Browsing Category "Talks"
27 Nov
2018
Posted in: Talks
By    Comments Off on We’re Not Having an Experience…

We’re Not Having an Experience…

“We’re not having an experience, we are an experience. An experience that’s changing, that’s affected.”

— Ajahn Sucitto during a guided meditation on Disengaged Awareness. “Allowing content to arise and manifest generates spaciousness and eases the sense of self.” Click here to listen.

21 Nov
2018
Posted in: Talks
By    Comments Off on Compassion Incantation

Compassion Incantation

I’m thinking of someone who’s going through a difficult time right now, so I’d like to offer these phrases, which Phillip Moffitt uses in his Compassion Practice:

I can feel your suffering.

May your suffering cease.

May the light of love and understanding penetrate the darkness of this loss and grief. 

May your suffering cease.

May your suffering cease.

***

Phillip suggests being as specific as possible, so instead of “loss and grief,” which are appropriate in the situation I’m thinking of, one could use “pain and despair,” or “fear and uncertainty,” or whatever else feels right.

Listen to Phillip speak about these phrases and how to work with them in his talk: Surrender, Collapse, Conquer, and Compassion, part 2.

19 Nov
2018
Posted in: Talks
By    Comments Off on Understandable Results of Unbalanced Energy

Understandable Results of Unbalanced Energy

My “Headphone Retreat” continues. Last night I listened to Ajahn Sucitto’s talk on Intention, which concludes with a wonderful explanation of the Five Hindrances as “understandable results of unbalanced or depleted energy” (and therefore to be seen as “less of a sin and more of a problem that can be amended.”)  

Sucitto says, “The body and mind are in sympathy and they are co-dependent. So at this level, the way you inflect your mind effects your body energy. If you approach your body from a controlling attitude, then your body will start to become rigid on a physiological level. If you approach it from an acceptance place, it becomes softer, more relaxed.

“So what is the proper relationship? To not be dominating, but at the same time, be present. This is a very beautiful skill to learn. And naturally the success rate is not all that great. [laughs] But if you are getting a 1 or 2 out of 10, this is definitely progress. Because every time you touch that, faith arises.

“There are definitely big benefits in the sense of self dropping away, the obsessiveness or the moodiness dropping away. Because in the relational sense, when that is harmonious, the quality of harmony becomes the atmosphere. And the disharmonious qualities drop away.

“Then one feels settled, composed. This is called samadhi. It’s harmony — unification of body and mind. That’s when the mental energy and the body energy are in synch. They’re in synergy. So what occurs is there’s an overall sense of harmony, unification, and settledness.

“And that has not arisen really from me trying to get things calmed down. (Unless it’s done in a very careful way.) Certainly the inclination is: Let’s just take things easier; there’s no pushing; no pressure; just stay present. The inflection of an intentionality is something that no matter how many words I put around it, you will have to find it for yourself. And it may have different words for you.

“But the result will be, definitely a cleaning of behavior on a subtle level. And that cleaning on a subtle level will definitely have effects on a more obvious relational level. One becomes less fearful or pushy. One becomes less flustered in the presence of phenomena that are not delightful or attractive. Because the energy itself builds up a certain strength.

“So as our bodily energy system becomes more strengthened and cleaned, then we’re able to be present with difficult phenomena without feeling highly impacted. It’s not that you don’t notice them, but you don’t feel shocked by them. Or tightened up. Or defensive.

“These are the effects that occur from the skill that comes with this kind of mode of practice. Because the body and the mind are not separable — they effect each other — then the negative effects of the defective behaviors of grasping and so forth…they are felt in the body and the mind.

“The first list of these defective behaviors we know so well — The Five Hindrances.

Greed or sense desire:
“This is because the energy feels really flat and needs something to get it going. It’s hungry. It lacks vitality. So it’s got to have something to feed on, to get livened up with. Clearly, if one has vitality, this does not have to occur.

