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A wheel spinning  out of balance

“In order to find consistent balance we have to work consciously to adjust to changeability and imperfection. We have to be ready and expect life’s wobbles and curve balls!”

Dear Integral Meditators,

What does it mean to have a conscious and balanced approach to life’s imperfections and messiness, and how can we implement this approach effectively? this is the subject that I explore in the article below.

In the spirit of balance,


A wheel spinning  out of balance

Life is pain?
The first noble truth of the Buddha when he started teaching was what he called the “Truth of dukha”. Dukha is a Sanskrit word that is most often translated as ‘suffering’.  So then it looks like his observation is that life is fundamentally the experience of suffering, or pain

Dukha – A wheel spinning our of balance
If we look a little deeper, the Sanskrit word ‘dukha’ actually doesn’t have a direct english translation, but a closer translation would be something akin to “a wheel spinning out of balance”. So Buddha basically said “Life is like a wheel spinning out of balance”. What this means (in my opinion) is that he is observing that life is almost continuously uncomfortable, out of balance, inconvenient, uncertain. In order to find balance we have to work quite hard to be making adjustments to these imperfections. We have to be ready and expect life’s wobbles and curve balls!

Riding a wobbly bicycle
One image I use to meditate on Dukha is I imagine I am riding a bicycle with a buckled back wheel. As I ride, I bounce and lurch up and down, and from side to side as the wheel rotates. I have to be ready for the un-predictable movements, making adjustments to stay upright. I have to be mindful and alert to ride this bike of life, otherwise I’m going to fall off!

Accepting dukha, moving forward creatively
In terms of mindfulness, much of working with Dukha is acceptance; simply accepting the messy and intractable nature of life as it is. If we aren’t able to do this, then we do spend a lot of time suffering as a result of our inability to accommodate for life’s natural wobbly-ness! (See recent article on ‘Resilience thru acceptance – matching your expectation with your reality‘)
The second mindful skill we are trying to develop on the basis of acceptance is acting creatively to

  • Adapt to the wobbling movement
  • Act decisively to move in the direction we want to go, sculpting and molding the presenting circumstances into something worthwhile

Jumping from wheel to wheel
More recently I’ve been working with an image for this second, ‘creative action’ part of Dukha. I imagine a series of spinning wheels in the sky. I am having to jump from one to the other, ascending to higher and higher levels, like a dance. I am having to use my wit and dexterity to keep moving forwards and upwards, and avoid falling off!

If you like in your own meditation and contemplation, you can use these two images , of wobbly bicycling and jumping across the sky-wheels as a way of working with the dukha in our own life. Here’s to dancing with our messy, wobbly realities!

Related articleBaseballs or confetti?

Article © Toby Ouvry 2021, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

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