Life with Full Attention is the title of a book written by Maitreyabandhu and is the basis for the talks and discussion that we are have had over the past few weeks. Those talks are summarized below.


 

1. Day to Day Mindfulness


Mindfulness is easy but retaining mindfulness and remembering to be mindful are difficult. In all meditation practices we are cultivating mindfulness but this practice will only extend outside of our formal meditation if we bring it to mind.

Over the next eight sessions we will be investigating ways in which to bring about this change.

So in what ways can we set about Day to Day mindfulness? It might be useful if we had a small notebook or filofax or section of our iphone or whatever in order to keep a track on what we decide to do and how we get on with it. It could be useful as a record and also as a prompt to ask questions.

Set up positive routines

If we don't look after the small things in life with day to day mindfulness then we can easily end up in a negative mental state. This then has a negative consequence for not only ourselves but others as well. So it is helpful to set up positive routines. Like always keeping the car keys in the same place. Is there anything that you lose / misplace on a regular basis? Alayasri has several pairs of glasses and recently has introduced a new scheme of keeping them all in one place. If either of us finds any glasses in the wrong place then we return them to the right place. I must tell you that this scheme has been a tremendous success. A lot of time and negative energy has been saved in not looking for them.

Cultivate a sense of success

If we have something difficult to do we could decide to do it sooner rather than later. We could then give ourselves a pat on the back even if it has not gone well. We knew it was difficult and we have succeeded in doing it. If we aim to meditate each day and achieve that then we have success. If we aim to meditate 5 times a week then we need to record when we meditate or we will not know if we have succeeded. Even if we meditate 4 times in a week I would still count this as success. Meditation could be replaced by any positive activity.....like phoning your mum or daughter or doing some form of exercise.

Complete your cycles.

Make sure that you finish a task or decide not to finish a task. Both of these are mindfulness.

Putting things away as soon as you have finished using them, preferably in the same place. Being mindful of who comes next....making their life easier as well as yours. It might not be important to you but it might help someone else. So finishing a job well.

Reduce input.

 

On a retreat or during meditation we reduce our input and can therefore be much less distracted. It may be that at work we have to multi-task but we can also do several things at once just because we haven't been aware. So we could reduce our input. We could, at times, decide just to do one thing. We could decide just to concentrate on the cooking and not answer the phone. Or we could decide to turn off the cooking so as to give our full attention to the phone call. We could decide not to watch any TV for one night a week or we could decide to read for an hour without having background music on. Or we could listen to music without flicking through the paper. We could try to spot when we do things out of habit rather because we choose to do them.

We can think of some triggers that will recall us to mindfulness. A door handle.(Where am I going?). The fat ball feeder (watch out for it). Leaving a room (have I got everything that I need). Or have a useful phrase that I bring to mind like (Is this the best thing for me to be doing now?)

Another technique is to set an alarm so that you do not do one task for too long. Having a break and coming back to the task is often a better option.

Notice the consequences of unmindfulness

If you notice that you have been unmindful it is important to notice the consequences. This can help to prevent a recurrence. On the other hand the lack of awareness has already occurred so being miserable or angry won't help. Neither will letting yourself off the hook or elaborating on reasons why you got into this mess. Your positive energy is needed to notice that you now have awareness and can use it to try to put right whatever has gone wrong.

Actions have consequences. We can appreciate this more deeply if we notice with positivity not only the consequences of mindfulness but also the consequences of lack of mindfulness.

So to summarize there are five aspects to day to day mindfulness.

 

Setting up positive routines
Cultivating a sense of success
Complete your cycles
Reducing input
Noticing the consequences of unmindfulness


So over the next two weeks I am going to try to be mindful of these five things in particular. In order to do this I will have to write some things down or I WILL FORGET. I WILL FORGET TO BE MINDFUL.

 

................................................................................................................. 

2. The Body


Last session we dealt with mindfulness of things and this week we will be looking at mindfulness of the body. This does not mean we can forget about being mindful of things but that our mindfulness could be cumulative.


The first point that Maitreyabandhu makes is that we are alienated from our bodies. Most of us have jobs and live our lives without using our bodies much.!!!!! So our awareness of our body is greatly reduced until we are ill or have an accident or get older. Our work does not involve our bodies much.

 

My name includes the syllable citta which means heart / mind or body /mind. In Pali and Sanskrit there are not two separate words. The two aspects our linked. What affects our body affects our minds and what affects our minds also affects our bodies.

If we are tense it may affect our necks or our hands. If we notice our hands or necks we may become more quickly aware that we are tense.

 

Where do you notice tension or stress in your body?


So what do we do? What we need is a Stress First-aid kit.


