Browsing Category "Practice"
10 Jul
2018
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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Where Am I Now?

More from Ajahn Sucitto:

“Whenever you feel yourself getting pulled, that’s the most important time to — pause. Pause for just 20 seconds…or a minute…and ask: Where am I now?

“Not: What should I do? But: Where am I now?

“You might think, ‘I’m in a restaurant. I’m in an office.’ No, that’s just what it looks like. That’s what your eyes can see. That’s what your thinking mind can tell you. But the real question is: Where do you feel your presence? Where is your presence now?

“Presence is a sense of firmness, of stability. It’s always here. And it’s always being dissipated into the sense fields. So when we ask, “Where am I now,” this is not really asking for a verbal response. It’s pointing to the quality of the citta — of Awareness as Presence. We can notice the trembling, or the questioning or the feelings or the sensations — they’re all moving and changing.

“Meanwhile, with all that, as one is acknowledging that it’s all moving and changing — what is it that acknowledges the moving and changing? It’s: Presence. The sense of presence of the citta, as a simple quality of being. There’s a stillness there. A point of stillness.

“It may sound difficult when I try to put it into words, but we can — pause — and ask: “Where am I?” Or: “What’s really here? And within this realm of sights and sounds and thoughts and energies and emotions and pushes and pulls and moods and impressions — Presence is here.

“Take your time with that. This is Being. Being is always exactly the same. Being doesn’t change in time. Being is not the person. Being is not the moods. Being is not the thoughts. Being is not the activities. Being is just being here. And that’s a refuge. That’s an island in the middle of the stream, in the middle of the flood. You can return to that. And then from here, you can ask: “What’s useful? What’s important? What is the most skillful thing to do, at this particular time?

***

This is just an excerpt from Ajahn Sucitto’s talk, The Duties of Heedfulness, beginning at about the 26 minute mark. I highly recommend listening to it in its entirety. He’s talking about how to make daily life into a meditative practice! Click here to listen.

6 Jul
2018
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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Try: Seeing a Tree

Suggested Exercise, from Ajahn Sucitto:

“One thing that’s very important in all meditation practice is a sense of changing speed. Because in the change of speed you come out of that blurred, impulsive rush, whereby you go down the channels [of habitual patterns]. So this is about a change of speed… or calming, if you like…. or sustaining attention.

“I’d like to suggest that you practice this for a while, maybe 30 minutes, outside… it’s something I quite appreciate doing… just let your eyes rest upon, say, a tree or something like that… Stay with it visually, just let your eyes stay there. And you will notice how, if you stay with that for 5 or 10 minutes (a sustained period of time) — you’ll notice all the changes that occur in that simple experience: Seeing a Tree.

“So, let’s say you look at it and expectation occurs. OK, expectation — that occurs. Then you notice a detail. Oh, that’s kind of interesting — that occurs. Then maybe appreciation. What a lovely tree — that occurs. And then, Well, I think I’ve done that, had enough — that occurs. [laugher]

“And then maybe the visual thing starts to dilate. In other words, you see tiny details and you see the big field, and if you keep your eyes on it, it will start to vibrate (visually). And it becomes much more amorphous… and you stay with that, until eventually — tree???

“The word ‘tree’ no longer applies.

“This is when, in a way, what’s happened is: the object-forming tendency, which goes on for a period of time, starts to…. Well, I’ve seen that object… It’s done its job. It’s said, Oh, that’s a leaf; that’s a twig; that’s bark; that’s green; that’s black; that’s a color; I like that…. and eventually it’s, Well, I’ve said all that, and it starts to not have anything more to say. [laughter]

“And then, one feels more touched by it.

“As the object-forming and the categorizations wear out, or receded… one gets more and more touched… There’s an intimacy, of presence, that occurs. I don’t know what it is, but I’m feeling really attentive, and awake, to this. And a sense of appreciation occurs.

“These are the sorts of modalities that can occur, because all these tendencies… these aggregates… which seem so concrete, are only made so by the rapidity of the juggling act that keeps them all binding together. And the passion for it. The excitement to make it happen.

“If you stay with something long enough, it starts to… the object-forming tendencies begin to… you know…. wear out.

“But it’s not that there’s nothing there. It just becomes more… un-named. And something is very bright about that.

