Two Goals of Meditation

This is a lovely article from Stephen Batchelor on the benefits of meditation:

“We start to meditate because of individual circumstances and choices. However soon we find that two kinds of goals and aspirations inspire us to persevere on the meditative path. ”

From Stephen Batchelor

https://www.stephenbatchelor.org/index.php/en/benefits-of-meditation

I found out that the quote about the burning coal is not what the Buddha said, but instead is from the early 5th century AD sage  Venerable Buddhaghosa, who described anger this way:

“By doing this (giving in to anger) you are like a man who wants to hit another and picks up a burning ember or excrement in his hand and so first burns himself or makes himself stink.”

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone!

Hard times make us long for comfort and “normalcy.” No one is disputing that these are difficult times.

But, you might discover that there is some advantage in pushing the envelope a little.  Not everything has to be about comfort.

This is a very useful article on how a flexible brain leads to a happier and healthier mind and body:

https://thomas-oppong.medium.com/want-to-rewire-your-brain-for-meaningful-life-changes-do-these-things-immediately-119ea0904e38

and remember: my upcoming retreat is also about trying something that may be a tiny bit out of your comfort zone, and may also lead to some interesting insights about yourself.

Looking at the Self, or Not

To study the Way is to study the Self. To study the Self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things of the universe. — Dōgen Zenji

The Buddha taught about not-self, or selflessness, but would not answer the question of whether there is or isn’t a self. This question was one he explicitly put aside. He did this because he was only interested in teaching how to put an end to suffering. Whether there was or was not a self was distracting and could actually become another concept or idea to cling to.  And what is the way to end suffering?  By ending clinging.

How can the teaching of not-or non-self bring an end to suffering or at least lead us in the right direction?

How can we redefine ourselves and the world (awakening to change) and accept life’s transitions? How does our work, our culture, and our experience shape our view of ourselves?

Maybe it’s better to investigate this rather than take it as dogma…you have everything at your disposal to do this.

How do we study the self?

“There is no self.”

 

Hug a Tree

Here’s the article I referred to and quoted as being a good example of how I personally relate to nature. We heard a lot of other takes from the group on their ways and means of thinking about the natural world:

To Be an Earth Ecstatic: Poet Diane Ackerman on the Spirituality of Wonder Without Religion

And here’s a lovely video on, well, just watch:

Bloom: A Touching Animated Short Film about Depression and What It Takes to Recover the Light of Being

and just for fun:

 

Great Expectations

We may judge ourselves as lacking in positive qualities, and wonder why we can’t feel kindly towards others (and ourselves) when we do the metta or loving kindness practice.  So, we can’t dredge up feelings of love for a person from another political party? Maybe that’s okay. Perhaps we are just using unrealistic standards.

Here’s a quote from the Nissāraṇīya Sutta  (AN 6:13) discussing the difficulties of developing feelings of loving kindness:

“There is the case where a monk might say, ‘Although goodwill has been developed, pursued, handed the reins, taken as a basis, steadied, consolidated, and well-undertaken by me as my awareness-release, still ill will keeps overpowering my mind.’ He should be told, ‘Don’t say that. You shouldn’t speak in that way. Don’t misrepresent the Blessed One, for it’s not right to misrepresent the Blessed One, and the Blessed One wouldn’t say that. It’s impossible, there is no way that—when goodwill has been developed, pursued, handed the reins, taken as a basis, steadied, consolidated, and well-undertaken as an awareness-release—ill will would still keep overpowering the mind. That possibility doesn’t exist, for this is the escape from ill will: goodwill as an awareness-release.’

Before you panic over that piece, we can try to investigate what’s being said.

Perhaps one way of dealing with the development of goodwill (possibly a better translation of lovingkindness or metta) is to re-think the whole process.  If these thoughts of ill-will keep arising, making you a tad uncomfortable, you might lower your expectations. Perfection is elusive. If you can’t “do” lovingkindness or goodwill the way you think you should, maybe just sit with it and watch what’s actually going on.

The first thing is to not get angry and judgemental about your unskillful thoughts. You may be working through some useful stuff. Jason Siff says in Thoughts Are Not the Enemy: “The way for thinking to quiet down is through allowing and tolerating it. But that may not happen by trying to allow it and trying to tolerate it.”

Perhaps the ill-will will grow, in which case you might want to sift through your thoughts and notice some kindly thoughts arising of their own volition and see if that helps. Or, you may just get worn out by the thoughts of ill-will and wander off into something more calming. You might fall asleep. If that happens, the difficult thoughts will disappear (for now) and you would be able to report to the Buddha that you haven’t “overpowered your mind” with ill-will.

 

Human Nature and the illusion of control

I hope it wasn’t too much for the group, but we talked about the trials and tribulations of dealing with the Pandemic during the holidays, and the way we judge ourselves and others in how we all deal with our behavior.

Please remember to be kind to yourselves and do what you can to be kind and help others during this difficult time.

https://story.californiasunday.com/covid-life-care-center-kirkland-washington

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/09/k-overlooked-variable-driving-pandemic/616548/

 

Kindness, Judgement, and Self-righteousness

We can look inward at our own worst fears in order to understand our “foes” from the inside out. We have to start with compassion and kindness for ourselves in order to sincerely be able to understand and develop kindness for others, even if we don’t immediately see where that kindness we radiate will fall. If the first step is showing kindness and listening to ourselves, the second may be listening to others without collapsing into judgement and self-righteousness.

Carl Sagan on Moving Beyond Us vs. Them, Bridging Conviction with Compassion, and Meeting Ignorance with Kindness

 

Ignorance, Discomfort and Seeing Clearly

As a teacher, one of the things that I find out about students relatively early on is whether they are interested in the real thing—do they really want the truth, or do they actually just want to feel better?Adyashanti

Hoping to live days of greater happiness, I forget that days of lesser happiness are passing by.Elizabeth Bishop

Look, everybody, we’re all looking for answers … We all want to understand who we are and where we come from, but sometimes we want to know the answers so badly that we believe just about anythingStan Marsh, South Park