“DON’T EXPECT TRANSFORMATION or success to happen quickly. Some of us may find meditation to be easy at first, especially in its simplest form of observing the breath or repeating phrases, but while such practices can provide some immediate payoffs, such as serenity, the real insights take many years, if not decades, to experience. As we Dharma punx are wont to say: if you want to see how well your practice is going, take an overview every ten years; any sooner is impatience. It’s better to prepare yourself for the long haul by thinking of this change as a lifelong practice. If you try to make progress on a short timeline, it’s easy to get discouraged when we don’t see the results that we want — as quickly as we want to see them. The truth is that your commitment is not about measurable progress and timetables. You’re not finishing a project; you are pursuing a calling.”
“Just be mindful of your bodily activities, every moment, every posture and every action that you do. Just watch. Don’t send your mind to think about something else. When you’re walking, standing, eating, taking a shower, driving or whatever activity you do, stay with that activity. This is being mindful.”
“When you come to sit in concentration, then even if your mind isn’t yet quiet, simply sitting in the meditation posture is something good. It’s better than people who don’t even do that much.
“It’s like being hungry, but today there’s only rice, with nothing to go with it. We feel disgruntled, but I’d say that it’s better than having no rice at all. Eating plain rice is better than not eating anything, right? If all you have is plain rice, eat that for the time being.
“It’s better than not eating anything at all. The same with this: Even if we know only a little about how to practice, it’s still good.”
Only when the mind
Is settled can it become quiet.
Only when the mind
Is quiet can it become still.
Only when the mind
Is still can it see.
And only when the mind can see,
Can it reach the mystery of mysteries.
This is the process
That anyone who
Practices has to go through.
How long it takes
Is up to the individual.
The important thing is to sustain moment to moment awareness of the mind. If you are really caught in mental proliferation, then gather it all together, and contemplate it in terms of being one whole, cut it off right from the start, saying, “All these thoughts, ideas, and imaginings of mine are simply simply thought proliferation and nothing more. It’s all anicca, dukkha, and anatta. None of it is certain at all.”
“Whatever you’re experiencing in your mind, other people are experiencing the same sorts of things. And what they’re experiencing, you’ve experienced before. This can help with compassion and empathetic joy. There’s that passage where the Buddha talks about seeing people who are extremely wealthy and realizing you’ve been there before. When you see people who are extremely poor or ill, you’ve been there before as well. This helps to equalize things to counteract resentment or pride.
But this reflection can equalize things in another way. You can think about people who are faced with the same mental problems that you have: the mind when it’s depressed, the mind when it’s scattered. All the great meditators of the past and the present have had just exactly the same kind of problem. Yet they were able to get past it.
In the same way, when you’re sitting with pain, realize that other people have sat with pain, too, and yet they were able to keep sitting with it. What did they have that you don’t have? They had persistence. Where did they get that from? It wasn’t that they were born with it. They developed it. You can develop it too.”
“Here a bhikkhu dwells pervading one quarter with a mind imbued with lovingkindness, likewise the second quarter, the third quarter, and the fourth quarter. Thus above, below, across, and everywhere, and to all as to himself, he dwells pervading the entire world with mind imbued with lovingkindness, vast, exalted, measureless, without hostility, without ill will. He dwells pervading one quarter with a mind imbued with compassion… with a mind imbued with altruistic joy… with a mind imbued with equanimity, likewise the second quarter, the third quarter, and the fourth quarter. Thus above, below, across, and everywhere, and to all as to himself, he dwells pervading the entire world with a mind imbued with equanimity, vast, exalted, measureless, without hostility, without ill will. This is called measureless liberation of mind.”
If we’re not reflecting on the impermanent nature of life, then there are a lot of unimportant things that seem important. Our jobs seem important. Money seems important. But if we’re really reflecting on impermanence then we can see that the important things are compassion and loving others—giving to others and taking care of others.
“SO, IN THE BEGINNING you have to take it on faith — that we’re not living in a totally deterministic world or totally random world, and that it really is worth the effort to try to develop a skill, particularly in the area of the mind. There’s enough orderliness in this world that the skills you learn today are going to help tomorrow. At the same time, things are not so deterministic in an iron-clad way that you can’t make any difference. You can make a difference by the choices you make, in the lessons you learn. And making good choices today will help you make better choices tomorrow. That’s something you take on conviction. That can help further your persistence in the practice as well.”
“When you cultivate your loving-friendliness, your compassion, your appreciative joy for others, and your equanimity, you not only make life more pleasant for those around you, your own life becomes peaceful and happy.”
Have faith in the Buddha’s path to happiness that so many people have followed to enlightenment. Faith, in Buddhist terms, means confidence–confidence based on what you have seen so far, and confidence in what you can project to be true based on what you have seen. For example, you have personally observed that whenever you were full of negative mental states, you suffered. You recall that whenever you were full of positive states of mind, you felt happy. When all these states changed you saw their impermanence. These are facts. You can have confidence in this. This kind of confidence keeps you on course until a deep realization of truth leaves no more room for doubt.
“The mind captivated by a state of craving has no clue as to what pain and pleasure really are. When we hanker after objects, do we experience peace and bliss? Are we in control? Do we feel at ease? Or do we feel restless? Stressed and worried? Insecure and desperate? The slippery thing about attachment is that, in our bewilderment, we can’t tell the difference between pleasure and pain, love and desire, happiness and sorrow. The craving mind can mistake anything for pleasure—even pain! It’s like an addiction.”
from “Light Comes Through: Buddhist Teachings on Awakening to Our Natural Intelligence”
“We may like to believe that all we have to do to progress on the Buddha’s path is pay attention. Paying attention certainly sounds easier than making strong effort. But the hard truth is that simple, ordinary attention is not enough. We must learn to pay mindful attention–both when we are engaging in meditation or other spiritual practice and when we are going about the activities of our everyday lives. The Buddha knew that unless we make the mindful effort to eliminate negative states of mind and cultivate positive ones in every aspect of our lives, our minds will never settle down enough to allow us progress.
About now you might be thinking, “I knew there was a catch! This sounds like a lot of work.” Of course, you’d be right. It’s certainly easier to bury our negative qualities deep in the unconscious mind than to let them go. Greed, anger, hatred, sloppiness, arrogance, snobbishness, spitefulness, vindictiveness, and fear may have become our familiar everyday habits. We’d rather not make the effort to give them up. Yet, at the same time, we want to be happy and to move toward our spiritual goals.
Skillful Effort is the stick-to-it quality that makes the whole path possible. It is the gumption to say, “These unwholesome habits of thought and behavior must go, now!” and the wisdom to see that only by cultivating positive and wholesome ways of thinking, acting, and speaking can we hope to achieve happiness.”
“Just taking the posture of meditation, sitting up, arouses energy and confidence. It’s a gesture of bravery, a silent proclamation of fearlessness: we commit ourselves to working with any state of mind that arises – sadness and excitement, boredom and joy, fear and desire. They’re all welcome, fundamentally welcome.”
“We must always remember that our highest goal is to free our mind from all greed, all hatred, all confusion. The greatest impact we can have on the world is to face every circumstance with a mind of clarity, compassion and love .
“From a place of calm and equanimity, we act or decline to act, doing whatever most skillfully cultivates and expresses our loving-friendliness and compassion.”
“Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness” (Wisdom Publications)
A meditation group in the Buddhist insight tradition, based in Charleston, W.Va.