Learning through Meditation Home Page
Verbatim Transcript of Learning through Meditation
Place: Retreat centre "Zonnewende", Holland
Before we will discuss about emotions. I like to just comment on three points that arose in yesterdays discussion. It is interesting for me, as I said yesterday, when I'm in the West, in Europe to know the,... how shall I discribe them, ehh, passing fases, fasions in the world of spirituality and other aspects related to what is happening in this countries. With the influence of Freud there was such an emphasis on what happened in childhood. Then after that, with this therapy called 'primal scream', the emphasis was on what happened at birth and now it is reincarnation therapy. When I was in Germany I met a reincarnation therapist who has written a book on reincarnation therapy. And very seriously he told me, at least three lives you have to go back, three lives,...at least three lives. Where do we stop this 'digging'. And when we start digging; what do we uncover? Most of it is minusses. So it's mostly negative things that come up in this digging. But a interesting question is; has the past always been so negative? I think one possible reason is, we have what is called selective memory. For some reason, which is creating most of our suffering, is we seem to remember only the unplea-sant experiences, only the negative experiences. This brings up what we dicussed yesterday about what happend in our childhood. We, generally speaking, seem to remem-ber only the wrong things what the parents have done, generally speaking. As I realized this sometimes in the context of meditation I would suggest to refect on three questions.
The first question is; to reflect on what are the good things your parents have done to you? The second question is; what are the good things you have done towards your parents? The third question is; what are the difficulties you might have created for your parents? So, when meditators refect on these three questions, sometimes they come and tell me; now I feel guilty. Then I realise the medicine is working.
Another point is, the point made by Peter yesterday. That in pushing away and repressing certain emotions, we also repress warmth, joy, lightness.
So, that there seems to be sometimes confusion between overco-ming desires and overcoming feelings. And sometimes in trying to overcome feelings, without their knowledge, in the way somtimes meditation is practised, you can become a log of wood, like a log of wood, without any feelings. Without any warmth, without any joy, without any lightness.
So this brings up the third point. My model of what meditation is. It is a very simple, practical model. It is still a model I have. What can be done, what can be achieved in meditation.
So, the first stage is what I have been emphasising here is this developing of lovin' kindness, friendliness. And with developing of lovin' kindness to oneself en to others, natu-rally we can experience more and more joy, more and more lightness and more and more happiness. So I encourage people to have enough of it. You've got enough of it, you can have a break, you have been suffering, so now experience joy. Spiritual joy is something so beautifull. It can be so infec-tious. So then the next fase is not to identify with that joy also. See that, that is also empty. So then you can come to a stage where, when joy comes, you know that joy comes, no plus. And when there is no joy, you know that there is no joy, there is no minus. Just being with whatever there is.
Place: Retreat centre "Zonnewende", Holland
Subject: The four noble truths
I like to welcome the new spiritual friends who have arrived today. It is nice that our family is expanding. So we will now try to explore, relating to our own experience what the Buddha discovered as the four noble truths. Let us really see whether these truths make any sense in our own li-fe, our own experien-ce without accepting in as an authority. This is what is beautiful about the Dhamma, that there is no place for authority.
So the four noble truhts are;
1. the truth of suffering,
2. the cause of suffering,
4. and the way to attain freedom.
And then sometimes I like to use the medical model: sickness, cause of the sickness, the medicines and the cure. Now I like to raise as a question: Why is suffering called a noble trut-h? What is there so noble about suffering?
Public: Because you have to look for a way out, you go to look for the path!
Yes, unless we know that we are sick, the need to find medici-ne would not raise. So in that sense it is a very impor-tant discovery, a very important rea-li-sation. And if you don't rea-lise that there is a sic-kness the need to find the medicine. Or it can be a situation where you are ha-ving a sickness, and you don't know you are having a sic-kness. That is dange-rous situa-tion to be in. Let us now from our own experience, from what we have seen, what we have heard, discuss some area's of suffering, some aspects of suffering that we really know. What comes to your mind?
It is interesting that Clemence mentions de-ath, because Prince Sidharta before he became a Buddha one of the things that he encounterd was the fact of death, old age, disease, and than when he was encountering them there was a need for him to find a way out of it. So death is something very important although sometimes we are not very happy to look at it. So that is one, anything else?
Public: Sometimes we are attentive and the next moment, the next session we are not.
Not attentive. Yes, as meditators we have this; frustration. We are very attentive, we are there and perhaps we give our-self a plus and in the next session we are not attentive, we are not there: a big minus. This kind of suffering can come from comparisons; see, the other people they look so attenti-ve. They look so calm, we have only to ask them... So we will to ask Maduvani to give us an example of what it can be, happiness...
Public: 'Well, when I'm angry and I realise that it is not perma-nent, than my anger is not so valid anymore...' Very good example, apparant-ly speaking from experience. So there can be other si-tuations where we like being attenti-ve, we like to be atten-tive all the time and that changes.
Public: 'I like to give an other example, if everything was perma-nent, how could a flower grow, how could the sun rise, how could Godwin spe-ak? How can I be silent.
So changes wich do not cre-ate suffering for us, are no pro-bl-em. But changes like death, like sickness, like old age, like breaking up a relationship?All these sources can be seen as change. Ev-eryo-ne here can relate to that kind of experience. Any other?
Public: there is nothing in life that can give you real secu-rity. Because of birth, there is death.
Anything else? Having something that you don't want certainly can create suf-fering.
It is interesting to find out when we want somet-hing and then when we have something it also sometimes can give rise to suf-fering. So even getting things like a toy can create suffe-ring. Im-mediately there can be satisfaction, but after that, that it-self can give rise to suffering because then you start look-ing for something new, another toy. You want something dif-fe-rent.
Public: the long list of emotions we mention-ned yesterday.
The long list of emotions, each one of them.
Public: knowing that the other exists.
What do you mean?
Public: The other does most of the time something different from what you wan-t.
You might know that it is changing, im-permanent, but still it hurts us.
You have a relationship and suddenly the other per-son leaves you, or do whatever which dissapoints you. And when that hap-pens you forget about chan-ge. So coming from Sri Lanka there it is interesting there is lot of suffering becau-se of pover-ty. And in some western coun-tries there is a lot of af-fluence but that also can create an illness..affluenza...you have he-ard of it...Isn't that interesting about the human condi-tion? So the first noble truth is fascinating. You can apply it, you can go on and on, applying on different situations in the wor-ld. So now, what is called the second noble thruth is a little more complicated, or a little more subtle. And there we are told that these several things that we dis-cussed, the proble-ms, conflicts, suffering, is due to ex-pecta-tions, wan-ting things our way, being demanding. Sometimes I think that this truth is more important than the first one be-cause if you can see it in your own experience how, as we were discus-sing these last few days, how we create our own problems in such a crea-tive way and of course being de-structive. So to see this very clearly, I think is extremely important. It is im-portant be-cause then you realise.."I have to take res-ponsa-bi-lity".
It is not a very .. what is the word..uh..easy thing for us to realise, easy thing for us to do, to take complete respon-sability, for what is happening in you. Because human beings are very very good at holding other people responsible.. Why are you angry? The other person provoked me. Why are you sad? The other person dissapointed me, let me down. And the danger is then therefore you don't try to look at you-rself but you will look at ot-her peop-le. And do you realise that there are many people in this world who can continue to blame others, hold others responsible, and therefore they don't see the need for spiritual life. And another reason why I say this second noble truths is im-portant is when you realise that you have to take responsabi-lity then the realisation comes: "Well, I have to do it mysel-f." So it is interesting that from that the third and the fourh noble truth does follow. As I said on one occasion when we realise that we are creating our own sickness, then we realise only we can discover the medicine. So in a way, what we have been doing during the last few days is to discover the medici-ne, to be clear about the medicine. Now here it is very very easy apparently to take the medicine. The conditions are very very conducive, very helpful. One fa-mily, spiritual friends, loving kindness, chanting together, doing Yoga together, ea-ting together, very easy.
So tomorrow and the day after I'll be discussing how to take the medicine when you go back home, that is extremely impor-tant. So as some of you have been saying and as I know it is not very easy in everyday situations to take the medicine. We have to realise that there are so many distractions. The Bud-dha himself in a way realised this because he said "the spiri-tual path is going again-st stream." The culture, the en-vi-ron-ment, our values, what we see, what we hear is certainly not conducive for the medicine. So in a way you should be very very happy, you should give yourself a big plus that you have been here, making a commitment.
Now even taking the medicine can have or sow some problems. One is we might get interested in not so much taking the me-dicine but about descriptions, reading about descriptions. In Sri Lanka I have some friends who are outstanding Buddhist scolars, they can speak about the descriptions brilliantly... And if you ask them; "Have you taken the medicine?" They would say: "No, I have only read the description."
Then there is another danger, there are some without taking the medicine themselves, giving medicine for others. Some meditation teachers can come under that categorie. Because they are more concerned about giving medicine. And then when they give medicine they get affection, they get plusses, they get fame, publicity, pictures. And then they th-ink-: "Oh, very nice giving medicine." Another trap can be that you use the medicine for some time and,... no results. The sickness seems to be still there. This sometimes can be related to the type of person you are. If you are really a person who is giving minusses to yourself, if you are extremely self-destructive. What is happening is that even if the medicine is working, it is not good enough. Somet-hing more should happen, something different should happen. And then it is possible that you keep on changing medicines, wit-hout gi-ving one medicine a fair change. The last retreat I gave was at a New Age centrum I was amazed at the courses the thingas that are available there, So you have in the West a supermar-ket of medicines. So sometimes it is difficult to choose, so-metimes it can be confusing it can have it's advantages and problems.
So what is the way to find out that the medicine is working? Now here I should like to mention, as I have been saying many times, that in meditation you can have sometimes very unplea-sant experiences so that medicine is not always a relief, not always pleasant.
Some injections are very very painfull. So in meditation, in spiritual life, what you disco-ver about your-self can be very, very painfull, can be very very unpleasant. So you have to have a lot of courage, you have to have a lot of commitment, you have to have a lot of dedication in spite of all this to continue to take the medicine. So what I'am suggesting is in relation to taking medicine there can be many many traps. It is not easy, it is certainly not easy. So in that sense we should be happy, we should be grateful that we are made a commitment, that we are continuing. That even if it is unpleasant we are still using the medicine. And on the positive side, this is what I'am trying to emphasi-ze very much. I feel it is a very very positive approach to find taking the medicine itself interesting. Because we are so used to being goal-oriented, doing certain things to achie-ve an aim, means to an aim. So the aim itself is what is inte-resting. Sometimes I use the metafore like so-me-one clim-bing a mountain, so if you are preoc-cupied whith only reaching the top, you miss the fun in the proces of clim-bing. Climbing can be such an adventure. Clim-bing can be such a cha-llenge.
So in the same way just ta-king the medicine it-self you can enjoy. This is one of the thi-ngs that I have been emphasizing very much. So maybe we sho-uld learn to take the medicine in a different way, to take the medicine in a very light-hearted way, lear-ning to play with the medicine but at the same time having a seriousness of its own. Without being to much preoc-cupied with what is going to happen when you are completely cured. So can we see the pain-full experien-ces as challenges, as op-por-tunities, as learning expe-riences? And this is what I was also emphasi-zing that to have this com-plete openess to whate-ver what is arising. And of course the third and the four noble truths is when you take the medicine and there is a curing, healing process ta-king place. It is for me a joy in a retreat to see the faces changing day by day, like flowers blooming.
And in the chats I have, when I hear that they tell me the medicine is working. They say; "I'am very happy that it is happe-ning, my wounds are healing. And, I want to come to take the medici-ne, can I come to Sri Lanka?" Sri Lanka is a traditio-nal country where they are manufac-tu-ring me-dicine. But though it is manufactu-ring medici-ne, tho-ugh it has a history of ha-ving a lot of me-dicine, there are pro-blems. Everyone is not taking the medici-ne. Sometimes I tell them we don't realise the value of the medicine. It might in-terest you that someti-mes they think it is valuable because of Westernes coming, taking the medicine. There must be somet-hi-ng, otherwi-se why should they come all the way. So you see even if there is an tradition, it is not easy.
Because human beings are very very clever in being complica-ted, in not taking the medicine. It is really funny...
It might interest you some young Sri Lankans who study some things like Science they come and ask me: "Is Buddhism, is meditation scientific?" They want to know if the medicine is really scientific. And it is interesting for me that in the West people are becoming more and more desillusioned with Science and technology, they see the limitations of it, while in those country's science is the thing. (laughing)
So anyway let us go back in taking the medicine. So when the medicine is working, I have been empasizing that, you will ex-pe-rie-nce more joy, more lightne-ss. Then what is beautiful you have real confidence in the medici-ne! So this is why I said yesterday in working with emotions, when you really discover that the tools are working you become com-pletely self-confident, you become completely selfrelian-ce.
And then you really become grateful to the one who discoverd it. And that gratitude becomes really from your heart because you really know that the medicine is wonderful and that it is working. And I would like to suggest to you that when you are taking the medicine and when you realise that it is working, please make an effort to share it with others! This is the beauty from spiritual community, we are sharing together, exploring together, taking the medicine together. So this can also help us in our own practice. This kind of sharing should not be done in a very authoratati-ve way, as if you know everything. But one can do it in a very humble way; this is what I'am doing, this is what seems to be helping to me, plea-se try it out. In a way it is what I'am trying to do. -A-nything else?
Place: Retreat centre "Zonnewende", Holland
Subject: Meditation in daily life
Godwin: I would like to share my own experience. I realised that the Sri Lankan way (it is confusion, it is chaos, uncert-ainty, disorder). still works sometimes. And it was rather tiring for me. But it was very inspiring, impressive, interesting. One thing I was very happy to hear that generally the medicine seems to be working. So that was good to know from many people who came to see me. What was interesting for me was that for many people this idea of minuses seems to be very, very strong in their lives. Fearing minuses from other people and trying to work with their own minuses. So, it seems to be really a big monster and it was good that some of them have realised this clearly. How they are creating their own suffering and seeing this can be tremen-dous freedom. And what surprised me was that they were generally very, very good people, they deserve pluses. I think it is one of the grea-test tragedies of the human condition now in the spiritual field that we don't see our own worth. We don't see the Buddha-nature in us. We refuse to see the good qualities.
So, the last point I want to make. Maybe we need to make a special effort in this directi-on, because I told one of the meditators that in the Buddhist's texts the Buddha often mentions the importance of reflec-ting on the good things that we have done. I think it can give tremen-dous confidence, tremendous joy and considerable lightness and encourage-ment. Now, to meditation in everyday life.
So, what I hope to do, is to go into some of the things that we have been trying to do here, and to explore how far we can integrate that in our daily life.
On the first day I remember, I said that one thing we might try to do is when we wake up in the morning to spent few minutes, a few minutes is enough, just lying down on the bed listening to the sounds. Feeling the body. Perhaps think of loving kindness in the morning and to see, just to have the idea: "Today I hope I will get an opportunity to do good to others, to make others happy and to make me happy". Just to have that thought in the morning. This might take five minutes-, ten minutes, in the morning lying down.
By the way I should have started by saying that we have to be very clear about our priorities. If we give, to meditation and the spiritual life, a very high priority then everything flows from that. It will be difficult for such a person to say: " I don't have time to meditate". So one has to be clear about this point. So this is a way one can begin the day and it is just ef-fortless. Simple. Five minutes. Ten minutes.
Another suggestion I was offering was, trying to be aware of small things, simple things. So in everyday life, in the morning there are some things that we have to do every morning. Can you mention some of them?
Brushing the teeth. Now here again a very simple suggestion. Can you make a little effort just to learn to brush your teeth with awareness?
So, we all know that when we brush our teeth we do it mechani-cally, habitually, so we can be mentally elsewhere. This simple exercise in the morning, just coming back to brushing, just do it in a very caring way. It will help us to develop awareness, and your teeth will shine in the darkness. (Much laughter).
Perhaps taking a shower in the morning. Another simple exerci-se. I mean if you just can really stand two or three minutes just feeling the water on the body. Just being with the fee-ling.
So, just choose one or two such actions in the morning. When you can do it in a very caring way, with awareness. I mean it is a beautiful way to start the day.
I won't say try to eat your breakfast with awareness, it may not be possible. Because you're maybe rushing. So, I'm very reasonable.
So, now we are going to work or doing some work.
Now another point for you to remember: "When you leave from here, don't try to experience the same calm. The same space. The same clari-ty. The same smile". Please don't.
This is the main problem in retreats. Naturally, due to certain conditions, we experience this calm, this space, this loving kindness. And then we are hoping, waiting to continue that.
So this is why I have been emphasising so much not to allow the monsters to go to sleep in a retreat, it is very easy to hap-pen.
Because if you put them into sleep, while you are in a retreat, when you go back, naturally they wake up very power-ful, very active: "Now it is our chance".
Yes, so, that is why I was emphasizing bringing on the monsters here. Playing with them. Working with them. Understanding them. Creating space for them.
So, in everyday life this is bound to happen, they are bound to arise.
So, they should be the object for meditation, as I have been emphasising very much here. Not to be surprised. Not to give them a minus. Not to give yourself a minus. Welcome them and see how far you can work, use some of the tools we have been discussing.
So again it is possible that some times you will succeed, sometimes you will fail. And when you succeed you can say: "Well, the medicine is working". And when you don't succeed you can say: "Well, now I can't take the medicine, but I'll go home and then think of the medicine".
What do I mean when I say this? So, when you go home, when you have maybe some space, you can just take your mind backwards, and say: "Now what exactly happened, why did I get angry, what really provoked me". So, this is, as I said, reflecting. And this is taking the medicine. So, our so called failures become learning experiences.
I like this very much. Again something which Thich Nhat Hanh says, that we use compost, something that is dirty, that is thrown away for the growth of the plant. We can do the same with our own compost. To use them to grow, rather use them to give minuses and feel bad, feel worthless, feel that you are not getting anywhere. Instead you are using the monsters themselves.
And if you can make this connection, then during the day, if the monsters come there is no problem. It is not a big issue, because you know maybe at the time you can take a little medicine, maybe otherwise I can wait a little longer. So, no problem.
And another thing I was emphasising here very much is, when the monsters are not there, just to know they are not there.
