The Buddha was called the great physician. In his quintessential teaching: The Four Noble Truths, he took us under his wing, as a good doctor should, to care for his favorite patients. In his First Truth, he diagnosed us as being very ill. In his second, he explained exactly what was making us ill. The Third Truth went on to say that there was definitely a cure for our disease, and the Fourth prescribed the medicine — The Eightfold Path.
The Buddha’s teachings, on the surface, appear very simple and easy to understand; however, there are many facets to them, and you may go as deeply as you choose with each aspect. To understand the Eightfold Path, we must observe where we are in this very moment in relationship to each step of the path. Planning what we will do, or what we will be in the future only keeps us in a continuous state of denial about that which we actually are in this moment. There is only this moment.
The Eightfold Path is not treaded step by step as we might graduate step by step in our studies; the Eightfold Path’s various aspects all develop in tandem as we grow spiritually. When one aspect improves, all other aspects improve as well. For instance; The Eightfold Path is broken down into three areas: Wisdom (steps one and two), morality (steps three, four and five), and concentration (steps six, seven, and eight). As one’s wisdom or understanding increases, morality, or ethics and goodness increase as well. And along with wisdom and morality, one’s concentration improves because one’s life, now ethically stable and full of understanding, becomes calm.
We can begin with any of the three areas and see how the others will be likewise affected. If, for example, we simply meditate and calm our minds, the result will be increased morality and wisdom because a calm mind increases awareness, and increased awareness naturally brings about increased understanding and more refined ethics.
If, on the other hand, we find ourselves becoming more ethical, rest assured that somehow we have understood things in a different light and that our minds have become more open and focused.
This series will explore the many facets of the Eightfold Path. We will begin with the first step of the path — Right Understanding.

1. Right Understanding

“Understanding of suffering, understanding the origin of suffering, understanding the cessation of suffering, understanding the path leading to the cessation of suffering. This, monks, is called Right Understanding.”

Right Understanding means direct knowledge of the Four Noble Truths. Direst knowledge means through our own experience. It is one thing to feel compassion for soldiers returning home with damaged bodies and minds, but quite another to see your best friend violently die beside you in battle. Buddhism relies fundamentally on direct experience, not words in books or concepts. Understanding must penetrate beyond the academic and intellectual, and rest at the very level of our deepest being.

Other kinds of Right Understanding are that we all are subject to karma, or cause and effect, and that karma has consequences as long as we believe in a separate self travelling through time and space. Right Understanding involves an awareness of the Three Characteristics of existence and all conditioned things, which are that all things change and are impermanent, that no permanent entity stands behind anything, and that existence proves to be unsatisfactory.

When we say that all things change, we are talking about impermanence. We try to live a life of light and love, but the truth is; nothing seems to last these days. It’s as if we are sitting around waiting for that other shoe to drop. Ask any empty nester, and they will tell you that the kids are gone before they know it.Careers are uncertain as well with global competition and everything changing rapidly.

At times, it is overpowering. We are changing; those around us are changing; the world is changing, and it seems there is little that we can rely on these days; we can’t even rely on our bathroom mirror – surely, it must be lying to us as well.

All of this appears to be happening to a “me.” That’s the real problem. We have constructed an ego in our minds, and this false fabrication s has taken over our entire spiritual being. Going to church helps a little, as do spiritual exercises that take our mind off things for a while, but not for long. The “me” in us will soon raise its ugly head and begin worrying again, if not about dying; about the afterlife.

This “me” becomes the most important thing in our lives, leaving little energy genuinely to care about others. We might feign helping others if it helps insure our own ticket to heaven or make us feel better about our “selves,” but when pushes come to shoves, it’s a Herculean feat to love our noisy neighbors authentically! Just underneath the surface of our holiness lurk the creepy seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, laziness, anger, envy, and pride) all connected to our “me’s,” and if we can’t admit this, then we are surely caught in the seventh! “Me” wants things, craves things, and finds ways to get them.

A combination of a “me” that craves things, as well as the reality of a changing world where it is difficult to hang on to the things that our “me” does happen to achieve, results in our constant dissatisfaction and restlessness. We put on a good face and insist that we are happy, but in those private moments when we are honest with ourselves, we aren’t happy. We can’t even sleep! Nights are not easy for us, because then we are alone with our “me’s.”

