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!