Category Archives: Mindfulness

A constant, persistent Approach

“If a person has a really deep interest in spiritual growth, he or she cannot do away with the practice of meditation. That is the key! Just a mere prayer or wish will not affect this inner spiritual change.

“The only way for development is through a constant effort through meditation. Of course, in the beginning it is not easy. You may find difficulties, or a loss of enthusiasm. Or perhaps in the beginning there will be too much enthusiasm—then after a few weeks or months, your enthusiasm may wane. We need to develop a constant, persistent approach based on a long-term commitment.”

~ H.H. The Dalai Lama

How Much Is enough?

“Monks, if you want to be free from suffering, you should contemplate knowing how much is enough. By knowing it you are in the place of enjoyment and peacefulness.

“If you know how much is enough, you are contented even when you sleep on the ground. If you don’t know it, you are discontented even when you are in heaven.

“You can feel poor even if you have much wealth. You may be constantly pulled by the five sense desires and pitied by those who know how much is enough. This is called “to know how much is enough.”

~ The Buddha

“Refuge: The Heart’s Own Knowing”

Swirled circle planet photo by David Imbrogno | cowgarage.com
NOTE: Thanisssara will offer an online teaching on “Refuge: The Heart’s Own Knowing,” on SUNDAY Sept. 29, 2019. Register here at WorldwideInsight.org., the site of an online Dharma practice group. The teachings are given in the Buddhist tradition of dana: “The Buddhist tradition views teachings of liberation as priceless, and this online class is offered in the spirit of generosity, called Dana. The teacher is directly supporting your practice. Please support her / him directly, through your generosity.



Our practice is preparation for when real challenges hit.” – Ajahn Chah

It’s important to recognize that we are living in extremely challenging times, and because of this, we are going to experience some very painful and disturbing bodily feelings, emotions, and mind states.

When the norms and forms of life we are used to radically change, we can become very triggered and overwhelmed. Our nervous system deregulates and old traumas can activate destabilizing our sense of cohesion and focus. Feelings of profound fear, anxiety, panic, outrage, shock, despair, disorientation can arise, and when they do, we need to take extra special care. To pause and recognize that there’s nothing wrong with us, that actually what is felt is an appropriate response to a fast dismembering world.

So, as profound uncertainty deepens and intensifies within and all around, our Dharma practice becomes ever more vital. The ground and heart of this practice is alignment with Refuge. This offers a direct connection to sustaining and nourishing qualities of peace, equanimity, joy, clarity, impassioned fearless compassion, discernment, and the confidence to listen ever more deeply into the “here and now” living Dharma.

We are in a time that is inviting us to be more real, more authentic and to let go of what is no longer essential, to forgive it all, and to trust the capacity of the heart’s ability to regenerate and hone to integrity and love.

It’s a time when each breath becomes ever more precious and when Rilke’s encouragement is superbly meaningful:

Let everything happen to you, beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Thanissara trained in the Forest School of Ajahn Chah as a Buddhist nun for 12 years. She is a Dharma teacher and co-founded Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat Centre in South Africa and Sacred Mountain Sangha in the US with Kittisaro. She is an author and poet and is currently involved in mobilizing a Buddhist initiative to Declare Climate Emergency Now in the San Francisco Bay area.  

relaxing from THE intensity of fear & ignorance

Simon Migaj photograph | unsplash.com

“In meditation we can begin to tune in on this universal level through letting go of the conditions, of this blind holding to conditioned phenomena. It isn’t annihilation or a rejection of anything; it is just releasing, relaxing from this intensity of fear and ignorance. We try to control and hold on to conditions without realising how painful and miserable it makes us.

“The Buddha advised us to see ‘letting go’ as opening, receiving, and nothing to fear. Space and consciousness, the sound of silence — you don’t create these; they are here and now. But we may never notice or observe them. As we recognise them, we begin to have perspective on conditions.

“In terms of living in society, we do good and refrain from doing bad. We can work for people’s welfare, if we wish, help the educational system, the health system, try to promote harmony between nations and harmony between religions — we can still do all these things. It isn’t that we’re too ethereal for dealing with anything practical. But we recognise conditions for what they are, and we are no longer coming from idealism.”

