Browsing Category "Talks"
10 Aug
2018
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When It’s Good….

In the same Q&A session I wrote about yesterday, Ajahn Sucitto was also asked:
Do you think jhana training is necessary? [jhana: deep states of meditative absorption]

He says:
I think it’s very helpful. Train towards that. The degree to which one has results is sometimes dependent on one’s capability or one’s limitations or on situations. But train towards that because jhana training encourages one to keep discarding what’s not necessary.

It keeps us centering, centering, centering…and discarding that, discarding that…and protecting and enjoying the good (the qualities that develop as the mind purifies).

So it’s that attitude of homing in. But also of enjoying, deeply absorbing, taking in…. Anything you do with that attitude — it’s going to help in the process of training the mind not to keep skipping on and not to go off onto side tracks. And to stay on theme. And to enjoy the good.

This is absolutely necessary. To the degree to which your mind will stabilize into jhana — it takes time, you know, and certain capacities — but the attitude is one you must always bear in mind: Absorb into the good!

When it’s good — take it in, feel the quality of good. Because this is going to enrich you. If you skip off onto the next thing, you didn’t taste the fruit. You just picked it. But you didn’t taste it! So then it doesn’t have the deep effect.

***

Great! This is exactly what I’m going to be doing at the Concentration Retreat beginning August 19. Can’t wait!

9 Aug
2018
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Sucitto’s Advice for Dharma Teachers

In a different Q&A session from the one I posted yesterday (but from the same retreat), Ajahn Sucitto was asked:
What advice can you give upcoming Dhamma teachers in the West?

His answer:
More practice is necessary. And, kalyana mitta. 

Practice a lot. And cultivate kalyana mitta — spiritual friendship. Those are for anybody…not just Dhamma teachers…but for upcoming human beings! [laughter]

Practice a lot and stay with what you know. And don’t bluff. And seek kalyana mitta, who will help to tell you when you’re bluffing….and will accept you — love you — all the same.

That’s briefly speaking. I’m sure there’s much advice in detail you can get from other Dhamma teachers, but that would be my little piece in it.

***

Sounds like enough to me!

(The exchange above was part of this Q&A session (beginning at the 33-minute mark). The tape (at the time of this post) is incorrectly identified as Guided Meditation: Everything Unfolds from the Center. But it is, in fact, the recording of Q&A: Negotiating Contact and Gladdening the Mind, a session that also includes questions on the meaning of spirit, spiritual powers, consciousness creating duality, transmuting sexual energy, sampajanna, and jhana training. Click here to listen.)

8 Aug
2018
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It Begins to Shine

I’ve been listening to a lot of Ajahn Sucitto’s new talks lately and, as always, have come across several teachings that have grabbed my attention so powerfully, that I had to stop and let my heart drink it in. Here’s one from a recent Q&A session, in which he talks about the quality of adhitthana (usually translated as “resolve” or “determination”).

“Pick one or two parami [wholesome qualities such as: generosity, patience, honesty, goodwill, etc] that you really want to focus in on, and then you can do things [to deepen your commitment to this quality], like make an image of it.

“This is what shrines and rituals are about. You pick up on something, or you feel something where there’s a glow in your heart, a strength, a keenness… Yeah, a glow in your heart that says: This is meaningful; This is beautiful; This is strong; This is what I value — deeply. Or you look in your life and you think: What DO I value — deeply?

“If you’ve got one or two of those, you hold it and you contemplate it and you take it in — and it begins to shine, and fill you.

“Then you want to make some kind of image out of it. You can use a word for that — a verbal image — or a sound, or a chant or a prayer. Or you can make a physical image, like something you can fashion or paint, or just use flowers or sticks or something. And then you make a shrine. And you want to put that thing up there, and you want to look at it every day, and you want to offer things to it, and you want to bow at it — and then you’re establishing a real participating field with that quality. This is how you generate fields.

“You generate a meaningful field not just by thought, but by really placing something, going to it, enacting it, chanting it, praying to it — you know?

“Why do people do this? It’s not just because of some superstition. It’s because when you put it there and you keep activating it, potentizing it by your presence and by your actions — it starts to pay off. It starts to hold you. Yeah. And the next time you’re about to “lose it,” you remember that. You remember that, and you come back. You’ve look to that and you’ve thought about that every day and the next time you’re about to lose that quality — it brings you back.

