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.

Month: October, 2013

Meditation

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Sit in a very relaxed, comfortable position; try to have your spine erect but relaxed.

Let us begin by being conscious of the body, feeling every part of the body. So when thoughts come, gently let go of them and come back to the body.

Feel friendly and gentle towards your body. Feel what it is to sit with your body completely still and completely relaxed.

When the body is inhaling, you know that the body is inhaling; when the body is exhaling, you know that the body is exhaling, using the breath to develop awareness.

Please do not consider thoughts as a distraction, make friends with them and come back to the breath. See your breath as your friend and just be with your friend, just enjoying, discovering your friend.

When you change your posture, please do it slowly and with awareness.

Experience the present moment, the here and the now; not thinking about the past, not thinking about the future, just enjoying the present moment.

Learn to feel friendly with whatever is happening in our mind and body: thoughts, sounds, sensations, emotions, just feeling friendly and gentle towards them, learning to use general awareness with friendliness.

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Pedestals

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What we do in relationships is we put others on pedestals and when people fall from those pedestals, then we get hurt, we get disappointed, we get angry. And guilt arises when we have put ourselves on pedestals and then when we fall from that pedestal, we feel bad, we feel guilty. So the whole practice is to understand how these wounds have been created.

Maybe another point is that when you meet such a person, it’s a very interesting opportunity; perhaps one can really play with it. Can you see that person who you are angry with as if for the first time, without the image you have been holding onto since you have been angry with them? It is very interesting how we relate to people through these old images that we have about ourselves and others. So we project these images onto others and this is how certain emotions can arise. As I said, it is a very interesting exercise to see if you can see such a person as if for the first time, then you realize you relate to him in an entirely different way.

Maybe another suggestion that comes to my mind is to try to see such people as our teachers, as spiritual friends, because they have enabled us through their behaviour to realize how wounds are created, and through that realization to learn to heal them. So if you can really feel grateful to such people, then again you will be relating to them in an entirely different way. They are our real gurus.

Body

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One thing I have discovered over the years is that people have tensions in the body. These
tensions that people carry, located in different parts of the body, are again due to the way they relate to emotions, or the way they have been relating to their body.

Therefore it is extremely important to begin the meditation of loving-kindness with our body. Really making friends with our body, really discovering our body, really learning to listen to our body, and learning to accept our body as it is, no matter what you discover in the body. This is why I have been emphasising: please be open to unpleasant sensations, tensions, pleasures or whatever you may discover in the body.

The Divine Abodes

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There are four important qualities, four beautiful qualities which the Buddha emphasised. They are Metta, loving-kindness; Karuna, compassion; Mudita, sympathetic joy; and Upekkha, equanimity.

According to the Buddha’s teaching, when we develop these important spiritual qualities we become like gods. That’s why they are sometimes called “The Divine Abodes”. I would like to see them as four of our very beautiful friends. When we have these four friends within us they will make us beautiful, they will make us experience more joy and lightness and this can also affect others around us.

Metta can be seen very briefly as learning to be your best friend and then also learning to be a friend to others. Metta helps us to open our heart to ourselves. It also enables us to open our heart to others.

Karuna is when you see suffering in yourself and when you see suffering in others, doing something to overcome your own suffering and doing something to overcome the suffering of others. This is developing the quality of Karuna, compassion.

In this modern world, where there is a lot of suffering, and the suffering manifests itself in many different ways, it is extremely important to develop this quality of Karuna in relation to others and in relation to your own suffering. In this connection the Buddha has said: Helping others is helping yourself; helping yourself is helping others. And eventually you see no difference between yourself and others.

Discoveries

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An important aspect of awareness is that we can use awareness to explore, to investigate, to learn, to find out what we are experiencing. So if you are experiencing physical pain, you can use awareness to start exploring the nature of pain. In ordinary life when we experience pain we merely try to get rid of it because it is unpleasant, but by reacting to pain in this way we never learn about pain, a very important part of the human condition. So with awareness, with this investigating faculty, we can make discoveries by ourselves about so many aspects of our mind and body.