~Ajahn Sumedho
“The Sound of Silence” | free download at this link

Seeing the Story of “Me”

Image by Charis Gegelman | unsplash.com

Excerpt from “The Buddha’s Advice to Laypeople” blog by Lynne J. Kelley for July 23, 2019. Read whole post here.

The Pali word most often translated into English as mindfulness is sati, and here’s something important Anālayo Bhikkhu has to say about it:

Another aspect of the early Buddhist conception of sati is that mindfulness is a mental quality that we have to bring into being. Mindfulness has to be established; it is not just a quality that is present anyway in any type of experience. This marks the difference between mindfulness and consciousness. Consciousness … is a continuously present process of knowing [which allows us to register experience]. … Whether we are mindful of a meditation object or caught up in a dream or fantasy, the flow of consciousness is always there. The same does not apply to mindfulness.

This is a point that is often overlooked or ignored. Mindfulness includes a clarity about the context of our experience, and there’s a vividness to engaged attention that keeps us planted in the here and now.

When we are not attending fully, we often experience events through a filter we’ve developed over time. We may be looking for ways in which we are being ignored, or treated unfairly, or noticed when we don’t want to be, or even that we’re being appreciated and admired. There tends to be a story about “me” that we reinforce with our observations. So of course, what stands out in our memories are the instances that confirm our ready-made attitudes. Mindfulness with clear comprehension can cut through this way of experiencing our lives.

Ven. Anālayo suggests that we can view sati as our good, supportive, pleasant-to-be-with friend, available whenever we turn towards her (female, as the word sati in Pali is feminine). We may not notice her company for periods, but she is always there for us to share our experience with. 

Excerpt from “The Buddha’s Advice to Laypeople” blog by Lynne J. Kelley for July 23, 2019. Read whole post here.


NOTE: For an interview with Anālayo Bhikkhu and a link to his books, some of which are avaialble for free download, see this link.

Put your foot down

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“Be cautious and restrained.

“When the mind starts grasping at things and making a big deal out of them, you have to stop it. It will argue with you, but you have to put your foot down. Stay in the middle as the mind comes and goes. Put sensual indulgence away to one side. Put self-torment away to the other side. Love to one side, hate to the other side. Happiness to one side, suffering to the other side. Remain in the middle without letting the mind go in either direction.”

~Ajahn Chah from “Lion’s Roar”

On our habit of ruminating

“RECOGNIZING PAST TURMOILS and future rhapsodies as projections of our mind prevents us from getting stuck in them. Just as the face in the mirror is not a real face, the objects of our memories and daydreams are likewise unreal. They are not happening now; they are simply mental images flickering in the mind.

“Reflecting on the value of our precious human life also minimizes our habit of ruminating. Our wondrous potential becomes clear, and the rarity and value of the present opportunity shines forth. Who wants to ruminate about the past and future when we can do so much good and progress spiritually in the present?

“One counteracting force that works well for me is realizing that all these ruminations star Me, Center of the Universe. All the stories, all the tragedies, comedies, and dramas all revolve around one person, who is clearly the most important one in all existence, Me. Just acknowledging the power of the mind to condense the universe into Me shows me the stupidity of my ruminations. There is a huge universe with countless sentient beings in it, each of them wanting happiness and not wanting suffering just as intensely as I do. Yet, my self-centered mind forgets them and focuses on Me. To boot, it doesn’t even really focus on Me, it spins around My past and future, neither of which exist now. Seeing this, my self-centeredness evaporates, as I simply cannot justify worrying about only myself with everything that is going on in the universe.

“The most powerful counteracting force is the wisdom realizing there is no concrete Me to start with. Just who are all these thoughts spinning around? Who is having all these ruminations? When we search we cannot find a truly existent Me anywhere. Just as there is no concrete Me to be found on or in this carpet, there is no concrete Me to be found in this body and mind. Both are equally empty of a truly existent person who exists under her own power.

“With this understanding, the mind relaxes. The ruminations cease, and with wisdom and compassion, the Me that exists by being merely labeled in dependence on the body and mind can spread joy in the world.”

Thubten Chodron
excerpt from “Ruminating”

The power of mindfulness

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By Lynn J. Kelly  } The Buddha’s Advice to Laypeople

… Nyanaponika Thera suggested that the first power of mindfulness is to help us “tidy up” the jumble of thoughts, ideas, impressions, and shadows in our minds. After we start sorting the clear from the unclear and the useful from the useless, we can have a closer look by accurately naming the elements in our minds. We may not get the name quite right immediately, and so we might need to re-focus our mindfulness to examine our thoughts more closely.