“So I would suggest you take some time and see if you can find… either standing, or a bench or something whereby you may be able to sustain… It’s not a matter of having your eyes rigidly focused, but keep a sustained attention. You can look around it, look up and down… pause… slow… slow your eye movements down… as if you are tasting with your eyes, every grain of visual experience, every little fleck of it.

“Yeah.

“This is all seeing. It is just seeing. Until the mental configurations begin to pass away.

“OK?”

***

OK!

This is the entire transcript (very lightly edited) of a lovely little less-than-5-minute talk by Ajahn Sucitto, title: A Suggested Exercise. Listen to it here.

29 Jun
2018
Posted in: Practice
By    Comments Off on My Tiny Meditation Hall

My Tiny Meditation Hall

I went on another Tiny Retreat this morning (8:30am to 12:30pm CST), right here in my tiny meditation “hall” (pictured), along with at least five other people who were also doing it (in their own time zones and meditation spaces).

It was great. I sat-and-walked on my own schedule, all the while knowing that my friends (and friends-of-my-friends) were also sitting-and-walking, all on their own schedules, but also doing it ALONG WITH ME (or at least at a time that overlapped with me), which was an incredible support for my practice.

I think I’m on to something here.

So: I’m going to be doing this again on the last Friday of next month (July 27)…and on the last Friday of every month!…unless I’m away on an actual in-person retreat, or something.

What to join me?

If you do, send me an email here and I’ll send you a text reminder the day before. I’ll also follow up after the retreat by email, if you’d like.

The Buddha said that Kalyana Mitta (translated as Spiritual or Beautiful Friendship) is not merely “half the spiritual life, but the whole of it.” Bhikkhu Bodhi says, “Spiritual friendship gives the practice of Dhamma an inescapable human dimension and welds the body of Buddhist practitioners into a community united both vertically by the relationship of teacher to student and horizontally by friendships among peers treading a shared path.”

So let’s do this together, my Beautiful Friends!

28 Jun
2018
Posted in: Books, Practice
By    Comments Off on The Emotional Body

The Emotional Body

It hit me, while I was exploring the Nine Bodies during my meditation the other day, that the “Emotional Body” is a “body” in the way the ocean is a “body.” The ocean is a body of water; the level of consciousness that’s called the “Emotional Body” is a body of emotions, which seems to act a LOT like an ocean! (Emotions flood, surge, flow, engulf, etc.) In fact, while I was experiencing this Body during meditation, the felt sense of it was JUST LIKE AN OCEAN!

In Awakening through the Nine BodiesPhillip writes: “The Emotional Body is where all emotions and sentiments manifest, including excitement, frustration, depression, exertion, humor, anxiety, worry, generosity, joy, jealously, insecurity, fear, panic, and satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Ambition also resides in the Emotional Body.

“The Emotional Body is where attachment arises because the emotions can create expectations and demands; however, emotions are not the problem because they are only energetic states. Like waves in the ocean, emotions do not create themselves; they are created by the mind. ‘You should observe whether you are acting or simply reacting from the Emotional Body,’ Balyogi advises.

“If you don’t relate to your emotions in a wise manner, the emotions will distort what is real and cause suffering to arise. Everybody has dark and light emotions; the question is, which will you develop?

“In order to develop positive emotions, you must practice mindfulness of what is arising in the mind that is causing the emotional waves.

“For instance, one of the strongest and most confusing emotions we experience is love. We hold it in an exalted state, yet we often experience it with the corrupting emotions of greed, jealousy, possessiveness, resentment, and exploitation. Thus, many people come to spiritual practice seeking to be healed from a lack of innate self-worth, childhood traumas, or a broken heart, and wanting to feel unconditional love….

“The Emotional Body is the center of love. Love grows in the Emotional Body. The Emotional Body allows the expression of love and provides the means to explore love.”

***

Want more? Click on this link for a video of Phillip Moffitt giving an introductory talk on the Nine Bodies, plus several audio talks and guided meditations on these teachings.

Dive right in!

13 Jun
2018
Posted in: Practice, Talks
By    Comments Off on How to Dissolve Tension

How to Dissolve Tension

I got this little gem of a quote last night from listening to one of Ajahn Sucitto’s newly posted talks, which was part of his response to a question about how to relax tensions that are “locked up” in the body:

“The universal solvent is goodwill.”

