All posts by Thad Settle

The Basic Pattern

Thanissaro Bhikkhu

“The important thing is that you look at your meditation in terms of action and result.
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So whatever level of practice you’re on, whether it’s simply day-to-day interactions with other people or working directly with your mind, this is the pattern the Buddha has you adopt all the time: Look at your intentions, look at you actions, look at their results, and then adjust things based on what harm you see your actions have done. If you see that the results aren’t as good as you’d like, go back and look at the intention, change the action. This requires two principles: integrity and compassion.
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These are the basic Buddhist values. These are the basic values of the practice. And they can be applied at any level: among students in a classroom, or just interacting with other people in general, or as you’re sitting here meditating. Remember, you’re doing something. The principle of karma, which is the Buddha’s basic teaching, underlies everything, reminding you that your actions are important, that they do have consequences, and that you have the freedom to change the way you act. If you see that the consequences are causing harm, causing suffering, you can change the way you act. You have that freedom. You can learn from your mistakes…

…So as we practice in our imperfect ways, it’s good to remind ourselves that the Buddha himself started out imperfect as well. As we make mistakes, it’s good to remind ourselves that the Buddha made mistakes, too, but he also pointed the way out of your mistakes. You can change the way you act, and it’s important that you do because your actions shape your life. The pleasure and pain you experience in life comes from your actions, not from anything you innately are. So when you notice that there are problems in your life, look here at what you’re doing. What are your intentions? What are your actions? What can you change?
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This requires that you be very honest with yourself, that you have the integrity to admit your mistakes, to see the connection between your intentions and the results of your actions, and the compassion, both for yourself and the people around you, not to want to cause harm. Once you’ve developed this integrity in your day-to-day life, then it’s a lot easier to bring the integrity into your meditation, because integrity lies at the basis of meditating well, too. This is why the precepts are so important. They develop this quality of integrity. If you can’t be honest with yourself on the blatant level, then it’s very hard to be honest with yourself on the subtle level of the practice…”
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Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Excerpt from “The Basic Pattern.”
Read full Dhamma talk here.

 

Our safety net

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“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

Foundations of Mindfulness Practice: Attitudes and Commitment

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” Seven attitudinal factors constitute the major pillars of mindfulness practice… They are non-judging, patience, a beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance, and letting go. These attitudes are to be cultivated consciously when you practice. They are not independent of each other. Each one relies on and influences the degree to which you are able to cultivate the others. Working on any one will rapidly lead you to the others… together they constitute the foundation upon which you will be able to build a strong meditation practice of your own… ”

Jon Kabat-Zinn,   Full Catastrophe Living  (New York: Bantam Books, 1990, 2013), p. 21.

Admirable Friendship

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One (the Buddha) was living among the Sakyans. Now there is a Sakyan town named Sakkara. There Ven. Ananda went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to the Blessed One, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, “This is half of the holy life, lord: admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie.”

“Don’t say that, Ananda. Don’t say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk (person) has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he (they) can be expected to develop & pursue the Noble Eightfold Path.

Upaddha Sutta: Half (of the Holy Life)
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu

 

Just One Breath

In this world of onrushing events the act of meditation—even just a “one-breath” meditation—straightening the back, clearing the mind for a moment—is a refreshing island in the stream. Although the term meditation has mystical and religious connotations for many people, it is a simple and plain activity.  Attention: deliberate stillness and silence
Meditation is not just a rest or retreat from the turmoil of the stream or the impurity of the world. It is a way of being the stream, so that one can be at home in both the white water and the eddies. Meditation may take one out of the world, but it also puts one totally into it
Spending time with your own mind is humbling and broadening. One finds that there’s no one in charge, and is reminded that no thought lasts for long. The marks of the Buddhist teachings are impermanence, no-self, the inevitability of suffering, interconnectedness, emptiness, the vastness of mind, and the provision of a Way to realization.


Gary Snyder lives in the northern Sierra Nevada and practices in the Linji Ch’an (Zen) Buddhist tradition. Pulitzer prize-winning poet and essayist, his most recent book is This Present Moment: New Poems.
Read more at:

http://www.tricycle.com/feature/just-one-breath

 

The Actual Experience of Mindfulness

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When we hear phrases commonly used to describe mindfulness like “just be with what is”, “accept the present moment”, “don’t get lost in judgement”,  it (mindfulness) can sound pretty inert. But the actual experience of mindfulness produces a vibrant, alive, open space where creative responses to situations have room to arise, precisely because we’re not stuck in the well-worn, narrow grooves of our habitual reactions. In mindfulness, we don’t lose discernment and intelligence. These qualities actually become more acute as stale preconceptions and automatic, rigid responses no longer continue to rule the day.

 

Salzberg, Sharon. Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace. N.p.: Workman, 2013.

Meditation: What and Why?

 

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“Meditation is training for the mind, to help it develop the strengths and skills it needs to solve its problems. The mediation technique taught in this book …(mindfulness of breathing, leading to insight)….is a skill aimed at solving the mind’s most basic problem: the stress and suffering it brings on itself through its own thoughts and actions.”

 

from the Introduction to With Each and Every Breath  by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff), the abbott of Metta Forest Monastery, Valley Center CA.

Time and Now

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Time and Now

(interesting article on consciousness, please  open the link.)New Picture

All Actions are led by the Mind

Mind is their master,

Mind is their maker,

Act or speak with an impure state of mind and suffering follows as the cartwheel follows the hoof of the ox.

 

All actions are led by the Mind

Mind is their master,

Mind is their maker,

Act or speak with a pure state of mind and happiness follows as your shadow, never departing.

