Three Important Career Lessons

  1. Fantasies are fun, but taking action is what gets you a job.
  2. Look for work doing something you do better than most people.
  3. Success is not a place.

– G. Richard Shell

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The Essence Of Meditation Practice

We all have this intrinsic awareness. We need to rest in this intrinsic awareness and allow the contents of the mind to appear and disappear without grasping, aversion or fear. Once that happens, there is comfort and ease. To rest in this intrinsic awareness and pay attention and see things as there without wanting to change anything is what brings about true change. It seems simple but is not easy. When this happens, we really know what the body, the feelings, the thoughts are, and what we really are.

We yearn to rest in this intrinsic awareness when we are not satisfied with the way our life is, in some aspect or the other. The paradox, however is, one can rest in this intrinsic awareness only if we accept the way things are. The journey, for some reason, is still necessary. The aspiration to rest in the intrinsic awareness is also necessary. In some ways, it is a new way of living, where one rests in this awareness rather than constantly being pulled and pushed here and there and to do that one has to let go, one has to surrender and one can call that an effortless effort, may be. We also need to be curious, in the sense of being open to what happens, rather than wanting something specific to happen. We also need to be kind and compassionate to everything that exists or arises, including yourself. We also need to let go in a kind and compassionate way what disturbs us being in that awareness.

All this first starts to happen, when we read something or meet somebody who sort of embodies this awareness and we then aspire to it. We then do some form of practice which gives us glimpses of this awareness. Then that may give us the conviction that we want to go all the way. That is when the aspiration really becomes strong. For most of us, the conviction is really not there and that is the issue. Once the conviction is there, one just practices being in the intrinsic awareness irrespective of whether it gives us pleasurable experiences or not.For we have then surrendered to that intrinsic awareness and deep down, we somehow know that this is the path. Once we have done that, we can rest in the background stillness, no matter what happens. But that does not happen in a day or sometimes even in a decade. That is why practice resting in the awareness is necessary and extending the practice to our moments of life where there may not be quiet in the sense of what quiet means. But quiet is in the background of everything and that is what we need to rest in. Simple but not easy.

Having a place, a time, a ritual for doing the practice is useful, just like a growing plant needs to be protected from too much wind by a protection. Once the awareness becomes stronger, then you may not need the protection. You may still keep it as something that anchors you. The practice is simple, but not easy. You need to let go; you do not hold anything nor do you accumulate anything. You just be, aware and let go of everything. There is nothing to achieve. Just sit and be aware. If something needs to happen, it will happen. If nothing happens, then that is what needs to happen. No expectations, no results. Just sit and be aware of the breath. If thoughts come, be aware of it and let it go. Go back to the breath. Keep being aware of the breath and let other things, thoughts, feelings, memories, physical sensations go. Let them come if they want, let them go. The awareness of the breath. At some point: the tummy, the chest, the nostril. Gentle and let everything else go.

Accept everything, your life as it is, pleasure and pain, fame and dishonour, success and failure, the life we have now and just become aware. Be aware of the breath. When other things come up, gently be aware of them and let them go –  thoughts, feelings, expectations, beliefs, death, life. When this happens we may really know who we really are, but that cannot be communicated in a way that makes you really understand. Whatever is said is words. Just like one knows the smell of a rose but one cannot describe it.

Things do come up that prevents us from constant awareness – desires, aversions, restlessness, sleepiness, doubt and a mixture of these. They may come for various reasons. Be aware of them and let them go. Ultimately these things happen because we do not know who we really are and that we want something and do not want other things. But if we surrender to just being in the intrinsic awareness, then do they matter…. once we have truly surrendered it does not matter. The problem is to truly surrender to that intrinsic awareness and let it do what it wants to do.

The problem is that we interfere because we think we know what the correct way is and hence we desire certain things and avoid others. whatever experiences arise, good or bad, be with it. The stories of your life, the heart breaks and achievements are like waves on the ocean. If we choose the waves, then we will be tossed up and down and lose them anyway. If we choose the ocean, the intrinsic awareness, then what arises does not matter. They will come and they will go.

Be kind to them, though. Be kind and compassionate to everything, yourself, your surroundings, you family, your friends, enemies, world, universe. Wish that they be free of suffering. Wish that they are blissful and happy. When we live this way, there is fearlessness, courage, rapture, joy, bliss, freedom from desire and satisfaction, serenity, diligence, mindfulness, concentration, wisdom, absence of idle chatter and learning to relax to the present moment and being aware of the intrinsic awareness.

