Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Not This Time

Walking this morning, I found much unpleasantness. The mind had its reasons, ready to be indulged. This path often travelled, I did not feel like taking, however. Not this time.

Dharma talks are not for nothing . . . 

I remembered the essence of this teaching, from Leigh Brasington:
A short term strategy for diminishing dukkha is to look at the critical link between vedana and craving, including our ability to become mindful of pleasant vedana when it occurs and our craving for it. In that gap lots of concoctions and false perceptions take place.
Yes, the gap. There was a gap, if only I could stop the mind in its tracks. And even if I couldn't, I could at a minimum watch it skip from 'unpleasant', to 'not liking', 'really not liking'. Body meanwhile constricting, throat tightening, stomach knotting. All in a matter of seconds. 

Years of evolution at work. It's going to take a while for the body to unlearn, and the mind to understand. 

Helpful, Blanche Hartman's image of "Not taking that train (of thoughts)". That I could do, over and over again. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Care Package for Ruth

Ruth is back at Dhamma Dena recovering with the loving support of her many students who are taking turn caring for her. Not being able to be with her, I sent her a spiritual care package this morning in the form of a reprint of all the posts I wrote about her in this blog. Ruth does not have access to the Internet, but she loves reading the old fashioned way . . . 

With Ruth at Dhamma Dena at the end of her  Fall  2010 Women's Retreat
May she be well again. May she be free from physical suffering. May she be at ease . . . 

And may you benefit from her teachings!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Calming Bodily Formations

I have a new mantra. It naturally arose during the course of sitting, day after day. Gil had planted the seeds a while ago, during his talk on the Satipatthana Sutta.

Taking hold in the mind, this teaching he shared, from the Buddha:

He trains thus: 'I shall breathe in tranquillising the bodily formation'; he trains thus: 'I shall breathe out tranquillising the bodily formation.'

I made it my own:

'Breath. Calming bodily formations.'

Giving the breath all its power. Breath as ultimate refuge.

Constriction, tension, pain, hotness, coldness, fear, anger . . . slowly dissolved, one breath in, one breath out at a time. Trusting in Buddha's wisdom, that this is the way.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Why Sit?

Sitting with nothing to do.
but just sit

and watch the ebbs and flows
of breath
and the frequent interruptions
of thoughts
a lot about 'me'.

Sitting with nothing to do
but just sit

and listen to the sounds
outside, and inside
and feel
the random pains
and pleasures.

Sitting with nothing to do
but just sit

and not liking
being with the unpleasantness
a lot of the time
still hoping for some bliss

Sitting with nothing to do
but just sit

and see the true nature
of mind
making up stuff
when there is only
body sitting quiet.

Sitting with nothing to do
but just sit.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Us Versus Them

I just met her last night. She graduated from a prestigious school back East and had a long career as a social worker, before the illness took her down. 

She asks me about someone else living in our assisted living community. "She is one of 'us'." Looking for her words . . . "You know, 'us' vs 'them'." 

I know. 'Us', meaning the residents like her. 'Them', meaning staff like me.

Artificial labels, that maintain the illusion of separateness. Collectively enforced selfing . . . 

One day, I could be one of 'us' also. We can all.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

First Know Thy Self

It has taken me a while to get the Buddha's teachings about anatta, or 'not self'. Gil's talks have been extremely helpful in that regard, and have helped shed light on my personal experience. 

This morning, I came across this gem from Ayya Khema, in Meditating on No Self:
Yet in order to experience no-self, one has first to fully know self. Actually know it. But unless we do know what this self is, this self called "me," it is impossible to know what is meant by "there is no self there." In order to give something away, we have to first fully have it in hand.
Makes so much sense!

The naive deluded mind hears 'not self', and 'emptiness', and rushes to try to experience no 'I', no 'me', no 'self'. And gets confused, and scared during this paradoxical manifestation of yet another 'self'-created experience. 

Rather, let us spend time with the 'self' as we know it, and let us watch it dissolve under careful observation. Realizing that this 'self' is a pure product of our thinking mind, and our view of the world as a solid, continuous entity where past, present and future collide. 

Sitting, walking, standing, lying down, being present for what is.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Dukkha Door

The Buddha's way points to three possible doors to liberation: dukkha (suffering), anica (impermanence), and anatta (not self). For each of us, the door may be different. For me, dukkha has been, is the gateway. Whenever I pay close attention, I always find suffering, even during the happiest moments. And it is the willingness and conviction of the worthiness to fully explore such suffering that always lead me to break free. This is in marked contrast to times past when I used to dread 'my' suffering. 

From Ajahn Sumedho, in The Four Noble Truths:
With mindfulness, we are willing to bear with the whole of life; with the excitement and the boredom, the hope and the despair, the pleasure and the pain, the fascination and the weariness, the beginning and the ending, the birth and the death. We are willing to accept the whole of it in the mind rather than absorb into just the pleasant and suppress the unpleasant. The process of insight is the going to dukkha, looking at dukkha, admitting dukkha, recognizing dukkha in all its forms. Then you are no longer just reacting in the habitual way of indulgence or suppression. And because of that, you can bear with suffering more, you can be more patient with it.
No longer being deluded about the nature of life. Not hoping for a life without suffering. And paradoxically finding moments of freedom, with no self-created suffering. 

Does dukkha 'speaks' to you? How are you with it?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Gladness of Steadiness

There is great joy in knowing one is doing exactly what is called for in the moment. While in that state of mind, the particulars of outer circumstances cease to matter. It requires slowing down, and sustained mindfulness practice. Taking the time to notice, what are the feet stepping on? what is the thought? what is the overall feeling? what is the right action, right now? what is the intention? Putting the leash on reactivity, and dwelling in the gladness of steady heart, and tamed mind. 

Almost all day, I spent that way. 

I wondered what happened? How come so much grace, all of a sudden?

And it became clear, the hindrances had receded, finally. Fear, aversion, doubt, craving . . . gone.  It had taken spending days in their intimate company, surveying all the suffering involved, for the heart to finally decide, enough! 

Until the next time.