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: December, 2015

Reflecting on the Good Things

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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.

In a Destructive Way

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Sometimes we can be very creative in a destructive way with our thoughts. So it is very important to know when we are using thoughts destructively and how to use thoughts constructively.As an example of a story that we create:

At the breakfast table someone is sitting next to us and the person is making a very unpleasant noise. Why is this person sitting next to me? And why is she making this noise? I have been eating now for 20 minutes, but she is continuing to make the same noise. I think she is doing this to agitate me!

We are laughing. But this is exactly what we do. In this story, you see how many monsters can come at the same time – with just this woman sitting there. We can have anger, and because of anger we can have guilt, and because of anger and guilt we can be confused, and because we are confused we can feel jealous when we look around and see other people sitting so calmly. You see how from this little noise, four or five monsters can come within a few minutes. Aren’t we funny? See how we can be so destructive with our thoughts!

Three Benefits

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There are three benefits to doing meditation of loving-kindness before you go to sleep: you sleep peacefully, you wake up peacefully, and you do not see nightmares. So when you go to bed – everyone has to go to bed every night – just for a few seconds say: May I be well, may I be happy, may I sleep peacefully, just have these thoughts of loving-kindness until you fall asleep.

Eating as 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.

Work and Tension and Stress

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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.

Our Own Enemy

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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.

From Moment to Moment

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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.

No Pleasure At All

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We have become so dependent on external things for our joy and happiness. I call them toys. Though we are grown up we have our toys, and without these toys we are completely lost. Sometimes our whole life is just changing one toy for another, like children, thinking that maybe this toy will give us pleasure and then finding that it doesn’t give us pleasure at all, so that our whole life is spent changing one toy for another. I would like to suggest that meditation is learning to be your own toy, so that you can find yourself interesting and amusing. We can enjoy the dramas that go on in our own minds. We don’t have to watch a television, we can amuse ourselves watching our own television in this way. We have so many channels! So this is one aspect of individual and outdoor meditation.

Five Minutes With Your Body

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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.

Making Demands

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We want to see things the way they should be, as they must be according to our way, my way.

What we are doing is making demands about how we should behave, we are making demands about how others should behave, we are making demands about how life should be. If these demands are met life is okay, life is wonderful, it is beautiful. If these demands are not met there is suffering, frustration, disappointment, hurt; most of these emotions can arise as a result of that. So I would suggest that an enlightened human being goes through life without any images, and because of that he or she can never suffer.

Another aspect related to this is, if you can really understand the nature of life, then you realise it is not possible to form any conclusion about how life should be. In the Dhamma there is something very deep, which is to be open to the uncertainty of life. But we hold onto this idea of certainty because we assume things can be controlled. But when we think deeply we realise that in actual fact we have no control.