If you can really make discoveries, start finding out, learning, then in everyday life you can continue to do that. What is beautiful is that we can learn from anything, we can learn from anyone. But we should have this openness and humility to try to learn, to try to discover the truth. Then meditation becomes interesting, because as I said, anything can be a learning experience, anything can be your teacher.

If We Can Really Do That

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Why do I emphasise loving-kindness so much? It is based on a very simple model of what I consider Buddhist meditation. It is something very simple, very practical and very direct. What we need to do firstly is to develop a lot of loving-kindness – loving-kindness to oneself and loving-kindness to others. And if we can really do that, then we experience a lot of joy, a lot of bliss, a beautiful lightness both in the mind and the body.

And when you experience that, the moral aspect or the ethical aspect is looked after by itself. Because when we have loving-kindness, when we have compassion, it is not possible to harm oneself or to harm others. It is not possible to be destructive to oneself or to be destructive to others. Thus a kind of natural morality or natural ethical behaviour arises..

There is a beautiful phrase emphasising this connection in the Dhamma. The two Pali words are anavajja sukha, which means the bliss that comes from harmlessness. When you never harm yourself nor will you harm others, and that can really bring a lot of bliss, a lot of joy. This is the first step, and I must say, a very important step.

And after that, as you go deeper, you realise that even loving-kindness is anicca, or impermanent and constantly changing. And that loving-kindness does not belong to anyone. There is no I or me that is practising loving-kindness. So you experience emptiness. This is my simple model of what I consider Buddhist meditation. And I feel that every human being who is motivated in this way is capable of achieving it. Only the other day I was thinking that we all have the necessary qualities of freedom and enlightenment. But these qualities are covered up, or as it is said in the Dhamma, they are obscured. But with more and more loving-kindness, these qualities arise..

Unpleasant Experiences

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What happens in our meditation is that we like and want only pleasant, positive experiences and then we start disliking, resisting what we consider as unpleasant experiences. So these two are reactions and these reactions can create suffering in meditation. Because when we want only pleasant experiences, positive experiences in our practice, then when we have unpleasant and negative experiences, we don’t like them. So I feel that in our practice, in meditation, it is extremely important to relate to experiences which we consider both pleasant and unpleasant.

I feel that actually we can learn a great deal from what we consider as unpleasant experiences. So in meditation, if we can learn to relate to these unpleasant experiences in a positive way, then in everyday life we can learn to relate to unpleasant situations in whatever form they arise. Because it is natural that in our daily life, in everyday situations, unpleasant experiences will arise just as in our meditation. So in everyday life, if we can see such experiences also as objects of meditation, then we can really learn something very important, how to handle these unpleasant situations in everyday life, especially learning to relate to unpleasant emotions. It can be fear, it can be anger, it can be sadness, it can be guilt; in whatever way they arise, I feel that it is very important for us to learn how to handle them.

And again both in meditation and everyday life, when we have pleasant experiences, when we have positive experiences, we like those experiences to continue. Here again, we have no control and if we identify ourselves with only pleasant experiences, calm experiences, when they change what happens is that we suffer in reacting to such situations.

And in our relationships in everyday life, we also relate in two different ways to these pleasant and unpleasant experiences. When we like someone we really don’t see that person just as he or she is. We will be seeing mostly only the positive and pleasant aspects of that person. And if we don’t like someone, then again we’ll be seeing mostly the negative in that person and we will not see the positive in such a person.

There is a very interesting statement by the Buddha in this connection. Some monks told him that there were people who were criticizing his teaching. Then the Buddha said something very fascinating. He told them that when you hear someone criticizing my teaching, if you don’t like that, if you resist that, you will not really hear what is being said. And when you hear someone praising my teachings, if you are very happy and elated by that, you will not be able to really hear what is being said. So it shows very clearly, both in our meditation and in our everyday life, how these strong likes and strong dislikes can distort the picture.

