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: November, 2014

Pre-Occupations

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When we have strong pre-occupations, when our mind is full of thoughts, we can hardly see anything externally. You might be passing through the most beautiful place but you hardly notice the beauty because your mind is full of these pre-occupations and thoughts.

In the same way we can’t see what is in our own mind because there is no space, there is no clarity. This is why I also gave an exercise of learning to awaken the senses by seeing things very sharply, hearing things very clearly. Then that can create space in your mind. And then you can learn to see things very sharply, very clearly. You’ll be able to hear things sharply and clearly. You’ll be able to feel things very clearly, and also there’ll be clarity and space in our mind. However much these things are told, they may not make any sense until you have a glimpse, a small experience of these matters. So this is the beauty of meditation, that you can see for yourself, not because someone says so, or because something is mentioned in the books. So the whole emphasis in meditation is for you to see it, for you to experience it for yourself.

Work as an Opportunity

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Work can be seen as an opportunity to develop spiritual qualities like patience, caring, and compassion for others. I could draw up a long list of spiritual qualities relating to work. So it is possible to see the work you do as something you can use as a practice to help yourself and other people.

In your daily activities you can use your friend the breath to experience the reality of the present moment, even if only for a few minutes. You can make this connection throughout the day, especially when there is a build-up of work and tension and stress. Just pause for a few minutes. You can do it seated on your chair. You don’t even have to close your eyes, people do not need to know you are meditating. Thinking of your friend the breath, you can come back to the reality of the present moment and stop this build-up of tension that has been happening so far.

Mindfulness Before Samadhi

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It is interesting that in the Noble Eightfold Path which the Buddha presented as a way of experiencing freedom from suffering, mindfulness comes before samadhi. So it shows very clearly that what is important is learning to be mindful, learning to be aware, just knowing what is happening from moment to moment. From that the samadhi can come naturally. So in practical terms, when we are trying to learn to be aware of our breath, what we can try to do is to be aware of whatever is happening in our mind and body. Even if you realize that your mind is not concentrated, that your mind is not calm, just knowing it, just accepting it can make such a difference.

Eating as a Meditation

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How can we use eating as a meditation? You can learn to eat slowly, when you have enough time for that. Just will see the difference when you eat slowly. Another thing is, try to chew your food consciously. And when you taste the food, just know that you are tasting the food; and when you are swallowing the food, just know that you are swallowing the food. So chewing, tasting, swallowing consciously.

Also when we eat our food, we make judgments, we give plusses and minuses. So please be aware, that you are making these judgments. And when you are not making these judgments, know that you are not making the judgments.

And all this you’ll be able to do only if you eat in silence, so please make an effort to eat in silence and with awareness and you may make some very interesting discoveries about eating. After you finish eating, feel grateful that you have this opportunity to eat in silence and with awareness. It’s a very important practice to remember to feel grateful, either before or after eating.

How We Hate Ourselves

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It is interesting psychologically that meditation of loving-kindness begins with oneself. Now a question arises: Does it show that we are not friendly to ourselves? If you reflect on this question, you will realise that we are indeed unfriendly to ourselves, we indeed sometimes dislike ourselves, hate ourselves.

So let us find out how we become unfriendly to ourselves, how we hate ourselves. In what way do we develop these things? Maybe a common way is that we have expectations about ourselves and then, when we cannot achieve these expectations, we feel bad, we feel guilty, we feel disappointed, we start to hate ourselves. So this is one common aspect, where this not liking ourselves may arise.

And maybe another way we do this is – there is a term that I like to use – we learn to give ourselves minuses. So those who are unfriendly to themselves are very good in giving only minuses to themselves. There are very good reasons to give themselves plusses, but because they are not friendly to themselves, they can create a hell where only minuses exist, and such people generally like to give minuses to other people also.

So they live in this world where only minuses exist. And sometimes they can be very, creative. They can be very creative in a destructive way. They are so creative, they can look for reasons, look for situations, sometimes even imagine situations and then give big minuses. And in this way we start disliking ourselves, we start hating ourselves, we see ourselves as worthless, unsuccessful, useless. People who like to play the victim, that is, I think, the modern way to describe them. I learnt this word from someone in the West.

I think we are all familiar with how we become our own enemy in different ways, sometimes very gross, sometimes very subtle. So you see the importance of loving-kindness and the aspect of learning to be friendly to oneself. There has to be a shift, slowly, maybe minute by minute, second by second as the Buddha said: from seeing yourself as your own worst enemy, you have to learn to be your best friend. When you can learn to be your best friend, then you can learn to be a friend to others. And then this can generate a lot of joy, a lot of happiness, a lot of lightness.

What I’m Having, I See in this Other Person

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Sometimes there are people with whom we have problems, it may be the boss or some of our colleagues at work. At home it may be your partner or your neighbours. We all have situations like that in our everyday life. The greatest challenge we have is to relate to people in whom we see shortcomings and faults. In such a situation one important thing is to remember not to be surprised. Why should we be surprised? According to Buddhism, human beings behave in this way due to the three drives of greed, hatred and delusion, meaning ignorance, not knowing or ignoring reality. We all have these three drives in us.

When you see it in other people you realise: “What I’m having, I see in this other person as well.” If you can really penetrate this realisation you can feel compassionate for people who display their frailties, their humanness, without getting angry, without creating a wound. The normal reaction we have is that we immediately give them a big minus. This is a very strong habit that we have, and we do exactly the same with ourselves. We don’t see the Buddha-nature in us, we almost refuse to see the good qualities, so we need to make a special effort in this direction. In the Buddhist texts the Buddha often mentions the importance of reflecting on the good things that we have done. This can give tremendous confidence, tremendous joy and considerable lightness and encouragement as well. With this perspective you relate to the human frailties in yourself and others in an entirely different way.

