The Gentle Way Home Page Next Talk
The Experience of Meditation
One-Day Retreat in Hong Kong
12th October 1997
1: Meditation in Daily Life
Godwin: I would like to welcome you to this one-day meditation retreat, and I would like to offer some suggestions about the practice today.
The first suggestion I would like to offer is that every one of you should feel happy that you are able to come here. Today is a holiday and after working very hard you should really feel happy about yourself that you have decided to come here. Usually we feel bad about ourselves, but it is very important to feel good about ourselves. So I would like to emphasize this point, just to feel good about yourself that you are able to come here for meditation.
The next suggestion is to try to feel grateful that you are able to come. I know some who wanted to come today but for different reasons they were unable to come. You should feel grateful that you were able to come and that you are here.
Quality of Just Knowing
In meditation a very important aspect is the practice of awareness, mindfulness, just knowing what is happening. So in this one-day meditation we will try to develop this very important quality of just knowing whatever is happening in our mind and body from moment to moment as far as we can. And even if it is unpleasant experience, even if it is something you consider strange, just know that it is happening rather than be worried, thinking: Am I doing it rightly? Is it normal to experience these things? It is not necessary to have such thoughts but just know that this is what I am feeling, this is the sensation I am experiencing.
Another important aspect related to this is to be mindful, to be aware with loving-kindness, just knowing what is happening with friendliness. It can be like a mother who is just watching, observing her only child with friendliness. So let us learn today to watch, to observe, to find out, just to know what is happening in our mind and body like a mother watching her only child, with friendliness, with gentleness, with openness.
Slowing Down, Being Silent & Alone
Related to mindfulness is another suggestion I would like to offer: let us learn to slow down today. I know in Hong Kong you have to move very fast because the speed of life here is very fast. Today we will make it a point to learn to relax and just do things very slowly. Slowly and also in a very relaxed way.
Another suggestion I would like to offer is the practice of silence. I know it is very difficult for some people to be silent because it is a very strong habit that we have to speak. So today let us make an effort just to be silent with ourselves and you will see a connection between awareness, mindfulness, and silence. The more aware you are, the more silent you become and when you are silent, mindfulness will come naturally. You'll enjoy the space that silence creates in your mind.
Another aspect of silence is learning to be alone with ourselves. So today please try to be silent and just be alone with yourselves. We have become so dependent on external things. So today we will try just to be friendly with ourselves and see whether we can be in our own company and enjoy our own company. Learning to be our best friend. It is very important to make this connection with ourselves where we see ourselves as the most precious friend we have.
So today there will be some group discussions, and we can discuss the problems or difficulties you may be experiencing. But still it is very important in meditation to be self-reliant, to have our own tools. The Buddha emphasised self-effort is the best effort, and to be self-reliant.
Another very important suggestion I would like to offer is that we will try to develop self-confidence today. To have the self-confidence that you can handle whatever is arising in your mind and body. In meditation this is very important, to have this self-confidence; just to know what is happening in the mind and the body, and then learning from them, being open to them.
So today we will try to be like children, trying to learn, making discoveries about what is happening in our mind and body. It is very important to have this childlike quality of learning, finding out, being curious about what is happening in our mind and body, which is something we take for granted.
Try to see meditation as a voyage of self-discovery, and if we can have this openness then we can learn from any experience we are having today. As I said, it can be pleasant, it can be unpleasant, but learning to ask the questions: What can I learn from this? What does it show to me? This kind of attitude to meditation is very important.
One last suggestion is: please do not have high expectations that you are going to achieve something very special. Meditation is nothing special. It's just being open to ordinary things. It's nothing extraordinary. Please remember that. Please realise that. This is something beautiful about meditation. So it is not results that we are going to achieve but the practice itself, that is the result; knowing what is happening is the result, not what comes after. Please remember this. Maybe in this culture there is a lot of emphasis on being goal-oriented, on achieving results. But in meditation the result is the practice. This is what is very interesting about meditation. The result is just being open, knowing what is happening from moment-to-moment, experiencing every moment.
These are some very practical suggestions I would like to offer you for today. So as you can see from the programme there is yoga, there is walking meditation, there is standing meditation, there is group discussion, and there is chanting - there will be so many things happening today. So let us see everything as part of the practice. Even when we have lunch, let us learn to make it part of the practice. I will even give instructions on how to eat your lunch with a meditative mind.