 

( The Dhammapada: twin verses, 1 and 2)

What is Perception?

Hoeft Marsh, Greenbottom, WV

 

For the Buddha, perception is pure and simple. When the eyes see a visual object they do so without embellishment. As the Buddha explained to his monks on the Connected Discourses:

And why Bhikkhus, do you call it perception? It perceives, bhikkhus, therefore,  it is called perception. And what does it perceive? It perceives blue, it perceives yellow, it perceives red, it perceives white. It perceives, bhikkhus; therefore it is called perception.

(tr.Bhikkhu Bodhi)

Gunaratana, Henepola, ( forward by Bhikkhu Bodhi.)  Meditation on Perception: Ten Healing Practices to Cultivate Mindfulness. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2014. Print.

 

LIke A Mirage

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Distorted perceptions are like a mirage. Deceived by a mirage, a deer runs quickly toward what it perceives as water. As he runs, he sees that the water-like mirage is still far ahead of him. So he keeps running toward it to drink. When he is even more tired and thirsty, he stops and looks back. Then he sees that he has gone past the water. When he runs back, he perceives that the water is ahead of him. So he runs back and forth until he is exhausted and falls to the ground.

Distorted perception is like that for us. Pulled by our own attachments, we are always chasing phantoms. Terrified, we run away from monsters created from our own aversions. So long as perception is distorted, we are unable to see the true nature of what is in front of us—nothing but an ever-changing collection of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches, and thoughts or concepts. Moreover, nothing that we perceive has a self or soul; and nothing can bring us permanent happiness or unhappiness.

In essence, when perception is distorted, we perceive impermanence as permanence, suffering as happiness, something neither beautiful nor ugly as beautiful or ugly, or something not self as self.

From Meditation on Perception: Ten Healing Practices to Cultivate, by Bhante Gunaratana © 2014 Wisdom Publications. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

The Everyday Sublime

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The experience of the sublime exceeds our capacity for representation. The world is excessive: every blade of grass, every ray of sun, every falling leaf is excessive. None of these things can be adequately captured in concepts, images, or words. They overreach us, spilling beyond the boundaries of thought. Their sublimity brings the thinking, calculating mind to a stop, leaving one speechless, overwhelmed with either wonder or terror. Yet for the human animal who delights and revels in her place, who craves security, certainty, and consolation, the sublime is banished and forgotten. As a result, life is rendered opaque and flat. Each day is reduced to the repetition of familiar actions and events, which are blandly comforting, but devoid of an intensity we both yearn for and fear. We crave stimulation, we long for a temporary derangement of the senses, we seek opportunities to lose ourselves in rapture or intoxication. Yet once we have tasted such ecstasies, we often sink back with a sigh of relief into the dullness of routine.

To experience the everyday sublime one needs to dismantle piece by piece the perceptual conditioning that insists on seeing oneself and the world as essentially comfortable, permanent, solid, and mine. It means to embrace suffering and conflict, rather than to shy away from them, to cultivate the radical attention (yonisomanasikara) that contemplates the tragic, changing, empty, and impersonal dimensions of life, rather than succumbing to fantasies of self-glorification or self-loathing. This takes time. It is a lifelong practice.

From “The Everyday Sublime,” by Stephen Batchelor, published in After Mindfulness: New Perspectives on Psychology and Meditation, edited by Manu Bazzano © 2014 Palgrave Macmillan. Reprinted with permission.

Here is a link to a talk on Dharmaseed.org of  The Everyday Sublime by Stephen Batchelor:

http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/169/talk/17170/

New Book by Bhante G

A new book,   Meditation On Perception by Bhante Gunaratana, the abbot of the Bhavana Society in Highview, WV has recently been published by Wisdom Publications. The method of mindfulness or insight meditation as taught by Bhante G in his book Mindfulness in Plain English is the meditation method practiced at the Meditation Circle. This new book is a wonderful addition to the resources available to those who would like to deepen their meditation practice.

From the Wisdom Publications website review:

Use the unique Buddhist practice of meditation on perception, as taught by the best-selling author of Mindfulness in Plain English, to learn how shifting your perspective can transform mental and physical health.

Perception—one of the basic constituents of the body and mind—can be both a source of suffering and pain, as well as a source of happiness and health. The Buddhist tradition teaches that perception can be trained and ultimately purified through the practice of meditation. When we understand how perception impacts our lives, we can use it, just as we do any other object of meditation, to overcome harmful ways of thinking and acting and to develop healthy states of mind instead. In Meditation on Perception Bhante G brings us, for the first time in English, an illuminating introduction to the unique Buddhist practice of meditation on perception as taught in the popular Girimananda Sutta.

The ten healing practices that comprise meditation on perception make up a comprehensive system of meditation, combining aspects of both tranquility and insight meditation. Tranquility meditation is used to calm and center the mind, and insight meditation is used to understand more clearly how we ordinarily perceive ourselves and the world around us. Alternating between these two practices, meditators cultivate purified perception as explained by the Buddha. As a result of these efforts, we progress on the path that leads to freedom, once and for all, from illness, confusion, and other forms of physical and mental suffering.

Meditation on Perception gives us the keys to move beyond ordinary, superficial perception into an enlightened perspective, freed from confusion and unhappiness.

Here is also a link to related Blog posts that contain excerpts from Meditation On Perception. These links can also be found on the Wisdom Publication site,

http://www.wisdompubs.org/blog/201406/healing-meditation-1

http://www.wisdompubs.org/blog/201406/healing-meditation-2