Therefore, all things change and are impermanent, and no permanent entity stands behind anything. This all proves to be disappointing. Discontent is there; it’s undeniable, but there is a way out, and the way out is on the other side of “me,” and by the Eightfold Path.

2. Right Thought (goals)

“Thought associated with renunciation, thought associated with absence of ill will, thought associated with absence of cruelty. This, monks, is called Right Thought.”

An goal, of course, seems like a desire or a craving, and therefore appears to contradict the Buddha’s teaching that desire is the basis of all suffering. Even a desire to end all desires, or to become enlightened, seems, nevertheless a desire.

When we set a goal, we force our mind to follow certain preset patterns. Our minds are very intelligent, and forcing our minds to follow set patterns means restricting the mind into narrow boundaries. This cripples the mind from its normal, unrestricted nature, which is the nature to investigate constantly. This means that if we allowed our minds to do their natural thing, we would naturally investigate the goal, itself. Therefore, goal setting could get in the way of a natural, deeper creativity.

Rather than blindly following a goal, regardless of how lofty it may be, the mind should be free to see all possibilities. Once it is restricted and programmed to follow a set course, it will do so at the expense of seeing other possibilities. Since everything constantly changes and is in flux, reality appears and changes moment to moment, and we give up the spontaneity of this moment where life is truly lived for concepts and theories. We are no longer “street smart,” we become academic, and subsequently caught up in suppositions and abstractions.

When the mind is unrestricted in its activities, free of fear or the quest for security, then there is the possibility of constant creativeness. When the mind restricts itself, there is only mechanical movement. This is apparent. Therefore, the setting of a goal may be creative, but the efforts to acquire that goal or follow a goal or try to get to a goal; these will not be creative.

We may spend one percent of our time in creating a goal, and ninety-nine percent of our time trying to achieve that goal. This is ninety-nine percent of uncreative activity. Some goals that we set last a lifetime and are never reevaluated, and we fall fast asleep. We no longer investigate, and when we no longer investigate, we blind ourselves. Then we go down the same paths humanity has gone down since the beginning of civilization, paths of greed, hatred, illusions . . . and war. There is a better way. The better way is to be awake, fully, every moment.
Living in the world, however, requires goals. Eating, working, raising families, these all require planning. We don’t eat our seed corn, or become surprised when summer arrives and realize we forgot to plant our rice! This is all part of life. But to set psychological goals to escape boredom, or for no reason other than pleasure, or a lack of security — these rob us of the only security — our inherent spirituality. Here, goals simply get in the way of the ultimate creativity, the creativity that truly frees us from our bondage, from ourselves.

When we set a goal to be free, to find freedom in every moment and to become free from our greed, hatred and delusion, free from cruelty and ill will, then those kinds of goals do not contradict the Buddha. Those kinds of goals protect us until we can achieve the real goal, the goal of goalessness.

As the Buddha once said; his Four Noble Truths and his Eightfold Path are merely methods in which we travel from this shore to the other, Once we arrive at that other shore, which is enlightenment, we no longer need to carry the methods on our backs, just as we wouldn’t carry a raft on our backs once we traverse the river. Then we are free.

3. Right Speech

“Abstaining from false speech, abstaining from slanderous speech, abstaining from frivolous speech. This, monks, is called Right Speech.”

Abstaining from false speech is not simply a matter of making an untrue statement. Lying goes much deeper than that. The awareness of what we say is a study in itself, not only about what we say, but the inference and the inflection of what we say. We can lie by many means other than speech — by writing, gestures, remaining silent, breaking promises, and telling little white lies. We can lie with our eyes, or with an insincere smile.

We can lie when we repeat something that we heard, but aren’t sure is true, yet we act as if it is true. Is that a lie? Yes it is. We mislead other people into believing that it is absolutely true, when it is only hearsay. The way we avoid this is to preface our comments by saying, “I’ve read this, or I’ve heard this," because unless it is our own experience that we are talking about, it’s safest to preface. When we do this, we will notice that our ego takes less delight. This is the beauty of not lying; keeping an ego from going out of control, and when an ego is subdued, we come closer to enlightenment.

Another indication of false speech is backbiting; a complex psychological process. Let’s say that we hate our coworker but to her face we pretend to be friends. Then, when we get alone with the boss, we talk about how awful she is. Is this lying? Yes it is. There is a way to avoid this; if we can’t tell a person to his or her face what we think of them, then we should either be quiet about them to others, or find things about them that we can admire.