Guided Sitting Meditation
Let us now do our sitting meditation. Those who like to stand and move their bodies before the sitting are free to do that.
Now please sit in a comfortable position.
Close your eyes and spend some time just learning to relax yourself, just to relax your body. Just to feel comfortable with yourself.
Spend some time feeling happy that you are meditating now. Feeling good about what you are trying to learn.
Now what you are going to do in the present meditation is something very, very simple. So until you hear the bell just know from moment-to-moment what you are hearing, the thoughts that you are having, the sensations you are experiencing in the body.
It is something very simple that everyone can do. What is important is to be alert, to be awake, to be present, to be alive from moment-to-moment.
If anyone becomes sleepy and drowsy, open your eyes.
We hear sounds, we have thoughts, we experience sensations, we may be having emotions; just knowing from moment-to-moment all these things that are happening. Making friends with them, learning to say okay to them.
If you are having any unpleasant sensations in the body just be open to them, make friends with them, be aware of them. It's like learning to say okay to the noises that you are hearing.
Do you know each thought that arises and passes away in your mind?
Please open your eyes, and when you change your posture just know you are doing that and feel the different sensations in the body. So please continue to know what is happening in your mind and body from moment-to-moment.
One can meditate in four postures: sitting, standing, walking, lying down. So today we will be trying to practise in three of these postures: sitting, standing, walking.
Discussion on Sitting Meditation
What I would like to discuss with you is what actually happens when you are meditating. Just share your experience and ask questions in relation to your experience while you were meditating.
So can I ask: are there any problems, any questions about sitting meditation? I said just sit and try to know what is happening in your mind and body. So any questions, any difficulties about this?
Retreatant: While I meditate I have lots of thoughts and some are so obvious you don't need to observe them, but some are delicate, minor ones. Is it necessary to observe these thoughts?
Godwin: We should try to observe every thought. When I gave instructions for the meditation, I said: Can you be conscious of every thought that arises in your mind? And it is very important to learn to observe thoughts without judging them: this is delicate, this is not delicate, this is good, this is bad. Without judging, without giving plusses and minuses, can we just observe the thoughts as they arise and as they pass away?
Retreatant: I've been meditating for over a year and I have lots of problems like my body moving, my ankle hurts, and after meditating for a while when I try to get up I have difficulties, but after I walk for a while it is okay. Now my left shoulder hurts. So I'm having all these problems. I want to know if I'm doing the meditation in the right way.
Godwin: I don't see them as problems. I tried to make it very clear that meditation is just knowing whatever is happening in our mind and body without being concerned: Am I doing it right? Am I doing it wrong? Is it very strange that this should happen? I repeated a number of times: Just to know what is happening, and can you say okay to whatever is happening, especially if it is unpleasant.
Anyway I would like to repeat that it is extremely important to learn to work with unpleasant sensations in whatever forms they arise in the body. Just by knowing them and learning to make friends with them, not to see them as problems: that is the practice, because while meditating if you learn to handle these unpleasant sensations that arise then in everyday life when they arise you know how to handle them. So it is very helpful that these unpleasant sensations arise when you are meditating.
Retreatant: I was thinking about anxiety. I have had anxiety for some time, but when I try to call it up and look at it, it doesn't come - or not in such a strong form as I used to suffer from. That is the first thing.
Another thing is that if someone has had anxiety over a problem and cannot recall the anxiety later, then when the problem crops up again there is no time to practise, to have enough experience to face the problem and examine the anxiety and to get rid of it and to face the problem squarely.
Godwin: So my answer to the first point: Can there be a problem when you wanted anxiety to come and it didn't come? What's the problem? Isn't it interesting: when we have anxiety it's a problem; and even when we don't have anxiety it's a problem!
Retreatant: My question is when we have some problem, anxiety for example, and it occurs from time to time, we want to get experience on how to handle it. And when you want experience to practise on it, it doesn't occur as it occurred before so there's no experience to help solve the problem.
Godwin: I think you were present in the nunnery when I presented the tools on how to work with emotions. So I would like you to go back home, and as I saw you were making notes, please go over the notes and then find out for yourself, experiment with the tools and see how you can work with anxiety.