Wherever you are, in the office, at home, whatever you are doing, just the only thing you have to remember, maybe after working a few hours. Just to say I take my mind back and say: "Now what were the times the monster came, and what were the times they didn't came".
Very soon you will realise that you are spending more time without the monsters. So again, this can give you inspiration, this can also give you more faith and confidence in the medicine. You will be surprised to know what a good person you are.
Now I'm sure these things are within our reach in a situation, in a way that I'm saying. If you have any problems, any diffi-culties, please present them after the talk.
Another thing I have been suggesting is to make a connection with our breath, our friend, and to use our friend to experience reality of the present moment. And also to use our friend to generate loving kindness, even for a few minutes.
So, please make this connection. So, if you can make this connection during the day, espe-cially when there is a build up of work and tension and stress. Just pause for a few minutes. You can do it seated on your chair. You don't even have to close your eyes, people won't know you are sleeping or medita-ting, it doesn't matter.
Then, to think of your friend and immediately coming back to the reality of the present moment. Stopping this build up that has been happening so far.
Now, my famous toilet meditation. You will be surprised that in the main Buddhists texts, which spells out the development of mindfulness and awareness, which is called the Sati-patana Sutta, foundations of mindfulness, development of them, it is said that when you are in the toilet you can practise mindfulness, practise awareness.
So, this is a very powerful way, again, of preventing stress and anxiety that is building up. Go to the toilet, very nice posture. And I don't know any place where there are restricti-ons about the time that you spend in the toilet.
Just relax, just using the breath. And then, if people really notice you, they will think: "It is one person who entered the toilet, it is another person who is leaving the toilet". If someone asks you what you do in the toilet, what should you say? (Much laughter). Anyway I leave it to you.
Public: Can we call it 'pleeditatie' in Dutch? (Much Laughte-r).
Godwin: One of the best thing I've heard so far.
Public: We could place an article in the magazine: -----------"God-win's pleeditatie". (Much Laughter).
Godwin:You can place it here. Please don't send it to Sri Lanka. People might not understand.
So, another problem, plays at work, plays at home, there are people with whom we have problems, relationships. Maybe the boss, maybe the colleagues. So, at home it maybe your partner, whatever, your neighbours, so we have such situations in our everyday life. I'm sure we can all relate to that.
The greatest challenge we have is, when we see the shortcomings and faults of other people. How do we relate to them? This is a real challenge.
So, I like to offer some suggestions, how to use such a situati-on. At first, it maybe something difficult, but maybe from the Buddhist perspective, if you really understand it and in calculate it, it might be easy.
And the first one is: "Try not to be surprised". Why shouldn't we be surprised? Because according to Buddhism, human beings behave in this way due to the three drives. It is greed. It is hatred. It is delusion, meaning ignorance, not knowing. Very recently I came across a very interesting meaning given to the word ignorance. It is ignoring things. Ignoring the reali-ty. And we all have these three drives in us.
So, when you see it in them, in others, if you really have realised and worked with your own areas you won't be surprised, becau-se you realise: "What I'm having, what is already there, I see it in this person".
So, that if you can really penetrate this realisation, then without getting angry, without creating a wound, you can really feel compassionate to people who show their frailties, their humanness.
So, the normal reaction we have is that we give it a big minus, immediately. It is a very strong habit that we have. It is a very strong conditioning we have. And this is exactly what we do with ourselves. So, here, with this idea, with this perspective, you relate to the human frailties in others, in yourself and in others, in an entirely different way. But, this can give difficulties, this can cause problems for us. Because anyone who believes in anyway, you see: "Well it is due to the cause of ignorance and you won't do anything". Children can behave anyway they like, if parents are practising meditation.
If the boss is a meditator, so, the people working under him or her can do anything because it is due to their greed, hatred and delusion. If the husband is a meditator the wife can do anything, becau-se the husband is a meditator, the wife is behaving this way due to greed, hatred and delu-sion. This is not reality.
So, how do we bring these two together. This is where, without getting surprised, without giving a minus immediately, one suggestion I like to offer, if you can do that, is to get the person to reflect to understand why he or she is behaving in this way. You'll be surprised to learn, if you do this. Most human beings whom you meet they don't know why they are behaving in a particular- way.
It does become a habit, it does become a conditioning. It can be due to certain patterns in our life, unhealed wounds, anyway, just behaving and you don't know why. So, to give a person a minus and to show your anger and resent-ment to a person like this is like taking a crazy man seriously and threatening him like a very sane person. So, this is what can be done. It can be very, very useful because it really helps this person to reflect and go and change. Other-wise we can make someone more stubborn, more violent, more aggressive. But some people don't understand this language. There are some people (most human beings, I would say, can understand this language, this can be attempted). But still there are some people who speak another language. And for such people you need a different medicine.
And this brings out my famous cobra story. This comes from the Indian tradition.
So, this cobra was meditating in a forest and the cobra was meditating on loving kindness. So, this cobra was really, with the heart saying: "May all beings be well. May all beings be happy. May all beings be peaceful".
And this cobra was having a beautiful metta-meditation. With a nice gentle smile on his face. Then an old woman was coming with a bundle of fire-wood. This old woman could not recognize the cobra, so she thought it was a rope. She used the cobra to tie the bundle of fire-woods and as the cobra was having metta, he just allowed the woman to do that. May you be happy. So, when the woman took the bundle home, then the cobra with a lot of difficulties escaped, with a lot of pain, with bruises, wounds. The cobra went straight to the meditation teacher and said: "I want an interview". The teacher asked: "What is the problem"? "What is the problem! I was practising your meditation of loving kindness, see what happened to me". So, the teacher, very calmly, said; "You have not practised loving kindness, you have practised idiotic compassion. You should have just shown that you were a cobra".
So, coming back to the point I was making. There are times there are people where you have to assert yourself. Otherwise, people can start exploiting you. They can take advantage of your, so called, loving kindness.
You have to choose when to do this, or when to do that.
So the third point about relating to people, maybe the boss, maybe the colleague, maybe the neighbour, is seeing them as your guru's, as your teachers.
Who is a guru? Who is a teacher? A teacher or a guru indicates to the person what is going true that persons mind. So, this is exactly what this guru, the boss or someone, is doing to you. Exactly indicating to you what is happening to you. Your minuses, your alliances, your irritations. Don't you care to look at them? So, what a good guru you have in such people. So, rather you see what the person is doing, like no need to look at what the guru is doing, but the guru is showing you a mirror, so look at yourself. And as you are still human, you might get annoyed, you might get irritated, you might get angry, you might fight with the boss or whoever. And if that happens, again, don't go give yourself a minus. See: "Now, today all these monsters came. Tomorrow it may go and see what happens". Who is the guru? Who is there everyday for you? The boss is there everyday for you. So, you can go the next day. Or your girlfriends is there all the time for you. You only have to go back. Your friend. Your neighbou-r. And you can have more than one guru. One at home, one at work. You should be very grateful.
So, this is why during this retreat I have been emphasising: "Make friends with unpleasant things. Can you say okay to them. Can you make them the object of your of meditation". So it is using the same principle in relating to people. So, if you can see the practice in this way. Our spiritual practice, our meditation becomes so interesting, fascinating, an adventure. Not fearing to make mistakes, learning from everything.
Yesterday, Madhuvani mentioned that, when she has tension, when she has an unpleasant experience, she thinks of someone who is friendly to her, who is helpful to her. You can use the same principle in thinking of some guru of the type who is creating problems for you. If at that moment you can say: "Well, I hope the guru, my boss, will not experience such tension, such unpleasant experiences".
And it is the same principle, because here, when there is tension, unpleasant sensations, you can think of someone else who is friendly. So, you take your attention away from this. So, you use the same principle in thinking of the boss, who is the guru in another sense. So, what else can I suggest in everyday meditation, which rela-tes to what we have been practising here. Yes, another thing was about work. On the first day I said: "Please try to see work as a opportuni-ty to develop spiritual qualities like patience, caring, compassion for others". So, I can draw a long list of spiritual qualities relating to work. So, isn't it possible that the type of work you are doing (it may not be as pleasant as helping in the kitchen), but whate-ver work you are doing. To see the work, if you are earning something, to see that work as a way of getting money from me. So, that I can use the practice and with that money I can help other people. So, the only thing is, a small change in perspective to see that work in an entirely different way.
Not to see it as a job, not to see it as a profession, but trying to see where you can make an entirely different connection with the work you are doing.
When I was in Germany, giving a retreat, many people spoke about computers. They said it is terrible to work with computers, so mechanical. It makes you like a computer. So, I like to share with you some of the things I told them, which maybe relevant, which can be used in any context. One thing I was also empha-sising here, is learning to have a caring connection with things. So, it is like making a human connection with the computer. Is it possible to, really, make that connection with the computer, though it is a machine. Can you really feel it? A very good friend of mine in Sri Lanka talks with a car. He touches the car. A special connection with the car. Now, with this mechanisation, cars and computers are talking to you. These are interesting things I hear when I travel in the West. Someone told me how the car speaks to you. So, now learn to speak to the car, to the computer. Please try that. You'll realise that you make an entirely different connection, you will relate to that, as someone which has life. When I say this, I remember a gardener we had in the centre, an old person. I considered him as one of my teachers, because he was tea-ching, not being conscious that he was a teacher. This is the real teaching, with his being, with his openness, with his gentleness. He would speak to the plants. He would speak to the trees. He would speak to nature. And it was fascinating. He had a personal connection with nature. So, much so, that even one day he told me, even in his dreams he sees nature. One day I told him to meditate and I asked him what is happening in meditation. He said: "I see plants, I see trees".
So, you can have this connection and I think 'Thich Nhat Hanh' teaches how one can use the telephone as an object of meditation. And I think Peter will tell you the guidance he gives, the suggestion he gives.
Peter:You can hear the bell of the telephone ringing. And instead of rushing to it, listen to the bell sound, before answering it. Sometimes I listen to long and then my answering machine starts.
Godwin: So, I was told that in this place, where Thich Nhat Hanh's centre is, a little girl who heard this saying: "That one should be aware of breathing before you take the telephone, take a few breathes". So, this little girl had told someone who was rushing to the telephone: "You are told not to breathe when you are going to the telephone". Sweet isn't it? "Don't breathe".
So, this is what we are trying to do and to see work in an entirely different way.
What else were we doing here? I emphasised this meditation of loving kindness very much. And I also tried to use meditation of loving kindness in different ways. So, one is using this meditation of loving kindness to heal the wounds that are created. So, in everyday life you are bound to have wounds. In relation-ships, in interactions. So, what is important is to discover a tool for healing them. So, here meditation of loving kindness can be something very, very useful.
Another aspect of meditation of loving kindness which I touched is learning to make friends to whatever is happening. Especially if it is unpleasant. So, that this perspective can be used, as I said, in relating to people you don't like, in relating to emotions you don't like. So, when emotions come. I mean without hating, without resisting, without disliking, without having stress. Just make an effort to make friends with that, to welcome it. There will be such a difference.
Another thing is meditation of loving kindness related to others. So, that your relationships are bound to improve. And to answer with loving kindness to others. It is a beautiful way to relate to oneself and relating others. Another thing in relation to loving kindness I have emphasised very much, was feeling grateful. It is such a beautiful quality, but we don't really use this beautiful, wonderful quality. And there so many things that we can be grateful for, very little simple things. But we take them for granted. What a beautiful gesture, just before you eat to feel grateful for your food. Feel grateful that we have eyes to see, there are people who can not see. Feel grateful that we can hear, there are people who can not hear. Feel grateful that we have awareness, there are human -beings who have problems in their minds. They don't know what awareness, what attention is.
So, when you practise awareness, can you feel grateful being able to do so.
So, if you can see little things in this way, then we learn to feel grateful to so many things around us. Feel grateful to the computer. Feel grateful to the telephone. Feel grateful for the job you are doing, for it gives us money, a profession. Feel grateful to the boss who is teaching you, because you have a guru in the office. So, feeling grateful is another way of saying: "No complaints". You are content with what is happening. "No Complaints".
At this point, do you have any questions? How do I meditate in this situation?
Public: When I experience emotions, negative emotions, I tend to feel self-pity. It becomes so big, I hardly realise I have self-pity.
Godwin: This self-pity is a very interesting monster. It is a very subtle monster. This monster arises in comparing yourself with others. Seeing how others are and seeing how I am. "Poor me. Only I'm having this problem. Only I have to face this situation". And it is interesting if you consider the word 'pity'. The word 'pity is feeling sorry, feeling for it. But we are using self-pity not to sympathise, but in a subtle way to create more suffering. When I used to work with terminally ill cancer patients. This was often the usual question they asked me: "Why did this happen to me? I lead such a good life, a Buddhist way of life. And here I am suffering with cancer. Why me"? I feel like, directly telling that person: "Why not you"? Because it is based on the assumption: "Because I was like this, I shouldn't have it, but others can have it". Very interesting thinking. So anyway, when there is self-pity, one suggestion I like to offer is, again this is another thing I have been doing here, to work with our thoughts, understand our thoughts. Self-pity comes, something has happened and from that incident you can build up a huge story from thoughts.
So, when a small incident happens. If you can have the awareness, some space, to observe your thoughts. This is why I have been saying that, if you have practised observing your thoughts, working with thoughts, then in such a situation this practise can come and then you can see very clearly how we can start the huge story and how self-pity comes from something that has happened to you.
And self-pity, to understand it in a different way, is to give yourself minuses to something that has happened. So, again if someone who has been so conditioned to this type of connection with oneself. So again if you have worked with this, then you realise: "Ah, this is my pattern". And then catch it and at least you realise it and it may be easy to let go of it. Maybe a third suggestion is. You have this experience of having self-pity and you say: "I am having self-pity. It is okay to have it". Just making friends with it. Just being with it, rather then feeling bad, giving yourself minuses, just saying okay to self-pity. And there are times in our life when self-pity is not there. And just to know: "Ah, for a few days, a few weeks, I didn't have self-pity. So, it has come after a few weeks, good I can work with it". Maybe another interesting practice is, find out"Who is having self-pity"? Anything else? Any other questions?
Public: Sometimes I am so overwhelmed with thoughts. I cannot drop them, because I'm inside of the thoughts. And it is also very tiring.
I am very happy that you are asking very practical questions. I think we all can relate to Barbara's' question. There are many times that we are really overwhelmed with thoughts. Just chatting. Many, many thoughts rising in our mind. So, one suggestion I would like to offer is, let these chatting thoughts go. If it is possible, just observe your state of mind. In this connection there is an interesting word that can be used, two words: "Non-reactive mind". So, if you can tell yourself, (you can use this tool in any situation where you are getting anxious or unhappy or if there is a build up) if you can just tell yourself: "Try not to react". Because in most of these situations it is reacting to them, that is making the problem worse. So, here, you say, you have many, many thoughts now. But, again, to have a non-reactive mind to the thoughts. Let them come and go. It is okay to have many thoughts.
Another technique that I was emphasizing very much. It is a very simple one, but it is a powerful one. You can us it in any situation. Any moment you can open your eyes and see what you are seeing very sharply, very clearly. In any situation you can do this. You must go for the details. I see that window. I see the glass. I see a yellow flower. I see the curtain. Noticing all the details. And then you come back from all the confusion to the reality of seeing something.
And I was also encouraging you to learn to listen. So, looking, seeing and also hearing, it can be any sound, if you are in the town, busy, busy. The sounds you are hearing. Just being with the sounds and the sights. Seeing. Hearing.
Immediately you realize, this confusion, this thoughts will not effect you. Your attention comes to reality. Same principle is, as I said earlier, in using the breathe.
So, if you are really overwhelmed then you say: "My friend I will spend some time with you, because I know when I remember you I am always with the reality, with what is happening now, the in breath, the out breath".
You said you feel tired. You feel tired because you are reacting. You don't like it, you are resisting it. So, naturally it becomes a battle, a struggle. So, to understand this, if you can relate to this way. At least you will not feel tired in relation to thoughts. But then you can feel tired. Why not? We can't always feel not tired. As I told you in the beginning: "I feel tired today. Why not"? Anything else?
Public: The labelling technique. What does it mean?
Godwin: So, what is important and interesting about the labelling technique in relation to thoughts is: "You don't get involved in the individual thoughts, not the contents of the thoughts". So, it is not the content, but the process, the mechanism of thinking. So, you attack the source. So, you just note the word 'thinking' or 'thoughts'. That is all that is happening. So, again it is really coming back to a kind of non-reactive situation. So, by noting it, immediately the reacting stops.
Another question, please. I'm happy you are asking practical questions related to everyday situations. Helpful to everyone. We can relate to them.
Public:I've noticed you have an excellent memory. Is there a connection between memory and awareness?
Godwin: I must be honest to say I have a good memory for some things. For other things I have a really bad memory. And I am still finding out what is the mechanism of remembering things and how my memory is functioning. So, I thought: "Do I only forget unpleasant things and remember important things"? I realise that sometimes I forget important things as well. So, it is not clear to me that it is always related to important things. So, this is one area that I explore. Another area that I explored in forgetting is that, was it when I was a little anxious, a little excited that I forget? Again, I realised, that in certain situations one can reacting and still one can remember, if you want to. An important principle in remembering things is, the things that we like, the things that we are interested in you tend to remember better. So, then I realised, even the pleasant things, even the things I like, sometimes I forget. So, now I try to find out the mechanism. I use a few tools, and sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. So, I like to share some of the tools that I am using to improve my memory with you. One thing, to remember simple things like: "Where you keep your key. Where you keep your toothbrush" is, when you do that, to do it consciously. "Now I put my toothbrush here". So, that when you want to remember where you have kept the toothbrush. If you have done it with awareness, consciously, you have a good chance remembering when needed. Another tool I use is that, suppose I have to remember three out of four items. So, I go over them in my mind. "Now, these are the things I have to remember". Constantly go over them. Then you have a good chance of remembering them. And one thing, I discovered, is why we forget is because we easily get distracted. I try to give an example of what is meant by being distracted. When I get a phone call from Sri Lanka which is important. I think when I come back I should not know what was the last thing we spoke about So, not to be distracted you have to have a lot of awareness, of presence of mind. To really come back to something, after we have been doing something. It is really a skill that we have to develop. Just one last point about my memory. I meet so many people. So, sometimes I meet someone and then I can remember some minute insignificant detail about what the person has told me four, five years ago. I don't know how I remember this details.
