The Catholic Cathedrals in Italy were beautiful, and learning details of those stories showed me that GRACE is maintaining your self/values despite suffering. It’s like the word METTLE, meaning “the ability to meet a challenge or persevere under demanding circumstances; determination or resolve.” It’s human to lose ourself in reaction, and the growth out of that is our path forward. The Buddhist 5 hindrances is a convenient list of common reactions; in my words: indulgence, anger, depression, anxiety, confusion. Personally, I typically react with anxiety because of the personality that formed from my own upbringing, genetics and past lives (i.e. nature vs. nurture) to various degrees. But I do fall into the others, and in the past month have felt some frustration (a shade of anger) a few times. Noticing myself when that happens is a kind of “observation-meditation” (often labeled vipassana), and is basically just being mindful/present (sati). One universal observation is that we tend to lose ourselves more often when we have less extra space or energy before we reach our limit, for example when we are sick, in pain, exhausted, sleepy, or generally when we are suffering. Those are the demanding circumstances that test our mettle, and that’s when we can put extra effort into being present and perhaps reach a state of grace. When we meditate we similarly face a demanding circumstance, and it can be the exact same thing like an injury that captures our attention. But beneath those layers there’s a fundamental conflict we must face and resolve: how content are you willing to be right now? Ultimately we can go beyond grace into glory, but we have to be wiling to give up our self and trust in Nature/God/the whole.


The Bhagavad Gita is a short story expressing Hindu philosophy and one of the ancient foundational texts of the religion. It expresses the Samkhya philosophy upon which Patanjali’s yoga is based, that the fundamental essence of things is a mixture of three characteristics: Sattva (air, reflection), Rajas (fire, activity), and Tamas (earth, inertia). You might recognize this as the basis of an Ayurveda diet (see Deepak Chopra). So you can consider yourself to be more often Rajasic, or Tamasic, or Sattvic – busy and can’t stand still, lazy and hard to get going, or accommodating and uncertain. And as you sit to meditate you may find the same typical difficulty faces you accordingly. So let me talk about how a rajasic person might overcome the obstacle in order to meditate. In that case, consider, what would you rather be doing this evening rather than sitting and waiting to go to sleep? Maybe watch TV, read a book, go for a walk, talk with friends, a hobby, exercise, shopping, cleaning, or (my favorite) organizing. In order to meditate more fully, we need to be done with all these things.

As the Tao Te Ching 38 says, “doing nothing, yet nothing undone”. We will never get to the bottom of our to do list so we have to decide this is “done enough” for now. Meditation practice is when we can strengthen our resolve and ability to set things aside for now. This is khanti, the highest virtue we can cultivate according to Buddha (khanti paramam tapo titikkha), translated as patience, forbearance, or persistence. I think for a rajasic person it’s patience and for a tamasic person it’s perseverance. While we sit, a rajasic person may be struggling to remain still without thinking of all the things worthy of thinking, and thereby can’t settle down. Whereas a tamasic person might be slowly sinking into sleep and will need to continue bringing their attention back to center over and over again, persevering. And one last thought, we can’t always force our self to meditate. That’s good initially, but eventually we have to let go the effort of that force. Practically that means we have to be free to choose to meditate without any “because I should”. A simple parallel reveals how we miss this so much. Many dog owners control their dog with a leash so they don’t run away, act aggressive, etc. But that’s not dog training because the dog has no choice when being controlled. Dog trainers tell you that you have to give them the choice and reward them when they choose correctly. After some time, the leash is only used to communicate the command not to enforce control. Can we do that with our own mind? I think it naturally happens when we start to crave meditation just simply because it’s so good.