Sunday, June 30, 2013

Things I Remember During Mindfulness Practice

What helps me most when sitting every morning? Remembering some basic teachings from the Frames of Reference.

Here they are, translated in plain English:

[He] remains focused on the body in and of itself — ardent, alert, and mindful —

First starting with mindfulness of the body. First noticing the sensations in the feet, then moving up to the thighs resting on the chair, then becoming aware of the whole body sitting still.

putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world.

Setting aside ordinary preoccupations. Telling myself, now is not the time to plan or worry. Now is the time to practice mindfulness.

[He] sits holding his body erect and setting mindfulness to the forefront. Always mindful, he breathes in; mindful he breathes out.

Sitting up straight, turning the attention to the breath.

He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.'

With each breath in and out, sensing the whole body.

He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'

In the process, noticing any tightness in the body, and relaxing the tension

When feeling a painful feeling, [he] discerns, 'I am feeling a painful feeling.' When feeling a pleasant feeling, he discerns, 'I am feeling a pleasant feeling.' When feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he discerns, 'I am feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling.'

Noticing the quality of the experience, whether pleasant, unpleasant, or neither.

[He] remains focused on the phenomenon of origination with regard to feelings, on the phenomenon of passing away with regard to feelings, or on the phenomenon of origination and passing away with regard to feelings.

Getting to see the constantly changing nature of the quality of the experience - pleasant one moment, then becoming unpleasant, etc . . . 

"When the mind has passion, he discerns that the mind has passion. When the mind is without passion, he discerns that the mind is without passion. When the mind has aversion, he discerns that the mind has aversion. When the mind is without aversion, he discerns that the mind is without aversion. 

Noticing either clinging or aversion. Do I like this, or do I dislike this?

"When the mind is constricted, he discerns that the mind is constricted. When the mind is scattered, he discerns that the mind is scattered [...] When the mind is concentrated, he discerns that the mind is concentrated. [...] When the mind is released, he discerns that the mind is released [...]

Noticing the quality of the mind itself. Tightness around thoughts? Scattered? Concentrated? Calm? whichever the quality, noticing.

[He] remains focused on the phenomenon of origination with regard to the mind, on the phenomenon of passing away with regard to the mind, or on the phenomenon of origination and passing away with regard to the mind.

Focusing on the nature of thought making process, not the thought themselves. Thoughts coming and going . . .

[He] remains focused on the five hindrances. [When] sensual desire is present within, [he] discerns that 'There is sensual desire present within me.' Or, there being no sensual desire present within, he discerns that 'There is no sensual desire present within me.' He discerns how there is the arising of unarisen sensual desire. And he discerns how there is the abandoning of sensual desire once it has arisen. And he discerns how there is no future arising of sensual desire that has been abandoned. (The same formula is repeated for the remaining hindrances: ill will, drowsiness, anxiety, and doubt.)

Recognizing each of the five hindrances: craving of pleasure, anger or hate, dullness, restlessness and anxiety, doubt about practice. Catching each one at whichever stage it may be in: just nascent or full blown. Hindrances can be strong but focusing on the nature of the hindrance itself, not its object, can help one let go of it. 

There is the case where he discerns, as it has come to be, that 'This is stress.' He discerns, as it has come to be, that 'This is the origination of stress.' He discerns, as it has come to be, that 'This is the cessation of stress.' He discerns, as it has come to be, that 'This is the way leading to the cessation of stress.' 

Seeing for oneself the connection between clinging and stress in both body and mind.

This is where I am at with my practice. This is what I understand. 

How about you? Which wisdom do you bring in each time you sit? 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

An Accelerated Course in Wisdom

Being in a line of work that puts me in constant touch with aging, sickness, and death, is akin to taking an accelerated course in wisdom. Visual reminders are the most powerful. Seeing in others the inevitability of decay and ending, one becomes less inclined to cling to youth, beauty, and health. This body is on its way to becoming a bag of bones. Awareness itself may fade before the body even.  And sensual pleasures may give way to physical pain.

Ajahn Chah's flower - the beautiful flower carries within the prospect of its wilted image . . .

Subject to birth, subject to aging,
subject to death,
run-of-the-mill people
are repelled by those who suffer
from that to which they are subject.
And if I were to be repelled
by beings subject to these things,
It would not be fitting for me,
living as they do.

As I maintained this attitude -
knowing the Dhamma
without acquisitions -
I overcame all intoxication
with health, youth, life
as one who sees
renunciation as rest.

For me, energy arose,
Unbinding was clearly seen.
There's now no way
I could partake of sensual pleasures.
Having followed the holy life,
I will not return.

~ Trainings Sutta ~

Understanding that freedom lies in giving up the fantasy of eternal pleasantness. Meanwhile appreciating whatever good arises in each moment. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Not Chasing After the Past


I was at a dinner last night and a woman there who is a rep for a cosmetics company, tried to convince me to buy her miracle anti-aging cream. 'Look at me! I am sixty one, and I look twenty years younger . . .' She took a look at my face and decided I probably needed the 'Re-Define' line.' I was polite, took her fancy brochure, and dumped it in the trash after I got home. How foolish, I thought, this refusal to go with the inevitable. 

You shouldn't chase after the past.
or place expectations on the future.
What is past 
is left behind.
The future is as yet unreached.
Whatever quality is present
you clearly see right there, 
right there.
Not taken in,
unshaken,
that's how you develop the heart.
Ardently doing your duty today,
for - who knows? - tomorrow
death may come.
There is no bargaining 
with Death and his mighty horde.
Whoever lives thus ardently, 
relentlessly ,
both day and night,
Has truly had an auspicious day:
So says the Peaceful Sage.

- Bhaddekaratta Sutta: An Auspicious Day, MN 131 - 

Are you chasing after the past?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

In Her Wake

In her wake,
tears welling up
as soon as I sit for a while
and hidden joy
of the enduring love
that binds me to her still.

In her wake,
regrets about times
when I did not love her well,
one, two, three, four and more;
wishing for a rewind button
that does not exist.

In her wake,
a renewed inspiration
to open the heart
when the mind thinks otherwise
and to not let my own wounded-ness
blind me to the possibility of love

In her wake,
many thoughts coming and going,
and the reminder to guard
from misguided sentimentality
and the easy temptation
to idealize the deceased.

In her wake,
recognizing as my own,
hindrances I used to see in her mostly:
attachment to material things,
chronic worrying about imaginary future
and love tainted with much clinginess.

In her wake,
awareness of impermanence
sinking more deeply;
even her whose life I took as a given
had to disappear, first in mind, slowly,
then in body, with the final exhale.

In her wake,
the reassurance that death can be sweet,
nothing to fear, only the mind's ideas
and our unwillingness to let go;
holding tight the comforting vision
of her surrender - much peace, much ease.

In her wake,
the determination to not let her terminated life,
every bit of it, go to waste.
Using all I learned from her, all she gave me,
to live each new moment more wisely, more kindly.
I used to call her Maman.
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