I will share an experience I had in this retreat. There is a woman here and when I saw her I realised I have seen her before, familiar face. When she came to meet me I told her: "We have met haven't we". And she said: "Yes, I came three years ago". Suddenly I remembered that in the retreat three years ago she shared with me some difficulties she had in relationships. So immediately I asked: "Now, how is the problem? Is it solved"? She was shocked. I was shocked. So, you can use some skills. You can try to cultivate memory. But certain aspects of memory. I don't know. It is very, very difficult to understand the mechanism involved in remem-bering and forgetting. And I think in our spiritual practice, in meditation. What we have to learn is, to know what we should forget. Because, as I discovered today, I often discover this, people remember only their minuses. They tend to forget their pluses. You see how we are using our selective memory to create more suffering. So, this is a practical, useful area to explore. How we are using, even, our memory for self--destruction. So, sometimes I tell people who come out with these things: "Don't you remember some good things you have done"? Some of the friends I know have forgotten them. So, sometimes I make it a point to recall to them, remind them. Again, they are surprised and shocked. So, this is the area that we need to work. And then remembering the hurts that have happened, the wounds. I mean, if someone has told you something negative, fifteen or twenty years ago and when you meet this person. It is amazing how we remember such things.
So, this is a very interesting, very fascinating area to work with. Someone who is self-destructive will remember only the minuses, only the failures, only the mistakes such a person has made. Here again, they remember so clearly the minor details that have happened twenty years ago. This is an interesting and important to work with.
Maybe, time for one last question. Then we can do some nice chanting, like yesterday. There will be another session tomorrow.
Public: I have a question about your monsters. They are like mine, but the always come back. Even when I have said: "Thank you, I have learned my lesson".
Godwin: It is very, very interesting, again, what we are trying to do. So, we like to make a deal with the monsters. "I will be grateful to you. I will be friendly to you. I will be experi-menting with you, but don't come very often". Very, very interesting. We like deals very much. We even like to have deals with the monsters. This is the whole problem. In material contracts these kind of deals may work, but in spiritual life these deals don't work.. It is exactly what we do with pain. "I will try to be friendly to you. I will try to be aware of you but, I like you to go".
Again, our own way of demanding things. Even from the monsters. Aren't we funny. They are very subtle. They know when you are really open and they know when you are secretly trying to put them into a cage.
Please try to think of more questions and please present them tomorrow in the final discussion. Today some very good questions were presented. I was able to clarify some aspects.
Place: Retreat centre "Hurnse Gaper" Hurwenen, Holland
Godwin: I would like to give you all a big plus today. When I woke up this morning, before the yoga started, I saw some of you sitting, it was very nice to see that. And also at other times, maybe after working meditation and so on. It was nice to see some of you sitting, it was very inspiring for me to see that. Then during the meditation the way all were sitting, doing walking meditation and standing. For the first day, it was very interesting for me to see this. And the friendliness with which you are helping while we are eating, that is really deeply touching. If you continue like this, I think some of you will easily become enlightened (laughter).
Today the emphasis was on awareness, mindfulness, being awake, being alert. I like to touch upon different aspects of awareness. In the Buddha's teaching this is very much emphasised. There are different texts, which are associated with meditation, which is called the Satipathana Sutta, which means the texts, which spells out the development of mindfulness or awareness. The whole text is in relation to the practise of awareness. And the eightfold noble path which is the path to free ourselves from suffering. Right mindfulness and right samadhi, concentration, play a very important part in the eightfold noble path. And this mindfulness or awareness is sometimes seen as the only way to achieve freedom. So why is awareness or mindfulness emphasised so much? As some of our meditators who are meditating for a long time. We like to hear from you how you see the importance of awareness.
Jeanne: I think it is only with awareness that we can avoid being completely caught in illusion.
Godwin: So awareness helps us, as I said earlier, helps us to free ourselves, to achieve freedom. That is what Jeanne is saying, that is certainly correct. Anything else?
Rene: We can be aware of craving and suffering.
Godwin: Yes, it is certainly true that awareness helps us to see our craving, our desires, our identifications. And see how, again, it creates conflicts for us, problems for us, suffering for us, and through that seeing, through that realisation, again, is a way out of conflict and suffering. Anything else?
Public: It helps us to recognise objects that come in our field of perception.
Godwin: I think that is a very interesting and important point. How perceptions in relation to the senses. How we interact with the external world and how in that process, perceptions give rise to concepts, and how concepts can give rise to our suffering and our problems. This is a very interesting process to watch.
So when we see things immediately our past associations will arise, and from our past associations our likes, our dislikes, our identification will arise, and as it was said earlier all our desires and our ego will arise, our prejudices, our biases. All these things arise. And how this really prevents us from seeing things just as they are, and how they can distort, is a very important and interesting area to watch in relation to the working of perceptions.
I'll give an example: So you see food. Yesterday I suggested to find out at what point you taste your food? In a way it is when we see food. We start eating food with our past associations, with our likes and dislikes. So even before we start eating we have tasted our food mentally. So this is an example of how perceptions give rise to concepts. Or if I avoid those words, how while seeing our past associations, our past prejudices will arise.
This can arise in relation to hearing also. In Sri Lanka, to give an example, there is a lot of talk about bombs. When you hear a sound of a cracker, immediately you can experience fear associating that innocent sound with a bomb.
So in this way, this is what you were saying, that how our senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and of course thoughts can create a world of their own, and how they can distort things, which prevents us from seeing things as they are. Anything else about awareness?
Rene: After rising they pass away.
Godwin: Yes that also can only be seen with awareness. Anything else?
Jeanne: We need awareness to really enjoy things, I think?
Godwin: And sometimes small things, little things, one can start enjoying, if we have this awareness. This is why I was suggesting to look at the flower, something very small maybe, a leaf, an ant, the sound of a bird, drinking something with awareness, little things, small things. It can make such a difference if your awareness, if your attention is there, while your are seeing, tasting, hearing and so on.
Rob: Many things one experiences are unique, one cannot compare them with other things. Just to experience them naked, as they are, then one has a fresh experience, only when you stop with all kind of thoughts about it.
Godwin: To say it differently, you might be able to see something as if for the first time. So this is a beautiful quality one can develop with awareness. That, again, small things, little things. If you can see them as if for the first time you really become alive when that happens. In one of the the Buddhist texts, what is called the Dhammapada, there is a very interesting statement. That unless we don't have awareness we are like people who are dead. So awareness is completely the opposite. Where we become really alive, fresh and innocent, with this quality of awareness.
Miriam: It can also make you see or change your judgement about things. If you aware of them maybe you don't, yes, maybe you can enjoy it instead of thinking it is such a mess.
Godwin: This is again an interesting point. Working meditation, ordinarily we see it as something that we have to do, but here, if you can use awareness, and as I said yesterday to see such actions as actions of loving-kindness. Again you learn to see this work in an entirely different way. Rather to suffer as a result of this work we can really enjoy it. Anything to add?
Jeanne: Awareness can help us to develop loving-kindness, because we are more open towards the people around us.
Godwin: A simple example is when we are eating together, unless we are aware and present we don't even feel the need to pass the butter or to help someone who needs something. It is only with awareness that you can develop a kind of caring for people, to be present for the people, to forget yourself, and to focus on other people; which is related to loving-kindness. It only comes about when you are present in different situations. Anything else?
Peter: I like to know something. When your eating, your aware of your eating, so how can you be aware of somebody's else's needs. Maybe this is the difference between concentration and awareness.
Godwin: Concentration is really excluding things and focussing on only one object. So when we are eating, if you eat with concentration, you are only focussing on yourself. So it is very important in certain situations to have this balance between focussing on oneself and also having this openness, open awareness of what is happening around you.
I have noticed over the years that one of the dangers of meditation is that one becomes so focused on oneself, so enwrapped within oneself, so self-centred about oneself. To let go of that, one has to relate to the people around you. This is why I emphasise very much the need for loving- kindness. Anything you like to share?
Nico: The words of Sogyal Rinpoche come into my mind. He said: Meditation is not to cave in, but to shine out.
Peter: Something I discovered today through awareness, it is very simple, I begin being aware that there is a lot going on, it is like becoming alive. But in daily business I'm so preoccupied and then not so aware.
Godwin: Actually that can be related to what is happening in mind and body. So many things are happening in our mind and body. And only if we can be aware you realise at least what a lot of thoughts you have. What a lot of sensations we feel in our bodies. Otherwise it is unfortunate that we are living, and we really don't know what is happening within us. And in the same way what is happening externally also. It is the same thing. So many things are happening but unless we are aware, unless you have the space you really don't know. So you don't what is happening externally. You don't know what is happening internally.
The word that comes to mind is being mechanical. I think with more and more mechanisation happening to human beings is they also are becoming more and more mechanical, machine like, automatic. Functioning very well, but not knowing how it is functioning, or why it is functioning. One of my friends recommended that I see a video "Charlie Chaplin" in "Modern Times". I really enjoyed it, because it showed very clearly how he was functioning like a machine. At certain times he couldn't even stop it.
Another aspect about being mechanical is that you don't have feelings. I mean this is an aspect of machines that they cannot feel. This is why I'm also emphasising the need to feel, because maybe we are losing this ability, this capacity to even feel our bodies.
Peter: I notice that I blank myself out. It is difficult to catch. I say to myself. Oh, no not now. This is not useful now. I blank my feelings and so on out.
Godwin: Good point because this amounts to suppression. And what we are suppressing, pushing away, denying is most of the time something that we don't like. Something unpleasant. But then by pushing these things away we don't realise that we give them more power. And when they will arise, they will come in a much more powerful way.
I think this is a very important aspect of awareness, it means that nothing is excluded. This is also related to meditation, because we think that meditation is having only pleasant experiences, calm experiences, positive experiences. So that we push away and don't experience the unpleasant and negative.
This is why I often emphasise that meditation is also learning to work with physical pain, mental pain, unpleasant experiences. So when they arise we should not give them a minus, we should not think of them as a disturbance or a distraction, but rather we should see them as a very good opportunity to work with them and to realise that we have these aspects in us. So if we don't realise that we have them, how can we work with them or get rid of them?
As we go along in this retreat I'll be emphasising more and more learning to be open to both pleasant and also unpleasant experiences.
So in a way sometimes I'm happy that there are sounds that are coming from the kitchen while we are sitting. We get really an opportunity to work with some anger that arise, with some reactions that arise, some judgements that are coming up. Just to realise that they are there. That's a fact. And how to work with them.
I think another important aspect is that it helps us to work with our behaviour. Now we can relate to others in certain situations: the opening and closing of a door, the way in which we work, in all these things one has to be aware, and sensitive, so that you know how not to create a problem for someone else, how not to be a nuisance, and also not to create a problem for ourselves. So you see that with awareness your ethical behaviour, your moral behaviour is regulated naturally.
Indeed it is very important in this area to learn to reflect on our behaviour, our actions, especially in relationships.
I'll emphasize this aspect as we go along. This kind of friendly reflection we help us to really understand ourselves. It leads to selfknowledge, selfunderstanding, and it is a kind of natural transformation in ourselves.
When I say this I'm reminded of a Tibetan story.
There is a very pious monk, a very good monk, living in a particular village. There is a very rich woman living in that area. She heard about this monk and she wanted to make a gift. She ordered from the goldsmith of the village a beautiful golden bowl.
In this village there was also the local thief. He heard about this: "a golden bowl for a monk". He waited till the bowl was ready, and was presented to the monk. He went to the temple immediately. The monk saw the robber come into the temple. He then went inside his room, and took the bowl, and threw it to the robber. This robber was a very reflective and thoughtful thief, and he thought: "I waited all this time for the bowl, and this monk just throws it away. Problem. I should like to know about this." So he goes to the monk, amd says: "please tell me, I can't understand your behaviour. How are you able to destroy this beatifull bowl, and I have been waiting for it all these days. How can you do this?". "Well", said the monk, "I am a meditator". "Can I also learn to meditate?". "Yes you can" said the monk. "And I don't have to give up my profession?", asked the thief. "No". And this denial troubled the thief even more, and he said: "I went to several spiritual teachers, and they all said that I should stop with my profession first. You are the only one who says that I can combine the practice of meditation with my profession. Please, please tell me more about your meditation, I am very keen to practise". So the monk said: "you have to be aware, to be mindful how you do things, be conscious of what you do, and be aware before you are doing it". The thief thought this was very simple, and began his practice. After some weeks he thought: "it is time to practise my profession". He goes to a house and wanted to break into the house. Then he thought of the monk's word that he should be mindful of what he was doing. For the the first time then he saw clearly what his actions were. And as the story goes he could not proceed. After that he went to the monk, and said that he wanted to give up his profession, and to take to meditation very seriously.
Another very important aspect of meditation is that we can investigate, and explore any experience we have. If you could develop this attitude, this perspective of finding out, of just exploring anything you meet , whatever you experience, this may be very unpleasant, then anything can be meditation, you can see the Dhamma in anything. I think this is a beautiful way to live, to want to learn, to find out about whatever you meet.
This is also the case with emotions. We can learn really to investigate the different aspects of emotions. For example take anger. You asked the question: "why do I become angry?". Just explore that question. You will learn to reflect, to see what happens inside you. Rather then what is happening outside you, externally.
Take fear, when fear arises we learn from fear by asking: "why do I call this fear? What really happens when there is fear? What happens in my body when there is fear?". Learning, exploring, discovering. So in this way any experience, any situation, any problem, any talent we have can give us a opportunity to ask the question: "what can I learn from this?".
These are some aspects of awareness. I hope that you understand now why there is so much emphasis on awareness. So we can help ourselves in meditation, and in our spiritual life.
MM: Sometimes so many things come to me, so much information, that I can't be aware.
Godwin: So here again what you can try to do when you realize that it is to much, that you become aware that it is to much. Then you consciously, deliberately do something which enables you to create some space in that situation. So one suggestion I like to offer is that in such a situation you can become conscious of your breath. Then you may come to an experience of the present moment, the reality thereof. Then you are with your breath, and not influenced by external stimulation.
I would also like to suggest that when you have the space, the strength, that you can expose yourself to such a situation, allow yourself to be vulnerable, and with awareness it helps you to realise that you have space, and clarity, and strength, and awareness and so on to learn to handle such a situation.
MM: Life can be so busy that you don't seen to have any time to be aware, to reflect.
Godwin: About such situations I think I'll be speaking as we go along. So about how we can intergrate meditation in our daily lives. But the least you can do in such a case is to find out what are the emotions you are having just then, are you angry, are you getting anxious? Are you being insecure? Just know that. And knowing that I'll present tools to work with them.
Place: Retreat centre "Hurnse Gaper" Hurwenen, Holland
Subject: Loving Kindness
I think we have chosen the right day to emphasize the meditation on loving kindness. It is a very warm, beautiful day with some sunshine. In Buddhism, meditation on loving kindness has a very important place. The words loving kindness are from the Pali word Metta, which means friendliness. There is an interesting quotation from the Buddha about the importance of Metta. He was talking to a group of monks and he told them that they should practice loving kindness, even for the time that it would take to snap your fingers, so as to be worthy to be a monk.
This has to my mind two important implications, meanings. One is that even if you practice loving kindness for a few moments, that is good enough. The other is that it shows the importance of developing loving kindness.
An interesting psychological point is that one is asked first to practice loving kindness with oneself. So, it shows that it is important to make a connection with oneself and it also shows that for different reasons we can not be liking ourselves, hating ourselves, giving ourselves minusses. So, call these aspects selfdestructive. When we have this selfdestructive aspects in us, in a way we are being our own enemy. So, from being our own enemy, what loving kindness can help us to do is to be our own best friend. And as I said one very important way to meet our own enemy, is this very sorry habit we all have to give ourselves minusses in different situations. To put it in another way we have this inclination to see only the negative aspect of ourselves. And related to that is sometimes that we imagine that others are giving us minusses as well. So, in this way, as I said we can be our own enemy creating a lot of suffering for ourselves and others. One of the meditation masters, Thich Naht Hanh put it very well. He said we always look for what is wrong in us, never for what is right. So, it is with the help of awareness and loving kindness that we can work with this very strong destructive aspect in ourselves.
Another way meditation on loving kindness can help, is to work with this conditioning is learning tot see the positive in us. So, we need to consciously bring up and reflect on our own goodness, the positive qualities we have, the potentialities we have and so on. What happens when we see the positiveness? I sugest an answer. We develop selfrespect when we see more and more goodness and the kind things we do. I think this is very important to develop. Selfesteem or selfconfidence because with the selfdestructive aspect we lose selfapreciation.
Another aspect, apart from selfesteem, is that it can create a lot of joy and happiness in us. And I feel in the spiritual path this is very important. This is the first step, the first stage is using meditation of loving kindness in order to generate a lot of joy and happiness.And when you work with your own happiness, this can also be infectious. It can affect other people. So, the first step is to have this joy, happiness and lightness.
The next step is to see them, as is fitting in this meditation, as impermanent. Because when you hold on to them they can give you suffering. It is important to realize that they don't belong to us. So, in Buddhist terms to see "anicca", impermanence and "anata", the absence of ego or a seperate self. This is why I emphasize in this retreat so much the loving kindness. I can see that people really are experiencing joy and lightness. I think in a way meditation is a technique.
There are two models that I use. One model is the more you suffer the better you can overcome the suffering through suffering. And another model is that you can overcome suffering through joy.
So, another aspecht of loving kinkdness that I emphasize is the importance of being grateful. I think we take this very important spiritual quality for granted. When I was in Bodhgaya, the place where the Buddha is said to have become enlightened, I was reflecting on what is known about what the Buddha did after he had found the enlightenment. One of the things that are said, is that he looked at the tree, the bodhitree which gave him shelter for seven long days and without closing his eyes he looked at the tree showing his gratitude. Do you fee gratitude for the tree which gives shelter, beauty and shade? Do you feel gratitude for the good faculties that you have? The fact that we have eyes to see. We should grateful, some people can't see in this world. Do we also feel grateful that we have ears. That we can hear, because there are some people who can't hear. And this is that I suggested that we, before we begin to eat we feel grateful, because we don't realize that there are people in the world who don't have anythinng to eat. Who are starving from a lack of food.
