Browsing Category "Talks"
1 Apr
2019
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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Not Your Standard Brahma Viharas

For the past week or so, I’ve been listening every single day to Ajahn Sucitto’s guided meditation on the Brahma Viharas — which is different from any Brahma Vihara instructions I’ve ever heard before — and I just can’t keep from going back to it again and again.

The talk begins with some introductory remarks, in which he uses a lot of Pali terms (these instructions were given near the end of a month-long retreat for experienced meditators, so you’re kind of jumping into the deep end here) but starting at about the 10-minute mark, the actual guided instructions begin and it’s pretty easy going from there.

A transcript won’t do it justice. You really just have to listen (and not while you’re driving or jogging or trying to do something else!)

But I will offer this little bit as an incentive (which starts at about 37 minutes in):

“As the peripheries begin to relax a little more, the center becomes more apparent. Not exactly as a sensation, but as a quietness, where everything else isn’t. There’s a warming, and there’s a kind of an open stillness…

“This is not so easy to discern because we’re normally discerning presences rather than absences. But to the extent that there is an increase in relational space, where it’s not constricted, not intense, not frantic, not weighted down — there is an increasing lightness of being. A center. Where the praise/blame, happiness/unhappiness — where that doesn’t hit.

“And the more you’re in touch with this, the freer your volitions are. They’re less impaired by external circumstances and more like: this is just because I’m alive.

“This is what happens. When one is truly, fully alive, then these measureless abidings are just — standard. It’s the loss of them that is to be seen as a calamity.

“Whenever you can, just return to that centering… Bringing the body back…. Working into these areas so they become areas you are familiar with and you know the tonalities of and you know how to heal them…

“This is the basis that we can use. And you can refine it. Relaxing around the eyes, the throat, the mouth… So you’re not driven out to the edges of your body — like defense outposts — but staying within the center, sending good energy and goodwill throughout your territory… And then you can widen the territory.”

***

Listen to the whole talk here. Guided instructions begin at about the 10-minute mark. Enjoy!


27 Mar
2019
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Dealing with Difficult Emotions

Ajahn Sucitto says: “Sometimes the dam has to burst in order to really deal with the material.

“But ideally, meditation is not a dam burst, it’s just opening a sluice gate a little. Ideally you can open it a little bit and just feel some of the feeling in your body, and the sense of dis-ease or disturbance or irritation or grief or loss or betrayal or shame or something.

“And then: Well, OK, there’s that. And you try to feel it as just: It’s THIS. 

“You’ll probably discover a narrative of what it’s about, where it got planted. But sometimes you don’t get a narrative, you just get a strange sense of it, a felt sense…

“Either way: Go to the body, and to the breathing, and to the loving acceptance — so you can take the I-am out of it. You don’t take the emotion or the perception out, you take the I-am out.

“The I-shouldn’t experience is probably the first one to go. The I’ve-got-to-manage-this is the second. The how-do-I-get-rid-of-this is the next… Then the I-am‘s gradually just fall away until they become seen as: This is not taking me anywhere. It’s just proliferation.

“So: Get down to the feeling under your skin. Then: Opening, breathing, grounding, letting it move through. This is definitely something that you can practice with — using calming and insight.

“Calming: Enough to hold it, enough to cool, just enough to soothe and make it manageable. This is why you couldn’t manage it before, because there wasn’t that calm. There wasn’t that skill.

“Insight: Looking into. It’s just THIS. It’s just this experience — the flushing experience, the welling-up experience.

“And then: What’s the response to that? Space. Back off. The thing is coiling its head: More space. Until you can find a place where there can be a response, rather than a reaction.

“So, insight: You look into what is the condition, as a condition. And you notice it’s moving, it’s changing, it’s selfless — it’s not really a person. It’s intimate. It’s subjective. But it’s not a person. And then there’s more and more a sense of dispassion towards it, to allow it to move on.”

***

The excerpt above is taken from the final 5 minutes of the Ajahn Sucitto’s talk, Passing of Difficult Feeling. Click here to listen to the talk in full.

22 Mar
2019
Posted in: APP, Talks
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The Very Essence of Being Conscious

Yesterday I discovered that — at long last!!! — the rest of the talks Ajahn Sucitto gave at the November 2018 retreat have finally been posted! Turns out, the timing is perfect because the first talk I listened to picked right up on the theme we’ll be exploring at the Advanced Practitioner Retreat in April on the Nature of Consciousness, which I posted a bit about yesterday.

Here’s an excerpt from Sucitto’s talk:   

“Just to differentiate ‘mind consciousness’ (mano viññana) from ‘mind’ (citta). Sometimes these two are conflated — and it’s up for you to judge — but I myself would say that, although they certainly operate together, they’re two different aspects of a process.

