End of Suffering Home Page
Godwin's Talks in Hong Kong in 1999
1. Introduction to Meditation 2-9
2. Is Meditation Developing Concentration? 10-18
3. Obstacles to Meditation 19-27
4. Stress and Meditation 28-35
5. Motivation and Meditation 36-43
6. One Day Meditation 44-48
Topic: Introduction to Meditation
Firstly, I would like to extend a warm welcome to everyone. I am very happy to be back here once again. I always enjoy a visit here with you all. I was happy to hear that people are becoming more and more interested in meditation. So we'll be talking about the introduction to meditation, a subject that has been given to me. After that, we will have a discussion, question and answer, then we will take a short break, short pause and then we can meditate for a while and end with a Pali and Chinese chanting.
So as I said the subject of this evening's talk is an introduction to meditation. So a question that we can reflect is, why do we meditate? What is the purpose of meditation? So I'd like to say, the idea of mediation is to free ourselves of the suffering that we create ourselves. The Buddha often said, I teach one thing - suffering and the way out of suffering. So meditation can be seen as the medicine for the sickness that we suffer from. Today, we will be discussing some aspects of this medicine, how we can use this medicine and how we can heal ourselves. So, one very important aspect of meditation is learning to be aware, learning to be mindful, learning to be conscious. Otherwise, we are becoming more and more like machines. Machines can function very well but machine doesn't know how it is functioning, why it is functioning. So, awareness is the complete opposite of that; just knowing, just being conscious, just being awake of what is happening. So I will mention some advantages, some benefits of the practice of awareness; for example now, what is happening right now. You can be physically present here but mentally you can be elsewhere. So where are you? Again, with the help of such tools, come back here, to be present, to be conscious of what is happening here right now. So this is one very important aspect of meditation, learning to experience the present moment and also learning to work with , to be aware of the past and the future. Another important aspect of awareness is learning to use awareness to explore, to investigate what is happening in our mind and body from moment to moment. So in this way, any experience we have, any situation we have to face in life, we can make an effort to learn, to discover, find out, make our own discoveries; which is very, very important. And if you can learn to do this, any situation can be a situation where we can meditate. It can be a pleasant experience, it can be an unpleasant experience; even learning, finding out about the unpleasant experiences we have.
Related to that is another aspect of awareness is to learn to work with our emotions, unpleasant emotions. Everyone here has problems with these unpleasant emotions. It can be anger, it can be fear, anxiety, stress; we are all having to deal with these emotions. So one way of working with these unpleasant emotions is learning to be conscious, just learning to be aware of these emotions, whatever these emotions is. So when we are experiencing anger, for example, can we be conscious of the anger, can we be aware now I am experiencing anger. So rather than suppress that anger, rather than push away that anger, rather than deny that anger, not giving in to that anger, you are just knowing that anger and then we learn to work within ourselves. So the important thing is not the person, not the situation that is creating anger but rather to deal with your own anger in relation to what is happening inside you. So if you can learn to use awareness in this way, then meditation becomes a real healing, an art of healing. Then we realize meditation is not something we do only when we are sitting. So in this way, we can learn to meditate in most of our daily life, conscious life, every day life.
Now there are two meditation techniques where awareness are connected. That is using awareness when the body is breathing. This can be another meditation technique. So here again, the idea is to develop awareness in relation to our breathing. So in this technique we have to handle whatever is happening in our mind and body when we try to be aware of the breath. So if thoughts are coming, we learn to be very friendly and gentle towards the thoughts and then learn to let go of the thoughts, otherwise usually thoughts control us. So in this way, we learn to control the thoughts without allowing thoughts to control us; that's a very big difference. Then we can do the same relation to emotions so when emotions come, we know that there is an emotion and we learn to let go of it using the breath to come back as an anchor. And as I said earlier, we can use the breath and awareness to experience the present moment, the here and the now. In a way, it's interesting to reflect that most of the time in our daily life, we are either with something which has happened in the past or we are thinking about something in the future which is going to happen. And this happens mechanically without even our knowledge. So even for a few seconds, few minutes, if we can be with the present, with the help of the breath, those moments are moments of freedom. I often like to mention to use our breath as a friend. And the breath is a very good friend because every time we are with the breath, it reminds us of the present moment. And breath is the only friend who is with us all the time, even when we are sleeping, the breath is there. So until the last moment, the friend is always with us and the last breath, we spend with our friend. So in this way, if we can make a connection with our friend, the friend will always help us in different ways, as I was saying. So another aspect of this technique is once we develop awareness with the help of our friend, then as I was saying, you can continue to have that awareness in our everyday life.
So another meditation which is related to the use of awareness is to meditate without an object; now earlier I described the meditation using an object. So in this technique you allow any thought to arise, any emotion to arise, even the emotions that we don't like, any sensation to arise from our body and just knowing just what is happening from moment to moment in relation to our mind and body. So it is like allowing our minds to do anything it likes and just knowing, just being conscious, just being aware of what is happening in our mind and body. It is like allowing a child to do what it likes and like a very friendly mother, just watching, just knowing what the child is doing and in the same way, we watch and know what is happening in our mind and body.
So now I'd like to describe a very important meditation which is called meditation of loving kindness. It is learning to be friendly to ourselves, learning to be friendly to others. The phrase I like to use is meditation of loving kindness helps us to be our best friend. Sometimes without our knowledge we are our own enemy; we do things which create suffering for us and suffering for others. We are not even conscious of what we are doing to ourselves. So with meditation of loving kindness, as I said, you learn to make a connection with yourself; you learn to feel really friendly, gentle, kind and tender to ourselves. And if we can learn to relate to ourselves in this way, then we can learn to relate to others in the same way. It is learning to open our hearts to ourselves and learning to open our hearts to others.
Another important aspect of loving kindness is to develop the quality of forgiveness. Sometimes we can be carrying wounds in relation to what you have done to others and what others have done to you. And we can be holding on to these wounds and we can really suffer from a lot of guilt in relation to what we have done to others, and then hatred and ill-will in relation to what others have done to you. So it is very important to learn to heal these wounds by learning to forgive ourselves and learning to forgive others.
Another important aspect of meditation of loving kindness is to sometimes think of the kindness that we have received from other people. Everyone here has received some kindness from other people. But do we ever reflect on these things; do we ever think of the good things, the kind things others have done to you? And this can give us lot of happiness, lot of joy that you have been receiving kindness from other people in different ways. So another quality of this aspect of kindness is learning to feel grateful for these things. Here again there are so many reasons why we can feel grateful for the things that are happening to us, the blessings that we receive in this life, but again we don't think about them; we think only of the negative things and create suffering for ourselves and others. Shouldn't we feel grateful that we can hear? Do we ever think about that? Do we ever feel grateful that we can see? Do we ever feel grateful that you are interested in teachings, in spiritual life; that's why all of you have come this evening? So it's a very important quality for us to feel grateful for these small things, little things that we are receiving in life. So now I'd like to just to go over some of the points that I made.
So I touched on four meditation techniques which can help us to experience some peace, some loving kindness, some joy and eventually to free ourselves from the suffering that we create. So it's a different way of living from what we are normally used to. So the first point I made was the importance of awareness which is a very important aspect of meditation, to learn to live consciously and not to live unconsciously. And I mentioned some benefits of living in this way, living consciously. Then I mentioned how we can use awareness to develop focusing on our breathing where it helps us to develop more and more awareness. Then I described how this meditation on our breath can also have advantages, benefits in our life. So then I mentioned about this meditation which does not have an object but of having a general awareness of whatever is happening in our mind and body. So it's important for us to learn to use awareness to focus on an object and also it's important to learn to have this general awareness which I described. And lastly I mentioned about the importance of meditation of loving kindness in our life.
So this is a short introduction to meditation. And this is some aspect of the medicine that the Buddha discovered for our illnesses which create suffering for us. So when we can really use this medicine then we can live in a very healthy way, in a peaceful way, in a happy way with lot of loving kindness to oneself and lot of loving kindness to others.
So thank you very much for listening with such attention and with such awareness as I can see. And if you have any questions about what I have been saying, about the medicine, you can now ask any questions.
Q: Is there any difference between the meditation that you have just talked about and the traditional Chinese way of qigong.
A: I must say that I don't know very much about qigong. But the little I know is that it is using physical movements and using your energy in relation to the physical movements. So I'd like to see that's in a way developing your awareness in relation what is happening in your body and also in a way one can see that's using loving kindness in relation to body and using the energy in a useful way. So lastly, I would say that you can use qigong with meditation so they can really complement each other. Thank you for asking that question.
Q: I want to ask, you said that we must be aware what is happening from moment to moment in our everyday life; but I find sometimes my attention is not there. I want to but when I am busy working, I cannot focus on what's happening at the moment.
A: I am happy you have made an effort at least to practice awareness in daily life. So in everyday life when we lead a very busy life, one thing we can do is not to learn to focus but generally have awareness in relation to thoughts that we have. So don't try to be aware of all the thoughts during the day, it won't be easy; but during the day as often as possible just to come back to your mind and realize, now what are the thoughts that I am having. And the second suggestion is in relation to the thoughts, just find out during the day as often as possible, what are the emotions I am having, am I anxious, do I have stress, do I have fear; just to know, especially the emotions in relation to your thoughts. And the third suggestion is to be conscious, to be aware when no unpleasant emotions are there. So during the day there are times when we are free of these unpleasant emotions so unless we have awareness we even don't know that our mind is free. And the last suggestion is during the day try to come back to the present, just to when you are doing something to really be present with what you are doing, not every action you do but even some actions, this will enable us to develop this quality of being in the present. So in this way we can use awareness to integrate in our way of living daily.
Q: He says first of all he would like to thank you for sharing your experience with us, he is very grateful. His question is that as far as he understands, there are at least four types of meditation and he is very confused and he does not know which is best for him. The first type of meditation is the type you have just introduced; and the second type of meditation is the traditional Chinese way, he mentioned some technical name Zen school and then the third way is transcendental meditation, TM, and then the fourth way is yoga. So he is confused with these four types of meditation and he would like to know how does he choose which is best for him.
