I am hoping to use this space to throw out some short thoughts about life and practice.  I hope they are useful.


It is quite early in the morning and as usual as soon as I wake I get out of bed. Ajahn Sumedho says training yourself to get up is skillful. Lingering feels like a poor use of my limited time on planet earth. many years ago I heard something that really stuck with me.  When on my deathbed, nearing my last breaths will I wish I spent more time on Facebook or watching tv?  For me the answer in a resounding NO!  

Funny enough after writing this post a NY Times email arrived with a title of "How to rest"  it begins by th bargaining and delusions we have waking up on a Saturday of a long weekend. It says "You play that trick" .  If you want to read it search for "rest stop" on the NY Times website.

However just knowing in the back of our mind that something is unwholesome, a waste of our precious time is not enough to usually change our behavior.  We need to be more present to see these things that are usually time fillers in between things we have to or want to do.  Do a search of how many seconds and minutes an average human life is, or weeks and months - it kinda blew my mind.  It certainly feels too short. It is the  truth of impermanence that the Buddha taught, everything that arises will eventually cease, A flower, a season, a pet, a person, the sun.  Nothing at all lasts forever.  

This can be a sad thing if we don't understand it or take it personally. This is simply the way of the world.  In fact the more we understand it, meditate on the truth of impermanence the only skilfull response I have come to is cherishing. Because those I care about will not always be here. Maybe I will go first, who knows. Because of this fact, because I spent some real time meditating on this truth with the Tibetan Lamrim practice and the Buddha's Satipatthana Sutta (Four Foundations of Mindfulness) I realized my time is truly finite. In my teens and twenties I thought I would live forever and the way I lived mirrored those beliefs.  These practices really blew that to shreds.  At first I felt scared and angry that I only had so much time left with those I care about, with myself.  

 But upon continued practice I began to understand that truly our next moment is not promised, let alone next week or 50 years from now. I wouldn't want to know when my death is anyway. We all have a life sentence, we are all dying in that sense, since the cause of death is birth, but if you are reading this you are alive. What are you going to do with this most wonderful and rare of gifts?

Cherishing as I said is the answer for me  Cherish my wife, my family and friends, people I don't know. Look people in the eye and tell them you love them. Say hello to strangers, watch birds, look at the moon, listen to your favorite song three times in a row. Check in on old friends and family often enough, hug people.  Live.  Love, enjoy - really.  

But hearing this truth was not enough for me. I needed to meditate, I needed to sit on the cushion and develop a deeper practice. The time spent on the cushion give me the ability to be mindful of the present moment, at least from time to time in the beginning, It was like holding a mirror up to myself at moments about the day. I saw when I was not being kind or when I was frustrated short with people and these truths of impermanence reminded me that this is not my true heart, this is not my Buddha Nature. This is not the way I want to live. I don’t want to develop regret after regret. My friend Moon describes himself as a "love guy" and it is an appropriate self view he sure is. He is full of love, always giving and loving and kind,  I realized that was what I was working towards, kindness or Metta and Karuna or compassion.  Not romantic love, though there is nothing wrong or unwholesome about that, but simply loving and caring towards others. That is where seeing the truth of impermanence has led me. And what a change in my behaviors and relationships it has been  simply by meditating on the truth of impermanence, gaining some insight and being mindful when I can moment to moment. 

The teachings of the Buddha are always valuable but sometimes on the surface they are not what they seem. Who would think impermanence would lead to love and caring?  

Will you allow the teachings to percolate in you and open your heart?

I wish you ease in your day.

Cary Keishin


I am sure everyone who reads this, regardless if it is today or 100  years from now will have had experiences that are unpleasant and have gotten lost in craving for things to be different.  I happen to be experiencing just such a situation at the present time.  Doesn't matter what it is, what is important is how the mind behaves and how the tools the Buddha gave to the world are incredibly helpful in not getting lost in the downward spirals of the "what if's" or "why me's".    So often the mind jumps from whatever is happening now to the thing that is consuming the mind without us even noticing and when we are not putting effort or energy into being mindful we can get lost for long periods of time stuck in these negative rumination states.  Joseph Goldstein describes this as agitation in the mind.  If we are aversive to the situation, ruminating on it makes us feel scared, frustrated, angry,  depressed and unhappy.  So what can  we do?   

First we must notice what is going on in the mind, mindfully noticing and once we notice the mind is consumed with something, stop. This skill to notice what the mind is doing and respond to it skillfully is something we train for in meditation.   So once you have noticed your mind is not doing not quite helpful, say to yourself something like  " What is happening in the mind, in the body,  what emotions are present?" Then inventory what is happening;  The mind is doing this,  I am aversive to this situation, the mind is tight, fearful, frustrated, angry.   What is the body doing?   Noticing the feeling of tightness in the body, maybe the breath being held, the jaw could be clenched.   Emotionally there could be depressive or sad feekings  about the situation. 

The Buddha told us to avoid this "Not craving after passed experiences or bound up in hope for the future but instead with insight see each arising state"   Not bound up in desire and craving.  "Now it is like this" . 

When I notice the mind is replaying these tapes, the old ones and the future ones, the quicker I notice and choose to  turn the page, or lay down these thoughts, the faster I feel better - it is that simple however, laying down difficult thoughts doesn't  guarantee they won't arise again, maybe even quickly.  Responding to whatever arises instead of reacting is what works.  Also intentionally placing the mind is positive and skillful areas will also help.  My understanding is this; we do not choose what thoughts arise, but we do have some agency on what thoughts continue.

