Stopping and Snowballing

Last week I started to stop my daily meditations.  By the end of the week I was not getting my two sits in.

This problem reminds me of a poem that was in the book, “The Moon Appears When the Water is Still.”  A monk arrives at a woman’s house and is looking for a place to stay that is out of the rain.  He can’t stay with her, because it would be against his precepts, as she lives alone.  The woman then asks him to lie, and then eat meat, and then take a drink. The poem takes us through his declining of every action that is against his sila, which is implied in the woman’s every request.  At the end of his declines, the woman says, “what can one drink hurt?”  The poem finishes by saying that at the end of the night, all the precepts were broken, because of that one drink.

This is the danger of taking one step in a direction away from Dhamma.  It multiplies.  The daily sits, I’ve noticed, are important to my well-being.  If I miss a day because I’m busy, I might say, “that’s okay, I’ll get it tomorrow.”  Though, if I miss tomorrow, I might say the same thing.  Then, I’ve missed three days, and pretty soon a week’s gone by.  After a week of not getting my daily sits in, I notice that I start to feel more agitated and less equanimous in my daily actions.  It is important to me, to get my daily sits in.  I also think that it is important to be an inspiration to others by sitting daily.  That’s almost an extra incentive to make sure you do it; consider how the example looks to others and that it might help them get their sits in, when you do.

Sometimes you may still lack equanimity and balance of the mind, even when sitting every day.  The mind is a wild animal at times, and we are required to tame it.  As we tame it, it still runs wild.  The difference between not meditating and meditating is that we are dealing with it on a morning and night basis, directly.  It may still come up, just as much, or more, while we sit.  The good thing to notice is that it comes up less and less because of our work; because we meditate.  Time to sit.

What Has Helped Me

Ryan Shelton, creator of this blog, wrote in a most recent post, “I want people to feel encouraged and supported in practicing however they can within the limitations of the rest of their lives. I don’t know exactly how to help…”

That struck me. I too, as a writer for this blog, feel the same way.  I don’t know what to say that can inspire anyone to practice more and learn the Art of Living, other than truthfully telling the story of how I’m maintaining my own daily practice and how it affects my day to day life.  I realized too, that many of us would have different difficulties, and perhaps more difficulties than I now have at maintaining daily sits.  I have integrated these daily sits into my life for the most part.  It is more of a joy and ease to practice them now.  I will impart what wisdom I have in my blog posts here.

For starters, what are some things that have helped me to get to this point of practice where the two day sits are manageable and something I make time for no matter what?

  1. I did some long term service at the center nearest where I live.  This was when I sat my second and third course.  I served and sat courses intermittently and it was of great value to instilling the practice within me and understanding the volunteering side of it, which is just as beneficial.  I say to many that it is more beneficial to sit one course and serve one, than it is to sit two.  Serve if you haven’t.  It will help you manage daily sits in your own life.
  2. Adding one hour timed gong and chanting (S. N. Goenka) ‘music files’ to my I pod to use for daily sittings and group sittings.  It’s helped me to switch between using an alarm clock and using chanting or gongs.  Keeps it ‘fresh.’
  3. Hosting potlucks and group sittings every weekend.  It is very casual when we host, but we get a good meditation in none the less.  It is nice to have the official places for group sits, but it is also nice to have a place for random friends to join and do Annapanna. Many of those who started to come and sit with us have now gone to a 10 day course.  The potluck atmosphere is also helpful for talking about Vipassana and encouraging others in their practice.  I would also mention that the right friends are important.  It is dangerous to hang around fools; who will step on your practice with or without knowing.
  4. Having a meditation space.  I haven’t scheduled my sits at the same time every day, which is recommended in books like ‘A Meditator’s Handbook by Bill Crecelius,’ but I have made a space that I often do my daily sits in.  It is a good anchor.  Mine’s in my closet.  When I’m having a really bad sit, which still happens; I make sure I stay in the closet and just don’t leave until the hour is up.  I may not be really meditating all that much, but I’m keeping a strong determination, and the closet doors help so I don’t get distracted and leave.
  5. Dhamma books and Dhamma talks.  I have not read that many from the centers, but the ones I have read have been a great inspiration.  I also have found other key things that I feel are inspirations to walking the same path.  Some of these things would be: Avatar: The Last Airbender (TV show), Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (movie and manga), Studio Ghibli films, Alan Watts, J. Krishnamurti, Mooji etc.
  6. Switching it up.  Doing 3 meditations for one week to solidify your practice a bit.  Go to the center for a short term service.  Meditate three times for just one day.  Do it first thing in the morning.  Wait half the day, then do both your sits.  Do a two hour sit.  All these changes have happened naturally as I’ve developed my practice.  It’s easy to be hard on ourselves, but it isn’t being equanimous.  Play with the practice.  Try different things.  The first step is the last step.  Walk in the direction and you will not fail.  I WILL mention that it is not generally easy to meditate last thing before bed, or ON your bed.  Sleep is a danger to meditation.  Doing it and succeeding against the temptation to sleep is good, but if it’s not working on a regular basis, sit somewhere else.Another ‘welcoming’ thought is that you will only NOT practice, until you realize you HAVE to practice.  The elastic can only stretch so far back before it springs forward.  Do what you can with the time you have.  Good luck strangers… into the unknown we go.