“Citta [mind] is a sensitivity. Mano viññana [mind consciousness] is a function.

Citta is a series of potentials and potencies and influences and tentative intentions and confusions and joys. And all of them held in a kind of non-formulated state. All wavering — the possibilities for good and for bad. It’s like something that hasn’t really crystallized.

Citta is constantly affected. Affected by inclinations that can arise. Affected by fear, love, joy. It’s wavering. And then it can crystallize and act. When it seizes on something, focuses on it, holds it firmly, then mano viññana comes in and you’ve got mental kamma. Then this begins to generate a form. A self. Or an entity of some kind. Or a quality, that’s fixed, established. Even though it’s wavering, it’s got a certain trajectory to it. And that trajectory, as one thinks, speaks, acts upon it — generates a ‘person’ moving forward in time….

“There are underlying tendencies toward throwing oneself into a miserable state, dependent on contact. Because we have inheritances. They are latencies that have been loaded though kamma — actions — either of one’s own or the actions of others. They’ve been established. Those are the ones that the mind will easily run down. Citta will run down those tracks and generate mental function. Citta will be affected by those tendencies, in its amorphous state, and run down those tracks and then form mental inclinations, mental consciousness (mano viññana).

Citta is the sensitivity — you could say it’s the very essences of being conscious. That trembling, sensitive alertness. Awareness.

“And you notice just how rippling that can be. And as you contemplate, how it can be smoothed and steadied and gladdened and strengthened. And the requirement for that, so it doesn’t just — like mercury — spill down the nearest grooves.”

***

(The above begins at about the 18 minute mark on the tape and has been lightly edited. He’s speaking here to a small group of experienced meditators near the end of an intensive, month-long retreat. So it’s dense. And full of Pali terms. But if you’re up for it — it’s so worth it. The title of the talk is Resetting Your World. Listen here.)

18 Mar
2019
Posted in: Talks
By    Comments Off on Not Comfortable.

Not Comfortable.

At Sunday Sangha yesterday, I shared an excerpt from Ajahn Sucitto’s wonderful talk: The Practice of Inclusivity, which I previously posted here.

I think the talk went pretty well. So for today, I’d like to post a little more.

Sucitto say: “Once you begin to open — to how it is in yourself, in your body, in the world around you — you will feel uncomfortable. (As least as far as I can tell.)

“I don’t think Dhamma practice is comfortable. It’s not a tranquilizer; it’s not a sedative; it’s not an escape. It’s meeting the discomfort of the First Noble Truth…

“As you enter embodied awareness though meditation, it begins to — by the nature of that embodiment — open up a can of worms. Because it’s in this embodied awareness that’s held the distortions of the human predicament. The tensions, the unspoken emotions, the buried memories, the dissonant experiences, the lust, the craving, and so forth….

“To get out of suffering, you have to go into awareness… But of course this is going to take you into a lot of suffering. The First Noble Truth says that this is the path that takes you right into the suffering of being your ‘self.’

“As you recognize the suffering, you’re touching it where the cause of it is not ‘him’ or ‘her’ or ‘them’ — even though you could go there and you could ‘prove’ that — but actually you are going to the place in your heart where the suffering is.

“The Buddha says that if you can do this, if you can stay with it, where you can’t change it, and you can’t change what you’re feeling, and you can’t dump what you’re feeling, and you can’t get over what you’re feeling, and you can’t say: well, I’m past that, or: I’ll get over that; or it doesn’t really matter — if you can meet what arises and not have any strategies for dealing with it or any alternatives — if you just meet what arises, you’re going to meet the very boundaries of yourself — the fear boundary, the intimidation boundary, the not-good-enough boundary, the I-need-more boundary, the I-should-be-able-to-fix-this boundary.

“If you meet those boundaries rather than feed them and give them solutions, then these very boundaries are going to be experienced as dynamic rather than fixed, as something that you can directly apprehend rather than just notional, as something directly in yourself rather than something somebody else did to you yet at the same time is not created by yourself but is imprinted there… If you can do that, and through doing that, allow yourself to feel the suffering — it passes… changes… shifts… releases…

“The Buddha says: If you can do that, this will be the path of deep joy.”

***

The above was edited and condensed. Click here to listen for yourself.

13 Mar
2019
Posted in: Classes, Talks
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Earth, Wind, Fire, Water

For those of you who were at the Satipatthana Study & Practice class last night — as well those who weren’t but maybe would like to have been — I offer this guided meditation by Phillip Moffitt, which I used as a basis for the instructions I gave last night on practicing with the Four Elements as a way to establish mindfulness of body.