A: First suggestion is when you are not sitting, when you are not doing sitting meditation, try to use awareness as much as possible as I mentioned in response to the question that was raised earlier. And the second suggestion is when he can do sitting meditation, using the breath can be a very useful meditation as they do in the Zen tradition. The third meditation is not transcendental meditation; in TM meditation, you use a mantra. So what I described was not having an object; now in TM there is an object so this just general awareness of what is happening. And the fourth suggestion is when you get angry, when you get annoyed, when you have fear, when you have hatred, just learn to be friendly any time you experience that. So without taking the medicine, you don't know how the medicine works. So try to use the medicine that I have been presenting and then maybe after some time you can tell me the experience with the medicine. Maybe if you can come for tomorrow's talk and then you can tell me what happened during the day using some of these medicines that I presented. Thank you.
So there is time for one more question, please.
Q: During the daily life I have tried to train the awareness and consciousness and I find this medicine very useful. It helps me to calm my mind down and I find it very peaceful and can also handle various situations with this calm mind. So I appreciate this technique, however one problem that I encounter during my work is that when I train myself this way, I find that my reaction is slower than before. My work requires me to think a lot and requires me to respond, react very quickly so when I find my reaction is slower than before, my thinking process is slower than before, I do not know whether I have used the wrong technique or whether there is any problem in my training.
A: I am very happy that you have experienced some benefits of using awareness in daily life. It really shows that the medicine can work. But what is important is when you have awareness, when you want to think quickly, when you have to act quickly, you should be able to do that. Sometimes in the retreats that I give, I ask the meditators to walk fast. And sometimes they tell me when they walk fast, it's easier to develop awareness. And with the more awareness and with more meditation, your mind becomes very clear so with a mind that is very clear, you can really act quickly when you want to. In Sri Lanka I have a friend of mine who is a lawyer who is practicing meditation in a very serious way and because of meditation, he has been doing very well as a lawyer. It had helped him to think quickly and act quickly, so that even other lawyers, they realize the change in him and they are also asking how to meditate. So please realize and remember, meditation is not only slowing down but when you want to, you can act quickly and you can think quickly and you can respond quickly. When I walk in the streets of Hong Kong, I have to walk very fast. Thank you.
I'm sorry now we have to stop this question and answer session. Maybe if you like to really have a question, maybe after the session is over, you can come and see me. So now I'd like to suggest that you take a short break. A break for about 5 minutes and please during this break try to be silent, because with silence it helps you to be conscious, to be aware and then you can come back and we will meditate for a while. So we'll ring the bell and you'll come back. So I'd like to repeat, please be silent during this time and please make an effort to be conscious and to be aware. Thank you.
Very peaceful; as I said it was nice that some of you were sitting and others were moving very quietly, peacefully, with awareness, in silence. So the meditation we are tryng to do is something very simple. Try to combine awareness with friendliness. So firstly, feel friendly and gentle towards yourself and whatever is happening in your mind and body, thoughts, sensations, emotions, just know them with friendliness and softness. So please realize that this is not concentration. But with friendliness, just knowing from moment to moment what is happening in our mind and body. So please sit in a comfortable position so that you don't have to move or make a noise while you are sitting.
If you are having thoughts, just know what thoughts you are having in a friendly way. Any emotions that you don't like, just be aware of those emotions with softness and friendliness.
Can you feel the peace and the stillness in this room? Feel friendly and gentle towards your mind and body.
Now please open your eyes with awareness and when you change your posture and whatever you do, please do it consciously and with awareness. And thank you very much for sitting very peacefully and completely still.
And now we can do some Pali chanting and I hope everyone will join in; they are very simple chants. So the first chant is chanting the three refuges. And while chanting, let us try to be in the present with the chanting. So I will lead the chanting and please join me.
Buddham saranam gachami -
The second is Saddhu which is chanted in traditional Buddhist countries. It means well said. So as it is just one word, I'd like everyone to join in, please.
The last chant is Shanti which means peace so we will try to experience that peace while we make that chant. As it is just also one word, please try to join in.
Now there is Chinese chanting please.
Thank you very much for coming this evening and thank you very much for asking some very useful, practical questions; and thank you very much for the nice chanting; so until we meet tomorrow hope you will continue to practice in the way that I suggested. The subjects that have been given to me for the next talks are some of the questions that I hear meditators raise in relation to their practice, so hope you will come and benefit from the discussions and the talks that we will be presenting. And may you sleep peacefully and wake up peacefully. Thank you very much.
Topic: Is Meditation Developing Concentration?
Once again, I'd like to welcome each one of you. So the subject of today's talk is "Is meditation developing concentration". These topics have been given to me because these are some of the questions that are often raised in relation to meditation. So after the talk, there'll be a discussion, then there'll be a short pause, then we will meditate for some time and then we end with some Pali and Chinese chanting.
There is this idea among meditators which is quite common that meditation is only developing concentration. In fact, in Sri Lanka when meditators come to the centre, I ask them what are you trying to achieve in meditation and the invariable answer is that they want to develop concentration. I know even here, as I said, some meditators have this idea that meditation is only developing concentration. Certainly concentration has a place in meditation but there is another important aspect in meditation which is equally or more important. That is what is called Vipassana or developing insight. With this emphasis only of concentration I know that some meditators have even given up meditation and when you ask for the reason, they say they are unable to concentrate. And I know that many meditators sometimes are struggling with this idea of developing concentration. So in this way, meditation can be a battle and sometimes this can even create more suffering; the idea of meditation is to experience joy and freedom. And then even the word concentration may not be the right word because the word concentration has many meanings, many connotations. I don't know what it really means in Chinese but in English, when you use the word concentration, one thing it implies exclusion. Another is trying very hard to maintain and sustain that concentration. So this can create a lot of tension and restlessness in one's practice. The Pali word Samadhi which is translated as concentration gives an entirely different meaning. For Samadhi to be there, the mind and the body has to be completely relaxed. And by trying too hard, one can never experience Samadhi because there again, with trying too hard and having strong expectations, this can also create problems. It's interesting that according to the Buddhist texts, before one experiences Samadhi, you have to feel gentle, friendly, and also have an element of joy and bliss in one's practice.
In one of the Buddhist texts, it speaks about eleven benefits of meditation of loving kindness. And one benefit of meditation of loving kindness is the mind naturally becomes calm. So in practical terms is that when we are meditating, if you can learn to be friendly to what is happening, then I think with that friendliness the mind will become naturally calm and stable. One of the biggest problems meditators have when they try to develop Samadhi in relation to the breath is that they say that they're having thoughts. And because of this idea when thoughts come, they try to fight them, they can even hate the thoughts thinking they are a disturbance and a distraction. And if they experience some physical pain, physical discomfort, here again they can start hating it, considering it a disturbance and distraction and then with this, there is again a struggle between trying to be aware of the breath and this physical pain. So therefore, it is extremely important, whatever happens when we try to be aware of the breath, learning to be friendly to whatever is happening. And the mind that naturally becomes calm and concentrated, you can really maintain it but then when we try to get concentration through force, we cannot sustain it, we cannot keep it for a long time.
It is interesting in the eightfold noble path which the Buddha presented as a way of experiencing freedom from suffering, mindfulness comes before Samadhi. So it shows very clearly that what is important is learning to be mindful, learning to be aware, just knowing what is happening from moment to moment. From that, the Samadhi can come naturally. So in practical terms, when we try to learn to be aware of our breath, what we can try to do is to be aware of whatever is happening in our mind and body. Even if you realize that your mind is not concentrated, when you realize that the mind is not calm, just knowing it, just accepting it can make such a difference.
I live in a lay meditation centre in Sri Lanka and there the emphasis is how to integrate meditation with daily life as lay people. So when Buddhist monks come there to meditate, I sometimes encourage them to go deeper in concentration because they have opportunities, sometimes living in forests, living in secluded places, where they can really go deeper in concentration, they go deeper in Samadhi. But when I meet lay people like you, I don't emphasize so much going deeper into concentration or Samadhi. So what I discover with the meditators who were coming there was, sometimes they would have, the lay people, also deep concentration while they are in the centre because it is a very calm and peaceful place which is very conducive for developing of concentration; so what happens is when they leave the centre and go to the main town that is close to the centre, their concentration is lost, their calm is lost. So because of this, now what I try to do is to emphasize the importance of awareness and also learning to work with distractions and also to learn to handle emotions when they arise in any situations. So when they are in the centre I encourage them to work with, make friends with, explore unpleasant emotions that create suffering in everyday life. So when they can learn to do that when they are in the centre, when they leave the centre they can continue to work with the emotions when they arise in any situation in life.
Now I'd like to say something about the connection between Samadhi and Vipassana, insight. One practical thing which you can practice is when the mind is reasonably calm and stable, then you can investigate, explore any situation in life. So in everyday situation when suffering arises, when conflicts would arise, when unpleasant emotions would arise, then you can learn about it, you can explore it, you can investigate it and then see how it is created by yourself and then to discover tools, how to work with them, how to learn to free them. So the idea is when we have this pleasant calm states of mind, not to hold on to them, not to identify yourself with them, but rather to use that in developing insight. I came across a very interesting quotation in one of the Buddhist texts where it says sometimes calm can come first and insight can come later, sometimes insight can come first and then calm can come later; that's a very interesting point. So they can sometimes also come together. So that sometimes this strong distinction we draw between calm and insight sometimes doesn't seem to apply in such a situation because they are really inter-connected, inter-related. So what does it mean that when there is insight, calm can come? So one way of understanding this is, in relation to developing insight is that you can allow any thought to arise, any emotion to arise, any sensations to arise; and whatever arises, you just observe, you just watch, you just know. So from that practice, sometimes calm can come naturally without wanting to have calm and tranquility. And sometimes if calm is not there and when you are unable to really develop insight in that way, then you can focus your attention on the breath and try to develop some calm and some clarity and again start investigation and developing insight.