Working with Stress

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Let us consider how meditation can help us to work with stress. One thing is that stress sometimes arises because of the thought, I might make a mistake: what would others think of me? So in this case what happens initially is that a thought comes and it is just a thought, but then we give reality to that thought and we become victims of the thought. You see the importance of awareness in daily life? So when such a thought comes, if you have awareness you can catch yourself and realize it is just a thought and it is not reality. Stress is created when we give unnecessary reality to our habitual and obsessive way of thinking. This is one way of working with our stress.

Another way is that when stress is there, what actually happens within us? Is there a particular sensation that you feel which you can work into what is called stress? Or as I said, is it always related to a thought? So you can really explore this, investigate this, find out for yourself what it is that we call stress and what really happens to us when we experience stress. It’s a very interesting exercise to be with the sensations, to be with whatever is happening in your mind and body, without the word stress; take away the word stress and just be with the actual experience, what is happening to you. So I’d like you to experiment with some of the tools, some of the suggestions that I am offering and find out for yourselves which ones will help you.

Another tool is trying to be aware of the breath. Because as we found out, sometimes our thoughts, sometimes the way we relate to sensations and so on, can really build up the stress that is arising. And it’s interesting that mostly stress is created by thoughts about the past or especially about the future, anticipating anxiety, failure and so on. So if you can really be with the reality of breathing, because that is happening right now, then you realize that even in the few minutes you spend with the breath, there is a complete recovery from any emotion that you have been having.

Another point is, what is the opposite of feeling stressed? I would suggest it is when we can really relax with whatever is happening; if you can really learn to feel at ease with what is happening, that is the complete opposite of stress. So it shows that modern man, unless one is a meditator, has not discovered the way just to relax with oneself. So how can we learn to relax with ourselves? Here again, one way is that if you can really make a connection with your breath and as I sometimes like to say, if you see your breath as a friend, then no sooner do you become aware of the breath, just relax with the breath, then stress and tension can just drop away.

Another tool will be to watch how the stress arises and how the process, the mechanism continues. What normally happens is that we are resisting something, and this can really give rise to stress. So if you can, really be with the stress and tell yourself, as I often like to say, I feel uncomfortable with the stress or whatever I am experiencing but it is okay not to feel okay. If you can really do that then this continuity, this vicious circle, one condition giving rise to another condition, can be stopped and you are just being with whatever is happening.

Scratching

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If you are looking forward to some pleasurable thing that you are longing for, at that moment you will feel some excitement, you will feel some pleasure arising, thinking: Maybe when I have that I will really enjoy it. And what is very significant is, when you get it, what next? What is beautiful about the first Noble Truth is, one way suffering is created is not getting what we want. I think we can all relate to that. But what happens when the next step comes, when we do get something we want? – This is a very, very deep teaching of the Buddha – when you get what you want, what is the next step? Wanting something different? Wanting something more? So this longing continues and at the end of it there is still dissatisfaction and discontent.

This aspect is very clearly presented in a beautiful and powerful simile in one of the Buddhist texts: it is like when you have a wound you feel like scratching it, and when you scratch it you get a nice feeling, a very pleasant feeling, and you continue to scratch, but the wound never heals. So if you really want to heal the wound, you have to stop scratching and go through that unpleasant sensation and from that something healing can arise.

Picture your Face when you are Angry

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Those of you who are driving: when there is a red light, you have to stop your car. When you have to stop your car, what is the monster that comes up in your mind? If there is anger and impatience, you can say: I have anger now, I have impatience now, but it is okay. Simple: as I said, it is okay, I am having impatience, and I am having anger. Let me accept it, just as it is.

And if you can also look at the red light and say, may you be well! This is a powerful practice of loving-kindness. Little things, small things. I mean these little things, small things, can make such a difference. Also you can just picture your face when you are angry, when you are impatient, and if you can do that, this can really make a difference. And then when you go to your office you go with a different state of mind: that little thing had helped you.