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: May, 2016

Forget any Object

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When we learn to meditate with an object it becomes very easy to come back to that object. But I think it is very important also to slowly, slowly learn to forget about having any object, and to allow the mind to do what it likes, just watching, just observing what the mind is doing.

In a way, what the mind is doing can be seen as an object. Let me take an example: When you allow the mind to do what it likes, then you realise that you are thinking. So thinking at that time becomes the object. The difference is, you do not get fixed, you do not focus on that thinking, but in a very loose, natural, relaxed way you allow the mind to do what it likes. Then from the thoughts it might move to a sound. When it moves to the sound, then you know: Now you are with that object; and then after a few seconds you come to the body, some sensations in the knee. So this is allowing the mind to scan, like in computer language: scanning.

So this can be done very easily in everyday life. For example you go to the office in the morning and you just sit there for a few minutes, you just allow the mind to do what it likes. Then you realise that you are seeing things, hearing things, just knowing what the mind is doing. So you can do it anywhere. In Sri Lanka sometimes I tell Sri Lankans, you can practice this waiting for a bus, getting in the bus, travelling in the bus, and even if you miss the bus! This is really objectless meditation.

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We Don’t Like It

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To look at our minds is to see how our perceptions give rise to our
conceptions – and how our conceptions can alter our perceptions also! Also we have to look
at our bodies and sensations, how we relate to that, and what is the connection between the
body and the mind.

Take, for example, the question of physical pain. Normally what do we do if there is
physical pain? If we are sitting on the benches here and after a time pain arises, we move.
Why? Because we don’t like it. But by that response do we ever learn anything about pain?
We just react in a very conditioned way. Now in meditation one tries to learn about pain, we
try not to have that immediate, habitual, reaction. We might learn that physical pain gives
rise to various psychological states – dislike, fear, anxiety, and so forth. So then we might try
to see if it possible to have this physical pain without having the psychological reaction.

This Chattering Mind

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We all know that meditation is connected with our minds. If you are aware of your mind, the way it works, and of your thoughts, what can you learn? I would like you to reflect on your own experiences. When you observe your thoughts, what can you learn from them? You will be able to discover one thing: the endless chatter of the mind, sometimes we can’t even identify what kind of thoughts are passing through our minds. Or after experiencing a stream of thoughts you will realise that you are hardly in the present moment.

You will be able to discover something else about this inner chatter: that from the time we wake up until the time we go to sleep, we never experience a break from this inner chatter. Even while we are eating, dressing or bathing there’s no end to this inner chatter. Even at this moment, if you focus your attention on your mind you will experience the same thing.

If you can try to find out about your dreams, you will realise that there is a close connection between our dreams and this chattering mind. It shows that whether we are awake or asleep the mind continues to work. That may be the reason why we can feel tired even after a long sleep.

To Laugh at Ourselves

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The ability to laugh at ourselves, to develop this humour towards life, to have this lightness, is something really beautiful. In life we are bound to have difficulties, we are bound to have problems, however much we meditate, however much we follow a spiritual path. We cannot avoid problems, we cannot avoid difficult situations. When you read the life of the Buddha it is surprising the problems and difficulties he had. He had problems with his relatives, his disciples gave him difficulties, followers of other religions gave him difficulties. Even though they were great people religious teachers like the Buddha and Jesus had difficulties, so who are we to expect to have no difficulties? Jesus Christ was crucified. Look what they did to a great man like Socrates. Problems will be there and we should be grateful for such situations, it is an opportunity to learn how to deal with our difficulties.

A good question in such a difficult situation is: “What can I learn from this?” In my own life, life has been my best teacher. I have met gurus, I have met enlightened people, I have met masters, but my present position is: “My best teacher is life.” And what is interesting about life is you can never come to a conclusion about it. You can’t say: “Now I’m sure that in the rest of my life I will not have any problems.”

When You Try Too Hard

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Now I would like to say something about effort. Here there are two extremes that we need to avoid. One is trying too hard. The other is not trying at all. There are some very beautiful similes used in this connection in the texts. During the Buddha’s time there was a monk who was trying very hard in walking meditation so that even the bottom of his feet were bleeding. When the Buddha spoke to him, the Buddha realised that he was a musician. He used to play a lute, which is a stringed instrument. So the Buddha asked him: Now when playing a musical instrument if the strings are too loose or too tight, the music will not be right. So the Buddha said that effort also should not be too loose and it should not be too tight. This is what is called right effort.

