Lost in Capitulation

“As the early Buddhist teachings freely admit, the predicament is that the cycle of birth, aging, and death is meaningless. They don’t try to deny this fact and so don’t ask us to be dishonest with ourselves or to close our eyes to reality. As one teacher has put it, the Buddhist recognition of the reality of suffering—so important that suffering is honored as the first noble truth—is a gift, in that it confirms our most sensitive and direct experience of things, an experience that many other traditions try to deny.”

http://www.tricycle.com/blog/lost-capitulation

— Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Cultural Conditioning

“The beauty of an action comes not from its having become a habit but from its sensitivity, consciousness, clarity of perception, and accuracy of response…I am not compelled by any conditioning or programming from my past experiences or from my culture. Nobody has stamped anything on me, or if they have, I’m no longer reacting on the basis of that… Don’t carry over experiences from the past. In fact, don’t carry over good experiences from the past either. Learn what it means to experience something fully, then drop it and move on to the next moment, uninfluenced by the previous one. You’d be traveling with such little baggage that you could pass through the eye of a needle.”

excerpt from Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality by Anthony DeMello

Your Garden

“Inside every one of us is a garden, and every practitioner has to go back to their garden and take care of it.  Maybe in the past, you left it untended for a long time.  You should know exactly what is going on in your own garden, and try to put everything in order.  Restore the beauty; restore the harmony in your garden.  If it is well tended, many people will enjoy your garden.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, Taming The Tiger Within:  Meditations on Transforming Difficult Emotions

The Best Possible Habit

“Karma is basically habit. It’s the momentum of repeated actions that become habitual. It’s in our best interest to develop as many positive habits as we can. In the Mahanama Sutta, the Buddha said, ‘Just as oil rises to the top of a pot submerged in water, your virtue, your goodness, your faith, or generosity will rise to the top, and that is what will carry you to your next destination.'”

From Preparing to Die by Andrew Holocek

http://www.tricycle.com/brief-teachings/best-possible-habit

Meditation: Reflecting On Difficulty–Jack Kornfield

Sit quietly, feeling the rhythm of your breathing, allowing yourself to become calm and receptive. Then think of a difficulty that you face in your spiritual practice or anywhere in your life. As you sense this difficulty, notice how it affects your body, heart, and mind. Feeling it carefully, begin to ask yourself a few questions, listening inwardly for their answers.

How have I treated this difficulty?
How have I suffered by my own response and reaction to it?
What does this problem ask me to let go of?
What suffering s unavoidable, is my measure to accept?
What great lesson might it be able to teach me?
What is the gold, the value, hidden in this situation?

In using this reflection to consider the difficulties, the understanding and openings may come slowly. Take your time. As with all meditations, it can be helpful to repeat this reflection a number of times, listening each time for deeper answers from your body, heart, and spirit.

from A Path With Heart: A Guide Through The Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life

A Night of Mindfulness, Saturday, May 30th–Bolton, CT

A Night of Mindfulness led by our dear friend Tom Duva of PoJama Sangha

Saturday, May 30th
4 PM to 9 PM
Bolton Congregational Church
229 Bolton Center Rd
Bolton, CT
(Community Center directly behind church, please park behind the Community Center)
We will offer sitting and walking meditation as a foundation for our time together, along with other practices.

What to bring:
Yourself, and a friend
A small blanket
A prepared brown bag meal for supper
Appropriate clothing for both indoor and outdoor practice

For those who can, a suggested donation (dana) of $10-$15 for the use of the lovely space.
Please RSVP via e-mail duvadiva@gmail.com or via text at 860-729-2342

An Art of Opening

“Meditation is a practice that can teach us to enter each moment with wisdom, lightness, and a sense of humor. It is an art of opening and letting go, rather than accumulation or struggle. Then, even within our frustrations and difficulties, a remarkable inner sense of support and perspective can grow.  Breathing in, ‘Wow, this experience is interesting, isn’t it? Let me take another breath. Ah, this one is difficult, even terrifying, isn’t it?’ Breathing out,  ‘Ah.’ It is an amazing process we have entered when we can train our hearts and minds to be open and steady and awake through it all.”

Jack Kornfield, A Path With Heart

The Way

In a coda to Sitting: A guide to Buddhist Meditation, Diana St. Ruth describes the fruits of freedom.

Happiness cannot be forced into existence, nor can it be forced out of it, but it can be held in abeyance. This is what we do when we hang on to things and people and ideas in our minds and refuse to let them go. The mind becomes blocked and the way is dammed up.

Being alert, observing the movements of the mind and body in daily life, noticing what is taking place—as opposed to what one wishes would take place, or what one fears might take place, or what one grieves over as having already taken place—is a way of life that is completely free of all self-imposed restrictions and conflicting states of mind. Wisdom and compassion will be allowed to function freely under these circumstances. Views, speech, ways of living, mindfulness, and concentration are unhindered by greed, guilt, hatred, carelessness, complacency, and fear when divisions are seen to be arbitrary and there is no sense of “This is me”; “That is you.”

When the way ahead is open and clear and one has the goodwill, light-heartedness, and courage to tread it, the past and the future melt into nothingness, life is lived from the center of one’s being, and the self becomes as meaningful as the blue sky, the green fields, the flowing rivers, the littered streets, the hustling crowds, the filth and the beauty.

When one follows what is right according to one’s heart and good sense, when wisdom and compassion become real, not contrived, the way of heaven manifests beneath one’s feet. That is the way of liberation from suffering and the realization of genuine happiness.