And in relation to insight, according to the Buddha's teachings, there are three characteristics, three important aspects which we have to develop if we are developing insight. That is to develop, to realize, to understand the change how things are impermanent, how things are changing from moment to moment. So while we are sitting now, your thoughts are changing from moment to moment; there is one thought, then another thought arises so there is this continuous change taking place in relation to your thoughts. Sensations in your body are also changing from moment to moment. Your state of mind is also changing from moment to moment, sometimes you may feel happy, sometimes you might feel restless, sometimes you may feel calm; so whatever your state of mind, that is also changing. So it is a very important insight to be open to the change that you are experiencing internally and then whatever change that takes place in your mind and body, if you learn not to resist it and if you learn to be open to change and realize the change, there can be any changes taking place but there is no suffering. In the same way, externally, the world out there, the life out there is also always changing from moment to moment; sometimes good things happen to us, sometimes bad things happen to us, sometimes unexpected things happen to us; but here again whatever is happening externally, if you can realize the fact of change, impermanence, and be open to it, any changes can take place but then you can still be free; because we have no control. Now I am told that very soon a typhoon will come here. Can you prevent that typhoon from coming to Hong Kong? But what we can do is to understand it, to be open to it and as it is said in the Buddha's teachings, to see it just as it is. I know it sounds very simple but this is the teaching.
The other very important insight which we can develop is in relation to our suffering and what causes our suffering. So here again when we experience suffering, when we experience conflict, when we experience disappointment, when we experience frustration, I mean if you can accept it as a fact and then realize that the suffering comes in relation to resisting that, not wanting that to happen, wanting something different to happen, that is creating the suffering.
And the last insight, which is very subtle, which is very difficult to understand is this insight of no-self, experiencing of emptiness. In simple terms, when we have an emotion like anger, we have this idea that it is my anger so you identify yourself with the anger and that's where the anger is creating a problem. When we experience physical pain, again we have this identification, this is my pain, so it is really the idea that things belong to you that brings about this identification.
So it is really through these three insights that we can really free ourselves of our suffering. But in this, concentration, calm, plays a role but what is more important as I explained to you is the developing of wisdom, developing of insight, developing this wisdom of learning to see things just as they are.
So now if you have any questions, please raise them and I'd like to suggest to ask questions in relation to what we have been discussing today.
Q: Master Godwin, thank you very much for your practical talks. First of all, would you please tell me the following questions. Would you please tell me, explain the difference between awareness and mindfulness; and secondly, is it true or correct when our awareness exists, at the same moment, mindfulness occurs. Is it true? Would you please give your ideas? Thank you.
A: So the Pali word for mindfulness and awareness is Satti, so the word Satti is translated by many words; so sometimes they use the word awareness, sometimes they use the word mindfulness, sometimes they use the word attention, sometimes they use the word being alert, being awake; so whatever the translation is, the idea is the original word is Satti so that there are many translations of that. The meaning is the same thing.
Q: He has got two questions. I think I shall ask one by one. I'll ask the first question first. The first question is while he meditates even when his mind is settled down, when he does not suppress the passing thoughts and when there is no pain, it seems that nothing special happens so where does he place his mind at that moment in order to observe impermanence? What is the object of meditation at that time?
A: So I would suggest one thing is sometimes just to be with that experience of what you described and then naturally some insights can come; so this is one suggestion. The second suggestion is sometimes to ask the question who is experiencing this calm, who is experiencing this thought-free moment; and then when you ask that question, you will realize that there is no 'who' apart from whatever is happening. And the third suggestion is when you come out of your meditation, that state of mind changes which shows the impermanence.
Q: And the second question is that when he meditates, when his mind is stable, he begins to try to dig out the wounds in the past and train himself not to react to the wounds in order to heal the wounds in his mind and then in daily life he finds that when he face the same situation again, he does not have reaction, that means the wound is healed but in daily life he might face even more serious events than before and when he faces this sort of situation, he becomes agitated again; that means the wound is not 100% healed. So he would like to know how he could make sure the wound is completely healed but not only partly healed.
A: I'm very happy that your meditation, you are using it in a very skillful meaningful way. Actually when the mind is calm, it is something very useful to try to use that calm mind to heal the wounds that we are carrying by learning to forgive ourselves, learning to forgive others and learning to let go of the past. But the problem is, don't come to the conclusion that the wound is healed. So sometimes, as you rightly said, in everyday life something unexpected happens and then the old wound can arise in a different way and when that happens, please don't be surprised, please don't be disappointed but realize that you have learned something very useful, that it's not completely healed, that you are still reacting; and please see it as a learning experience rather than as a failure. We cannot prevent emotions from arising, we cannot prevent memories in relation to the wounds from arising but what is important is if you know how to handle them, if you have discovered the tools. Anything can happen, what's important is to use them at that time without coming to the conclusion that they will not arise. Then you will come to the state where whether the wounds arise or whether the wounds do not arise, whether emotions come or whether emotions don't come, makes no difference and that is a breakthrough. I am very happy the way you are practicing.
Anything else, please?
Q: He would like to ask whether we can practice meditation in other postures than sitting, for example, can we practice meditation during standing or lying down and also do we have to practice meditation inside a house or under a roof; can we practice meditation outside like in a park?
A: Yes, one can meditate in four postures; sitting, standing, walking, lying down. And you don't have to always meditate under a roof; sometimes it is very nice to meditate within nature. We should learn to meditate anywhere because anywhere we are, the mind is working. So there is no special time, there is no special place.
Q: I would like to ask about no-self which you have just mentioned. Although you suggested we could ask ourselves this question, who is feeling the calmness, or who is feeling the pain, but when I ask myself this question, the direct answer is that I am feeling the calmness and I am feeling pain. So it is rather difficult for me to grasp, what you said about no-self. Do you have any other suggestions?
A: This is the most difficult and profound aspect of the Buddha's teachings. So I'll try to answer your question in a different way. With the sense of self or with this idea of identifying ourselves with things, we feel that we are somebody, especially somebody very important. So with this idea of somebody, all our suffering, all our emotions are related to that. This somebody wants things his way or her way and when things do not go according to his way or her way, that is where suffering comes. So the no-self idea is being nobody. So this idea of somebody can always create suffering because as I said, he or she wants things his way or her way and when this idea of really nobody, then there is no expectations. Whatever happens there is no problem and that is freedom.
Another way of understanding the Buddha's teaching of no-self is to try to understand this idea of ownership. Because of this idea of self, we think, we assume that we own certain things. So I assume that this cup is my cup. And because it is my cup, when it is broken or when it is stolen, I suffer. So do you see how this idea of ownership, this idea of mine creates suffering? And then we have the same thing in relation to our body. This is my body. And when this my body becomes sick or when this my body becomes old, you have white hair like mine, you suffer as a result of this. Then we have the same idea in relation to other people; this is my wife, this is my husband, this is my child. So whoever you think that they belong to you, you relate to them differently and the people whom you think you don't own, you relate to them in a different way. When my mother dies, I suffer but another person's mother dies, no problem. So you see the practical aspect of the Buddha's teachings. This was really the Buddha's approach; as he often said, I teach suffering and the way out of suffering, so this is a very powerful tool, powerful way of freeing yourselves of suffering and what causes our suffering is this idea of ownership and this idea that things belong to you. Interesting point to reflect is what we think we own. What happens when we die? Do we really take them with us? So this is why I said this is the deepest and the most profound aspect of the Buddha's teachings.
There's time for one more question, please.
Q: Master, when you talked about the noble eightfold path, I can understand the meanings of each noble path, we start from right thought and then right speech, right effort, etc, until right concentration. But then I still don't understand how can we gain wisdom from right concentration. It seems to me that there is a gap between right concentration and wisdom so I don't understand how we can practice virtue and concentration and then we can have wisdom.
A: Very good question. I have found in one of the Buddhist texts which is called the … where they mentioned eight steps and its interesting from right concentration then they say there is right wisdom and then there is right liberation. Then there is another text, it's a very interesting text, which says when there is right concentration, when there is right Samadhi you learn to see things as they are. So as I said earlier, from Samadhi, naturally you will develop wisdom and you will learn to see things just as they are.
I'd like to just briefly go over that text because it's very inspiring, it's very interesting. To my mind, that quotation shows very clearly the Buddha's model of meditation. So it starts by saying when you act skillfully then there is no remorse, no guilt in relation to what you have done. When there is no remorse, then the mind becomes happy. And when the mind is happy, then you experience joy and bliss. And when you experience joy and bliss, then you experience concentration, Samadhi. And when you experience Samadhi, you see things just as they are. And when you learn to see things just as they are, then you develop dispassion. When you experience dispassion, you know that you are free. And the Buddha says something very significant, one stage follows the other in a natural way. So in , develops what is called a natural unfolding where one stage lead to the other. So I am really happy that you asked some very, very good, very practical, very interesting questions which shows that some of you are really making an effort to practice meditation in a very deep way. This really gives me a lot of joy, happiness and inspiration.
So now we will take a very short break and during the break we can please try to practice silence and in silence, try to do things slowly and consciously with awareness, and then after 5 minutes or so, please come back. Try to move slowly and with awareness.
Please sit in a relaxed way and please don't have any expectations of what should happen or what shouldn't happen. So begin by just being aware of your body, the sensations, the movements in your body. And just feel what it is to sit in this posture, just feel what it is to sit with your body completely still. Now please allow the body to breath naturally. When the body inhales, you know that the body is inhaling; when the body is exhaling, you know that the body is exhaling; and come back to your breath.
.. their mind and body.
Feel the peace and the stillness in this room; just feel the in-breath and the out-breath.
Now please open your eyes and when you change your posture, please try to do it with awareness. We will now do some Pali chanting and chanting can be also meditation, experiencing the present moment with the help of the chanting.
Buddham saranam gachami, dhamman saranam gachami, sangkam saranam gachami -
So, may you have a peaceful evening and when you go to sleep, may you sleep peacefully and wake up peacefully, and hope to see you tomorrow. Thank you.
Topic: Obstacles to Meditation
This is the fourth (third) talk in the series and the subjects of these talks have been suggested to me. I have been told that these questions or these themes; very often in meditation circles, questions relating to these themes have been raised. As you know, the subject of this evening's talk is the "obstacles to meditation" and a very useful little booklet has been translated into Chinese in relation to this subject.
