Sunday, October 10, 2010

How about an M&M

     Life the way we know it, (our views of ourself and the world) is largely created by the mind, in, by and for each person’s mind. One of the most profound statements uttered by the Buddha was: “The world, the arising of the world, the ceasing of the world, and the path leading to the ceasing of the world, is right within this five or six foot long body with its sense organs, feelings, and consciousness.” For the Buddha, the 'world'  is synonymous with suffering. So suffering arises and ceases right here in this body and mind. The mind is the most important thing to understand, but the mind operates so quickly that it is difficult to catch hold of or see it. For this reason the Buddha taught us to approach it through the breath/body. We use the breathing/body as the gateway or threshold to directly perceive our thoughts or intentions. In this way, we can make progress to purify our bodily actions, speech, and thoughts that are the source of our kammic actions that bring us suffering.
     There are two basic aspects of the mind, the active and passive, or the aspects of doing and being. We are called human beings, but a more accurate description would be 'human doings'. From the moment you wake up in the morning until the time you go to sleep at night, the body and mind are usually doing something. Even while sleeping most people dream, which is another doing. When the sense organs are touched by something, the mind usually gets excited and neurotic or unmindful activity is activated. It is like driving a car and manual shifting through 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and then into overdrive, the mind gets triggered off  into doing.  With all this activity, we tend to lose our centeredness and mindfulness and make mistakes. We get dragged into the past and pushed into the future; we get caught up in anger, craving, worry and delusion.
     Most people have probably not experienced what might be called, 'pure being,' when the mind is at absolute rest. When the mind can rest in the present moment, this is 'being'  because the mind is not doing any specific activity at that time, it is simply aware. It does not go to the past or future, but quietly rests in the 'Now.' It is like a car with a perfectly tuned engine that is quietly idling in neutral gear, or a cat gently purring. (However, I am not saying that a cat has this kind of awareness). In the same way, the mind can rest in the present moment, with 'knowing', or 'awareness'. At that time it is not going anywhere or doing any neurotic activity, it is simply 'being'. When the mind rests in 'being' it feels like an artesian well,  infusing the body and mind with energy. This is the universal life energy  from which we are usually consciously cut off and have no idea of, because we are caught up in near constant doing and becoming. 
 One of the hardest things for most people to do would be to sit down, not move the body, close their eyes and not go to sleep. Not many people could do it for more than a few minutes before they would become bored, agitated or anxious, unless of course they know how to meditate. The mind will become restless because it is not trained and accustomed to non-physical activity and mental silence. The mind will want to do something and therefore will create some mental and/or physical activity. This doing/activity makes the sense of self, I or ego feel more alive. When the mind is active, it will usually be moving between the past and the future, just like a pendulum of the clock that is constantly moving back and forth in order to create time. When the mind rests in the present moment, time seems to disappear because time as we experience it is created by the active mind.
     So, how do we experience “being” or “awareness?”  For starters we have to learn how to move more slowly and mindfully, to downshift the body and the mind so that they may be more integrated and abide more calmly. From time to time we need to stop what we are doing completely, come to the present moment of breathing/body, to reconnect and dip into silent awareness or “being.” When we get continually caught up in unmindful neurotic activity without taking any 'pure rest', we become cut off from the source of life. Our energy is drained at the end of the day and we became exhausted. This happens because we do not mindfully stop and pause during the day in order to get reconnected to the energy source.
    There are a lot of misconceptions, even among Buddhists, about what meditation is all about. Some people think that meditation can be practiced only by monks who live in the jungle, that lay people can not really do it. Meditation is not pushing out the world and entering some abstract, hypnotic or blank state of mind. It is really getting in touch with the world. People have accused forest-dwelling monks of escaping from reality or the world. Actually it is opposite. People who indulge in alcohol, drugs, sex, movies and other sensory obsessions—they are the ones escaping from the world. Monks, or other serious meditators, directly confront the world, the world of the mind; there is no place else to go. Meditating monks cannot turn on the television, open the refrigerator and eat food whenever they want, rush off to the movies, or drive the block to distract themselves. They really confront the world through meditation. When you sit and hear loud distracting sounds, feel sharp pains in the body, and/or see your own confused mind and defilements, you don’t run away from them. Normally, people will do something to get rid of distractions or pain, For example, if you hear a loud sound, you shut the windows or turn on the stereo. If you have pain in the body, you take a pill. If it’s too hot you turn on the air conditioner. All of these are ways to escape from the pain of the real world.
    When you sit and meditate, you confront the world of pain or any other mental states. You watch them, even the unwanted ones and don’t try to run away from them. Hopefully, you will cultivate the  ways to observe and skilfully deal with them so they don’t cause you suffering. Then you won’t have to try to escape from them.  This way of practice is different from the artificial means that society has created to escape from the pains of life. Meditation is not running away from pain, but not fighting or struggling against it either. The art of meditation is learning to open up and allow the world to pass through your body and mind without it causing or turning into suffering. Remember the formula: “suffering = pain × resistance.” Most people tend to push out the pain of the world. During meditation we let it pass through us, but we don’t build up a resistance. The resistance is the suffering. The Buddha taught us that the source of suffering is craving or desire. Basically, it means the desire to acquire something that we don’t have now, or to reject or get away from the pain you encounter. Much of our waking time is taken up in this dual pursuit.
    We have become over-dependent on material stimulation. People don’t know how to be simple. We’ve lost the simplicity in life because of modern advancements and advertisements that make us too dependent on external things. We’ve come to believe that happiness comes from outside, such as having a new car and other gadgets, or having enough money to get and do what you want when you want. For some people, happiness means having family and friends who act the way you want them to act, or not having any sickness. Each person’s definition of happiness depends on how their mind defines it, but all of these depend on things that are impermanent, constantly changing and are beyond our control. It is not a real or secure sense of happiness when you depend on things that are changing. It will end up with dissatisfaction and some source of conflict because you will keep on wanting more. The Buddha taught that real happiness is already inside; the happiness of not wanting. If you don’t want anything, then there’s nothing to lose; then there’s no insecurity or unhappiness. Actually, happiness is our inherent birthright, the natural state of awareness/being which is complete within itself. It doesn’t need anything else to be happy. Knowing that I have been a monk for a long time, people frequently ask me if I am happy. They think that monks must be suffering if they can’t get or do what they want. I tell them that I am not unhappy and I am not searching for happiness. All you have to do is remove the cause of suffering, and happiness will already be there. It is nothing that you can search for or bring into yourself.
     We have to understand the nature of suffering. This is why the Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths: Suffering, the cause of suffering, the end of suffering, and the path leading to the end of suffering. Where is the word happiness? The Buddha mentioned suffering four times but does not directly mention anything about happiness. Why is that? Because there is no need to. All you have to do is know what suffering is, remove the cause of suffering; then, automatically you will be happy, you will reach the end of suffering. Some people misunderstand the Buddha’s teaching. They say, “Buddhism is pessimistic, it talks only about suffering.” They say, “I’m not suffering, my life is great; everything goes the way I want it. I don’t know why the Buddha mentions suffering so much.” This kind of person does not understand what the Buddha meant. This is looking only upon the superficial meaning of the words.
     In the practice of mindfulness, we want to learn how to deconstruct or slow down the mind so we can see that we are overly dependent on doing, wanting, and craving. We can see how craving for material satisfaction is superficial. Our insatiate desires and struggles to avoid or get rid of pain actually compound our problems instead of solving them. Most people are trying to “do things” in order to make themselves happy. But in so doing they often create more unhappiness through their unmindful actions. One has to look at this phenomenon with a clear mind. During daily practice of meditation, when the mind is quieted down, you can be sitting there and be perfectly happy. At that time you don’t need or want anything, you can be perfectly content. You may even wish that it would never end. This can happen when you simply sit there being in the present moment, not needing anything from the outside. This is the true nature of the mind that rests within. We have to learn how to reconnect to this “awareness” by learning to slow down and pause. 

