practice, as many of you have done with this day of sitting
and walking, was actually quite a lot. Some people will start
with a 20-minute sitting and do that for a number of months,
or go to a class and have some instruction and sit for a little
bit. There are people who also will come to a ten-day retreat.
We've even had a few kind of unusual people sign up for a
three-month retreat who had never meditated before, and say,
"Well, I guess I'll just do it." But as you can
discover, even in just one day of sitting, though some things
are interesting and you learn some from it, it's also not
so easy. There aren't a lot of distractions and diversions
here. It's pretty simple. All that's really left for you in
this place is your own body and mind, and there's not a lot
to take one away from that.
the essence of meditation practice? Here is a story. After
the Buddha was enlightened he was walking down the road in
a very happy state. He was supposed to have been quite a handsome
prince before going off to be a monk. So here's this handsome
prince now recently enlightened, wearing golden robes and
obviously quite happy, and very special from all accounts.
And he met some people and they said, "You seem very
special. What are you, are some kind of an angel or a deva?"
He seemed inhuman in some way. "No." "Well,
are you some kind of a god then?" "No." "Well,
then are you some kind of a wizard or magician?" "No,"
he replied. "Well, are you a man?" "No,"
he said. "Then what are you?" And he answered, "I
those three words --"I am awake"-- he gave the whole
teaching which Buddhism contains. To be a Buddha is to be
one who has awakened, awakened to the nature of life and death
and the world in which we live, awakened to the body and mind.
So the purpose of practicing meditation, the Buddhist and
other traditions, is not to become a meditator, or a spiritual
person, or a Buddhist, or to join something. Rather, it is
to understand this capacity we have as humans to awaken.
that which we can awaken to, what is the Dharma which we can
awaken to? Dharma is the Sanskrit word and Dhamma
is the Pali word which refers to that which is universal,
to the laws of the universe, teachings which describe it.
The Dharma as a law is that the way things work are always
here to be discovered; they're quite immediate.
a story of a pious man who very much believed in God. One
day, at the place where he dwelled, it started to rain heavily
and it rained and rained, and a big flood came. He went from
the first floor to the second floor of his house and the water
rose until he was on the roof. Someone rowed by and said,
"Get in, my friend, I'll save you; the water is rising."
He said, "No, I believe in God; I really have faith;
I believe." So he sent the rowboat away. It rained more
and the water got all the way up to his neck. Another rowboat
came by, picking up people. "Get in, my friend, I'll
save you." "No, thank you. I have trust. I have
lived my whole life. I believe in God; no need." The
rowboat went away. It got up to his nose so he could just
barely breathe. And a helicopter came over and lowered down
a rope. "Come up, my friend, I'll save you." "No,
thank you. I believe, I have faith, I trust." So the
helicopter went away.
some more and he drowned. He goes to heaven after that. Soon
after that he gets an interview with God. So he goes in, and
he sits down and pays his respects, and then he says, "You
know, I just don't understand. Here I was your faithful servant.
I was so trusting, and prayed, and so believing, and I just
don't understand what happened to me." And he recounts
all of his circumstances. "Where were you when I needed
you?" God looks up and kind of scratches his head and
says, "I don't understand it either. I sent you two rowboats
and a helicopter."
for God to come in some big flash or our spiritual awakening
to be some wonderful other worldly experience. What the Dharma
is, and what we can awaken to, is the truth that is here when
we leave our fantasies and memories and things behind and
come into the present.
these laws, what is it? First, there is the Dharma which is
described as the law of cause and effect, or Karma, which
means by one teacher's definition, "To keep it simple,
'karma' means you don't get away with nothin'." But in
a more explicit way, it means that we become what we do, or
we create how our future will be. For example, if we practice
being angry all the time, in a while, when a situation arises,
that will be our response to it, and it will create that in
other people; that will be the kind of society we end up in.
If we practice being loving, that becomes the way of what
will happen to us in the future.