Ill-will:
When we cannot cope with difficult feelings, we get hostile instead. Energy tightens up because it has no capacity to accommodate and discharge the difficult feeling. So instead it develops hostility towards it. Prickling and souring.

Dullness:
“Because so much of the energy gets exported into distraction and outgoing tendencies, one’s ‘home base,’ one’s ‘reservoir,’ is rather low. One hasn’t got a rich supply of energy because so much of it goes out through the sense doors and in occupations. So there’s not much ‘at home.’ Therefore one’s dullness is a sort of indolence and a sluggishness.

Restlessness:
“Because so much energy is expended in sense phenomena — which are diverse — the system is used to jumping from this to that, to this, to that, to this, to that. So that pattern gets established. Now if there’s a sense of something that’s unifying, that the citta [heat/mind] can go to… if there’s a unifying energy…. then it can settle into that. So restlessness can cease.

Speculative doubt:
“This is when we are over-emphasizing the conceptual intelligence. This is what happens when the other intelligences are more limited. If our body intelligence isn’t very acute, and the heart intelligence is not so agile, then what happens is a lot of the intelligence goes into the mental faculty. Which means we are always searching for clarity and answers to things.

“But the mental faculty can’t provide it. It cannot provide the satisfaction that can only be really experienced in the heart. This is the state of doubt: ‘Is it this or that…’ ‘Should I do this or that…’ What’s being sought is the sense of: ‘Ah-hahhh.’ And that is a heart sense.

“If the heart intelligence has not been properly energized and brought to bear upon experience, then speculative doubt becomes potentially more apparent. Because we seek orientation in terms of thought. But thought cannot provide it. So there’s the sense of: ‘maybe this… or maybe that…’ Because we’re still looking for the clarity orientation that cannot arrive. It’s like walking on water. It can’t be done. So there’s the skidding effect of doubt. Confidence arises not from the intellect, but from realization of citta: ‘Ahh. This is this.’

“These hindrances have energetic effects, though very often in dharma instruction the approach is more from the psychological aspect — which is also true — but I feel that the psychological qualities that we attune to, this area of our intelligence, is so over-worked that it’s almost inflamed — with self-hood — and with blaming, and criticism, and guilt around these hindrances.

“So perhaps it would be easier to sense them as just understandable results of unbalanced or depleted energy. And then it becomes less a “sin” and more of a problem that can be amended. By accessing, steadying, smoothing, calming — forming a healthy relationship. And breathing is certainly an excellent object for that because it will give you a lot back.

“It will give you a lot back — if you approach it in the right way.”

***

The excerpt above begins at about the 45 minute mark. Click here to listen to this talk in its entirety.

14 Nov
2018
Posted in: Practice, Talks
By    Comments Off on Head-Phone Retreat!

Head-Phone Retreat!

I discovered last night that talks from Ajahn Sucitto’s month-long retreat — going on right now at the Forest Refuge — are starting to be posted on Dharma Seed.

I had tried to attend this retreat, but my name didn’t get drawn. (Admission was by lottery.) The same thing happened to me when I tried to attend this retreat last year…and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before THAT.

So I decided it’s time for a new plan.

Instead of trying to win the Sucitto retreat lottery, I’m just going to meditate at home — BUT I’M STILL GOING TO SIT HIS RETREAT — because I can listen to the talks on-line.

I’ll call it a head-phone retreat!!!

So I started it last night by listening to this very sweet little opening talk (just 14 minutes long), in which Sucitto explains the practice of alms giving (the ritual offering of a meal to monastics) — which I had never really given much thought to until the first time I attended a retreat where a monk was present, and then was so moved by the care and respect with which it was done, that I found myself welling up with tears.

Here’s what Sucitto says about this in the first talk of the retreat:
“The first thing that’s going to involve us monastics is the alms giving. This is a sign of the reciprocity in which everybody contributes, everybody participates and shares, in a kind of quiet and restrained and careful way. And so it establishes a relationship with an essential quality that has a certain special focusing, even sacred nature, to it.

