Associating with good people is the nutriment that leads to true knowledge and liberation. We learn what’s most important from other people, not from books and ideas. To find good people, start by being one.
Cultivating equanimity (upekkhā) begins with touching into primal sympathy. As this develops, we are more able to meet experience without shrinking from it or becoming feverish for it. This paves the way for insight and release.
Liberation begins with appreciation of one’s own heart, one’s sensitivity. Learn to linger in it, and speak to it with kindness. Gladness and ease naturally arise, and the mind becomes concentrated. This is the natural Dhamma process.
Wherever intention is, there is citta. So we begin formal meditation practice there, establishing intentions based on goodwill, sensitivity and relinquishment. With these themes resonating in one’s heart, what can be put aside now?
Citta is made stronger and deeper through cultivating patience and resolution. It gains an imperturbable stillness and serenity that lets things pass through. Steady in the face of the pleasant and unpleasant alike, this ‘soft strength’ refuses to give way to the tides of ill will.
The territories of the somatic field and qualities of goodwill are offered as a clear, firm foundation for wisdom. Having cultivated them on retreat, we need to integrate liberation, purity and goodwill into our lives.
We use careful attention – yoniso manasikāra – to steward the meditative process. It helps us know the appropriate technique to use and to discern what is skillful to give attention to and what is not. Without it, clinging coopts experience and makes an ‘I’ out of it. With it, there is non-clinging – lucidity – and the cessation of dukkha.
Contemplation of how form manifests as the 4 great elements – earth, air, fire, water. When sensed externally and internally, materially and mentally, the biases that create separateness, and hence identity, begin to soften.
The 5 aggregates represent the sum total of our conditioned experience. When the direct experience of them is penetrated, and the activations of body and mind calmed, one gains insight into the momentary, concocted, selfless nature of experience itself.