Stress First-Aid kit.


Become Aware.


Firstly notice the tension? Tightness in part of the body. The same thoughts going round and round.

Pacing up and down. Etc.


Catch it early.


The sooner the better.


Do something.


Stop what you are doing and do something. Bring your awareness into your body. Acknowledge your stress and take deeper breaths. Bring your awareness down to the ground. Soften your face and stomach.


Extend your out-breath.


Whenever you become aware of your breath without taking a deeper in-breath just breathe out for as long as you can to get rid of all the breath in your body. This will force the next in-breath to be deeper and will have a calming influence. Do this several times.


We can notice what causes us stress and why. We can then take some steps to reduce the arising and also the extent of the stress.


What we do affects our bodies? Lack of exercise. Too much TV. Worrying unnecessarily. Staying up too late. Too much sleep.


We can begin to notice how things have affected our bodies and how we behave in certain ways in particular situations. We can learn a lot about ourselves from our bodies.

Are we preoccupied with how we look? Do we not care at all how we look? Do we pretend we do not care how we look?


Things to Practise.


Health Audit


Earlier we looked at where we tend to feel stress.


We could have the intention of monitoring this more regularly during our day.


We could be more mindful of what we eat and drink. Most Buddhists are vegetarians and don't drink alcohol in more than small amounts. (Vegetarians live longer than meat eaters.) Even if we are not vegetarians we could try to be kinder to ourselves in avoiding junk food and drink.


Exercise. Do we have enough exercise in our week? Does it make us out of breath?


Sleep. Do we have enough or too much? Do we have a regular sleep pattern?


Mindful walk


This mindfulness of walking could be done every day. Although it need not be walking it could be mindfulness of cycling or mindfulness of breakfast. The important thing is that it should be a time to practice mindfulness off the cushion. It should last from say 5 to 20 minutes. It is very useful to keep a record of what goes on during this time.


This mindfulness is not about doing things deliberately slowly or artificially but doing them naturally but with awareness.


Bringing attention into your body and noticing and letting go but nevertheless noticing must come first.


Body scan


We could also try to do a daily body scan. Like we do sometimes in meditation. We might do this formally by lying on the floor with our knees up and our feet on the floor but we could do this while sitting alert on a chair. We could do this at home or at work. What we do is to scan our body and notice what is there without judgement and without any assumptions. We just notice what is there.

Doing this at the same time each day gives us more chance of remembering. Perhaps setting an alarm as a reminder. Keeping a record of whether we did the practice and what we noticed.


So to summarize. Our minds affect our bodies and our body affects our mind but they are not separate.


First-Aid kit                           What to do when we notice a difficulty.


Health Audit                          Being more aware of how what we do affects us.


Mindfulness Walk                 A part of each day when we practise mindfulness of the body outside of

                                               meditation.


Body scan                              With our body at rest do a systematic scan of the body.


..............................................................................................................................................................

 

3. Feelings



Buddhist Psychology makes a difference between sensations and the emotional response to those sensations.


So the sensation could be something we see, taste, smell, hear, touch or think. What follows immediately is our emotional response to that sensation.


This emotional response is called vedana and is classified as pleasant, painful or neutral.


If we bring awareness to vedana then we can change it.


The problem of pain


The Buddha used the analogy of being shot with a dart. First there is the pain of the dart which is inevitable. Then there is the pain of the second dart which is our reaction to the first dart.


The first dart could be anything that causes us pain.


The problem is that we want the pain to go away. We think about the pain in a negative way. Why always me? It's not my fault. We wind ourselves up and cause ourselves more pain. We sometimes have a tendency to exaggerate the pain.


We have a fight or flight reaction built in. We can train ourselves to notice the pain and then relax into it. Accept it. (This will discourage tension or irritation or frustration or blame.)


The problem of pleasure


It does not last. We look forward to it and we look backward at it. This can make us disappointed.


The discipline of delight


We need to fully enjoy the present moment. We can find innocent delight in many small things without wanting them to last. We want pleasures to last even if we know that anything taken to excess will lead to pain.


The neutral in neutral.


Do we spend our lives trying to avoid suffering and boredom? The more we can dwell in the vedana the more space we can create. In this space old habits can die and new insights can arise. We can use boredom creatively. We can investigate the neutral with interest.


So Vedana can be classified in three ways although these are extremes.


Pain                                                                      Neutral                                                                          Pleasure


We can give more attention to things whether painful, neutral or pleasurable. We can then notice subtleties that were not apparent previously.


This can be a path to insight. As we get more practised at watching vedana we can begin to enjoy things fully, recognise the painful and stay alert with the neutral without getting caught up in them. We can also notice the pleasurable and accept that it will end and in doing so enjoy it more in the moment.