“This adhitthana principle is something that I’ve used a lot. It’s powerful. You say what you resolve — and then, you listen. If something inside you says: That’s a good idea, then it’s not enough. So you say it again: I resolve this. If something says: Yeah, that’s interesting. Then no, that’s not good enough. So you say it again, until something in your heart goes: Mmmmm. Then you’ve got it. And maybe you fold your arms or you bow or something. Then that’s locked it.

“Then it’s not just a good idea. It’s not a thought that will later change its mind and say that’s NOT a good idea. This goes beyond that. You’ve planted something in the field.

“You don’t enter this field just by a little thought. You’ve got to plant it there. And then you’ve made that. And, at that depth, it holds you. It’s very powerful…..

“These are things that…. if it means something, it really… It does work. It works — on a level that’s difficult to explain rationally. Because the mind is not just rational. These are strong psychological potencies. When you make adhitthana, they go in there. This can be because you make a resolution with another person or because you know the “sign” of something that gives you faith and strength and then, if you get that sign, that’s fantastic. Then make the most of it. Really. Get it established strongly. And don’t think about it ‘working’ in terms of time…”

***

When I first hear this I had to get up right in the middle of it and go make a drawing. (A graphic symbol, actually.) Which is not quite in its finished form, but which I will put on my altar as soon as it is.

(The excerpt is edited for readability. It begins at about the 34-minute point on the tape, but really, you should listen to the whole thing. FYI: In this talk, he also gives a thorough and quite beautiful response to a question about female monastics. Click here.)

31 Jul
2018
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Soften. Widen. Include It All.

Ajahn Sucitto has a new talk, called The Practice of Inclusivity, that I’ve listened to a couple of times now (and surely will listen to a couple of times more) because it just keeps speaking to me, on so many levels.

He begins: “I’ll offer some reflections, some thoughts…. straight from the heart:

“When I began to practice, I began in a highly structured way. I was using the Burmese satipatthana system, which is quite a carefully tooled, structured system. I hadn’t done any meditation at all! So I went from nothing to that. [laughs]

“Then because I felt I needed some structure in my life, after the class was over, I said to the monk who was teaching (this was in Thailand): Can I go to the monastery? Because I felt the structure there would keep me focused. Otherwise it was just going to dissipate. He said: Yeah, you can go. It’s free. Just show up.

“So I packed my stuff, sorted my things out, and went down the road to the town where the monastery was and they said: OK. Here’s this little hut you can live in. You’ve got to keep these eight precepts…. It was solitude. No eating in the afternoon, no entertainments, celibacy… You know, the “thing.” So that was Day 2 of my meditation career. [laughs]

“And I thought, yeah, maybe a week of this and I’ll sort things out, and get back on the road. And after a week or so, I thought: Hey, I can sit still for 5 minutes. I’m nearly there! (Because I hadn’t sat still for 5 minutes in my life at all.) And then after a while I thought: Uhh, this might take a little longer. Maybe 3 months. And then: Well, it doesn’t seem to be quite settled yet, but probably a little longer should do it.

“So then it was 3 years that I was in this hut. In solitude. It was structured in terms of the meditation. And in a structured situation….”

From there Sucitto goes on to tell how after 3 years of practicing with great diligence, his father dies, so he goes back to where his mother is living in England, and finds that his practice — without the structure he’s been used to — completely falls apart. So he decides to join Ajahn Sumedho at a small monastery in London. He tells how the communal living situation was quite helpful to him, but this time, as far as the teachings were concerned, there was very little structure at all. Ajahn Sumedo’s instructions were:

Sit there. Everything that arises, passes away. Be with that.

Sucitto askes: But how do you mediate? 

Sumedho says: The thought: “How do you meditate” — notice that it arises, be with that, it will pass.

So there was very little structure to the practice. “But what was provided was a community structure. You lived together; you operated together; you had certain loyalties and affiliations to the teacher, to the other people in it — it was only a small group. So you were held within that. And you were held within a larger structure, which was all the lay people who would come round and help to hold the thing together. So there was a communal structure, a living structure. So gradually over time, that sort of began to replace my early structure.

