Like a doctor, Buddha diagnosed life as dukkha (pain, suffering, dissatisfaction). What’s your solution? How can you be not-dukkha? I recently watched the movie based on the book Eat Pray Love which seemed to me to be a random collection of aphorisms. The main character learns the joy of doing nothing in Italy; to eat and indulge without worrying too much. Then in India she learns to express devotion and surrender control and forgive herself. Then in Bali it seems she gets her divine reward for growing in those ways by falling in love and letting go a little more. It reminded me of the world’s largest collection of ancient aphorisms, which you can find at the ruins of the temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece. Here between the 8th century BC and the 4th century AD, priestesses gave inspired advice to emissaries from around the world. The aphorisms and maxims are inscribed in ancient Greek on the pillars all around the ruins ; here are about 150 of them, though the most famous is “Σαυτον ισθι” (Be/Know Yourself), because Socrates often quoted it. The trouble is, there are too many instructions, right? What is YOUR answer to Buddha’s diagnosis? As an example, “forgive yourself” from the movie is great if that’s what you need. But for a narcissist, forgiving themself is the wrong direction — they probably need to feel even more responsible. Even the advice I share about meditating can only apply to some of you. ‘Pay more attention’ may be the right direction if you tend to drift off, but may be the wrong direction if you are overthinking things. So, where are you now? What is your right direction to be not-dukkha? We have the Ashtanga yoga opening chant that venerates the “jungle physician” to cure the delusion of samsara. You might think sukkha (happiness), being the opposite of dukkha is the solution, but facing life’s challenges with a joyful lighthearted ever-positive attitude is still only good specific advice to where some of us are. Sometimes we need to face things with a serious and determined mind and admit that the situation is truly tragic. Being happy is not always the cure for being unhappy, but being content is the middle path. How can you be content? Let’s find and create that now as we meditate.


As your practice develops, here are some common steps people go through. First take responsibility and control. Take responsibility means that you realize that the answers are not out there; you stop searching so much and start looking more at your own mind. Take control is a deeper step where you stop sitting alone with yourself just waiting for answers to come to you; instead you might seek to understand why you do, say, and think the things that you do. Be careful here not to get too analytical; understanding requires observation but does not require analysis. Second, be mindful and be still in your meditation. This is the same thing I’ve been saying “pay attention and let go”. We do these things every day, but typically not at the same time. Here’s a handy chart:

holding tightletting go
attentivesharper, tired?jhana
not looking at yourselfhurt yourself?to sleep?

Third, consider what you are clinging to: life purpose/goals, personality drives, or biological needs. Here’s my own list of biological needs: a) to be social, perhaps with romance, b) wealth, which supports eating and sleeping, c) health and moreover comfort, d) safety and freedom to roam. For this audience, I’m guessing that unless you are facing a recent change you can probably let go of a) and b) pretty easily, and you probably don’t really worry about d) so much. But health and comfort are probably quite a challenge. When you meditate it’s not a matter of being so perfectly comfortable that you attain jhana, it that you let go of the ongoing discomfort, get jhana and then everything is exquisite even pain. So you have to decide that you are comfortable ENOUGH for now, then let it go. Here it’s important to make the distinction between good pain (that is letting you know somethings going on and maybe keeps you from falling asleep) and bad pain (that heralds a possible injury due to too much full lotus or something). Common sense: don’t injure yourself. So once everything is good ENOUGH, you let it all go and then jhana is simple: just breath with your whole body and mind.


As we grow in our meditation practice, I find we learn a few pivotal things. One is that we stop searching for the perfect cure or miracle or teacher and accept that we have to change ourselves in order to be happy. We’ve read enough books, listened to enough podcasts, attended enough workshops, and now we have to face ourselves and actually do the work. After we realize that, when we meditate we focus our attention inside ourself, because we know easy answers are not out there. We can’t just give up control to something or someone else. But this realization has a deeper layer that we eventually get. Initially we turn inward and exert our control over ourself while we meditate by controlling our breathing, insisting we don’t move at all, maybe even forcing our mind to avoid thinking things. This is kind of a strain. After 30, 40, 60 minutes we’re exhausted, sweating, but feel great because we’ve overcome a challenge. Our mind feels clearer too, so we ‘know’ we’re doing the right thing. That’s great but the deeper layer is that having control but refraining from exerting it feels even more amazing. When we allow ourself to be, but remain vigilant and capable of enforcing restraint, we stop the effort part of effort and conserve energy. Imagine you are a young adult in your first car. It feels so great to drive and be able to go anywhere and the roadside passing by as you speed down the road is quite a thrill. I think it has to do with sensing many things changing per second. Would a slow roller coaster be as exciting? Well, in meditation, when you sit vigilant but allowing, the multitude of details in each moment become more apparent. The same powerful thrill (without the adrenaline) of perceiving with great lucidity yet remaining steady transforms a moment from boring to bliss.