Eventually we might avoid intoxication that leads to disappointment, we might avoid boredom and we might avoid the extra pain that we can create.


We could find freedom within ourselves and freedom from ourselves. Being aware of vedanas can lead to freedom. We can make a creative space between the pressures around us and the choices we make.


So the task this week is to make a pleasant / neutral / painful diary if you think that this is a good idea.


So we can try to record as much as we can about our vedanas. Record them as fully as you can in whatever way you like. Even if you cannot manage this you could bring vedanas to mind, say, at meal times or at the end of the day. You can look back at the day and recall vedanas of the three sorts and notice how aware you were at the time.


If your experience is a painful one then you can try to catch it early and not dwell on the second dart. We can try to avoid making the pain worse.


We can bring mindfulness of vedana in to our mindfulness walk from the last session or the mindfulness of breakfast. We can be mindful of vedana at any time. If we make a particular space to do this it is more likely to happen. If we practise this aspect of mindfulness more regularly then it can help us when we our overexcited or getting very stressed or getting very angry. It can then act as a brake on our behaviour. If we can create a break then we may be able to make a different choice on how we behave.


Making a Breathing Space.


So we could make a space of just a few minutes to bring awareness to our body, its sensations, our vedana, and our mind at intervals during the day. This is something we could try to do before the next session.


Regular Practice


It is important to have a regular formal meditation practice. This can be helped by setting up a routine that supports this as well as trying to have a dedicated space in which to do it. Even just a corner of a room will help. Choosing a particular time of day. Sitting on a stool or upright on a hard-backed chair (with a cushion) rather than in bed or on a sofa.


In this way a positive habit can be created. If for some reason you notice that you have missed a Sit then don't give yourself a hard time but notice the cause and then if possible try to avoid it in future.


Just as the formal sit is important so it is also important to bring that attitude of awareness to the rest of our lives. That spirit of investigation and delight and the knowledge that there is very little about us that we cannot change.


Summary.


Vedana is our response to sensations. We can label these sensations as painful, neutral or pleasurable. Making a diary


Pain and the dart.                                       Do we make our pain worse? Can we relax into it?


The neutral.                                                 A chance to be creative.


The Problem with pleasure.                     It will not last but while it does we can enjoy it to the full.


Making a Breathing Space.                      Just a few minutes at intervals through the day.


A regular meditation practice.                 Preferably daily maybe between 15 and 45 mins.


..................................................................................................................................................................

 

4. Mind


The Pali word for Mind is citta as in Suddhacitta. However the word citta means both the head and the heart. So Suddhacitta means he whose heart and mind is pure. So Mind includes not only just our thoughts but also the flavour of our thoughts (the tone of our mind). We all know that our state of mind also includes an emotional component. (So citta includes thoughts and emotions and also an intuitive component and an energy component.)


So the third sphere of mindfulness is CITTA. ( The first two being Mindfulness of the BODY and Mindfulness of FEELINGS (vedana).


The Mind is an enchanted thing and is an enchanting thing. We don't see the world as it really is but each of us interprets it in our own way. Our view depends upon all the things that have happened to us previously and the tendencies with which we were born. We can learn through the practice of mindfulness to distinguish between our experience and our interpretation of that experience. We can change the way we see life.


We try to fit each new experience into our previous experiences.


We have expectations.

We make assumptions.

We make predictions.

We try to match our new experience with old ones.

 

Often without being aware of them.


Self is a story we keep telling ourselves. We have an idea of what we are like and this can limit our ability to change.


I'm not that sort of person.

 

I've always been like that.

 

I can't change.


Watch out for thoughts or statements like these.


Mind and World condition each other. We are the product of all the things we say and do and watch and read and the people we interact with. We are not fixed. We can change.

Awareness of the Heart and Mind.


This is always preceded by awareness of the body (and its sensations) and awareness of vedana (our feelings.... painful, pleasant or neutral).


We can notice when the mind runs away with itself or we get caught in our emotions and try to stay with just our experience without making up stories or consequences etc.


From the stories we do tell ourselves we can question ourselves?


Could I think about this in a different way?

What assumptions am I making?

Am I painting a black and white picture?

Am I blaming others?

Am I speculating?


Rumination is a cue for full attention


Going over things in our mind again and again. Becoming more aware of our mental states, what causes them and how we can change them. We go over a problem again and again and yet nothing changes. This is rumination. We return over and over again to a painful problem. What we need to do is recognise that what we are doing is unhelpful. We can come back to the body and then to the vedana with kindness. We may need to distract ourselves. Choose something absorbing and uplifting.