Once we start to recognize the repetitive thoughts that pass through our minds, we can categorize them, at first into wholesome and unwholesome, or leading towards or away from clarity, and later into more refined groupings.

Sometimes we camouflage our thoughts to make them more palatable. We blame others for our own aversion, or give ourselves (reflected) credit for others’ good acts. We are experts at re-creating our experience to make it more pleasant and to hide any unpleasant aspects of our thinking from ourselves. This is one way we give the defilements a clearer field of play. It is delusion in action and must be exposed through careful inquiry.

[From Nyanaponika Thera] But by applying the simple method of clearly and honestly naming or registering any undesirable thoughts, these two harmful devices, ignorance and camouflage, are excluded. Thence their detrimental consequences on the structure of the subconscious and their diversion of mental effort will be avoided.

The method of naming and registering also extends, of course, to noble thoughts and impulses which will be encouraged and strengthened. Without being given deliberate attention, such wholesome tendencies often pass unnoticed and remain barren. But when clear awareness is applied to them, it will stimulate their growth.

Many of us have a tendency to take our kind or generous thoughts (and actions) for granted. We tick them off and don’t reflect on them, but they can be the basis for confidence and joy in the (heart-)mind.

In the Satipatthana Sutta (MN 10), some of the instructions say:

[Translated by Sujato Bhikkhu] It’s when a mendicant knows mind with greed as ‘mind with greed,’ and mind without greed as ‘mind without greed.’ They know mind with hate as ‘mind with hate,’ and mind without hate as ‘mind without hate.’ They know mind with delusion as ‘mind with delusion,’ and mind without delusion as ‘mind without delusion.’ They know contracted mind as ‘contracted mind,’ and scattered mind as ‘scattered mind.’ … They know mind immersed in samādhi as ‘mind immersed in samādhi,’ and mind not immersed in samādhi as ‘mind not immersed in samādhi.’ They know freed mind as ‘freed mind,’ and unfreed mind as ‘unfreed mind.

Using the power of mindfulness, we can name and categorize the contents of our minds,  and, in this way, walk the path towards awakening.

The full essay is here: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel121.html

~ By Lynn J. Kelly
from her Aug. 25, 2018 post from her website | Subscribe to her site at:
“The Buddha’s Advice to Laypeople: Guidelines for Developing a Happier Life”

 

 

Friends with our thoughts

Photo by Guillermo Álvarez on Unsplash

Sometimes people think the point of meditation is to stop thinking— to have a silent mind. This does happen occasionally, but it is not necessarily the point of meditation. Thoughts are an important part of life, and mindfulness practice is not supposed to be a struggle against them. We can benefit more by being friends with our thoughts than by regarding them as unfortunate distractions. In mindfulness, we are not stopping thoughts as much as overcoming any preoccupation we have with them. However, mindfulness is not thinking about things, either. It is a non-discursive observation of our life in all its aspects.

In those moments when thinking predominates, mindfulness is the clear and silent awareness that we are thinking. A piece of advice I found helpful and relaxing was when someone said, “For the purpose of meditation, nothing is particularly worth thinking about.” Thoughts can come and go as they wish, and the meditator does not need to become involved with them. We are not interested in engaging in the content of our thoughts. Mindfulness of thinking is simply recognizing that we are thinking.

In meditation, when thoughts are subtle and in the background, or when random thoughts pull us away from awareness of the present, all we have to do is resume mindfulness of breathing. However, when our preoccupation with thoughts is stronger than our ability to let go of them easily, then we direct mindfulness to being clearly aware that thinking is occurring. Strong bouts of thinking are fuelled largely by identification and preoccupation with thoughts. By clearly observing our thinking, we step outside the field of identification. Thinking will usually then soften to a calm and unobtrusive stream.

~ Gil Fronsdal
pp. 57-58

The Practice of Now

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The only time we ever have to live is now. The only time that spiritual practice is done is now. If we’re going to cultivate love and compassion, it has to be in the present moment, because we don’t live in any other moment. So, even though the present is constantly changing, it’s all we have. Life happens now. Our past glories are simply that. Our past hurts are not happening now. Our future dreams are simply future dreams. The future tragedies we concoct do not exist at this time.