27 May
2018
Posted in: Books, Practice, Travel
By    Comments Off on Toward Which My Journey Tends

Toward Which My Journey Tends

I leave on Tuesday (May 29) for the Nine Bodies retreat at Spirit Rock, then I’m staying over to meet with Phillip the next day, so I won’t get back until the following Tuesday, (June 5). Look for my next post sometime later that week.

In the mean time, I leave you with this selection from Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino, the guide book I always consult before traveling:

The Great Khan’s atlas contains also the maps of the promised lands visited in thought but not yet discovered or founded: New Atlantis, Utopia, the City of the Sun, Oceana, Tamoé, New Harmony, New Lanark, Icaria.

Kublai asked Marco: “You, who go about exploring and who see signs, can tell me toward which of these futures the favoring winds are driving us.”

“For these ports I could not draw a route on the map or set a date for the landing. At times all I need is a brief glimpse, an opening in the midst of an incongruous landscape, a glint of lights in the fog, the dialogue of two passersby meeting in the crowd, and I think that, setting out from there, I will put together, piece by piece, the perfect city, made of fragments mixed with the rest, of instants separated by intervals, of signals one sends out, not knowing who receives them. If I tell you that the city toward which my journey tends is discontinuous in space and time, now scattered, now more condensed, you must not believe the search for it can stop. Perhaps while we speak, it is rising, scattered, within the confines of your empire; you can hunt for it, but only in the way I have said.”

Already the Great Khan was leafing through his atlas, over the maps of the cities that menace in nightmares and maledictions: Enoch, Babylon, Yahooland, Butua, Brave New World.

He said: “It is all useless, if the last landing place can only be the infernal city, and it is there that, in ever-narrowing circles, the current is drawing us.”

And Polo said: “The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.” 

25 May
2018
Posted in: Practice, Sangha at Large
By    Comments Off on Spread the Word!

Spread the Word!

I just finished my first ever Tiny Retreat and it was great!

What’s a Tiny Retreat? It’s a half-day, at-home, sitting-and-walking practice that I have committed to doing once a month — 8:00 am to 12:00 noon (Central Time) on the last Friday of every month (schedule permitting). I posted about why I’m doing it here.

Part of what why it was so great today was that even though I was here at home, doing sitting and walking meditation all by myself, I wasn’t really doing it all by myself because I know that at least one of my Dharma buddies was at her home, also doing sitting and walking meditation, at the same time, with the intention of deepening her practice, and of doing it with me.

AND there are a couple more Dharma buddies of mine who have committed to doing it with me, too!

Want to join us? The next one is June 29, 8:00 am to 12:00 noon Central Time. Even if you can’t do on that date or at that time, how about doing it that evening, or the next day, or the day after that ???? Let me know and I’ll make a special point of sending blessings to you. We could even check in on how it’s going, if you’d like. (Email me here.)

23 May
2018
Posted in: Practice, Teachers
By    Comments Off on Don’t Leave Home Without It

Don’t Leave Home Without It

“In your investigation of the world, never allow the mind to leave the body.

“Examine the body’s nature. See the elements that comprise it. See the impermanence, the suffering, the selflessness of the body while sitting, walking, standing, or lying down.

“When its true nature is seen fully and lucidly by the heart, the wonders of the world will become clear.”

— Ajahn Mun

22 May
2018
Posted in: Generosity, Practice
By    Comments Off on Here’s a Tip

Here’s a Tip

I was having lunch the other day at a neighborhood place I like to go to and just as I was getting ready to leave, a friend of mine came in, who I don’t see all that often, so of course I invited her to sit at my table — she was just stopping in to get something to take home and hadn’t planned to sit down, but there I was and so she did. I had already paid my bill and I guess having someone new sit down at my table without me leaving confused the waitress, because it was a long time before we could get her attention. And then once we did, it was another long time before we got the drink my friend ordered, even though while we waited the bus boy brought a drink to me that I hadn’t even ordered. Then it was another really long time before our waitress returned and asked my friend to repeat her order because apparently somehow she had lost it.

I noticed that I was getting annoyed during all of this and so was my friend, but at least we were able to take advantage of the time to have a nice long visit. One of the things my friend said while we waited, which I’m sure only came up because of the situation, was that she has been making a practice of always leaving big tips — really big tips (like 50% of the bill) — even when the service is not all that great, because she recognized what a hard job it is to wait tables, and since she can afford to give money to charities, why not give money to people who wait tables.

