Ways into Wisdom

Wisdom is like a jewel in more ways than one. It’s precious, undeniably so. It is beautiful and has beautiful effects on the mind. It is multi-faceted. And – in a circular sort of relationship – this multi-faceted nature is of crucial importance to the realising of wisdom.

It means that we can approach wisdom, the nature of reality, from different directions. Each direction gives us a different view and a new way into understanding. Eventually all these understandings coalesce and the small ways which each ‘seeing’ has interpenetrated all the other ‘seeings’ add up to a much deeper wisdom. Our perspective is then from the deepest heart of the jewel.

And mostly all we need to do is keep looking and stay curious.

The way to wisdom in this more receptive mindfulness practice is largely implicit. It’s not necessary to actively reflect on the conceptual teachings when we’re meditating, though it is helpful to know them well through study and reflection outside of times of formal sitting. We don’t bring in concepts any more than is necessary to sustain an implicit ‘right view’ or dharma perspective, as it’s so easy for the conceptual mind to co-opt the experiences of clear seeing we do have.

We just keep looking, keep noticing and being aware.

One jewel facet that arose in my meditation recently came after hearing a dharma talk about how we perceive self and world. What can be known apart from our experience through the five physical senses and the mind sense.

This particular formulation of ‘right view’ was obviously still resonating in my mind a few days later when I came to meditate. I was sitting with an awareness of some pain – I’d woken with a headache and my neck was sore and stiff. I started noticing that the mind felt quite spacious around the discomfort and moving at times to other objects. There were physical sensations, smells from the incense I was burning, and occasional thoughts. I was aware I was happy to be sitting. I gradually noticed that when my attention was on something other than the pain, I was not aware of the pain. In fact, it seemed not to be there in those moments.

The question arose spontaneously ‘if my attention is not on the sensations of pain but on something else, is the pain still experienced?’ The answer was a clear ‘no’. I continued watching sensations in my head, including the ‘pain’, and now it felt as if wisdom was more strongly present. There was a sort of ‘looking-knowing’ quality in the mind infused with curiosity, and quickly the spaces between the moments of ‘mind knowing pain’ grew longer. It felt like the ‘looking-knowing’ way of being changed the experience of pain and discomfort. It felt less dense and consistent and more intermittent.

It was clear there was very little resistance to the experience of pain and that the mind was OK with whatever was happening, and the lack of resisting impacted on how the pain was experienced. There was a sense that the conceptual realm that sustained pain through time and a particular location was breaking down. It raised the possibility that the pain didn’t exist in the way I usually thought it did.

It was a few minutes of practice and yet it affected my whole morning with happiness, productivity, and creativity. One final knock on effect was a greater enthusiasm to get on the meditation cushion. Those times where practice becomes fascinating are such a gift!

I’m going to be exploring some different ways into wisdom on a retreat shortly. It will be for people who have already been on a retreat with me before, so we can dive into exploring wisdom and delusion in more depth. Find more information here.

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