Buddha spoke to people who were interested in happiness --
which some people are -- they said, "How can we be happy?"
He said, "Well, one way is to understand the law of karma.
If you cultivate generosity, kindness, awareness and giving.
you will be happy because you'll learn that it's pleasant,
and also the way that karma works is that your world will
become more of a cycling rather than fear and holding. You
will discover happiness in this generosity."
"If you're kind to people, if you maintain a basic level
of non-harming -- what's called Virtue -- if your words are
honest and helpful, if your actions are truthful and helpful
and based on kindness, your world will start to become kind.
Inside you'll feel kinder and happier; outside people will
treat you that way. The law of Karma is one of the first things
you observe if you practice mindfulness and awareness. This
is one thing you can discover through practice.
thing you can discover is that there are two places that we
can live. There are many places, but one is to live in our
fantasy, in our thoughts about things; and the other is to
be more here in our bodies, in our eyes, our nose, in our
senses, and the direct experience of things.
me -- says Don Juan -- the world is incredible because it
is stupendous, mysterious, awesome, unfathomable. My interest
has been to convince you that you must learn to make every
act count. You must learn to assume responsibility for being
here in this marvelous world, in this marvelous time, for
in fact you will learn that you are only here for too short
a time, a very short while, too short for witnessing all
the marvels of it.
way is to be kind of lost in thoughts and fantasies, and the
other is that while we have this life, to come into it; to
live in our physical bodies, to be aware of the senses; to
open, to see what they have to teach us. When we do that and
we pay attention, we start to see some of the characteristics
of the Dharma or the life in which we live.
shall you think of this fleeting world -- it says in one
Buddhist sutra -- a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, an echo, a rainbow,
a phantom and a dream.
you look, the more closely you observe, the more you realize
that everything you look at is in change. Seeing changes,
hearing changes, smelling, tasting and physical sensations
are changing; all the experiences in the body and mind, all
the experiences of the senses change.
solid -- That's the illusion of santati. -- It's like
a movie. And when you watch the screen and get caught in the
story, it seems like it's very real. But when you turn your
attention to the projector, or slow it down, or focus your
awareness very carefully, you start to see that it's one frame
after another, one appearing and dissolving and the next arising.
for our life; it's really a process of change. That's so because
things don't last. If you have something that lasts in your
life, please raise your hand. Has anyone gotten any mental
states of any kind to last very long? Someone once raised
a hand and said, "Yes, ignorance. It's lasted my whole
life." But basically it's change. You sit here for one
day -- you don't even have to be a very adept meditator to
get the point that it moves all the time, that it changes.
And because things don't last, if we're attached to them being
a certain way, what happens? This is one of the laws. What
happens? We suffer, or we get disappointed -- not because
we should. You can be attached as much as you like, but even
though you're attached, does it stop it from changing? You
have a nice mental state and you try and hold on to it, does
it last anyway?
to see the laws of things, that things are impermanent, that
attachment doesn't work, and that there must be some other
way. There is actually what Alan Watts called, "the wisdom
of insecurity," the ability to flow with things, to see
them as a changing process. You also see not only are they
impermanent and ungraspable, but that there's suffering if
we're attached to them, and that there's pain as well as pleasure
in this world; it's part of what we were born into. If you
decide to get off on this planet and get one of these things
with ten little things on the end here and ten little things
on the end there, that grows for awhile, and that you put
old dead plants and animals in, and mush them up in order
to get it to kind of move around -- if you choose one of these
things which you have, it's too late already. What is the
nature of it? It grows up, it grows old, it dies. Sometimes
it gets sick, sometimes it feels good, sometimes it hurts;
there's pleasure and pain in it. Anybody have one that doesn't
hurt sometimes? If you don't want that, you've got to go to
another planet because it's not the way things are here.
and you say, "I'm just going to be with my body and mind,"
and what do you find? Sometimes you find it's pleasant and
sometimes it's painful; sometimes it's quiet, sometimes it's
restless, and you begin to relate to what Zorba called, "It's
the whole catastrophe," all of it, instead of fearing
the painful things and running away all the time, and grasping
after pleasant things, hoping that somehow by holding them
they'll last and seeing that they don't.