“Because when we relate to each other, then we have to come out of our self a little bit — meet the other in that uncertain place. And that’s where these valuable qualities of goodwill, self-respect, respect-for-other, and meaning, can occur.

“So the alms giving is not just having a meal. Essentially, the principle is, that the sammanas — “gone-forth people” we call monastics — make themselves available to receive what is offered. So the principle of our mendicant life is we never ask for anything, it’s that we just make ourselves available. That’s the principle of it.

“For those who offer it’s not like: What would you want? What would you like? But: May I offer? And then whatever is offered, we receive it. So that allows a certain kind of openness, and the other people come in as they will. They don’t have to offer anything. If not, well, then OK, maybe next time…

“Essentially, what is most highly regarded is the quality of the offering — the offering gesture — and the smoothness or the clarity, the caring quality that’s imbued in that, rather than the actual nature of the material object.

“As gone-forth people, we place matters of the heart above matters of material form. These matters of the heart are: generosity, sharing, respect, and invitation and offering, rather than demand and obey…”

***

Sucitto then goes on to a few other items, concluding with this lovely bit of instructions for settling in:
“While you’re finding your way into the retreat, let’s make the effort to draw a circle around your life. Keeping it within this particular physical situation. So you can walk around the whole of the retreat facility — that’s including the woodlands — but let’s keep in this particular property, so you’ve got some sense of a boundary.

“And bring all your concerns within that. How you act, how you walk, how you relate to the earth, how you relate to other people, how you relate to your body, and how you relate to the sacred — to these four compass points.

“The earth, nature, how you feel connected to that — you’re in that — a sense of respect and openness to that.

“To your own body — and here I will offer daily qigong to support you in that.

“How you relate to others — the precepts and the whole sense of acting as a group, which is part of that.

“And of course, how you relate to the sacred — your own values, your own virtues, both the moral virtues and the virtues in terms of parami — how you lift them up, how you respect them, how you respect them in others, how you venerate them in these symbolic ways using the shrine — so that’s the one that covers all of it. Everything should be held in that particular domain. So the earth, your body, other people, and the sacred. These are four compass points…”

***

There’s more to this talk. Click here to listen. (Maybe even try a head-phone retreat of your own!)

22 Oct
2018
Posted in: Talks
By    Comments Off on Far More Interesting and Mysterious

Far More Interesting and Mysterious

I’ve been listening to some of Phillip Moffitt’s old talks this weekend and came across this little gem:

Your world becomes richer — far more interesting and mysterious — if, when you open that door, you feel “hand-ness” opening a door. So different than just getting somewhere.

With mindfulness of the body, you are present for the mystery of your own existence as embodied consciousness!

— from Beginner’s Mind: The Bio-Suit

10 Oct
2018
Posted in: Practice, Talks
By    Comments Off on Heart Felt

Heart Felt

Last night I was watching the video of Phillip Moffitt leading the Oct 1 session of Monday Night at Spirit Rock and I was so struck by his use of the phrase “heart-felt practice” (which I don’t think I’ve ever heard him use before), that I had to stop the tape and go back and write it down, exactly as he had said it.

Here it is in context. (It was at about the half-way point in the meditation instructions.)

“Staying with the breath….allow the breath to also breathe through your heart. That means to relax the heart as you relax the mind. Softening the heart. Just as you are softening the mind as you are staying with the object of breath or body. Just invite… See what happens if you invite the heart to relax a little. Give a little smile to the heart. Just even the slightest movement at the corner of the lips. It may change the breath in some way.

This is a heart-felt practice. Even though we’re developing concentration, the heart is not excluded. It’s mind/heart: ‘Bodhicitta.’

“Surrender even more deeply to knowing breath. Feeling it at the nostrils, or in the chest, or in the belly. Or you may experience the breath as a wave — in and out — like the tide at the shoreline. Intimate… Softening into… Heart-receiving… 

“If your mind is called away, notice what it is that has pulled you. Is it a memory, a plan, a fantasy, a comment that you’re making, a complaint… Just be with that for a moment and acknowledge whatever it is.

