When mindfulness is present

READINGS

… Hindrances cannot arise when mindfulness is present. Mindfulness is attention to present-moment reality, and therefore, directly antithetical to the dazed state of mind that characterizes impediments. As meditators, it is only when we let our mindfulness slip that the deep mechanisms of our mind take over–grasping, clinging, and rejecting. The resistance emerges and obscures our awareness. We do not notice that the change is taking place–we are too busy with a thought of revenge, or greed, or whatever it may be. While an untrained person will continue in this state indefinitely, a trained meditator will soon realize what is happening. It is mindfulness that notices the change. It is mindfulness that remembers the training received and that focuses our attention so that the confusion fades away. And it is mindfulness that then attempts to maintain itself indefinitely so that the resistance cannot rise again. Thus, mindfulness is the specific antidote for hindrances. It is both the cure and the preventive measure.

~ Bhante Henepola Gunaratana
“Mindfulness in Plain English” (Updated and Expanded Edition), p.146. (Wisdom Publications, 2002)

Train yourself

Bhavana Society forest Buddha

Words of the Buddha

Train yourself in doing good
that lasts and brings happiness.
Cultivate generosity, the life of peace,
and a mind of boundless love.

Puññameva so sikkheyya
āyataggaṃ sukhudrayaṃ.
Dānañca samacariyañca,
mettacittañca bhāvaye.

Itivuttaka 1.22

+ + +
NOTE: The Buddhist Pali canon, the collection of the Buddha’s teachings, is written in the Pali language (as seen above), which was recorded in Sinhala script some 500 years after the Buddha died. There remains uncertainty of the exact language in which the Buddha taught and whether it was a variant of what came to be Pali. See this thread about the subject for more and this one.

Change your life

“Putting the Buddha’s discovery into practice is no quick fix. It can take years. The most important qualification at the beginning is a strong desire to change your life by adopting new habits and learning to see the world anew.”

~ Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, “Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness,” pg. 3 (Wisdom Publications, 2015)

Quote and image courtesy of the Bhavana Society Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BhavanaSocietyWV

READINGS: It’s like this

READINGS

ajahn_sumedho
Excerpts from a Dhamma talk by Ajahn Sumedho, one of the most esteemed Western monks in the Thai Forest tradition.

+ + +
Bring your attention to this moment, here and now. Whatever you’re feeling physically or emotionally, whatever its quality, this is the way it is. And this knowing of the way it is is consciousness; it’s how we experience the now. Be aware of this. When we’re fully conscious, aware of here and now with no attachment, then we’re not trying to solve our problems, remembering the past, or planning for the future. And if we are doing these things, then we stop and recognize what we’re doing. Non attachment means that we’re not creating anything more in our minds; we’re just aware. This is reflecting on the way it is. When we’re thinking, planning, dreading, anticipating, hoping, expecting something in the future, this is all taking place in the here and now, isn’t it? These are mental states we’re creating in the present. What is the future? What is the past? There’s only now, this present …
Continue reading

Our safety net

image

“All of us from time to time encounter people who ‘push our buttons.’ Without Mindfulness, we respond automatically with anger or resentment. With Mindfulness, we can watch how our mind responds to certain words and actions. Just as you do on the cushion, you can watch the arising of attachment and aversion. Mindfulness is like a safety net that cushions you against unwholesome action. Mindfulness gives you time. Time gives you choices. Choices, skillfully made, lead to freedom. You don’t have to be swept away by your feelings. You can respond with wisdom and kindness rather than habit and reactivity.”