Achaan Chah used to wander around the monastery at times and
talk to people and just say, "Are you suffering much
today?" And if you said, "Yes," he said, "Oh,
you must be quite attached," and kind of giggle and go
along. There wasn't much more to say. You come to see that
you don't own this body because it changes by itself, that
you rent this house; you get it for a little while, and you
can honor it and feed it and walk it, and jog it if you want,
but it's not yours to possess. You can begin to see, in fact,
that none of these things are possessible because the nature
of life is nonpossession. You're an accountant in the firm
-- you get to count it for awhile and that's all.
to awaken, and we awaken by coming into our bodies and our
senses, and we start to see the laws which govern life so
we can come into a wiser relationship with it. What does this
mean for our lives? Well, this really teaches a way of wholeness
and awareness, of bringing our body and mind together, our
heart and actions, being conscious with our speech, conscious
with our eating, conscious with walking, making them each
a part of what allows us to grow and live. To do this means
accepting the fact of impermanence, and of some pain and suffering,
and the fact that we don't control it very much. I mean, you
control some of it, but not very much, and in a really limited
way. If you can't accept those things, then you will probably
want to stay in your fantasy, because they're what you encounter
when you come here.
might ask, "Doesn't meditation fragment us away from
the world? You say that it makes us more present." It
can if we become attached to solitude, if we sit and try to
get quiet and block everything out, close our eyes and ears
and nose or go into a cave.
another story of an elderly woman in New York who goes to
a travel agent and says, "Please get me a ticket to Tibet.
I want to go see the guru." The travel agent says, "You
know, it's a long trip to Tibet. You'd be much happier going
to Miami." She says "I insist. I want to go."
So this old lady gets a ticket, brings her things with her,
gets on the plane and goes to India, gets the visa and the
pass, takes the train up to Sikkim, gets a border pass, takes
the bus up to the Tibetan plateau, and gets out. And they're
all saying, "Where are you going?" "I must
go see the guru." They say, "It's such a long way.
You're an old lady. It's up in the mountains." She says,
"I'm going. I have to see the guru." They say,"You
know, you only get three words with him." "It doesn't
matter, I am going." So she goes, and she gets on the
horse in Tibet, because there are no roads in this part, gets
to the foot of this large mountain, and all these pilgrims
are saying, "Where are you going?" She says, "I
want to see the guru." They say, "Remember, you
get just three words." She says, "I know, I know."
She gets in line, gets up there, finally past the guards at
the door who say, 'Three words.only." She goes in and
there's the guru sitting in his robes with a kind of scraggly
beard. He looks up at her and she looks at him, and she says,
"Sheldon, come home."
it mostly for a laugh but the fact is that for us who live
in the Bay Area, the spirituality that's going to work for
us is not a spirituality of finding peace by leaving the world.
It's not to say you shouldn't go and take a vacation in Yosemite
or have periodic retreats. But fundamentally, for spiritual
practice to be vital in our lives, it has to be what we can
use in the supermarket, while we drive, when we're walking,
when we're dealing with our families; to make everything a
part of it, and not to escape.
might ask in the same vein, "Doesn't meditation fragment
us from the world?" It can if one tries to escape, but
what we're training here is an awareness that can be used
throughout our day.
social responsibility? We're on the brink of nuclear war.
