You don’t have to have a particular posture, you don’t have to close your eyes. You are merely aware of what is happening in your mind and body. Then in such situations in everyday life, if you are reacting, if you are having emotions, physical pain or mental pain you realise it and you see it just as it is, no minus. And in everyday life we can also have pleasant experiences and when we have pleasant experiences, positive experiences, just know it with awareness and reflect it just as it is.
A meditation master said something very interesting. He said we look for only what is wrong in us, we never look for what is right in us. So we should learn to be more and more positive and to be aware of our positive states of mind rather than only be concerned about negative states of mind.
Ideally, we can then go beyond the positive and the negative, which means we are open to both states of mind. This is related to the meditation technique which can be described as having a mirror-like mind, where we learn to reflect things just as they are. When something that is considered beautiful comes before a mirror it reflects that beautiful object just as it is. When something that is considered ugly comes before the mirror, again the mirror reflects it just as it is.
Vipassana meditation, that is insight or wisdom meditation, is developing such a mind where you learn to reflect things just as they are; and meditation of Samatha, calm and tranquillity, can be seen as polishing away the dust that is on the mirror. So when the mirror is polished very clear, applying this simile to our mind, then we can see very sharply and very clearly what arises in our mind, and hopefully learn to see things just as they are.
This is one of the very interesting and important tools for working with unpleasant emotions, or even pleasant emotions: Not to fear them, but sometimes to wait for them to arise. And when you are waiting, preparing for them to come, they don’t come. On the other hand, if we fear that they will come then they are bound to come. But here when you are waiting for them to come, or even invite them, they don’t come. That’s a very important realisation.
It is interesting that the Buddha said in one text, called the Satipatthana Sutta, the sutta which describes how one should develop awareness, that even when we are in the toilet we should make an effort to be mindful, to be aware. So it’s interesting that in whatever you do, even when you are in the toilet, you can use meditation.
There is a famous meditation master from Vietnam, Thich Nhat Hanh, who emphasises very much that when you are sitting, just to smile while sitting. He says that when you have a Buddha-like smile the face can relax and the meditation can be relaxed, there can be a lightness to the practice. And he also emphasises very much the need to smile at others. The only thing is that it must come naturally.
I know of a text in which it says the body is a burden, feelings are a burden, what are called the five aggregates are burdens. Here the idea is they become a burden if we identify ourselves with them. A burden is something that we have to carry. So to put down the burden that we are carrying we have to learn not to identify with these five aggregates. Then they do not become a burden because, as you rightly said, in the case of an arahant, an enlightened person, this is how he or she sees the five aggregates. To put it in another way, these five aggregates when we are identifying ourselves with them become a source of suffering, and if we can let go of identification with these five aggregates, then the burden goes away and there is no suffering.
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 it creates space in the mind. And once that space is created one can really use that space for feeling things, for hearing things very sharply and very clearly.
So in everyday life when we work, can we see work as working meditation? In whatever work you do in everyday life, maybe related to your job, is it 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.
We can create stories from our thoughts. Now from what happened to S. this morning, being locked in the toilet, she could have created a big story. She had one hour to create a big story. She could have started by saying it is someone who doesn’t like my yoga who did this to me, and for one hour she could have been imagining who the person might be who did this to her. Then she might have thought: Maybe it is that person; the way that person looks at me, it seems that person doesn’t like me. It is possible that she did it. We are laughing, but this is exactly how we create our stories.
We can use our thoughts in a very destructive way in creating such stories. Most of our suffering comes from this kind of imagination, using thoughts to create stories. And what is unfortunate is that we take the stories as real. It is funny how we give reality to something unreal and then we become victims of the stories that we create ourselves. And with such a story S. could have had anger. Or she could have had fear. Or anxiety that whenever she goes to the toilet someone is going to lock the door on her! So in this way she could have had all these emotions: anger, fear, insecurity, perhaps sadness. Do you see how the story and these emotions are related? Do you realise how important it is for us to be aware and to understand the nature of thoughts?
It is because of thoughts that we have suffering. From morning, from the time we wake up, to the time we go to sleep we have thoughts going through our mind continuously. So we should learn how to use our thoughts. We should learn to make discoveries about our thoughts. We should learn the important connection, relationship, between thoughts and emotions, because it is mostly a thought that creates an emotion. And when the emotion is there it is again the thought that makes it worse. Sometimes these negative thoughts can be a very strong habit with some people. I know meditators who have this strong habit to give themselves minuses, and they give minuses to others also. So one can create a hell where only minuses exist.
There are unpleasant emotions and pleasant emotions.
In a way, what is more important is to learn to work with unpleasant emotions because this is what creates our suffering and this is what we have to work with in everyday life.
Don’t try to get rid of them through your will, by controlling, but when they are there just let them be there and let them go away; let the impermanence operate naturally. Another insight is to realise that they don’t belong to you because they are visitors. So visitors come and go. It means that they don’t belong to you.
We have given these unpleasant emotions such power, such energy, that when they are absent we hardly know that they are absent.