Pupils Learn


“In keeping the center of the I empty, the miracle of life can enter and heal. It’s not by chance that the dark center of the human eye, the pupil, is actually an empty hole through which the world becomes known to us. Likewise, in a spiritual sense, the I is the empty center through which we see everything. It’s revealing that such a threshold is called the pupil, for it is only when we are emptied of all noise and dreams of ego that we become truly teachable.” - The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo

As I grow through my daily practice of silence, my trust in my inner observer continues to deepen. Through testimonies shared, I hear others recognizing their inner observer as well. I can describe her now as a patient, loving and consistently present. It’s a positive sign resulting from silence.


I think my greatest pivotal moment came when I viewed myself as a pupil of life rather than a victim of life’s circumstances. I still struggle and question and feel confused. I’m learning.

There are days I forget and react with my fear leading the way. My imagination helps me ground her presence, never abandoning, never judging, always loving and always present. It is my ego mind that turns away from her and wonders why she left me. It is my ego mind that judges and compares my insides to everyone around me. It is my ego mind.


We find our inner observer in our own way in our own time. As I write this, a memory of my father pops into my head. I was standing in his hospital room, a week before he died; he was calmly telling me he felt like he wasn’t alone. It was the first time I recognized a presence beyond his fear and tyranny. It comforted me he recognized something beyond his fear.

I continue to see metaphors everywhere around me. We are the microcosms within the macrocosm. I think about school, a place where we practice learning. Curiosity is free until life shuts us down. We react and adapt much like the trees near the ocean, their gnarled trunks a result of the strong winds and yet persist and grow due to their deep root systems.

We grow despite the battering we take from the stormy weather in our lives.

We have deep root systems and it’s not until a crisis or catastrophe that we discover our true depth. We discover ourselves beyond our egoic mind. We discover deeper meaning. We glean from our harsh lessons and we keep going one day at a time.


I chose a short poem by Mark Nepo entitled Paia which means noisy in the Hawaiian language.


Paia, a Clearing in the Forest

by Mark Nepo


We agree to meet half way

round the world where the ocean

waited thousands of years before

opening its clear mouth to speak

this island under the sun. All to

remember we are students of the

large stillness, struggling with our

little stillness. Never knowing what

will rise between us, we meet beyond

the bamboo forest and bend in

the light, hollow as these stalks,

listening for a trace of the

beginning, as we do.


Participants' Reflections

  • Thank you for this. I am a fan of Mark Nepo, it’s been a while. Good to hear his words combined with yours. There always seems to be a nugget that stands out. Today it was ‘the center of the eye is the pupil’ and the double meaning of that. It becomes the learner, the receiver of input. Yesterday, I spoke of feeling fragile. The learner in me at this time is learning to let discomfort signal an opportunity to learn and grow. I realized my discomfort is coming from a fear of loss of connection in community. Resting with it, acknowledging it, feeling the pain that came with that fear helped me to know me better. Talking about it. Just the acknowledging. The day rolled on and I volunteered as a tutor where I listened to stories. I got the focus off of me and into the serving and receiving, like a pupil, receiving input. I am feeling more at peace and not at such a fear place. Letting the discomfort in, that’s new for me. I’ve been one to distract myself rather than feel the discomfort. Thank you for the opportunity to share and to be a part of this group where it is safe to speak like this. Thank you.

  • Thank you. I haven’t been sleeping well the last few nights. Last night, instead of trying to avoid what was keeping me up, the feeling, the pain that was keeping me awake, I decided to sit with the pain. Just sit with it. I’m trying a new way that will serve me better.

  • No matter what the outcome, you are learning from trying a new way to move towards a better version of what you had in mind as a solution. So it’s a win-win, that you are open enough to feel it. As you were talking, I realized I’ve gone for years blocking out emotions that I don’t want to feel. It takes a lot of energy. Thank you.

  • I was on the same wavelength. Even when I’m not here and I read the blog, I’m right there with you. I’m with everyone who has spoke so far. I have a really deep pain and I don’t know what’s causing it. It’s part of the depression stage that I’m in. It’s with me all day. I feel a stabbing in my gut, a twisting. I’m trying to sit with it but it’s hard. I’m trying not to turn to anything. My question is why. Your reading today said something about being empty. I feel that right now, very empty. I’m working on being here and filling up that empty spot with something good and meaningful. I’m trying to sit with it. Acknowledge it.

  • Have you had a conversation with the pain? It’s helpful, if you are open to it, to do the work to acknowledge and believe whatever comes out. No matter how ridiculous, how hideous, or large, or small. Let the words come out.