The translation of the word Nirvanas are sometimes mentioned as five obstacles, five hindrances, five enemies but I feel that these translations have a rather negative connotation. What it means is, at least one of the meanings of Nirvanas, is that it obscures, … clarity. So I will go through the five obscurities. So the first one is having very strong sensual pleasures, strong identification with pleasures; and the second one is having strong hatred; and the third one is restlessness and worry; and the fourth one is feeling drowsy, feeling sleepy; and the fifth one is having doubt.
So I'd like to first start the discussion on the first two obscurities. I would prefer to call them very strong likes; and the second one is having very strong dislikes. So let us see how these two factors affect us in meditation and how they also affect us in our daily life. So what happens in our meditation is that we like very much only pleasant, positive experiences and then we start disliking, resisting what we consider as unpleasant experiences. So that what happens is these two are reactions and these reactions can create suffering in meditation. Because when we want only pleasant experiences, positive experiences and in our practice, when we have unpleasant and negative experiences, we don't like them. So I feel that in our practice, in meditation , it is extremely important to relate to both experiences which we consider pleasant and unpleasant. I feel that actually we can learn a great deal from what we consider as unpleasant experiences in meditation. So in meditation, if we can learn to relate to these unpleasant experiences, in a way, then in everyday life we can learn to relate to unpleasant situations in whatever form they arise. Because it is natural that in our daily life, in everyday situations, unpleasant experiences can arise as in relation to meditation. So in everyday life, if we can see such experiences also as objects of meditation, then we really learn something very important, how to handle these unpleasant situations in everyday life, especially learning to relate to unpleasant emotions in everyday life. It can be fear, it can be anger, it can be sadness, it can be guilt, in whatever way they arise, I feel that it is very important for us to learn how to handle them. And again, both in meditation and everyday life, when we have pleasant experiences, when we have positive experiences, we like those experiences to continue. Here again, we have no control and if we identify ourselves with only pleasant experiences, calm experiences and when they change, what happens, we are again suffering, reacting to such situations. And in everyday life, we also relate to these pleasant and unpleasant experiences in different ways in our relationships. When we like someone we really don't see that person just as he or she is. Then we will be perhaps mostly seeing only positive and pleasant aspects in that person. And if we don't like someone, then again we'll be seeing mostly the negative in that person and we will not see the positive in such person. There is a very interesting statement by the Buddha in this connection. Some monks told him that there are some people who are criticizing his teaching. Then the Buddha said something very, very fascinating, very interesting. So when you hear someone criticizing my teaching, if you don't like that, if you resist that, you will not really hear what is being said. And when you hear someone praising my teachings, if you are very happy and elated by that you will not be able to really hear what is being said. So it shows very clearly both in our meditation and in our everyday life how these strong likes and strong dislikes can distort the picture.
Now let me make some observations about the other two obscurities - feeling restless, feeling agitated and also feeling sleepy, drowsy, not having energy for the practice. Now this can be related to the question of effort in relation to the practice. If you try too hard in your practice and if you have very strong expectations in your practice, then what happens is if what is happening you don't like, this can create lot of restless, lot of agitation, lot of tension. And if you are not trying at all, very easily you can feel sleepy and drowsy. I have noticed over the years that sometimes in trying too hard or not trying at all, there is a cultural factor. Most of the westerners I meet, I find that they try too hard because in their culture, you are asked to try hard, to achieve, achieve goals, to realize expectations. And most of the Sri Lankans I meet, generally speaking, they don't try at all. I am curious to know where in this culture, where in life, whether you try very hard or whether you are not trying at all. Can I hear some thoughts about it? In life, do you normally try very hard in achieving things, wanting to be perfect? I think this is the feeling I also have. So when you have this tendency to try too hard and with that is the problem of being perfect, trying to do the right thing always. And when such people take to meditation, they want to be the perfect meditator. So naturally there is tension, naturally there is stress, naturally there is agitation, naturally there is disappointment. So here again, the Buddha has advised us to discover the middle way between trying too hard and trying not at all. And this aspect, this discovery you can only make by yourself, by seeing the results; restlessness, agitation, tension or whether you are feeling sleepy and drowsy.
And the last one is having doubt, having no self confidence, seeing yourself as a failure so this can be something extremely negative. Whatever happens is not good enough and so on; so having no trust, no confidence in yourself. And this can be also related to the idea of being perfect because when you try to be perfect, then you cannot maintain that ideal of perfection so then when you realize that you have failed you have doubt about yourself, you are disappointed about yourself, you feel worthless about yourself.
When you reflect on these five obscurities or five obstacles, interesting theoretical questions can arise. One question that can arise is why there is no mention of guilt? I know that here again in this culture guilt is a very strong emotion. So why do you think that there is no reference to guilt in this list? Any suggestions? (Yeah, it's an emotion.) I would suggest that guilt can arise in relation to some of these obstacles that were mentioned. Take the first one when you have strong likes and then with these strong likes you try to act in a particular way and then if your action does not correspond to this idea of doing things right, guilt. Sometimes I have met meditators where when they are unable to be with the breath most of the time, they feel guilty about themselves. I know some meditators when they get angry, they feel guilty about the anger, angry about the anger. So it is very interesting the Buddhist psychology where in this list, other related emotions are inherent, implied. Take another emotion, fear. Now why is fear not mentioned in these five obstacles? Here again, it is very simple to understand. When we have strong likes, when we have strong identifications, what happens? We fear to lose them; fear comes when our sense of ownership is threatened. So in this way, these five aspects are extremely interesting. It covers most of the emotions that bother us. Take another emotion, stress, which is a very, very common one in this modern world now. How does stress arise? Again, wanting things to happen according to your idea, fearing that you might make a mistake and this can create stress.
In the text where the five obstacles are mentioned, there is a beautiful simile that is used and I'm sure it is in the translation. And the simile is, when these obstacles become less or become absent it is compared to a very clear, still pool of water where you can see your own face very clearly, your own picture very clearly. So it is very easy, yesterday I touched on the aspect of Samadhi and Vipassana, meditation of calm, tranquility and insight; in this simile they really come together in a very interesting way. Because when you see your picture, your image very clearly, it means that the mind is like a mirror reflecting things just as they are. So meditation of insight, of wisdom is having a mind like a mirror which reflects things just as they are.
So I'd like to briefly mention how a mirror-like mind functions, especially in our everyday life. Something what is considered beautiful comes before the mirror, the mirror will reflect that object just as it is. Something that is considered ugly comes before the mirror and the mirror will reflect it just as it is. So if we can in everyday life and also in meditation, when pleasant things would arise, just to reflect the pleasant thing just as it is , not to like it, not to give it a big plus. And a very unpleasant emotion would come and can be whether in meditation or everyday life, just reflect that emotion just as it is without giving it a minus, without seeing it as a failure. Maybe another aspect of a mirror-like mind is, it does not retain anything. What happens in our experience, what happens in everyday life? We retain in our memory certain experiences which have affected you. Someone has made you angry, hurting you and this we are really holding on in our memory and this is what I call wounds. And sometimes we can retain these memories throughout our lives. And I would suggest that as we are still human, it is natural that we retain certain experiences which have happened to us so what we can do in our practice is to realize that and sometimes to bring them up and try to heal them so that what we are retaining, what we are holding onto is released, otherwise they can affect us in many ways.
So I am afraid I have to stop at this stage and if you have any questions about the hindrances, about what we have been discussing, any practical aspects either in meditation or everyday life, please present the questions.
Q: In our daily life, we have hurt others intentionally or unintentionally, and therefore we have guilt in our mind. During meditation we learn to forgive ourselves, forgive our mistakes; however the fact is that we have hurt that particular person so when we meet that particular person during daily life, how do we face him?
A: Very good practical question; I think most of us can relate to that question. So if your wound has not been healed what happens is when you see that person, anger, some reaction can come. So it shows very clearly that the wound has not yet been healed. So it is good to realize in the first place how that wound has been created. In relation to what others have done, the wound is created because we have an idea, a model, an image of how others should behave. So what we do in relationships is we put others on pedestals and when people fall from those pedestals, then we get hurt, we get disappointed, we get angry. And guilt arises when we have put ourselves on pedestals and then when we fall from that pedestal, we feel bad, we feel guilty so the whole practice is to understand how these wounds have been created. Maybe one last point is when you meet such a person, it's a very interesting exercise, perhaps one can really play with it. Can you see that person as if for the first time without the image you have been holding onto since you have been angry with that person? It is very interesting how we relate to ourselves and others by these old images that we have about yourself and others so we project these models on others and this is how emotions can come. So as I said, it is a very interesting exercise if you can see such a person as if for the first time, then you realize you relate to him in an entirely different way. Maybe another suggestion that comes to my mind is, if you can see such people as your teachers, as spiritual friends because they have enabled us through our behaviour, his or her behaviour to realize how wounds are created and through that realization to learn to heal them thanks to that person so if you can really feel grateful to such people, then again you will be relating to such people in an entirely different way. They are our real gurus.
Any other questions, please?
Q: I would like to ask, some people has obsession towards hygiene. How do we face this situation?
A: I used to meet people who have this problem and I have tried to help them with some aspects of meditation. So one thing is because of this obsession, they have again certain emotions coming up; if they think they are exposed to some situation where the hygienic conditions are not good, then they feel anxious, they feel insecure, they feel stressed, they have tension. So one of the suggestions I give to them is, expose yourself to such situations without avoiding such situations. And when these emotions that I mentioned would come up, would arise, it is as I was sayng earlier if you can learn to relate to them and the phrase I often like to use is "I don't feel okay but it is okay not to feel okay". And then, at least with some people, I have realized that when they constantly expose themselves to such situations, they might have an experience where the exposure is there and then the way it affects you becomes less. This can be a kind of breakthrough. And if you are afraid to confront such situations, another suggestion I offer to them is try to consciously and deliberately bring up memories of such situations. So you can just bring up those memories and observe your reactions and again, sometimes you might have an experience where the memories are brought up and there is no reaction. So what we do in life is we give such situations a lot of power and we become victims of that power so by some of these techniques, we take away the power and then it doesn't affect us as much. Another important point to develop is self confidence; if you can develop that confidence, I can handle that situation. You remember the fifth obstacle and that also can be extremely helpful in working with such situations. They sound simple but then, sometimes it's not so easy.
