thoughts, muting all our inner chatter, if only for a little peace and quiet. Naturally, such an attempt fails, as thoughts are an inevitable product of language and communication skills; indeed, they provide us with key tools that insure our survival, both individually and as a species. Without thoughts, our moment by moment experience would be overwhelming, confusing and impossible to learn from or share with others. And so thoughts are a necessary function of the mind, and its not surprising that they continue to jabber away, creating a distracting stream of content during those moments we've set a side for tranquility. This, of course, can lead to periods of frustration and disappointment for the new practitioner. Yet such a reaction is a needless detour on the path, as eliminating thoughts is not only impossible, its far removed from the goal of spiritual endea…