Phillip begins:

Begin to bring attention to the body. Not judging the body. Or comparing the body to a previous experience of the body. Or to what you think a body experience should be. But being present for the experience of body as it presents itself — with interest and with curiosity.

Knowing the body in the body, the felt sense of body. Here. Now. Here, in this very body. In this very room. Now, in this very moment. Not a conceptual experience, but a direct, actual experience. The felt experience of body.

There may be a number of fleeting sensations, seemingly all arising together, or one may hold our attention, or maybe the body as a whole. Or parts of the body. Or a single part of the body. Invite this knowing capacity to spread through the whole body, so that we have the possibility of being mindful of the body in the body. Here. Now…

Drop the attention to the lower half of the body. Placing attention on the pelvis, the buttocks, the sitz bones — that area of body. Begin to notice whatever experience you have of hardness, or firmness, or heaviness. As you feel the pelvis, the buttocks, the sitz bones on the cushion or the chair or the bench: hard, firm, heavy — earth element in the body. Pour your attention onto this experience of earth element…

***

The guided instructions go on from there for about 40 minutes. You don’t have to listen to it all to get the idea, but it would be well worth your time if you did. Click here. And enjoy!

7 Mar
2019
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There’s More To It Than That

From Ajahn Sucitto’s How to Approach Mindfulness of Body: “Mindfulness of Body is held to encompass all states that give rise to wisdom.

“In mindfulness of body we are not just looking at outward form or anatomy, but the energetic sensitivity of the body as a sense organ, the body as a feeling experience, and the body as something that has an intelligence that begins to sense what’s happening at the surface of the skin — that’s its job. It senses the feeling of safety or well-being. And also it senses what’s happening internally — in terms of the health, the tensions, what’s happening in the organs, vitality, inner well-being, ease, comfort…

“But really, most of these body sensations — for everyone — are not always that good. As far as I can sense in my own body, there is always something painful going on. [laughs]

“These are sensations: painful, disagreeable, or something that one just has to kind of bear with — it’s too hot; it’s too cold; there’s an ache here; there’s a twinge there. That’s the deal with sensations. [more laughter] Occasionally, you get some good stuff, too. But generally it’s not that great. Particularly when you sit still — it’s definitely not great.

“But there’s more to it than that. There’s also energies — the vitality of the body, we could say. And of course, as meditators, this is where you have a big advantage over people who don’t meditate, because when you tune into the breathing, you tune into the fundamental vitality, energy, source of life. So that’s a big, big thing.

“And that — that’s bigger than sensations….

“Mindfulness of breathing is not just a body sweep, it’s an energetic body cleansing and steadying. And it has profound effects on the tonality of the citta [heart/mind] — it feels steady; it’s no longer rushing, jumping, stuttering, stalling; it’s actually steadied, smoothed. And there’s a certain beauty to it.

“That beauty is joyful. This is where spirit — we can call citta something like ‘spirit’ — this is where spirit rises through knowing itself, through knowing its steadiness, its ease, its completeness. This is one of the effects.

“Another effect, which comes in time, is that we begin to understand that this citta — this awareness — is actually not something inside us, but that everything we are is inside of it. Our manifestations and objects and our sensations and our thoughts — all arise within this.

“If you like, you can say that the body is within awareness. The material body is in the immaterial.

“It’s often the case that people imagine that citta is some kind of quality that’s deeply within — and surely that’s often where we find access to it. But as it becomes more steady and complete, we begin to sense it pervading and suffusing the entire being, and gradually we begin to recognize this very sense of having a body itself is purely constructed.

“And then the body is not really a problem. There are sensations, but that’s not really what you’re focusing on. You’re focusing on the big picture. And the sense of ease that’s with that.”

***

There’s more. Click here to listen.

6 Mar
2019
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What We Feel in Our Body…

I really had a great time teaching the first Study & Practice Class last night, which was an overview of the Satipatthana Sutta. (Who knew THAT could be so much fun!?!)

Next week the class will focus on Mindfulness of Body, so in preparation, I offer this lovely little talk (just 21 minutes long) by Ajahn Sucitto — on How to Approach Mindfulness of Body — which begins:

What we feel in our body becomes what we feel in our mind

“Now the word ‘mind’ is problematic. Since about the time of Descartes, ‘mind’ went up into the head. But then gradually we’ve been pushing it and widening the boundaries ever since. The last hundred years or so it came back and encompassed the heart and it became ‘psyche,’ the ‘unconscious,’ the ‘collective unconscious’…and it’s continuing to develop and now we have something coming close to the Buddha’s term: citta — which means awareness, spirit, heart, mind, intelligence… all these things. And what we experience psychologically, what we experience emotionally…that is also mind — affected mind.

