Sunday, December 20, 2009

9:47 Pacific Standard Time

Winter in the Sierras
Photo by Ian Parker

The winter solstice will arrive at 9:47 tomorrow morning here in California between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the easternmost waters of the Pacific Ocean.

I like to re-affirm my deepest intentions at the solstices and equinoxes. For me, these occasions are like quarterly New Year's resolution sessions occurring in Mother Earth time.

As for me, I plan to renew my intention to cultivate the seven factors of awakening—seven factors that the Buddha is said to have taught some 2500 years ago, and are still worth pondering today. (I often think of the Buddha as one of the world's greatest teachers. Not many of us have people thinking about our teachings for 25 centuries; ordinary teachers like me are happy if our students remember what we've taught for 25 seconds!)

In any event, those seven factors of enlightenment, in case you're wondering what I'm seeking to cultivate are:

  • Mindfulness (sati) i.e. to be aware and mindful in all activities and movements both physical and mental
  • Investigation (dhamma vicaya) into the nature of the world and of the teachings of Buddha
  • Energy (viriya)
  • Joy  (piti)
  • Ease (passaddhi) of both body and mind
  • Concentration (samadhi)
  • Equanimity (upekkha), to be able to face life in all its vicissitudes with calm of mind and tranquillity, without disturbance.


The Pollinatrix said...

Thank you for this very helpful list. I know I will be referring to this as the year progresses.

One of my specific mindfulness goals for this year is in the area of stewardship. And equanimity is the one I most need to cultivate.

steven said...

dan! thankyou for providing this powerful tool to help cultivate a purposeful focus at this seasonal transition. in the next period of my life i know to focus on acquiring, maintaining, retaining and truthfully, lovingly and carefully using energy. on all levels. in all forms. have a peaceful evening. steven

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Pollinatrix—

You're welcome. I'm mostly just passing it along, as have people for 2500 years. I will say that I first became aware of this list YEARS ago and encountered it at intervals since then. Each time I work with these factors, they become more and more useful as a map towards awakening. Any single one of the factors could support more than a lifetime of study. I've more than scratched the surface of these, but mostly I've become aware of how much more deeply I could go.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi steven. What you're describing, "acquiring, maintaining, retaining and truthfully, lovingly and carefully using energy on all levels in all forms." sounds very close to cultivating mindfulness sati to me.

I'd be pleased if you found observing the seasonal changes this way useful. Perhaps others will join me in "celebrating" the solstice this way. (I'm mindful, too, of our austral friends for whom this will be the summer solstice.)

Alden Smith said...

Perhaps my new years resolution could be to investigate all of these 7 factors of enlightenment more fully - is there an 8th? i.e. Meditation or is Meditation the road that leads to these??

Being Me said...

Very interesting...

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

What a skillful way to welcome the solstice. Your blog is a wonderful vehicle to spread the teachings. Thank you so much for the inspiration I have found here this year, Dan.

Jenny Stevning said...

Happy Winter, Dan! I love then the season changes, but had I not read this post, I would have forgotten!
After I leave this comment I am going to sit for a bit and think about my winter intentions. The seven factors are an inspiring place to begin this pondering. Thank you!

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Alden--

You have a solid hunch there. The 8th you're thinking of is really the first, Mindfulness.

The Buddhist tradition that I have spent the most time exploring works a whole lot with meditation focused on the development of this first aspect, Mindfulness. The form of meditation is called Mindfulness meditation (Vipassana) and it begins by refining awareness of the breath.

A good book for non-Buddhists to start is Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Another is Mindfulness in Plain English by Henepola Gunarantara.

Dan Gurney said...


You're welcome; the feeling is mutual. Your blog has been full of food for thought. I enjoy visiting.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Jenny. Happy winter!! We're almost there, just a bit more than two hours. I'm going to do another post about similar material today.