I love that!

18 May
2018
Posted in: Practice, Talks
By    Comments Off on Relax: Body. Breath. Mind.

Relax: Body. Breath. Mind.

One of my oldest habit patterns is believing that MY way is the RIGHT way. This can be very painful. For everyone!

Of course, sometimes my way IS the right way…or at lease ONE of the right ways…but it would be a whole lot better if I could avoid getting caught in this kind of thinking.

Mindfulness, of course, is the way to break free of old habits, so I’ve been working with that. But then last night, I happened to listen to a talk in which Phillip Moffitt describes how he developed a specific practice — for himself — to address this very habit!

He calls it Relaxing into Surrender:

“I started this practice when I was working with a particular area of my life… I was repeatedly getting caught in something that was not personal in nature, but nonetheless, it was something that I very much wanted to go my way.

“The feeling was one of tightness, closed heart, closed mind, and it was an unwholesome feeling. So I started relaxing. And then as I was doing it more I realized: Ah, there’s a bigger teaching here. For me! I started this practice not to teach it to you, but for my own practice. 

“What I have done now for these past 23 months is: periodically, every day, I will take just a brief 30 seconds or 3 minutes or 5 minutes or whatever it is…and I will relax. I will relax the body; I will relax the breath; I will relax the mind state. As best I am able. 

“So: driving a car, sitting in a meeting, I’ll just relax. Now maybe it’ll be in the middle of something that I actually have a point of view about, but other people are talking and I will sit there and I will just consciously relax: body, breath, and mind. Driving down the highway I will do it. Talking on the phone I will do it. Being by myself. Walking out in nature. Over and over again… I make a mindfulness practice out of relaxing. 

“What I discovered is that, although I already had a great deal of equanimity, mindfully relaxing day after day throughout the day in this way opened me up to a new level of relaxing, of letting loose of tension in attention, of tension in the body, tension in the mind state and it brought up this possibility repeatedly of surrendering.

“Because once I’d done all that relaxing…then I realized: OK so now here I am really wanting to affect the outcome in the decision we’re making in this particular meeting, but, who knows…maybe what I think would be best isn’t the best. But even if it IS best, maybe it’s going to happen and maybe it’s not. So: just let it go.

“But not giving up the point of view or failing to articulate that point of view!

“From a classical Buddhist teaching, this is letting go of sakkays-ditthi (personality view)…. which is the view of seeing everything from a dualistic perspective, from a personality — I like this and I don’t like that; I don’t want this to happen and I do want that to happen — and being attracted to all of that, to taking it in such a way that there is tension, there is clinging, there is holding onto it.

But not letting go of your values! Of course you want your community to be a safe community. You want your country to be a country of dignity and of kindness. And honesty. Of course you want that. Of course!!! But the getting tense around it is separate from the wanting of that, of having that as a value 

“What we surrender is the getting defined by it. So relax throughout the day and see: Oh, I can relax in this moment. Over and over again. Then this idea of surrender will come up in its own form, in its own time….

“The breath and the relationship of the breath to the emotions is a multi-dimensional experience. If you never experiment, you aren’t giving yourself a chance. This very simple exercise that I’m inviting you to do of relaxing the breath with the body and the mind, in the way I’ve said up to this point — that is enough.

“I can give you very fancy kinds of breath work, of controlling the breath, of controlling the inhale and the exhale, where to place the breath, where to follow the breath… I’ve done lots of very esoteric practices. But you do not need those practices for what we’re pointing to tonight. You really don’t.

“For most of us, we have to have some sort of practice. Otherwise our minds just take over and there’s some part of us that’s just on autopilot

“So we relax, but we don’t abandon practice. Surrender doesn’t mean quitting. It’s a specific use of the word ‘surrender.’ You’re surrendering attachment to outcome. You’re not quitting. You’re not being asked to give up the juice of your life. You’re being asked to practice letting go of your attachment, your clinging, your demand that those areas of your life be a certain way.” 

***

I really see how this could have a big impact…over time, of course. Phillip says to try it for at least 3 months.

OK, Phillip. At least for the next 3 months, I’m taking this one as a specific practice. Anybody else out there care to join me?

(The excerpt above is from Phillip Moffitt’s talk called Relaxing into Surrender, beginning at about the 40 minute mark. It is lightly edited for readability. Click here for the full talk.)