“Then as I shifted, or as my mode of practice began to shift of its own accord, I thought: How would I try to sum up how to meditate? One day I had to go and teach a retreat. And I was in the shower and I thought: How do I meditate? (Showers are great because then people leave you alone. And you’ve got nice, soothing water running down!)

“So I thought: Well, you pay attention. You definitely pay attention. Yeah. And as you pay attention, then: You begin to widen and soften your attention. Yeah. And then: You meet what arises in your mind. Yeah. Meet what arises. Just meet it.

“And then as you get that underway, as you begin to meet stuff rather than react to it, shut it down, run away from it, proliferate on it, complain about it, identify with it, blame it on somebody else, blame it on yourself, try to sort it out in your head…. you just meet it.

“And as that becomes more available: Include it all.

“So you keep widening to include it all. Which means it comes into your day. As a model of how I practice — yeah, that’s about it. Then after years of just sensing that and practicing with that, the words “meet what arises” and “include it all” began to take on a larger significance.

“I was still operating within the boundaries of what I call “my mind.” My thoughts: I include all that. My reactions: Yeah. My emotions: I include all that.

“Then, as I began to include all that, I recognized there was something else I was leaving out. Which is: Other People. How they are. What’s happening for them. I decided I wanted to get interested in that. Learn to be still with them; pay attention to them; meet what arise in that; soften, widen, open my heart; meet what arises; whatever they’re experiencing — meet that. Include that.

“Rather than determine that they should be different; or give them a pill; or tell them to go away… You know: strategies. (Like: fix them; change them; even understand them.) Don’t bother! Just meet what arises; widen, soften; include it all. And see what happens with that.

“And through that I began to recognize just how many boundaries there are to cross. How many places or boundaries marked by fear, marked by people’s nervousness, marked by people’s criticisms of themselves and others, marked by people’s traumas, where they feel they can’t go, they’re not allowed, they’re not OK, there’s something wrong with them. These familiar boundaries that arise for people. Where they’re not being included.

“As I began to teach more, listening to people, more and more I began realizing: everybody’s feeling there’s something wrong with them and that they’re the odd one out. Or that they’re not included.

“They’ve been excluded by: the society, their parents, their partners, their health, their race, their gender… There’s something where they’ve been shut out. And they’re hurting because of that.

“So I began sensing that and not even fixing it or changing it or giving any anesthetics or sedatives (like: Don’t worry about it). But just meeting the pain. Of people’s hearts at this place of exclusion. And including that. And witnessing that.

“Then I thought: where does all this happen? When one realizes it’s so beautiful… It’s so beautiful, it’s so transformative, when we can — either within our self or with others — just be at the place of meeting. And widening. And including. And not naming, changing, fixing, analyzing…. Just including. What happens with that?

“So I’ve spend about twelve years doing this approach quite consciously with other people. Just to focus on that, notice what happens when we just sit together in presence and what arises. Whether it’s the agitations, the fears, the sense of what do we think about each other, the feelings of I’m not good enough for you or you think you’re not good enough for me, or we’d better keep talking and making something happen because we feel nervous, or you know…. Whatever. Just meeting that and letting that arise and pass.”

***

The talk, of course, goes on from there. I just wanted to give you a taste. The text is edited, mostly for readability. I strongly recommend you listen for yourself. (He has an accent. And he mumbles. But just get used to it.) He really does speak, as he says, “straight from the heart.” Which is so beautiful. Also, make sure you get all the way to the part at the end where he talks about what he means by citta, and how he has come to understand it as…. Well, listen to the talk and find out! Click here. (Start at the very beginning. It’s less than an hour. It’s so worth it.)

17 Jul
2018
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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.

12 Jul
2018
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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.

10 Jul
2018
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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
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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.

5 Jul
2018
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Standing Like a Tree; Breathing Like a Buddha

This post is long, I know, but bear with me. It’s another excerpt (which I just couldn’t cut!) from the terrific Qi Gong and Anapanasati talk by Ajahn Sucitto.