To start, this means to:

  • Knowing how things are really in this moment, just as they are, without adding anything else.
  • Recognize the space like awareness in which this is all happening.

But life does not happen only in meditation.

There is a life where we do things and interact with people. We need to be aware that suffering happens when we do not accept what happens, when we are not kind and compassionate towards anything. Untruthful, divisive, hurtful or unconscious ways of speaking, killing, stealing, hurting or misusing others sexually leads to suffering. We need to earn our living in a way that does not entail harmful speech and action. The practice of mindfulness and concentration, of resting in our intrinsic awareness helps us  being present in all these ways with every aspect of ourselves and the world around us.

So,

Sit for a short period, 30 minutes to one hour, rather than a long period that is unmanageable. Do not want experiences. Just sit and rest in the intrinsic awareness, being aware of the breath. Do it daily and this will nourish you. A certain sense of basic wisdom arises and you become calmer and wiser and start to do things differently. However, do not make a big fuss about it or think you are doing something holy. The key is to keep doing it, no matter what happens, whether you get a “good” meditation or “not”. Everything is as it is and different and realising this helps a lot. You will experience comfortable and uncomfortable things and that is okay. Just be aware and let them go. Be patient. Do not judge your practice; it’s all fine. Have a structure, have a teacher if possible. Awareness that this body and the experiences in this life will one day pass on can help you be grounded. Do not look for something. Be satisfied with this precious moment. Do not look for some kind of special light, some special experience, some special openness. That creates struggle. Let go of wanting special experiences. The ordinary experiences are good enough. Practising in a group may help. Do not ask why you should do it, or how you should do it. You can think of a thousand reasons to do it, a thousand reasons to not do it. You know in your heart that it is good to do it. So do it. Keep calm, have no expectations, surrender and relinquish and stay doing it. The most important thing for practice is to practise and not to give up.

Now,

  • Sit comfortably.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Be aware of the sounds within you and outside you. Just let them come to you. Do not reach for them or think about them.
  • Be come aware of your breath. Notice whether you are breathing in or breathing out. Not changing the breath in any way. Leave it as it is.
  • Notice where you feel the breath strongly: nose, nostrils and upper lip or throat and chest or in your abdomen. Choose one place to rest your awareness.
  • As you feel the breath, perhaps name it: in and out, rising and falling, So and Ham, Bud and Dho, etc. This helps concentration but the awareness of the sensation of breath is most important.
  • Notice that there be a small pause at the end of inhalation and the end of exhalation. If you notice the pause have a sense of being in your body, a body that is breathing.
  • When thoughts or feelings fill the mind, when you become caught in them and are carried away – when you realise this has happened, in a kind voice name this ‘thinking’ and return to the breath.
  • Continue..When you end sitting return to the sounds inside and outside and carry this mindfulness into your life.

God Bless.

-reflections from ” Why Can’t I Meditate” by Nigel Wellings.

The Mind Creates The Experience

A pen which is used to write.

A pen which is used as a chew toy.

Which is right?

To a human, a pen is to write.

To a dog, a pen is a chew toy.

So, a ‘pen’, the quality of ‘pen-ness,’ is not inherent in the object(pen) – it is coming from the mind of the being who sees it.

The mind creates my experience, always….

We make meaning based on not what we see or hear but based on our own mental patterns.

 

A Very Simple Meditation

To do this simple meditation, read what is below, then close your eyes and then do it.

  • Where you are sitting, just get comfortable.
  • Close your eyes and count ten breaths.
  • As you breathe, imagine your exhale is releasing everything you want to eliminate: negativity, anger, illness, etc.
  • Imagine your inhale is bringing everything you want, to you: positive energy, happiness, health, etc.
  • Focus on one obstacle to get rid of and one joyful thought to bring in. You might exhale anxiety, for example, and inhale peacefulness.
  • Just 10 breaths.

Ways Of Using The Breath

There are many ways of using the breath.

The most traditional is also the most difficult, but it is the most productive of calm. We simply notice the breath at the nostrils as it moves in and out. In our tradition we watch both in- and out-breaths; we do not wish to give the mind a chance to wander off into its usual discursiveness, but want it to stay with the breath at all times. The wind of the breath creates a sensation when it touches the nostrils, which helps one to focus at that point. This is the most “one-pointed” way of concentrating on the breath, and is particularly useful for experienced meditators. “One-pointed” means being in one spot only, which is a very important aspect of meditation. Because the attention is focused on one point only, it helps the mind to become sharp and unwavering.

We can use various support systems to help is remain mindful of the breath.