When this was mentioned in Nilambe, the meditation centre where I live, there was a nun from Thailand, and she made a very interesting point. She said that we not only should feel grateful for the positive things, we should also feel grateful for the opportunities in life to work with ourselves. So, when we get angry can we feel grateful that we have an opportunity that we can study anger? When we have pain, physical pain and start hating the pain and the body, is it possible to feel grateful that it has a nice aspect, a positive aspect. Can you make it an object of meditation? And sometimes we hear sounds from the kitchen. Can we see that we have an opportunity to work with this situation? So, in this way we can learn to be grateful for positive things, the blessings we have. And we can also be gratreful for the difficult situations we have, because they can be very valuable learning experiences.
Now, another aspect I have been emphasizing very much in relation to loving kindness is learning to heal our wounds. Forgiving ourselves and forgiving others. So, what happens when we have wounds and we don't heal them? These wounds can be created in childhood, they can be created in subsequent relationships. If we do not really heal them one thing that might happen is that it can again create problems in relationshops and it can again create suffereing for ourselves and for others. It can also create certain patterns in our relationships and affect our bodies in two ways. It can create tensions in our bodies which can be related to these repressed emotions or wounds. It can also create illnesses in our own bodies. What we call psycho-somatic illnesses.
Don't we get angry in our sleep? Dont'we cry in our sleep. Don't we have frightfull dreams? These may be related to those unhealed wounds that we have.
Another thing that can affect us is that somtimes we can have sudden emotions and we can't find a reason for them. Suddenly we feel like crying, suddenly we experience fear or are in panic.
Another way that it can affect us is when we are dying. I have been very interested in this area of death and dying and I've met people who work in this area. What some of them have told me is thay the biggest problem they have when they are helping a person with dying is with the wounds which they have not looked at. They surface in a very strong way. Can anyone say why these things should surface in these circumstances? While we are living we can surpress them, we can push them away, we can deny them, not look at them. But when we are dying our mind and body become weak, then these wounds can surface. And unless we heal these wounds we can not live peacefully. The medtation on loving kindness can help us to heal these wounds by forgiving ourselves and by forgiving others. Both are difficult.
So, maybe another way of forgiving is by realizing that you are human and others are also. A metaphor, a simile that I sometimes use is, what happens is that we put ourselves on a pedestal and this pedestal can be very unrealistic. Can be too idealistic. Sometimes in this culture also the model we use, is the model of perfection. So, what happens is, that we fall down from this pedestal of perfection. Then we suffer from guilt and self hatred. You give yourself minusses, because you have fallen from this pedestal.And this is also what we do with other eople. We put them on pedestals. This is also based on this idea of perfection. In Buddhist terms it means that you want to behave like an enlightened person and you expect that also from other people. And when others don't behave like enlightened people you give them minusses. You start hating them. It is really interesting in relationships how wounds are created.
So, in this way I sometimes suggest, in a very lighthearted way, if you make a mistake: "don't be surprised, because, you are still not enlightenend". And when you see someone else make a mistake: "don't be surprised, because they are also not enlightened". So, this is a very simple, direct way of accepting ourselves, our humanness, our imperfection and accepting the imperfections and humanness of others.
There are four aspects of these positive qualities we mentioned, that are mentioned in the Buddhist text. In fact we have four Pali words. I would like to make a nice chant of them. The words are: "Metta (loving kindnes), karuna (helping others in their suffering), mudita (being happy about your own happiness and being happy about the happiness of others) and Upeka (a detached mind, a mind that is cool, but not cold). So, these are four beautifull qualities that can be developed. In everyday life one should develop friendliness towards oneself and others. And if, in your daily life you see people who are suffering, make it a point to do something. Sometimes there is a small thing, a little thing that we can do in such a situation. So, in this retreat it is sometimes so beautifull to see how people are helping each other with small things. Little acts of kindness. In this connection Mother Theresa has said somthing very wise. She said you do not have to do those big acts of life, but small acts of love, that is good enough. I like to mention that on the day of my arrival in Rotterdam, I was very touched about how Peter had tried to save a dove that was drowing in the stream opposite his house. How he was concerned with saving it. Eventually he succeeded because it flew away from the window. So you have this openness. You see maybee a tree, maybe animals, maybe human beings who need this kind of help: "karuna". So, I like to emphasize this. And when you help someone what is the emotion you have. Gratefulness, joy, happiness. You can see how these feelings come up in different ways.
And then the other quality: "mudita", is as I have been emphasizing to rejoice in your own goodness. To rejoice over our own happiness is something we don't do. We neglect that. Even more difficult is to rejoice in the happiness of other people. When others are sufferings is might be easy to help them. But when they are happy to really experience happiness is not so easy. But it is worthwhile trying. It can give more happiness to ourselves. When your own meditation is not going well, and we hear about someone else's good meditation, can we then really be happy? The needed quality is to have an non-reactive mind. In fact this is one of the qualities that we are developing in meditation. So, when we are sitting, whatever happens internally, within us, we learn to observe. Hopefully with a mind that is non-reactive. And when things are happing externally, like noises and disturbances again, can we relate to them without reacting? So, maybe I like to stop now, and if you have any questions you can ask them. These are very important things in meditation and in life
Jeanne: Helping people can give a lot of anxiety. What starts with good intentions, with compassion ends up being a nightmare.
Godwin: What is worthwhile in life are the none difficult things. And look what you are doing here. How many people are prepared to come here and get up at 6 in the morning. How many people are prepared to be in a group and not talk to one another. How many people are prepared to come and sit in this most unusual posture and experience physical pain. How many people are prepared to bring up unpleasant emotions. It is much easier to forget them en go and do somthing else. And how many people are prepared to do those yoga postures wich are not very easy to do. So this why I said that when you understand this you should rejoice that you are here and make a commitment for this.
So, going back to what some of you said about helping other people, animals and difficulties you may then meet, the nightmares that may come. But doing all this is where we should not hesitate. We are doing all this to save a cat, to save a dog and to save ourselves and maybe to save others.
Peter: You should have in order to do all these good deeds a kind of detachment, equanimity. You didn't seem to be worried about the pigeon.
Godwin: You see the importancce of the fourth quality which is equanimity. To be cool, not cold. This is extremely important to help others. Sometimes in helping others we create more suffering for ourselves, when we are reacting. There are two beautiful words.. reacting and responding. Reacting in a situation where we are helping orthers you do something, you get emotionally excited and so on. Responding is trying to do something and if you are not reacting you can keep a clear mind. So, it is important tot learn to respond and not to react in a situation. And I would suggest as you are all human, it is possible that you will react and then when we are doing so I suggest that you reflect: "Why am I reacting"? How this is a possibility of that you are reacting and next time tell me. Learn not to react but to respond. So, again you make use of this reacting and hopefully, ideally learning to remind yourself no to react but to respond.
Public: If you react e.g. be angry that happens before you are aware. I should like to be able to keep this reaction in check. Even other people are affected by my reaction.
Godwin: I like to offer a solution in this connection. Normally we react because we are surprised, again I do say, it is human an we are surprised because we all have a model. Expectations about how things should be and go. So, when something happens which goes against this model, these expectations, these ideas that is why we react and why we are surprised. I like to repeat that it is quite human to have ideas and models, but at least when we are reacting, if at the time of reacting if you can reflect on it: "Now what is this model? What is the expectastion I'm having?"
And the second solution is don't have the idea I will not react. Because if you have this ideal of not reacting, then when you react you will be reacting to that. And when you react as I've been emphasizing make friends with it and then again try to reflect on it in a very gentle and friendly way. Otherwise you'll be given yourself minusses. This is the important thing.
An important point to which we can all relate is that we all make mistakes. So, I would like to suggest that when we make mistakes to please make an effort not to give yourself a minus. Not giving yourself a minus doesn't mean that you don't allow such things to happen, but not to indulge in them. Loving kindness is important in this respect.You can have a very friendly conversation with yourself. You can ask in a very friendly way: "What did you do? Why did this happen to you?" Instead of: "You shouldn't have done this". That is a big minus. Just try to understand why you behaved in such and such a way. Then you will be able to see different aspects of e.g. anger in your actions, which can be very helpfull for you to understand yourself. In this way we really learn from our mistakess, without giving ourselves minusses. In a sense we should give ourselves a big plus. Why would I say this? Because then you become more aware of them, you can learn from them, we can reflect on this. So, why shouldn't we give ourselves a big plus, we can even rejoice. You can see in this way the importannce of loving kindness. In the same way you relate to the mistakes of other people. I think that I will speak about relationships tomorrow. Because they are the biggest challenge in our daily life. Some of the things I mentioned today, speaking about loving kindness will be extremely helpful in relating to ourselves and others.
Public: The selfdestructive force can be so strong that it is difficult to be friendly to yourself. It is as if you are holding a gun to your head.
Godwin: I am glad about such practical questions. I quite agree that it can be extremely difficult, because the selfdestructive feelings can really overwhelm us. So, one solution I like to offer is that, this is why awareness is so important in the practice of meditation. So, when yo realize that you have this selfdestructice tendency and this aspect arises together with the minusses, you should immediatly catch it. So, if you realize that it is a very strong tendency in you, a strong conditioning, a habit, but when you see that you want to give yourself a minus immediatly know it, catch it: "There, I go again." And what is more important, is to realize that it is only a habit. That it is only a conditioning. It is not representing something real. Just to see that it is a habit, then we don't give it such a power and energy as when we take it as real. Just work with this habit in this way.
Another solution I like to offer is, that it is a very interesting exercise to ask yourself on a every day basis: "How many minusses have I given myself today?"And there are differences in minusses. Big ones and smaller ones. So, each day we try to reflect in this way.
Then finally you can, rather than feeling bad about it, laugh at it. Then there is a lightness and even joy. So, in the practice of meditation I think it is very important that we work with ourselves in a lighthearted way, even with our shortcomings. Rather than be heavy, beat ourselves or be very serious and intens. Such things are unfortunate.
Public: About forgiveness. It is sometimes difficult to forgive, because the same people who make us happy also make us mad and hurt us.
Godwin: The wounds are created by the people who are close to us. It is very interesting to reflect on that. People who are distant can't create wounds, penfriends never fall out. Only friends who are close by. This is the importance of relationships.
Thank you for reminding me that some of you don't know the story of the cobra. It can be very useful because sometimes people think that loving kindness is always to be passive. This story is from the Indian tradition, and it is about a cobra who was practicing loving kindness.
This cobra was practising loving kindness in a forest. Saying: "May all beings be well, may all beings be happy, may all beings be peacefull". Than there was an old woman who was carrying firewood. She could not see properly, and she thought that the cobra was a piece of string and she used the cobra to bundle her firewood. And as the cobra was praticing loving kindness, the cobra allowed the woman to do with him whatever she wanted. So the woman carries the bundle home, and the cobra escaped with a lot of pain and wounds. The cobra went to his meditationmaster to have an interview. So he told what happened, and that he was practicing loving kindness, and he showed his wounds. The teacher said: "You did not practice loving kindnes, you practiced foolish loving kindness. You should have shown that you are a cobra". In everyday life we sometimes need to show that we are like that cobra and hiss. So, loving kindness is not to allow us to be exploited.
We can end here and have some chanting with loving kindness.
Place: Retreat centre "Hurnse Gaper" Hurwenen, Holland
No human being can avoid relationships. Even if someone is living as a hermit in the forest he or she has to have relations-hips. What are the types of relationships a person has to have? With food, with breath, with the surroundings, and of course with himself. So it shows that we cannot avoid relationships. So, therefore it is a very important theme that we have to be clear about.
So when we use the word relationship, usually what comes into our mind is the other person. But as I've been empha-sising, what is most important is to find out how you relate to yourself. The way you relate to yourself will be dependant on the way you relate to others. If you're very, very critical of yourself, you will be very critical of others. If you do not trust yourself, it will be very difficult to trust others. And if you feel insecure, other people will, when they are there, generate a lot of insecurity in yourself. So therefore, it is very, very important, when we discuss relationships, to find out how we relate to ourselves.
This is why I have been emphasising meditation of loving kindness, where you can really learn to be your own best friend. Then, our dependencies on other people become less. So sometimes what happens is that we use other people to cover up this sense of inadequacy in ourselves. This is why we give so much power and so much energy to other people that our own happiness or unhappiness is dependant on other people. Sometimes I like to use this simile of using toys. Though we are grown up we still have our toys. What are the toys we have, grown up people's toys?
From the audience: "Cars." "Hide and seek."
So anyway, what I mean by toys are these external things that we have become dependant on for our amusement and our happiness. Like children, sometimes we keep on changing toys. So we have one toy and we think, "Now this is going to make us happy," and very soon we are unhappy with this toy and then we are looking for other toys. So our whole lives we are looking for toys and at the end of it we are all dissatisfied.
Can meditation also become a toy? I would suggest that meditation helps us to be our own toy. That is the only difference: that's a very big diffe-rence. So really, it's loving kindness and being our best friend that will help us to have this relati-onship where we become our own toy and we'll become contented, happy with ourselves.
That doesn't mean that when we are with other people we are unhappy. So when we are with ourselves we can be happy and contented with ourselves, and when we are with other people we can still be happy. So this is one point where this is related to really being your best friend.
Another challenge we have in relationships is when we see the shortcomings of other people. So when we have relationships, it may be between parents and children, husband and wife, boss and employee, our neighbour and ourselves. Whatever the relationships, sometimes we see other people behaving differently from how we think they should behave. So normally, what do we do when we see other people's weaknesses? Hmm? We become judgemental. We want them to be different and we get angry with them. Immediately we give them a minus. And, as Gene said, we get angry and we try to tell the other per-son, try to correct the other person in this way.
So in a way it shows that we are demanding, we are demanding how other persons should behave. It is funny in life how we make demands of ourselves, how we should behave. And as I said earlier, we demand from ourselves this model of perfec-tion. And in the same way, we project a model of perfecti-on onto others and we demand that they should correspond to that model of perfecti-on we have about how they should behave.
Do we stop at that? We demand from life how life should be! Even about the weather, we demand that we should have Sri Lankan weather. When there is Sri Lankan weather we are very happy, when there is Dutch weather we are very unhappy. So it is really funny how we demand from life, how we demand from ourselves, how we demand from others. So naturally, you cannot meet the demands you are making of yourself. And natural-ly others can't meet the demands you are making of others. And naturally, life can't meet the demands you are making from life.
So we see in a very simple, direct, way how we create our own suffering, our own problems, without realising that we are making demands and without ever posing the question: how realistic are my demands? So when we see someone behaving in a way that we think others should not behave, if we can realise at that time that this is due to a demand that we're making about how the person should behave. And then when we see the faults of other people, we again assume that the other person knows and is acting with responsibility about what he or she is doing. Sometimes it is only an assumption, it is only a belief on our part, but the other person sometimes doesn't know why he or she is behaving in that way. Do we know, when we are always acting, why we are acting in a particular way? Sometimes we don't know, but we assume that others should know. So this is why when we have relationships---it can be with anyone---and when we see such a situation, rather than immediately giving a plus to the other person, rather than getting angry and reacting to the other person, if we can have a dialogue to find out why that person is behaving in a particular way. So if you can really do this with other people in such situations, you'll be really helping such people because maybe for the first time you'll be encouraging such people to reflect on what he or she is doing. And as I also said yesterday, in relation to your own actions rather then give yourself a minus try to have a dialogue with yourself about why you're behaving in this particular way. So I think this is one of the very important skills that we need to learn when we have relationships.
Now this does not mean, as I was saying yesterday, always being passive and always allowing other people to do what they like. But it's rather a way of getting that person to know it and if that other person is unable to do that it will be very helpful for you to discuss that with the other person about what he or she is doing. Give him a chance to reflect and have a discussion with yourself.
Another point related to this, which is, as Gene said yesterday, these maybe very difficult things, but perhaps more diffi-cult would be in such situations to see an action or a word not from your point of view but from the other person's point of view. It is very difficult. Because we are so fixed with our own pluses and minuses, with our own assumptions, with our own beliefs, with our own value judgements. So that to forget all that and try to understand another person from his or her point of view, we need to have a lot of space, a lot of understanding about human nature.
Another very important thing to remember when you see the shortcomings and the faults of other people is to realise that you're not free from them. Sometimes when we judge others, when we give minuses to other people, when we give advice to other people, we sometimes forget that we also have similar qualities in us.
There's a very simple aspect in the Buddha's teaching in relation to human behaviour, that human beings have three strong dri-ves which are motivating them to act in particular ways. One is greed, another is hatred, and a more subtle and difficult one is delusion. So in a sense we all have those three drives in us. And the Buddha says, until and unless we really overcome this completely, we are crazy. Who can say here---I cannot say it myself---that they always see things as they are? So we relate to the other world, the external world of other people, with a private world that we have constructed. So another world is: we are all subjective and not objective. So our problem is we take this crazy world very seriously. So if you can really understand that we are living in such a world where there is such a lot of delusion, such a lot of grief, such a lot of hatred, that human beings are imperfect, these quali-ties come from the fact they are human, then you learn to see yourself and others in an entirely different way.
I would suggest that this is really loving kindness. So coming back to the question I raised, when you see the shortcomings, the faults, of other people, if you can remember this: "Who knows, maybe I also have the same things," then you'll be relating to them with more understanding, with more tolerance, with more compassion.
Another challenge we have is when other people tell you about their own faults, that is a very hard one to take. We can very easily see the faults of other people and we can very easily tell them: "Look here, you should behave differently." But when others tell us the same thing, how do we relate to that? So these are real challenges in relationships which we have to face, which we have to relate to.
Another challenge we have is, why have we given such power, such energy, to other people? Our happiness and our unhappiness is dependant on what other people think of us. So we all have this tendency. Most of the time what we are trying to do is to please other people. Because we are starving for other people. Because we are starving for their pluses. Most of the time what we are doing has become such a dependency, maybe a toy we would like to get and only when we get that we feel that we are really happy. But when I meet such people, I feel very, very sad about them. Because they are trying their best and of course they are not getting enough pluses because they can never be satisfied with the pluses they get. And what do they do? They try more. And the more they're trying the less they are successful: suffering and giving minuses, sadness, feeling of rejection.
So do you realise the importance of these aspects of relationships? Because our happiness, our unhappiness, is really dependant on how we relate to ourselves and how we relate to others in this way.
