Tag Archives: Meditation

Inner peace: the best companion

inner peace is bestThe path of mindfulness meditation leads to a deep appreciation of life, a real joy that rises from just being what you are, where you are. But on that journey there are difficulties, and it’s useful to recognize that this will happen and accept it in advance. It’s not all heavenly light and bliss! A lot of the practical work of mindfulness is sometimes painful, sometimes boring, but it’s all worth it because the payoff is huge. It’s a simple observation that I have found very encouraging when I feel like I’m drowning in a raging sea.

Often the path of mindfulness is about trying to be aware as possible and then simply dealing with what happens next. This is easy when the awareness is one of contentment or self-love, because what happens next is wonderful. But as we increase our awareness we increase our perception of things we have often gone to a great deal of trouble not to think about. The suppressed, the painful, the embarrassing, the feelings that burnt us so badly we swore we’d never feel anything if it meant feeling that again. They all come up; it’s part of become more mindful, more sensitive.

So a sign of deepening awareness is the bad stuff coming up, and if we sit with it then it will be healed. And of course there’s also the bliss, the revelations, the ‘yes’ moments. And then after all that comes the abiding deeper sensitivity to daily life. I’m more grounded, more in my body. I’m less lost in thoughts, more present with what’s going on around me and within me.

That’s the practice. Sit with as deep an awareness as you can muster and let the awareness erode away the confusion. Trust that what’s coming up is being brought into awareness to be released, and hang on. Let mindfulness carry you out of the madness and into the clear light.

Trust mindfulness. In any situation (internal or external) trusting a fresh, vital awareness of what you are feeling, sensing and thinking will always be of benefit. You will deal with difficulty better, and enjoy things on deeper and deeper levels. Ultimately, you will experience more moments of inner peace.

The experience of inner peace is the best teacher, the best medicine, the best companion for the journey of life.

Mindfulness from the corner of your eye

bloom like flowersThere’s a Great Tibetan Llama whose name escapes me. He said “The delusions are like naughty school boys. If you stare at them they do nothing; but when you turn your back they start to act up.”

It is possible to over exert in meditation and get a bit of tunnel vision. We lose the nuanced detail and become preoccupied with ‘goals’ and ‘beliefs’. These things are useful in their place but when being mindful it’s well to remember there are things in our awareness that don’t have names or forms. Grief, anxiety – they have ambiguity and take time to witness. Trying to quickly shoe-horn these things into a yes-or-no question rarely ends well.

I’ll be talking about this in my Thursday night meditation class, because when we meditate we can become focused in a hard, rigid way, and that defeats the purpose of opening and becoming aware.

Mindfulness often occurs in the corner of the mind’s eye; we spy a shape, we remember a noise, we feel a certain way. It’s indefinite and indeterminate but it’s suggestive and observable. So we sit quietly and let it reveal itself. Like a skillful bird watcher, rather than scaring the birds away by going to look for them he sits quietly and lets the birds present themselves in their own time.

So be careful with your intentions. Be skillful with what you ask of yourself. Deadlines and expectations can create a pressure that destroys the subtler mindfulness. We lose our peripheral vision and can only see the things we already know; we are frustrated before we start.

The Tibetan master knew what he was saying when he compared the delusions to naughty school boys. Delusions are not always terrible monsters. Sometimes they are errant kids who are good at heart, just a little out of control. The old meditation master is firm and kind with his monkey-like school children. In the same way, we are firm and kind with ourselves and our delusions.

It is always good practice to have a warm heart before you do or start anything. This is our powerful act of self love, and it protects us from hurting ourselves and others. Mindfulness practiced with the good heart of kindness always brings us to inner peace. Our awareness is soft, there is no judgement or anger, just a responding to the moment with acceptance and sensitivity.

Soft hands, warm heart

When you meditate, have soft hands and a warm heart.

Learning about Mindfulness meditation, it’s important not to mistake the instructions for the practice. “Being Mindful” isn’t entirely counting-breaths or doing ligament-stretching-yoga, although those things can indeed be jolly good fun. It’s useful to be aware of your attitude.

A bit of Zen advice on meditating is “soft hands, warm heart”. I’ll be using this expression in my class on Thursday 29 October in Maleny. It so beautifully conveys the attitude, the mental posture, that creates a mindful space. It’s a way of being focused that is healthy, a type of concentration that isn’t stressful.

Soft hands – we all know the difference between the feel of a hard hand and a soft one. Soft hands have an attentiveness, a sensitivity that makes the touch comfortable and safe.

And if you consciously allow you hands to become soft then the heart opens; your natural kindness activates, even if only dimly perceived. You feel better and you have more clarity: this is the feeling of the warm heart, and it is a good place to meditate from.

When you meditate, have soft hands and a warm heart.So when you sit to meditate ask yourself: what do my hands feel like? Gentle awareness itself will soften them up. Our hands become more sensitive, in their own time and over time. Do not hurry this, be with your hands as they experience softening.