Be Quiet and Listen

This is a discussion that I have listened to multiple times and continue to get more out of it.  I’ve posted it on this blog before, because it is a truly marvelous and very Dhamma-like conversation.

http://www.jkrishnamurti.org/krishnamurti-teachings/view-video/knowledge-and-the-transformation-of-man-part-1-of-18.php

The discussion is about as close to ‘what is’ as you can get, aside from meditating.  It’s the nearest words can get to speaking about the Dhamma, without being overly poetic.  It is also why, most people who haven’t done a 10 day Vipassana course, would not understand this conversation.  It’s eighteen hours long, by the way.  That’s because it’s very thorough.  They go slow and ‘go into’ each question and the whole movement of life.  This is the stuff of life.  It’s the stuff that many people miss, because they’re in their heads.  Or better said, paraphrasing some words from this dialogue, ‘they’re mulling over the images that they’ve made about life, and not seeing the thing itself.’

This brings me to what I’ve been ‘dealing’ with in my day to day life most recently.  I’m at this seminar thing on weekdays and it’s very much like a high school type of deal.  It’s something I’m require to be at.  We sit around the room and mainly listen to a man speak about terms and define words that can be endlessly defined and analysed.  The ‘teacher’ is a man who is stuck in knowledge and thinks he is wise.  He is someone who does not understand meditation or what it means to see what is, without interpreting it.  This brings up a problem that Krishnamurti and Dr. Allan Anderson go into in their talk.  “How can a human being (oneself or another) bring about a person who is undisturbed enough to listen?”

This is listening in the total sense, meaning, meditation.  Listen with your whole body and your whole mind.  This is something that terms don’t touch and words, in the superficial way they are often used, cease to give meaning.  It may sound like I’m complaining, but this is more a matter of sensitivity and having to be in a situation, on a day to day basis, with a person who does not care enough to listen, in that sense, and what to do about it.

The way the question is put, “…undisturbed enough to listen,” is because of the fire that you are thrown in when you meditate.  It’s a fire of attention, and breath.  There is no escaping in words or conclusion.  As each of us meditate, we go into this fire more and more.  We are on an edge, so to speak, and there is no stopping it now.  When you sit a 10 day course, Vipassana is now with you, whether you sit daily or not.  There it is, creeping up through your sensations, all the time.  That is why it is disturbing, or can be.

Then, in every day life, you find yourself with others who don’t feel this fire.  They don’t know how to meet it.  Sometimes you can’t get away from them, like my current situation. What I’ve found then, is to be selfish with my practice, when I’m there with someone who will not listen.  With some people, there’s no convincing them and no use trying.  When that’s the case, it’s time to meditate.  Go in and sit there with the fire.  It’s the salvation for oneself to do this, and the only way that awareness and attention can permeate towards them.  At some point, they may feel it.  In the meantime, be quiet and keep practicing.