So it's an interesting question to reflect on: why have we become so dependant on other people for our own happiness and what is the reason for this?
From the audience: "Low self esteem." "We were born completely dependant and we continue to be so." "How we were raised."
So anyway, one can think of different reasons, but what is important to realise is that this friendliness, this self confi-dence, this esteem: you're not getting enough from yourself. This is what I meant: that we are suffering from a kind of lack, that we try to cover up this lack by being dependant on other people.
This brings up three models that I have thought of that we can relate to:
The first model is when we really feel we are nobody. No one likes me. Everyone rejects me. I'm a victim. Poor me. So this is what I call being nobody in the sense that you're giving minuses to yourself, you're getting minuses from other people. So from nobody we need to feel like somebody. For that we need pluses from ourselves. So this is why I have been emphasi-sing very much in relation to loving kindness, that we have to learn to see the positive in ourselves. To rejoice in the good things that we have been doing.
It's very interesting. One day I realised that we all have the qualities by which we can really free ourselves. It is all hidden inside us. So meditation or spiritual life should enable us to see these inner resources that we have. To see that the Buddha-nature is within us and allowing this Buddha-nature to flower out: this is the practice. So in this way you really feel that you are somebody, which is very important at some point.
And the next stage is that you can be really nobody in the real sense of the word. And when you are really nobody in the real sense of the word, you are no longer dependant on pluses or minuses. You have gone beyond pluses and minuses. And that is where you learn to be your own toy and you learn to be really self-contained within yourself.
Another area of relationships is the area where we need to use loving kindness in our actions. Because in this world, people have a lot of difficulties. There is a lot of suffering in this world. So it's a very, very good practice sometimes to forget all your problems, all your difficulties you are going through and then to learn to relate to the suffering of other people. This brings up the importance of translating loving kindness into actions. And these kinds of actions can generate a lot of joy, a lot of happiness, and it can be a very meaning-ful way to live when you are being your own best friend and you are being a friend to others.
Maybe another aspect is when we find ourselves with a difficult person. It can be your boyfriend, it can be your girlfriend, your neighbour, your boss. Sometimes it's a very good practice to see such persons as your teachers, as your gurus. They are very powerful gurus, because they are really showing a mirror to you. So it is useless to try to break the mirror, to get angry with the mirror. Look at the refection in your mirror and see what is happening to you in relation to that.
So with meditation what is happening slowly, slowly: there is a shift taking place within yourself. So when you relate to such people externally or when you have to relate to situations outside yoursel-f, then rather then getting all into the external thing you learn to look at your own mind. So in everyday life where you have such people, when you have to interact with them, what you have to do is to look at your own reactions: what are the emotions that are coming up now? So feel grateful to such people because they are enabling us to see that we have these emotions in us. So it really gives an opportunity to work with them, thanks to these people. You must say: May I have more teachers? May I have more gurus like them? And then in life, if we can have this openness to learn from other people, we can learn from any experience. Any experience can be a learning experience. This is a beautiful way to live.
I have met enlightened gurus, I have met very advanced masters, but my present position is that my best teacher is none of them. My best teacher has only four letters: L-I-F-E. Life is my best teacher. If we can really open up to life situations, this teacher can tell us very interesting things. Only this: if you come to the conclusion that you know, that is the end of learning.
This is why we need to have what we call the beginner's -mind. With the beginner's mind, with the don't-know-mind, if we can really learn from life situations, any situati-on can be a meditative situation and this is a beautiful way to live. I would like to end this talk by sharing with you an expe-rience I had in Berlin during one of my earlier visits there. On the last day of the retreat we were just talking, chatting away with the people and there was an elderly woman there and she said, "Whatever you have been teaching us, I have learned from my dog." It was very good for my ego. "You are speaking of being in the present: this is what my dog does. You are speaking of gratitude: this is what the dog does by wagging its tail. There was yoga: my dog would do the same, stretch its legs." So in utter desperation I asked, "Is there no difference between me and your dog?" She very casually said, "There is only one difference. You talk a lot. My dog doesn't talk a lot."
So now I shall shut up.
So are there any questions about relationships? Practical situations will be very, very helpful. What are you really expe-riencing in relationships? It can be any form of relationship.
From the audience: "One of the biggest difficulties I have is to know when somebody hurts me whether I should assert myself and say something or whether to keep quiet and try just to work on it in myself. I might give myself a plus for staying quiet this time; I didn't get angry. Or I might say, 'I didn't say anything, that was stupid.' How do you know which is which?"
Godwin: Such questions arise if you want to always do the right thing. So we should learn not to fear to make mistakes. This is very important because as I was saying, we can only learn from our mistakes. So you try to be clear what you should do, but in taking a decision, see what happens. But what happens when we have to take such a decision is, before acting, we think, "What should I do, when is the right time or the wrong time?", while acting we think, "Maybe I should say this." Then after acting we think, "I shouldn't have done it at all."
I think in our spiritual practice, what we have to learn is something very, very difficult: allowing yourself to be wounded, allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Because with this, doing the right thing very cautiously and knowing what is going to happen, gives a kind of false sense of security. As they say in Sri Lanka, "everything under control". It is a very false sense of security. According to the Buddha's teaching, real security comes if you can be open to insecurity. Because we don't know what is going to happen, so it is always something uncertain that is going to happen. So the real practice is learning to be open to uncertainty in whatever form uncertainty comes.
From the audience: "Some people seem to be hurt in their youth by their upbringing, because of their parents. I see a lot of girls who had a very dominant mother, who was not fulfilled. She had this emptiness in herself and she used this child to project her needs and the child could never develop her own self-es-teem or self--trust or any feeling of self. So there is a kind of hole, a kind of negative emptiness. It seems this deeper sensation is a wound that can be so deep, I find. I wonder if for many people it is not too deep to bridge with this loving kind-ness. It's a kind of vicious circle they are in. And how can they grow this little germ of self-es-teem and self-love?"
Godwin: Very good question. Because I meet such people very often. And when I meet such people what do I do? This is something. It might interest you that Sri Lankan people don't have this problem. It is possible that they might have had a difficult childhood, but maybe because of the idea, the Buddhist idea that we should be grateful to our parents, they never try to see a connection, to blame the parents for what they are experiencing.
And there might be another reason. In Sri Lanka, children are brought up with extended families. So you get enough affection, attention, maybe too much attention. I often joke when I'm in Europe that in Sri Lanka children have a lot of choices in relation to getting affection, but in relation to food there are no choices. Here there are a lot of choices in relation to food. When I want tea there is hot tea, herbal tea, black tea with milk, with no milk, bla bla bla bla: choices.
So anyway, when I started to be with Westerners for the first time, I learned about these very serious deep wounds which have happened in childhood. So through the years, this is what I'm trying to do with these people. Usually they carry a lot of anger, resentment against the parent. So in the beginning I made the mistake of saying, "Just forgive your parents, have loving kindness." But I realised it did not work because they would come and tell me: "How can I have loving kindness? I feel like hitting my mother, I feel like beating my father." So they had a lot of anger. I got afraid sometimes. So now what I tell them is: "Please bring up that anger. If you like to, you can verbalise that anger. Speak to your parents. 'This is what you did,' and really wholeheartedly experience that anger." Because I think as children they did not have an opportunity to really express that anger they had towards their parents. So really they're holding on to it. So it's sometimes good to bring it out.
Another thing I try to tell them is: "Do you realise that your parents might also have been victims? Do you realise what difficulties they might have had?" In this connection I heard a very moving story from a woman I was working with. She told me she had a very, very difficult childhood. That especially from her mother there were physi-cal wounds, psychological wounds. It was terri-ble what she had to go through as a child. And she completely lost contact with her mother. She told me that what happened in childhood really subsequently effected her personality, her behaviour. Then when this woman was about fifty years old she thought, "Maybe I should try to contact my mother." She made inquiries and heard that her mother was living in a home for old people. So she made the contact, she met this mother, and when she saw her mother after fifteen years, she hugged her and said, "I love you, my mother." The mother didn't say anything but had a lot of tears, she was really crying. Then the daughter asked her mother, "Why can't you say that you love me also?" So she said: "How can I say that? I never learned what love is." So when she heard those words, the wound she was carrying for fifty years immediately healed. So sometimes we don't realise what they have gone through. So sometimes I talk to these people and say, "Please look at that aspect also."
Another thing which I try to communicate with them is, that you might have had problems in childhood, but what are you going to do about it now? It's a very easy thing to continue blaming your parents. But by blaming your parents, you don't take responsi-bility for what is happening now. So anything might have happened in the past, but now you are in the position to take responsibility and to work with that.
Then I also get them to reflect on three questions in a very meditative situation. And the questions are:
"What are the good things your parents have done for you?"
Because it is interesting that we have a selective memory. As we discussed, we remember only the minuses, the wrong things. So when I tell them, "Please try to recall the good things they have done," their memory sometimes can change.
Then I ask them, "What are the good things you have done for your parents?" And, "Do you know what difficulties you created for your parents?"
So when I get them to reflect very deeply in a meditative situation on these questions, sometimes they come running to me and say, "Now I feel guilty." So then I realise it is working and that is the time to present meditation of loving kindness, not before that.
From the audience: "May I add one little remark? What you say is true. It always is like this, this vicious process-, but what I meant especi-ally is not so much the relation to the parents but the psychological mechanism, what happened with this child. It has not grown into a self. It has no self, no self-feeling. Often they don't even know the parents could be blamed for that. They only feel this emptiness, this coldness, this depersonalisation. And my question is also, how can this child itself bridge this coldness, this indifference inside, because it has never felt the warmth of emotion? It's very deep sometimes, it's an internal mecha-nism."
Godwin: Such a person is what I categorise by being completely nobody. So this nobody doesn't even feel anything, doesn't feel the sense of self. All the symptoms you described, this nobody has in this stage. To repeat what I said earlier, it takes a lot of time for such a person from being really nobody to feel like somebody. And one has to work on a physical level, on a psychological level, and on an emotional level. In fact when I meet such people, they don't even feel their body. They are strangers in their own body. So with certain techniques, with certain exerci-ses, to be somebody, one has to work at different areas, aspects.
It is interesting. When I meet such people, I tell them to draw up a list of their minuses and to draw up a list of their pluses. And it is fascinating to me how they can, without much effort, draw up a long list of minuses. And then when I tell them, please draw up a list of pluses, they are clueless. They are unable to do that. So in this way, one has really got to get them to work on themselves and then slowly, slowly---it might take some time---from this really nobody you might get close to being somebody.
So any other questions about relationships?
From the audience: "I think personally I have been in this sort of situation and I think that that has happened to many people who have been in a very difficult situation. If you come to the core of your being, it doesn't have to be, you don't have to be blank, you can also get to the source of the being itself. You can be driven to the source of your being."
Godwin: Good luck, good luck. There's a lot of hope here.
"I notice myself in having contact with such a person who was still alive, who was thinking about doing suicide, that with those persons if they are still alive, there has always been one person or dog or animal or anyone in their life who was loving them. Only for fifteen minutes or so, and I noticed when going back to that memory, they can liven up a little bit."
Godwin: Good point, that makes a lot of sense. Any more questions about relationships? Or we can do some chanting.
From the audience: "It's a friend of mine, he is a Dharma student also, he has this problem in himself. I think that he has the experience that everything he likes and loves is taken away. So when he's studying Dharma and something good is arising from him, then those fears come that it will be taken away. It's a big problem for him and every time he is in a lift these voices come and chuck him down."
Godwin: Crisis. In a way we all have this problem to a degree. Which means, these voices that come and tell you. Or to put it in another way, there's one side in you that wants to do one thing and there's another side that wants to do another thing. So we are divided. It's the same problem in another way. So with people who have those voices, what I suggest to them is what they are trying to do is to stop these voices. But as you know, the more one tries to stop them, the more they come. So what I tell them is rather then trying to stop them, and as I have also been mentioning, is to make friends with that voice. And learn to play with that voice. So we become so serious and so intense with this working with that voice. In fact, I met one person in the last retreat I gave. I told that person, "Right, now wait and say, 'Come on now, voice, anything else?'" So when you invite it to come, it doesn't come.
Maybe another aspect of this which can be useful to any one of us, which we'll be discussing about tomorrow is, sometimes there's just an innocent thought that comes like that. And what we do with these innocent thoughts that come through habit, we give them such power and reality. So if you can really get them to realise that it is only a habit, conditioning, and that that is not reality. To separate the habit may help them.
So there don't seem to be any problems, so we have solved all problems of relationships. That's why there are no questions, I suppose.
From the audience: "I have one more question. Is it possible in relationship between partners when one has tension---it was a big problem in my former relationship---to stay out of that tension? I don't know how to do that. You know what I mean?"
Godwin: When you are with your friend you have tension?
"No. My girlfriend has tension, or I taste it also because we want somet-hing with each other."
Godwin: I'm happy such practical problems you are going through are presented. So I will offer some suggestions. When does tension arise? It's not only you, we all experience these tensions sometimes.
"When we are in a conflict. Fear. Overloaded."
Godwin: And also when there is resistance. And it's very, very important, interesting, to know the process, the mechanism of this tension. Sometimes it is the thought that is creating the tension: "I might make a mistake. I should be doing the right thing. What will the other person think?" So such thoughts come: immediately there is tension. And when there is tension, there is a reaction to the tension. Then you are tensed because of the tension, so it's a vicious circle.
So now the question is, how to break the vicious circle? So I would suggest that it comes mostly from a thought you chase: who knows, you might fail, do the right thing. Such thoughts that come in relationship to yourself in the relati-onship. So what you may try to do is, as I said earlier, just realise it is just a thought that is coming up and when we give reality to the thought, that thought gives rise to the tension. So this is the importance of awareness and this is the importan-ce in working with our thoughts.
So tomorrow the discussion will be on emoti-ons, and the day after tomorrow it will be on thoug-hts, because they are really closely related.
So one suggestion is, to work with the thought level when it comes, and the other is, when there is tension, if you can really say, "I feel tense but it is okay to feel tense." Learning to say "okay" takes away the power and the energy we have given to the tension. And the third suggestion is, when you have tension, you feel it in the body somewhere. So when you feel that tension in the body, as we have been doing here, to become conscious of that tension in the body and to feel that tension and again not to give it a minus. But if you can send some thoughts of loving kindness to that area of the body it might help.
So you work with the thinking level, then you work with the emotion, and you work with the tension. And is it also possible that you and your friend have given such power to the tension that there may be moments when there is no tension? So then be conscious of such moments, to realise that, "Now, I have no tension." And tell her also that when there are moments when there is no tension, just to tell you, so that you can have a dialogue with this about the tension. Playing with the tension. "Now are you having tension, good, now I don't have tension."
Most of our problems are when we have given such power to these things. So when we can take away the power in this lighthearted way, even if it is there, it's not so much of a problem.
So I'd like to hear from you whether the suggestions worked.
So anyway, now we can do some chanting, and then there is meditation of loving kindness.
Place: Retreat centre "Hurnse Gaper" Hurwenen, Holland
Godwin: Looking at your faces, I don't get the impression there are any monsters!
So, let us discuss what I call tools; how to work with the monsters. It may be interesting perhaps to draw up a list of the emotions that some times bother us. What are the monsters, the names of these emotions?
Public: Fear, shame, lust, horror, terror, jealousy, greed, anger, distrust, sadness, guilt, self-pity, insecurity, loneliness, doubt..........
Godwin: A long list, hum. Is there anyone who likes them?
So, this is the first tool that I am going to present to you. How far can we be open to them? How far can we see them as opportunities, learning experiences?
Sometimes, by hating them, disliking them, resisting them, we give them a lot of power. I know it is not a easy one, but slowly, slowly, I think we need to learn to to be open to them, mmm. Maybe an other one related to that is, when they are there, not to be surprised! Why do I say this?
Public: In my model there is no place for such monsters.
Godwin: So, the problem is in the model.
And then it appears that the model is a model of perfection or perhaps enlightenment. I suppose only enlightened people may not be having these unpleasant emotions. For as we are still human and as we are still imperfect we should not be surprised when they come. So, being surprised and being open, in fact they are related. So, related to this is a phrase that I have been using very often is: Learning to be friendly to them. When I say this I am reminded of a myth, it is presented in the form of a myth. Which is there in one of the Buddhist texts.
So it is about a demon who is living among human beings. And when a human being would get angry he would get some food. So, you can just imagine he had.........! Plenty of food, like here! So, demons also can get bored with the same food every day. So, one day this demon thought maybe I should go to the heavens where the gods live and see whether they will get any food or whether they will starve.
So, he goes there and then he looks around and he found that the throne, the throne of the chief god was vacant, no one was there. So, he sat himself uninvited on the throne. And then when the other gods saw this, they got angry. So, when they got angry, he had taste for the first time the divine food. So, when this demon sat on the throne he was very very small, but when these gods were getting angry and hitting him and resenting him he became bigger and bigger and bigger. So, the boss, the chief god, realised something was happening. So, he comes and sees what is happening. So he spoke to the demon in a very friendly gentle way, welcoming the demon and saying do you like to drink anything, and so on. (Can you guess what happen when he became friendly?) He shrank, he shrank..
So, it is really psychologically interesting, that what we also try to do, is what I was suggesting, learning to make friends with our monsters. And a phrase that I often use in this connection, which can be helpful sometimes, is, to say to yourself, it is o.k. not to feel o.k. So, it is really being friendly with yourself accepting what is happening. I know it is not easy, but slowly, slowly, it is something interesting that here might happen.
Another tool related to this, is learning about emotions, learning about our monsters.
Because we don't like them, when they are there we don't experience them fully and we don't really make an effort to learn, to discover, to explore.
And there are so many things that we can learn about these emotions that we normally take for granted. One thing I was suggesting is, so when you learn and when you discover you may discover the connection between thoughts and emotions. Sometimes it can be a very, very useful discovery, that it is really a thought that is creating it, if one can really work with the thought, as it arises. This may be very helpful sometimes.Another aspect is, that we can really, as I have been saying, normally when we have these emotions, we give ourselves a minus. We start hating ourselves, disliking ourselves and so on, a reaction to that.