 

Gunaratana, Henepola.   Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English: An Introductory Guide to Deeper States of Meditation. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2009. Pg. 35

Instructions on Walking Meditation

walkingmeditation

WALKING MEDITATION: Walking a Path
By Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Walking meditation is a good transition between maintaining a still mind when the body is still, and maintaining a still mind in the midst of all your activities. As you walk in a meditative way, you gain practice in protecting the stillness of the mind in the midst of the motion of the body, while at the same time dealing with the fewest possible outside distractions.
~
An ideal time to practice walking meditation is right after you’ve been doing sitting meditation, so that you can bring a mind already stilled, to at least some extent, to the practice.
~
Some people, though, find that the mind settles down more quickly while sitting if they’ve done a session of walking meditation first. This is a matter of personal temperament.
~
If you’re meditating right after a meal, it’s wise to do walking meditation rather than sitting meditation, for the motion of the body helps both to digest your food and to ward off drowsiness.
~
There are two ways of practicing walking meditation: walking back and forth on a set path, and going for a stroll. The first way is more conducive for helping the mind to settle down; the second is more convenient when you don’t have access to an undisturbed path where you can walk back and forth without rousing curiosity or concerns from other people. Continue reading

Looking Inward

Below is an excerpt from a rich and rewarding page on mindfulness and meditation practice  titled “Looking Inward”, by Upasika Kee Nanayon, translated from the Thai by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/kee/inward.html .

+ + +

buddhahead

Normally the mind isn’t willing to stop and look, to stop and know itself, which is why we have to keep training it continually so that it will settle down from its restlessness and grow still. Let your desires and thought-processes settle down. Let the mind take its stance in a state of normalcy, not liking or disliking anything. To reach a basic level of emptiness and freedom, you first have to take a stance. If you don’t have a stance against which to measure things, progress will be very difficult. If your practice is hit-or-miss — a bit of that, a little of this — you won’t get any results. So the mind first has to take a stance.

When you take a stance that the mind can maintain in a state of normalcy, don’t go slipping off into the future. Have the mind know itself in the stance of the present: “Right now it’s in a state of normalcy. No likes or dislikes have arisen yet. It hasn’t created any issues. It’s not being disturbed by a desire for this or that.”

Then look on in to the basic level of the mind to see if it’s as normal and empty as it should be. If you’re really looking inside, really aware inside, then that which is looking and knowing is mindfulness and discernment in and of itself. You don’t need to search for anything anywhere else to come and do your looking for you. As soon as you stop to look, stop to know whether or not the mind is in a state of normalcy, then if it’s normal you’ll know immediately that it’s normal. If it’s not, you’ll know immediately that it’s not.

Take care to keep this awareness going. If you can keep knowing like this continuously, the mind will be able to keep its stance continuously as well. As soon as the thought occurs to you to check things out, you’ll immediately stop to look, stop to know, without any need to go searching for knowledge from anywhere else. You look, you know, right there at the mind and can tell whether or not it’s empty and still. Once you see that it is, then you investigate to see how it’s empty, how it’s still. It’s not the case that once it’s empty, that’s the end of the matter; once it’s still, that’s the end of the matter. That’s not the case at all. You have to keep watch of things, you have to investigate at all times. Only then will you see the changing — the arising and disbanding — occurring in that emptiness, that stillness, that state of normalcy. | READ ON

Winter 2016-17 Newsletter of Bhavana Society Now Available

Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 10.21.34 PM

The Winter 2016-17 edition of “The Forest Path,” the quarterly of the Bhavana Society Theravadan Forest Monastery in High View, W.Va., is now available for free download from this link: www.bhavanasociety.org/newsletters/issue/winter_newsletter_20171

+ + +
Here is an overview of the issue from its introduction:

The Winter 2016 edition of the Bhavana Society’s quarterly newsletter, ‘The Forest Path’,  features the second part of a series on the Four Noble Truths, written by Bhante Mangala. This series seeks to explore the Buddha’s powerful teachings on the nature of suffering in a way that clarifies and engages the reader, asking one to question why we suffer in the first place. Our second article is a review of “The Mindfulness in Plain English Journal,” a new publication by Bhante G and Wisdom Publications. The third article is from our ‘Ask Bhante G’ series, in which Bhante G answers questions posed to him during interviews and retreats. We hope you enjoy this issue of The Forest Path. May you be well, happy, and peaceful, and may you find freedom from suffering.