“You’re willing to receive it — but not now. Having noticed this, acknowledged it (very quickly, this isn’t a long process) and then go back to the breath.

“The breath that is breathing with this soft heart. This body-breath. This soft heart.”

1 Oct
2018
Posted in: Practice, Talks
By    Comments Off on How Sucitto Practices

How Sucitto Practices

At the end of the retreat in Madison, Ajahn Sucitto gave this wonderful little gem of a talk called, Closing Exhortation: Being is First; Doing is Second.

Here’s an excerpt:

“….Drop into the center of your reactivity. That’s where you’re supposed to be. You drop into — not your comfort zone — but right into the center of your reactivity. In there — that’s authentic, isn’t it. Because this is the thing you have to deal with. The reactivity.

“Don’t worry about it. Don’t start complaining about how reactive you are, or feeling hopeless, just go right to the center of your being, aware of your reactivity.

“I suggest that you can do this in ten seconds. Doesn’t mean you’ve got an answer, doesn’t mean you’re not reactive — it just means you can drop into that… You don’t need a lot of training, really, to just go to awareness of the compulsiveness, the reactivity.

The real deep training is the staying just a little bit longer in that awareness. Live just a little bit longer against all the pressure. Could be just another 5 seconds, even. Could be a little bit longer. Can you bear with that? Can you breathe out into that?

“And then start with what I call ‘guesswork.’ The doing. Which is just opening, widening….

“Be prepared to get it wrong. It doesn’t matter. Doing is always guesswork. You get five out of ten right – that’s good. Six out of ten, three out of ten… But at least what you’re doing is you’re referring to awakening intelligence, rather than indoctrinated ‘education’. Rather than programming….

“So check into this reactivity, and be in the center of one’s field of blame and all that, the lack of confidence, and the desire… Then awakening intelligence can start to operateIt’s all right. That’s OK. Just take your time. Just move out. Let’s see how it goes. I’m with you all the time.

Awakening intelligence – you’re not going to lose that one. Once you’ve touched into it, it’s going to be with you all the time.

“Just take the time to drop into it. Take the time to knock on its door. It’s going to come out. It’s natural. If you don’t ask for it, you’re not going to get it. If you don’t tap on the door, it can’t answer. If you’re too busy doing something else, doing busy stuff, driving yourself nuts – it’s not going to answer the door, because you haven’t asked it.

“And the asking is in the center of the reactivity…the fearfulness and the doubt. Be aware of that and then: what’s important now?Just take a breath….

“See what is good. Follow the beautiful. Follow the good. Kalyana — the Beautiful, the Truthful, the Good. Follow that. See where it goes. What else can you do?

Being is first; doing is second.

“I can’t get it simpler than that, really. It has to be simple. There’s so much that you know, so much you can learn, so much other stuff that you can pick up, goodies in meditation, Dhamma…  I don’t need to run through all that again. You can get all that. So, you know, my little bit is to try to perhaps touch things in strange ways and maybe make things in some ways more direct:

“Being is the first thing; doing is second. It doesn’t take that long to do that. And then following it is a curious path and strangeness.

We are the unnamable, moving through the unimaginable. There is no finality. You crave it, but there isn’t one.

“The unnamable moving through the unimaginable. What did you expect? [laughter] Crystal clear explanations? [more laughter]”

“So take time to check in with that.

“These are sort of daily life things. You have the ‘occasionals’, where you really check in with your refuges and so forth, your assets, and then you have the, what I call the ‘on-going.’

“So this is something that I am suggesting throughout the day. You can take ten seconds. Ten second pauses. Ten second moments. After breakfast. When you park the car. Before you jump to the next thing, make these little break points: Pause…Where’s it rolling now?…Where is it going now?

“If you can build those in during the day…ten times a day…it’s going to check some of these momentum wheels of our conditioning.