So, it is a very interesting situation, without giving it a minus, learning about it, exploring it. So, that, if you can really have this attitude of wanting to learn, you are waiting for them to arise, because you want to find out. And what might happen if you are really waiting for them to come! So, when you are waiting for them, they don't come!
Public: One gets impatient!
Godwin: (Laughter), that's a good one! Impatient, because there are no monsters!
It is a very, very paradoxical situation. When we don't want them to come, they come and when we want them to come they don't come. Another tool is as I have been suggesting today : when they are not there, to KNOW that they are not there!
When we take to meditation, when we follow the spiritual path, we are trying our best to get rid of them, so by doing that we give them a lot of power, and than when they are absent we hardly know that they are absent. Sometimes I feel that that is one of the tragedies of the human condition., that we don't realise that there are moments when we are really free of them. And then, when they are absent, sometimes it is to good to believe that they are really not there. Sometimes meditators come and tell me "Maybe I am repressing". So, they don't really want to really accept that they are really not there.
In this connection I like this very simple quotation from Thich Nhat Hanh, a meditation master from Vietnam, he says that when we have a toothache we suffer from the toothache, but when we don't have a toothache do we ever say: wow, I don't have a toothache! So, even when we don't have a toothache we are thinking, maybe I will get it tomorrow. So, we are really funny?
So, really I like to emphasize this aspect very much that when they are absent really to KNOW that they are absent. There is an interesting zen story in this connection.
So, one person went to a Zen master and said I have a big problem. He says well, what is your big problem? My big problem is, I get angry. So, he said, where is the anger now? And of course, the anger was not there. And he said, if it is your anger, you should be able to produce it!
So, this brings up another important perspect to realise that they don't really belong to us. Because again we have a strong sense of ownership, we think we own things.
So, that we start owning these emotions; this is my anger, this is my fear. So, what you are owning what you think you own, you don't want to give up. So, this is a very important Buddhist perspective here that is presented. That they are also empty, that there is no real owner, that these things arise due to conditions and these things pass away due to conditions. And this idea is also presented in the Buddha's teaching in this way, which one I like very much, is to treat these monsters or even pleasant emotions as our visitors, as our guests, so you are the host. So as a good host we should be open to any visitors to come. And then when visitors come, as a good host you are not surprised and than we should be friendly and welcome this visitors who come and when they leave you just to say bye, but come back again.
Public: Don't you like it here? (Laughter)
Godwin: So, ideally when this sounds very simple, when the visitor comes, when the visitor stays, when the visitor goes, then the host remains the same. No problem visitors coming and going. And this brings up an other Buddhist perspect to you, about impermanence, changing, when they come they go, coming and going, going and coming.
Another interesting perspect of a tool is sometimes to ask the question: who is having this emotion, who is having joy, who is having sadness. Actually this tool helped me very much sometimes, in working with some states of mind. So, when you explore the question: who is having it, one thing is, your attention goes to something else. And then as I said you realise that there is no who, but again these emotions come and go, there is no owner. Shall we go over these many tools, that I presented to you? What was the first one?
Public: Be friendly to them.
Godwin: Be friendly to them, don't be surprised, be open to them.
Public: I think it was: be open to them, first, wasn't it?
Godwin: Yeah, friendly, open, don't be surprised. Any others you remember?
Public: Connection between thought and emotion.
Godwin: When we learn discover you might realise that connection between thought and eh . Anything else you remember?
Public: The emotions don't belong to you, you are not the emotion.
Godwin: Visitors, coming and going.
Public: Impermanence. To think who it was.
Godwin: hum, to ask the question.
Public: To learn from it.
Godwin: Yeah, to learn from it.
Public: They arrive by thought.
Godwin: Yeah, they arrive by thinking. It is interesting, no one remembered that when they are absent!.(Laughter) So, it shows!
Public: So, it seems to be something you can't control.
Godwin: Yeah, yeah.
Public: And I notice myself, I have been through very strong emotions, looking back at the period I don't like to do it again, but I miss them.
Godwin: Hum, hum, you miss them?
Public: Because it is also a period of very....
Public: Of intense growth.
Godwin: Hum...,yeah. So, I am suggesting these many tools, because sometimes if you can learn to play with these different tools. Sometimes one may work, sometimes perhaps an other may work and if you see it as a play sometimes the monsters win, sometimes you might win, the tools might work. So, in a play in a game, you can't be always winning. So, I think this is a very important perspective to have, to have this lightness about them. And that can make such a, such a big difference. Do you want more tools?
Public: Yes, when your thoughts are very strong and obsessive, when you are behaving like a rebel, there is nothing you can do about it at that moment, you can't reflect on them, and when the emotions come, you feel like a victim.
Godwin: I think we can all relate to that.So here I would suggest that if that happens, again, don't be surprised! But what we might do is, after you have recovered from them, after they have left you, then you can start reflecting. And this kind of reflection should mean not be done with having giving a minus or why did I get angry or why did I have fear, you know not in that hard, harsh way, but in a very friendly gentle way, just exploring, just trying to learn from it. So, then, as I said, such situations become learning experiences, and our so called failures help us in this spiritual growth. Maybe one more tool, is our friend the breath. Or perhaps sensations in the body. Because, yeah, maybe I like to ask as a question: How does the breath help us to at least create little space?
Public: It takes the attention of the emotion itself.
Public: And of the thoughts that are building up.
Godwin:Yeah. So, here the breath helps us to experience the present moment. And as Jeanne said, even for a few minutes, if you can be with the breath. So, this where we use thoughts, thinking to really blow it up, becomes much less. Now, what is important is, when we experiment with these tools, and when they work and than when you have developed this lightness towards them, then what might happen is, you become open that wether they come or wether they don't come, makes no difference. This is what I, why I suggested earlier, is that wether they are there or wether they are not there maybe we can at least learn, even for a few minutes, to realise that there is no duality. Otherwise this is the problem with meditators, spiritual people, we always look for very pleasant positive experiences. And then we don't like unpleasant so-called negative experiences. So, our spiritual path, becomes a kind of split, ambiguity, a duality, a battle always. So, if you can really be open to both what is considered pleasant and what is considered unpleasant, than if you like to you can see it as just going beyond the, eh, this division, this digotomy, this duality that we have created. And that is why I said, if you can be really both, be open to both situations.
Godwin: You get a big plus. So now any questions?
Public: You just said, we can after an emotional disturbance we can reflect on it, isn't it enough just to touch it by just saying I was scared, I am scared and not to wonder why. I don't want to get mixed up in why, why, you know why?
Godwin: If one can do that just as it arises, very good. Just to say I have a fear, it is o.k. to have fear.
Public: Isn't it useless to wonder why, to think about it.
Godwin: It is the same thing. Sometimes it can be helpful. We'll take anger. So, when we get angry and we then try to find out why we get angry, what do we discover?
Jeanne: It is like you said last night, we find out we have a lot of expectations, that is why we get angry, live hasn't lived up to you.
Godwin: Then we realise that you had a demand, a model of how others should behave, of how you should behave, or of how live should be. Then another thing may happen, is rather then the shift also changes, from when you heard this question, then you come back to yourself, then be with that question, exploring it - and then the person who made you angry, becomes not so important.
Public: What I understood was that you don't talk so much about anger, but about anxiety
Public: About anxiety. And anxiety can be a very complex thing And if you go into analysing that you can be involved in things you should forget about.
Godwin: Then again ask the question: Why do we get anxious? Under what circumstances do we become anxious.
Jeanne: I think it is when I want something very much. Then I get anxious I won't get it.
Godwin: Am I right in saying, anxiety is always about the future?
Public: It might happen, maybe.
Godwin: Maybe this might happen, who knows it is.
Public: If it happens....
Godwin: It is terrible!
Public: With roots in the past.
Public: With roots.
Godwin:Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, these are interesting discoveries we can make about these things.
Jeanne: One of the first things is I think is to really acknowledge we have that emotion anyway. Sometimes I find myself not really admitting it, or justifying myself without letting myself feel I am angry, or...
Jeanne: Or just failing to see that I got that emotion, sometimes.
Godwin: This is why I said we are sometimes trying to get rid of them without experiencing them.
Peter: This question why, is, I was thinking that is what I do, I start rationalizing about them.
Peter: I know I got something there but I immediately start to: Why is this and that, and I do not really accept the fact that I do have an emotion.
Godwin: Hum, right. In the Zen tradition, they say when you have an emotion, when you experience it, experience it whole heartedly! (Laughter)
Public: Dive in it!
Godwin: Yeah, yeah, that's a very powerful one, you know, just being that! Completely and fully, whole heartedly.
Public: That is exactly what I have a little bit difficulties today, with the detachment about emotions. You say you should look at the emotions, you should reflect on them, but as you said before there are emotions which are so deep, I think creative and positive, that you don't want to reflect, you want to go into them, it has to be felt; and it would be a pity if you don't go into that. You said look at them, cool but not cold, warm but not heated, but to detach yourself halfway from it, would be contra productive.
Godwin: Yeah, I think today fortunately I did not use the word detachement. I said just don't give them a minus, just experience them, make friends with them and it has nothing to do with detachment. Anything else, any other questions? I am happy...
Public: Isn't so that emotions are purely emotions, that there are no deep or big or...those words are also concepts.
Godwin : Ah, that's a good point. (Laughs). I think it is a very interesting point you are making, because it is again having a thought it is very very deep, and when you say it is deep, then there is reaction to that: Maybe as it is deep. I don't think I'll.......(Laughter), so without...
Public: My own experience is with the emotions anger was, that I was afraid by letting it go that I would die. So I kept it hidden. So, I realised the connection between the thought, because I am still alive.
Godwin: Yeah, yeah. And it is interesting, that with pleasant emotions, like joy, that we don't say it was very deep. Very deep joy!
Public: And I think, also we can see that they are positive, because if you look at the word emotion, I mean it is movement, it is motion, however it might be dark at the moment, and that moves the whole situation on, you could be angry or upset or something it...
Public: Sometimes it is difficult to repair afterwards, I can be very angry and afterwards, if the person I was angry with, can not forgive me afterwards, than the problem is still there.
Godwin: In such a situation, we have anger, we have guilt, we have remorse, we have so many.
Public: But I realise, that I could write a letter and just say that I still think about it but that I wish him to be happy and that I appreciate the relationship.
Public: Can we say something about positive emotions now?
Godwin: Maybe you can start Jeanne!
Jeanne: We love saying that we have had a very enjoyable time, it is very rarely that we share about them.
Godwin: You can start now! Yeah, you can say something. How you experience this joy.
Jeanne: I'd like to tell about the time I walked in the countryside and it was beautiful, and I see a lake, and hear the birds, I stop thinking about anything else and it is just without thoughts and just being there, enjoying everything there and then there I don't have these twisted up things in my mind, you know?
Godwin: So you are saying, that when there is no thought......
Jeanne: Well I mean, you know, all the things that have been on my mind, you know, the anxieties, they get sort of fade away, because I am not thinking about them.........
Godwin: Hum, right, seeing things and hearing things ........
Jeanne: Without thought, they just fade away! But anyway, it is hard when you are happy and joyful like that to think nothing because you do want it to last.
Godwin: Yeah, yeah.
Public: I can tell you, suddenly I felt this beautiful friend who went away, who was very careful and very gently to went around here, she made these beautiful bowls with flowers on the table, and she was cutting the roses for two days, taking away all the needles and things and making the buds free again. And she was the one who said she had these horrible feelings of self-destruction. And suddenly these two things came together. I am feeling very happy with the people here all these days. I am very sorry I am a very positive person, and I am very much touched by all these beautiful people I see around, and really touched by the beauty in the smile of this girl who went away to Maastricht today, she just had this beautiful dear smile.
All these people have their ways; there are silent people, there are careful people, there are open people, all these people have their own form, and music, and their is this beautiful intention in them, carrying them around. And for me all these clouds around it are just a little surface and I see just into these intentions of the people.
When I see how these feelings are, let's say, are connected. Somebody doing such a thing and in the same time feeling this side of destruction, and this is just an example. I see the beauty of people, beauty of live, beauty of nature which pervades us. I can't be unhappy! I can only be......
But then the sadness which I feel about this self-destruction, or all the problems here, we talked about yesterday, we have so much suffering and it is such a misunderstanding at the same time because they are such beautiful people inside. I feel this kind of non-duality, as you said, and there is a feeling of deep compassion, but also of deep thankfulness, and gentleness of people, even if they don't know it from themselves. So that is an emotion, which brings me to tears every now and then and then I feel, I have these tears of, lets say, of pity, and thankfulness and being touched at the same time - so all these feelings are one indivisible thing. And I feel I should not restrain from those emotions, I should go with that flow, and feel I can identify with them and I feel one body, one organism, so I can't feel anything negative.
Godwin: So, you can translate every word! Every word! Don't miss one word! (Laughter)
Public: Was that positive enough?
Godwin: Yeah, yeah.
Peter: I like to share something positive. We went on a footwalk, I was a bit anxious about it because I think there is not much variation. I started worrying about how people might enjoy it, and then there was this wind. At a certain point, there was a really strong wind, and it was really beautiful to feel that in your clothes and your body and you hear all the sounds and it was really beautiful. And then I got a kind of a trust into live, you can have worries and anxieties about it and plan and do but then.....it clicks. So that was eh...,so I felt after all it was a good idea get this little walk.
Public: Is that a rare experience, I would like to ask. Well I think that is a very common experience. We all recognise it, we all share that experience, every now and than, with little knowledge, with huge knowledge, so there is a lot of happiness also which, which eh.... is a part of our communication. And in the same time we know, this is/are just forms, this is just eh, eh, a form that rises and goes again. But in this rising, it is just a beautiful feeling to rise with it and to be part of it, in that moment. Even it is as an essence, so don't we share all those beautiful experiences?
Godwin: Any way I like to go back to the walk, because I gave myself a minus, because I did not join the walk. (Laughter) So, tomorrow I may join the walk, but there will be no wind! (Laughter)
Public: Maybe because you don't came, Peter was less anxious.(Laughter)
Peter: I think that something else that will come (to feel anxious about).
Public: I learned to day how to appreciate haevy traffic. I wanted to hear silence, but I could not hear it. And now today I went to a place where there is very heavy traffic was and I could hear the silence. And the traffic remembered me, eh, of being conscious, of being aware. I realised traffic is human, but not being aware of why I am going to another place or why I am taking the plane, or why I take these...
I was walking at the time I hear the plane or the car, it brought me back to being aware.
Public: Is a bit strange, because the area over there is, what you call silence area, you are not allowed to make noise, only a very small area and from all the sides you hear the cars and so on.
Public: When I was walking in the garden, and it was cloudy in the afternoon, and all of a sudden I felt the heat of the sun just slowly coming up, and I turned around and I saw the sun, just the moment like you described, just to see the sun and feel the heat.
Jeanne: Another thing that made me happy, is having such lovely food here, that's nice, but also the lady who cooks it obiously enjoys making it, and just to see her being creative, happy, and enjoying to do that, eh to make people happy.
Public: A good cook!
Godwin: Very good cook!
Public: She has a small shop, a small restaurant in Amsterdam, one day, because she wants to be free, and a lot of public because she is a great cook, but she wants to be a free person and doing things for a nice group and every now and then she is lucky and has a very nice group, like now! (Laughter) You can see what she does.
Godwin: It was interesting to see her yesterday in the discussion.
Public: Well, I am not accustomed to this kind of silence meditation, I go into Bio-Energetic things, and by pounding and pushing, I become free. So the first two days, she wanted to share the meditation and the discussion, but she said, while I was sitting, pounding, and hissing and yawning, because I always need two days for yawning and pounding, so I can't join them, sorry! Now this is so much her, she is so energetic and so real and I love her when she is walking here and making sounds. A fantastic piece of harmony in the silence. But she makes food for three of us? We all like to have simple little meals but
Godwin: She loves to... (Gelach en gepraat door elkaar.)
Public: Today it was really all these balls, that went back to the kitchen, she herself took a little dish with things, and then I said, would you like to have a little bit more? Oh, she said, it is much to much. She took a very little piece herself
Godwin: I see!
Public: So it is a kind of explosion (Gepraat en gelach doorelkaar)
Godwin: If there is nothing else to share, we can also have some positive emotions when we start to chant, hopefully.
Place: Retreat centre "Hurnse Gaper" Hurwenen, Holland
Godwin: Today I suggest we examine the area of thinking. In a way I feel that a very, very important area, because it is an interesting question to reflect: Can suffering arise without a thought? So, it shows that, most of our problems are related to thoughts, the way we use thoughts. So, I like to distinguish between self-destructing thoughts, thoughts which we use in a very destructive way, and thoughts which can be used in a creative way. So, before we go into that, hum.., let's find out how, what really happens in relation to thinking. Now, while you are listening to me, you are having your own thoughts now. All these thoughts that you are having, are you deliberately bringing them up?How do they arise?
Jeanne: Just by themselves.
Godwin: Involuntary, involuntary, mechanically, habitually, hum?
So, a person, who has a self-destructive aspect. His or her thoughts just pop up like that. Giving minuses, or remembering the minuses that other people have given you, they just come up like that. And than, what do you do, when such thoughts come?
Public: Committing suicide.
Godwin: Committing suicide. Yeah, actually committing suicide is a ultimate state of giving yourself a minus.So, what is happening to us, if you observe our thoughts, is, as we realise they just come up, because of our habit, because of our conditioning, and then we get hold of them.Someone with a self-destructive aspect, may occasionally have a positive thought that comes up, but that is.... (laughs) you let it go, you just ignore it.But negative thoughts, eh, minuses!... (Laughs) It is really funny what we do with our thinking, with our thoughts. So, one can distinguish between thoughts that have some objective validity and these thoughts that are the result of imagination and how they, eh...,what we do with them.
So, if a thought comes now, if it is raining, we should do something, but eh......there is some fact behind it. It is factual, hum? Supposing: there is a dog that comes and we need to do something about it, that is a fact. That the dog has come. But then, these thoughts which are self-destructive does not have such a objectivity like "the dog that comes". And then as I said, they come up and we never question them, we never find out wether it has a basis, and then we really get involved and that's how emotions will come. Then there is another really very, very, creative thing we can do, of course in a destructive way, with these thoughts from the past, from the future, we create what I call stories. Very, very interesting stories. Can anyone relate such a story? An example of what I mean by a story?