There is exploitation and injustice in every country. There
are 40 wars going on right now, in Iraq, Iran, El Salvador,
Nicaragua, Guatemala, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Cambodia, Laos,
Libya, Angola, Afghanistan, all these places, and God knows
where else. And it's not just a story. It's painful for millions
of people, as is starvation, as are 50,000 nuclear warheads
which could literally destroy most of the human beings and
many or most of the major animals that live on the planet
in a painful way, easily, quickly.
listen to one's heart in this. It's interesting. You can make
a compelling case for different sides. From that point of
view you see that what's necessary is not to sit but to act.
There is starvation. Nuclear war is imminent if we don't do
something. There is compelling need, even in this very rich
and affluent society, of people who are suffering in many
ways. And what are we doing sitting around? It's quite convincing.
is another side which is equally convincing, and that is:
What is the cause of that starvation and all those wars, and
that suffering? What do you think is the source of it? There's
enough oil, there's enough food, there's enough resources
on this planet. The cause of it is greed, and the cause of
it is prejudice and hatred. We hate people of different religions,
different skin color, different customs; we like our country,
our family, our religion, our type. So there's hoarding, and
there's grasping, and greed and hatred and ignorance. We've
tried revolutions for many centuries. It's helped in some
ways but in others it just keeps going around because we haven't
touched the root of the problem. The way out of the root of
the problem is for someone to discover what it means to not
be caught up by anger, what it means to be free from that
fear or that prejudice which arises in human hearts and minds,
what it means to be unafraid of that which is painful as well
as that which is pleasant -- to have the heart open to all
of what the world presents.
need more oil and food as much as we need somebody who understands
how to avoid getting caught in anger and fear and prejudice.
And that somebody is you. So instead of it being a luxury
to meditate, from another point of view, it's a responsibility
for anyone who can, to figure out in their own being, in their
own life, what it means not to be caught by these forces,
to learn some new way -- and then bring that to bear on the
economic and social and political kinds of suffering as well
in the world.
a favorite letter of mine from a Nobel Prize winner named
George Wald, who is a biologist at Harvard. He wrote it in
response to an argument about the starting of a Nobel laureate
sperm bank. Some irate feminist wrote into the paper saying,
"Sperm banks, they should have an egg bank. Why just
sperm?" He says:
right, Pauline. It takes an egg as well as a sperm to start
a Nobel laureate. Everyone of them has had a mother as well
as a father. Say all you want of fathers, their contribution
to conception Is really rather small.
laureates aside, there isn't much technically in the way
of starting an egg bank. There are some problems but nothing
so hard as involved in the other kinds of breeder reactors.
think of a man so vain as to insist on getting a superior
egg from an egg bank. Then he has to fertilize it. And when
it's fertilized, where does he go with it, To his wife?
"Here, dear," you can hear him saying, "I
just got this superior egg from an egg bank and just fertilized
it myself. Will you take care of it?" "I've got
eggs of my own to worry about," she replies. "You
know what you can do with your superior egg. Go rent a womb,
and while you're at it, you better rent a room too."
see, it just won't work. For the truth is that what one
really needs is not Nobel laureates but love. How do you
think one gets to be a Nobel laureate? Wanting love, that's
how. Wanting it so bad one works all the time and ends up
a Nobel laureate. It's a consolation prize.
matters is love. Forget sperm banks and egg banks. Banks
and love are incompatible. If you don't know that, you don't
know bankers. So just practice loving. Love a Russian. You'd
be surprised how easy it is, and how it will brighten up
your morning. Love whales, Iranians, Vietnamese, not just
here but everywhere. When you've gotten really good you
can even try loving some of our politicians.
the other voice. He said this amazing thing, that even the
Nobel Prize is a consolation prize because what human beings
most want is to be honored, to be loved, to be recognized.
And what the world most compellingly needs is someone who
understands how not to get caught in these ancient human patterns
of prejudice, fear and anger.
meditation make people withdraw from the world anyway? One
has seen that for sure. There's a fine teaching in the Buddhist
tradition called, The Near Enemies. The near enemy of love
is attachment. It masquerades like love, it feels like it,
but it's separate. It says, "I love you but really I'm
attached to you. I need you out there to make me whole."