When we gossip, this is false speech as well. This is the runaway tongue, a combination of backbiting, and pretending that hearsay is fact. Gossip is an attempt to feel powerful by passing along information that mesmerizes others, and can also be an attempt to boost our own ego by tearing down someone or something else. The way we avoid this is to be aware that if we gossip, that means that we are insecure and feel powerless.

Speaking quickly or writing inaudibly in order to deceive is lying, too. This is the used car salesperson’s ploy, and the fine print that we can’t read or is so voluminous that a battery of attorneys couldn’t read it in less than three hours! This is a form of lying. The way we avoid this is to refuse to work for individuals who use these tactics. You might make less money, but if you are spiritually inclined, things will work out, maybe even better.

One other way to lie is to humiliate someone. This falls into the areas of race, social status, class, name, family or lineage, nationality, occupation, religion, disease or handicap, physical characteristics, and past mistakes. This is an insult made with malicious intent to defame, and not simply stating a fact. It is usually done for revenge, and involves anger or jealousy. The way we can avoid this is to be aware whenever we attempt to discredit someone. What is our reason for doing this?

If it is to tear them down in order to puff ourselves up, or justify ourselves in some way, then don’t do it. The karma of this type of lying is far reaching, and can boomerang when we least expect it, because it indicates our small state of mind. Building our own ego always tears down our bridges to enlightenment; there are no exceptions.

Simply saying things that are true, that encourage harmony and not division among people, and that are gentle and have meaning is the best policy. Talking only to talk wastes everyone’s time and is merely entertainment. You could be spending the time silently in contemplation. The Buddha said, “Speak, only when silence is not better."

4. Right Action

“Abstaining from killing beings, abstaining from taking what is not given, abstaining from sexual misconduct. This, monks, is called Right Action.”

Action is karma. Karma is what continues after death. If you describe the Christian soul as being a repository of everything a human being has done while on earth and into eternity, then the part that continues for a Buddhist would not be a soul, but only an impersonal record our actions, and a Buddhist calls this . . . karma.

Karma is a summation of our actions, and not limited to only this lifetime; karma has its roots in many lifetimes past, and continues in future lifetimes. So for a Buddhist, death is not a one shot, make or break deal; death, and birth, happens again and again. The karma, however, can be resolved, ended, and therefore not eternal as a soul is believed to be.

When one body dies, another immediately replaces it. Our karma morphs from corpse to fetus. Or, we might not end up a fetus at all; there are numerable alternative destinations, thirty one of them to be exact in Buddhism. All destinations involve different fields of existence depending upon our actions this time around, as well as in past lifetimes. We could even temporarily be reborn in a heaven, but we could not stay there. We eventually would have to be reborn into a human form again, regardless of which of the thirty-one planes we end up in, because only the human form has the potential of enlightenment, and only enlightenment transcends all of the thirty-one plains of existence.

The fact that we made it into human form this time is a good sign. This indicates that we can pretty much count on rebirth in the human realm again, perhaps after a temporary stint in heaven, unless something quite dramatic happens in this lifetime (which can be either good or bad)! Actually, it is possible to alter our destiny by our actions, and this is what Buddhists attempt to do. By altering their actions, Buddhists not only affect their destinies in the next lifetime, but also make this lifetime much easier.

Therefore, every lifetime prepares us for the next, and if a Buddhist is extremely clever, she or he can get out of the revolving door of rebirth and temporary heavens and never have to worry about future lives again! This is called enlightenment, but until that occurs, the Buddhist must endure the lifetimes to come, regardless of their unpredictability.

At the moment of death, our strongest karma or trauma of this lifetime will arise in our minds. If we killed someone, that memory will pop up. If we were a Mother Teresa, a memory of all our kind acts will arise. Also visions might appear to us. We might see the weapon that we used to kill with, or we might see the faces of the children we have saved. These are called Kamma-nimittas.

Other common visions are ones that preview our next world, give us a peek so to say. This happened to my sister-in-law just before she died, “I see a beautiful place, with beautiful people, and beautiful music.”

If we are Buddhist meditators and have trained our minds to simply observe thoughts, emotions, visions and nimittas as they arise, without becoming attached to them, then whatever comes up at the time of death will not affect us, especially the psychological fear of death and the pain and suffering that usually goes along with dying.

