Resources for Weekly Practice Group with Mark Nunberg August 2021

Supporting the Teacher and Common Ground Meditation Center

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The Study of Wise Effort

These next few weeks let’s resolve to learn about the mental quality of persistence, this capacity to both remember what is worthwhile to pay attention to, and then to persist in sustaining attention in this direction. Simply put, wise effort in a Buddhist context means making the effort to pay attention in a skillful way that supports a deepening of understanding of the way things are. Wise effort arises out of a wholesome interest in how we attend to experience in ways that prevent and abandon the unwholesome qualities of mind and how we can pay attention in ways that develop and maintain the wholesome qualities of mind? These efforts naturally lead to a deepening of insight and to the release of the heart.

We begin by honestly acknowledging the nature of our current efforts. The truth is we are always making an effort. The question is, what does this way of making effort set in motion? Does it lead to the release of the heart? We all tend to alternate between making efforts that are too intense, too controlling and that arise out of fear and aversion. Then, we tend to swing to the opposite pole and we want to give up, we want to distract ourselves, and we tend to identify with a sense of helplessness, “Why bother?” 

Much of our formal meditation practice is about using this relatively quiet protected space to create more wholesome habits of efforting. We learn through trial and error that what we pay attention to, and how we pay attention really matters. Initially we train with ordinary objects of experience such as the experience of breathing in and out in order to learn how to connect and sustain attention in a wholesome and continuous manner that naturally leads to a more calm body, stable heart, and clear mind. At times we might need to purposely avoid paying attention to present moment experiences that trigger reactive patterns in the mind. Eventually, when wisdom and awareness are more stable, it is possible to open to any experience in a balanced, clear way. Wise effort depends on this deepening wisdom that can discern, “What way of paying attention is skilful in this moment?”

Resources for the study of wise effort and the Paramis

The Perfection of Energy from Insight Meditation Center

Effort, for Goodness Sake By Luang Por Baen Translated by Ajahn Chandako

The Paramis: Ten Spiritual Practices of Letting Go 

Pay Attention for Goodness Sake: Practicing the perfections of the heart–the Buddhist path of kindness, by Sylvia Boorstein

Parami, Ways to Cross Life’s Floods by Ajahn Sucitto

The Buddha’s Five Subjects for Frequent Recollection 

I am of the nature tò age, I have not góne beyond àging. 

I am of the nature to sìcken, I have not góne beyond sickness. 

I am of the nature tò die, I have not góne beyond dying. 

All that ìs mine, bèloved and pléasing, will become òtherwise, will become séparated fròm me. 

I am thè owner of my kàmma (intentional actions), heir to my kàmma, born of my kàmma, related to my kàmma, àbide suppórted by my kàmma. Whatever kamma I shàll do, for good or fòr ill, of that I will bè the heir. 

Thus we shòuld frequently récòllect. 

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