A spiritual practitioner may remember previous illuminating moments and dream of future exotic situations, replete with fully enlightened teachers and blissful insights, but in fact, practice occurs now. The person in front of our nose at this moment represents all sentient beings to us. If we’re going to work for the benefit of all sentient beings, we have to start with this one, this ordinary person in our everyday life. Opening our hearts to whomever is before us requires discipline and effort. Connecting with the person in front of us necessitates being fully present, not off in the past or the future.

Dharma practice means dealing with what is happening in our mind at this moment. Instead of dreaming of conquering future attachment, let’s deal with the craving we have right now. Rather than drown in fears of the future, let’s be aware of the fear occurring right now and investigate it.

~Thubten Chodron
(except from thubtenchodron.org/2011/06/spinning-stories)

 

Harmonious Speech

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Text from the website “The Buddha’s Advice to Laypeople” by Lynn J. Kelly

A second category of Right Speech (after truthfulness) is harmonious speech, or refraining from saying things with the intention of dividing people or groups from each other. It is a challenging moment in history, in many places, to hold to this principle. Our public discourse seems to have descended to a level where hardly anything can be said without someone objecting.

Behind this trend is an increasing strain of “us vs. them” thinking, writing, and talking. It is human nature to prefer “our own” people to those who seem different, whether by dint of language, class, education, nationality, color, ethnicity, age, gender, political position, etc. The boundaries between groups are variable (not fixed), and in any given moment we can create or destroy categories in our own mind. In some situations a particular “us-them” divide arises and in other situations it dissipates. When others express strong opinions, sometimes we may be infected with a divisive mind-set. Likewise, we may feel inspired when we witness harmonious speech.

Extra-terrestrial invasion was a theme of 20th century science fiction, in some cases specifically in order to create an “us” out of world-wide humanity. It seems as if we only pull together if there is an outside threat of some sort, whether from a natural disaster or other causes. But we don’t need an enemy, real or imagined, to consider ourselves “us” with every living being. We have the option of remembering that we are all in the same situation with respect to old age, sickness, and death. We are all subject to the vagaries of weather, bad luck, and the random nature of our world. We are all trapped together in saṃsāra.

Saṃsāra: The word literally means “wandering through, flowing on”, in the sense of “aimless and directionless wandering”. The concept of saṃsāra is closely associated with the belief that the person continues to be born and reborn in various realms and forms [Wikipedia]. This is our condition, wandering aimlessly in search of comfort and fleeing discomfort, never reaching any resting place except temporarily. 

It’s our actions and words that make our world, not how we feel about a particular person or group of people. In the end, only kind intentions and the words and actions that come from them are beneficial.

So when we are tempted to righteous indignation, to denigrating or dismissing others, we would do well to pause and consider: How would words spoken in anger, even (or especially) righteous anger, be received? Would they bring about healing or hurting? Would they persuade others to our position or harden their opposition? Are we able to bring enough awareness to our speech to avoid divisiveness?

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The point of equilibrium

Excerpt from “Finding the Center” in chapter 2 of “Untangling Self” by Andrew Olendzki:

At some point all this tranquility devolves into sleepiness, laziness, or a sluggishness of mind where it seems a struggle just to remain conscious. This too is natural, and it does not mean you are doing anything wrong. Having established these two end points on a continuum, practice involves moving back and forth between them until one finds the point of equilibrium. You can get a sense when the mind is too active, at which point you let go of your attachment to the stimulant du jour and allow the mind to rest. And when you feel it getting drowsy, it is time to sit up straighter, take a deeper breath, and give yourself a little mental kick into wakefulness. Eventually, becoming familiar with both ends of this specturm, you will find the midpoint where the mind is simultaneously tranquil and alert.

Moving perpendicularly, we then notice that the mind is drawn habitually toward those objects of experience it finds gratifying. This need not be full-on lust or the irresistible drive of addiction; more often it is a gentle inclination toward what we like. The senses revel in sensation, the mind delights in momentum, and we are usually “leaning in” to the next moment and faintly grasping after the next experience. Notice this, and softly back away from it. Continue reading The point of equilibrium