Public: Explaining things that went wrong. Making everything logical.
Godwin: Yeah, yeah.
(Here comes the story of the coin, but unfortunately I can't hear what's been said!)
Godwin: Thank you very much, I think this is a very good example, a very clear example, how we create a story, and how that story becomes real, and then you become a victim of the story that you created yourself. We were all laughing, but this is exactly what we do also. And then, what is, what is really destructive and dangerous is, the story that we create, which is of course not real, but we give it a reality and then we become a victim of the reality that we create.
And as it happened to my friend, he could have got emotions of uncertainty, insecurity, eh... anger, guilt. I mean all the monsters would have come, with the little coin that was put there innocently in my pocket. So, you see clearly how we create our own suffering, and of course we don't realise how we create our own suffering.
So, you see, the importance of awareness, and you see, if you analyse most of the meditation technics, it is an attempt to be with something factual, like the breath, like the sensation, like the sound and distinguish reality from unreality.
And what is also interesting is, we can become so dogmatic, we really believe in it! Our most of our beliefs may be the result of such stories! So, supposing someone went and told him, told my friend: From where did you read this story, this is nonsense! He would really get angry! I mean how can you say! There is the coin, that is a fact! Surely Godwin is a meditation teacher he won't just put it hidden away. He wouldn't have forgotten it, he speaks about awareness all the time. And he will them him, go, don't speak, don't come and talk to me about such nonsense. Go away!
This is how we get angry. This is how we become dogmatic. This is how we hold on to believes!
And is it possible in such a situation, for us communicate to him? It is impossible!
And as you rightly said, he'll be very rational. "What are you talking. This is a coin! Can you deny it! And I washed this shirt and I asked Elly what was in the pocket."
And very soon this story can become a fantasy, a kind of a day dream. When does a story become a fantasy, a dream, a daydream. How does it become a fantasy. I think we are all familiar with stories. I think we are all familiar with the fantasies that we create, hum... How does a story become a fantasy, or a daydream.
(Here develop some conversations in the public, which I can't understand)
Godwin: Yeah, paranoid, fear....
Peter: Also I think these stories become a fantasy , when you don't test them with reality.
Peter: So, you could easily by testing it or asking.....
Godwin: Yeah, yeah, no, no, yeah. Actually a fantasy or a daydream, would be, really living that. So, a story is something that you construct and than the next stage, is having a kind of dream, daydream, a fantasy, where he can even fantasies Godwin putting the coin in the pocket. So, all, all this is imagination. And when you see that fantasy or daydream, it becomes so real, so real. So, you can really in our fantasies, in our daydreams, we really live that. Now it is interesting, that the word daydream is used, because that brings up the question: What is the difference between a night dream and a daydream. Actually there is no difference. Only when we wake up (Laughter), that you realise: "ah, I was dreaming"! So, even so, so during the day, after a daydream you wake up, then you realise: "Ah, I was daydreaming"!
(Some phrases in the public I can't understand)
Jeanne: It is not really the question about wether we know what reality is, that we just wake up suddenly and find it was all a daydream, I mean it is very hard isn't, to know what is reality, because it seems so real when you are in the daydream.
Godwin: Yeah, yeah
Jeanne: So, how we distinguish to daydream and reality.
Godwin: You see that question is related to meditation So, to be alert, to be awake, to be present. Hum? And take the Buddha's technics. See how, how wonderful it is with the breath. It is something factual. It is something objective. You can't create a story out of it! You can't fantasise on the breath! So, as I said earlier, this is really, it is a very clear situation, where we can really draw the distinction.
I work with people who have, what I call, psychological problems, psychiatric complications. So, sometimes I use two technics, which really helped them, to see what is real and what is unreal.
So, one is the breath, and sometimes some people have difficulties with the breath, so, I use the body, the sensations. What is called the sweeping technic, you really mentally sweep the body. (Sweeping technic is, that your attention goes through the body, from your head to your feet and up again)
So, I get them to feel the body, the sensations, the movements in the body. And then when these fantasies, these paranoid thoughts come. Just to let go of them and come back and be in the reality of the present moment. Very clear distinction.
There is another aspect about thoughts, that we can work with, mmmm.....So, this brings up the technic that we have been exploring today, about just observing thoughts. So, what happens, is, when thoughts come, again it is a very strong conditioning we have, we start judging them, again the pluses and the minuses, and so on. So, this is where control comes in, eh, eh,...what do you consider as a negative thought comes and immediately give it a minus, you start controlling, and then you push away that thought.
So, this is why this technic is very, very important, where you learn to observe the thoughts. And then when we, of course, are judging, just to know that you are judging. And if you are not judging then you create really space for any thought to arise and any thought to pass away and then the power of these thoughts becomes less. So, that is why in the Tibetan tradition, they put it so well, to have the mind like the spacious sky, and for the thoughts to be like clouds. So, the clouds do not affect the sky, the sky does not affect the clouds. So, this is what we can be trying to practice, is, allow any thought to arise, and not to judge them as far as possible, but it is a very strong conditioning, that we need to work with, and then to be able to observe it without reacting to the thoughts. So, that when our self-destructive thoughts, like the minusses and so on, come, and if you can just observe them, I mean I am putting it in a very simple way, but this is where the practice is, not reacting to them, and then they come, and in the way they came, they go away!
Chris: You can do the same thing with emotions.
Godwin: Exactly, exactly! This is the same thing. So, in this technic, I mean it is really powerful, you can really have the benefits then and there, where you are just being with this spaciousness. Where you let thoughts come and go - it sounds very simple (laughs) -
emotions come and go. You hear sounds and you are having this spacious abiding in this non reactive mind.
Chris: But also use the tool, welcoming....
Godwin: Yeah, you can come and stay and go away, you are just being there. So, this technic that I presented, can be seen as developing a mind, like a mirror as I said. Just reflecting things as they are. So, let us explore, this eh, what is called the mirror like mind, in our practical experience, and see how far we can, we can work with, with such a mind. So, this simile, mirror like mind. I have come across this in many spiritual traditions. In all the Buddhist traditions I have come across this. In Zen. In Tibetan. In Theravada. In Taoism I also come across this and in, in eh, Hinduism, some Hindu sages have used this. Christian mystic has also used this, I think it is Master Eckhart. So, let us see at least how far we can have a glimpses of what it is, to have a mirror like mind. So, when something beautiful, what is considered beautiful comes before a mirror, it just reflected just as it is. And what is considered ugly, comes before a mirror and it is just reflected, just as it is. So, applying that to our, to live, everyday live, eh, positive emotion comes, we just allow that positive emotion just to be there as it is. Yesterday, Jeanne shared with us a very joyful experience, so when joy is there you just be with the joy. And then monsters come, and then, if you can also reflect the monster just as it is. Sadness, just the sadness. The fear, just the fear. Just reflecting it, as it is. No plus to the joy, no minus to the sadness, so both to reflect as they are. I know this is very difficult, but at least we can learn to practice while we are here, and I think some of you know how you are going to do that.
So, in every day live we may be able to do this and then if you are reacting, then, as I was saying, you can explore and investigate our reactions. So, it does not matter if you react. So, as I said yesterday, when this joy is there, you allow the joy to be there, and when the monsters arise, there is no problem, no minus, you use the tools! This is one aspect of what can be described as a mirror like mind. Another thing is, a mirror like mind, always functions in the present. A mirror can not reflect something that is going to happen in the future, it can not reflect something which has happened in the past. So, in everyday live, is it possible to be in the present, and what does it mean to be in the present. We need to clarify this. So, I would suggest of course experiencing the present moment is like seeing the candle now. Hearing the cough now and being aware of the breath and sensations there being here in the now, hum? But in everyday live, we need to use the past, we need to use the future. So, now this is the real challenge we have, how to use the past and how to use the future again reflecting them also just as they are. Because we need to use the past, if you completely let your past away, you are not be able to go back to your homes! You are not be able to go back to your rooms! So, it shows that we need to use the past. We will not be able to recognise things. We cannot use language and if you really don't think about the future, if you don't plan, I would not have been here. Peter had to do a lot of planning! And I am sorry to see Peter is continuing to plan!
So, here again, when we think about the past. When we are recalling. And when we are anticipating the future. What we are doing is we are doing it now! We'll take a practical example. Let's think of the breakfast, eh.., the lunch we had. When we recall the lunch, we are doing it now. So, if you do it now, we can see the imagese, the pictures, the taste we had for lunch, right now in the present!
And now from being here, we think of breakfast, what happens to us? We see what we eat for breakfast. So, we must realise, that when we are thinking about the past, and when we are thinking about the future, we are always doing it in the present!
The only thing is, we forget this, and then we give a reality to the past, without realising it cannot be changed, and then we allow the past to create these emotions and suffering for us. This is how anxiety about the future can come. The future has not come yet. But being in the present we think now that is going to happen, this is going to happen. Now maybe, when Peter was planning about me, I hope he did not have any anxieties, but it is possible for some one to create a huge story and create a lot of anxiety. How many people will come. Will Godwin have his usual visa problem. And if he doesn't come! And with all this thinking about anxious in the future poor Peter will not be able to even sleep. He is only thinking and worrying and anxious about this. So, this is how we are using the past and the future. So, in this metaphore of a mirror like mind, it is just realising that all this is happening now.
So, then you tell yourself, don't worry, the future has not yet come! And you tell yourself, now you are thinking about the past, but it is gone it cannot be changed!
Now another aspect of the mirror like mind, which is very difficult, but this is where again our problem start, is a mirror like mind does not retain anything.
Now what happens to us is, with the experiences we have, especially the pleasant and the unpleasant again depending on the person is, we identify ourselves with it, you hold on to what has happened. This is how wounds are created. And then, and it is through this memory, these wounds, wounds come up! And then they affect us.
There is a very known Zen story, which very clearly shows, the process of just holding on to these experiences. Two Zen monks were walking together, and they came to a place where there was a pool of water, and this girl was there, because she could not go across the pool of water. So, one of the monks carries this girl across and then places her there and then they continue to walk. The following day, the other monk says: "You know you should not have touched that girl, you should not have carried her across the stream, we are as monks we are not expected to do that". Now, the other monk responses: "I have left her on the other shore, but you are still carrying her". So, this is what we are doing, we are carrying things. And it is very, very interesting, for us to know, what we are carrying. And here, we all have, what I call, a selective memory. And again, if someone has a very strong self-destructive aspect, he or she will be carrying only the minusses, only the failures, only the wrong things others have done. Like my friend, he was carrying it every time when he saw the coin! So, it is by carrying these things, that is really how our suffering arises. So, it is natural, as we are human, some of these experiences can have a deep effect on us, and, and, and, eh...., we, we retain them, unlike the mirror, hein? , we hold on to them. So, this is why we have to learn, going back to this technic, is we allow things that we are holding on to, to arise from our memory. So, when they arise from our memory, again if you start judging, giving pluses, giving minuses, especially minuses, I should not be having this, I should not have done that, and so on, then they are pushed away. In other words, if you start reacting to them again, when they arise in the present, we push them away. So, this is why in this technic, we are....., we are there, just being, allowing any, any rubbish any all these things that has happened in the past, which we are holding on to in our memory, just to come up. So, you are just being a passive observer. Allowing these things to come and allowing things to go. So, it can be in the form of emotions. It can be the form of memories. It can be even sensations in the body. We don't realise what we carry in our body. So, in fact all our past experiences we carry in our body and if there, eh eh, some things are related to emotions, this is how tensions and unpleasant sensations indicate sometimes that they are related to some past, past memory, related to a repressed emotion.So, this is why again in meditation when this pain, unpleasant sensations come in the body, again if you look and learn just to observe them, just again to create space for them, just to make friends with them and then the power what has been related to from the past it's given some space in the present.
So, another aspect of the Mirror Like Mind is, I hope I can communicate this, is that, what is reflected in the mirror, and the mirror, there is no difference.
So, there is actually no duality. So, that's why I asked you to reflect on the question: "Who is thinking, is there a thinker apart from the thoughts"? "Is there a hearer apart from hearing , or is there only the hearing?" So, this is why in this meditation technic you can have a glimpse, that there is only the hearing not the idea that I am hearing.That there is only thinking, that there is no thinker apart from the thoughts that are arising and passing away. And there is only the feeling, there is no feeler apart from the feeling. So, this insight, this understanding, was put very well by an meditator in one of the retreats. When we are practising this technic she said: It was like, everything was like an orchestra, the sounds, the thoughts, the emotions, the sensations, but there was no conductor. So, it is the conductor, it is the controller who directs, who wants, who judges, who wants this, who doesn't want that, but here in the, when that is absent there is only the orchestra. So, there is only the thoughts, there is only the sounds, there is only the feeling. It sounds very simple but, this is what the model is. So, this meditation technique, I find this very very powerful. It has a lot of very profound and deep aspects and what I like in it is, that you can really practice it through a great extend in everyday live. Certain meditation technics you have to close your eyes, you have to sit in a particular posture, but for this meditation you don't have to close your eyes, you don't have to sit in an particular posture in any situation it is just having awareness to know the thoughts, the emotions what is to be happening.
Godwin: So, now does anyone have any questions please?
Manas: Yesterday evening I sat in meditation and some one came in late and sat down right behind me. I felt a very bad feeling in my back. I looked behind and saw that that person had sat down very close to me. The feeling got stronger and I moved away a little bit. Before dinner I told him this, it probably has to do with my own sensitivity, but I said that it was extraordinary annoying. And also that I thought it was very impolite. It is like putting your feet on the table when people are having diner. Well that is my idea about it. But my question is: How can I use the technics in such a situation?
Godwin: I am happy that you are bringing it up in the discussion. So, what does one do in such a situation as a meditator. So, one is sitting here, and then there is someone behind and then you suddenly have unpleasant sensations hum?
So, one thing that can be attempted is, as I have been saying here a few times: Forget about the person and work with the sensations. Eh, similar situation was when we were sitting we were hearing people working in the kitchen. So, what I suggested was, just observe what is happening in your mind. Can you hear the noise and what are the emotions that are arising. And is it still possible to hear the noise and still not have any emotions. So, just experimenting, just working with that situations. I have been emphasising this very much. So, you forget about the person and you are being with the sensations. And eh, so one of the things you can do, is: "Wonderful, I should not be surprised. It is an interesting opportunity for me to work with this unpleasant situation. Whoever there is sitting, I should be grateful for that person". As I said yesterday, they are my gurus, they are my teachers, so wonderful. Whoever is sitting, I don't know and if it is Peter, very nice he came in yesterday." (Laughter)
Public: He brought a mirror.
Godwin: He brought a mirror. So then you are with the sensations and then you are having emotions. So, then you realise how, how I am creating my own suffering, the sensation comes, then the thought comes, so this must be, this man who is sitting on the chair, who is responsible for this so you... you realise as we were discussing, the story that you construct from this incident.
So, that eh, and then I , yesterday I presented so many tools, now let me see I can tryout some eh some of my tools. So, now can I observe the breath and see what happens. So, that or you could have experimented, maybe, who knows, it may be related to him, or perhaps I would move into an other place and see, see what happens. Will it still be there, I want to verify it. Just playing with it, experimenting with it in a very lighthearted way. And it is possible that if you have done that, you might have realised well, even if I have moved it is still there! So, see poor, poor Peter. Poor man who was seated there. I was all this time creating, giving him a big minus. But poor man, it is not him. Wonderful experience, how we are creating our own fantasies, how we are creating our own stories. This is my response.
Manas: Each time someone walks behind me I think he is absorbing my energy.
Godwin: So, see it in the same obsession like with the coin. I mean we are so so funny. So, all the time you can be redenating, oh Peter is there (Laughs). This man who is walking there, it must be Peter. You create a big monster out of that innocent man. I think this is a very good lesson for everyone of us. I think, today I am very happy. Two experiences have been related. By my friend and by you. And it really confirms what I have been discussing today. How we create our own stories and how it becomes real and then we believe in it and you are going to tell Peter: "Please don't come". It is just a believe that you hold on. And now we will see it from Peters point of view. He is a visitor to this country. He has come from England and he is himself a meditation teacher. In fact he is writing a book on meditation. It is one of the reasons he has come to meet me. So, when this happened he thinks these people from Holland, fascinating people. So, he told me the first time that he is staying in Holland because he is gone through this. (Laughs) So, it is, and then it must be really, perhaps I don't know, we can create a story why he is not with us now, but perhaps he is scared to come. Because where ever he sits someone might say. He might be thinking, everyone is suffering from that kind of obsession. So, it is very interesting how we create suffering for ourselves and how we create suffering for others. And all this started just when a little thought comes: "this must be the man.....".
Public: But isn't it so that Peter is creating his own suffering?
Godwin: I don't know, we should not create a story wether he is suffering. (Laughter).
Public: This could be a lesson for all of us.
Godwin: That is why I said, this is a very, very good lesson, his story and eh, eh...
Wonderful I am very happy that you said that, thank you for that, thank you for that.
Hum, hum. So, I like to end the discussion by saying how we can use thoughts. We found out how we use thoughts destructively and now we can see how we can use thoughts creatively. So, we can use thoughts creatively by reflection. So, with such a incident one can start reflecting. I think this is very, very important in our practice, to really reflect upon our words, our, our, our, our actions in such situations. To really look within oneself.
And one can also in our, in Buddhist countries, in part of Buddhist teaching one is asked to reflect about inevitability of death. Now here we are really using thinking, thoughts in a very creative way.
And the questions like: "Who am I? Who is having thoughts"? Are really asking, again you are using thoughts in a very creative way to develop insights and understanding about ourselves. So, one can be very clear in everyday live to see how we can use thoughts destructively, how we use thoughts creatively and destructively. So, now to any questions hum, hum. You have sometime, hum. No questions? Hum..?
Peter: Who am I ? (Laughter).
Godwin: I don't. (Laughter). Yeah, yeah, we can finish.
Public: I am still thinking about the incident, or something like it. It can be very useful to tell other people that you are angry, or that you are or that you are emotional, that it feels as if they are the cause of awaking these ...?At this moment I am in some kind of conflict.
Godwin: conflict hum, hum..
Public: Talking about it or not, you know what I mean?
Godwin: Yes! So, this is where you can use reflection. What is this conflict? What are the aspects in this conflict? How am I to resolve the conflict? So, use thought creatively and reflectant.
