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.
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Safe

I find it unspeakable to speak the truth.

I find all shallow thoughts of men are my own.

I find wholeness lights every way I can see.

Now, moving in truth, I see no other way.

I find myself feeling for sensation,

when my heart is weary and tender.

I find the cries of old and young the same.

Each of us, responsible.  This world.

I find no thoughts to reach a living.

To be held onto what I know is treacherous.

It slips out and into the depths unknown.

Where there is no guide, only home.

Quiet silence of waves for the sensitive one.

They act in the kind and ruthless ways.

All living coming to pass.

All that suffered brought to shore.

Each of us, many guides.

And we are the only ones, of all.

May we be true to ourselves.

To light a home that will be unperturbed

through all storms, strong and small.

Like light and dark, see the change.

Hear the calling from your frames

and be with all that is.

You’re safe.

-Anthony Ross
(Flexanimous Art)
flexanimousart.blogspot.ca

 

 

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.

A Candle Sits

It is so nice to sit here writing by the fire on a little candle stick lighting up the room.  The only light except my clock and the computer screens and the desktop, or whatever you call it.  The core of the root of the computer, that makes all this happen, that makes my creativity process and come to life.  I understand there is a certain thing about life that may seem slippery, that may cause us to know that sometimes there is a bowling alley away from our heads and we just want to sink into it.  We just want to run and slide down it until we end.

To believe that we could be what we are meant to be… Creators, perceiving the world through its own eyes.  Living ourselves in full beauty in discovery in compassion and love for all.  In peace among heroes, among strangers, among boa constrictors, all who land and squirm and sink in the ships and mysteries of our days.  I want to believe that writing is something that will flow with me to the grave.  I want to believe that my dragon in the swamp with its sharp teeth longing for a part of my meat for breakfast will discover my longing for sex and that sometimes I just want to party and sometimes I want to have somewhere within me, in the heart, that makes me feel more alive and alive and alive and alive and alive and alive and actually present with the being-ness of what I am.

I looked in the mirror today and I thought, for the first time perhaps, what it would be like to look old?  To be an old person, in look. and I started to see my face as an old man, and what wrinkles I would have and from what.  What would be my character, my essence?  How it would shine through.  What my hair would be like, long or short?  How I would look, my eyes still young, but my body old on the outside, decaying.  Slower, but happier, would I be?

Would I move freely and without care for things that do not bother me tomorrow, that are so laughable that I may share with you now their secrets of being, why they are, these little mysteries, wanderings of the mind.  What they are for and what we can do to help ourselves live with them in more ways than one, because chance is so much fun and I wouldn’t want you to ever stop changing, because you know, that’s what life is.  That’s another word for it.  Change.  And to think that life doesn’t change is to think that you could put water in a hole and it won’t drain. I’m hoping not to control you, but to watch with careful, brilliant, sharp eyes, who you are, now and in every moment.  Like an old man would see a child playing and be wise to know that this change is taking place in this child, in his wonder for life.

That every moment is a precious one for the imagination to unfold, to be bold, to make mistakes.  Fantastic mistakes and every once in a while we will not be blind, but open our eyes to the child inside, who still plays.  Who laughs out loud in public, who might be seen in public with a bad hair cut, with boogers in his nose, with clothes with mud and sand all over them, and waves of tears in his eyes, with crying moments and angry ones and peed pants and silly sounds and unforgettable smiles.  Or just a duulll look that says, man, life is beautiful, I am so impressed with life right now. Everything in it.  Everything it can be, everything I can imagine it is not right now, I know it is, because I’m imagining it, and that is, and that is so special.  And that everything, no matter what it is, it is amazing, just because it is.  Just because we are and I can see we are because we are.  I can say that we are because I am, whatever I is, this ball of memory, of impressionism, of surfacing emotions and training notions.  What do I fear?  What do I know?  What do I see that is new?  What do I want to carry out of this world?  The same thing I saw coming in.  My hands.  My sensation of compassion for all that the parent who brought me into their arms went through to have me be.

S. N. Goenka: Notes – Day 2 Discourse

Perform Wholesome action

Don’t perform sinful action

Keep on purifying your mind

That is all.

Dhamma – nothing to take away, nothing to add.

Acting without craving and aversion.

What’s wholesome? Abstain from sinful, and what remains is wholesome.

Universal. Every religion would say this.

The difference in the explanations.

In sectarianism, Dhamma is no more Dhamma. These people, because they believe this, are wholesome people. These people, because they dress this way, look this way, are wholesome people. No…

Oh, I don’t like it when someone steals from me.

I should not steal from others. This will hurt them.

Livelihood. Doesn’t harm others and motivation is good. Right volition.

Sila – concentrate your mind with a base of wholesomeness

Don’t harm others

Don’t take any intoxicants – you know you shouldn’t do something, it is bad for you and others, but you do it anyway, because you are addict. Intoxicants enhance addiction and ignorance.

Don’t lie, speak harmful, uselessly

Don’t kill

Don’t steal

The path is there. The law of nature is eternal. It was there, it is there now and it will be there.

Awareness of the field within the body. The reality within the framework of the body.

Sensation – everywhere there is life, there is a sensation, all over the body.

Observe without reacting, whatever manifests itself, moment to moment, moment to moment

Oh, itching sensation. No itch is eternal. Let’s see how long it lasts.

Just observe. Do nothing. As it is, from moment to moment, moment to moment. Pure awareness.

You must do exercise to keep the body strong. Similarly, if your mind is sick, you must do an exercise to keep it healthy, fit, stable, strong.

A wild animal. Must be tamed, trained, patiently and persistently. Living in a society, among others. A danger to be wild.

And when you are angry, you do not keep this anger to yourself. You share it with others. You send it into the atmosphere around you. How can you feel the calm, cool peace when the atmosphere around is so agitated? Ah, so it becomes clear. I must be cool, calm within.

Breath, and sensation.

Gross to subtle reality. When there is sensation, give importance to sensation.

The longer you hold your attention on the sensation in a limited area, the more concentrated your mind will be.

Exercise to keep the mind healthy:

What vices do I have?

Remove them.

What other vices are there?

Close the doors of your mind so they can’t enter.

What virtues do I have? Don’t develop ego, attachment because of them. They are there. These virtues are there.

I must preserve them and multiply them.

What virtues do I not have? I must develop them.