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More on Lost and Found

idaho river"The coin that's lost in the river is found in the river," the koan I mentioned in the last post, points to a rule of thumb in a meditation practice:  Whatever you're looking for is going to be right here. That means that you are equipped with everything you need. There's a temptation to think that the person who's sitting here trying to meditate (you) isn't the right one. The right one would be calmer or less fidgety or not obsessed or wiser, with more perspective and equanimity. But the thing is that you will always be enough just as you are, and it will be through paying attention to those exact features that you think are a problem that joy will appear. This attention you give is without any motive to change yourself or to be better or to fix anything, it's just plain attention. Your meditation gives you a greater and greater appreciation of who you are. Even things like the way you're afraid of airplanes, or get in the same fight with everyone you love over and over, or have big feet, or are bad with numbers, can be a source of appreciation and amusement. That appreciation starts as curiosity.

To learn to be curious you begin with with noticing something relatively easy, like the feel of the air on your face, or your breath, or your weight into the ground, or the sounds in the room. Just pick one and see if you can sink into it, with the luxury of knowing that for this moment that's all that's asked of you. Do that as long as you like.

But rivers like the one you lost your coin in can be wild. We are, all of us, full of rage and guilt and desire and grief as well as boredom and irritation and a rampant need to plan everything. Sometimes that's all we find when we pay attention. There's the sense that "surely this can't be it" but when we open ourselves to the possibility that the treasure is to be found right here, surprising things happen. A student who was always terrified of getting lost noticed that when he brought to mind the coin "lost in the river" koan he suddenly realized he could never be lost. How would he lose himself? Obviously he would always be there. It all became funny and whenever he would notice that fear rising in him, he would laugh.

The skill this week is to use attention and a koan when something is happening in your mind that seems impenetrable, something that makes you think, "This is terrible and must never happen again!" At that moment notice a physical sensation, a touch or a sound or a breath and bring the koan to mind, "The coin that's lost in the river is found in the river." See what happens to the impenetrable thought or feeling, whether it opens a little bit.

More next time on how koans work.

Rachel Boughton


  1. good show! This is so cool. Thanks for doing not just the class, but the blog.


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