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Birthing the Heart: A Complete Practice

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Teacher: Rodney Smith
Date: 2014-10-28
Venue: Seattle Insight Meditation Center



It can be difficult to piece the many instructions of our Buddhist practice into a single coherent whole. We may sense we need to shore up one area and in the next moment we seem deficient in another. The Buddha summarized all the practices he taught into three words: sila (ethical conduct), samadhi (steadiness of mind), and panna (understanding and wisdom). When we get confused about what we should be doing, we might want to return to those three words for direction. They are the keys to birthing our hearts. These three words move in synchronicity to one another. If our minds are too discursive, we focus on distinct experiences, like the breath, until the mind settles. As it settles more, we see deeply into the interconnected fiber of life, which reinforces actions in alignment with the principles of our hearts. When there is sufficient steadiness of mind, our understanding of life deepens, our heart opens, and ethical conduct falls in line with the pain and suffering we see. The wish to hurt ourselves or others falls away with insight, not from moral restraint. We experience ourselves as being a part of and no longer separate from the web of life and we act in accordance with that understanding.


Take sila, samadhi, and panna separately and see how each affects the other two. For instance how does integrity foster a steady mind (samadhi) and penetrating insight (wisdom)? Notice how many thoughts and conflicting emotions arise when you are deceitful. Pick an unskillful behavior you have lived with for a long time such as being manipulative or sneaky. Watch how noisy your life becomes when you engage in that activity. Why? What is happening? Try to meditate while that behavior is still fresh in your consciousness. How easy is it to steady your mind or sincerely focus on the present moment? After enough observation you will suddenly realize that you cannot birth your heart without ethical behavior.


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