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.
“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.”
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.
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.
“DON’T EXPECT ANYTHING. Just sit back and see what happens. Treat the whole thing as an experiment. Take an active interest in the test itself, but don’t get distracted by your expectations about the results. For that matter, don’t be anxious for any result whatsoever. Let the meditation move along at its own speed and in its own direction. Let the meditation teach you. Meditative awareness seeks to see reality exactly as it is. Whether that corresponds to your expectations or not, it does require a temporary suspension of all our preconceptions and ideas. We must store our images, opinions, and interpretations out of the way for the duration of the session. Otherwise we will stumble over them.”
“Don’t run back to the past,
don’t hope for the future.
What’s past is left behind;
the future has not arrived;
and phenomena in the present
are clearly seen in every case.
Knowing this, foster it—
Today’s the day to keenly work—
who knows, tomorrow may bring death!
For there is no bargain to be struck
with Death and his mighty hordes.
The peaceful sage explained it’s those
who keenly meditate like this,
tireless all night and day,
who truly have that one fine night.”
“The next basis for success is persistence. You really stick with it, not just while you’re sitting here with your eyes closed, but you also want to learn how to be familiar with how the breath energy feels as you walk around, as you stand, as you lie down. When you talk with other people, can you stay in touch with how the breath energy in the body feels? Because when we talk about “breath,” it’s not just the air coming in and out of the lungs, it’s the energy throughout the body that permeates through all the nerves. You want to get more and more sensitive to those sensations of subtle energies and learn how to stick with them.
“Make this your default mode: that you’re going to stay centered right here. This gives you a good foundation as you go through the day. It’s not just one more thing to add on top of what you’re already doing. It’s actually a solid center from which you can deal with all your other duties and responsibilities as you go out into the world. We all need this center here because otherwise we get blown around by the slightest breeze. So stick with it, stick with it, stick with it. Learn how to pace yourself so you can put in just the right amount of effort that you can maintain.”
“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.”
“Wherever you are still inept, wherever you are still lacking, that’s where you must apply yourself. If you haven’t yet cracked it don’t give up. Having finished with one thing you get stuck on another, so persist with it until you crack it, don’t let up. Don’t be content until it’s finished. Put all your attention on that point. While sitting, lying down or walking, watch right there.”
~Ajahn Chah (from “Food for the Heart,” pp. 94-95)
“Discipline” is a difficult word for most of us. It conjures up images of somebody standing over you with a stick, telling you that you’re wrong. But self-discipline is different. It’s the skill of seeing through the hollow shouting of your own impulses and piercing their secret. They have no power over you. It’s all a show, a deception. Your urges scream and bluster at you; they cajole; they coax; they threaten; but they really carry no stick at all. You give in out of habit. You give in because you never really bother to look beyond the threat. It is all empty back there.
There is only one way to learn this lesson, though. The words on this page won’t do it. But look within and watch the stuff coming up—restlessness, anxiety, impatience, pain—just watch it come up and don’t get involved. Much to your surprise, it will simply go away. It rises, it passes away. As simple as that. There is another word for self-discipline. It is patience.”
“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.”
As the Buddha taught: “I do not see any quality by which the skillful arises and the unskillful subsides than friendship with admirable people… [From our teachers] I learn what is beautiful in the beginning, the middle and the end, surpassingly pure. The spiritual life is one of mutual dependence, for together we can cross over the flood of ignorance.”
In our spiritual transformation we will make mistakes; after such errors there’s no role for self-judgment or self-punishment; the process is simply one of learning from mistakes and returning to practice with renewed conviction. We’re on a journey that requires perseverance and forgiveness, of myself and others.