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: April, 2016

Destructive Patterns

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One aspect in relation to loving-kindness is learning to heal our psychological wounds by forgiving ourselves and forgiving others. These wounds may have been created in childhood or in subsequent relationships.

If we do not really heal our wounds, one thing that might happen is that this may create problems in our relationships which cause suffering for ourselves and for others. They can create certain destructive patterns in our relationships. They can also affect our bodies. They may create tensions in our bodies that are related to these repressed emotions or wounds. They can also create illnesses in us. They can also affect our sleep and dreams, so that we might get angry in our sleep, or we might cry in our sleep, or have frightful dreams.

These things can be related to the unhealed wounds that we carry. Or we can have sudden emotions, and we can’t find a reason for them. Suddenly we feel like crying, suddenly we experience fear or we feel panic.

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A Very Important Quality

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One important aspect of meditation of loving kindness is to sometimes think of the kindness that we have received from other people. Everyone has received some kindness from other people. But do we ever reflect on these things; do we ever think of the good things, the kind things others have done to you? And this can give us lot of happiness, lot of joy that you have been receiving kindness from other people in different ways.

So another quality of this aspect of kindness is learning to feel grateful for these things. Here again there are so many reasons why we can feel grateful for the things that are happening to us, the blessings that we receive in this life, but again we don’t think about them; we think only of the negative things and create suffering for ourselves and others. Shouldn’t we feel grateful that we can hear? Do we ever think about that? Do we ever feel grateful that we can see? Do we ever feel grateful that you are interested in teachings, in spiritual life? So it’s a very important quality for us to feel grateful for these small things, little things that we are receiving in life.

We Hold On

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What happens to us is that we identify ourselves with our experiences. We hold on to what has happened. This is how wounds are created and through our memory these wounds come up to affect us.

There is a very well known Zen story that shows very clearly the process of holding onto these experiences. Two Zen monks were walking together, and they came to a place where there was a stream. There was also a girl there who could not cross the stream by herself. One of the monks lifted up this girl and carried her across the stream. Then he placed her down and they continued on their walk.

The following day the other monk said: “You know, you should not have touched that girl, you should not have carried her across the stream. We are monks and we are not supposed to do that.” Then the other monk responded: “I left her on the other shore, but you are still carrying her!” This is what we are doing, we are carrying things we should have put down, so it is very interesting for us to know what we are carrying.

I Tried My Best to Use the Buddha’s Medicine

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Once I met a Tibetan monk and I asked him: Did you suffer when you were tortured? According to the Dhamma, how do you see that? And he said: I knew that it was because these people were torturing me that I was suffering. But as a meditator I had been practising very hard with physical pain, sitting for two or three hours at a stretch. So when they were torturing me, I was trying to see how far I could work with the pain rather than hate the person torturing me. I tried my best to use the Buddha’s medicine when I was suffering. Sometimes I was very successful and I had real gratitude for the Buddha’s teaching for I saw that the medicine was working. And when the medicine was not working and I was suffering, I thought: May I be able to practise more.

Like an Orchestra

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One aspect of the mirror-like mind is that there is no difference between what is reflected in the mirror and the mirror itself: there is no duality. There is no thinker apart from the thoughts; there is no hearer apart from the hearing, there is only hearing. With this meditation technique you can have a glimpse of the fact that there is only the hearing, not the idea that ‘I am hearing’; that there is only the thinking, and that there is no thinker apart from the thoughts that are arising and passing away; that there is only the feeling and that there is no-one feeling.

It is like an orchestra, with the sounds, the thoughts, the emotions, the sensations; but the difference is there is no conductor. It is the conductor, the controller, who directs, who wants, who judges. When the conductor is absent there is only the orchestra; there is only the thought, there is only the sound, there is only the feeling.

It sounds very simple, but this is what the model is, and this meditation technique I find is very powerful, it has a lot of very profound and deep aspects. What I like in it is that you can really practice it in your everyday life. With certain meditation techniques you have to close your eyes or you have to sit in a particular posture. For this meditation you don’t have to close your eyes and you don’t have to sit in a particular posture. In any situation it is just having the awareness to know what is happening in your body and mind.

I might make a mistake

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Let us consider how meditation can help us to work with stress when it arises. 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.

Maybe one last point to explore or to discuss is that I know some meditators suffer from stress when they meditate. How does stress arise in relation to your practice? Here again, it is through your having strong expectations of what should happen or what should not happen when you’re meditating.

Another cause is your wanting something different to happen from whatever is happening. So you are really resisting what is happening in meditation, especially resisting the distractions, the so-called distractions and disturbances, and sometimes we relate to them with stress. So it’s interesting that how stress arises in everyday life and how stress arises in meditation, it is the same principle that is involved.

Victims of Consumerism

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One of the biggest problems modern man has is this tendency to be victims of consumerism. We are not clear what we really need and what comes from our greed, so what happens is that society can manipulate us, society can bring up situations where attachments, this tendency to own things, to possess things whether they are necessary or not, can arise.

So with more and more meditation, you lose the motivation for just consuming things for the sake of consuming things. There is a beautiful word in Pali, the word is santutthi, a beautiful sounding word, it means that we learn to be contented. So our lives become very, very simple and we can be really contented with just simple things. As I said, the motivation for consuming things will not be there.

Integrating 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 it creates space in the mind. And once that space is created then one can really use that space for feeling things, for hearing things very sharply and very clearly. So in everyday life when we work also, can we see work as working meditation?

In whatever work you do in everyday life, maybe related to your job, it is 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.

Whatever Arises

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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.

Models, Ideals, Images

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As children we have been asked, or we have been told in various ways, to be different from what we are. We have been given models, ideals, images of how we should be. So naturally there is a split between what you are and what you should become. We begin with this and then people take it into their spiritual lives too. They attend certain meditation retreats, and the meditation teacher says: You must be calm, you must have loving-kindness, you must have this or that, and so on. Naturally you cannot always achieve this. Then there is more self-hatred, more feeling oneself as worthless, as being a failure. So what do you do with such meditation teachers?

This is why I now emphasise as a first step – mind you, as a first step – to accept who you are honestly and very sincerely. To accept our humanness. To accept the fact that you are still imperfect, and to work from that fact by having loving-kindness towards what you are. This does not mean that you give in to what you are, but you work with these areas with friendliness, gentleness and tenderness. This is another aspect in developing loving-kindness.