Anyway, just a brief comment on how to work with these emotions when they come, because I know some of you were not present when I presented these tools on how to work with emotions.
So one thing that we learned today is, whether it is anxiety, whether it is fear, whether it is anger, whether it is physical pain, just learning to know that these things are there. And as I suggested in relation to physical pain, learning to say okay to this anxiety or fear. Learning to feel friendly towards these unpleasant emotions can help us to work with them. So this is one of the tools that I presented, and those of you who are interested in the other tools I presented, maybe you can get a copy of the talk that I gave on emotions and how to work with them.
Guided Breathing Meditation
During this meditation please don't walk out of the room.
I would like you to continue to be aware of your body. You can close your eyes and just feel the different sensations, the different movements in your body.
Learning to feel the body, learning to feel friendly towards the body.
Feel grateful that you have this body and that we can use the body for our practice.
Now just feel what it is to sit in this posture. Can you feel relaxed with this posture?
If you can relax your body, you can relax your mind. Feeling relaxed is not resisting anything in the body and in the mind.
Let us now spend some time with our breath. So please allow your body to breathe naturally. Let the body breathe the way the body likes to breathe.
When the body is exhaling you know that the body is exhaling. When the body is inhaling you know that the body is inhaling. Have your complete and full attention on the in-breath and the out-breath.
It is natural that you will have thoughts. Just know that you are having thoughts. Don't resist them, don't dislike them, but pay more and more attention on the in-breath and the out-breath.
If you are having any unpleasant sensations in the body, please learn to be mindful of them, to be aware of them, learning to make friends with them, learning to say okay to unpleasant sensations.
[Bell] - [Chanting]
Discussion on Breathing Meditation
Retreatant: During the meditation I found my back perspired a lot. I got all wet. The second question is, when I focus on breathing my breathing becomes very quick. When I try to focus on something else then my breathing returns to normal.
Godwin: The first question about the perspiration in the back, just know that there is perspiration in the back and let it be there. Make friends with that perspiration.
About the second question that when you focus on breathing the breathing becomes fast and when you focus on something else the breathing becomes normal: so I would suggest in the beginning allow the body to breathe naturally, forget about focusing on the breathing but just sit and let the body breathe the way it likes. So please spend some time just learning what is called non-doing, allowing the body to do what it likes in relation to breathing. Don't see it as meditation but just see it as some exercise that you are trying to develop, just non-doing, allowing the body to breathe the way it likes.
There is a meditation master in Sri Lanka who says that when we sit, if we think meditation is something special then we will have special problems! So here we are trying to give special attention to the breath and then the breath behaves in an unusual way, and when you ignore the breath it becomes normal. So don't see meditation and breathing as something special and just be with it. And even when you are outside, when you think you are not meditating, just continue to have a connection with the breath, to continue to be aware of the breath at other times also.
Let me thank you all very much for asking very practical, useful questions and also thank you very much for those who have shared some positive experiences with us. So it is very nice that we can sit here as a group of spiritual friends, just sharing each other's experience. This is something very valuable.
Retreatant: I want to know if there is any should be or should not be when we meditate. For example, when I'm doing the sitting meditation I can't stop thinking. It seems that when I'm doing the walking meditation the situation is better, but when I'm sitting, when thinking comes up I have a conflict whether to stop it or just allow it.
Godwin: I'm happy you have raised that question because it is a very common problem.
It is not possible to stop thinking. The more we try to stop thinking the more thoughts we have. That is why when I gave the guided meditation I said: it is natural that thoughts will arise. So as in the first meditation we did, what we are trying to do is to be aware, to be mindful of the thoughts themselves. Thoughts, sounds, sensations, whatever there is in the mind and the body. So in that sort of meditation if you have thoughts there is no need to have a conflict.
Also in the second meditation we did in which we were trying to be aware of our breath, when thoughts come we should be aware, mindful that thoughts are coming, and make friends with them, not to have a conflict, and then come back to the breath. But we can be aware of the breath for a few minutes, then again thoughts will come. This is the nature of the mind, that we don't have much control. So meditation is understanding how our minds work, making friends with our mind and whatever is happening, and training ourselves to slowly, gently come back to the breath.
It is very important even when we are not sitting to continue to be aware and mindful of the thoughts that we are having. Even while relaxing, while eating, we are having thoughts. So whatever we are doing it's a very good practice to be conscious of our thoughts, not only when we are meditating. We can learn a great deal about our thoughts by just watching them, just asking: What are the thoughts that I'm having?