“In teaching Mindfulness of Breathing over many years, and listening to people in interviews, so many of them say to me, ‘Aggh… I can’t do it! My brain is thinking all the time. I feel so tense and tight. I’m trying to focus on this point on my nostrils — I can’t find it at all. I can’t meditate!

‘I try really hard to do it and I’m getting more and more tense. I just give up. I can’t manage it. I was breathing OK until I started being mindful of it! I could breathe in and out quite normally and then when I started being mindful of it, I started getting tight and constricted; I felt pain; I felt uncomfortable; I felt stressed, and you know… Surely this can’t be right! The Buddha says: I call this a comfortable abiding, a pleasant abiding, it makes one feel fresh, one’s eyes feel good… This can’t be the same thing. What’s happening?’

“What’s happening is: the mind is affecting the breath. Before we brought it to our attention, breathing wasn’t a problem. We had other problems — also which were because of our attention — like thinking about this, thinking about that, and our attitudes.

“But very often, for people these days, it’s the ‘work mind’ that comes forward. The ‘work mind’ rushing to get things done; the ‘work mind’ anxious about not doing it good enough; the ‘work mind’ desperately in a hurry to try to achieve results; the ‘work mind’ tightening up to make sure we’ve got it exactly the way it should be. The ‘work mind’: stress, stress, stress, stress, stress. The mind gets conditioned into that kind of behavior. Anything we think is important, anything we think we really should achieve — the ‘work mind’ gets hold of it.

“You were breathing OK until you started to think it was important, and you thought it was going to give you good results. Important! Good results! Ahhh: go to work.

“And it IS important. We DO want good results. There IS certainly a process, and a progress – so it must be ‘work’, right? I don’t think so….

“In the Buddha’s time there wasn’t that ‘work mind’. They could certainly put energy in, but it was not that same compulsive, tight, up-in-your-head state of the ‘worker,’ who lives up behind the eyes and the forehead….

“We think: ‘OK, anapanasati, right — let’s get to work on that. Have we got it in our heads? Tighten up the mind! Tighten up the face!’

“We think this is concentration. The English word “concentration” CAN be applied to that. But that’s not samadhi. There’s no piti (happiness). No sukkah (ease, comfort). Those are not there.

“And it is sad. Because there is a true sincerity, and a true determination, to cultivate the mind. But we’re doing it with the wrong energy. It’s the right idea, right theory, right aspiration, wonderful resolve! But we’re using the wrong energy.

“What the Buddha is saying is there’s a natural energy that happens by itself. Breathing in — happens by itself. Breathing out — happens by itself. There’s an energy flow there.

“This is what we should get in touch with. With the kind of quality of attention that can maintain that focus. It’s not a focus that’s up in our forehead, which is so often where we assume it should be. We call it ‘watching the breath.’ Watching the breath? I’ve never seen a single breath! [laughter] Maybe on a very cold morning you might see a bit of mist. But I’ve never seen a breath. And I’ve been practicing this for years. When I look in the suttas, the Buddha never says ‘watch the breath’. He says ‘be mindful of breathing in and breathing out.’ He’s talking about being mindful of a process. Of breathing in and breathing out. So rather than this idea of being up in your head, with tightening your attention, maybe there’s another way that we can attend to that.

“And yes, there is.

“When you cultivate qi gong, you take a standing position. Like a tree. You bring your awareness particularly down to your feet, your ankles, and then you build it up, and gradually you spread your awareness from the soles of the feet, up through the body, through the spine, through the trunk, into the head. So that you cover the entire body and it is held in alignment. It’s called: balance. So you’re definitely attentive. You’re fully aware. Your mind isn’t wobbling or jumping around. It’s not dithering. Or confused. It’s actually firmly based on the entire body — as an energy form. We focus on the quality of balance.

“You can’t do that with a thought. You can’t think: balance. But your body can feel it. You can sense it. You come to realize this body is sensitive to a quality of balance, which itself is rather pleasant because there’s no stress in balance.

“Balance means the absence of stress. We’re not inclining to left or right, forward or backward. Balance is free of bodily bias. It’s free of pressure. When you’re in balance, you’re as stress-free as you can get.