Rather, the sense of love is honoring and seeing our connection.
enemy to compassion is pity. "Oh, that poor person, they're
suffering. I don't suffer, not me certainly,." but they
all do, and it separates them again. The near enemy to equanimity
or balance of mind is indifference. It feels like, "Ah,
everything is fine basically because I don't give a shit.
I don't care about anybody," believing that in not caring
we can find some peace. Real equanimity is when the heart
begins to open and we find a capacity to experience all that
the world presents -- with balance, with love, with openness.
in meditation is not a running away from the world at all.
It's really a sitting down right in the middle of it, paying
attention to that which is pleasant and that which is painful,
that which makes a lot of noise, that which is silent, and
begin to listen to our relationship to it, to observe it,
to learn from it, and learn a wise way of relating.
is the heart of this inner way of practice? The heart of it
is mindfulness, listening, paying attention to our bodies,
to all the various energies, to the voices, paying attention
when we eat. Which voice do you listen to when you stop a
meal? Is it the belly which maybe speaks first and says, "Oh,
I had enough. Comfortable, nice and full." And then the
tongue chimes in, "Gee, but that fruit was so good, let's
have a little more." And the eyes say, 'Yeah, there's
more of that other stuff too that we haven't finished yet."
And you hear all these different voices. In our culture we
don't listen to our bodies so much. Like James Joyce somewhere
in Ulysses said something like, "Mr. Duffy lived
a short distance from his body." We do in some fashion,
foundation of mindfulness -- to become wise -- is to live
in the physical reality of our body, to live in the feelings,
to be aware of emotions, to be aware of the pleasant and neutral
and unpleasant aspect of our experience, and to learn that
we don't have to resist that which is painful and grasp that
which is pleasant all the time. That's perhaps our conditioning,
but in fact it doesn't lead to peace, it doesn't lead to happiness,
because things change anyway. Even if you're attached to them
open-hearted and non-judging awareness which comes into the
body and into the feelings and then observes the mind as well
as its laws, the law of karma, the laws of impermanence, and
begins to see how to relate to it all out of compassion, kindness
and wisdom, which means seeing how it's really operating.
Sometimes it gets very painful when you sit. Sometimes it's
pleasant; you have bliss and light. Then you get attached.
Sometimes it gets painful and then you want to avoid it.
Merton said at one point:
prayer and love are learned in the hour when prayer becomes
impossible and the heart is turned to stone.
it's in the very greatest difficulties in our sitting or in
our life that our heart opens the most, or we finally get
the fact that we can't get attached to things and hold on
to them; that they don't go the way we think but the way that
they go. So wisdom begins to arise.
to work with the basic difficulties which arise in meditation?
What to do when there's physical pain? As best you can, sit
and quietly mentally note "pain, pain," paying attention.
See if you can notice how it changes. Sit comfortably. Don't
make pain for yourself. There's plenty in this life without
it. But if you'll notice, sometimes it comes anyway. Then
see if you can learn some balance with it. When you observe
pain, one of three things will happen. Do you know what will
happen if you observe it? Sometimes it will go away; sometimes
it will stay the same; and sometimes it will get worse. That's
not your business.
in meditation is to start to see things as they are; light
and dark, and up and down, pleasant things and painful things;
to open to them, to start to pay attention to all of what
makes up our reality. That develops what is called in spiritual
discipline, a heart of greatness. If you open the door to
the outside, what do you get when you open it? You get whatever
is out there. You get the weather for that day. And if you
keep the door open, you get the changes in the weather. If
you open your mind and your body and your heart, what do you
get? You get everything. You get what's painful and what's
pleasant. And there is a way to come to a new relationship
with difficulties -- desire, anger, restlessness, doubt, fear
which are the traditional hindrances which arise in meditation
-- how can one work with them, how can one make one's spiritual
practice so that these become workable?
a story in the community of George Gurdjieff of this obnoxious
and very difficult man who finally left, for he was having
such a hard time. Gurdjieff paid him to come back. Everyone
was upset because they all had to pay a lot to live there,
and here is Gurdjieff paying this old creepy guy who gets
annoyed at everybody and is dirty. They asked him why he did
that, and he said, "This man is like yeast for bread.