Q: How to train?
A: So, by doing them.
Q: His question is he practices loving kindness in the last ten minutes of his meditation. Usually he practice meditation before he goes to work and maybe there is a stress or worry that there would not be enough time so he finds that the practice of loving kindness is not very effective and therefore he began to practice loving kindness in the middle of his meditation when his mind is calm and he would not leave it until the last ten minutes. It appears that the effect is a little bit better then before but still the effect is very minimal. Although he keeps trying to practice loving kindness during daily life as well but he finds the effect is still very minimal. So he does not know whether he should still continue to practice loving kindness meditation or he should switch to something else.
A: Anyway, I am happy to hear that you meditate in the morning before you go to work, so it shows that if you have the motivation to meditate you can really find the time. So one suggestion I'd like to offer is when you think that the meditation of loving kindness is not happening in the way you think it should happen, have loving kindness to that. Because what happens is you don't like it, you resist it, you have an element of hatred because my loving kindness is not happening in the way you like but if you can say, it's not perfect but it is okay. So if you can really do that, then you will realize that you'll be learning to make friends with such situations and that can be helpful. Perhaps you might be having a very highly idealistic model of what should happen when you are doing loving kindness. So maybe that is causing the reaction to loving kindness. Maybe one simple suggestion I'd like to offer is when you do loving kindness one of the things you might try to do is really see yourself as your best friend. Just really feel that you are your best spiritual friend. That can be extremely helpful. Another very useful practice of loving kindness is sometimes to think of the kind acts that others have given you. We normally remember wrong things, bad things others have done so it is something very positive, something very useful to remember, to recall all the kind things, the good things that others have done to you. And maybe one last suggestion is to really feel happy, to rejoice that every morning that you are meditating; you deserve a big plus for that.
Q: My question is when we practice present mindfulness and be with every present moment, moment to moment, that is already the practice of right mindfulness and when we have right mindfulness, this loving kindness will arise very naturally so is it quite unnecessary to practice loving kindness because if we practice right mindfulness, loving kindness would naturally arise, so although I have no objection to the practice of loving kindness meditation, it seems that we only need to practice right mindfulness.
A: Good question. In a way when there is moment to moment awareness, you will be most of the time ideally be in the present. But as I said earlier what happens is that we hold on to these past experiences so that in mindfulness you are in the present and all these past experiences they don't have a chance to come up. So it is very important as I said to heal these past wounds that we are carrying which is a different practice from practice of awareness. In this connection, there is a very interesting quotation by the Buddha. He was addressing a group of monks. And he told them that if you can practice loving kindness during the time it takes to snap your fingers, you are worthy of being monks. So it is very interesting that even for a few minutes if you can practice loving kindness, I mean this is very much emphasized by the Buddha. Maybe another point is one can practice moment to moment mindfulness but sometimes we may lack feeling of wrong, feeling of relating to other people, seeing the suffering of other people, feeling happy when other people are happy; so to cultivate these qualities of the heart can also experience a lot of joy.
So there is only time for one last question.
Q: I don't know why I always get angry. I'm a very impatient person. I don't understand.
A: Are you angry now? Are you angry with me? So you said you're always angry. So your practice should be, maybe from today later on and from tomorrow just be conscious of the times when you are not angry, then you'll be surprised what a good person you are. You'll be surprised there are many moments during the day when there is no anger. So please, please try that and you can come and tell me tomorrow. It is really funny how we see only the negative in us. So there are moments when they are absent but we hardly know that they are absent. And maybe one last point is when you are angry, maybe tomorrow don't be angry about the anger; just realize there is anger, make friends with that anger.
So again, I am very happy that you raised some very practical, useful questions relating to your practice and everyday life; so I am really happy that you are making an effort to practice meditation in this way.
So now we will take a short break and during this break, please try to be complete silence and also try to be mindful, just to be aware of what you are doing, when you walk or doing whatever; and also as we have been practicing about loving kindness, just see whether you can really radiate thoughts of loving kindness to others in the room and also to see yourself as your best friend; so silence, mindfulness and opening your heart to yourself and to others. And please come back after about five minutes.
So we will meditate now. For the meditation now, we will try to work with the obstacles, some of the obstacles that we mentioned. So can you allow any thought to arise, any emotion to arise, any sensation to arise in the body? And whatever arises can we relate to them just as they are, without liking, without disliking as far as possible.
Maybe we also try to be alert, awake from moment to moment so you 'll not feel drowsy, sleepy. Can you have confidence and trust in yourself that you can be open to both, what we consider as pleasant and unpleasant experiences? Learning to see them just as they are. Just know that you're having pleasant experiences; just don't hold on to it. If you're having any unpleasant experiences, just know it, just know it clearly and don't try to get rid of it. See both situations just as they are. And gentle to whatever is happening to our mind and body from moment to moment. Let us try to chant with the meditative mind that we are experiencing now.
Buddham saranam gachami, Dhammam saranam gachami, Sangkam saranam gachami -
Thank you very much for coming; and thank you very much for asking some useful, practical questions; and thank you very much for creating a very peaceful, atmosphere; and thank you very much for the beautiful chanting. So when you go to your homes, may you sleep peacefully and wake up peacefully.
Topic: Stress and Meditation
I'd like to firstly welcome each one of you. So the subject of today's talk is "stress and meditation". So stress has become a very challenging emotion in the modern world. It's interesting that it is a phenomena related mostly to this century. In some of the old languages, there is not even a word for stress. In the language we speak in Sri Lanka, there's no word for stress. And I am told also in Chinese, there is no clear word for stress. And even the English word stress has been used and … more in this century. So it'll be interesting to find out what happened in the modern age for stress to become such a problem.
I have reflected on this question and I'd like to share them with you. I think one possible reason is that the modern world has become extremely competitive. I think in ancient days, there was hardly any competition, it was a very simple way of living. So with this strong competition we have, we have to always do better than others and it can really give rise to a lot of stress. I think another possible reason is that in modern times, time has become a very important factor. Where doing things in time and then expecting certain things to happen in a particular time has also given rise to a lot of stress. So it's interesting that time is in a way a concept that we have created and we have become a victim of something that we have created ourselves. In Sri Lanka, still time is not such an important factor. If you have an appointment at 9:00 in the morning, the person can come at 9:50 or 10:00 and it is no problem. The same thing can be said about the times of buses and trains. Rarely do they run on time. I can never forget one day when I was in Europe travelling in a train an announcement was made, I did not understand the language, but I realized that people were looking at their watches and there was a lot of anxiety and stress in relation to the announcement. And I asked them what the announcement was about. And they told me the train was going five minutes late. In Sri Lanka, it's surprising even if the train is there in the first place. So this very clearly shows how we are using time which is really creating stress and tension for us.
I have been enquiring why in Hong Kong people work so hard because I thought it may be related to the Confuscian ethics or what has been emphasized by the ancient masters. And one of the reasons given to me is that it is due to the materialism that has become a very important part in the world today. So here again, there is a kind of vicious circle. So because materialism is such an important factor so that you want to make money and then in order to earn money you have to work very hard and here again, one thing leading to the other and again creating more stress.
I think another reason why there can be stress in our lives, because of this idea of doing things perfectly. We fear to make mistakes and this itself, the concern, the preoccupation we have not to make any mistakes can again create a lot of stress. And another factor perhaps related to this is, we have become very conscious of what others think of you. We have given such power to other people and sometimes what others think of you can create your own happiness or unhappiness. Sometimes I meet people, they are always trying to please other people because as I said, what others think of you has become extremely important and this aspect of trying to please others again can create a lot of tension and stress. So in this way, what has happened is that for different reasons which are as I said related to modern way of living, lot of stress and tension has been created.
Perhaps another factor that comes to my mind is that with the advent of consumerism and materialism in the modern world, we have become extremely dependant on external things. Here again, because of this dependency, again our happiness and our unhappiness is dependant on external things. I like to see it as using toys. So in the modern world, human beings have created a lot of toys to please them, to excite them, to get over their boredom and loneliness. So sometimes it's a case of changing one toy from another and they cannot get any satisfaction because the reason is they have something lacking in themselves. So whatever happens to them, whatever they get is not good enough, something different should happen; so most of the time or all the time, people are dissatisfied. So I see meditation in a way as learning to be our own toy. So if we can really learn to enjoy your own company, if we can be really happy with ourselves, if we can be really contented with ourselves, and this would be a way of becoming independant on external toys and in this way, lot of stress can be reduced.
Now let us consider how meditation can help us to work with stress when it arises. So, one is that stress arises sometimes because of a thought, I might make a mistake; what would others think of me. So in this way initially what happens is there is a thought that comes and sometimes it is just a thought but we give reality to that thought and again we become victims of the thought. So you see the importance of awareness in daily life? So when such a thought comes if you can catch yourself and realize it is just a thought and it is not the reality. So stress is created when we give unnecessary reality to the habitual obsessive way of thinking. So this is one way of working with our stress.
Another way is that when stress is there, what actually happens in us? Is it a particular sensation that you feel which you can work into what is called stress? Or as I said is it always related to a thought? So if you can really explore this, investigate this, find out for yourself, what is it that we call stress and what really happens to us when we experience stress. So a very interesting exercise is to be with the sensations, to be with whatever is happening in your mind and body without the word stress, take away the word stress and just to be with the actual experience, which is happening to you. So I'd like you to experiment with some of the tools, some of the suggestions that I am offering and find out for yourselves which will help you.
Another tool is trying to be aware of the breath. Because as we found out sometimes thoughts, sometimes the way we relate to the sensations and so on, can really build up the stress that is arising. And it's interesting that mostly stress is created by the past or especially about the future, anticipating anxiety, failure and so on. So if you can be really with the reality of breathing because that is happening right now, then you realize that even for a few minutes the time you spend with the breath, there is a complete recovery from any emotion that you are having.