“The primary quality of citta is just the sense of knowing, sensing, being aware. And then there are various colors that come into that: the emotional tones, intentions, trembling, firmness, and so on.

“So, when you come into your body with awareness, then you are able to bring the effects of steadying, of calming, of easing — into the mind without any intellectual effort. Just by placing awareness into something that already is comfortable, steady, then the mind becomes that way.

“The topic then is how to establish this presence in the body….

***

Yes, indeed! Listen here.

22 Feb
2019
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By    Comments Off on I, Too, Have Been Flooded

I, Too, Have Been Flooded

Ajahn Sucitto:
“We pick up that our hearts will probably quite easily come into the wish for the welfare of others:

“May they be happy.
“May they be cherished.
“May they be free from harm and suffering.
“May their practice bear fruit.

“Bring this to mind.

“Then bring into that field: the people one is spending time with, one’s relatives, and associates — with all the difficult bits —

“I just wish them well, that’s all.

“I’m not expecting them to be fantastic. Or for everything to be really swinging along between us. I just wish them freedom from harm.

“I can do that.

“And then:

“I, too, have been flooded with behaviors and actions that were inappropriate, not worthy, not welcome, wrong time…

“I ask for forgiveness.

“There’s the flush that one gets, the grandiosity that can come out of feeling one is right; the lack of straightforwardness that can come out of feeling one is wrong, so one never dares say the truth, and how confusing that is; the confusion that can arise from thinking one can know what someone else is thinking, what they’re up to, and then having an opinion about it….

“Haven’t we all done this?

“This — is forgiveness.”

***

(from the last few minutes of Ajahn Sucitto’s talk: Body — the Last Outpost of Sanity. Click here to listen.)

18 Feb
2019
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By    Comments Off on After the Storm

After the Storm

I think of the emotional aspect of my experience as a “body” with the quality of water — much as the physical aspect of my experience has the quality of earth.

This emotional body of mine — for reasons I don’t want to go into right now — was experiencing quite a bit of “weather” yesterday afternoon, so I spent some time listening to Phillip Moffitt’s guided meditation on Metta for the Emotional Body.

Check it out. You never know when the waters are going to start rising!

15 Feb
2019
Posted in: Retreats, Talks
By    Comments Off on Worth Celebrating

Worth Celebrating

Exactly ten years ago today, I was at my first-ever retreat at IMS (Insight Meditation Society) in Barre, Massachusetts. (February. Boston. What was I thinking?!?)

Previously I had been going to retreats at Spirt Rock — which is in California, where it’s warm!!! — but there I was, in Massachusetts (in the winter!!!) because six months earlier, I’d heard a dharmaseed talk by a then-little-known teacher (who I’d certainly never heard of), who was going on about a new book he had just written (which I’d also never heard of), who spoke with a slight southern-ish accent (which I never used to like), but who somehow — I really don’t know how — had such an impact on me that by the time he finished talking, I’d decided: I’ve got to go sit with that guy!

“That guy” was Phillip Moffitt (who is now my main teacher and mentor) and the book he was talking about is Dancing with Life (which is now my all-time favorite dharma book).

So last night, I celebrated, by listening to that first talk, and then to a couple of the talks Phillip gave at that first retreat.

Why not! I feel like it’s sort of my Dharma Anniversary.

Want to celebrate with me?

Here’s a link to that first dharmaseed talk: Dancing with Life

Here’s a link to a couple of Phillip’s talk at that first retreat: The Second Noble Truth and the Hindrances, and Now That You Know, What Do You Know?

Here’s an excerpt from the intro to his book: “Dancing with Life is a teaching of the wisdom that is to be found in being consciously and fully present with your suffering until what is called ‘pure’ awareness,’ or ‘Buddha nature,’ or ’emptiness,’ that lies beyond your personality is revealed. It points to the opportunity you have to make a radical inner shift in how you view your existence.

“Whatever the source of your suffering may be, this inner shift will provide a new, deeper context for interpreting your experiences that bring clarity and equanimity to your mind.

“The result of this inner transformation is that your life — with all its pain, disappointment and uncertainty, as well as all that you cherish, love, and work hard for — is radically enriched.

“You will discover, as so may others have before you, a feeling of aliveness, something mystical, palpable in your daily life. You may have a long journey to your final and full liberation, but peace and freedom of mind are available to you right now in ever-increasing measure.”

(He’s right.)

***

Cheers!