This moment of death is extremely important because it connects us to our next lifetime. We must prepare for this moment by living not only a virtuous life, but by understanding all about the mind from an intuitive level. We have to train ourselves well enough so that we can remain tranquil and unattached during our last conscious moments. If we are attached to our possessions, to our life, or to anyone that we leave behind, our next lifetime will reflect those desires by plopping us back into the same circumstances only to relive them all again, and suffer old age , disease and death innumerable times.

Buddhists believe in rebirth, not the reincarnation of a personality. Rebirth is the transference of karma, or our past actions, which mold our characters and tendencies. The body will be new, the brain and memory will be new, but our penchants will remain. The karma that fueled our actions this time around will do so again, until we are able to break karma’s chains.
How to break the chains? A good way is simply to meditate. This not only breaks the chains very quickly, but also has the potential to break them forever.

5. Right Livelihood

“Here, monks, a noble disciple having abandoned wrong livelihood, makes a living by means of Right Livelihood. This, monks, is called Right Livelihood.”

The Buddha mentioned five kinds of trade that are wrong livelihood; dealing in weapons, trafficking human beings, dealing in meat, liquor or poison. Right livelihood would include, ideally, dedicating your life to the truth, or enlightenment. Also, any work that has good intentions toward others. If you work at a place that is dishonest in anyway, it’s best to find another job. If you can’t find another job that’s honest, then consider becoming a Buddhist monk or nun. With the rules that they follow, they live a harmless life.

Harmlessness has a meaning of its own in one’s work. Harmlessness leads to insight, genuineness, and kindness; and it integrates us, allows space to form in our consciousness so that we can be creative instead of fearful.

When I first arrived in Thailand in 1981, the profuse tropical flowers gracing the forest enchanted me. I couldn’t help myself, and had to pick a few every day to adorn my kuti (hut) with their subtle fragrance. They were wonderful, and I loved their companionship. As my meditation deepened, however, and my sensitivity, I was surprised and shocked one day when I realized that the flowers were innocently trying to grow toward the light as I was.

I suddenly felt horribly thoughtless by removing the sun from their lives for my own pleasure. So I stopped picking them, and felt happy whenever I noticed them growing wild and free in the forest, and was also glad that my selfish pleasure had bowed to a growing compassion. Only after I ordained as a Buddhist monk did I discover that it is a pacittiya offense (to be confessed) to damage living plants; this was a part of the Vinnaya, or the monastic code of discipline, unchanged since the Buddha established it 2500 years ago.

As I reflected on this experience, I speculated about authentic harmlessness. I questioned where it came from and why it was that humility, self-effacement, and compassion usually accompany harmlessness. Experiencing authentic harmlessness was almost impossible for me at the time due to a coarse mind that first calculated what harmlessness was and then play-acted to mimic it by following rules. This type of mind was too uncertain and erratic. Authentic harmlessness involved something deeper, something originating deep in my consciousness or my inner knowing, well beyond the everyday mind.

The root of harmlessness surely couldn’t be complicated; it had to be natural, like breathing. If an exertion of any kind was involved, then the harmlessness wouldn’t endure in all situations to guide me effortlessly in my every action.

Therefore, the question was; how is authentic harmlessness born? My conclusion was that authentic harmlessness could only develop through a back door, through an evasive maneuver, and never directly by the coarse mind itself. The back door, of course, was mindfulness, honed to a razor’s edge by mental concentration.

For me, that deep calm of mental concentration definitely heightened my awareness to the point that I could see the “doer" – the pretender that attempts to be harmless – as the exact thing that was keeping me from authentic harmlessness. It seemed to me that authentic harmlessness must be born of a result of something, and not a product of any overt action. Therefore, instead of trying to be harmless, I merely concentrated my mind.

It slowly began to sink in that whenever the “doer" was involved, the five hindrances (sense desire, ill will, sloth, restlessness, and doubt) would always taint the situation. When my mind, however, was calm enough so that there was only the “doing," and no “doer," the hindrances were nowhere to be seen. A fundamental, sensitive awareness replaced them. When the meditator disappeared in meditation, the doer disappeared in daily life.

Many times I fooled myself, as I sat harmlessly in my kuti thinking that I was not harming anyone, while I was constantly harming myself. When the calm mind wasn’t present, the “doer" was, and doubts, planning and remembrances slammed me incessantly. Only in deep concentration was I momentarily able to relieve myself of the “doer," and of the hindrances, and only during these precious moments could I consider myself truly harmless — just for that moment . . .and then the next . . . and the next . . .

