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.

Category: Meditation and Mindfulness

Avoid Two Extremes

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I would like to offer some suggestions on how to work with pain in meditation. One way is not to see the pain as a disturbance or as a distraction to meditation. So the pain becomes the object of meditation. When the pain is there, you can try to explore, investigate and find out about the pain. In everyday life, when we have pain what we do is try to get rid of the pain, but by doing that we never learn about pain. So here when pain comes you should consider it a blessing for it gives you an opportunity to work with pain and to understand it. You can explore when there is physical pain whether you can observe and work with the reaction to the pain. Sometimes it is the reaction that is creating the suffering in relation to the pain – by your not wanting the pain, considering the pain as a disturbance, and hating the pain. Having these reactions can create more suffering on top of the pain.

I have discovered that sometimes the pain can have a physical reason, and sometimes certain pains and tensions can be due to a psychological reason. If it has a physical reason, you can work with the pain in this way for some time and then change the posture.

However, in relation to pain you should avoid two extremes. One extreme is pampering the body, for example whenever there is pain you change the posture immediately or try to get rid of the pain. The other extreme is being very hard and severe on yourself, so that you continue to sit without changing the posture at all even when it is very painful indeed. I would suggest therefore discovering a middle way where you learn to be friendly and gentle to the body, to the pain, avoiding being hard and severe towards it, but at the same time not pampering the body. In practical terms, this means to work with the pain when you are sitting and then if necessary to change the posture as I have explained earlier.

If the pain does not have a physical reason, we may have to explore the emotion behind the pain that is creating the pain. Thus in meditation what we are trying to do is not to get rid of the pain but to learn to see even when pain is there, how far we can relate to the pain without necessarily suffering as a result of the pain.

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Your Way

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Be open to any change that may arise physically and mentally and even externally. If we insist that change should take place according to our own idea, then when there is change which does not correspond to that idea it leads to suffering. But by realising that this is the nature of existence, that it changes and that we have no control over change, then if you can be open to change in whatever form it arises, internally or externally, this will result in freedom.

And according to the Buddha, this fact of change and impermanence and this idea of no-self are very well inter-connected, inter-related. He has a very interesting argument. If we own things, if there really is an ego, a self, then we should be able to order things: Now things should happen in this way, according to my ideas. But as there is no self, no ego, we cannot do that. So therefore we have to see from the fact of change, that there is no self-identity, no agent, only the process of change itself.

It is interesting that whenever there is suffering, there is suffering because you want things your way, and this your way or my way is the result of the feeling that you are Somebody. So whenever we are suffering, just find out what is the idea, what is the model that you are holding on to which is now being challenged. It is always some idea of how it should be, how it must be according to the ideas the self has.

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.

Back to the Present Moment

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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.

Objectless Meditation

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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.

At Work

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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.

Retaining

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A mirror-like mind is that it does not retain anything. What happens in our own experience, what happens in our everyday life? We retain in our memory certain experiences which have affected us. Someone has made us angry, hurt us and we are really holding onto this in our memory. This is what I call a wound. And sometimes we can retain these memories throughout our lives. And I would suggest that as we are still human, it is natural that we retain certain experiences which have happened to us. So what we can do in our practice is to realize that and sometimes to bring the memories up and try to heal them so that what we are retaining, what we are holding onto is released. Otherwise such wounds can affect us in many ways.

Breathe Naturally

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Make an effort to make friends with your breathing.

Just allow your body to breathe naturally, and focus your attention wherever you feel the sensation of the breath in your body.

When you are inhaling be aware, be conscious that you are inhaling; when you are exhaling just know, be aware, be conscious that you are exhaling. Be with this movement of the breath, just come back to it as an anchor.

It is natural that thoughts will arise while watching the breath – don’t try to push away thoughts, don’t try to control your thoughts. What you need to learn is just to gently let go the thoughts, to come back to the here and the now, come back to the present. Just be with what is happening.

Whatever state of mind that you experience – calm, feeling peaceful, or being restless – just be aware of the state of mind, whatever it is, without wanting it to be different from what it is. Focus more and more on the sensations that are arising. Breathing then becomes a part of the landscape.

A Beautiful Way to Start the Day

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Try to be aware of the small things and routine things we do, like brushing our teeth: this is just a very simple suggestion. You can make a little effort to brush your teeth with awareness. We all know that when we brush our teeth we do it mechanically, habitually, while mentally we are elsewhere. This simple exercise in the morning, brushing our teeth in a very caring way, will help us to develop awareness, and as an extra benefit your teeth will shine in the darkness! It is a beautiful way to start the day.

The 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.