Browsing Category "Talks"
17 Aug
2016
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It Is Possible

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As I posted earlier, the homework assignment for tomorrow night’s “Let’s Talk” Dharma discussion, is to listen to Jack Kornfield’s talk, “Labor of Love — Right Livelihood”. In it, Jack quotes Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859):

“It is possible to have outer liberty and still be enslaved. The time may come when men and women are carried away by the pursuit of wealth and lose all self restraint. In their exclusive anxiety to make a fortune, they neglect their chief business, which is to remain masters of their own life and heart.”

Indeed.

11 Aug
2016
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When It Feels Like There’s Nothing There

memoirs-of-an-invisible-man

In the same talk I wrote about in Monday’s post, Ajahn Sucitto gives a very interesting answer to someone asking for more instructions on “detecting somatic experiences,” saying that there seem to be many “numb places” in this person’s body, and that “presumably it isn’t that the body doesn’t feel them but that it’s something to do with the mind’s inability to receive the messages.”

Sucitto responds:
“Well, the message there is: numb. That’s a message of a kind….

“It can be that the mind just isn’t tuned in enough, doesn’t pick up the signals. In which case you can begin to sensitize it by noticing things such as sensations in the hands, or a sense of warmth in the overall body….

“The energies of the emotions and the energies of the body are intertwined, so where there’s strong emotional affliction, there tends to be a certain somatic effect. Constriction, for example. Just as when somebody screams at you, you tighten up. You don’t decided to do. Your body just does it. As a defense. There can be many events like that. Most people tend to have had those kinds of experiences.

“It can also be a safety system, where you don’t feel anything because it’s too uncomfortable to feel it. Or it can be something to do with resignation, like: It’s not going to happen for me, so I just won’t bother and then something closes down, something freezes up. You go numb because the good, the warm, the friendly, the loving, isn’t going to happen, so your mind says: Just put up with it. Then something closes down. And there’s a sense of loss…

“Some numbness can be just that your mind isn’t acute enough. Some can be because of things that happened. And some can be because of things that didn’t happen.

“Mostly those things that did happen cause something more like tightness or tension or constriction. Whereas things that didn’t happen tend to cause numbness. You didn’t get the warmth or the support, so your mind just goes: Oh well…. It gives up, then it closes down. Or you didn’t get heard, or something, so you closed down. If this gets repeated enough and it becomes a pattern…then something closes.

“If you feel a numb place in your body, turn your attention to a place where you’re not so numb. Maybe your feet…or try to feel the whole of your body as much as you can…. At any rate, you widen your field of attention until you’ve got some reference…

“You find a place out of the afflicted area. And from there you let your mind rest in that which feels alive. And then from there you can welcome the numb place, turn your kind attention to it. Perhaps sweep from the safe place through the place of affliction…moving the attention gently, like stroking…and then moving…and breathing…though all of it.”

***

The above has been edited. Here’s a link to the full talk (53 minutes). He reads the question about numbness at around 10 minutes before the end.

8 Aug
2016
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25 Words or Less

pic195792I listened to another one of Ajahn Sucitto’s dharma talks last night…this one basically a Q&A session…in which he was asked to explain meditation practice in 25 words or less.

Here’s what he said: “Meditation means cultivation of mind, by which we mean purifying the mind of harmful actions, afflictive mental states and ignorance. That’s the aim of it.” (Well done.)

Then (in way more than 25 words) he went on to explain the difference between samatha practice (the calming, collecting, steadying practice that utilizes a single object of mediation) and vipassana practice (insight meditation, which adds the element of investigation into conditionality as a part of the practice).

And he talked about how these practices are connected. His instructions are to find something (body sensation, mantra, image, etc) that you can pour your attention into and then just stay, stay, stay with that. “It could be breathing in and breathing out, which is actually something moving, but you stay in the presence of that so your mind finds a bit of stability there….You just stay, stay, stay…the moving stuff can just pass through. Stay, stay, stay. Don’t change your frame of reference. The frame of reference is called mindfulness. Sustaining that frame is the right kind of energy or effort. This is samatha practice.