Public: So it is not: If, if, that you should choose
Godwin: Find out!
Public: Just meditate
Godwin: Yeah, just.........?
Public: Because in therapy I learned to confront. Here I learn to, to...,
Godwin: Reflect. Yeah, yeah (public talks on, but Godwin continuous to speak) You remember the cobra? So, in meditation you have to be the cobra sometimes. Sometimes. So, it is not one tool, it is many tools.
Public: And of course confront yourself also.
Godwin: Good, that is reflection. That is, that is reflection.
Nico: I noticed when working with people with very strong emotions, and anger is very strong. I advise them not, to confront with the person, but first confront with a pillow or a mantras, to let out the emotions and then, it is easier to reflect. Not using your emotions on the person, because that is creating new anger.
Godwin: Yeah, yeah. Actually I call it a kind of creative expression.
Miriam: In this way you can be more clear to, the other.
Godwin: Hm, hm. Very good remark.
Nico: One time I came to a marketplace to buy a vacuum cleaner tube, because it is very nice to sweep with it and to express your anger with it.
Godwin: Yeah, yeah.
Public: And I said, you can give me an old one with iron in it.
Godwin: Oh, oh.
Nico: And he looked at me and I said I am not using it to clean, but I am using it to smash. And I saw....(Laughter).
Public. (Someone else): So you got it for free?
Nico. No, I had to pay. I saw him thinking that guy is...I said I can choose. I can kill in imagination or.
Godwin: Yeah, yeah, that is right.
Nico: I can kill in reality.
Godwin: Anything else?
Jeanne: Is it ever useful to, deliberately try to, replace a negative thought for positive one. I mean to, do that forcefully.
Godwin: That is why I have been talking about giving minusses and giving pluses. So, with someone who has an obsession with only minusses, I think one thing which can be done, which I encourage, is for such a person to, deliberately and consciously, bring up the pluses.
So, it is really trying to, break that strong conditioning of only negative thinking and here is getting used to, positive wholesome thinking.
Rene: Sometimes one gets most angry with the one one loves most. But underneath it there is still love. If one can touch this love, while angry. This anger might dissolve.
Godwin: So, as we have some programs, later on also. Maybe I like now to conclude the discussion. So, tomorrow I thought of introducing this, that now after working meditation we have this meditation from 10.30 to, 12.15 hum? So, during that time I like to, suggest that you can practice on your own. Either you can come here and practice or whether you want to, practice outside. Whether it is sitting, standing, walking, whatever. So, during that time please do your practice on your own and you are free to choose where you are going to practice. And you can do the same in relation to the session of meditation in the afternoon. But the meditation we have before dinner we can all meet and meditate together, hum?
Peter: That is the meditation before dinner.
Godwin: Half an hour. But then after yoga there is a meditation in the afternoon. So, that meditation can be like the morning session. Clear? Not clear?
So, the other two sessions you can do on your own. So, what I am encouraging you to do is, now learning to be your own teacher, hum?
I have been presenting tools and different technics. So, you can experiment, explore and make your own discoveries.
Chris: I would like to meditate during the night. Do you approve of that? I don't mean the whole night.
Godwin: Of course, of course. Yeah, please. I am very, very happy. Please, please do that. Wonderful very good. Yeah, on full moon days we try to meditate the whole night.
Peter: There are some people here.
Godwin: Yeah, I like to meet them. Perhaps tomorrow?
I forgot to welcome the three visitors we have. So, I would love to meet them tomorrow. She has been to Nilambe and so on. We have met before huh? So, youe can please come and see me and I tell you what we did and how you can procede with the practice, huh?
Peter: The first individual teachers session?
Godwin: Eh, yeah. I think we can meet, maybe the three of you. We can meet together, huh, during the time when people will be doing their own practice, huh?
Thank you very much, hmm....
Place: Retreat centre "Hurnse Gaper" Hurwenen, Holland
At this stage I like to give some comments on a few techniques or tools of the practice.
Focusing on breating helps us to develop calm, carity and stability. Breathing has both the aspects of calm and insight. An insight that may arise from being with the breath is that you see how things change from moment to moment. Another insight you may have is that there is only the breathing and no person apart from the breath. You also may realise that the breath helps you to be in the present. Even the idea of being in the present may drop away and you may have, what is discribed in the Dhamma, a kind of timeless experience. Sometimes, though, we can be overwhelmed with emotions, thinking or sensations. In that case, in a natural way we can go from the breath to the emotion. And back from the emotion to the breath. From the breathing to the thinking and back again.
During the practice of loving kindness it is sometimes very difficult to come to your heart. It isn't always possible to acces the place of loving kindness or the place where loving kindness is needed. In other words you find yourself unable to do loving kindness. The first thing is to have a friendly attitude towards this inabbility. To say to yourself that it ok not to be practicing loving kindness. It is as it is. What is happening now is the fact. And that itself is in a way loving kindness. The best to practice loving kindness is when you have joy in yourself. But when you don't have this joy you still can try to practice. Practice with giving and receiving lovingkindness. Continues practice. Learning to give. Learning to receive. In fact the natural way is to radiate joy to others.
Sometimes the labeling technique is used in meditation. This technique is about naming whatever is happening. When thoughts rise you say: "Thinking, thinking" or "thought, thought". This is quite good because it prevents you from going into the contents of the thinking . You just note it and in this way you get some distance to it. You do the same with hearing, feeling, tasting and so on. When I was in Burma, I spoke to some Burmese masters who practiced this naming technique. They said that ultimately the naming becomes effortlessly and without words. It is very interesting that when we hear sounds we always have the need to identify them. This is also true for seeing things. Immidiatly the word comes. It is a very strong conditioning we have. It is an interesting experiment to see what happens without the word, without the concept. When the word is not there, the relationship with what we hear or see is entirely different. Also when we use the words, the word itself gives rise to more concepts. A complete story can rise from just seeing and hearing. It is interesting to see how perceptions give rise to concepts. How from concept a story comes. How from a story, emotions.
There is an interesting story in one of the Buddhist texts which is related to this. During the Buddha's time there was a man called Bahia. He was said to be spiritually advanced and was the spiritual leader of a group of practicioners. But Bahia still felt he wasn't a enlightened person. A certain day he heard about the Buddha and he decided to go and see him. Since there were no taxis or public transport in those day he had to go by foot and after many days of walking he saw the Buddha, who was doing his alms round. Bahia felt such a strong urgancy to speak to the Buddha, to get some truths out of him that he couldn't wait until the Buddha had finished his round. He said: "Please, say something very briefly about your teaching". The Buddha remained silent and continued with his almsround. Bahia didn't gave up and asked his question for the second time. The Buddha was silent again. Again Bahai asked his question. Then the Buddha said: "Bahia, in the seeing there should only be the seeing. In the hearing only the hearing. In the feeling only the feeling and in the thinking only the thinking". Then as the story goes Bahia got it. When Bahia left for his home, he was killed by a bull. Some people heard this and told the Buddha about it. The Buddha said: "Well, Bahia died in enlightenment". My interpretation of it is that according to what the Buddha said, Bahia must have thought while he was dying: "In the feeling gonly the feeling".
Another tecnique is "panoramic awareness". With this we don't come back to an object but we allow the mind to do what it likes. We are just being aware of what there is. It is just being. Some techniques are more about doing someting. Meditation is non-doing, just being. Allowing.
Place: Retreat centre "Hurnse Gaper" Hurwenen, Holland
I would like to share some thoughts with you about integrating meditation in daily life. So, one thing I have been encouraging you to do is to experiment, to explore, discovering, finding out for yourself. Learning to be your own teacher.
I would like to emphasize this aspect in everyday life. Especially to learn and make your discoveries about unpleasant experiences. Physical pain and mental pain.
And also when you experience maybe positive emotions, like joy, and bliss. Then again: finding out what condition is creating such a situation?
So, another point related to this is to have what is called a beginner's mind. Or the don't know mind. So, it is having also a mind that is humble, so with that humility, we have that openness again to learn from anything, to learn from anyone.
Sometimes we can learn from a tree, a bird, an animal, a child. So, they can be our teachers, when you have this humility and this openness.
And in this connection I would like to share a story with you which happened to me some years ago. It was like today, the last day of a retreat. There was an elderly woman, who also did the retreat. In our final discussion, she told the group that whatever she had learned from the retreat she had learned from her dog.
So I asked her: Please tell me something more about your dog.
Then she said: Well, you told us to be in the present moment, and that's what my dog does. You told us to feel grateful for things, and that's what my dog does.You did something in the retrait called yoga, and this is what my dog does. (Laughter)
She said more things, that I have forgotten. It was very good for my ego! (Laughter)
So, in utter desperation I asked her: is there no difference between your dog and me?
Yeah, she said, there is only one difference. You speak. My dog doesn't speak.(Laughter)
I was very much impressed with her. The way she was really learning from a dog.
So, in our everyday life to have this quality is something very very important. Something beautiful.
Another aspect of our practice in everyday life is that ... who knows there will come situations where we might fail in our practice, where we might experience something and then we might forget our practice and we might do something ... really an unexpected thing.
So, what I was also suggesting: if such a thing would happen in everyday life: don't be surprised. We're still human. So as we are human it is possible that we make some unexpected mistake. Here again, as I was emphasizing, without giving it a minus, without feeling bad about it, without the need to give up your practice, because something unexpected happens: again, if you can learn from that. To say: what really happened to me? In a very friendly, gentle way, here again, we can learn from our failures, so-called failures. Life is not like Holland, which is always flat. (Laughter) Life will be with the ups and the downs. So when there are the ups and the downs ... When there is a big up, don't give it a big plus. And if you're down, don't give it a big minus. See, both are just learning experiences. Feel grateful for both situations.
I think in life we are bound to have difficulties. We are bound to have problems. However much we meditate, however much we follow a spiritual path, we cannot avoid problems. We cannot avoid difficult situations.
When you read the life of the Buddha, it is surprising the problems, the difficulties he had, from his relations, from his disciples, from the followers of other religions. So, if the Buddha, and maybe the same with Christ, I mean when these religious teachers had such ... you see Chist was crucified. See what they've done to a great man like Socrates. So ... who are we? Who are we? So ... the problems will be there, difficulties we learn to encounter, and as I have been also emphasizing: we should be grateful for such situations.
A good question in such a situation is: what can I learn from this? And as I also said on an early occasion: in my own life life has been my best teacher. I have met guru's, I have met enlightened people, I have met masters, but my present position is: my best teacher is life.And what is interesting about life is: you can never come to a conclusion. You can't say: now I'm sure the rest of my life I will not have any problems.
So this is why another thing I have been also indicating - it was from the Buddha's teaching - is: learning to be open to uncertainty. We have to be really open to uncertainty, so in a sense it is: learning to be open to unsecurity.
The danger in culture like here and in Europe is, that to a great extend everything is under control, everything is predictable - so it gives a really false sense of security.
That way Sri Lanka, India - very good for practice! You can never know what is going to happen! Suddenly a bomb blasts!
Here, the transport must be very very convenient, helpful, but there ... you don't know whether there will be a bus. You don't know if there will be a train.
So, I think: one aspect of this is that you learn, here, in these cultures - maybe that may be related to this - the idea of perfection.
And I am surprised to meet people, in meditation retreats, who suffer from guilt.With this idea of perfection, what we do is we project this model of perfection on ourselves, and we project this model of perfection on other people, and we project this model of perfection on life. Please let go of your models of perfection, and please stay open to our humanness. Please be open to our imperfection. So, to see, again, to see our imperfection, to see our humanness as learning experience. And then we learn to relate to ourselves, and to others, in a similar way. So in such a situation, it is much easier to have less difficulties, less problems, in relationships, because you live ... you know in what a type of world we live.
So, another aspect of this imperfection or perfection is, that we take life so seriously.
In this retreat in a way - sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly - I have been presenting to you this importance of: feeling light, being playful, having the ability to laugh at life, to be able to laugh at ourselves. A really important spiritual quality!
One day I was talking to a very very wise monk in Sri Lanka. He lives in a forest hermitage. And suddenly he told me: sometimes I see life as a big joke. Sometimes it can be a very bad joke! Still it's a joke. (Laughter) Still it's a joke. So our problem is that we take this joke too seriously.
We take this life as something perfect, so that we cannot have this kind of lightness and playfulness in our attitude to life, in our attitude to practice. This idea of playfulness came to me one day when in Sri Lanka I was told to teach a group of yound Buddhist monks meditation. They were fourteen years, fifteen years, sixteen years, seventeen years, wearing robes and living in this temple. So, I asked these monks before we talked about meditation - we had a friendly chat with them and I said: what is it that you don't like in this temple, and in the schedule? They said: getting up in the morning for meditation. I said: I'm very very happy, a very honest answer! Now tell me what is it that you enjoy in this temple.Everyone with a big smile - and they said: playing with the dog! (Laughter) Then I said immediately: well, you see, meditation is playing with your mind! And they liked it very much.
And I met some of them later on, they said that they can sée that. The meditation became very light, especially focusing on breathing; they said that it is like playing with the breath. Sometimes it is there, sometimes it is not there. There's a lightness to the practice. So this ability to laugh at ourselves, to develop this humour to life, to have this lightness, is something ... beautiful.
There are interesting stories, where people have been able to laugh at life. And they were able to laugh at death, in the same way.
I am at present reading a book of people ... how they have met their death, and it's really fascinating how most of them have been able to really laugh at their death and dying. There is a Zen story that comes to my mind, about a meditation master who was dying. When he realised he was dying, he called all the students. So they came, also with ... I see some of you carrying notes. Maybe notes to ... Books to make notes.
He said: in what posture have you seen people dying? So the people said ... different postures. And he said: I am going to die in a most unusual posture, and he sat, and he stood on his head, and he died. What is his last message?
Audience: Don't be surprised. (Big laughter)
Godwin: Anything else?
Audience: Life is a joke.
Godwin: Life is a joke. Death can be a joke. So, talking about death, in Buddhist traditional countries, one is encouraged to reflect on death. I think it is a very important reflection. Otherwise, what happens is: this is the most certain thing in life, and we forget the most certain thing in life. Otherwise, if we forget the most certain thing in life, we assume that we are going to live forever. Suddenly, when you encounter death, maybe in oneself and in others, it can really give you a shock. So again, you will be surprised. Again, talking of the cultural differences, I think generally speaking, in western countries - now it's changing - death and dying is not looked at, something hidden. In Asian countries you see, in India you see people dying on the road. You can see it in Sri Lanka, it's a common sight, so one grows up with the idea that there is no difference between living and dying. I still remember: when I was in South Africa I was asked to officiate in a funeral there. That was the first western funeral I saw. What a contrast to Sri Lankan funeral! One thing: the dead body was in the undertaker's ... place. This will never happen in Sri Lanka!
In Sri Lanka, when there is a funeral, the whole village is watching the funeral.
And also: few people came to the funeral, and even the close relations, they were ... you know ... wiping their fingers ... eh ... their tears, so they didn't want to express their sadness. Even tears, they didn't want to show it to the others! In Sri Lanka, in India, they really express: they shout and scream, and they really show their sadness in such a situation, without hiding their tears. And what shocked me: I was speaking to the grandson of the person who had died. He was about thirty-six, fourty years old. He told me that was the first time he had seen a dead body.
In Sri Lanka, you can't find a four years old child, a five years old child, who has not seen a dead body. So the point I am emphasizing is - as part of your practice, at least occasionally -: it's good to reflect on the impermanence of life. How things are changing from moment to moment
(Sudden sound in de background: Laughter, shared by Godwin).
I was emphasizing the need to heal the wounds you are carrying. Sometimes reflecting on death, the inevitability of death, helps us also to forgive, to forgive ourselves and to forgive others. So this idea of death can be something very very useful to cultivate and it can be very useful for our practice.
So, maybe a last point that can help you in your practice in daily life is spiritual friends. It is a beautiful relationship, a beautiful friendship to have, where you learn to grow together - showing the mirror to each other.
I was happy that there will be some effort for you to continue this group. Because I think people like Chris and others will organise some things, once a month or once in two months, where you can meet as a group and maybe spend some time meditating, discussing, chanting and so on. I am also happy that there are also meditation groups in this country. So it's good to join such groups. Or even to open up a small group by yourself. Just two people, three people, meeting periodically, and sitting together and discussing and so on, can be something which will help us in our meditation in everyday life.
So now - do you have any questions about daily practice, about what I said?
Jeanne: Godwin, I often think about ... the art of dying and ... you know ... death and things, and so, but it doesn't somehow feel very real, you know? I'm sure when it comes it will feel quite different, if I suddenly know that I'm going to die I think I might have a very different reaction, but somehow, even though I try to think a lot about it, it doesn't come near.
Godwin: So this is what you need ... how you should need to reflect. To reflect, when we die, on what are the things that you might miss? Because it will help us to recognize our identifications. It will help us to recognize: what are the things that we think we own. These are my things. And I don't like to leave these ... my things, when I'm dying. These I-identifications - the things we own - can be divided into about three categories.
One is: identifying with ourselves. With our mind and body. The other is: identification with other people. The other is: identifying ourselves with our possessions, belongings. So can we die to them, while reflecting them slowly slowly, to realize in an absulute sense we really don't own them? Another aspect of dying, to reflect on it, is, that when we die - we may have spiritual friends, we may be having other people; but at that moment, we have to face that all by ourselves.
This is why I encourage you to spend some time alone with yourself, and make a connection with yourself. Because in a way it can be seen as being able te live with yourself, happy, enjoying your own company, and then when the moment comes, for us, to leave, you can face that situation in a different way, because you made a connection with yourself. So our dependancies may be less. And another question to reflect is: do we know what is dying, do we know what death is? We are really reacting to the word. Because ... there is a very interesting story ... I'm reminded of it from Jeanne's question ... The life of Socrates. As you know he was given poison, and then some of his friends, some of his relations came, before he was given poison. And he was very very keen, very impatient to take in the poison. And his friends and relations were saying: why are you behaving like this? We have all come to say goodbye to you and you are . (Laughter).
He gave a very very good reply, showing his humility - that I emphasized earlier.'I really don't know what dying is, so I'm very keen to find out!' (Laughter).
So this is the kind of humility we should have: you don't know!
Any other questions?