Another simile the Buddha gave is that when you want to catch a small bird, if you grasp the bird too tightly you might kill the bird in the process, and if you grasp it in too loose a way the bird might escape. So in this way right effort can also be called effortless effort.

Now what happens when you try too hard? Naturally there is tension. You might even get a headache, you might feel tired and you might feel restlessness and disappointment because you are trying too hard, and with a strong expectation. Practising in this way you can never achieve what you want, so then you feel bad, you give yourself a minus, you start hating yourself and so on.

And if you do not try at all, what happens? Then you might feel sleepy, drowsy, you might get into a dream-like state. So here again it is by learning, by experimenting, by finding out for yourself that you know whether you are trying too hard or not trying at all. And sometimes we need to exercise more effort, sometimes we need to relax effort. So one thing which will help us is that if we can have a meditative mind, then when we are not meditating awareness becomes natural, it becomes effortless.

Bring it Out

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I have been trying to help some people who have been sexually abused, and people who have been raped. So I will share very briefly how the medicine can be given in this situation.

One thing I realised from the victims was that they were very angry at the person who was responsible for that incident. When I worked with them, I did not tell them about the second noble truth. I told them: Yes, you are suffering. All this has been created by the other person. I can understand your anger. I would tell them: Please go somewhere and show your anger, express it and bring it out.

Another thing I experienced with them was that often they felt guilty. They felt responsible for what the other person did to them. Here again I would tell them: It is natural that you feel guilty. But let us work slowly, gradually, gently to find out how far you can let go of the guilt. I did not tell them that the guilt is their own creation. I said: It is okay that you feel guilty, but see how far you can forgive yourself. It is not easy and it takes some time, but slowly, slowly the medicine may start to help.

Another thing I realised was the way they related to their body. Because of what had happened to their body they hated their body. Sometimes they felt alienated from their body, as if it was someone else’s body. So when they told me: Well, I feel as if this body is not mine, I did not say to them: This is the Buddha’s teaching, this body is not yours. I told them: It is natural that you should feel this way.

Always My Way

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What happens is because of this sense of self, we have images, models, of how things should be according to my way. It is always my way. Naturally in everyday life things don’t always happen according to my way. That is how suffering is created in everyday life, with this idea of my way. So whenever you are suffering in everyday life, you can try to find out: what has been my idea, what has been my view of how things should be? Then you’ll realise how this sense of self is directly related to the suffering that you are experiencing. In this simple, practical way you can work with this idea of my way and then when that my way is not there, when there is emptiness, notice how there is an absence of suffering.

Another way of saying the same thing is that with this sense of self that we have we feel that we are Somebody. Here again suffering and unpleasant emotions arise with this idea, with this concept that you are Somebody. With this feeling of Somebody we would like others to behave according to the idea this Somebody has. And then naturally when others don’t behave in this way this is why we get angry. So you see the direct connection between this idea of Somebody, this sense of self, and getting angry.

And how does this feeling of Somebody cause fear to arise? What is the connection? When Somebody is threatened, when this Somebody feels that something might happen to me, that I am in danger, that is how fear comes.

How does this feeling of Somebody generate anxiety in the future? With this feeling of Somebody, you feel that in the future everything should go according to the idea this Somebody has. And if you are uncertain about that, then this is how anxieties arise.

So these are some simple, practical examples, how this idea of Somebody is related to self, how suffering and these negative emotions arise. No-self or emptiness is when this feeling of Somebody becomes a Nobody!

The Body

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Please spend some time with your body. Feeling the body, becoming conscious of the body. Feel the different sensations and all the movements in your body.

Learn to gently let go of your thoughts and come back to your body. Learning to feel the body. See the difference between feeling the body and thinking about the body.

Let us learn to feel friendly, gentle, tender and soft towards the body. Just accepting the body as it is.

Learning to listen to the body. Allowing the body to tell us what it likes. Just listen to it with gentleness, like listening to the wind or the birds.

Just feel what it is to sit in this posture. Just feel what it is to sit completely still.

When the body is still, the mind may become still, and you may feel the stillness around you. Just allow the body to breathe naturally.

Please spend some time allowing the body to breathe the way it likes to breathe. Not controlling it. Not manipulating it. Not directing it.

