Dukkhaboy

Have felt worse


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A loverly meditation

Someone just shared this fantastic meditation with me. It is given by Ajahn Amaro who is an Abbot in the Thai forest Tradition of Buddhism. He is based at Amaravati Buddhist Centre in SE England.

He speaks wonderfully during this meditation about “Setting the intention to learn from whatever arises …. or however the mind is…… as things go in that direction we learn from that. If they go according to our wishes or …. if the mind is filled chattering thoughts, the body uncomfortable, with waves of agitated emotions… one after another after another then we learn from that.

Whether it is liked or disliked, wanted or unwanted, expected or unexpected. Everything will teach us if we let it…if we’re wise the painful and unliked difficult experiences will teach us as much as, if not more than, the wished for and likeable, beautiful experiences…. because then everything benefits us; the beautiful, the difficult and the neutral.”

Anyways I could write ALL the things he says, but it would be better for you to listen to the words as they were actually said on the video above

Notes:

  • I found this meditation via the Facebook https://www.facebook.com/dailymeditation365/ which aims to share a mindfulness and meditation practice every day for 2017
  • I was lucky enough to visit there for a couple of days this Summer and wrote about my experience here and here


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Mid Life Questions

Personally, I have married, mortgaged and helped raise 3 children Professionally, I have studied, qualified,  applied, been appointed and worked. And now I have a family, a career, savings and a house. All is good. Well done me.

Around about the time William the conqueror was searching out King Harold at Hastings, a  Tibetan saint Milarepa was coming out of a long time of retreat and realisation. He wrote:

“All worldly pursuits have one unavoidable and inevitable end, which is sorrow

Acquisitions end in dispersion; buildings in destruction; meetings in separation; births in death.

Knowing this one should, from the very first, renounce acquisition and heaping up, and building and meeting,

And faithful to the demands of an eminent guru, set about realising the truth, which has no birth or death.

That alone is the best science.”

I read this quote in Vicki Mackenzie’s excellent book on Tenzin Palmo called “Cave in the Snow”. Tenzin Palmo is an East ender who became a Tibetan nun in the early 60s and has spent at least 12 years of her life meditating in a cave 12,000 feet up in the Himalayas, which certainly fits in with this definition of good science.

So if you think the spiritual is worth pursuing, to what extent is it worth pursuing? If you believe there is something other, something else, then what value should you place on the material? How do you get the right balance?

I am sorry this is all questions and no answers. You need to read someone a lot more enlightened than me to get some of those. Though Milarepa may be an extreme place to start.

Wikipedia on Milarepa here

Biography of Milarepa here

cave in the snow

 

 

 

 

 


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That isn’t me

Sitting down is rarely some marvellously peaceful happening for me. More often than not, I am replaying past perceived injustices (“she should never have said that to me”) or imagining how I could do better in the future (“…. and then they will all like and respect me again”)

There is one thing I am beginning to understand even tough it is only conceptually. It has come though hearing 3 similar teachings. Firstly, for a while now I have been attempting to follow Pema Chodron’s suggested meditation technique. I try to notice I am distracted away from my out breath, say to myself ‘thinking’ and without judgement return to the object of concentration. As this stands this is as much mindfulness as it is Buddhist meditation.

Secondly, earlier this year I heard Venerable Amy Miller talk. I remember her telling us to see thoughts as ‘mental events’ and not as who we are. So it’s not that “I am angry”or “I am jealous”. Rather you can view it as “there is an angry thought” or “there is a jealous mental event”. Immediately  there rises the possibility of a different and truer perspective on it all.

Finally, I have been studying Buddhist psychology through Geshe Tashi Tsering’s book of the same name In this he explains Buddhists say people have (i) a main mind that is all clear and all knowing and (ii) mental events that colour this. He compares it to a blank screen and the images beamed upon it. “We never really see the screen, because we are so caught up in the images projected on to it.”

Putting this together gives a fuller picture of how mindfulness works in Buddhism. It is more than just a technique for obtaining calm and letting go. Instead it can become a step to better understanding our mind and our misplaced sense of self. The mental events of our mind are less permanent and solid than we believe. So that when we are able to see this they immediately have less hold over us. Powerful stuff indeed.

 


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One way to Spend the Rest of Your Life

I just read this paragraph written by Pema Chodron and I thought it was beautiful

“With each meditation session, you could train in opening to whatever arises, and relaxing with the immediacy of your experience. Just acknowledge your pleasant and unpleasant thoughts without bias and let them pass away. Then at the time of death, you will be ready to let go of your attachment to this life and surrender to the process of dissolving.”

It seems to me she has just described how to live a purposeful life.

It is taken from her book “No time to Lose” in the chapter on enthusiasm. There are reviews of the book and where to buy it here

 


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Lazy Holidays – Trying not to be a monkey

So what do you do with yours?

