Freedom

Some years ago, just before a meditation practice, the Buddhist nun conducting a retreat I was attending stated, as a means to inspire effort and determination, that the relative peace in this country is fragile, delicate, one when given the proper conditions could change without a moment's notice. 

The statement led me to reflect upon and stirred gratitude for the freedoms and comforts afforded me, those fought for by military and social activists now and from generations past.  It helped me appreciate even more the freedom to practice the religion of my choosing, allowing me to practice it (through meditation) relatively undisturbed, without the looming threat of unimaginable violence. 

This is certainly one sense of freedom worth celebrating.

Another has to do with the fruits of the practice itself.  

As we lift the veil of ignorance through insight, we come to understand the mechanics of how suffering arises, we begin to free ourselves from troublesome habitual patterns of the mind that lead to added, unnecessary pain and suffering. The practice provides a unique opportunity to reach an incomparable freedom, one that relies heavily on our ability to practice within this mundane, relative peace, but eventually leads to a balanced state of mind better equipped to navigate the inevitably choppy seas of life, ultimately reaching the shore of a more lasting, undisturbed peace.

So as we celebrate the mundane freedoms and the lives of those that defended and defend them, let us also be determined to keep our practice steady so as to experience the promised supramundane freedoms that lie ahead. 
 

See the Change

Seasons, weather, landscapes,  
mind, body, state of being,
technology, personalities,
menus, fashion, music,
oceans, rivers, cities...
all things change, 
some gradually, 
some abruptly.

It's a law of nature.
And what a blessing!

Can you imagine if you were the same being today,
as you were in high school?

Or if moods were immalleable?!
                   
In regard to meditation, 
as a means to cultivate more confidence,
and measure the benefits of our practice,
to see the change,
let's try "checking in" just prior,
taking note, objectively,
how we feel in this moment,
right here, right now.

Then check in again,
at a point or points throughout the practice,
and definitely one last time at the end.

If there has been a change in our state of being,
if we're feeling a greater sense of calm, peace, and ease,
then we have successfully demonstrated to ourselves
the efficacy of the practice.

This demonstration leads to the motivation
that keeps us coming back to the cushion.
 

The More We Dislike, the Harder to Be Happy

How many times throughout the duration of one day do we say "I don't like this" or "I don't like that"?  How often do we use the word "hate" (even when we say we don't mean it)?

These were all potential opportunities for cultivating a happy mind, but instead of accepting conditions as they are, we fall victim to our preferences, wish that circumstances were other that they are, and subsequently begin to suffer.

An inverse relationship exists between hate and happiness; the more we hate, the harder to be happy.  The more we're happy, the harder to hate.

Practicing meditation develops a multitude of different skills, one of which is the ability to objectively observe our experience with a calm and accepting mind.  Making an effort to not judge the experience, we aim simply to observe the object of meditation as it is, not wishing it to be otherwise.

As we develop this skill "on the cushion", we bring it into our daily life. Carrying this same calm and accepting attitude throughout the day, we find more happiness and peace of mind amidst the inevitable ups and downs of life.

Don't Give an Inch to Anger

From moment to moment we're constantly coming into contact with and reacting to different objects in the world that surrounds us. In attempts to make sense of this world, the mind moves quickly, placing every object or phenomenon into a category, deciding whether we like it or not, then reacting accordingly. The process happens so rapidly that we are often left unaware.

Anger slips in when we don't meet with conditions we like, or we meet with conditions we don't like.  Many times the anger builds well before we are aware, gaining momentum, preparing to settle in for the long haul.

When we turn our attention within, we might see the mind replaying the event over and over again, telling the story such that we are a victim, or that we have every right to be angry.  We then find ourselves turning to friends and family seeking support for our "righteous anger".  

We want to feel right about feeling wronged. Inasmuch, we've given an inch to anger and it's gonna take at least a mile.

The more familiar we become with the mind and emotions, the more we understand that anger hurts us first.  So we ask ourselves the question "if I want to be happy, do I really want to be angry?".

Anger is suffering.  Interestingly, despite the suffering that it causes, it has quite the appeal, as we're often easily drawn to it.

The more we practice meditation and cultivate the faculty of mindfulness, the sooner we can tune into clearly seeing the process, and then consciously make the effort to abandon the anger. We might encourage the mind to consider looking at the situation from a multitude of different perspectives, or interject thoughts of loving kindness.  

It's so incredibly important to go to the roots, to witness, to observe these thoughts of wanting to be justified in our anger, and abandoning them, as this anger and the subsequent suffering will persist so long as we cling to these justifications.

Don't give it an inch.

Metta-cine

Years ago I read Bhante Gunaratana's "Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness".

Within chapter 6 he writes of the Four Steps to Skillful Effort.  He lists them as:

- prevent negative states of mind

- overcome negative states of mind

- cultivate positive states of mind

- maintain positive states of mind

Perhaps we can break it down to four words:

prevent/overcome/cultivate/maintain

When we practice loving kindness/loving friendliness (metta) meditation, we demonstrate to ourselves that we can influence the mind to break from its habitual patterns of negative thinking, interjecting beautiful thoughts of loving friendliness. We witness firsthand how entertaining such kind thoughts alters our entire being.

Positive Thoughts = Positive Mind

So long as we can continuously cultivate and maintain thoughts of loving kindness toward ourselves and others we will be able to prevent negative states of mind from arising.  And should a negative state of mind arise, it can be overcome by abandoning those negative thoughts, instead cultivating thoughts of loving friendliness. 

It's quite good metta-cine ; )  

Mr. and Mrs. So and So

"Let none find fault with others;
let none see the omissions and commissions of others.
But let one see one's own acts,
done and undone."

- Dhammapada Verse 50

All too often we find ourselves consumed by what Mr. and Mrs. So and So are up to.  We're quick to pass judgments, either thinking or talking about how we can't believe Mr. So and So does/didn't do this or how Mrs. So and So does/didn't do that.

Most often when we're judging others, we're either labelling them or their behavior as bad, wrong, or unwholesome.  While we do so, we ourselves are unconsciously (and in so quite hypocritically) descending into unwholesome thoughts.  These unwholesome thoughts lead to our own suffering through agitation/irritation, and if we're not being skillful and kind in our subsequent speech and actions, we then pass the suffering on to others. 

And around and around and around we go.

As we continue our meditation practice, we find it more and more important to become aware of what our mind is full of, i.e. becoming mindful.  Instead of being concerned with Mr. and Mrs. So and So, we become increasingly aware of what our mind is up to, how we're interpreting then reacting to the world around us.  We become skillful in abandoning thoughts that lead to suffering, instead opting to cultivate and maintain thoughts that lead to happiness for ourselves and others.

Beautiful Mind

It's common to say "the thought came to mind"...

Most of our days, moment to moment, thoughts of all types come and go, arising without any apparent rhyme or reason.

If we pause to take a look, we find these thoughts painting a mental landscape, which color how we perceive and then interact with the world.

When we practice loving kindness meditation, rather than being at the whim of the mind, we direct it, cultivating kind and compassionate thoughts, altering the mental landscape.

Painting with beautiful thoughts we paint a beautiful mind.