So most thoughts are either about ourselves or about others. And sometimes the thoughts are negative about yourself, negative about others; so it's just to know how we are having negative thoughts about ourselves and others and how when we have such negative thoughts emotions are created. So these are very important insights to develop by watching thoughts.
Do we have more thoughts about the past? Do we have more thoughts about the future? Why do I have more thoughts about the past? What happens when I think about the future? Do I have anxiety? This is why we have to find out, learn about our thoughts and how the thoughts can create emotions and how they can create suffering. This is a very important aspect of the practice. So it is not only stopping thoughts but understanding, learning, discovering about them.
So any other questions? Any other difficulties?
Retreatant: I want to talk about a personal experience of mine. Once after I read a sutta I went to meditate for about ten minutes. What happened was that there were lights flashing in my eyes. It was a golden light. Whether I opened my eyes or closed my eyes the light still flashed for more than half an hour. So I was a bit scared of this phenomenon that arose. I did not know whether this phenomenon was normal or abnormal and I would like to know how to handle this phenomenon.
Godwin: Seeing visions, seeing such things reflects different phases in the practice. Sometimes these visions, these pictures you see are very pleasant, sometimes they are very unpleasant. So as I was saying very often today, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant just know that you are seeing lights, you are having this experience, without thinking: Is it abnormal? Is it normal? If you react in that way you are getting involved with what is happening. So what you need to do is not to get involved but just to know; and as I was saying, just to say okay and then after some time the sensation of lights or whatever will stop.
Now it's time for yoga. So I would like to make a few points about the connection between meditation and yoga. One thing is that when you do yoga you learn to be aware, mindful of your body, you learn to relax your body, you learn to be friendly and kind towards the body, you learn to use yoga exercises to experience the present moment. These are some aspects of yoga in connection with meditation.
So now you can prepare for yoga and I hope during yoga you'll have challenges, difficulties, and, as it was mentioned earlier, I hope you learn to make them the objects of meditation. And hopefully during yoga your body may relax, and then when we do sitting meditation let us sit with that relaxed body and relaxed mind and see what happens. Thank you very much.
If there is anyone who will not be doing yoga, please refrain from speaking. You can do walking meditation somewhere if you like. Or you can sit on a chair somewhere calmly, just observing your mind - what is happening in your mind from moment-to-moment. So please make use of this opportunity if you are not doing yoga. Now the yoga teacher will take over. Thank you.
Guided Walking Meditation
Now we will do some walking meditation. The idea behind walking meditation is walking consciously. Walk slowly and just be mindful of your walking. When you walk you have to feel the different sensations in the body while you are walking. Thoughts will come but please learn to let go of the thoughts and come back to the present, that is the walking.
So now we have to organise how we can do walking meditation. I would suggest that we can do it in two groups. One group can walk on the stage and the other group can walk here. So the two groups can get into two circles following one after the other. And while you are walking I will try to offer some suggestions about the practice.
Whatever you are doing, please do it slowly, consciously, with mindfulness.
Walk slowly, consciously. Feeling the sensations in your feet. Using walking to experience the present moment.
Keep your hands in front.
Walk slowly so that you can be conscious of all the movements and sensations in your body when you are walking.
Let go of your thoughts and come back to the present with the help of walking. Just walking in a very relaxed way.
Learning to enjoy the simple act of walking.
Please look at the feet of the person in front without looking all around.
When you are lifting your feet know that you are lifting your feet.
Just feel the earth with your feet.
Learning to relax with your walking. Learning to walk consciously.
Can you walk as if you are walking on lotus flowers, gently, tenderly - just being conscious of each step?
Now please stand wherever you are.
Now please stand completely still with your eyes closed.
You can use the sounds to experience the present moment.
Just being in the present with the help of hearing.
Can we hear the sounds very sharply, very clearly, as if for the first time?
Discussion about Bodily Awareness
I would like to know what happened when you were doing yoga.
Retreatant: I found some postures are difficult but that didn't really matter because I have done it before. But when I did yoga I found that there was not enough space for everybody, there were too many people in this hall and I realised that anger arose in my mind. For example, when the person next to me stretched his leg too far I would say to myself: Why does he have to stretch so far?
