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The key to freeing oneself

The key to freeing oneself from the repetitive cycles of reactivity and beholding nirvana is attention (manasikāra), the fifth nāma factor. When attention becomes embodied through contemplation of the transient, tragic, impersonal, and empty nature of the bundles, our relationship to experience begins to shift in disconcerting ways. The practice of embodied attention challenges our habitual perceptions of self and world as permanent, satisfactory, and intrinsically ours. By stabilizing attention through mindfulness and concentration, we begin to see for ourselves how pleasurable and painful feelings trigger habitual patterns of reactivity and craving. These two insights not only undermine our inclinations to hold on to what we like and to push away what we fear but open up the possibility of thinking, speaking, and acting otherwise.

Jarvis noticed sounds he’d lived with but never heard

Jarvis noticed sounds he’d lived with but never heard: the scrape of a food cart’s wheels along the corridor, the jangling rhythm of keys and handcuffs clanging off the belts of guards who passed his cell, the scurry of a mouse, and the babel of radio stations tuned to country, metal, and blues, wailing preachers and NPR. That heightened awareness filtered into his meditation. He noticed his surroundings: feelings, noises, smells. But even more intensely, he felt a new world of sensation inside his body. He discovered the tightness in his belly, the alternating tautness and slack of his lungs, the stress that throbbed in his temples, the pulsing weight of anxiety in his chest. When he described those sensations to Melody, she said he was discovering mindfulness, a form of meditation. “You become fully present in the moment. Experience it. When your mind wanders, return to your body, what you sense outside and inside you, and breathe.”

the passageway

I moved out of my parents’ when I was around 19. For approximately 18 years I was renting, moving in and out of apartments every few years. Most of the time the…