~

Writing for this site helps me with my practice, but I’d also like it to help you (readers) as much as possible.  If there’s a topic you want me to write about or anything else you’d like to share, comment on this post or email me at: flexanimousart@gmail.com

Visit flexanimousart.blogspot.ca for other writings and things I explore.

 

Start Again

At one of the courses I sat, there was an assistant teacher who had one more thing to say before the course was over.  It was the last sit of the morning before everyone went for breakfast and left the center.  The last thing he said was, “Take a short break…”

People laughed and were a bit confused.  It was the end of the course.  It was time to leave, and that line, ‘take a short break,’ usually was used often during the course, and usually followed up by something like ‘then come back to meditate in the hall and in your own rooms.’

This time, he continued with, “…And come back to the center.  Make this your center.”

I thought it was a masterful way to end the course.  Vipassana is never over. The night you get home from the course, you’ve got to get that second sit of the day in.  And all the while, you can be aware of your breath and sensations on your body.  At times, you may forget.  The teacher is not there to say, take a short break, and start again.  You have to be your own mentor, your own master.

Done a sit recently?  Gone to a course?  Good.  Take a short break, and start again.

 

Writing for this site helps me with my practice, but I’d also like it to help you (readers) as much as possible.  If there’s a topic you want me to write about or anything else you’d like to share, comment on this post or email me at: flexanimousart@gmail.com

Visit flexanimousart.blogspot.ca for other writings and things I explore.

Ways to See Equanimity

There are many different ways to speak of equanimity and awareness.  Most of the spiritual speakers and writers of the world will point to these two principles in some way.  They may only point to things that point to these things, but still, they are on the same track to seeing it.  They may also not know what they are pointing at, but say it in a way that you can translate it back to something that works for you and aligns with your understanding and experience of what it means to be equanimous.

For example, Stephen Silver, a character designer does what he calls Art Talks on Youtube. In one of the talks he says something like this, “You’re never going to get everything you desire.  When you fulfill one desire, you’ll have another one that you want to get.  So at some point, you realize you just have to appreciate the moment and where you’re at now.”

Another artist, Jeff Watts, quoted in one of his videos, “Be a master at where you’re at.”

There are many ways of saying the same things.  Be aware.  Be equanimous.  Another example is Abraham Hicks, who says many things along the lines of, “You think that this or that thing makes this other person happy.  And you think, when I get those things, I’ll be happy like they seem to be, but it doesn’t work that way.  We say, be happy first, and those things will come, and if they don’t it won’t matter because you’ll be happy regardless.”

Another person who channels energy known as Bashar has said that the definition of abundance (or awareness and equanimity) is “having the ability to do what you need to do when you need to do it.”  When you’re in the zone, or with the moment, or better said, not chasing something special elsewhere, you’ll be abundant.  That awareness and realization that there’s nowhere else you need to be brings peace.  Any direction is an attachment and a form of escape or a dissipation of energy, but were all on different paths, and equanimity is a sliding scale.

Your completeness or incompleteness will change.  Don’t try to find one or the other.  That implies you lack equanimity.  Just be and come back to breath.  Activate anicca, as U Ba Khin says.  Be aware of the change, and equanimity will follow naturally.

 

Writing for this site helps me with my practice, but I’d also like it to help you (readers) as much as possible.  If there’s a topic you want me to write about or anything else you’d like to share, comment on this post or email me at: flexanimousart@gmail.com

Visit flexanimousart.blogspot.ca for other writings and things I explore.

Simplicity

What amazes me again and again about Vipassana is its simplicity. I’ve started to get my daily sits in without having to think about TRYING to do so. They are a natural part of my life now. I think this is ideal with any form of art. For it to really be something you’re involved in, you have to do it on a consistent basis.

Vipassana is one of the few things in my life that really hits at the core. Everything connects to everything, but this practice is the deepest art form. It’s a way of living that runs through the whole body at all times. There is not much that we can compare it to in terms of other daily activities, because it itself is an activity all the time. Therefore, there is no time that we can really put aside to do it, in a sense. Even those of us who haven’t sat a ten day course have some level of body awareness. It’s happening. The way to ‘get with it’ is to sit.