Godwin: This is why I said that today we have to be open to learn from whatever happens to you. Learning to see everything as part of the practice. So whether you get angry, whether you get annoyed, when you are reacting, just observe that and see how you are creating suffering for yourself from what others are doing. So in that situation the anger is the object of meditation. Then you learn to make that the object of meditation and see how far you can let go of that anger.
And as I was also saying earlier, these are unpleasant experiences we have, physically and mentally, not only when we are doing yoga but in other situations as well. So just knowing them and making friends with them is a very important aspect of the practice. If you can practise in this way anything can be a learning experience, anything can be a meditation. So if you can have that openness, then without getting angry with your neighbour, you feel grateful for this person because he or she is giving you an opportunity to work with anger. The person who is annoying you, irritating you becomes your teacher at that time. It is a beautiful way to live. When I give my talk this evening I will speak about this aspect.
Anything else? Maybe you have another comment about yoga? Another experience about yoga? The yoga master is also here.
Retreatant: Whether our practice is yoga or breathing, I would like to know when we focus our mind, do we focus on breathing from the lungs or breathing from the abdomen?
Godwin: I said to allow the body to breathe naturally. So if you try to breathe with some particular part of your body, that is not allowing the body to breathe naturally. It is very important to learn to allow the body to breathe naturally. Then when the body is breathing naturally you're just being conscious of the breathing, that is all. It is like when we are doing walking meditation, we just allow the body to walk and we are just being aware of walking. We don't try to walk in a different way. So in meditation it is very important to learn to be natural, not to interfere with the natural process of what is happening when we are meditating whether it is walking, breathing or whatever.
Anything else, any other questions?
Retreatant: About 7 or 8 years ago I had minor pains in one particular side of my lungs. This pain has already gone, but this week I came here to meditate and last night I realised that this pain had returned, and this morning I also realised that this pain was there. I would like to know why this pain arose, whether I used the wrong method or posture.
Godwin: I feel that when you are meditating perhaps you are trying too hard, and maybe you are trying to breathe in a different way. When one tries to breathe in an unusual or different way it may be a strain on the lungs. So it is very important when we are meditating, to learn to meditate in a very relaxed way, not to try too hard. If you try too hard it can be a strain on the body and also the mind. So in the next meditation please try to sit in a very relaxed way and don't put a strain on any part of the body. Anyway if the pain comes again, stop focusing on breathing and send thoughts of loving-kindness, friendliness, gentleness to the lungs.
Retreatant: I would like to relate to the experience of the lady who spoke about the pain in the lungs. I also experienced a similar kind of pain this week, but according to my own experience I tolerated the pain for a few days and today I do not have the pain anymore, so I think that this could be just an old wound and nothing to do with the meditation itself.
Godwin: Thank you very much for sharing that with us. It brings up a very important point, that when we have unpleasant experiences we should go through these unpleasant experiences, be open to them, and then they may drop away on their own. It's a very valuable experience you have shared, thank you very much.
Retreatant: When I practise sitting meditation my body moves in all four directions, front and back, left and right. I asked others what to do and they advised me not to pay attention to the movements, so I just continued sitting with the movements. I do not know whether this is right or wrong. That is the first question.
And the second question is: when I sit my back is not straight. When I try to make my spine erect the movements intensify, and I do not know what I should do in that situation.
Godwin: When the body starts moving, as I have been saying, just to know that the body is moving. And I would like to suggest you can also try to control the movements, to see whether you can stop that movement on your own. As I said earlier, these are passing stages in the practice. If you see them as problems you get stuck with them. So to get into the next stage, as was said earlier by another meditator, we should learn to say okay to it, we should learn to feel friendly with those things rather than have the question: Is it right? Is it wrong? Is it normal? Is it abnormal? By doing that we are getting involved and we get stuck. So this is one of the suggestions I would like to make.
And about having your spine erect, it's nice to try to have your spine erect but it should be very relaxed, not tense. So try to find a posture where you feel relaxed and natural with that posture rather than experience tension and discomfort with your posture. So you need to experiment, explore the sitting posture more and more.
Retreatant: I want to thank you for the different practices and meditation during this week. What I want to know is that you also mentioned in your talk that we should learn from our unpleasant emotions and make them a learning experience - how do we know whether what we have learnt from the unpleasant experience is right or wrong?