Without him, you wouldn't really learn the meaning of patience
or compassion or loving kindness. You wouldn't learn that
these states of mind arise -- restlessness, desire, fear,
wanting, worry, agitation, or judgment, if only it were somehow
different than it is, "I don't like this" -- what
to do with them? Sit in the very middle of them and study
them. Note how they feel in the body. There's desire. Desire
runs much of our world. If you watch TV that's all they sell
is desire. Pay attention to see what it's like, how do you
feel it in the body, what is it like in the mind. Give clear
and careful mindful attention to it, without getting caught
-- not suppressing it, or trying to get it go away, and not
getting involved. Just noting, "desire, desire, wanting,"
until you come to see its nature and you come to some balance
where you're not so caught up in it or afraid of it.
for anger. Most of us are either afraid of it and stuff it
down or we act it out. See if when judgment or anger arises
you can just sit and note, "angry, furious, judging,"
whatever it is, and feel it. Heat, movement, energy in the
body, certain contractions, different qualities of mind, see
if it is possible to experience that energy and learn from
it. See how it changes, what it does to you, what its flavor
is, its effect on you, and then maybe you can learn not to
be quite so caught in it. It doesn't mean it won't still come,
heaven knows, but your relationship to it can be a wiser one.
Do it again and again -- with fear, with all the kinds of
mental states that come up, especially the difficult ones
-- until you can sit and allow them to come and go like cows
or sheep in the meadow.
they're very strong, what if they're too difficult, they're
really, really hard, what should you do? You're so restless
you just can't stand it, what to do? Die! Be the first yogi
to ever die of restlessness. Just say, "Fine, take me."
Surrender to it and let it kill you. And what you discover
if you do that is that in a way you die; what dies is your
resistance to it, and that you just carry on. You discover
this powerful capacity we have, if you work with it, to open
to all of our experience and find some balance in it.
more advanced, if you've done practice for awhile, you may
also wish to work with the capacity one has to go into the
very middle of something. If there's desire, anger, or fear,
or whatever it is, not just to feel it, but see if you can
find the very center of it and discover what's there, and
maybe go through the center in some way. I'll just leave that
as a koan for you right now.
about all the different kinds of meditation? Here one is learning
Vipassana. How about Tibetan meditation, Zen or TM, and so
forth? There are a lot of good ways to practice. There are
these two students of a master who were arguing. One says,
"It's really good to sit very still and not move and
just work with whatever pain comes," and the other one
says, "No, no, that's macho. You want to relax and be
gentle, and just be aware, but you don't make a lot of effort
in it." And they're arguing and they can't seem to get
any answer. And they go to the master. One says, "You've
really got to make effort to bring your mind back and to stay
very present and not to move, and in that way you get through
all this stuff. You learn how to be still in the middle of
anything." And the master says, "You're right."
And the other one says, "But wait a second. Don't you
want to learn to be loving and gentle, to move if you really
need to, and just to find a balance with it all, to be soft
and not to struggle against it, but simply to open."
The master says, "You're right." And a third student
who was sitting there says, "But they can't both be right."
