Browsing Category "Practice"
17 Jul
2018
Posted in: Practice, Talks
By    Comments Off on Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. ME!

Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. ME!

One of my dharma buddies sent me a great series of talks by Tenzin Palmo, a British woman who spent twelve years practicing in a remote cave in the Himalayas and was the first to receive full bhiksuni ordination in the Tibetan tradition. (Thanks Betsy!)

I haven’t listened to them all, but I plan to. Yesterday I listened to: Teaching on the Eight Verses of Mind, in which Palmo says:

“In Buddhism, pride means thinking we are superior to other people, but it also means thinking that we’re inferior to other people.

“Because if I think: Oh, I’m the most stupid person here; I’m hopeless; I can’t do anything; All these people, they’re so wonderful…. Or when you’re on retreat: Oh, everybody else is deep in the first jhana or at least some samadhi, I’m the only one that’s been caught up in these wondering thoughts…. That is not humility. That’s just the inverse of the ego, beating itself up.

“The ego is very happy to be miserable. Because, if we are miserable (especially full of self-pity) about how awful and hopeless and stupid we are…. what are we thinking about?

“Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Oh poor Me. Oh stupid Me. Oh hopeless Me. — ME!”

***

She nailed that one.

The whole talk is really quite wonderful. It’s long, but it’s worth it. (The excerpt above begins at about the 29 minute mark.) Click here to listen.

16 Jul
2018
Posted in: Books, Groups, Practice
By    Comments Off on Heartwood

Heartwood

Our Dharma Book Group meets tonight (we’re reading In the Buddha’s Words, by Bhikkhu Bodhi), and it looks like our discussion will take us into The Greater Discourse on the Simile of the Heartwood (MN 29), which includes one of my favorite quotes from the Buddha.

Here’s what Bhikkhu Bodhi has to say:

“The sutta is about a ‘clansman’ who has gone forth from the household life into homelessness intent on reaching the end of suffering. Though earnest in purpose at the time of his ordination, once he attains some success, whether a lower achievement like gain and honor or a superior one like concentration and insight, he becomes complacent and neglects his original purpose in entering the Buddha’s path. The Buddha declares that none of these stations along the way — not moral discipline, concentration, or even knowledge and vision — is the final goal of the spiritual life…”

The Buddha says, “But it is the unshakeable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end.”

***

“Unshakeable liberation of mind.” I just love that!

12 Jul
2018
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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Something Naturally Arises

Another excerpt from Ajahn Sucitto, this time from a beautiful little talk (less than 12 minutes long!) in which he suggests “entering into a relational field” — instead of reacting to things in terms of “subject-and-object.” (Thanks for pointing me to this one, Carolyn.)

Sucitto says, “Be on guard for any time we see something as an ‘object’ — especially if it’s a person — (oh, her…or he’s my boss…or she’s my wife…). As soon as you get one of those: Uh-oh! You’ve just whistled up a problem! Because objects in that experience are always saturated with unconscious craving, resistance of various kinds, and mental factors we haven’t acknowledged.

“When that happens, it’s time to: Stop. And check. Not the object or the subject, but: What’s the relational tone of mind?  Is it ill will; is it regret; is it nagging; is it hungry; is it blaming; is it comparing; is it ‘should-be’; is it ‘if only he was…’

“Ask what is happening in that relational field. And then: could that activity just stop….and take a break — a break from suffering!

“Then from there, take a breather and ask: What seems important now? What’s the one important gesture now? 

“Then from that place, you can just… have a little bit of give. Because: Why not? And it makes you feel good!

“The more you can enter that kind of place, the more you can get all kinds of growth, development, understanding, realization… Shifts can occur. In relationship with other people. In relationship with yourself!

“….So, entering the relational field: It’s always kind of fresh because it’s not pre-conceived. Even a good strategy like: OK, I will be loving and peaceful. That’s a nice idea, but it’s an ideal. And where does that come from? [laughter]

“Instead, could something naturally arise…through the relinquishment of mental obstructions. That’s really a mystical and religious experience — when something naturally arises — which is not myself.

“And it happens. Definitely. It happens.”

***

This excerpt is edited and condensed. I highly recommend listening to the whole talk (and doing it more than once!). Click here.

11 Jul
2018
Posted in: Practice
By    Comments Off on Yet Another Reason to Know How to Meditate

Yet Another Reason to Know How to Meditate

A friend just told me she heard this on BBC news (thanks, Judy):

Thailand cave rescue:
Meditation led by coach helped the boys survive terrifying ordeal, family say

“The 12 Thai boys and their football coach who were trapped in a cave in Thailand got through the ordeal by practicing meditation, family members have said.

“According to a mother of one of the boys, the team were meditating in the widely shared video of their discovery by two British divers.

“‘Look at how calm they were sitting there waiting. No one was crying or anything. It was astonishing,’ she told the Associated Press.

“The coach who was rescued from the cave on Tuesday, trained as a Buddhist monk for 12 years before he decided to coach the Wild Boars soccer team.

“‘He could meditate up to an hour,’ said his aunt, Tham Chanthawong. ‘It has definitely helped him and probably helps the boys to stay calm.'”

***

Wow, you just never know when it’ll come in handy!

(This story appeared yesterday in the Evening Standard. To read the full article, click here.)

10 Jul
2018
Posted in: Practice, Talks
By    Comments Off on Where Am I Now?

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.”