Another point is that what is the opposite of feeling stressed? I would suggest it is when we can really relax with whatever is happening, if you can really learn to feel at ease with what is happening, that is the complete opposite of stress. So it shows that modern man, unless one is a meditator, has not discovered the way just to relax with yourself. So in what way can we learn to relax with ourselves? Here again one way is if you can really make a connection with your breath and as I sometimes like to say, if you see your breath as a friend, then no sooner you become aware of the breath, if you can learn to just relax with the breath, then stress and tension can just drop away.
Another tool will be, again is very, very interesting to watch, how the process, the mechanism continues and how stress arises. So in a way what is happening is resisting something which can really give rise to stress sometimes.
So another tool is if you can really be with the stress and as I often like to say, I feel uncomfortable with the stress or whatever I am experiencing but it is okay not to feel okay. So if you can really do that then this continuity, the vicious circle, one condition giving rise to another condition can be stopped and you are just being with whatever is happening.
Maybe one last point to discover is, or to discuss is I know some meditators when they meditate they have stress. How does stress arise in relation to your practice? Here again, it is having strong expectations of what should happen or what should not happen when you're meditating. Another is, not wanting something different to happen from whatever is happening. So another is really resisting what is happening in meditation; especially resisting the distractions, so-called distractions and disturbances and in relating to that, sometimes we relate to it with stress. So it's interesting that how stress arises in everyday life and how stress arises in meditation is the same principle that is involved.
So I'd like to pause at this stage and we have more time today for any questions because I feel that this is a very important subject, the subject of stress, because it is really destroying, really harming human beings in the modern world. Some doctors even, I found, what are called stress related illnesses. So stress can make our body sick; it can make our mind sick and sometimes it can even make others sick and it can create suffering for other people. So if you have any practical questions relating to working with stress, please ask them now.
Q: There are two questions. I'll translate the first one first. The first question is that in our daily life very often we are very involved in handling things or in working in the office and therefore emotions arise. Is there any way where we can separate the emotion arise from the actual action that we are doing because in the office we have to work.
A: So what you are asking is that in an office when you work, how can one work without necessarily having emotions like stress and anxiety. So when we work in the office or when we work in general, what sometimes happen to us is, in a way it's a good thing but one has to use it in a meaningful way, we think we might make mistakes, we fear to make mistakes and then that can give rise to stress and tension. Another suggestion I'd like to offer is when we work in the office, when these unpleasant emotions would arise, we should learn not to be surprised. Why do I say this? Because we are still human, we are still not enlightened so you are bound to experience these emotions when you are working or even at other times. Another thing which happens is when we have an unpleasant emotion, we feel negative about ourselves; we give ourselves a big minus. I would like to suggest that rather than give yourselves a minus, we should learn to give ourselves a plus because as meditators, we are trying to make use of such a situation; we try to find out now what can I learn from this. And then we should also, with awareness, find out when you are working in the office what times and what situations there has been no unpleasant emotions, when there has been no stress. This is very, very important tool and then at the time when an emotion arises, if you cannot use these tools, at least when you go back home or later on, you can reflect on what happened. So here again, in that type of reflection not to feel guilty, not to see yourself as a failure, it is very, very important, but rather to try to learn about it, now what happened, at what time did these really unpleasant emotions come up, so we are trying to learn from it, we try to see that as a learning opportunity. You can see that's a gift that we are using meditation in such situations. And the last suggestion is we should develop self confidence in this way, if these unpleasant emotions should come, I know how to handle them, I have discovered the medicine, and then when they are not there, I will try to learn that it is not there. So this can be also a very important tool.
Anything else, any other questions?
Q: In fact, there was a second question. That is, when we practice meditation, there are things which might come up from the subconscious level of the mind. How can I overcome problems arising from the subconscious level of the mind?
A: Very good question. So, when we meditate, things from the unconscious mind come because what we have done is that we have suppressed them, pushed some things away and not looked at some things so in meditation, sometimes they are bound to arise. Another thing is when things from the unconscious would arise, sometimes they may not be very pleasant so we have to learn not to judge them because it is by judging them that we control them and then when we control them, they are pushed away. So when they arise, if you can just observe them in a very friendly, non-judgemental way then you create some space, then what happens is they come and then you are not really reacting to them, ideally, or even if unpleasant emotions come, you just let it be, then by doing that, we take away the power. So the last point is when they arise, one should be meditating at that time not using an object like breathing, but as we did a few times, we allow any thought to arise, we allow any emotion to arise, we allow any sensation to arise. So allowing these to arise, we just observe them.
Q: I have some experience to share and I don't know whether it's right or wrong and I would like to mention it. My understanding is that in our lifetime we are bound to face many occasions where emotions and various kinds of unpleasant feelings would arise and we have to have the confidence to face all these adverse situations and learn from the circumstances right in front of us. So, as I understand it as a meditator the important thing is to learn from the circumstances right in front of us rather than be afraid of these circumstances, so to learn and to train is the most important thing. And secondly, I still have one puzzle is that when I am unable to solve a particular problem, I am very puzzled what to do and then the negative feeling would arise. What do you suggest; how can I handle the problem?
A: So what I would suggest is sometimes when our minds are confused, when we are puzzled, when we don't have clarity, to try to solve a problem at that moment may not be easy. So another point is whenever we have a problem, it's a very interesting exercise, is to try to find out what is the model, what is the expectation, what is the image that we are having which we are resisting now. So in this way, you realize that what you call a problem is in a way, is not the problem but it is the idea, the image you have of how it should be different. And maybe another suggestion is sometimes it's also good to reflect very consciously, now this is the problem I have, now in what way can I find a solution, in what way can I respond to that problem, what you call the problem. Sometimes we have problems which cannot be solved. Take a practical example, sometimes in Sri Lanka a mother would come to me with a deformed child, mentally retarded child, and such conditions, there is no cure. So what can she do? So, it is very important to know what can be changed in our lives, what cannot be changed in our lives. So if something can be changed, you can try to reflect about it clearly and if things cannot be changed, you have to accept it and we have to have the wisdom to see the difference very clearly, what can be changed, what cannot be changed. One last point is that in life we can suffer as a result of any problem, we also have a choice not to suffer in relation to our problems; so we all have that choice.
Any other questions?
Q: It appears to me that there are two types of emotions, one relating to our mind, the other relating to our body. And if it is relating to our mind, it appears it is more easy to handle but if it is related to our body, then it appears that it is more difficult to handle. Just give an example, when we shout at our parents, we know that we should not shout at our parents, but when we are very angry, I cannot control myself and keep raising my voice. This is like our body controlling our mind so what would master suggest us to do in this situation.
A: In relation to the connection between the mind and the body in emotions, sometimes it's a very interesting exercise that when we have certain emotions you can feel the sensation related to that emotion. So if we can learn just to be with the sensation in the body, just as a feeling and take away the word that you use for the emotion. We'll take a practical example, when we experience fear, sometimes you can feel a tension in the area of your stomach. So in such a situation, if you can just be with the sensation in the body without the word fear, as I said in relation to stress, then you will be relating to that emotion in an entirely different way. But in relation to the problem you presented in regard to the mother, is that when you have anger in relation to what your mother has been doing, what you can do is just to be with that anger or just to be with that resentment that you are having in relation to your mother, and again being with the sensations in the body, observing how the breath is changing very rapidly when there is anger, so try to focus your attention not so much on the way you are relating to your mother but what is happening in your own mind and body at that time. So in relation to what is happening, your attention is not so much about your mother but what is happening inside you. So if you can learn to do that in such a situation, then after some time, you will realize that the anger will drop away on its own, because you are not feeding the anger. One last suggestion is, when you get angry with your mother or whoever it is, without saying anything just go before a mirror and see what happens in your face. And that can also help you to really recover from it because your attention is not much with your mother but with happens to your appearance when you get angry, when you have an emotion.
So there is no time for other questions but I am happy that some practical questions have been asked so hope the solutions that I offered will help you in working with the problems that you presented. And I am very happy that you are really grappling with these problems and finding a way out of it. You can be really happy that you are making sincere effort to use the Dhamma in handling the problems we encounter. What is beautiful about the Buddha's teaching is that one can use the teaching, you can use the Dhamma in any situation, in any problem that we have to face in life.
So now we will take a short break and after that we will meditate.
So we will now learn to meditate in a very relaxed way. So can you feel friendly and gentle towards your mind and body, just feeling comfortable, feeling at ease with our mind and body. Let us just learn to be friendly with that. There's no stress, just know that there is no stress; and if there is any stress, just know that there is any stress; learn to say okay to it.
Buddham saranam gachami, Dhammam saranam gachami, Sangkam saranam gachami -
Just feel the peace and the stillness in this room.
Thank you very much for coming and when you go to your homes and sleep, may you sleep peacefully and wake up peacefully.
Topic: Motivation and Meditation
So I'd like to firstly welcome each one of you. The subject that has been given to me is "motivation and meditation". Some people seem to think that when one becomes a meditator, you lose your motivation for some things. Now on what basis do people come to that conclusion? It is believed that, as I said, with the practice of meditation you become indifferent to things, you become extremely passive and that the need for action becomes less and so on. So I'd like to suggest that with meditation, you lose motivation for some things and that you will develop motivation for other things.