“And there’s an energy there, that becomes apparent, that’s holding your body up. You learn to relax as much of your muscle as possible when you feel yourself being held. This is called: Standing Like a Tree. And the awareness is spread over the entire body. As you stand like that, sustaining that, there is a way of holding attention that is not narrow. It’s not constricted, it’s not conducive to stress, and yet it is very carefully held. You use a wide focus to do that.

“As you stand with that, you can begin to experience that there is this rhythm that starts to express itself and then… oh, there’s breathing! It’s a soft, rhythmic process. And you feel the energy of it. The vitality of it. You feel the way the whole body can feel it. That it’s no longer so constricted.

“So this gives a very good way in my experience of both improving bodily posture and changing one’s idea or impression of what the body is about. So that it’s not just this thing that we see with our eyes; it’s not the flesh body; it’s an energy body. It’s something that we begin to see is quite natural. It’s not mentally derived. It’s not an opinion or a view. It’s neither something we feel proud of or worried about. It’s free of those mental proclivities. It happens by itself. It’s naturally refreshing. And it’s naturally sustaining; it’s naturally calming; it’s naturally clearing of tension, dullness, restlessness — the hindrances! (The energies of the hindrances.) When the body is bright and open like that, the hindrances find it very difficult to get in. And so, you cultivate attention like that.

“The result of this is the body loses its tensions and congestions. It becomes a happy place for one’s awareness to sit, and breathing happens to you quite naturally. In other words, you don’t have to search for it. It comes to you. It comes into your awareness.

“You don’t have to decide where to focus; you feel it. You feel it as it’s happening. You’re training your mind to be more receptive to a natural process rather than being proactive and having to create something. This means that the mental obstructions and the mental proclivities — particularly the ones we experience as the mind set I call ‘work  mind’ — these can be laid aside. And instead we feel the natural harmony, peace, and vitality that the Buddha must have experienced in his own process of awakening.

“So then we are truly breathing like a Buddha.

“How do you think the Buddha breathed? Chest open, shoulders back. Enjoying the bliss of breathing in and breathing out. This is nature. Nature manifesting in this way.”

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Click here for the full recording. The excerpt above begins at about the 38 minute mark.

3 Jul
2018
Posted in: Talks
By    Comments Off on It’s Not Just Anatomy

It’s Not Just Anatomy

A few days ago I found out that — for the fourth year in a row — my name did not get chosen in the lottery to attend Ajahn Sucitto’s month-long retreat at the Forest Refuge.

Bummer.

But I consoled myself by listening to some of his recent talks on dharmaseed, where I came across this fabulous one, in which he begins by talking about using qigong as a support for the practice of mindfulness of breathing, and ends — well, in his words: “perhaps gone beyond the bounds of this particular talk.”

I highly recommend listening start-to-finish, but just to give you a hint of where he goes with this, here’s what he says at about the 31 minute mark:

“Breathing is energy. It’s not just anatomy. It’s an energy form that can be trained, moderated, and harnessed for very powerful spiritual purposes. In the Anapanisati Sutta (Teaching on Mindfulness of Breathing), it’s being used as the process of feeling the entire body, steadying and smoothing out the energies in the body. If we use more ordinary language, we might say our ‘nervous energy.’ Whether we’re jumpy, passionate, tense, or we’re experiencing a lack of energy — mindfulness of breath steadies and smooths all that.

“The Buddha says, This you do, and then you move on to the qualities of piti, which is a joyful, rapturous experience that arises when the body’s kayasankara [body energy] has been steadied. This is where the hindrances are put aside. So you experience the quality of piti — rapture, a brightened state — and then sukkha — a happy, comfortable state — and with these you also calm and steady the cittasankara — the emotional energy.

Sankara — meaning the formative quality. So with the body, it’s the formative quality that began when we were born. It’s been conditioned. It’s conditioned by birth. When you were in the womb, you weren’t doing it. As you come out, you switch it on. It’s a creation. It’s created by life itself. And it goes on until it’s finished — dead. That’s the creation of sankara.

Cittasankara is different. It’s generated. And it’s something we can moderate within this life. And in the Buddhist understanding, you can free the citta from sankara — without dying.

In fact: This Is the Deathless.”

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Want to know more? Click here to listen.