Then we bring that same gentle awareness to the body, however limited it might feel. Our soft mental hands reassures the body and we become more still and reflective. And then the awareness of the body breathing can very easily take us deep into ourselves. Where does the breath end and where do I begin? It’s a blurry boundary. That bluriness is be a productive place to bring soft, gentle awareness. And simply be with what you become aware of. Experience the physical sensations, feel the emotional feelings, perceive mental thoughts; all with that gentle awareness, with those soft hands.

If we watch the breath with soft hands and a warm heart we will avoid many mistakes. With a warm heart it’s easier to avoid becoming judgemental or strongly opinionated on something, becoming lost in the maze of “should” and “must”. With soft hands we are sensitive so we keep being brought back to the feelings, the sensations, the thoughts that are happening right now. All of them happen before there is a story to explain them. Try and stay in that space before the story making begins.

And as we practice this way in mindfulness meditation the warmth of the warm heart naturally fills us up, like a cosy fire in a small house. It pervades your life outside of formal sitting and it becomes a bit easier to make it in the world, a bit easier to smile, a bit easier to see the things to be grateful for.

Fresh Clear Eyes

meditation-buddha-statue-in-tulips-garden-under-the-bodhi-tree-panupong-roopyai

In Buddhist meditation there is a lot of formal practice, often tedious and frequently painful. In the same way an athlete will excercise so too does a Buddhist spend time on their cushion each day. The athlete trains so that at the time of their event they can perform well. I trained so that I could be aware of the process of the mind creating opinions, judgements, stories.

Why did I spend six years training to be aware of the process of the mind? So I could be free of the unhelpful habits of my mind that (according to Buddha) are the cause of all misery.

I’ve moved away from formal Buddhist meditation but the training is still there. And every now and then it kicks in spontaneously. I will be fuming with anger about someone and then I suddenly realise I am furious not because of them but because of an opinion I was holding onto about them. In the absence of that opinion I don’t have a problem. By seeing the process one can step outside it – if that’s what you choose. Not everyone wishes to.

Even the old decaying concrete walls and piles of rubbish looked fresh and new. I suppose that’s what happens when I have fresh, clear eyes.

The Ganga River in Rishikesh

The Ganga River in Rishikesh

 

So I was in Rishikesh, India, and having a moment by the Ganga River. There was water, sunlight, buildings, rocks. There was no script, no story. Just the river and sunshine and my breathing. And I was aware of this moment and accepting of it.

I’d stepped out of the usual mental process for a moment. The next step is to not be sucked back into that usual mental process by automatically filling that space. And a part of me wanted to fill the space, fill it by fixating on something – sensations, memories or plans, it almost doesn’t matter what. Possibilities arose – I could dwell on the mundane (my bum is sore, i should get up and walk); to the sensory (i could eat those mangoes in my bag, they’d taste delicious right now); to the sensual (I wonder if she’d go to bed with me?); to the transcendental (it would be so cool to be enlightened!).

And the automatic response is to choose an option and become immersed in the drama! To go with a thought and weave a whole vivid and compelling story about this imagined future! One story might be “If I walk where will I go? What will I do?”. Or how about some minor pride over my purchase of mangoes, encouraging myself what a seasoned traveller I am? Erotic daydreams are another great way to avoid investigating the mental process that I find so difficult to step out of. And of course speculating on enlightenment is an ancient method for avoiding the cost of attaining enlightenment.

The complicated process of creating a reality to struggle agains

The complicated process of creating a reality to struggle agains

But in that moment the busy chatter of the mind became another part of the moment, just like the river and the sunlight. All those hours of meditation sent practicing a habit coming to blossom in a moment of spontaneous letting go.

This was a moment when i observed the habit arising in the mind and i side stepped it – let it go. There was a vivid sense of something bustling and writhing, looking to feed itself, looking to grow. Like a virus, wanting to hijack my energy, control me.

In that moment it was possible to stop the mental-virus before it gained momentum. And the resulting space in the mind was open to having an experience: the sound of the river; the pattern of leaves against the sky; the feeling of warm, rough concrete against my back.

There was no need for words. There was no need to do anything. It was enough to experience without comment, without judgement, without reaction. The Ganga’s waters made patterns of green and white as the rafters bobbed over the rapids, falling up and down with crazy turbulence as the river roared on, vast and inhuman. I actually saw the river: it was pure energy expressing itself as water. The buildings on the opposite shore amidst the trees and bushes looked as if they had popped into existence in that moment. Everything looked as if it had just appeared. Even the old decaying concrete walls and piles of rubbish looked fresh and new. I suppose that’s what happens when I have fresh, clear eyes.

Space, the only frontier

Space, the only frontier

Space. When I made that decision to not go with the habit of the busy mind there was a lot of space – in the absence of mental clutter the mind has an openness that can welcome and enjoy anything.

I look up and hear Rishikesh. Vividly. See it, smell it. Scooters dodging cow shit and holy men dozing by the side of the road, their beards and dreadlocks intricate patterns of follicles. There are children playing on the river sands, their bright red and green clothes flash like parrots in flight as the kids cry out and chase each other, with the adults walking slowly along after them, barefoot and benign.