  • I have anxiety about having the pain. There’s a lot, it might be trauma so it’s hard to know what to believe when things are misdirected.

  • I thought I’d just listen today and what I was experiencing probably had no relevance to the theme in meditation. I’m having a splitting headache, this physical pain. During the meditation, I just sat with it and asked what does my body want me to know, what would my body love. It’s so funny that we’re on the same wavelength. I didn’t even know if I’d be here today. I thought my energy would be a detractor, and here we are.

  • I recognize my body speaks to me in all different ways. Not only pain, but even mild discomfort. My body wants a voice, like we all want a voice. If it doesn’t stir up something useful, it makes room for something else to come out. I’m all for communicating in any way possible.

  • Thank you. I was really touched by the observer. Sometimes I forget about the observer. Sometimes, the observer is very present. Thank you for the reminder. When you invoked Hawaii—years ago, I moved there because I needed to be healed. I was coming out of a dark, difficult time. I feel it was my observer who suggested that, that it would be good for me. What comes up for me when I sit with Hawaii is love and birth because the islands are being born. One thing that helps my pain is to go to that place of love and rebirth that I still feel when I sit with Hawaii. It’s helpful for me. It was nice to be reminded of the observer and the amazing energy and love that I found in Hawaii. Thank you.

  • This thought came to me during the meditation. It jolted me because it was quick. When you talked about fear, it occurred to me that I am becoming less fearful in my life. The reason is because I feel so supported and so cared about by so many people. I think the buoyancy of that is comforting. I wanted to give that to those of you feeling less connected or depressed. Just know you are held. Even though I haven’t met most of you in person, it doesn’t matter. We’re talking spiritual stuff. We are together in all of this.

  • We have the control over the doorway whether we let in support or not. It’s an inside job. Do we have the willingness to open up?

  • Thank you so much. It’s a great reading. I loved the line about we grow despite the battering we take from the stormy weather in our lives. If I just stay with the discomfort, then it’s a place to grow from. In the discomfort, I can look at the discomfort and see what the lesson is and where it’s coming from and what I have to learn. That’s how we grow. In the past, as an addict, I would have the discomfort and take something so that I wouldn’t have to be in the discomfort. Just get rid of it. It’s a different way to look at it now. And I am in discomfort, I have physical discomfort. I get to sit with it and see what it’s all about or take an ibuprofen, but that won’t solve it. Thank you.

  • I wanted to say about the tree. I loved everything you wrote today. The part about the tree reminds me what I read in a book long ago. When trees get wounded, a limb cut or whatever, they grow around their wounds. That’s what makes the tree unique. I loved that. I use it as a metaphor all the time in my own life. I love the image. It’s made me appreciate trees in a new way. When we look at trees, we appreciate their uniqueness. But when it comes to people, we don’t always do that. That sentence has stuck with me for many years and has been comforting to me. I’m also a big fan on Pema Chodren’s books. One thing that has helped me sit with my discomfort is the image of wrapping myself in the arms of loving kindness. I just love that. It’s been so helpful to me and it’s given me courage to sit with discomfort, whether physical or emotion. It’s given me a lot of courage.

  • It takes courage to sit in discomfort because it’s like a hot frying pan and it hurts.

  • Many years ago, I tried to put a gutter on my house and was standing on a railing instead of a ladder. I fell and broke my right tibia in six pieces. When the doctor told me I may never walk again, I was too doped up to hear it. As it turns out, as with trees, when we have a broken bone, it heals stronger at that breaking point. It’s like the Japanese pottery (see Jan 20 blog). I’m going to try mending pottery like that. It becomes a thing of beauty. We should all think that way. When we’re broken and we heal, we are stronger for it.

  • Just a note on trees. The arborists now are of the persuasion that you don’t paint over the wound of a tree. The tree heals itself over time. I think that’s what we are engaged in doing. Not painting over with some botanical goop, but healing ourselves over time. Trusting the inner process.

  • Thank you. It strikes me that the healing is in the sharing. But this is sharing at a different level. This is not sitting and voicing our complaints about how crappy lives are because of what happened. This is incredible sharing from the heart. For me, in terms of not being alone, it brings me to the oneness of all of us and the uniqueness of this group. For me, that’s the authentic relationship with a divine center. It’s truth that we can feel in our pores.

  • Thank you. Thank you each of you for being part of this process of truth. We are connected in our deep root systems and we weather these storms that are so painful. We recognize the pain in one another and we recognize the oneness. It’s such a pleasure to be part of it. And it’s such a pleasure to be part of the buoying system. Thank you for adding to it. Thank you for being part of it. I hope you have a gentle day. Hold it with awareness and reverence for what we have here and take it on your journey.

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