Cultivating more positive mental states


Notice what qualities you would like to develop. Then think of ways in which you already have those qualities to some extent.


We can call this and other qualities to mind as often as we are able.

 

The mindful walk or the mindful breakfast.

 

Especially at the time you have chosen from previous sessions but also at any other time notice your internal story. Notice what is going on in a relaxed and interested way......being non-judgemental.

 

Going over some of the questions that we asked before


Could I think about this in a different way?

What assumptions am I making?

Am I painting a black and white picture?

Am I blaming others?

Am I speculating?


Then relax more and then appreciate more how you really are.


The mindful moment

 

Choose some specific daily activity like cleaning your teeth or leaving the house.

Notice your body and as many of its' sensations as you can. Notice your mind and the tone of your heart.

Over a few days you can notice if your thoughts tend in a particular direction. Notice if there is a particular quality to the tone of your heart.


In the same way you might notice if there is a pattern to the distractions that you have when you meditate and learn more about yourself from these as well.


We can now remind ourselves of the different meditation practices that we have learnt.

Just Sitting

Mindfulness of the Body

Mindfulness of Vedana (sensations and the feelings that go with them)

Mindfulness of Citta (the Mind and the Heart)

Mindfulness of Breathing

The Metta Bhavana


It is a good idea to start and end with just sitting and then to choose which practice to do. Also notice if you tend to avoid any particular practice.

 

 

Summary:          Mindfulness of the Mind

 

The Enchanted Mind                      Expectations / assumptions

                                                          predictions / stories.

 

Changing ourselves                         We see ourselves as fixed but we are not.

Rumination is a cue                         Full attention is needed. Stop going round

                                                          in circles.

 

Cultivating a more                          Dwelling on a positive quality that you

positive mental state                       already have to some extent.

A Mindful Time                               Bringing awareness to how your mind

                                                         works without being judgemental.

 

5. Bringing the Teachings to Mind


We want to experience happiness but we also know that this is much more meaningful if this happiness is the result of skilful action. If we behave generously we feel positive and expansive; if we behave spitefully then we can feel negative and withdrawn. We don't just want happiness we also want to deserve it.


Mindfulness of dhammas


In our practices here we sometimes start the sessions with mindfulness of the Body, Mindfulness of Sensations, Mindfulness of Thoughts and Emotions and then Mindfulness of consequences or impermanence.


You can perhaps see how these relate to Mindfulness of the Body, Vedana and Citta. The last one which we have done as mindfulness of consequences or impermanence could be called mindfulness of dhammas.


The word dhamma or dharma (in Sanskrit) has many meanings.......it can mean truth or the teachings of the Buddha or the true nature of reality. We are going to use the word in the context of bringing the teachings to mind. So mindfulness of dhammas is mindfulness of the teachings.


This order of Body, Vedana, and Citta is progressive. Awareness of Citta.......the story you tell yourself and your mental state is what leads to a choice in how you respond to life rather than a reaction (which is without thought).


Recollection in the Moment


When we notice that we are getting miserable or angry or anxious that is where we start. We begin with our state of mind and we try to cultivate a creative way out of it. We try to escape from our habitual patterns, which have been developed over many years and are deeply engrained. We need to know ourselves well by practising the mindfulness of citta (our moods and the story we tell ourselves).

This recollection means vigilance. It means bringing all the parts of us together and also remembering what's really going to be helpful. However, we need to know ourselves thoroughly before we can change dramatically. We can start by dwelling in that recollection of the moment so that we can at least we stop reacting and give creativity a chance.


Meeting our needs


Needs and values are what drives us but they are not obvious but only implied by our actions. We can use meditation, reflection, imagination and intuition to uncover our needs if we are more in tune with our bodies, our feelings and our emotions. A good clue is provided when we have strong emotions or our bodies complain or we find ourselves ruminating about something.


The Law of Desire and the Force of Hatred


In Buddhist terms these are usually referred to as Greed and Hatred. Our aim is to unlock the energy stored in them. We distort our perception of what we want or what we don't want and paint it white or black. The greater this want or dislike the more likely we are to overrule our awareness. Fruitful choices involve holding a broader picture of awareness. If we do not like someone then we look for evidence to support our view. We do not look for the whole picture. Hatred hurts ourselves. It is like picking up a red-hot coal to throw at an enemy; it hurts ourselves. When we are full of hatred we are hurting ourselves. Our unskilful state will have a negative effect on us.


In Buddhism the crime brings its own punishment. There is no need for a judge or a god. When we act out of greed or ill will we are causing our own unhappiness. What we need is kindness or love but not falseness. Sometimes we need to speak out but it is more likely to be heard if it is spoken with kindness; out of a wish to help rather than hurt. Hatred will never be conquered with hatred.