There’s a poem in ‘The Moon Appears When the Water Is Still,’ that goes like this:

Sitting does not create truth,
Meditation does not produce insight,
Just as smelling a flower
Does not make it fragrant

The perfume of the rose is there.
We slow down to attend the unfolding.

There’s immense simplicity in that. There’s no ‘doing’ or ‘making it happen.’ It is. Awareness and attention of it is what we cultivate, and that is the truth we carry in all areas of our life. Everything is included in the Dhamma, but not everything includes the Dhamma. Always come back to your practice of Vipassana. Even if you stop practicing, it doesn’t leave you. Another ‘poem’ comes to mind. It speaks of the difference between liking something and loving it. When you like a flower, you pick it. When you love a flower, you water it every day.

 

Writing for this site helps me with my practice, but I’d also like it to help you (readers) as much as possible.  If there’s a topic you want me to write about or anything else you’d like to share, comment on this post or email me at: flexanimousart@gmail.com

Visit flexanimousart.blogspot.ca for other writings and things I explore.

Ask Yourself What’s More Beneficial

Hi everybody. I used to write once a week for this site, and now I’m back. As I used to, I am once again coming up with these posts during my meditations. Silly mind, focus on breath.

I’ve gone through many stages with my practice since 2012 when I sat my first course. It’s been an intense and marvelous journey. After my third course, I decided it was time to do an entire year with two sits a day. I achieved that, and it was great. Then, I mixed it up for a bit, meditating only about an hour a day most of the time, and for a few months I didn’t sit at all. It was in June this year that I was inspired to sit consistently again, and I have done so since.

What inspired me? I went to the center nearest my house and served for three days. After lunch on the first day, I went to the assistant teacher for an interview. I didn’t really have a question, per say, but I went on a bit of a ramble like this:

“I feel like I’m on this path whether I like it or not. I’m getting more and more moments of clarity, but I don’t know how they come about. I don’t know what to do…”

(Something like that. What I mean by “I feel like I’m on this path whether I like it or not,” is that during the last year when I wasn’t doing two sits a day, I was still doing what I felt was acting in truth. My seeking or development in the Dhamma continued in different ways, because it’s what I’m called to do, even without a daily sit.)

“So,” he said, “You’re asking what is a good goal to have.”

I thought, “Yeah… That IS my question.”

“Well… A good goal to have would be to get two sits in every day.”

He went on, “What is more beneficial… Meditating twice a day, or once a week? …And keeping your sila perfect.”

I turned away in thought, because the following week I had plans to alter my mind with some psychoactive plant medicine. He saw my reaction, but I didn’t share that information with him.

He went on, “Maybe you’re not ready for that, but you have to ask yourself what’s really more beneficial for you.”

The next few days at the center, that was in my mind. In the quiet cabin that I was in, I layed on my bed and thought about it. What’s really beneficial? Breaking my sila next week by taking an intoxicant or meditating twice a day and keeping my sila perfect? I knew the answer. It came as a small, but supremely intelligent and certain voice.

“You know what to do.”

And I did. The voice was small, where as the rest of me felt bigger than it, but clumsier. There was certainty in that response, and I listened to it. There was just a small percentage of me, say, 3%, that said, “Meditate twice a day and keep your sila perfect.” I trusted that 3% one hundred percent. The power of that voice has diminished slightly since then. I don’t always feel that strong certainty that I did that day, but I’m still giving that moment at the centre the benefit of the doubt. I’m glad I am, because this practice works and is very important for my well being. Find the space to listen to that small voice, and give it credit. Sometimes it means going to a centre for a short Metta re-charge. Sometimes it means meditating.

 

Writing for this site helps me with my practice, but I’d also like it to help you (readers) as much as possible.  If there’s a topic you want me to write about or anything else you’d like to share, comment on this post or email me at: flexanimousart@gmail.com

Visit flexanimousart.blogspot.ca for other writings and things I explore.