A few tips on standing meditation

standing3

Image from this page

When people think of meditation, many immediately conjure an image of someone sitting cross-legged on the floor. But traditional Buddhist teachings list four meditation postures: sitting, walking, standing and lying down. As Buddhist teacher Gil Fronsdall has noted; “All four are valid means of cultivating a calm and clear mindfulness of the present moment.”

Today’s topic is on standing meditation, one of the lesser discussed meditation postures. When on a formal retreat, where hour-long sittings are often the norm, you may notice fellow retreatants arising into a standing posture to do this kind of meditation, to change up their posture or because they feel they need a break from long sittings. We invite members of The Meditation Circle to do likewise during our meditation sessions if they feel so inclined.

In standing meditation, the basic practice is to stand comfortably, feeling the sensations in your feet and the points of contact with the ground beneath you.  One can also continue to pay attention to the breath, but the perception of the body standing becomes the primary object of meditation. Continue reading

Meditation Circle resumes, Monday Jan. 9

Happy New Year to all!
The Meditation Circle of Charleston will resume its weekly gatherings on Monday, Jan. 9. Please come and join the circle and start the new year off with mindfulness. We gather at 5:30 p.m. for discussion and any instruction for beginners or folks renewing a meditation practice. Sitting, standing and walking meditation takes place from 6 to 7 p.m.

buddhaface

The Buddhamas Carol (or ‘Ode of a Vipassana Yogi’)

There just aren’t that many Buddhist Christmas carols out there. Here is one by Bhante Yogavacara Rahula, a Theravadan Buddhist monk who recently made a visit to Huntington and Charleston, W.Va., as part of his worldwide perigrinations. For more on Bhante Rahula (who will be leading a retreat in April 2017 on vipassana meditation at the Bhavana Society in High View, W.Va.), check out his blog at bhanterahula.blogspot.com.

+ + +
Here are the lyrics to the song, which are a Dhamma discourse in themselves:

A Buddhamas Carol
or
Ode of a Vipassana Yogi
(Composed by Bhante Yogavacara Rahula)

Silent Night, Peaceful Night,
All is calm, Stars are bright,
Round the hall Yogis sitting still,
Keeping their backs straight, exerting will,
Enduring pain without any ill-will,
Pervading Metta all throughout space,
Wishing good-will to the whole human race.

buddhaeyes_gold

Silent Mind, Peaceful Mind,
Thoughts are few, pain is slight,
Focusing mind at the tip of the nose,
Knowing each breath as it comes and it goes,
Perceiving the light that steadily glows,
Feeling the rapture from head to the toes.

Continue reading

singing along to the mind’s song

image

“Ajaan Lee used to say that there are two steps to getting started in the meditation. One is to get your body into position…The next step is to get your mind in position. And that’s more difficult because the mind doesn’t usually want to stay in any one particular position. It’s always running around, always quick like a high-strung cat to jump at anything that comes along. Ajaan Mun once talked about “the mind’s song.” There are rhythms that go through the body, rhythms that seem to go through our awareness. And we start singing along with them without really realizing it, and then we’re off wherever the melody will take us. When we put the mind in position, we stop singing along. We just watch what’s going on….
~
…We come here to meditate to help heal the mind from all the damage it does to itself. We tend to think more of the stress coming in from outside, but actually, we’re playing along with the outside stress, we’re singing along with the outside stress, which is why it gets into the mind.
~
So we come here, close our eyes, sit in a still position, and give the mind a chance to wash out all the unhealthy energies it’s picked up. This is a good thing to be doing, but it would be even better if we could maintain this position of the observer all the time. That’s a healthy lifestyle for the mind. This is what you want to try to do as the mind gets accustomed to settling down with the breath. Not only when you’re sitting here, but also when you get up and start moving around: Try to maintain this same inner position, this same inner posture of being the observer.
~
And try to notice when you lose it. That’s a sign you’ve run across something important: one of those tricks the mind plays on itself to go someplace it knows it shouldn’t. That’s one of the reasons for these lapses. The other is that it simply forgets itself and just starts singing along with whatever thought comes along, whatever mood comes along.
~
These things seem to have so much reality simply because we sing along with them. But if you can maintain the position of the observer, you watch these things as they come, and you begin to see the damage they can do if you take them in. You realize that you have the choice. You don’t have to play along with them, you don’t have to sing along with them, you don’t have to take them in. You’re now in a position of strength, a position where you can watch, where you can see these things simply as events rather than as the worlds to enter into…”
❀❀❀
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
“”The Mind’s Song
~
http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/CrossIndexed/Published/Meditations3/0305n5b1%20M3%20The%20Mind’s%20Song.pdf