6. Right Effort

“Here, monks, a monk engenders wishes, makes effort, arouses energy, exerts the mind and strives for the non-arising of evil, unwholesome states that have not arisen — strives for the abandoning of evil, unwholesome states that have arisen — strives for the arising of wholesome states that have not arisen — strives for the stabilizing, for the collation, for the increase, for the maturity, for the development, for the perfection through cultivation of wholesome states that have arisen. This, monks, is called Right Effort.”

Without right effort, we cannot traverse the rest of the Eightfold Path. Everything involves effort; even the effort to be effortless involves effort if our ego is behind it. The mind always directs the effort, receiving its signals from our underlying karma. When we begin training, and before shifts in our consciousness occur to alter our karma, our mind may use effort in the wrong way. It might promote violence or hatred. After we train for awhile, however, the mind will change its effort and involve itself with compassion and kindness.

Spiritual training is right effort. Spiritual training permeates every aspect of life and eventually involves a total change of being. Spiritual training consists of meditation and morality. Right effort is working through the Five Hindrances (sensual desire, anger, sloth, restlessness, and doubt). Spiritual training also involves battling the defilements of greed (lust and passion). Hatred (anger and ill will. And delusion (infatuation, ignorance, and ego). Right effort means conviction, faith, diligence, mindfulness, tranquility, patience, and discernment.

Right effort always involves balance — not too strong, not too weak, just right. If we try to storm heaven, we will find some kind of heaven all right, but not the real one. We will overshoot the real one. If we lie back, on the other hand, and wait for heaven to come to us, we will be waiting a very long time. So it must be a relaxed effort, persistent, but not straining — that’s the best way to put it.

Without effort nothing can be accomplished, and although it may be true that there is truly nothing to accomplish, in order to understand this in one’s heart requires effort! To pretend to understand it and stop all effort prematurely will prove disastrous. We could end up with one foot in heaven and one foot in hell!

7. Right Mindfulness

“Here, monks, a monk dwells contemplating the body in the body, ardently, clearly, comprehending mindfully — contemplating the feeling of the feeling — the consciousness of the consciousness — the Dhamma in the Dhammas. This, monks, is called Right Mindfulness.”

Investigating the Buddha’s above Four Foundations of Mindfulness creates metaphysical insight. This involves becoming intimately aware of and acquainted with your body, feelings, mind, and dhammas (truths).

Awareness of body includes its impermanence, its unattractiveness, its make-up (merely elements of the earth that will someday return to the earth), its demise, and conversely contemplating the body’s well being and joy, its feelings of physical hunger, pain, heat, cold etc., and the body’s breathing.

Awareness of feelings refers to the initial feelings we have when something impinges upon one of our senses. This will be a feeling of danger, a feeling of attraction, or a feeling of indifference. This is a strict survival phenomenon which happens just before the mind identifies and judges whatever it is impinging on our senses. It’s an initial gut feeling.

Awareness of mind involves all of the various mind states that arise after the initial feeling, for example, greed, hatred, lust, jealousy, and so forth (the Buddha lists fifty-two mental states). Basically, awareness of mind involves noticing whatever state of mind we are in at the moment, and how quickly it all changes.

Awareness of Dhammas or truths entails contemplation of certain Buddhist suppositions. (Note: The Buddha always insisted that his monks never take as truths anything that he said, until they could prove them true for themselves). One example of a dhamma is the five hindrances to meditation, which are sense desires, ill will, laziness, restlessness, and doubt.

In practice, the above Four Foundations of Mindfulness are worked on simultaneously, and although we might seem to be working on only one, subconsciously all aspects are being investigated together.

The incentive to get to the root our discontent and begin investigating life is created when we observe life openly and without bias or preconceived opinions and beliefs. This is not easy to do, but if we can do it, we will see that, without doubt, life is stress. This is a big step, and one that few take. This candid admittance takes the wind out of our sails for a moment, just before we become intelligent about our core problem. If we never become intelligent about the heart of the problem, we can never solve it, but once we openly observe this discontent and conflict, then we begin to understand the intricate aspects of it.

On one hand, there is life; the world. And the world doesn’t change much, nor do we. But we are the ones that must change, we can’t change the world without ourselves changing first. We ourselves have to change if there is ever any hope of resolving this constant conflict. Changing ourselves, or how we react to conflict, is the solution. Changing ourselves however could involve further conflict if we don’t understand the mechanisms of how we function.