“Insight (vipassana) practice is any process that involves some degrees of asking ‘what causes this’ or ‘what is the conditioning for the arising of that’ or ‘what brings this to mind; what does it do; how does it pass; who does it belong to….

“So generally, you want to have enough samatha so it’s like a ‘white board’ there where you can begin to register the ‘scribbles’ of your life that run across it. That’s mediation.

“Then, at a certain point a shift happens. Something steps back, something opens up. So instead of the mind running in with our life’s scribbles or running back to try to rub them out or scribbling more notes about our scribbles — something shifts and there is a withdrawal of energy from that. It’s not aversion. It’s a shift. An energetic shift, an emotional shift, a psychological shift. And it’s the shift that allows conditions that form into something which we normally take ourselves to be, or to have, or to own, or to be held by. There is a shift and these forms are allowed to manifest — and subside. That process is what we call purification. It’s not pouring disinfectant over it. It’s letting things come into their own release. That’s the shift, the stepping back….

“Meditation can be seen as a particular set of skills that you can hone to sharpen your awareness. But it’s not just a one-thing that you do. It’s developing skills that make it so you can cultivate all-around awareness. Developing inquiry, sensing–where is suffering; where is its edge; where is the shadow of it; where is the thing that I shy away from that I don’t see; what is that; how much of it am I creating? Meditation is something that is generally done within a context that allows one to open up.”

***

Like that? There’s more! Listen here.

3 Aug
2016
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Whatever You Do

multibuddhaIn preparation for the next “Let’s Talk Dharma” session, which will be on Right Livelihood, I’ve asked those attending to do a little pre-discussion “homework.” Not everyone can come to the group of course, but everyone could benefit from doing the homework! So here it is:

Listen to Jack Kornfield’s talk, “Labor of Love– Right Livelihood”. (57 min) At about 10 minutes before the end of the recording, Jack says: “Let’s sit for a moment,” and it seems like that’s the end…but KEEP LISTENING.

After a minute or so of silence, Jack offers a beautiful, guided reflection:

“Let yourself picture the work that you do…whatever kind of work…even if you’re so-called ‘retired’…picture the way you spend your time. And imagine if where you do that work were really a temple, and your actions were to embody the sacred–that which is holy–in the work you do. How might that be? Or even if you already do it in that way, what might make that really flower?”

***

(Sweet, no?)

After that….keep ON listening…to hear Jack lead the group in some really gorgeous chanting — which you can join in with! And after THAT….at the very, VERY end of the recording, Jack offers this blessing:

“May whatever you do be the practice of your heart. And wherever you are be the place of love and awakening.”

(You wouldn’t want to miss that.)

Click here to listen.

28 Jul
2016
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What’s the Beautiful Thing to Do?

budda-dana-mudraFriends, there is yet another incredibly wonderful talk by Ajahn Sucitto that I just can’t help sharing with you. It’s a talk that was given on the last morning of an 8-day retreat, but it’s not your typical get-ready-to-go-back-into-daily-life talk. It starts like this:

Hopefully, you will all find your own way. Even the Buddha could only point. He couldn’t really take somebody by the hand. So we have to find the hand that will lead us. And actually, the hand that will lead you is sitting right there in you. The task of the teacher is to shake that hand….

This is not something that happens only on retreat. Your Citta [your heart/mind, the hand that will lead you] is there all the time. Solitary meditation alone has it’s benefits but it has its limitations. The life model is Sangha….

Life is very much a mutual environment, but sometimes the mutuality can tend to be exploitative. This can limit us. It hurts us and causes us harm. We can’t really completely meet on a personal level because we are differentiated — we are marked by our own karma — but on a transpersonal level we almost can’t help but meet each other because the Citta is resonant. This means that we are affected by each other. We are moved by each other. We are frightened by each other. We are inspired by each other. We are warmed by each other. We are hurt by each other. We can’t help it.

So it is very important to sense the quality of what is often called “Spiritual Friendship” — Kalayana Mitta. “Mitta” means “associates”, “companions”, “friends”. “Kalayana” means “the true”, the “good”, the “beautiful”.

