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  • Thomas Bien

The Winds are Blowing

It’s a windy day here in New Mexico. More harbingers of the winter that is coming, which by all accounts looks like it is going to be a difficult one.

This windy day made me think about another kind of wind, those referred to in Buddhist teaching as the Eight Winds. These Eight Winds are:

Gain and loss

Praise and blame

Flattery and Disgrace

Joy and Pain

At least one of these winds is blowing most every moment. These are the pairs of opposites that the Buddha wants to help us transcend. How?

The first thing is to notice that these pairs imply that sometimes things go in a way that pleases us, and sometimes not. We can learn to observe this, and as we do so, realizing the each wind is ultimately impersonal and impermanent, we can learn to widen our capacity to be dispassionate. When things aren’t going as we would like, it doesn’t mean that the universe is somehow out of joint. This is just the way things are sometimes. Likewise, we can learn to be dispassionate about the good things: If your stock portfolio went up today, you are not deceived. You know that there is not such thing as stocks rising without ever falling.

We know not to get caught in praise or flattery, because at some point we inevitably will encounter the opposite as well. We live, after all, in a time when a president can feel wonderful if fifty percent of the population approves of his actions.

When one of these winds blows, learn to breathe and smile. If you have helped create the problem, acknowledge that. But know that, in a deeper sense, this is just the nature of things.

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