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Selections from Donít Just Do Something, Sit There by Sylvia Boorstein, Copyright © 1996 by Sylvia Boorstein.  Reprinted with permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"I like to think of mindfulness practice as a way of becoming wise and being wise at the same time."

Sylvia Boorstein, Donít Just Do Something, Sit There
Part 3

Cosmology Is Optional (continued)

One famous Buddhist story describes a novice monk complaining to the Buddha that he had not been given enough cosmological answers. (Imagine! Complaining to the Buddha!) In the story, the Buddha agrees with the novice but says that intellectual formulations are not what end suffering. To illustrate this point, he gives a hypothetical example in which a person shot with a poisoned arrow discusses the particulars of the shooting before having the arrow removed. Removing the arrow, not discussing the shooting, is the way to address the personís suffering. A contemporary Buddha might use the example of a person who is injured in an accident, then whisked away by paramedics to an emergency room. The injured person does not stick around to discuss the particulars; the police can do that. Directly addressing the suffering is clearly the wisest response.

The Buddha taught that mindfulness is the direct antidote to suffering because it leads to wisdom. I like to think of mindfulness practice as a way of becoming wise and being wise at the same time.

The becoming wise part is a gradual process. By paying attention calmly, in all situations, we begin to see clearly the truth of life experience. We realize that pain and joy are both inevitable and that they are also both temporary. We remember, more and more often, that struggling causes suffering and that compassionate, considered responses make life manageable. Sometimes we forget. The long-term goal of practice is to never forget.

The being wise part of mindfulness practice happens as we act now, in this very moment, on the way to never forgetting. Mindfulness practice cultivates the habit of not getting angry with life because it isnít happening in the way weíd like. Unpleasant situations call for balanced responses. Anger is extra. Mindfulness practice also cultivates the habit of enjoying pleasant experiences while they last without lamenting their passing. Camera film ads notwithstanding, we cannot capture the moment. Mindfulness practice means acting as if we were already enlightened.

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