My work as a human being is to quiet my mind, open my heart and do what I can to relieve the suffering with as much wisdom, skill, whatever I got.
– Ram Dass
Intro to the Five Wisdom Energies
Each of us expresses a unique mixture of energy through our thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and actions. Although we often think of the world and our bodies in terms of our physical existence, it is the underlying energy that brings to life the quality, texture, and feeling of our actual experience. Meditation is about getting in touch with that basic energy, and through that energy cultivating a more intimate relationship with ourselves and our experience.
What are the Five Wisdom Energies
The Five Wisdom Energies offer a framework for cultivating a greater understanding of our own energy as well as how it arises in relationship to others.
Applying knowledge of the Five Wisdom Energies allows us to alleviate confusion and negative emotions, and invite clarity and wisdom to arise in their place. We do so by working with the energy of our bodies and minds. It is important to consider how the spiritual practice rests within the physical practice. That is to say, how meditation practice helps us to become more grounded and present in our lives–physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
The Five Wisdom Energies are grouped into five “families” known as Buddha, Karma, Ratna, Padma and Vajra. Each Wisdom Energy is connected with particular elements, energies, and emotions. The way we hold our bodies in meditation and the way we breathe strongly influences the movement of energy in our bodies and our minds. The practices associated with each of the Wisdom Energies are designed to create a container that is conducive to awakening our innate wisdom.
The Buddha Family
The Wisdom Energy known as the Buddha Family is associated with the element of Space and a felt sense of spaciousness. If this energy is out of balance, we might feel spacey or like there is not enough space in our lives. When this energy is in balance, we might feel open and available to meet life as it is. The Wisdom associated with the Buddha Family is called All Encompassing Wisdom, and when this energy is in balance, we may feel open, spacious, and available to meet life as it is in each moment.
In his book Healing with Form, Emptiness, and Light, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche writes: “Everything arises from space, exists in space, and dissolves into space. In us that sacred element of space manifests as awareness. Experience is what arises in awareness, as the content of awareness, but it is not something other than awareness. When the space element is balanced in us, there is room in life; whatever arises can be accommodated. There is enough time, enough emotional capacity, enough tolerance.”
Suggestions for Connecting with the Wisdom Energy of the Buddha Family
- In meditation practice, settle into stillness and connect with space. Let go of the need to grasp to a specific meditation technique and just open fully to whatever you are experiencing. Play with keeping your eyes open and raising your gaze and/or allowing your hands to rest palms up on your thighs.
- When walking outside, take time to look at the sky. Open yourself fully to the vast expanse of the sky and feel that expansiveness in your body. Discover in yourself what the yogi Milarepa taught: “The body is ultimately like a cloudless sky.”
- In daily life, take time to pause and open your awareness to the world around you. Resist the temptation to fill up any open spaces with unnecessary activity (checking your phone, facebook, chit chat, etc…) Pause and breathe and notice what you are present to.
If you’d like to learn more about the Five Wisdom Energies, please join Kelly online via Mind Oasis for a 6 week series of meditation classes beginning Tuesday, April 9th. Kelly will also be offering a 5 week women’s group at Dharma Yoga in Austin beginning April 14th.
The sixth and final perfection is prajnaparamita: the perfection of wisdom. It is this quality of wisdom that makes all the other perfections “perfect.” The essence of wisdom is understanding that there is no one reality. There is no one way that things really are. Pema Chodron says it like this: “there is no such thing as a true story.”
The perfection of wisdom is complex, broad, and expansive. It is not about accumulating information. It is definitely not about becoming some kind of walking encyclopedia. Wisdom is not conceptual, but rather very personal and experiential. It is about exploring our life and what it means to us, while understanding that the truths we come to are ours, and ours alone. They are not applicable to others. We cannot solidify wisdom and apply it to every person and every situation, or even to ourselves for the rest of our lives. It is fluid and arises always and only in relationship to the present moment. Every person, every situation, every moment, is unique.
Additionally, the perfection of wisdom is open, accepting, accommodating. When wisdom is present, compassion naturally arises. Judgement is an obstacle to wisdom. Any time we find that we are judging ourselves or judging others, we can be certain that wisdom is not present. Wisdom also has a relational quality. It is dynamic. It informs how we relate with others and with our world.
The perfection of wisdom is innate. It already exists within us. Sometimes we are connected to it and sometimes we are not, but we can have confidence that it is there. Meditation is a practice that allows us to access the wisdom within us. It invites us to pay attention fully in the present moment.
Here’s a short practice to explore:
- Sit quietly in meditation for a few minutes, gently resting attention on the beautiful simplicity of your body breathing.
- Bring one hand to your heart and silently say to yourself: “in this moment, this is how I feel.” Be open to whatever comes.
- Place your other hand to your belly and silently say to yourself: “in this moment, this is what I know.” Be open to whatever comes.
- Finally, bring your hands together in prayer at your heart, joining feeling and knowing together in the simplicity of being. Rest in the light of your true self.
In meditation, we become familiar with letting go. We watch our thoughts arise and let them go. We’re spreading our wings, loosening up, so that we can let go anytime. When we rise from our meditation seat, we can continue the practice of letting go as we bring it forth into our day. Letting go of attachment is the ultimate generosity, because it connects us with our wisdom and compassion.
~ Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche