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Sexual Misconduct and Cinnamon Rolls

by Fleda BrownSeptember 19, 2011

This week in my local meditation group, we started our discussion of Goldstein’s One Dharma by looking at the “unskillful action,” called sexual misconduct. We read that whole section together and looked at how complicated that issue is! There’s always sheer commitment to responsibility to restrain us from hurting ourselves or others—as if that could work! Has abstinence education ever worked in our schools?

The other way may be simply seeing what’s there. When we lose our awareness, we become irresponsible—sexually, in our eating, our buying things, our work, whatever. That’s called ignorance. We ignore all else. When we get focused on what we want, we don’t see anything else.

So if we don’t leap, but just look for a good long while, we begin to see more than our specific and temporary desire. Right view and right intention get into the picture here. (More on that later.)

Another thought: Bob Brown has a talk about a cinnamon roll, about wanting that roll and allowing ourselves to consume it—in our minds. Just have it, the whole thing, bit by bit. Not pushing it away, not saying “Bad cinnamon roll, bad me for wanting it,” but just feeling what it would be like to eat it. To have eaten it. To really enjoy it that way. This is a way of equanimity; not leaping, just watching.

We also talked about unskillful speech, starting with lying. Oh dear—the question came up—what are we going for here? Self-improvement? How are these admonitions any different from classic Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc., behavioral “rules?”  If we push away “bad” behavior and try to keep “good” behavior, we’ve bought into separation. As Karen, one of the participants in the discussion, said, even our sangha can be a tool of separation: we, here, in our group; those out there, not in our group.

Goldstein began this section by referring to these “skillful behaviors” as ways of training behavior so that awakening is possible.

My intention—which I never want to forget—is to be aware of non-separation. Not to “create it” or  “find” it, since it’s already there; not to move over to where it is, since all my moving is in the middle of it already. But just to see it. If I see it, things look different. How could I mean to harm something I’m not separate from?

And if I’m not separate from the cinnamon roll? Just kidding.


Poet and writer Fleda Brown reflects on the gatherings of her weekly meditation group, speaking to you as one who has long practiced meditation but still comes to the practice with a learner’s mind.

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