So this is how I practice.

“I’ve been really winging it for the last fifty years or so. [laughter]…. Yeah….. And, uh, when I’ve let myself get distracted, you know, and start believing in fixed things and finalities and systems and structures…get distracted by all of that… Then there is something to feel, which is definitely…. We all can do this. Awakening intelligence is there, possible for us. What else is going to get you through?

[long pause]

“You know, sometime when I pause, people think it’s that I’m thinking of something brilliant to say…it’s not. I’ve just stopped. [laughter] It happens quite a bit. [more laughter]

“So I’ll leave you with that, for now….with my blessings.”

***

This is only about half the talk, and it’s been edited and condensed. I highly recommend listening to the whole thing. (It’s only 27 minutes!!!) Click here.

20 Sep
2018
Posted in: Talks
By    Comments Off on For Wisdom. And Release.

For Wisdom. And Release.

Ajahn Sucitto recently led a retreat (in Madison, Wisconsin!) so I’ve been listening to a lot of his new talks.

Here’s an excerpt from one (which I didn’t really like all that much at first) but which I now really love and can’t stop “listening to” in my head — especially the very last part (of which there is considerably more than I have transcribe below). I strongly recommend listening to that part, instead of just reading it — but do it in a quiet place, where you can really take it in.

***

“We can get an image of ourselves as being regarded by others or being regarded by our own attitudes, as not coming up to what we should be or could be. And we do the same thing toward other people.

“We pick on some particular feature that is not agreeable and we make that the total story of what they are. In this way we create objects — perceptions — that are steeped in (for example) ill-will. Or we create objects that are molded by agitation. Or doubt…

“Then once we create the object, the object justifies the way in which we regard it: He did this and he did that, therefore he is an unpleasant person. I dislike him. How could you possibly not dislike him. He does this and he does that….

“Or we do that towards ourself: Other people don’t like me, I’m not good enough… 

“With wise reflection, one begins to recognize that this quality of ill-will is uncomfortable for myself. It’s making my heart sour and bitter. This is of no gain for me. This is a great loss. Whereas I could, instead, feel a sense of warmth, of ease, which would be much better…

“Is it possible, just in that, to sense: Oh, this is painful. It’s not worthy of me. It’s not going anywhere useful. Is it possible to acknowledge that and then…Relax…Pause….Stop.

“Maybe it’s not. Maybe this habit is just so ingrained that one’s mind runs down it. Then perhaps one can begin to consider: Well, OK, but at least I’m not going to act on it in terms of speech and physical action.

“That will have an effect. It will begin to, you know, put up a bar against it. And by at least stemming that tide, it’s beginning to weaken the power of that kamma.

“This is actually a merciful teaching. What we can’t do in meditation alone, we can perhaps do in terms of curtailing actions of body and speech, and that helps. And in going against the grain of that, it’s possible for insights to arise from moments of having resisted it, and having used resolution to withstand it — and the tide can drop….

“So, through this process of letting go, supportive properties come into awareness. And then as we linger in those, stay in those, feel those, sample those….we are being held constantly, steadily…against the flows, the out-flows, the currents of suffering and stress…then the turning of the tide can occur….

“And we begin to sense the flow…. we turn, time and time again…to the sign of release, or the sign of comfort, or the sign of ground, or the sign of… you know… whatever you want to call it… where the tides drop, where suffering abates, where the intensities release…

“That then becomes one’s meditation object.

“Dwell in it. Breathe in it. Feel what your breathing is like when that occurs — the sense of the space around and through your body, the energy levels when that occurs, the qualities of materiality, the energy bodies… Feel what occurs when that occurs.

“In this way you deepen and add dimension to that. You build it up. You make an investment of that. Then that becomes a more solid refuge and a “bar” to the tide of suffering and stress.

This is called: Careful thinking, skillful thinking. It is to be cultivated. For wisdom. And release.

***

This excerpt has been pretty heavily edited. Click here to listen to the full talk.