     One of the great practical benefits of practicing mindfulness meditation comes from learning to slow down, pause and stop from time to time. Train yourself to come back to the present moment, feel the breathing/body, get regrounded, if only for a few moments or even just for one minute, from time to time during the day. This is a practice that I call an, 'M&M', a minute of mindfulness, or a minute meditation.  You train yourself to pause, freeze, stop for one mimute once an hour. Whether you are sitting or standing, whatever you are doing, just stop the physical activity and feel your feet pressing the floor, take a slow deep breath and relax. Let go of what’s going on in the mind and come back to the physical reality of the present moment or Now. You can simply remind yourself of, 'standing breathing, standing breathing, standing breathing'. Or at the same time,you could also forgive anybody who had hurt you in the last hour and send out Metta.You remain like this for one minute and then mindfully continue what you were doing. You try to do this at least once an hour throughout the day.  This will help reduce stress hour by hour instead of allowing it to accumulate as most people do. This practice will get you at least ten minutes of valuable meditation or 'down time'. This practice will be of a great benefit especially if you cannot manage to get in longer meditations in the morning or evening. This will prove to be a tremendous help.
     Normally we live a fast-paced life. If you continue to neurotically rush around unmindfully it will be unlikely that you will experience any 'deeper' meditation. We have to train ourselves to slow down. We learn to stop and take inventory of what we are  doing each day. We cram our days with many things to do, but if we check up and investigate this we’ll see many things we do are not necessary. When we do things quickly we tend to make mistakes and then have to correct or redo the mistakes.  A common problem is misplacing things and then forgetting where you put them, such as your keys or wallet. You come in the house and unmindfully put them down somewhere, then rush off to do something else. When you are ready to go out again you will have to spend twenty minutes looking for them. This scenario is often repeated several times during the day with different things. This wastes a lot of valuable time. If you do things mindfully then you can avoid this senario. If you do things more slowly and mindfully, you will more easily remember the things you do and say. When you mindfully put something down, it means that you actually see where you put it down, it registers in the consciousness. Normally we do things unconsciously so the memory does not register things properly. We forget and then become angry with ourselves. The simple habit of learning to slow down is very useful.
This may be enough for your consideration.

 Don’t forget to take an M&M
throughout the day day.

 Mindfulness a day
keeps Dukkha away.


  1. What is the "Shunyata" or "Emptiness" ? If we sit still without go to sleep , that experience ; what is that ? many appearances come and go , many sensations . They become less and again many . So not constant or permanent . So what is the point of refuge on them . Again on what we should refuge ?

  2. The idea that one can just be ‘pure being’ is not something the Buddha taught as far as I know. The most refined attainments in meditation, the Jhanas, are called Right Concentration, by the Buddha, a factor of the Path. The Buddha also said that the Noble Eightfold Path is the kamma that leads to the end of kamma. The Path itself is a kind of doing, the kamma that leads to the end of kamma, it doesn’t just come into existence on its own it has to be intentionally developed through skilful action (kamma). So the idea that there can be a state of ‘pure being’ may be what one experiences when the mind becomes quiet. However, such states are also technically conditioned and fabricated (sankhara). The idea that there can be pure awareness or knowing, isn’t something that is verified by what the Buddha taught. Even the most refined that’s of ‘being’ are kinds of doing too.