The other consideration that came up for me in this ongoing difficult and frustrating situation  was to offer Metta to those involved.  Unhappiness can often make us angry or resentful towards those we may be dealing with .  By genuinely offering Metta to those we feel ill will towards, our hearts can soften and we can feel better.  Regardless of the issue, feeling better or even feeling just okay is what most of us are hoping to achieve through practice.  

6/14/23  Dealing with adversity.  

Our July talk will be about the second foundation of mindfulness, mindfulness of the feeling tone, called Vedena in Pali.  These are not feelings like we call them in English, like happy or sad, but the tonal quality of an experience.  All the experiences we come across are either pleasant, unpleasant or neutral in quality.  The practice gives us instructions in how to become aware of what a particular moment feels like and how we relate to it.  

Difficult situations usually cause us unpleasant feelings - not surprising, however if we are not mindful of how we feel in the present moment, a difficult or unpleasant situation can overshadow everything making everything we experience around the same time unpleasant - in otherwords being in a bad mood.  Just because something in our lives  may be challenging and difficult doesn't neccesarily mean we are stuck feeling unhappy/unpleasant the entire time.   Being able to check in and say to myself,  "How's it going?"  lets me see the truth in the moment.  Prior to practicing this I would have felt unhappy for the entire time something wasn't going my way., but looking at that now it is pretty foolish.   Unless someone asked me how I was feeling I probably wouldn't have even known, but that isn't the case today. 

Even with this current difficulty I can still enjoy myself and I truly believe being able to look and name how it is right now is a big part of why, but not the only part.  

The second big piece of dealing with adversity is understanding that "it is NOT what happens but HOW I respond that determines how I experience something."  I believe the Buddha said something like this  but up till now I have only heard other teachers saying it. I will keep looking for the Buddha's actual quote.   However Epictetus who lived in a similar time in history is quoted as saying "We are not disturbed by what happens to us, but by our thoughts about what happens to us.” 

Both statements in essence are telling us that regardless of our situation, how we experience it, how we feel about it, is up to us.  When something happens do we catastrophise it in the mind, do we automatically go to worst case scenario?  If we do of course we will feel bad.  There is another option - using the eightfold path to see things clearly. 

The Noble Eightfold path when practiced gives us tools to act skillfully and respond wisely.  Beginning with UNDERSTANDING.   When we are faced with a situation first we need to Understand what is actually happening, not how it feels.  Once we have a basic idea of the current situation than we can consider what we might want to do or what a propper response might be - this is INTENTION, number two in the Noble Eightfold path.  We set a right intention by basing it on a clear understanding, not an emotional or frightened or angry feeling.  As we work through the other factors of the path we should also include Metta and Karuna (kindness and compassion) in whatever we choose to do and how we choose to think about the situation.  Ruminating and worrying for the most part is unkind towards ourselves. Rarely will it help change an outcome and it won't make us feel any better either.

So I see the practice of mindfulness of the feeling tone helpful in seeing where we are at in any given moment.  When we notice we don't feel so okay, we can investigate where it stems from and then work to see clearly with these tools.  As we become well versed in this we can see ahead of time that negative thinking brings us nothing and we learn to stop doing it as often.

Siṃsapāvana Sutta

And what have I taught? 'This is stress': This is what I have taught. 'This is the origination of stress': This is what I have taught. 'This is the cessation of stress': This is what I have taught.' This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress': This is what I have taught. 

This is what the Buddha stated in regards to what he taught - in essence there is stress (suffering or dukkha) and there is a cessation or end to this stress. That is all.  Everything else he taught was in service to this end.    The first noble truth-There is stress,  the second is the cause - craving. The third - cessation is possible.  The fourth, the path to the end is available.  The entire Noble Eightfold Path is about attaining the cessastion of stress or dukkha.

1/12/24  The nature of life. A dear teacher from my Chaplaincy training is in the ICU and has been for a few weeks. I listened to a talk by him this morning before sitting and in it he talked about dukkha without using the word. He spoke words from his teacher "life is basically impossible" which I have come to know quite well.  Life is impossible but everyday we get up and do the impossible. We live in an incredibly over complicated, over crowded, over everything world and yet each day we get up and we do it again. Just like we do in our meditation practice.  Sometimes, as it did on my most recent retreat, it feels impossible to sit one more day, one more session, one more minute but we do, this is the true fact of sitting. If you dedicate yourself to practice, if you do not DEMAND a particular experience, but take what comes and come to the cushion with an attitude of gratitude - I GET to do this. Even the challenging sits are wonderful, even when in the moment they might not feel that way.  Our practice is not just one sit, our life is just not one moment.  It is all dependent on the last one, and the one before that.  It is all connected and in the continuity at least for me there, is something stabilizing in this fact.  A bedrock of sorts, that my life is built upon this 2600 year old practice. Billions of hours of practice by countless people.  If you just think about how many people are meditating right this moment, there is some strength in that, again at least for me.  Insight Timer the app has an interesting page that shows where and about how many people are meditating at any given time.  Let your practice be your foundation. The teachings becoming clearer with a regular sitting practice.   I wish you ease, thank you for your practice