One of these is counting the breaths. We count “one” on the in-breath, “one” on the out-breath, “two” on the in-breath, “two” on the out-breath, all the way up to ten. Every time the mind wanders off we return to “one,” no matter whether we were at four, five, or eight. This is a good method for people who like numbers and who have orderly, organized minds.

Some people are not very fond of numbers, but prefer words. Try using the word “peace” on the in-breath, “peace” on the out-breath. Actually, any word will do. We could use “peace” on the in-breath and “love” on the outbreath, filling ourselves with peace and extending love outward. However, it is preferable to use just one word, because the more input there is into the mind, the less calm it becomes. It is sufficient to keep the attention focused on “peace” on the in-breath, filling ourselves with it, and “peace” on the out-breath, letting it flow outward. This is very useful to those to whom words are important.

If we don’t like either numbers or words, then we can use a picture—for example, we can experience the breath as if it were a cloud that fills us when we breathe in. The out-breath can be visualized as a cloud coming out to envelop us. Some people see the cloud as taking on different shapes: larger on the out-breath, and smaller when it is taken in through the nostrils. Any support for concentration is better than discursive thinking; using visualization is not as one-pointed as just watching the breath, but it’s much better than thinking about what happened last week, or what might happen next week.

There is another method that is helpful to those who are still new to meditation. We follow the in-breath into the body and notice it wherever it becomes apparent. It goes in through the nostrils and up the nose; we can feel it in the throat and in the lungs, as far down as the stomach; then we can follow it leaving the body again. We do not search for the sensations created by the breath, but put our attention on all the spots, where they become apparent to us, both when breathing in and when breathing out. This is a particularly useful method for meditators who are primarily concerned with feelings. The inner feelings connected with the inhaling and exhaling of the breath become apparent and can keep the mind attentive and centered on one’s inner being. This greatly helps to reduce the mind’s tendency to connect to outer happenings through thinking and reacting.

The last method of attending to sensations connected with the breath is to be aware of filling oneself with breath and emptying oneself out again. That, too, is useful as a means for concentration.

We have considered different methods of using in-breaths and out-breaths. Use only one method at a time. Pick the one that feels comfortable and use it during one meditation session. If it seems impossible to concentrate even slightly, try another method at the next meditation session. Do not change methods during one sitting.

If the mind wants to run off, it is useful to direct the attention toward the impermanence of the breath. The untrained mind always wants to think, but at least we can give it something useful to think about. It doesn’t have to be allowed to think about whatever it pleases, but rather how each in-breath finishes, then each out-breath likewise—constant change, on which our life depends. We could not stay alive without our breath coming and going all the time. If we were to keep the in-breath, we would be dead within a few minutes; the same would occur if we were to hang on to the out-breath. This is an important insight that can link the mind to the impermanent aspect of each person, particularly ourselves.

If the mind already has a certain ability to stay with the breath, let it remain there, but if there is a constant thought process, one thought after another, direct the mind toward impermanence. Attention to that aspect of the breath gives rise to a question: if life depends on such an in- and outflow, what can we find within us that doesn’t come and go? Then the mind may turn within and may be able to stay on the breath a little more easily.

-extracted from the works of Ayya Khema.

Stories 51: The Container And The Contents

There were riots in the streets some years ago after a guard at Guantanamo Bay was accused of taking a holy book and flushing it down the toilet.

The next day, I took a call from a local journalist who told me he was writing an article about the outrage by asking leaders of all the major religions in Australia the same question he was about to ask me.

“What would you do, Ajahn Brahm, if someone took a Buddhist holy book and flushed it down your toilet?”

Without hesitation I answered, “Sir, if someone took a Buddhist holy book and flushed it down my toilet, the first thing I would do is to call a plumber!”

When the journalist finished laughing, he confided that that was the first sensible answer he had received.

Then I went further.

I explained that someone may blow up many statues of the Buddha, burn down Buddhist temples, or kill Buddhist monks and nuns; they may destroy all this, but I will never allow them to destroy Buddhism. You may flush a holy book down the toilet, but I will never let you flush forgiveness, peace, and compassion down the toilet.

The book is not the religion. Nor is the statue, the building, or the priest. These are only the “containers.”

What does the book teach us? What does the statue represent? What qualities are the priests supposed to embody? These are the “contents.”

When we recognize the difference between the container and the contents, then we will preserve the contents even when the container is being destroyed.

We can print more books, build more temples and statues, and even train more monks and nuns, but when we lose our love and respect for others and ourselves and replace it with violence, then the whole religion has gone down the toilet.

  • Ajahn Brahm in Don’t Worry, Be Grumpy