Practising as a Buddhist


Notice the state of mind we are in.

Create a gap of honest self-exploration.

Decide what to do having brought the teachings to mind.


The teachings can include the ethical values that we are trying to cultivate.


Actions (including thought and speech) are skilful or unskilful depending on our volition......our mental state or motive (as much as we are able to know it).


Bearing in mind that every thing is impermanent. Actions have consequences. Letting go of our self-centredness. This will make us free.


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.


Training in the five precepts


One way of bringing the teachings to mind is to recall the precepts. We have talked about these before with their positive and negative formulations. The two most important things are that they are guidelines not rules and that motivation is the key.


Negative Positive


Refrain from doing harm Cultivate love

Refrain from taking the not given Cultivate generosity

Refrain from sexual misconduct Cultivate contentment

Refrain from lying Cultivate honesty

Refrain from intoxicants Cultivate awareness

 

Take a personal precept for a week

 

Mindfulness and imagination


Our behaviour and our emotional state affects ourselves and others. Both are failures of imagination. These are called the four right efforts or the four forces as and I remember them as “PE in Doc Maertens.”


P stands for Prevention of the arising of a negative mental state.

E stands for Eradicating a negative mental state.

D stands for the development of a positive mental state.

M stands for the maintenance of a positive mental state.


So what do we mean by positive or skilful. These occur when we act out of kindness or generosity.


So negative or unskilful states are when we are turned inwards and act out of hatred or greed.


Prevent unskilful states by guarding the gates of the senses.


Eradicate unskilful states by considering the consequences of remaining in it, do something to cultivate the opposite or just wait.


Development of a skilful state by ethical or generous actions, putting yourself second (but not all the time).


Maintenance of skilful state by continuous mindfulness.

So from this session you could consider one of the precepts and what you might take on.

 

In your mindful moment or walk or breakfast you could consider the four right efforts (or the four forces) and decide what you needed to do.


 

5. Bringing the Teachings to Mind


We want to experience happiness but we also know that this is much more meaningful if this happiness is the result of skilful action. If we behave generously we feel positive and expansive; if we behave spitefully then we can feel negative and withdrawn. We don't just want happiness we also want to deserve it.


Mindfulness of dhammas


In our practices here we sometimes start the sessions with mindfulness of the Body, Mindfulness of Sensations, Mindfulness of Thoughts and Emotions and then Mindfulness of consequences or impermanence.


You can perhaps see how these relate to Mindfulness of the Body, Vedana and Citta. The last one which we have done as mindfulness of consequences or impermanence could be called mindfulness of dhammas.


The word dhamma or dharma (in Sanskrit) has many meanings.......it can mean truth or the teachings of the Buddha or the true nature of reality. We are going to use the word in the context of bringing the teachings to mind. So mindfulness of dhammas is mindfulness of the teachings.


This order of Body, Vedana, and Citta is progressive. Awareness of Citta.......the story you tell yourself and your mental state is what leads to a choice in how you respond to life rather than a reaction (which is without thought).


Recollection in the Moment


When we notice that we are getting miserable or angry or anxious that is where we start. We begin with our state of mind and we try to cultivate a creative way out of it. We try to escape from our habitual patterns, which have been developed over many years and are deeply engrained. We need to know ourselves well by practising the mindfulness of citta (our moods and the story we tell ourselves).

This recollection means vigilance. It means bringing all the parts of us together and also remembering what's really going to be helpful. However, we need to know ourselves thoroughly before we can change dramatically. We can start by dwelling in that recollection of the moment so that we can at least we stop reacting and give creativity a chance.


Meeting our needs


Needs and values are what drives us but they are not obvious but only implied by our actions. We can use meditation, reflection, imagination and intuition to uncover our needs if we are more in tune with our bodies, our feelings and our emotions. A good clue is provided when we have strong emotions or our bodies complain or we find ourselves ruminating about something.


The Law of Desire and the Force of Hatred


In Buddhist terms these are usually referred to as Greed and Hatred. Our aim is to unlock the energy stored in them. We distort our perception of what we want or what we don't want and paint it white or black. The greater this want or dislike the more likely we are to overrule our awareness. Fruitful choices involve holding a broader picture of awareness. If we do not like someone then we look for evidence to support our view. We do not look for the whole picture. Hatred hurts ourselves. It is like picking up a red-hot coal to throw at an enemy; it hurts ourselves. When we are full of hatred we are hurting ourselves. Our unskilful state will have a negative effect on us.


