Week 49 - Having Fun – Q&A” – Joseph Goldstein

This week’s talk is entitled Having Fun – Q+A. Joseph responds to questions from participants in a three month retreat – a little break for the retreatants I’d guess.

In speaking of metta and compassion, he says that the proximate cause for compassion is nearness to suffering. He highlights the subtlety – the difference between opening to suffering and aversion to it.

One question is about a pesky fly. Joseph responds, “we see the whole world in our mind.”

Joseph explains that “no self” is best experienced when attention is made wide. Bringing the mind back takes effort and this effort develops energy.

When asked about wandering mind, Joseph emphasizes that the “factors of aiming and sustaining are keystones of concentration”.

He speaks of sexuality and motivation and aspiration among other topics. He concludes by highlighting the preciousness of the opportunity to practice.

This talk is an amalgam of much of what is important to those on the path.


1.   Joseph explains that compassion develops through our nearness and openness to suffering. That through our practice we stop distracting ourselves and begin to feel the suffering which is present (either in ourselves or in the world around us). Over time, the heart changes, it softens.

Can we share how the practice has affected this change in our own lives?

2.   Joseph states that in the context of mind, wrong view exists because of the habit of NOT paying careful attention to how things are actually happening.

Can we speak to how our practice has altered that dynamic and allowed us to see more clearly how things are truly unfolding around us?

3.   Joseph speaks to the difference between meditation directed primarily on the breath and noting other things simply when they become very dominant or strong. Or a settling back and opening up the field where there’s NOT a primary focus on the breath, but a wide open awareness noting moment after moment.

Can we share our experience with the latter, this wide open awareness?

4.   Joseph speaks to the experience of observing pain during our meditation practices.

Can we share how we approach this area of practice?

5.   Joseph discusses the repetitive series of noting used in walking meditation practice (lifting, moving, placing).

Can we share our experience of our own internal methods used in walking meditation?

6.   Joseph discussed the causes for aspirations to arise in relationship to the path and what causes them to die away.

Can we share own motivations for stepping onto this path and for continuing this journey day by day?

7.   Joseph spoke about sexuality and sexual relationships. He highlighted that what is natural and appropriate on one level of consciousness may not be appropriate on another level. That sexuality is a function of a certain level of consciousness.

To paraphrase Joseph… Do we dare speak to this topic?


1.   Throughout the week note and acknowledge your mental state when you become fully aware of an instance where spontaneous compassion arises from within. Was it clear or distracted? Was it self-centered or other-centered?

 2.   Throughout the week note instances where you clearly “see” what is actually happening within or around you. What is your state of mind when this occurs?

 3.   During your practice throughout the next week, bring awareness to any instances where the breath simply drops away and clear awareness occurs. What is this experience like?

4. When engaged in the walking meditation practice this week, be aware of the level of “softness” in noting lifting, moving, placing. How loud or solid is that noting? Joseph indicated it can be very soft.