Do you look for the beautiful? Do you consider: “what’s the beautiful thing to do?”

Kindness is beautiful, isn’t it? It doesn’t always solve things, but it’s beautiful. That’s the way the Citta can operate in the personal world without getting buried or contaminated….

Part of giving is to use one’s deep attention to access the qualities of Citta (that which is calm, that which is grounded, that which is compassionate, that which is discerning)…and to hold that for oneself. But also, because the Citta is transpersonal, this will affect others. Those who can pick it up will pick it up. Most people will pick up some of it. You don’t even really have to explain that much. People will pick it up. And that will really help you to acknowledge your own qualities. As we model it, as we resonate, that will bring these qualities out in each of us… 

You just want to wake the person’s Citta to do its own process. Citta needs that sense of support, which is the fundamental quality of Kalyana Mitta. And, in fact, of deep attention. These are actually mirror images of each other. They both represent the same fundamental faculty…

How you can be with another and how you can be with yourself is the same process. Establish the ground so the Citta will come out. Which is does when there’s primary resonance. It comes out when it feels safe, when it feels held, when it feels shared. That’s the fundamental thing. And then we ask: What is needed now? Not what great ideas do I have, but what does this need now. And it might need just that. Because we have fundamental wisdom. We are endowed with the ability to discern, to sense, to assess, to feel the difference between stress and non-stress, between skillful and unskillful….

This is a resonance that is coming up. It’s not a person. It’s a resonance of fear or aversion or resentment or whatever. And there isn’t a person who’s going to fix it either. Remember, you are dealing with Citta, not with persons. Including this person (you). The personal is limited. But Citta is not limited. Or, it doesn’t have to be limited. Citta is measureless. The measureless mind.

***

It goes on, but I think that’s enough for a post. (The above is edited.) Listen to the whole talk. (49 min). It’s worth it. Click here.

 

26 Jul
2016
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“Protect” Instead of “Defend”

Safe KeepingLast night I listened to (another) wonderful talk by Ajahn Sucitto. There was so much great “stuff” in it that I’m probably going to be quoting from it again (and again). For today, let me just share this much with you:

There is the practice of letting go of being a “person” (that is, turning from the personal to the transpersonal) but there’s another skillful practice, which is learning how to BE a person. Because you have to be person in this world of persons. You have to have skin…you have to have boundaries…you have to have a sense of me/mine in a world that operates according to that….

Part of your duty as a person is to look after the Citta (heart)…recognizing that it does need to be protected from unwholesome influences. Notice that I use the word “protect” as distinct from “defend”.

“Protect” means that there’s something really valuable in here (in the heart) that I’m regarding with a sense of respect. “Defend” means there’s something nasty out there that I’m frightened of. Those could both be true, but you don’t want to always be defending because then you’re living in a state of fear. “Protect” means you’re living in a state of self-respect. And love. By “love” I mean the basic quality of the heart that says: Let no harm come to this one; I respect this one; This one is worth protecting.

Love is not a good feeling. Good feeling may happen with it, but love is more of a sense of: I establish safety because this is worth looking after. It’s a sense of cherishing.

In mediation, the encouragements is to acknowledge that there is something there (the Citta) that’s beautiful. And worthy.  

On retreat, there is the keeping of the precepts (virtue); there is integrity; there is a sense of resolve and endeavor, of being prepared to bear with pain and difficulty and discomfort; there is the ability to let go of some nice creature comforts. This is worthy of respect. This is Citta — its primal qualities. It is the warmth and the beauty of one’s true home. Keep in touch with that.  

***

The above quote is lightly edited for clarity. Click here to listen to the whole talk. (47 min)

22 Jul
2016
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You Don’t Get Over Anything…

amazingly_meaningful_photographs_taken_over_time_640_20…But You Can Get Through It.

I feel compelled to share yet another wonderful talk by Ajahn Sucitto, this one outlining the fundamental needs of the heart (citta) that allows us to process — rather than deny — the pain and suffering that keeps us trapped.

