About the book

Coming October 1, 2010!

Living As a River - book cover

“An interesting, lively, and genuinely illuminating teaching of dharma.” – Jack Kornfield

“At a time when it’s increasingly challenging to find clear and honest direction on the spiritual path, Living as a River offers contemporary insight into an ancient practice and wise counsel we can trust. This book is both beautifully written and useful to …all serious seekers.” – Mariana Caplan, PhD, author of Eyes Wide Open and Halfway Up the Mountain

What happens when we embrace the flow of life? We stop suffering. In Living as a River, Bodhipaksa conducts a masterful investigation of the nature of self, with an eloquent blend of current science and time-honored spiritual insight meant to free us from the fear of impermanence in a world defined by change.

The primary vehicle for this journey is Buddhism’s traditional Six Element Practice, a deconstructive process of deep reflection that helps us let go of the belief in a separate, static self—the root of unhappiness. Bodhipaksa takes readers through a systematic analysis of the self that supports the realization of:

  • A sense of spaciousness and expansiveness that transcends the limitations of the physical body
  • Profound gratitude, awe, and a feeling of belonging as we witness the extent of our connectedness with the universe
  • Freedom from the psychological burden caused by clinging to a limited identity
  • The relaxed experience of “consciousness, pure and bright”

Engrossing and incisive, Living as a River is at once an empowering guide and a meditative practice to overcome the fear of change and align with the natural unfolding of creation.

The Six Element Practice

In this practice we reflect on what constitutes the body and the mind. We call to mind the solid matter (Earth), liquid (Water), energy (Fire), and gases (Air) that make up the body—as well as the form they comprise (Space), and notice how none of these is a static thing that we can hold onto, but instead is a process. We also notice that each of these elements is “borrowed” from the outside world. With the sixth element, Consciousness, we note how our experiences—our sensations, feelings, emotions, and thoughts—continually arise and pass away, once again leaving us nothing that we can identify as the basis of a permanent and separate self.

The Six Element Practice is a reflection specifically designed to undermine our delusions of separateness and of having an unchanging self. It’s a practice of letting go.

Fear, clinging, and happiness

“I spent the afternoon musing on Life. If you come to think of it, what a queer thing Life is! So unlike anything else, don’t you know, if you see what I mean.”
—P.G. Wodehouse

Here’s a very “queer thing” about life: sometimes the things that we think will make us miserable actually make us happier. When Professor Eric D. Miller of Kent State University’s Department of Psychology asked people to imagine the death of their partner they reported that they felt more positive about their relationships and less troubled by their significant others’ annoying quirks. We live in a world marked by constant change and impermanence. The things we love decay and perish. The people we love will pass away, or we ourselves will pass away, leaving them behind. Wary that thinking about impermanence will be too much of a “downer” we try not to think about these things too much. And yet, ironically, when we do happen to experience the fragility of existence we often find our appreciation of life is enhanced rather than diminished.

Often the things we think will make us happier—like impressing the boss or getting that raise—ultimately deprive us of happiness. As a well-known saying goes, “Few people on their deathbed think, ‘I wish I’d spent more time in the office.’” And yet that’s so often how we live our lives. Life has the potential to be glorious. There’s the joy of witnessing birth and growth. The joy of loving. The joy of learning. The joy of deepening relationships. Sometimes there’s the sheer joy of simply being alive. But those moments can be rare and, again rather ironically, we’re often too focused on things that don’t give us lasting joy to pay attention to those that do.

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