Walking with a Compass and a Map

Out in the woods, even if you have no particular goal in mind, you still might use a compass and a map to avoid walking in circles. To be straightforward with suffering, a relationship between where I am and what I feel with the movement of breath is useful.

I find a description of such a relationship in the teaching of Gautama, although the notion of “where” is only referenced as “single-pointedness of mind” and only clearly expanded on in his analogy for the first meditative state. Teachers like Yuanwu came right out with “Be aware of where you really are twenty-four hours a day. You must be most attentive.” (Zen Letters, pg 53), but Gautama only talked about “single-pointedness of mind” in connection with “making self-surrender the object of thought”. Nevetheless, the emphasis on the movement of breath and on what he perceived to be all of the senses (six) is there in the teachings of Gautama, and you can find references in my article “Letting Go in Action” (along with particulars of three additional senses).

For me, it helps to recognize that “single-pointedness of mind” is actually a hypnogogic phenomena that is connected with the relaxed movement of breath. That’s why it’s so difficult to talk about.

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