These needs are:
* Safety — which can be accessed by being grounded in the body
* Harmony — which comes from a relaxed relationship with the body
* Offering — the sense of enrichment that comes from pouring ourselves into something greater
* Pleasure — the feeling of warmth that comes from being fully met

He talks about the two practices, which when cultivated in tandem, meet these needs of the heart:
* Enjoyment through Mindfulness of Breathing
* Cultivation of the Brahma Vihara practices (Loving Kindness, Compassion, Appreciative Joy, Equanimity)

And he talks about the negative patterns of mind, which can be listened to and learned from:
* Desire to Have — a tendency to grasp, which can be transformed into the ability to know and to sense
* Desire to Perform — the need to get good results, which can be acknowledged and allowed to relax
* Sense of Obligation — an overly active work ethic, which can be transformed into loyalty

***

I know I’m always saying it, but this is a truly beautiful talk. Click here to listen. (45 min)

15 Jul
2016
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And Then There’s the Jump

philippe-halsman-jump-salvador-dali-A-dali-atomicusI mentioned karma in yesterday’s post, referring to the “deeply ingrained habit patterns” that tend to play out in one’s life over and over, so for today I thought I’d expand on that a bit by sharing what I’ve been listening to Ajahn Sucitto say about karma (kamma in Pali).

“Kamma is both action and the results of action. It can be mental action [thoughts], verbal action [words], or bodily action [physically doing something]. Kamma is a decisive engagement with a mental perception….something arises in the mind, there’s a triggering, and then there is a reaction…a “jump”.

“There is a sense of engagement and then something gets going, the story starts spinning, and then you’re off…. You don’t notice the jump, you just noticed where you’ve jumped to…and then you’re in that so-called reality.   

“That’s kamma. Something decisively catches and then there’s the reaction. Something touches and there’s a hold and then the jump.

“This habitual reaction can be released.

“The release comes through disengaging from the compulsion, then starting to make increasingly wiser and more informed choices about where to place one’s attention.

“There is a shift from the trigger to the awareness of the trigger. And then the trigger is dismantled. By itself!

“Release is actually involuntary. There is a voluntary decisive engagement and action to penetrate to the place of the trigger, then to widen into the awareness of that, then to hold the awareness….but then the release is involuntary.”

***

The above is very much edited. Click here to listen to the whole talk. (It’s 65 minutes long and totally worth it!!!)   

11 Jul
2016
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It Will Not Fill Up

its-a-lumpAs I’ve said before, I’ve recently been listening to a lot of talks by Ajahn Sucitto. After almost every one of them I immediately want to put up a post about how great it was, how deep it was, how enlightening it was….but of course I know how I feel when somebody is always going on and on about some book, or movie, or podcast they’ve just read or watched or listened to… So, OK, I don’t want to do that.

But….

I’ll just share this one little quote from one of those talks, which is a metaphor that I’ve heard him use before and has continued to stay with me. Here it is (slightly edited for clarity):

“We think that sense of craving we feel is because something’s lacking. But it’s not. You can tip anything you like into that hole….it will not fill up. You can tip motorbikes; you can tip yachts; you can tip houses; you can tip a billion dollars into that hole….and it will not fill up. Because it’s not a hole. It’s a lump. So the more things you try to tip into it, the bigger it gets… It’s not an absence. It’s an energy. A very powerful energy that’s like a presence. Not an absence, but a presence. Of something confused… It’s an energy. And it can be released.”

***

Just in case you want to listen, it’s from this talk. It’s about an hour long. The quote starts at about the 35 minute mark.

7 Jul
2016
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Comfortable. Enjoyable. Grounded.

walking-buddhaInstructions for Walking Meditation usually include something about making a mental note of “Lifting, Moving, Placing” or maybe something about “Contact” or “Pressure,” but I recently listened to a very different set of instructions given by Ajahn Sucitto, in which he talks about moving “simply, gracefully, flowing,” about how “nothing moves like the body…the mind jumps…but the body flows” and how “the joy of embodiment is the heart/mind picking up this lovely quality of flow….beginning to come home because it’s comfortable, it’s enjoyable, it’s grounded.”

What a beautiful set of instructions (and only 13 minutes long)! Listen here.