In Buddhism the crime brings its own punishment. There is no need for a judge or a god. When we act out of greed or ill will we are causing our own unhappiness. What we need is kindness or love but not falseness. Sometimes we need to speak out but it is more likely to be heard if it is spoken with kindness; out of a wish to help rather than hurt. Hatred will never be conquered with hatred.




Practising as a Buddhist


Notice the state of mind we are in.

Create a gap of honest self-exploration.

Decide what to do having brought the teachings to mind.


The teachings can include the ethical values that we are trying to cultivate.


Actions (including thought and speech) are skilful or unskilful depending on our volition......our mental state or motive (as much as we are able to know it).


Bearing in mind that every thing is impermanent. Actions have consequences. Letting go of our self-centredness. This will make us free.


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.


Training in the five precepts


One way of bringing the teachings to mind is to recall the precepts. We have talked about these before with their positive and negative formulations. The two most important things are that they are guidelines not rules and that motivation is the key.


Negative Positive


Refrain from doing harm Cultivate love

Refrain from taking the not given Cultivate generosity

Refrain from sexual misconduct Cultivate contentment

Refrain from lying Cultivate honesty

Refrain from intoxicants Cultivate awareness

 

Take a personal precept for a week

 

Mindfulness and imagination


Our behaviour and our emotional state affects ourselves and others. Both are failures of imagination. These are called the four right efforts or the four forces as and I remember them as “PE in Doc Maertens.”


P stands for Prevention of the arising of a negative mental state.


E stands for Eradicating a negative mental state.


D stands for the development of a positive mental state.


M stands for the maintenance of a positive mental state.


So what do we mean by positive or skilful. These occur when we act out of kindness or generosity.


So negative or unskilful states are when we are turned inwards and act out of hatred or greed.


Prevent unskilful states by guarding the gates of the senses.


Eradicate unskilful states by considering the consequences of remaining in it, do something to cultivate the opposite or just wait.


Development of a skilful state by ethical or generous actions, putting yourself second (but not all the time).


Maintenance of skilful state by continuous mindfulness.



So from this session you could consider one of the precepts and what you might take on.


In your mindful moment or walk or breakfast you could consider the four right efforts (or the four forces) and decide what you needed to do.   Becoming

  

                    1. Nature and Art


Two things are missing from the four spheres of mindfulness: the environment and other people. Environment means all the things around us. Just as mindfulness of the body involves caring for it so does awareness of the environment. There is value in the awareness and appreciation of Nature and Art and also of the environment as a way of life. The people aspect is dealt with when we do the meditation practice called the Metta Bhavana and when we interact as a Sangha.


Vidya means analytical appreciative understanding a kind of relishing of things.

This appreciation needs a simple, uncluttered life. We can develop an attitude of spaciousness; a freedom from over-timetabling. This is one of the benefits of going on retreat. We can see how unpleasant the media can be........ different slant by the guest editor on the Today programme who accented good news in spite of the fact that it was not sensational. An earthquake where no-one was hurt.


Appreciating nature.. seeing plants from a hospital window...... effect of animals........pets and wild life. The opposite of getting and spending. The opposite of greediness, wastefulness.


Not adding oneself into the picture. In the seen just the seen. In the heard just the heard.

Wise and Unwise attention

Unwise attention is giving attention to things that we know are going to cause a negative mental state. Cynical chat shows or sensationalised news stories or gossiping colleagues etc.

Wise attention is when we choose to focus on what we know will produce positive mental states. If we do not choose positive outlets then negative ones will find us.

An environmental Week.

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Improve your cultural diet (or acknowledge it)

Art, Music, Drama, Theatre, Film, Books.

Perhaps choosing one of these that you don't normally choose. Seeking the advice of the wise and knowledgeable. Enriching our meditation with....

Building a shrine.

Candles                                        Flowers                                        Incense

 

Buddha                                        Dharma                                         Sangha

 

Candles symbolising wisdom (enlightenment)

Flowers symbolising impermanence.

Incense symbolising the positive perfuming effect that people who practise life with full attention can have on the world.

 

Appreciating nature which is not just the natural world but all the things around us.

Appreciating Art in all its forms.

Can we think of something from 2012 that was a cultural highlight, something that we did or saw or heard that we enjoyed and that was uplifting?

What might we do in 2013 that would be a cultural highlight?


So to summarise. What is missing from the four spheres? The environment and other people. In particular. we can consider Nature and Art?

 

Vidya                                                 Analytical appreciative understanding

Wise and Unwise attention                          Positive and NegativeMental states

Environmental concerns                              Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Improving Cultural Diet                              Films, Music, Art, Books.

Building a Shrine                                     Candles, Flowers, Incense representing

                                                       Buddha, Dharma, Sangha

 

Until the next session we could try to focus on our appreciation of Nature and Art.