So, let me firstly touch on the aspect of how meditation develops motivation for some things. And as I said earlier, I think another reason for such a belief is that with this emphasis of being detached, being aloof, you lose motivation in life. But I think with meditation, you learn to develop and to find an interest in life. So, especially with the emphasis and the practice of awareness, you learn to live wholeheartedly. So, whatever you do in life, you'll be doing that wholeheartedly, with complete and full attention in what is being done. So, by developing this quality, your quality of living will change. So, related to that is that with the practice of meditation, you are bound to see things, to hear things, to feel things wholeheartedly so it can really awaken your senses. So with this aspect of awakening your senses, you are bound to see certain things external to you which you have failed to see before. Small things, little things which we normally take for granted, you are bound to notice them very sharply and very clearly. So this can enable us to really appreciate the beauty around us. There is a section in the Buddhist texts where monks and nuns who have become enlightened describe the beauty in nature. And these descriptions are done in such a creative, perfect way that it really shows that they develop this passion for things that you hear and the things you feel and the things that you see. And it's interesting the same thing will happen in relation to noticing things within oneself. Certain aspects, certain areas in our personality which we might have taken for granted, which we have not noticed before, we are bound to notice them very sharply, again very clearly, so that you develop a motivation for things external, for things internal. Now what about things like eating? With meditation, would you become indifferent to what you are eating? Would you not enjoy what you are eating? In this connection, there is an interesting quotation from Ajahn Chah and I am sure some of you are familiar with his writings, with his books, so he had said that when there is good food you, can really enjoy it and also when there is not so good food, you can also enjoy that. So what can happen is that you learn to enjoy life, but in a different way from identifying with them. In the centre that I live in Sri Lanka, in the evening when it is clear, there is a beautiful sunset and it's part of the schedule so you are encouraged to appreciate beauty without necessarily identifying yourself with them. So please remember that not identifying yourself with them doesn't mean that you have lost motivation for that.
I think another area that you can develop motivation with the practice is that you really become sensitive to the suffering of others, and you can also develop a sensitivity to your own suffering. So what normally happens with people who are not meditators, when they experience suffering, they have no method of working with them, they just wallow in that suffering and they continue to suffer in this way. And when you see suffering in others, you don't have the space, you don't have the time to even notice the suffering of others. So there is a beautiful quality that you develop where you learn to have compassion for your own suffering and also to have compassion for the suffering of others. And when that happens, in certain situations where you have to act, again you will be acting very sharply, very clearly, doing what is necessary in such situations. So that I would suggest that you develop really a motivation for your own suffering and for the suffering of others. And you will translate that compassion with action. So please realize that with meditation one does not become inactive or one does not be passive but rather you'll be acting but again the quality of acting will be different. There are two interesting English words which bring up the difference, responding and reacting. So with meditation you learn to develop this quality of responding to situations, acting without reacting. So reaction is an emotional reaction when you see suffering in others; you can't handle it when you see suffering in others. But here as I suggested you learn to develop this beautiful quality of responding and reacting less. And as we are still human, then in certain situations we might be reacting so, that itself can be a learning experience, to find out, to enquire why did I react in that situation.
Another motivation that you may develop with the practice is that you may learn to enjoy your own company. In the meditation centre I live in Sri Lanka we have a time for what is called individual and outdoor meditation. And here the emphasis is trying to spend some hours, some time alone with ourselves. We hardly get an opportunity to do that in our life so what happens normally is that when we are with ourselves we can easily become lonely and bored with ourselves. What does it indicate? It indicates that we have not really made a connection with ourselves. So this is related to the quality of loving kindness. And then what happens when something very beautiful is when you are alone with yourself you learn to enjoy your own company very much and when you are with others, you can enjoy the company of others. I think this is a beautiful way of living.
Maybe now I will try to touch on a few points where with meditation you might lose motivation for some things. One of the biggest problems modern man has is this tendency to be victims of consumerism. We are not clear what we really need and what comes from our greed, so what happens is society can manipulate us, society can bring up situations where attachments, this tendency to own things, to posses things whether they are necessary or not can arise. So with more and more meditation, you lose the motivation for just consuming things for the sake of consuming things. So there is a beautiful word, the Pali word is Santoshi, beautiful sounding word, is that we learn to be contented, so our lives become very, very simple and we can be really contented with these simple things. So as I said the motivation for such tendencies, for such consuming things will not be there. Another thing which will happen is, that with practice you become more peaceful, the need to be violent with others, the need to have unnecessary quarrels with others, they become less. So you might even deliberately avoid such situations because there is no motivation to confront yourself and unnecessarily create suffering for ourselves and suffering for others. So I just touched on some aspects where with the practice we can develop motivation for some things and then we'll be losing motivation for other things.
So I'd like to pause at this stage as there may be questions and I would like to have more time for discussion.
Q: In our daily life we have to work in our office and if we do not work for the aim of earning more money then we may lose the incentive to promote and also when we try to solve some problems in the office and try to get promotion, something like that, we have to consult other people in the relevant field and obtain relevant advices in order to solve the problem and obtain promotions, etc. If we do not do that, then we may suffer at the end so, if we continue to do that, that may be greed because we have already earned what we need and we still want more. So how can we practice while we are in the society but still with the aim of enlightenment, like the practice of a monk?
A: Very good question and it has a direct bearing, direct connection to the theme of the talk. So there are two points: as a practitioner, as a lay person, what is the place of money, what is the place of earning and then can a meditator make an effort to improve his job and then try to get promotions. There is a very interesting text where the Buddha says, I mean it's all advice about how lay people can practice, and in relation to money he had said something very interesting. One suggestion he offers is that we should try to save some money for the future. And a part of the money that you earn has to be spent for the family. And the other one is extremely important, part of the salary to be used for helping others, as I said earlier, to alleviate suffering of others by helping them and also developing the important quality of generosity. So, one learns to use the money functionally in this way without necessarily having the urge to be greedy about the money. The second point in relation to promotions in the place where you are working, we can always try to get promotions. If we have to sit for exams in order to get promotions, you can still do that but here again what is important for you to be very clear about is, you can do your best, but who knows, you might either pass the exam or fail the exam; you might get the promotion or not get the promotion. But having this clear idea, you can try to obtain them so that if you get the promotion you are very happy about it and if you don't get the promotion, you are not unhappy about it because you know the nature of promotions, the nature of exams are such that you can't be always successful. The Buddha also had said something very interesting to the monks. Monks have to give up everything and you have to be contented with just four requisites - food, clothing, medicine and shelter. And the Buddha warns them to be very careful that you may not be having greed in relation to these four things. So it shows what is important is the way we relate to them rather than the presence or the absence of it.
Any other questions, please?
Q: I would like to ask one question about mediation which is not related to the topic tonight. It is about Samadhi and Vipassana. That is when I meditate, I try to develop calmness first, that is Samadhi and then when calmness is developed, I usually begin to attach to the calmness and it is very difficult for me to observe the sensations or thinking or feelings at that time so I try to lessen the calmness or the Samadhi so that I could observe the sensations but once I do that I begin to do all this calmness and would become unable to observe the sensations. So I would like to know how to balance calmness and observation, how to balance Samadhi and Vipassana so that I can practice in the middle way.
A: In fact, I gave a talk on this particular subject, perhaps on the second or third talk. So I'll try to say something very briefly. So what I would suggest is, when you have what you call Samadhi, rather than try to observe sensations but use that mind that is calm and clear to develop insight. So here, it amounts to using reflection. Sometimes a useful question is, who is having Samadhi? So with that exploration, with that enquiry, you might have an experience of emptiness or Anatta, absence of self. And you said that when you observe sensations, the mind that is calm disappears and that is a very important realization because you develop the insight that things change, even Samadhi changes. And the third and the last point is, to realize by identifying yourself with the calm, how it can result in suffering. So in this way you develop the importance of change, you have an insight of how suffering is created, and you can have a realization of emptiness, of selflessness.
Any other questions, please?
Q: Master, you mentioned before that to be a meditator and practice meditation, our wish to consume will become less and less but the problem of following this practice if everyone consumes less and less, then there will be less business around in this society, so some businessmen who rely on people's consumption will earn less and they might suffer as a result. So if we practice loving kindness, what do we do?
A: Interesting question. It's like someone saying some people are building a hospital so, they said if all the people who are patients become well, what are we going to do with the hospital? So, it is something similar to that. One thing is this aspect of consumerism is so strong in modern man that some people even won't realize that you are becoming a consumer. Because they become so dependant on it and they are not even conscious of how this consumerism operates or functions in one's mind. Maybe one last point is that when people who are manipulating us to encourage consumerism and when they realize that they are no longer successful, they might stop this unnecessary destructive manipulation. So that'll be something very positive thanks to the meditators. Maybe the third thing what one has to be clear is, are you concerned about businessmen or are you concerned about the victims?
n I would like to go back, to answer that gentleman. When your urge to spend has decreased, your good heart, good nature has increased and will spend some of your money in donations, charity and then you have more money for hospitals, for education so the economic cycle will turn around just the same. When you don't spend your money on your left hand, your right hand will do it in another way.
Q: I have come here to listen to Master's talks for a few days and Master has emphasized our awareness in daily life. I totally agree with that but I find it quite difficult to practice during daily life. I may be able to practice while I'm waiting for a bus or while I'm travelling on the bus, but while I'm at work, I find that the pace is very fast so it's difficult for me to maintain awareness at that time. So the most I could do is to reflect on what I did afterwards but I'm unable to maintain the awareness in the office. So is this the only method, the only way I can do is the reflection or is there any other suggestion?
A: So, I'd like to offer some suggestions. One suggestion is when you are working in the office just spend a few minutes, even four or five minutes might be enough, just to spend some time with your body and just to spend some time with your breath. It has two advantages: one is it helps you to develop awareness and it also helps you to create some space from the stress that can arise as a result of just continuing to work without such spaces. Another suggestion is, again just a few minutes may be enough, for you to observe your state of mind, are you relaxed, are you calm, are you anxious, is there stress, just to know what is happening in the mind during the day. Third suggestion related to meditation of loving kindness is, again few minutes, just spending some time, just feeling friendly to yourself and also radiating thoughts of friendliness to others in the office. In the main text that the Buddha presented which describes how to develop mindfulness, it is mentioned that when we go to the toilet that we should try to be aware of what we do in the toilet. So how much you are busy in the office, you go to the toilet maybe one or twice in the day and it's a very nice situation, you are completely alone with yourself and then do some toilet meditation; so it is very interesting how the Buddha offered us some very practical suggestions in our daily life. And then the last suggestion is when you go back home, just spend a few minutes just reflecting on how you spent the day. Again to find out how during the day the moments when you are reacting, when you were having emotions and also it's very important to reflect on the times when you are free of such emotions, such reactions. And then you can have a resolution, now tomorrow let me continue to do the same and maybe try to increase the times when I could practice awareness.
So there is time for one last question.
