Notes on a Buddhist path

Coasting towards Samadhi

August 30, 2011 By | 6 Comments

I was this close to nibbana. Really, I was.

This past weekend I had the blissed out experience of being on retreat. I sat and walked and ate with mindful awareness on my breath and the arisings and fallings within me. Ven. Bhikkhu Sona, the abbott of Birken Forest Monastery near Kamloops, BC, came down from the mountain, crossed the water and shared the dhamma with us at our local university. He has a brilliant, light way of imparting the Buddha’s teachings with humour and truth. Anyone who can turn a rambunctious Friday night frat party next door into a teaching on equanimity is a scholar in my book.

The focus of our weekend with Ajahn Sona was the Seven Factors of Enlightenment: mindfulness, inquiry, energy, joy, tranquility, samadhi and equanimity. He gave us wonderful examples to bring the qualities alive within us. Perhaps my favourite was equating tranquility to coasting on a bicycle. After climbing the hill of mindful inquiry into our thoughts and our breaths, of bringing energy to moments of boredom and fatigue, the joy of reaching the top of the mountain comes into our awareness. Cresting the hill we experience the tranquility of coasting down the other side, relinquishing our efforts on the pedals and steering the handle bars. But the coasting tranquility cannot happen until we have mounted that hill. Imagine, he told us, if you were not familiar with coasting and you are still climbing the hill. If you try to coast before accomplishing the first four factors you would climb on the bike, lean forward and take your feet off the peddles. Back you would roll and fall off the bike. You’d climb on again with the same sorry results. Time and time again the attempt at coasting would frustrate and prove a failure in your efforts. Each factor builds on the other. Samadhi, described by Ajahn Chah, the great Theravadan teacher of the Thai forest tradition, as “the coming together of Morality, Concentration and Wisdom” or a successful journey of Eightfold Path, and equanimity are the oases at the end of the coasting excursion.

Following my breath during the walking meditation that followed our instruction on tranquility, I could sense the peace within me. Each step was new and remarkable. My thoughts were hushed and rapture was my mate. So palpable, so all encompassing. At that moment a soft cool breeze brushed against my face, and my hair became the wings of a bird kissed by the gentle breath of the sky.

For a minute or so I lost my training wheels, my fear of heights and wondering if my brakes would work on this hill. For a little while I was coasting. And I’m sure, if I had coasted just one more spin of my bicycle’s wheel, nibbana was just around the bend.


  1. wonderful; this is heaven

  2. lynn Marttila says

    superb Tess! Your words have embraced the weekend so eloquently.

  3. Nibbana is always around the corner, or, as the zennists teach, right here always. thank you for this lovely travelogue, tess.


  1. […] September 2, 2011 By Tess | 1 Comment At last weekend’s meditation retreat with Ven. Bhikkhu Sona he told us about a nun in residence at Birken Forest Monastery. Her name is […]

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