True Refuge

I was reading an article the other day published about a year ago about the uncertainty in the economy and how people were reporting feeling less happy than they did the year before.

A couple of points jumped out at me in reading this: a survey of people who were about to be laid off and of those who were not sure if they would be laid off found that people felt worse when they were not sure if something bad was going to happen than those who knew something bad was going to happen to them.

The article went on to suggest that their unhappiness was “not a matter of insufficient funds, but rather of insufficient certitude.”

We seem almost hard-wired for knowing, a need, almost a craving to know. And when we are unsure of something, some of us whip out our smartphones and start Googling.

As we mature in our meditation practice and see deeper into the nature of our mind and our body, we just can’t wiggle out of this one – change, change, change.

Mind states and body sensations morphing all the time.

That’s what the Buddha called the Dharma – the way things are, incessant change.

Even our most deeply held concepts are seen more and more as our meditation progresses as merely provisional.

Holding on to ideas, assessments, even these insights is felt deep down as uncomfortable, as painful.

Bhante Gunaratana brings out another aspect of this incessant morphing of life as we know it when he says:

“a ceaseless becoming is the nature of things.”

Ceaseless becoming, ceaseless ending, ceaseless change.

My daughter’s smartphone was stolen the other day – pictures that we dear to her, whoosh, gone.

I think we know at some deep level that this change and uncertainty is so, but we pretend almost to the death that it’s not the case; otherwise we wouldn’t be so offended when it happens.

We open little by little into the warmth of our vulnerability. It’s a tender place.

Jack Kornfield once quoted a phrase in one of his talks:

“The winds of karma change like the swish of a horse’s tail.”

Can we take refuge in this tender place of uncertainty, of the way things are?

To be truly vulnerable is to touch a profound space of utter invulnerability.

When you see you are also a ceaseless becoming, where can suffering take a stand?

When we see the pain of holding on, we take refuge in reality free from clinging.

Knowing then is kind of constriction, not knowing is spacious freedom.

We leave the trinket refuges of the unreliable and take refuge in what is truly reliable: the way things are.

We take true, deep and heartfelt refuge in the Dharma.

Similar Posts


  1. What an insightful take on life, I really connect with this. I was just reading about the uncertainty of the Labour leadership in the UK, which has similarities with your example of people’s uncertainty about losing their jobs. The political article depressed me, then along came the wisdom of your article. Thank you!

    1. Hi Ali. Thanks so very much for taking the time to leave such kind words. I have been a little behind in my bloging so just now saw this. Wishing you well on your side of the planet! — t.

Comments are closed.