Goldstein’s mindfulness, “Ardency”

Hi, it’s been quite a while since i posted a blog. I have had several big changes in my life. The main one is stepping down from the guiding teacher position at Clouds in Water Zen Center and teaching at a very minimal level. The open space that stepping down has created has been good for me personally. I need and still do need- time to recuperate from twenty years of teaching and leading a community. But what came out of that is a kind of silence – Vilmalakirti’s silence, i’m hoping. smile.

This blog had clearly been inspired by my teaching life and so fell silent as well.

But this morning, I had an idea for the blog. I am beginning to study Joseph Goldstein’s book called “Mindfulness; a practical guide to awakening” on the Satipatthana Sutra, and I had an urge to share my investigation on the blog. So I’m going to begin to post short paragraphs, digesting what i’m reading. What’s more important than increasing our ability to be present? So, we’ll see how long this inspiration lasts!

From this great book:

There are four qualities of mind that the Satipatthana Sutra begins with.

  1. Ardency
  2. Clearly knowing: cultivating clear comprehension
  3. Mindfulness: The Gateway to Wisdom
  4. Concentration: The collected nature of mind.

The first Chapter is on Ardency.

Joseph Goldstein calls it a balanced and sustained application of effort. What sustains our practice through the ups and downs of life, and the ups and downs of our relationship to teachers and sanghas? He said, ardency also suggests warmth or passionate enthusiasm or devotion because we see the practice and dharma as really valuable.

How do we cultivate Ardency?

First, we reflect on the rarity of a precious human birth and the rarity of connecting to the dharma. He writes, ” how many people who think of practice, actually do it. How many people who start practice, actually continue.”

Second, by reflecting on the ever-present quality of impermanence and ungraspability. He brings up that great impermanence verse which he translates slightly different then I do:

Whatever is born will die; 
whatever is joined will come apart; 
whatever is gathered will disperse; 
whatever is high will fall.


And thirdly, by reflecting on karma. Everything that comes from our body, speech and thought has an effect on the world. In fact, the effects of our karma are the only things we “possess.”

Padmasambhava, a famous Tibetan teacher, said, “though my view is as vast as the sky, my attention to the law of karma is as fine as a grain of barley flour.”