Sunday, September 9, 2012


Stole them, and embellished a bit, but they get to the heart of the matter.

Our normal state is like that of holding a bell tightly. Occasionally stuff hits the bell, and makes a noise, although we probably don't realize it. Perhaps we notice it when the noise is particularly loud or long, perhaps we even label it something (like "a moment of grace"), but even then we never think to ask "what is that?" Or if we do, we focus on the hand that is holding the bell.

When we are introduced to mindfulness, it is like striking the bell. We do this repeatedly, and notice the sound it makes. It's still muffled, and to keep it "continuous," we must keep at it. We find that those magic moments happen more and more often, but we still somehow believe our hand is the cause.

Eventually we learn techniques to start releasing our grip on the bell. As we relax more completely into this release from grasping, we notice that after striking the bell, it rings for longer and longer. Repeatedly striking it does not help.

We find that the bell, and not our hand, is what is making the noise. We are surprised to learn that we are not the bell, and in fact, the bell is not even ours. Eventually, we are content letting the bell ring continuously, with no interference.


When we are holding the bell, we find that thoughts are like words chiseled into stone. They seem somehow real, meaningful, relevant. As we release our grip, thoughts become like writing in water. They abide nowhere, are made of nothing, and have no lasting effect on the water.


From one perspective, meditation is striking the bell. From another (usually later) perspective, it is allowing the bell to ring. Nothing could be simpler, but in some sense, nothing is harder than letting go of the bell.

(These should not be taken as instructions, by the way. I don't think it works that way. If you want instructions, pick a path and stick with it. Or if you're really foolhardy, make it up as you go along, like me.)

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