I spend my work time imagining how great the holidays will be; how I will get down to basics, to what really matters and let go of all the crap. For a week or so, I won’t have to do those things that fill so much of my time. I will be able to read, sleep, meditate reflect and yes, even write a new post on this blog. But there again, on the weekly holidays Saturday and Sunday, I am no more likely to meditate than on a week day. right now, I have only sat down on my cushion on two of the first five days of this half term break.

I read this old article today in Tricycle magazine. It was an interview with Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo (nee Diane Perry). She nailed my problem when she said The crux of the matter is laziness. Even when we know what we should be doing, we choose what seems to be the easier path. We’re gods acting like monkeys.” 

I have the seeds of a plan though. Firstly, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo goes onto to say that “The thoughts are not the problem. Thoughts are the nature of the mind. The problem is that we identify with them.” This reminded me of how Pema Chodron described this fault in our lives “Its as if we have been kicking a spinning wheel all our life and it has its own momentum” The attachment to these thoughts is SO strong in my life. I identify with them. I consider them me. I want to protect them and my ego at all costs. This spinning wheel keeps turning in the early part of the holiday and only after a while can I properly turn to reflection and meditation.

The second part of my small plan is taken from the same Pema Chodron book as above, “Taking the Leap”. You can get a copy of it from here. Put simply it is to (a) get in the habit of noticing when we are hooked into these thoughts, into kicking that spinning wheel so it keeps turning so that (b) we can pause and “lean in” to the energy at that moment and “Abide with it. Experience it fully. Taste it. touch it. smell it. be curious about it”. In this way we don’t embrace or reject the thought or run with or feel guilty about our reaction to it. This means we can also (c) relax and move on so the whole process doesn’t become an “endurance test, a contest that you win or lose”

But I like this practise for another reason. It will keep me in touch with the meditation I (hopefully) did in the morning, so that its momentum is maintained, so that when the holidays come around I don’t at first feel such a strong desire to reject my thoughts and emotions (the shenpa as Tibetans call it) before I can get down to using the holidays in a much more productive and practical way.

After all, it is, as Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo said, practice that will help us most.


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Johnny Cash: Feeling Bad and Feeling Good

When Johnny Cash sang the Nine Inch Nails’ song “Hurt” he let you know what pain was.

You can find the lyrics here

When He sings “will the circle be unbroken” (with June Carter, Pops Staples and Carleen Anderson) he let you know what hope there is.

That pain he felt: that is temporary.

That joy he felt: that is temporary

Buddha talked about the the differences between how an uninstructed worldling and an instructed noble disciple (guess which one I am!) deals with and reacts to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. He called them the 8 worldly concerns or conditions. He put them into four pairs; gain and loss, fame and disrepute, praise and blame, pleasure and pain. This brief explanation of his can be read here, but the bottom line is the worldling gets engrossed by the ups and downs, by becoming attracted to or repelled from each of the pairs and so perpetuates their life. Whilst the noble disciple sees the eight as ephemeral and is not caught up in elation and dejection.

I read a Sharon Salzberg quote recently shared by @mindfuleveryday which put it more succinctly still ““We long for permanence but everything in the known universe is transient. That’s a fact but one we fight.”

At the moment I am going through a tough time at work:I thought I was good, but I have not being doing so well recently. So the trick I need (but find it SO hard) to learn is to see the loss, blame and disrepute happening to me as insubstantial, temporary and not existing from its own side. Then I shan’t run away from it and I shall be able to accept and deal with it better. I am nowhere near being able to do that, but at least thanks to this teaching I know what I should be aiming for.


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How good is mindfulness?

There has been  a bit of fuss  recently about the possible “side effects” of mindfulness cognitive therapy recently (see the guardian for example). some people have written also about how it can be used to help pupils in school. I cannot speak as an expert in such things. Indeed one of the problems seems to be non-qualified teachers leading such groups and the participants experiencing some worrying “side effects”. 

I think from a Buddhist perspective, the problem is best overcome by researching the lineage of your teacher: who taught them? and who taught their teachers? Read here, for instance, the life and practice of the Abbot of Samye Ling Monastery in Scotland, Lama Yeshe . If you are taught by by him or indeed by one of his students , you know you are in safe hands.

But there is something else. Meditation isn’t like a 28 day course of pills you get from your GP. It is a lifelong practice. There will be bad times and there will be hard times. It is probably best therefore to stick with your path once you have found it and not cherry pick from others. Its not a question of your way is better than his or hers, but that your way is the best FOR YOU.

The purpose of meditation isn’t to change you. You shouldn’t go into it wanting to get rid of this bad person you think presently are. As Pema Chodron writes “The problem is that the desire to change is fundamentally a form of aggression toward yourself” (The Wisdom of no Escape) Instead of trying to repress aspects of our self we should try to let them go and not act them out. There is is Trungpa Rinpoche (who was Pema Chodron’s principle teacher) quote I really like “The whole idea of meditation is to develop an entirely different way of dealing with things, where you have no purpose at all. In fact, meditation is dealing with the question of whether or not there is a such thing as ‘purpose.’

And so maybe it is better to know your teacher well and to be prepared for the long haul if you wish to get the most out of your meditation.