And the master says, "And you're right too."
are many good ways of meditation. There are some that are
better than others, in the sense that some have a limited
purpose, but there are many major schools of meditation which
are wonderful if they develop awareness or mindfulness of
the body, or the mind and the heart are sense-experienced,
where you observe how the world is working. They can bring
you to liberation, they can bring you to freedom. So it doesn't
really matter which kind you've chosen. If you're doing Vipassana
practice, wonderful! If what's accessible or interesting to
you is Zen, fine! What's important is that you pick one and
you stay with it and do it. Its takes discipline. If you want
to learn to play the piano, it takes more than just a day
once in awhile, a few minutes here and there. If you're lucky,
after a year you'll be able to play "Happy Birthday To
You." If you really want to learn something in a full
way -- tennis, piano, not to speak of training the mind and
opening the heart -- it takes perseverance, patience and a
systematic training. Pick a practice, use it, work with it
every day, work with a teacher if you can, or in circumstances
where you sit with other people. And in doing it over and
over again, it starts to develop your capacity to open; it
starts to train you to be more in the present moment; it starts
to develop this sense of patience. When you sit and really
feel what's in there, it brings a kind of compassion.
the particular value of intensive retreats? What's the value
of leaving the world to go off on a weekend or a ten-day retreat,
or even a day here?. Why not just do it at home? There are
two things to say. First again is a story of Mullah Nasrudin.
He's out in his garden one day sprinkling bread crumbs around,
and a friend comes by and says, "Mullah, why are you
sprinkling those bread crumbs?" He says, " Oh, I
do it to keep the tigers away." And the friend says,
"But there aren't any tigers within thousands of miles
of here." And Nasrudin says, "Effective, isn't it?"
to get rote or go on automatic pilot in whatever one does.
Have you noticed that? You learn how to do it, you master
it a little bit, and then you check out. Part of the process
of meditation is to wake up from being on automatic pilot
or Zombieland. It's kind of ironic because you come here and
you walk around very slowly, you don't look at anybody, and
you look more like a zombie. But inside it's a different story.
What we're doing is breaking our habit. If you walk at your
normal pace, la, la, la, and whistle while you walk down the
street, what would happen most likely is that your mind would
immediately go off some place else.
the form of intensive retreats, of a day or a weekend, to
use the silence, to use a bit of stillness, to slow down,
all as ways to break the habit of automatic pilot, to begin
to awaken in a new situation. Then you can take that back
to your daily life. We use it also because there is a great
strength that comes in meditating in groups. Especially in
the beginning it's hard to do, and you're sitting here and
squirming, and everybody looks like they've been meditating
for hundreds of years except you, and you'd be embarrassed
to get up, so you stay with it, which is not a bad thing.
another reason for taking more than twenty minutes or half
an hour or an hour a day for meditation, and that is, when
you do it in a number of hours of succession, there's a greater
possibility that you will really get concentrated, and that
you'll get quiet and silent inside. And in doing so, it becomes
possible to see more deeply, to kind of dissolve the thought
and go to the nature of the experience more directly and immediately,
and see, in fact, how rapidly it changes, and how we grasp
things outside ourselves or our self-image, or even that the
basic sense of oneself is made out of thought and attachment,
and that fundamentally we don't exist as some separate entity,
that that's all created out of our rapid thought and attachment.
We come to some radical new way of seeing -- that we are not,
in fact, separate.
put it his way:
being is a part of the whole, called by us "universe,"
a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves,
our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the
rest, a kind of optical delusion of our consciousness. This
delusion is really a prison for us, restricting us to our
personal desires, and to affection for a few persons nearest
to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison
by widening our circle of understanding and compassion,
to embrace all living creatures in the whole of nature and
get silent and our awareness gets refined and deeper, when
we pay careful attention to it, the sense of separation and
solidity breaks down. So this is one of the strengths of doing
deep or silent or retreat practice in meditation.
do if you actually attain something in meditation? People
ask that sometimes. "You should be so lucky," is
the first answer. But there is a second one, and the most
important one. I remember when I went to my teacher Achaan
Chaa after many ventures in meditating in other monasteries
and different kinds of practice and experiences and recounted
them all to him, feeling kind of pleased with what I learned
and how I'd opened, and he just looked at me and said, "Well,
do you still have any greed?" I said, "Yeah."