Godwin: Very simple answer: without resisting, if you can say okay and make friends with it, that's it. To put it in other words: when we have unpleasant emotions the normal tendency is to suffer as a result of it, but here by taking them as learning experiences we learn not to suffer and to see them as our teachers and feel grateful for them, because if they do not arise, how can we learn to work with them?
Retreatant: This is the first time I've done meditation and sometimes my feet become numb. When that happens should I terminate the meditation immediately or should I continue to meditate? When I meditate I use the traditional method of having my legs crossed, but you mentioned that the posture should be natural. That is the first question. The second question is: how do I know how long I should meditate for? How long is enough?
Godwin: About the first question, when you feel numb in the body, as I said earlier many times, just to feel that it is numb and learn to say okay to it. And if it becomes unbearable you can just change the posture.
The problem is not with the numbness but with how we relate to it; how we react to the numbness is the problem. So again we should be grateful for the numbness because we learn how not to react to the numbness even when the numbness is there. This is why I say that all these unpleasant experiences are really valuable teachers for us because if you do not feel numb you do not learn how to handle it, how to work with it.
About the second question, actually meditation has to be a way of life. This is what I will be trying to tell you in the talk, that there is no beginning meditation and stopping meditation. Meditation should not be confined to a particular posture, a particular time because from the time that we wake up to the time we go to sleep our mind is moving, we are having thoughts, we are having states of mind. So ideally we should have this constant awareness, constant alertness, constant checking out what is happening in our mind throughout the day. Then as I said, meditation becomes a way of life. Life and meditation are not two things, they are just one.
Retreatant: You mentioned that we should learn to call up some of our unpleasant emotions and to make friends with them and learn from them. I tried that during the meditation and I focused on anger. So I thought of a person I hate very much and tried to get that angry feeling but I found that that anger did not come. Can we apply this in real life? If I keep on meditating will I be able to apply this in life, and in turn later on will I hate this person less?
Godwin: Thank you very much for sharing that experience. This is one of the tools I presented when I spoke about emotions. It is extremely interesting that these unpleasant emotions that we don't like, when we invite them they don't come; and when we don't want them to come they come. So this shows the importance of openness, and then with more and more openness and waiting for these emotions to come, they don't come. So I'm very happy that you had this very important insight.
You can use the same principle in relation to thoughts. When we don't want thoughts to come they come, and if you invite them, let any thought come, you'll experience that they don't come. And as you said, with this kind of practice I'm sure that the anger you have towards that person will become less and less.
As I said in relation to meditation on loving-kindness, I would like to suggest you think of that person and try to forgive that person, accepting his humanness, otherwise you're still carrying a wound in relation to what he has done to you. We should learn this very important quality of forgiveness. Forgiveness to oneself and forgiveness to others, because these things have happened in the past; we cannot change the past, so why should we carry the past as a burden, an unnecessary burden which is creating suffering for us?
Guided Standing Meditation
Now let us do some standing meditation for some time.
Please stand slowly, knowing that you are going to stand and observing the intention to stand.
Now just feel what it is to stand. Feel the different sensations, the different movements in your body.
If you are experiencing any unpleasant sensations, painful sensations in the body, just know them and just be open to them, just say okay to them. And if you are experiencing any pleasant sensations in the body, just know that you are having pleasant sensations.
Try to feel every part of your body, the different sensations, the different movements in your body. And learn to feel friendly, gentle and kind to your body.
When thoughts come, learn to let go of them and come back to the body. Use your body to experience the present moment, the here and the now.
Learn to feel the body rather than think about the body; please see the difference. And just feel what it is to stand completely still.
Learn to gently let go of the thinking and come back to your body. To be in the present with the help of your body, with the feelings, the sensations, the different movements. Finding the sensations and the feelings in the body more interesting than your thoughts.
Eating as Meditation
In a few minutes we will be eating our lunch. So I would like to tell you how eating can be a meditation. Here again, we must make an effort to eat mindfully, to eat consciously, to be in the present as far as possible when we are eating. And please make a conscious effort to chew your food. So slowly, consciously chewing your food.
When you are eating, observe the likes and the dislikes that might have arisen in your mind. Just to know the likes and dislikes when they arise. And when there are no likes and dislikes also to know that there are no likes, no dislikes. All this can be discovered and learned only if you eat in silence.