 

                      7. Other People

The four spheres of mindfulness are the Body, Vedana, Citta and Dharma.


Two things are missing from this the environment and other people. Last session we dealt with the environment in terms of Nature and Art so this week we are dealing with Other People. The Buddha perhaps saw no need to include it in the four spheres of Mindfulness because there was no welfare state, schools, police, pensions etc as we know it. Your survival depended on your network of family and friends and responsibilities. Other people were vital to you. In fact the Buddha once said that Friendship is the whole of the spiritual life. Although Buddhism may start with meditation and ones own mind its ultimate goal is enlightenment for the sake of all beings. Its ultimate goal is selfless. We could say that growing up involves losing some of our self-centredness and moving into harmonious adult relationships.


Have we become less selfish?


There is a danger that because meditation is introspective that we can become self-absorbed. The best antidote to this is turning our attention to other people. We may begin meditation in order to solve or reduce some personal suffering but this aim is limiting and we may become more interested in helping to reduce the suffering of others. An altruistic dimension to our practice.


What do we do that is helpful to others? What do we do that is charitable or generous? (Time for Reflection.)


Focus on Gratitude.


Both in the present and in our own past. If we over-focus on the negative aspects of the past it will have a negative effect on the present and the future.


We could think of just a few things that we can appreciate about, say yesterday.


We can also reflect on our past and the gratitude we feel towards other people.


We can also look for opportunities to express our gratitude. Make our gratitude explicit rather than internal.


What are we grateful for? (Time for Reflection).




Loving Other People.


We start with ourselves. With our self-esteem. If we do not feel positive about ourselves it is difficult to go out to other people. How do we cultivate self-esteem? We watch to see when our inner story, our commentary on life is undermining and do something about it. Look after a friend or a pet or a plant or make something. The key is awareness.


Cultivating Friendship


Time and attention are needed. The process needs time and we also need to give our friend attention. Preferably based on the good. Some common endeavour to change or do something worthwhile. This will be more meaningful than something which is entirely pleasure-based.


People we feel neutral about


We meet people who are new to us and we can either let our mood decide how we relate to them or another choice is to treat them with kindness, to be friendly. To treat them as we would like to be treated.


Overcoming Hatred


Greater awareness may lead us to be more aware of not liking some people and this can be a good thing if we are not consumed by guilt about not liking them and provided we don't act on our dislike. If we act from a position of dislike then it will make things worse for both ourselves and others. If we are about to say something cruel or lose our temper or bully someone we can just wait. But still having the courage to speak appropriately when we can bear the other person in mind and not just ourselves.


Focus on Forgiveness


The opposite of forgiveness is when we ruminate on an event or a person with no chance of resolution. We deliberately hold on to things. We bear a grudge.


The best revenge is a happy life.”


So how can we let go of retaliation and revenge.


One technique is called REACH although this is not part of any traditional Buddhist philosophy

          RECALL what happened in an objective way.

           EMPATHISE with the other person. See life from their point of view.

A           ALTRUISM. Try to forgive for the other person's benefit.

C           COMMITMENT. Be open about your forgiveness rather than secretive.

          HOLD on to your desire to forgive rather than brood on the pain caused.


Do we have anything that we are holding on to? (Time for reflection).

Or we can reflect on things for which we are grateful.


All beings


We like them, we don't like them, or our feelings are neutral or we don't know our feelings. Exactly like Vedana. Our reaction to any sensation. Citta involves both the head and the heart. We can be sympathetic as well as discerning in our view of others. We can look for the positive rather than the negative.


How can we practise all of this?


We can bring our attention to our interactions with other people whether it is in person or on the phone or email.


Whether it is our parents or our partner or our children or our friends or people we don't know.


Remembering things for which we are grateful. Stating the positive and being generous.


Really listening and empathising rather than repeating our view. Making our conversations into an interaction rather than two monologues.


So to summarize very briefly. This session is all about the Metta Bhavana.

Ourselves. Friendship. Neutral People. People we may not like. All other people.

We have looked at some ways to work on being more selfless both in and out of meditation.


...........................................................................................

A poem by Kenneth White

 

                                                                        knowing now

                                                                              that the life

                                                                  at which I aim

                                                                                       is a circumference

                                                        continually expanding

                                                                         through sympathy and

                                                                                                   understanding

                                                         rather than an exclusive centre

                                                                        of pure self-feeling

                                                                 the whole I'm out for

                                                                           is centre plus circumference

                                                         and now the struggle at the centre is over

                                                                             the circumference

                                                                                       beckons from everywhere.


 

Reflection in the Metta Bhavana


Ourselves.                        What we do for others.(as a way of appreciating ourselves)

                                         What we are grateful for.