Diana St. Ruth is editor of the British quarterly magazine Buddhism Now. Her books include The Simple Guide to Zen Buddhism and The Simple Guide to Theravada Buddhism.

http://www.tricycle.com/afterword/way

Noticing Space

In meditation, we can be alert and attentive; it’s like listening. What we are doing is just bringing into awareness the way it is, noticing space and form. For example, we can notice space in a room. Most people probably wouldn’t notice the space; they would notice the things in it—the people, the walls, the floor, the furniture. But in order to notice the space, what do we do? We withdraw our attention from the things and bring our attention to the space. This does not mean getting rid of things, or denying the things their right to be there. It merely means not concentrating on them, not going from one thing to another.

The space in a room is peaceful. The objects in the room can excite, repel, or attract, but the space has no such quality. However, even though the space does not attract our attention, we can be fully aware of it, and we become aware of it when we are no longer absorbed by the objects in the room. When we reflect on the space in the room, we feel a sense of calm because all space is the same; the space around you and the space around me is no different. It is not mine. I can’t say “This space belongs to me” or “That space belongs to you.”

Space is always present. It makes it possible for us to be together, contained within a room, in a space that is limited by walls. Space is also outside the room; it contains the whole building, the whole world. So space is not bound by objects in any way; it is not bound by anything. If we wish, we can view space as limited in a room, but really, space is unlimited.

Noticing the space around people and things provides a different way of looking at them, and developing this spacious view is a way of opening oneself. When one has a spacious mind, there is room for everything. When one has a narrow mind, there is room for only a few things. Everything has to be manipulated and controlled; the rest is just to be pushed out.

Life with a narrow view is suppressed and constricted; it is a struggle. There is always tension involved in it, because it takes an enormous amount of energy to keep everything in order all the time. If you have a narrow view of life, the disorder of life has to be ordered for you, so you are always busy manipulating the mind and rejecting things or holding on to them. This is the dukkha of ignorance, which comes from not understanding the way it is.

The spacious mind has room for everything. It is like the space in a room, which is never harmed by what goes in and out of it. In fact, we say “the space in this room,” but actually, the room is in the space, the whole building is in the space. When the building has gone, the space will still be there. The space surrounds the building, and right now we are containing space in a room. With this view we can develop a new perspective. We can see that there are walls creating the shape of the room, and there is the space. Looking at it one way, the walls limit the space in the room. But looking at it another way, we see that space is limitless.

We can apply this perspective to the mind, using the “I” consciousness to see space as an object. In the mind, we can see that there are thoughts and emotions—the mental conditions that arise and cease. Usually, we are dazzled, repelled, or bound by these thoughts and emotions. We go from one thing to another, reacting, controlling, manipulating, or trying to get rid of them. So we never have any perspective in our lives. We become obsessed with either repressing or indulging in these mental conditions; we are caught in these two extremes.

With meditation, we have the opportunity to contemplate the mind. The silence of the mind is like the space in a room. Take the simple sentence “I am” and begin to notice, contemplate, and reflect on the space around those two words. Rather than looking for something else, sustain attention on the space around the words. Look at thinking itself, really examine and investigate it. Now, you can’t watch yourself habitually thinking, because as soon as you notice that you’re thinking, the thinking stops. You might be going along worrying, “I wonder if this will happen. What if that happens? Oh, I’m thinking,” and it stops.

To examine the thinking process, deliberately think something: take just one ordinary thought, such as “I am a human being,” and just look at it. If you look at the beginning of it, you can see that just before you say “I,” there is a kind of empty space. Then, if you think in your mind, “I—am—a—human—being,” you will see space between the words. We are not looking at thought to see whether we have intelligent thoughts or stupid ones. Instead, we are deliberately thinking in order to notice the space around each thought. This way, we begin to have a perspective on the impermanent nature of thinking.

That is just one way of investigating so that we can notice the emptiness when there is no thought in the mind. Try to focus on that space; see if you can concentrate on that space before and after a thought. For how long can you do it? Think, “I am a human being,” and just before you start thinking it, stay in that space just before you say it. Now that’s mindfulness, isn’t it? Your mind is empty, but there is also an intention to think a particular thought. Then think it, and at the end of the thought, try to stay in the space at the end. Does your mind stay empty?

Most of our suffering comes from habitual thinking. If we try to stop it out of aversion to thinking, we can’t; we just go on and on and on. So the important thing is not to get rid of thought, but to understand it. And we do this by concentrating on the space in the mind, rather than on the thought.

Our minds tend to get caught up with thoughts of attraction or aversion to objects, but the space around those thoughts is not attractive or repulsive. The space around an attractive thought and a repulsive thought is not different, is it? Concentrating on the space between thoughts, we become less caught up in our preferences concerning the thoughts. So if you find that an obsessive thought of guilt, self-pity, or passion keeps coming up, then work with it in this way—deliberately think it, really bring it up as a conscious state, and notice the space around it.

It’s like looking at the space in a room: you don’t go looking for the space, do you? You are simply open to it, because it is here all the time. It is not anything you are going to find in the cupboard or in the next room, or under the floor—it is here right now. So you open to its presence; you begin to notice that it is here.

Ajahn Sumedho is Abbot of Chithurst and Amaravati Buddhist Monasteries in West Sussex, England. “Noticing Space” was adapted for Tricycle from his, “The Mind and the Way,” from Wisdom Publications

http://www.tricycle.com/dharma-talk/noticing-space