It is also important to learn to avoid the two extremes. Avoid eating too much or eating too little. For meditation it is very important to know the right quantity of food. And you can only learn the right quantity of food if you can listen to the body while you are eating.
Now when you stand up, don't try to stand quickly - do it slowly. Be aware of all your movements in standing. Observe the intention to stand. And please do conscious walking from here to the place where you are going to eat. So please walk slowly and in complete silence.
We'll be meeting again after one hour for group discussion. So thank you very much.
You can wait patiently for the lunch to arrive. This can be also a very important practice.
Discussion about Eating as Meditation
I would like to know what happened when you were eating your lunch silently and with awareness. What further discoveries did you make?
Retreatant: While I was having lunch, being mindful and keeping silent, I found lunch tasted especially good and I was very grateful to the people who prepared the food because I did not know we would have lunch provided here so I didn't need to go out and buy my lunch. So that is the first thing.
And I want to share some of my own experience in meditation. I haven't been meditating for too long, but from my experience different parts of the body ached when I started meditating. And also we may be at different stages, but we should try not to hang onto whatever comes, otherwise we will get stuck.
As for the movements in the body, my own experience is that having practised meditation for a while, if you want your body to move to the left, it moves to the left; and likewise, if you want it to move to the right, it moves to the right. So if you want to stop the movement you can just tell your body to stop the movement by practising in this way.
Godwin: Thank you very much for both points that you have made. The first point is very interesting, that when we eat with mindfulness we can really taste the food. Eating becomes such a special experience. Otherwise we eat like machines, not even knowing what is happening when we are eating. So I am very happy that you mentioned that.
And it's also nice that you mentioned that you felt gratitude, you felt grateful. This is a very important quality that we need to develop. In fact in traditional Buddhist countries, before we eat we spend some time feeling grateful for those who have prepared the food and who have been responsible for cooking the food. So I would like to suggest to everyone here to spend a few minutes, even a few seconds, before you start to eat feeling grateful for those who are responsible for the meal, feeling grateful that you are able to eat.
About the second point, this is exactly what I meant when I said that we should also control the phenomenon of these bodily movements. So it's a very good connection to make with your body, to give it very friendly, gentle orders: Now please stop moving. Sometimes when you give such orders the body might respond to them. So I would suggest sometimes we can allow the body to move and just be aware of it, feel friendly with that, and sometimes we can tell the body: Now you've had enough, so please stop. The body might respond, but for that to happen you should have a very good connection, sensitivity to the body. Thank you very much for those two points.
Guided Sitting Meditation
Godwin: Now please allow the mind to do what it likes. So let any thoughts arise, thoughts about the past, thoughts about the future. And let us learn to observe the thoughts without judging them, no plus, no minus, just thoughts arising and thoughts passing away; but please be alert, awake from moment-to-moment.
Learning to make friends with our thoughts. Learning to create space for our thoughts.
For those who have problems with thoughts, please learn that there is nothing wrong with thoughts if you can be aware, if you can know what thoughts are arising and passing away.
In this meditation you don't try to stop thoughts, you don't try to control thoughts, you create space for any thought to arise. What you are learning now is to develop a non-reactive mind in relation to thoughts.
Now let us learn to make friends with the emotions that we don't like. So please allow those emotions that you don't like to arise and see, as with the thoughts, whether you can make friends with them, create space around them, just allow them to be there.
If anyone is feeling sleepy or drowsy, please open your eyes because it is very important to be alert, to be awake.
It is very important for us to learn not to push away, not to control unpleasant emotions, but to allow them to arise and to make friends with them and to create space for them. So let us learn this very important aspect.
Let us now learn to do the same in relation to unpleasant sensation. So allow the unpleasant sensations in the body to arise. What you consider as strange feelings, unusual feelings, what you consider as abnormal sensations, let them arise. It can be in any part of the body.
Can we learn to relate to these sensations without giving a minus? To relate to them as just sensations?
Thoughts, emotions, sensations, learning to see them just as they are. Learning to relate to them without a plus, without a minus.
This is learning to have loving-kindness to our thoughts, to our emotions, to our sensations. Then they don't become problems for us. Then they become our friends. This is what we are trying to do with this meditation.