Friends                             How we look after and support our friends.


Neutral People                 Recall our manner in interacting with neutral people

                                          over thelast few days. Was our attitude kindly?


Difficult Person                If we have had a difficult interaction can we look at it f

                                          from the other person's point of you. Are we ready to let go?

                                          If we can just let go then we can dwell on their positive qualities.


All people                         Imagine a world in which everyone was kind to everyone else?

 

                      8. Insight

Meditation practices can be divided into two types Samatha and Vipassana. Broadly speaking these could be translated as calm and insight although whatever practice you do probably contains elements of both. This session relates to Vipassana or insight.

The Nature of Reality

Have you ever experienced a new kind of awareness? Something you could not express in words. A moment of transcendence. Perhaps a fleeting glimpse of something outside of yourself. Something not you.

Buddhism distinguishes between two levels of transcendent awareness: glimpses of reality and insight into reality. The latter is a shattering experience. What is broken is our fixed sense of self. It involves a complete change.

The path and the goal

Before the arising of insight the spiritual path consists of two steps forward and one step back if you make enough effort. One model for the spiritual life is a downward moving escalator. In order to stay where we are we need to make effort and in order to progress we need to make more effort. So small set-backs are not a surprise they are to be expected. After the arising of insight progress on the spiritual path is assured. This does not mean that no effort is needed. It means that the nature of the effort changes. Instead of being hard work it becomes playful and spontaneous. After insight how we interpret reality takes on a whole new way of being. Wisdom, kindness, courage, mindfulness, creativity become second nature.

The best thing to reflect on in order to move towards insight is impermanence. There is universal change. There is both arising and ceasing at the same time. Not one of these on its own. What generally happens is that we swing between extremes. We feel happy when good things arise and we feel sad when good things end. Insight can teach us to “hang loose”. Watching things come and go without attachment. We can stop pushing away painful experiences quite as strongly as we did and also stop craving after pleasant experiences quite as strongly. The result is greater tranquillity.

Am I a pessimist or an optimist? Discussion in pairs.

Avoiding Pessimism

Strictly speaking Buddhism is neither optimistic nor pessimistic. Pessimism is when we over-identify with good things ceasing and bad things arising whereas optimism is when we over-identify with good things arising and bad things ending. Buddhism will encourage an optimistic approach since pessimism is counter-productive.

Pessimists view the causes of bad events as permanent and universal. A failure in one area of life is taken as a failure in all areas.

The causes of the mentality lies in the stories we tell ourselves. Why does this always happen to me? I'll never....... While the pessimist views good changes as temporary and with a specific personally unrelated explanation.

An optimist is the opposite.

So if we have become aware that we have a pessimistic nature we can work on our self-view to change this. The best antidote is to show that are “explanation” is factually incorrect. Notice if you are in the habit of focussing on good things ending and bad things arising.

Buddhism will encourage an optimistic approach since pessimism is counter-productive.

Cultivating Insight

Five factors are needed for insight to arise and when it does it will lead to somewhere unimaginable.......enlightenment.

The factors we need are clarity, integration, sustained concentration, positive emotion and single-mindedness.

Clarity

We need clarity about how we are practising, what we are studying, how we are meditating, and how we are becoming more ethical etc

Integration

We need to be integrated Emotionally, Physically, and Intellectually so that we do not undermine ourselves

Sustained Concentration or Absorption

We need to be able to develop sustained concentration to make the most profound use of meditation.

Positive Emotion

Negative emotions make us constrictive, fearful and defensive. Positive emotions make us expansive, more receptive and confident.

Faith or Confidence

The Sanskrit word is Sraddha and this is usually translated as Faith but for me this has too many connotations of blind faith or religious faith whereas I prefer to use the word confidence. I know that I have made some progress along the spiritual path. This and my confidence in others who have made progress encourages me that I can make more progress if I make the effort.

Single-minded

This is the culmination of the four previous qualities. Stop prevaricating with alternatives and bring Buddhist spiritual practice into every aspect of your life. Looking at impermanence in all aspects of your life in a positive way. Everything is open to change.

Mind itself

Often we are caught up in the mind and what is going on without being aware of it. Awareness of what our mind is doing will enable us to see how we constantly change. There is not a fixed me. There is not an unchanging self. But we become attached to roles and labels. It is not the whole story. It is provisional.

Reflection on impermanence

Find a phrase that works for you. All things change. Things come and go. All things will pass. Things arise and fade away. Remembering that there is never arising without something else disappearing. The task then is to look for instances of arising and passing away each day, each hour, each meditation.

What phrase will you choose?

Make a Free Website with Yola.