You don’t have to do anything. Learning non-doing with the help of the breath.

Now please become aware of the different sensations, the different movements in the body as the body is breathing. Do you feel any sensations in the area of the nostrils, the area of your chest, or in the abdomen? Just be with those sensations and movements with each breath.

When the body inhales, you know that the body inhales. When the body exhales, you know that the body exhales.

Experiencing the present moment, the here and the now, with the help of the in-breath and the out-breath.

You hear sounds, you have thoughts, you feel other sensations. Don’t try to exclude them. Just let them be there, but the awareness is more and more on your breath.

Let us now let go of our awareness of the breath and learn to be aware of whatever is happening in our mind and body from moment to moment.

Just allow the mind to do what it likes. Like creating a lot of space for a child to do what it likes. Like a friendly mother, just watching, just knowing what the child is doing from moment to moment.

Sounds. Thoughts. Emotions. Sensations. Just letting them be.

No plus. No minus. Learning to see things just as they are. Having a mirror-like mind. Learning to reflect things just as they are. Not as they should or as they must be.

In the seeing just the seeing, not ‘I’ am seeing.

In the hearing just the hearing, not ‘I’ am hearing.

In the thinking just the thinking, not ‘I’ am thinking.

In the feeling just the feeling, not ‘I’ am feeling.

Leave the Breath Alone

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It is very interesting that we are so used to doing things, controlling, manipulating and interfering. Because of this strong conditioning, we cannot leave the breath alone. Some meditators come and tell me that they are really controlling their breathing. It is sometimes not very easy to get them to let go of the control. But what the breath is teaching us is to leave it alone. And then that helps us to experience this non-doing – just doing nothing. Allowing the body to do what it likes.

It is certainly true that we are so busy now, we are so active, that we have no time to stop and reflect. This is one of the greatest challenges human beings have in this modern age where there is such a lot of activity, where one has to be extremely busy otherwise one is left behind. And in this activity, in this being busy, how does one create some inner space? How can one create some inner stillness? That is a real challenge. Because if you are doing a job – I mean, a picture came into my mind of people who get down from a train. They walk and run from the train like a horde of ants. But someone has to do the job. So if you are doing a job you have to be like the ants. Otherwise you arrive late at the office. In Sri Lanka there is a register people have to sign, and if you come in too late for work there is a red mark. So you cannot do slow walking meditation from the train. The red mark will be there!

That is the challenge we have – how to function in such a society, how to do things quickly, and at the same time have this inner space, this inner friendliness. This is a real challenge we have. I will talk about this on the last day – how to be like ants and still be a meditator when you go back to your place in society.

Keep Your Mind Healthy

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One interesting point to reflect on is the fact that we have to do so many things to keep our body healthy. We never say that one has to forget these things. We never say that they are difficult. But we have given such priority, such importance to keeping our bodies healthy.

But what will we do to keep our mind healthy? And when medicine is offered to keep your mind healthy, then you might forget it. Sometimes we give reasons, but it is interesting to find out, why is there this difference? Why don’t we consider them equally important or consider the mind even more important? Sometimes I invite friends in Sri Lanka to come to the meditation centre, and they have many reasons why they are not able to come and so on. But if a doctor tells them: You have to enter the hospital immediately, you need to take some very important tests, they would not tell the doctor: No, no, I have so much to do, I cannot come!

So what we have to do is remember the priorities that we have made in life. We have to be very clear in our minds about this. The priorities we have in life – it is okay to have different priorities – but what is the priority we have given to the spiritual life? So I would say, everything revolves around that question.

Another aspect of this is to explore the question: How to find a motivation, an interest for meditation, in everyday life? There I would say, I think much depends on the way we relate to meditation. If we can find meditation interesting, if we can experience meditation as discovering, learning, experimenting, exploring, then we have a different relationship to meditation. Because if you are enjoying something, if you find it interesting, then naturally you feel like doing it.

One thing that prevents us from having this connection is having strong expectations about results. In this connection the Buddha has said something very beautiful, very interesting. He says: When a gardener plants some trees, if he is a good gardener, he should enjoy what he is doing and he should not be concerned or worried about when the flowers will bloom, thinking: Are the flowers coming? Are the vegetables coming? Because then he loses that joy and liveliness and the fun of it. But if he can really enjoy what he is doing, find it interesting, find it challenging – that is good enough.