Q: Master, you have mentioned before that practicing awareness and observe, aware when the emotions arise is very important and you also mention that we should not suppress our emotions. I appreciate that, I understand that and I try to do that but for example during daily life when I have an argument with my family although I try to be aware of the arising of the anger and then I try to calm myself down, but I cannot distinguish whether I am suppressing the emotion or whether I am observing the emotion and let it pass. So, do you have any suggestion on this point?
A: It is a very good practical question. So when you are having argument with someone in your family, so what you might try to do is, if emotions are arising just to focus your attention on the emotions rather than the person in the family with whom you are having an argument. The second suggestion is we repress our emotions by judging them; I should not be having this emotion. So it's a very strong conditioning that we have. So we need to work with that conditioning by trying not to judge it, not to give it a minus, not to see it as a failure but just being with that emotion, whatever the emotion is. Third suggestion is you must try to learn to see the member of the family as a very good teacher, not to feel anger and hatred towards that member of the family but feeling grateful for him or her because he or she is giving you an opportunity to work with your emotions. The last suggestion is that you should wait for such opportunities till an argument starts because you can use that as an object of meditation. See that as a very interesting and useful experiment. And as I said the member of the family is providing you with an opportunity to experiment with yourself. And if you can practice in this way, then there is a lightness to your practice, then there is joy in your practice.
So now you can take a break before we start the meditation so please try to maintain silence and just learn to move slowly and with awareness and then you can come back after about five minutes for meditation.
In my talk I mentioned the importance of seeing yourself as your best friend. So let us now try to make that connection. So can you really see yourself as your best friend and try to feel it in every part of your body, your whole being; just feeling at ease, feeling comfortable with your mind and body, whatever is happening.
Buddham saranam gachami, Dhammam saranam gachami, Sangkam saranam gachami -
Now we will do some Chinese chanting and I hope everyone will join in.
Thank you very much for coming and also for asking some useful questions. So, hope to see you tomorrow and when you go to sleep, may you sleep peacefully and wake up peacefully.
One Day Meditation
Firstly, I'd like to welcome each one of you. So I'd like to mention some guidelines, some suggestions about today's meditation. Firstly, everyone here should feel happy that you have decided to come here on a holiday and then devote your time for meditation. It shows the interest you have for the practice. How many people will decide on a Sunday, which is a holiday to come here and practice meditation? So, every one of you deserves a very big plus. So now I will try to give you an idea what we will be trying to do today. One thing is we will try to spend today as far as possible with the practice of awareness and mindfulness. So again you have got a wonderful opportunity to try to discover more things about the practice of awareness. I have noticed that people here move and walk very fast so today, please make an effort to slow down. Slow down and just feel relaxed with that slowing down. As I said on an earlier occasion, time has become a very important factor for modern man. So today, you can completely forget about time. And again, feel happy that you have this opportunity to be able to just forget about time and then to move around, to meditate in a very relaxed way.
Another thing which we will be exploring and discovering is what it is to be silent. Again, it is not something easy that we can do in everyday life, to spend many hours completely in silence. And I'd like you to discover for yourself the connection between awareness and silence. Speaking has become such a strong habit that some people find it extremely difficult when they have to be silent. So I hope today you will learn to enjoy the silence. Enjoy the space that silence creates in our mind.
Another suggestion I'd like to offer is, though you will be practicing silence, you can also try to radiate thoughts of loving kindness, thoughts of friendliness to everyone around you. We have learned to communicate with other people only through our words. Today please see whether you can also communicate with other people in silence, just feeling for others, just radiating thoughts of friendliness to everyone in this room, to learn to see others as your spiritual friends.
So we will be exploring certain meditation techniques and again, I hope that you will find these techniques helpful and useful in discovering how our mind and body work. So the idea of meditation is to find out, to discover through these techniques how we can free ourselves, how you can experience some peace, some calm within ourselves and also as I said making discoveries about developing insight in relation to ourselves. So meditation can be seen as the medicine that the Buddha presented for the sickness of humanity. So today you'll be tasting this medicine. Sometimes as you know the medicine can be very, very unpleasant; medicine is not always sweet. So if you want to find a way out of the sickness, though the medicine is pleasant or unpleasant, we have to take it. And I really hope that today in tasting the medicine that you will have a glimpse, a realization, what is it to heal yourself with the medicine the Buddha presented. So today as I said even when you have your lunch you should continue maintain that silence. In everyday life, maybe due to different reasons we eat in a very fast, in a very quick way and not even being conscious of what you are eating. Today, I hope you will see the difference when you eat with awareness, when you eat consciously.
So it shows that anything in life can be a meditation. So here today you will have opportunities to realize this. Not only when you are doing sitting meditation or walking or whatever but in different situation just to see how you can apply meditation, how you can use meditation in such situations. To give a practical situation, when you have to go to the toilet and when you find that the toilet, someone is occupying that toilet, how do you relate to that situation? So in that situation we can learn to develop very important qualities of patience. We can learn either to suffer as a result of it or to accept it as it is and to let go of that suffering. Maybe a similar situation is when we are meditating, as I said, sometimes unpleasant experiences may arise. Physical pain, mental pain may arise. When they arise, please learn not to see them as disturbances or distractions but please learn to see them as very important objects of meditation.
So in conclusion, I'd like to wish every one of you today that with the exposure you have for meditation that a new direction in your life will take place. When there is a change in oneself, this is bound to help the people around you in the family. It'll also help the people around you in the place where you are working. So with these changes, with possibly a new direction that will emerge, may you experience more joy, more lightness to yourself and may through that also to help others around you.
So now it's more or less time for sitting meditation. So, sit in a very relaxed, comfortable position, try to have your spine erect but relaxed.
So let us begin by being conscious of your body, feeling every part of your body. So when thoughts come, gently let go of them and come back to the body. Feel friendly and gentle towards your body. Feel what it is to sit with your body completely still and completely relaxed. When the body is inhaling, you know that the body is inhaling; when the body is exhaling, you know that the body is exhaling, using the breath to develop awareness. Please do not consider thoughts as a distraction, make friends with them and come back to the breath. See your breath as your friend and just being with your friend, just enjoying, discovering your friend.
When you change your posture, please do it slowly and with awareness. So you'll be doing some standing and walking meditation now, so the organizers will tell you how it can be done.
Please walk with complete awareness. When thoughts come, gently let go of them and come back to walking. Feel the different sensations and the different movements in your body when you are walking. Please do not look around, have your eyes downcast. Feel the different sensation and the different movements in your body while you are walking. Experience the present moment, the here and the now, with the help of walking. Please don't look around, have your eyes downcast. Not thinking about the past, not thinking about the future, just enjoying the present with the help of walking. Can you walk as if you are walking on lotus flower, in a gentle, soft, tender way, being conscious of each step? Do you feel the sensations in your feet? Let go of your thoughts gently and come back to walking. Please have continuity of awareness.
And please stand there. Please be conscious that you are standing. Feel the different sensations and movements in your body. Just feel what it is to stand completely still and you may feel the stillness around you. Can you feel the peace and the stillness in this room?
… place where you were seated, having moment to moment awareness. So it's going to be a very short sitting. So let us do a short meditation of loving kindness, learning to feel friendly with whatever is happening in our mind and body, thoughts, sounds, sensations, emotions, just feeling friendly and gentle towards them, learning to use general awareness with friendliness so it is not concentration.
… yoga. During this break, please try to have continuity of awareness from moment to moment and please maintain strict silence during the break.
(for the English speaking participants today, I must apologize that today in the yoga session there is no translator since the yoga session in today's course is not a main theme and also the time is so short if we add translation in the session, that will waste some yoga posture time so I must apologize for it but actually you do not lose too much because the yoga posture is always action orientated and you can just look at either me or the Dhamma friends who have the green belt across their body; just look at their actions and follow them is okay)
So we will continue to be aware of our body and after yoga I hope you are feeling very relaxed in your mind and body so let us continue for some time just feeling relaxed in your mind and body, learning to make a connection with our body, learning to feel friendly, gentle and kind towards our body. Let us learn to be open to both pleasant sensations in the body and also unpleasant sensations in the body, learning to accept the sensations just as they are, completely relaxed and the body completely still. Then you may feel the stillness and the peace around you.
… about eating, how we can use eating as a meditation. As I said this morning, you can learn to eat slowly, at least today. You have enough time for that. Just see the difference when you eat slowly. The other is, try to chew your food, chewing your food consciously. The other is when you taste the food, just know that you are tasting the food. And when you are swallowing the food, just know that you are swallowing the food, so chewing, tasting, swallowing. When we eat our food, we make judgements, pluses and minuses. So please be conscious, just know that you are making these judgements. And when you are not making these judgements, know that you are not making the judgements. And all this you'll be able to do only if you eat in silence, so please make an effort to eat in silence and with awareness and you may make some very interesting discoveries about eating. And after lunch until we meet at 2:00, please continue to be silent and please continue to have moment to moment awareness in whatever you do. Thank you.
After you finish eating, feel grateful that you have this opportunity of eating in silence and with awareness. It's a very important practice to remember, either before eating or after eating, to feel grateful.
(So now we have session A from 2:00-2:30 and those people you can bring your seat up front)
If you have any questions about what we did today and also if you have any experiences to share, you can do that, so please remember we'll be discussing things only related to what happened today.
Q: … how can we make progress faster during meditation?
A: Don't try to make progress very fast. What is more important is the practice. So from the practice, that progress comes naturally. There is a beautiful simile that the Buddha uses, it's like being a gardener, so you do your gardening and you really enjoy the gardening you do and the flowers and the fruits, let them arise when the season is ready for that.
Any other questions, especially related to today.
A: And did that happen throughout the morning? Did that happen when you were doing walking meditation? Did it happen when you were doing eating meditation? Eating. So, not so bad as you think. Anyway, if you feel sleepy again or when you practice on your own, just open your eyes, take some deep breaths and try to exercise a little more effort.
Q: She said she has got two questions; the first one is related to today's practice and the second one is not. The first question is that, she thanks Master very much for teaching us how to practice eating meditation. Although she found that eating slowly is very tired, even
(Major part of Q&A session was not taped.)