July 8, 2014

Savoir Faire

A recent piece of research pointed out how difficult it is for most people to be alone without distractions for even short periods of time. It reminded me of a famous quote from the philosopher-mathematician Blaise Pascal:
"[...]tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne pas savoir demeurer en repos dans une chambre."
"All human problems come from a single thing—we don’t know how to just stay in a room."
The way I look at it, the main reason that people can’t just stay in a room is that they don’t know how to find fulfillment and safety in just what is. Mindfulness provides a systematic way to achieve that and, if Pascal is correct, solves many if not most of our problems. It’s the ultimate savoir faire.


  1. Indeed. Mind is everything.

  2. Shinzen, I have a question about something you said in a youtube video you did awhile ago, Six Common Traps on the Path to Enlightenment. In the "Powers" trap you talk about moving from spirits to Great Spirit. I would be interested in hearing more of your thoughts on this. I browsed your writings and didn't find anything else. Have you written any more on this subject?

    1. For me, “Great Spirit” (Lakota, Wakan Tanka, General Algonquian, Kitchi Manitou) is just another name for the dharmakaya, which in my formulation is experienced through expansion and contraction. The “spirits” correspond to the sambhogakaya. Like any other phenomenon of consciousness, the spirits are manifested by and reabsorbed into the formless doing of the dharmakaya.
      All the best,

    2. Let's say one were working with a spirit at the level of visualization and prayer. You're invoking this god or entity daily. You're going through cycles of bliss/love and dryness as you would with vipassana meditation. Is there a way to pivot from working with the particular entity to Spirit/Dharmakaya. Some teachers will talk about pivoting from samatha to vipassana by shifting the focus to 3-characteristics. Is there something analogous one could do here?