Friends of Godwin Samararatne

Learn to be your best friend and also to be a friend of others. Learn to forgive yourself and others and then heal any wounds that you are carrying.

Working Meditation

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It is interesting that when we do working meditation, there could be thoughts in the mind, but if your attention is only on the work that you are doing, then as you said, it creates space in the mind. And once that space is created one can really use that space for feeling things, for hearing things very sharply and very clearly.

So in everyday life when we work, can we see work as working meditation? In whatever work you do in everyday life, maybe related to your job, is it possible at the time of doing something to be completely present in doing that? This is a very practical way of integrating meditation with the way we are living. To see work as not something different from meditation.

We Create Stories

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We can create stories from our thoughts. Now from what happened to S. this morning, being locked in the toilet, she could have created a big story. She had one hour to create a big story. She could have started by saying it is someone who doesn’t like my yoga who did this to me, and for one hour she could have been imagining who the person might be who did this to her. Then she might have thought: Maybe it is that person; the way that person looks at me, it seems that person doesn’t like me. It is possible that she did it. We are laughing, but this is exactly how we create our stories.

We can use our thoughts in a very destructive way in creating such stories. Most of our suffering comes from this kind of imagination, using thoughts to create stories. And what is unfortunate is that we take the stories as real. It is funny how we give reality to something unreal and then we become victims of the stories that we create ourselves. And with such a story S. could have had anger. Or she could have had fear. Or anxiety that whenever she goes to the toilet someone is going to lock the door on her! So in this way she could have had all these emotions: anger, fear, insecurity, perhaps sadness. Do you see how the story and these emotions are related? Do you realise how important it is for us to be aware and to understand the nature of thoughts?

Because of Thoughts

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It is because of thoughts that we have suffering. From morning, from the time we wake up, to the time we go to sleep we have thoughts going through our mind continuously. So we should learn how to use our thoughts. We should learn to make discoveries about our thoughts. We should learn the important connection, relationship, between thoughts and emotions, because it is mostly a thought that creates an emotion. And when the emotion is there it is again the thought that makes it worse. Sometimes these negative thoughts can be a very strong habit. I know meditators who have this strong habit to give themselves minuses, and they give minuses to others also. So one can create a hell where only minuses exist.

Visitors Come and Go

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There are unpleasant emotions and pleasant emotions.

In a way, what is more important is to learn to work with unpleasant emotions because this is what creates our suffering and this is what we have to work with in everyday life.

Don’t try to get rid of them through your will, by controlling, but when they are there just let them be there and let them go away; let the impermanence operate naturally. Another insight is to realise that they don’t belong to you because they are visitors. So visitors come and go. It means that they don’t belong to you.

We have given these unpleasant emotions such power, such energy, that when they are absent we hardly know that they are absent.

Unpleasant Emotions

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I think we are all familiar with unpleasant emotions. There is no one who has not experienced them, including myself. It might be helpful to discover, to reflect and find out which unpleasant emotion really affects you most or bothers you most. So it might be sometimes helpful, useful, to work with that particular emotion or those emotions that bother you in everyday life.

When unpleasant emotions arise learn to be friendly to them. By hating them, by disliking them, we give them more power. And in hating and disliking them we might also be pushing them away, repressing them, which is also not very good because they can come up in the most unexpected situations. So here again is the importance of awareness, just to know them, just to feel them with awareness.

Another very important tool related to this is that we have to learn not to give these unpleasant emotions minuses. So if they arise please give yourself a big plus, because you are learning to work with them, so you deserve a big plus. If you can give them a plus and then make them the object of meditation, this can be a very powerful tool.

Another tool is learning about them, finding out about them, discovering about them as I have been emphasising. If you hate them and if you want to get rid of them, how can you learn about them? And if you are prepared to learn about them and if you are open to them, then you wait until they arise. What do you think will happen when you really wait for them to arise?

When you fear them and you don’t want them to come then they come. And if you are prepared for them, invite them, are open to them, they don’t come. So I hope you will really experience that.

Buddhist Meditation.

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Let me say something very briefly about meditation of loving-kindness. Here I would say one important aspect of meditation of loving-kindness is that it helps us to experience joy.

In the Buddhist model of meditation, first we work with what are called the hindrances or the obstacles. We can see them as unpleasant emotions. Then the next stage is working with them using loving-kindness or even using focusing on breathing. Then we can sometimes experience jhanas or the absorptions when these hindrances or unpleasant emotions are absent. So these absorptions or jhanas can be seen as positive emotions. And the next stage of meditation is that when there is joy, to remember not to identify with the joy but see that also as changing, as impermanent, and realise that we don’t really own this positive state of mind. So this in simple terms is one way of understanding the Buddhist model of meditation.

Label It

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I would like to share with you a meditation technique that has been discovered in Burma. Here when you have thoughts you just note them, you just label them: “thinking” or “thoughts”. The technique is that you don’t get involved in the individual thoughts, what you are thinking, but just realise that there is thinking. So you note it and then come back to the breath. When you hear a sound, you don’t say it is an aeroplane or it is someone speaking but you just say “sounds”. And whatever you experience in the body, you just see it as a sensation. So you note it, label it as just “sensation” or “feeling” and come back to the breath.

Don’t Suffer

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The idea of Buddhist meditation is to free ourselves from suffering but sometimes the way we practise this technique creates more suffering. When we practise this simple way we can experience the absence of suffering right at that moment. So when thoughts come you don’t suffer, you just know it. When you hear sound you don’t suffer, you know that you hear it. When there is physical pain you don’t suffer, you just know that there is pain. When the mind is not calm you don’t suffer, but you realise that the mind is not calm. When you realise that you are not with the breath but somewhere else, you don’t suffer as a result of it, you realise that you have not had awareness, so you re-establish awareness and come back to the breath.

Just Knowing

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When we practise awareness of breathing, we think that we should not have thoughts, that we should not have other sensations, that we should not hear sounds, so we try to exclude them and only be with the breath, and that can create lots of tension and lots of suffering. I would suggest instead that we do it in this way: just knowing, just having awareness of what is happening and then allowing calm to come naturally. You can never get it by force, you can never get it by trying. This is maybe why in the text it is said that when there is loving-kindness the mind becomes calm naturally. So rather than hating things, rather than fighting things, resisting things, controlling things, you just know what is happening, then let calm arise naturally.

Awareness

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Awareness of the breath is a very simple technique – but somehow we manage to complicate it in many ways. And sometimes I think one problem might be with the word “concentration”. The word “concentration”, what does it mean, what is the picture that comes to your mind when the word “concentration” is used?

It’s interesting that you have to try very hard, so that effort is very much emphasised in that word, in it’s meaning. And maybe another meaning is ignoring and excluding things. So this is why by using the word concentration in this sense, the technique seems difficult.

But you must see what the technique really means: essentially the meaning is simply awareness in relation to the in-breath and the out-breath. So the whole emphasis is on just knowing what is happening. This is referred to in one of the texts which says that when we practise this technique, then we experience the four foundations of awareness or mindfulness. What it means is: you become aware of the body, you become aware of the sensations, you become aware of the thoughts, you become aware of the state of mind.