(Quote from The Skillful Teachings of Thanissaro Bhhikku Facebook group)

 

PART 3 | Q-A with Bhante Rahula

Here is a recording of a Q-and-A session with Bhante Yogavacara Rahula during his visit to Charleston and Huntington, WV, in early October 2016. This session took place after a guided meditation at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Charleston on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017. Below is an excerpt from the Q-and-A.

+ + +
QUESTION: Sometimes when I meditate I just space off and then forget what I’m doing and then I just pop back in. Is that a good practice or a bad practice?

BHANTE RAHULA: That’s what happens . The idea is we want to prevent the mind from spacing out or t least to shorten those periods of time when were either lost in our thoughts or spaced out. And to keep bringing it back to state of more concentrated awareness.

Training the mind takes a long time. If a person’s really interested in developing the meditation it has to be practiced a lot.  Even during the day not allowing your mind to get aimlessly lost in things

You see, we always have the body with us and that’s the wonderful thing about using the body as our anchor in the present moment, It’s always there, anytime, during the day. We just pause and just bring the attention back to the body and take a deep slow breath and bring the attention back to the body and relax.

This is part of a series of recordings from Bhante Rahula’s visit to Charleston and Huntington, WV, from Oct. 12-15, 2016:

PART 2: Bhante Rahula Dhamma Talk on Meditation
PART 1: Bhante Rahula Leads a Guided Meditation
Visit Bhante Rahula’s blog at: bhanterahula.blogspot.com

AFTER THE ELECTION

buddha_stonefaceWherever you fall on the political spectrum (or non-spectrum, as the case may be), here is some food for thought, post-election:

+ + +
Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard posted the following quote to his blog, which upon first reading seemed like direct commentary upon the post-election jitters. But then note the source and date of the quote:

The underlying sense of uneasiness that we have now is actually a good thing: it is the expression of our sensitivity. Those who go through life without feeling ill at ease are unconscious. The uneasy feeling caused by our awareness holds tremendous potential for transformation. It is a treasure of energy that we can grasp with both hands and use to build something better. Indifference doesn’t lead anywhere.

JIGME KHYENTSE RINPOCHE (b. 1964) Oral advice transcribed by the author.

+ + +

And the staff of the Buddhist publication “Lion’s Roar” released a special roundup, titled “After the Election: Buddhist Wisdom for Hope and Healing” in which  the day after the  election, they asked some of America’s leading Buddhist teachers to offer their comments, advice and teachings to address how so many of us were feeling. (Thanks to Patrick Hamilton for passing this on.) The special edition is available as a downloadable PDF file. Here are some samplings:

“Cultivating the mind of love is so crucial. When love is the ground of our being, a love ethic shapes our participation in politics. To work for peace and justice we begin with the individual practice of love, because it is there that we can experience firsthand love’s transformative power.” ~ bell hooks

“It’s OK to freak out, grieve, and vent for a while. Then we can get back to work, as always, for the good.” —Norman Fischer

“When we look at the world around us — our immediate world and the bigger world beyond — we see a lot of difficulty and dysfunction. The news we hear is mostly bad news, and that makes us afraid. It can be quite discouraging. Yet we could actually derive inspiration for our warriorship, for our bodhisattva path, from these dire circumstances. We could recognize the fact, and proclaim the fact, that we are needed.” —Pema Chodron

A meditation group in the Buddhist insight tradition, based in Charleston, W.Va.