But this perspective can create difficulties as well, because you may use it as an excuse for being reluctant to act when people misbehave. You may say to yourself: “Well, it is due to ignorance”, and you don’t do anything. If parents are practising meditation they might get the idea that their children can behave in any way they like; or if the boss is a meditator then the people working under him or her may be excused anything, because it is simply due to their greed, hatred and delusion. If the husband is a meditator the wife can get away with anything. But this is not reality.

The question is then: how are we to bring these two perspectives together? One way is that without getting angry, without immediately giving a minus, we might get the person to reflect and to understand why he or she is behaving in a particular way. You’ll be surprised to learn that most human beings whom you meet don’t know why they are behaving as they are. Their behaviour is simply a habit, it has become a conditioning, and so they behave according to certain patterns; or they may carry unhealed wounds. People are just behaving in a certain way and they don’t know why. To give a person a minus and to show your anger and resentment to a person such as this is like taking a crazy man seriously and threatening him just as though he was a sane person.

Thoughts Continue to Come

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From the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep thought continues. And even when we go to sleep the dreams we have can be seen as a continuation of our thoughts. So this continuity of thoughts is what happens in everyday life. And what happens to you when you are meditating? Is there any difference?

In everyday life we are unable to live in the present, but when meditating we have moments where we can be in the present. That is the only difference. So you see how important it is to learn about thoughts, to make discoveries about thought. From the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep thought continues. And even when we go to sleep the dreams we have can be seen as a continuation of our thoughts. So this continuity of thoughts is what happens in everyday life. And what happens to you when you are meditating? Is there any difference?

In everyday life we are unable to live in the present, but when meditating we have moments where we can be in the present
– that is the only difference. So you see how important it is to learn about thoughts, to make discoveries about them, because they are there most of the time.

Now one interesting discovery meditators make is that when they try to focus on breathing, the thoughts continue to come. Do you want the thoughts you are having right now to come? What does this show about our thoughts?

They are just coming. They come mechanically, habitually, repetitively throughout the day; whether you are meditating or not there is no difference. This is a very interesting and important discovery, to realise that they just arise mechanically and habitually. And then what do we do? Do we allow them to just come and go?

We react to the thoughts in some way. And this reaction is mostly about giving plusses and minuses to the thoughts. This is a very important experience for you, to realise what is happening when thoughts are coming and going.

And this process of reacting is how thoughts are related to emotions. One thing we could try to do is to see how far we can allow them to come and go on their way without reacting to them. If you can do that there is no need to stop thoughts, to get rid of them, or get angry with them. You will reach a stage in which whether there are thoughts or not makes no difference because the mind is not reacting.

Just a Few Minutes

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When you are working in the office, just spend a few minutes, even four or five minutes might be enough, to be with your body and with your breath. This has two advantages: one is it helps you to develop awareness and the second is that it helps you to create some space from the stress that can arise as a result of just continuing to work without such spaces.

Another suggestion is – again just a few minutes may be enough – for you to observe your state of mind: are you relaxed, are you calm, are you anxious, is there stress? – just to know what is happening in the mind during the day.

A third suggestion related to meditation of loving kindness is, again just for a few minutes, to spend some time feeling friendly to yourself and also radiating thoughts of friendliness to others in the office. In the main text that the Buddha presented which describes how to develop mindfulness, it is mentioned that even when we go to the toilet we should try to be aware of what we do in the toilet. So however busy you are in the office, you go to the toilet maybe once or twice in the day and it’s a very nice situation, you are completely alone with yourself and then you can do some toilet meditation! So it is very interesting how the Buddha offered us some very practical suggestions for our daily life.

Medicine

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Meditation can be seen as the medicine that the Buddha presented for the sickness of humanity. Sometimes, as you know, the medicine can be very, very unpleasant; medicine is not always sweet. But if you want to find a way out of the sickness, whether the medicine is pleasant or unpleasant, you have to take it.

In everyday life, due to different reasons we eat very fast and are not even conscious of what we are eating. There is a difference when you eat with awareness, when you eat consciously. It shows that anything in life can be a meditation. Not only when you are doing sitting or walking meditation but in all different situations, just see how you can apply meditation in any situation.

To give a practical example, when you have to go to the toilet and when you find that someone is occupying the toilet, how do you relate to that situation? So in that situation we can learn to develop the very important quality of patience. We can either suffer as a result of it or learn to accept it as it is and to let go of any suffering. Maybe a similar situation is when we are meditating; sometimes unpleasant experiences may arise. Physical pain or mental pain may arise. When they arise, please don’t see them as disturbances or distractions, but please learn to see them as very important objects of meditation.

When there is a change in oneself, this is bound to help the people around you in the family. It’ll also help the people around you in the place where you are working. So with these changes, with possibly a new direction that will emerge, may you experience more joy, more lightness in yourself, and through that may you also be able to help others around you.

When there is Insight, Calm Can Come

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What does it mean that when there is insight, calm can come? One way of understanding this in relation to developing insight is that you can allow any thought to arise, any emotion to arise, any sensations to arise; and whatever arises, you just observe, you just watch, you just know. So from that practice sometimes calm can come naturally without your wanting to have calm and tranquility. And sometimes if calm is not there and you are unable to really develop insight in that way, then you can focus your attention on the breath and try to develop some calm and clarity and again start investigating and developing insight.