If we merely try to alter our reactions to life by trying to change ourselves through a new religion, or a new outlook of some kind, we are still only playing with life’s symptoms rather than understanding the core problem. To get to the core requires a revolution inside our hearts. We must develop enough passion to break free of our suffering, enough passion that we will take courageous action. And this courageous action involves the dissolution of our “selves;” which is defined as the small “self” of all religions that keeps one from experiencing God, or Nirvana, or true freedom.

This is our starting point, and we must begin by knowing all about ourselves and how we think. Therefore, we must study our thoughts. For our entire life, we have been thinking non-stop, but now we are going to watch those thoughts so that we can find out all about ourselves, because we are no more than our thoughts.

To study thought is to know ourselves, and when we know ourselves, we will know why we suffer. This is the beginning of freedom, and it all starts with the simple act of meditation. Until we open our minds to new possibilities, which is meditation, we will remain mired in old beliefs and stale dogma, and our lives, if we are honest with ourselves, will remain anchored in suffering as our illusionary “self’ angrily defends its fantasies.

The above investigations require a calm, courageous mind, and the last leg of the Eightfold Path (Concentration meditation), is what enables our minds to do this. All aspects of the Eightfold Path work in tandem with each other — eight steppingstones across a stream — and all are equally important. They all depend upon each other for support.

8. Right Concentration

“Here monks, a monk, quite secluded from sense pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, attains and dwells in the first Jhana accompanied by initial application, accompanied by sustained application, with rapture and happiness born of seclusion, with the non-appearance of initial application and sustained application, he dwells in the second jhana, which is internal, accompanied by confidence, which causes singleness of mind to grow, which is without initial application and sustained application, which is born of concentration and which is with rapture and happiness; with the overcoming of rapture as well as of initial application and sustained application, he dwells in equanimity, is mindful and clearly comprehending, experiencing happiness with his body and mind. He attains and dwells in the third jhana, on account of which the Noble Ones announce, ‘With equanimity and mindfulness, he dwells in happiness.’ With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous disappearance of joy and grief, he attains and dwells in the fourth jhana, which has neither pain nor pleasure and has purity of mindfulness caused by equanimity. This, monks, is called Right Concentration.”

The Buddha is talking about deep stages of concentration meditation, called jhanas. In beginning meditation, the mind is still caught up in the busyness with thoughts gone wild, and one practices by applying initial application, which is a continual application of the mind to a meditation object. The mind holds the meditation object for a moment, but soon the mind drifts away from the meditation object (for example, the breath), and it and begins to daydream again. Therefore, the initial application must repeated time and again, over and over.

Eventually, the mind will calm down enough so that it will be able to hold itself on the meditation object. This is called sustained application. At the first level of jhana, when the thoughts subside temporarily at the level of sustained application, rapture and pleasure suffuse the body. If an insight is experienced during first jhana, the insight will deepen for a long moment, but the mind will quickly ruin it due to lack of sustained concentration. A slight shift in consciousness will occur, however.

At the second level of jhana, thoughts are no longer present at all, only feelings of unification, serenity, and internal confidence. Insights experienced at this level will remain for an extended period of time. One might understand, for example, that an awareness permeates all elements, cells and molecules, and that consciousness is the very protégé of this awareness, and therefore all beings, all things in the universe are connected, with no differentiation in any way at a fundamental level. This insight will remain, and manifest itself as unconditional love.
The third level of jhana involves a pleasurable feeling accompanied by equanimity. When insights arise now, the mind cannot jump on them as it has in the past. Now the mind is subdued, tranquil, and the insights go deeply within the meditator with tremendous shifts in consciousness that alter the meditator’s basic being.

At the fourth level of jhana, there is only equanimity and mindfulness, with a complete absence of pleasure and pain. There is only bright awareness; the mind is now only a mosquito trying to bite an iron bull and cannot interfere with insights at all. The mediator’s insights now deepen dramatically, particularly when the meditator focuses his or her attention on such things as the body, feelings, consciousness, and truths.

Now the insights come non-stop, and the meditator, no longer encumbered by mind, holds on to none of the insights. As a result, the insights come faster and faster, and still the meditator lets them all go. Then, one day, the great insight appears momentarily, and the meditator understands, in his or her heart, that they are now free.

Author's Bio: 

E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit