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The Fertile Ground of the 4 'mind-changings'

The preliminaries, or the 4 mind-changings, as they are sometimes called, are simple, profound teachings, and of course they are also quite subject to interpretation. Frankly, they can be easy to misinterpret. If you have been steeped, at any level, in any idea that there is a punishing god... if you are ever hard on yourself (which is muggle-speak for 'if conditioned mental-processes are ever hard on you') then it will be easy for those conditioned processes to use these teachings against you.

Here are are the 4 teachings, with some mini commentaries, and the poems/pictures we used for prompts.

1. Remember that life is precious. {This teaching is presented as a command, an injunction. I like to turn it into an inquiry. How can you encourage yourself towards that remembrance, without letting ego processes use the injunction to subtly punish you for the various ways you forget?}

2. Death is inevitable, it comes for everyone. {That may sound a bit foreboding, if we don't remember that it's just a gorgeous fact of life that everything changes state, and that the cycles of arising and falling away are constant. How are you participating in the changes?}

3. Karma just is. Everything has a result. {Lest we get all nervous or self-punishing about that, maybe read it this way: We are infinitely interconnected, interdependent, entwined and embraced. Given that every action you take will reach infinitely between beings and throughout spacetime, how can you take exquisite care of your actions, as well as the tensions between the different inner processes of the mind? That last part is important, because invariably you are behaving in certain ways that feel at odds with your intention. So how can you be more inquisitive about all the processes that are co-occurring within?}

For this segment we used both the photo, below, and a poem as prompts. The last line of the poem, "pick a spot you like | and glow there" was the line I suggested to use as a starting off point. The full poem is here.

4. Don't get too caught up in getting what you want, avoiding pain and maintaining pleasure. Similarly, don't get caught up in obsessing on whether you are bad or good. {The part of you that wants to obsess on getting what you want, or even getting it right has no way of guaranteeing you happiness if you do. Obviously, don't be an asshole. Recall that these teachings sat atop a vast amount of moral guidance that ensured that spiritual practitioners were not lying, cheating and stealing. Conduct is important and fundamental. But what I've observed in working with people is that the internal process that is compulsively evaluating us and whether or not we are good is akin to the part that reads every single on-line review before making a purchasing a mechanical pencil. There is a point of diminishing returns - so if you find yourself trying to optimize results, be more gentle. You are not perfectly in control of everything, including yourself. Try relaxing into present moment awareness. Add more kindness, more care, more love.}

For anyone who would like some mildly structured creative time, the recording of the session presently (for just a few days) lives here.


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