Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Some of the initial difficulties while sitting cross-legged and observing my natural respiration were 1. restlessness..I could not sit still for more than 10-15minutes 2. drowsiness and 3. mind on an autopilot..wandering off on its own.
Of these difficulties I could overcome the first two fairly quickly; but mind wandering has always been a challenge. In residential courses this challenge is some what manageable because the silence in the environment facilitates the quietening of the mind. Once back into the outside world, with all its hustle and bustle and noise, quietening the mind becomes quite a task. What I noticed after some courses of meditation, was that the practice seemed to resemble a well-learned skill.
The moment I sat on my cushion, I would start observing my breath and then my sensations and somewhere in this process, a part of my mind would roll off into thoughts, events and sometimes into sleep, and yet there was another part of my mind that seemed to be meditating---going through the body, observing sensations.
This part of my mind rolling off into other thoughts was similar to the experience of driving. In the initial stages of learning to drive I was totally focused on the road, traffic and changing gears, accelerating, braking etc. When the learning was over, and I started mastering the skill of driving, I would frequently find myself thinking of other things apart from driving. I would return to the road and my driving once in a way.
It took me quite a while to understand I was doing the same thing with meditation. A part of my mind was meditating and another part thinking of other things. Gradually and patiently I worked towards getting the entire mind on track--on meditation-and it is an ongoing process.
This is the fascinating part of meditation...it helps one to become aware of what the mind is up to all the time and guides, corrects and regulates itself. Its like the mind mending itself! or better still, the mind minding the mind.
Minding the mind helps you increase your self-awareness---what am I doing right now? what did I set out to do and am I still on-task or off task? If off-task--how can I get back on task? If I am on task--how long can I keep it on-task?
This increase in self-awareness increases the ability to regulate one's behaviour--mental and physical. One becomes more in control of what is happening in the mind and on the body. This awareness slowly permeates your being, and becomes more and more effortless.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
The once a week group sitting with two other co-meditators resumed today, at my house. We had a one month break from this routine as I was attending a course on Addiction and my classes were on Tuesday evenings.
Group meditations are always recommended as it helps one to maintain regularity of practice. It felt good today to have such a sitting.
In addition I have been reading some of the Suttas online and they have increased my understanding of the teaching. I subscribe to http://what-buddha-said.net and I get nuggets of wisdom everyday in my email. These nuggets really help me get on with life especially when the going gets tough. They help me maintain my daily practice as well; because as my teacher Mr. Goenkaji says, if you have lost your daily practice, you have lost all. It's the practice as well as an intellectual understanding that really brings a change in the quality of one's life.
Today, I read the Silabbata Sutta: Precept & Practice . It is a verse wherein, The Buddha asks his assistant, Venerable Ananda : "Ananda, every precept & practice, every life, every holy life that is followed as of essential worth: is every one of them fruitful?"
I thought this was a very interesting question--as I have been asked why some people who take Vipassana courses again and again still remain unchanged.
To this question from The Buddha, Venerable Ananda replies, that when one's "unskillful mental qualities increase, and skillful mental qualities decrease, then that sort of precept & practice, life, holy life that is followed as of essential worth, is fruitless."
However, when one's "unskillful mental qualities decrease and skillful mental qualities increase, then that sort of precept & practice, life, holy life, that is followed as of essential worth is fruitful"
This means one has to be mindful, of the thoughts and actions one is engaging in, every moment of the day. Daily sitting practice helps to stay in the present moment and aids this awareness of one's thoughts and actions. With this awareness, one can choose how to respond to situations during the day, mindful about increasing skillful qualities and decreasing unskillful qualities.
What are skillful mental qualities? In my understanding, it is those qualities that come from compassion, fearlessness and acceptance of the other and/or the situation. It includes those qualities which help one to find a gap between a stimulus and response, consider one's available choices and then act. Unskillful qualities, in my understanding are those which are reactive, immediate and devoid of careful thought and consideration. They are born out of fear, anxiety and perceived threat.
Wonderful teaching--so much depth in understanding of human thinking and behaviour!
Monday, November 1, 2010
Read this beautiful sutta today..Sukhamala Sutta
'Subject to birth, subject to aging, subject to death,
I am often asked by people, what made me take to this path.
Why do I go for Vipassana courses?
I am a Psychologist; my undergraduation, Masters and PhD were in Psychology.
So people assume I should know whatever there is to know about human behaviour.
Hasn't my education trained me in this direction?
This is true, my education did train me to understand human behavior,
but I was not satisfied with it as I could not fully understand myself the way I could in a Vipassana course.
Another question I frequently encounter with people is--
Did I suffer any personal misfortune or tragedy, that forced me on to this path?.
My sister's untimely and sudden, tragic death seem to give some rationale or explanation
for my engagement in Vipassana courses.
But is this really necessary? Does one have to face misfortune or tragedy to take to this path?
What if life has generally been treating you well, and you have a good, pleasant lifestyle,
will you not take to this path?
The Sukhamala Sutta, gave me answers to these questions I was pondering on.
The Buddha, as a bodhisatta, enjoyed all the luxuries a Prince of his time did
--perhaps even more, as his father, was not too happy with the prediction that he would become "The Buddha" ,
and therefore surrounded him with comforts.
Yet, in spite of living in these comforts, he says--if I am repulsed by those who suffer,
that's not befitting of me, because I am also a human being like them,
and therefore can in all likelihood be in similar state as them. In other words, suffer like them.
So why do I find such sights difficult to bear? Why am I repulsed by the sight of their suffering?
And then he says as he noticed this, his intoxication with life, youth and health dropped away.
It is when you are intoxicated with life, youth and health that you engage in various forms misconduct
causing harm to yourself and others.
His intoxication with life ceased and there was no way he could see himself engaging in sensual pleasures
and could renounce them all.
Thus the path towards enlightenment.
Therefore, it is not necessary that you face a misfortune or tragedy in order to walk this path.
Having experienced, pleasure and pleasure alone, can help a person see the emptiness of such a life
and thus disgust towards it.