13 Sep
2018
Posted in: Talks
By    Comments Off on If You Don’t Speak It, You Become It

If You Don’t Speak It, You Become It

There’s another really wonderful talk by Ajahn Sucitto — The Skill of Thinking: Allowing the Heart to Speak — which I listened to before going on retreat last month, and which has stayed with me so vividly that since then, whenever I find myself thinking something that I think I shouldn’t think, I immediately hear Sucitto’s voice in my head:

“Ah, yes, that’s just the latent tendency for ill-will…..there it is….the sign of the irritable….the sign to turn sour….catch it now….catch it now and speak it (to yourself)…there’s something sour, something bitter….speak it, punch it up, it’s bitter, it’s prickly….speak it, witness it, speak it…just to get the perception of it, the felt-ness, the cabby, the embittered….and then, ah yes that’s it — beautifully done, yes, you’ve done that really well, congratulation — OK now, we can all go home….”

Sucitto explains:
“We’re owning the pain and speaking it… Just the act of speaking it gives you that millimeter of space. Once you’ve got that millimeter of space, something in your heart is no longer welding onto that and pushing it along…..

“It’s only when you can speak the truth that you can come to silence….”

“If you don’t speak it, you become it…

“Spaciousness is relationship is not that you HAVE a lot of space, it’s that you are BEING spacious…

“If you want space, that means you are actually wanting to disconnect. To be spacious is to be in the presence of. With a non-intrusive, non-aggressive, non-domineering attitude. It’s open.

“This is really courageous and beautiful because it’s so precarious. We just do not know what’s going to happen, what we’re going to do, what we’re going to feel.

“But one thing you do know: if you don’t do that — you are going to suffer.”

***

I could go on. But really, you just have to hear Sucitto giving voice to those grumpy, crabby, prickly, I-can’t-believe-I-have-to-be-with-all-these-stupid-people thoughts! Seriously. Listen to this talk.

4 Sep
2018
Posted in: Books, Practice, Retreats, Talks
By    Comments Off on Whatever You Get Interested In…. Gets Interesting.

Whatever You Get Interested In…. Gets Interesting.

I’m back now from the Concentration retreat, which was VERY. VERY. INTERESTING.

I wish you could all have been there. At least I can give you a peek:

In one of my favorite talks from the retreat — the “Enjoyment” talk — Sally Armstrong references Ajahn Sucitto’s lovely little book, Samadhi is Pure Enjoyment.

Here’s a link to the talk: Developing a Skillful Relationship to Happiness.

And here’s an excerpt from the book:

“…The idea of focusing is to settle, to focus in a way in which you feel settled and easy, not confused or sleepy. That’s the only point where you’ll experience a steady breath. This is really where your awareness can settle. Which means that it’s a matter of attitude as well as a physical point.

“Then you’ll find yourself settling in. You’ll begin to experience some kind of sign — the quality of openness without attachment has a characteristic feel, such as brightness. Listen in to that (if it’s something you experience through listening) as if you’re listening to the listening. If it’s tactile, feel it. If it has an emotional base, resonate with it.

“It is beautiful. Notice the beauty. What is this beauty? It’s where the mind feels gently delighted and uplifted. This is rapture — the threshold of samadhi….

“We can’t hold this beauty of rapture. A relationship to beauty is something akin to devotion. We don’t hold it; we’re aware of it in a way that’s both gladdened and respectful. We have to give ourselves to it. Of course, this is something we’re not used to; it’s something that requires trust.

“Trust your body first of all. The body is something that can be trusted much more than the mind. As one learns to trust, one learns to receive the blessings of what is good and conducive to the heart’s welfare. This brings joy….

“I think of ‘enjoyment’ as ‘receiving joy’; and samadhi as the art of refined enjoyment. It is the careful collecting of oneself into the joy of the present moment.

“Joyfulness means there’s no fear, no tension, no ‘ought to’. There isn’t anything we have to do about ti. So there is stillness. It’s just this.”