He said, "Still got fear and anger?" I said, "Yeah."
"Still got delusion?" I said, "Ah, ha."
He said, "Fine, continue." That was all he said,
you see is that meditation is not to attain some state of
mind -- they don't stay, you can't get them to stay -- but
to come to each moment with awareness, with a greater sense
of openness of heart, and with a clear seeing.
we learn of most value in all of this? When people die, they
commonly tend to ask of themselves only a few questions, maybe
just one or two. One might be, "Did I learn to live well
-- freely, honestly, authentically?" And maybe even more
fundamentally than that, "Did I love well?" All
the other things that one does have a certain measure of importance,
but when it really comes down to it, it is, "Have I loved
well?" When somebody says, "Okay, death comes to
your left shoulder and taps you and says, 'This is your last
dance and it's all over," what is your reflection to
be? What do you care about? What meditation can open for us
in our sitting, and even in the difficulties, is this possibility
of learning to be freer in the ups and downs and changes of
life and its pleasures and pains, and learning somehow to
open and love, to be unafraid to express that love and to
feel it in a full way.
the most beautiful images for meditation which I've seen was
a poster of Swami Satchidananda wearing a little orange loin
cloth, his long flowing beard, a very handsome kind of Indian
guru figure, who is also a fine teacher. He teaches yoga and
meditation. It showed him in the yoga posture standing on
one leg, very graceful, only he was balanced on a surfboard
on a big wave. It was very impressive. And underneath it said,
"You can't stop the waves but you can learn to surf.
Meditate with Swami Satchidananda," or something like
that. It captures the spirit of meditation practice and the
teachings, and how to manifest it or bring it into a world
that is full of senses, of sights and sounds and change.
we go through all this trouble and do this strange looking
thing, is to somehow live more fully, to see the people that
we live with, to see the trees, to be present when we go for
a walk in the park and not be thinking about the bills that
need to be paid, and what happened yesterday; to live more
fully here, to be able to love in a greater way by opening
in ourselves all the corners of our minds to that which is
difficult and that which is easy. Perhaps because it's our
deepest desire to discover our true nature, to come to some
sense of our oneness with life or to understand who we are
or what all this strange thing that we got born into is about.
Basically it's the only game in town, if you look at it; everything
else is kind of transitory. It is simply to pay attention
and discover what the whole process of life and death are
to do it, one needs to cultivate or practice mindfulness or
awareness, to have it built on or foster some sense of inner
stillness so that we can see and listen to all these things.
It requires courage. It's not such an easy thing.
as a warrior -- says Don Juan -- a spiritual warrior, can
one withstand the path of knowledge. A spiritual warrior
cannot complain or regret anything. His life is an endless
challenge and challenges cannot possibly be good or bad.
The basic difference between an ordinary person and a warrior
is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while
an ordinary person takes everything as a blessing or a curse.
spirit of taking what comes to us and really working with
it. Sometimes you take it as a challenge, and sometimes you
do take it as a blessing or a curse, or you worry about it
or complain. You can complain mindfully then, if that's what
you want to do. You can learn from that as well as anything
else. Let it be simple. The spirit of it is really one of
opening, of discovery, of seeing; to sit, to walk, and to
train yourself to bring the attention back, concentration,
mindful balance, to observe the breath, the body, the feelings,
the mind, and all of the movement of what we got ourselves
into, and see how one can relate to it at times in ways that
cause pain, how one can learn to relate to it with wisdom,
with loving-kindness, with a greater sense of understanding
not all that complicated. Sometimes it's difficult to do,
but it's not all that complicated. Someone once asked Aldous
Huxley as he was dying if he could say what he had learned
in all of his experience with many spiritual teachers and
gurus and much of his own spiritual life, and he said, "It's
embarrassing to tell you this, but it seems to come down mostly
to just learning to be kinder." To be kind, though, means
that you have to be here, you have to be present for what's
actually in your experience.