Intention is a powerful form of thought. Intention is the key to the ethical, moral, or kammic (karmic) dimension of experience. Observing our intentions we see how a thought leads into an action.
We do not live with a single intention that determines all our actions. Instead, intentions arise moment by moment and flavor the choices that we make. Reflect on a choice that you recently made, and identify the intention that seeded that decision. Continue reading
I’ve recently been contemplating a brief discourse in the Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (A. 4.170) on four combinations of tranquility and insight. This subject arose as part of an on-line course led by Venerable Analayo that I am auditing. The discourse presents four combinations of tranquility and insight: 1) the development of insight preceded by tranquility, 2) the development of tranquility preceded by insight, 3) the development of insight and tranquility in pairs, and 4) the mind gripped by agitation before realizing liberation.
I’ll share some of my reflections here:
I find the 4th mode of approaching awakening (A. 4.170) quite intriguing as it may point to the powerful effect of urgently wanting liberation. The desire for liberation can be so strong that the force of this desire, rather than sustained tranquility, effectively dispels all distractions and hindrances. When we want one thing (nibbana), we don’t want other things. Continue reading
Here is the list of five ways of overcoming obstacles to meditation discussed at last Saturday’s day long. It is from the Satipatthana Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya, Sutta number 10, paragraph 36):
In regards to each hindrance the meditator:
1. Understands when the hindrance is present in me.
2. Understands when the hindrance is absent in me.
3. Understands the cause for its arising.
4. Understands the cause for its abandonment.
5. Understands the way for its non-arising in the future.
This is the ‘at home’ practice assignment for the Walking the Path course.
How do you settle yourself to begin your meditation practice? How do you establish mindful attention at the beginning of your daily meditation session? Some people dive in upon their meditation object (such as the breath) so quickly and forcefully that they agitate the mind, control their experience, and pressure themselves to accomplish too much. Other people don’t bother to establish a clear intention toward mindful awareness, and sit down relaxing into a period of day dreams. These may describe extremes, but notice how you begin your meditation session, and consider ways that you might approach those initial precious minutes to diligently yet gently establish mindfulness as a priority. You might explore the possibility of starting with a reflection, chant, or dhamma verse; articulating your intention; settling the mind in the body with body scan techniques, metta, postural awareness, a practice of your choice that develops tranquility, or just deciding that you want to be present. Experiment with various approaches to discover how you might begin your daily practice establishing mindfulness as the priority.
Then practice bringing mindful awareness into daily activities by noticing how you approach various work, family, and daily life events. Try entering those situations by making mindfulness a priority and see how the intention toward mindfulness affects the quality of your engagement.
Note: This reflective assignment was inspired by our course text, The Art of Disappearing, by Ajahn Brahm, page 30.
I (Shaila Catherine) participated in an interview collage on the topic of jhana meditation created for a radio program by Jari Chavalier. Speakers include three other meditation teachers: Leigh Brasington, Steve Snyder, Tina Rassmussen, and a research scientist Jud Brewer.
You can listen at: http://jari.podbean.com/2013/03/29/concentrating-the-hell-out-of-mind-jhana/
Do you want to be where you are right now? If the answer is no, you’ll be suffering. If the answer is such an enthusiastic yes, that you are planning how to keep or repeat the experience, you’ll also be suffering.
If there is a tendency to seek comfort, security, pleasure, happiness, and fulfillment in a future experience, we will be disconnected from the reality of the present moment. Planning, seeking, craving, hoping, rehearsing, fantasizing, worrying and anxiety are mental habits that all share an element of seeking something that isn’t currently present.
Recently I was inspired by a comment by Ajahn Brahm about wanting to be where you are. Playing with this simple instruction I have been periodically reminding myself to want to be here. Each time I remember, I accept the invitation to settle with whatever is actually happening, pleasant or unpleasant—to find contentment with what is real.
In the Abhidhamma classification of mental factors, the occasional factor of desire is not so very occasional. It is a feature of every wholesome state, and all the unwholesome states rooted in greed and hate. It is classified as “occasional” because it is absent in delusion based Continue reading
Through sutta study groups and via email questions recently, I have been involved in several discussions about sankhara. Sankhara is usually translated in English as mental formations, volitional formations, activities, inclinations, or fabrications. Sankhara appears as a factor of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising and as one of the Five Aggregates. This factor tends to be quite confusing to many students of Buddhism. In this post I shall share a recent series of questions and responses with a student about sankhara as it appears in the model of the five aggregates.
Question: What does sankhara refer to?
Shaila’s Response: For a basic description, I’ll refer to the description I wrote in Wisdom Wide and Deep: “Mental formations (sankhara) include all the formations of mind—wholesome and unwholesome—such as hindrances, intentions, compassion, tranquility, thoughts, hopes, fears, plans, mindfulness, effort, anger, determination, opinions, attitudes, joy, envy. This is a vast category of mental phenomena that includes qualities we endeavor to cultivate, qualities we seek to abandon, and all the thoughts that proceed from Continue reading
We concluded our Mindful Speech series with a discussion of Mindful Listening. Reflective suggestions for this week included:
1. During conversations this week, notice if you tend to listen or speak more? When you are listening, are you fully present? Notice if you are planning your response, interrupting, or searching for the next opportunity to speak?
2. Bring a portion of your attention into the body as you speak and as you listen. Feel your feet on the floor or your contact with the seat. Feel the breath in your body. Focusing on the body can cultivate a strong and patient presence in listening, and free you from reaction to the content of the story. Listen and let your attention register more than the words. Notice the tone of voice, body language, facial expressions, pauses etc. Register your dynamic involvement in the interaction.
In this week’s exploration of mindful speech at the Tuesday night meditation group, we read the description of a “superior person” (Anguttara Nikaya IV:73).
The superior person had four attributes regarding speech. A Superior Person….
1. does not reveal the faults of others. But if pressed to answer, he criticizes others hesitantly, incompletely, and with omissions.
2. reveals the praiseworthy qualities of others fully and in detail. Even when not asked he recognizes and praises other’s good qualities.
3. reveals his own faults easily and fully. He does not hide his failings.
4. does not reveal his praiseworthy qualities. But if pressed to answer, he describes his praiseworthy qualities hesitantly, modestly, and without much detail.
This discourse invites us to notice how we engage in criticism and praise. This week I encourage you to Continue reading
We continued to explore mindful speech this week. Last night’s dhamma talk focused on the development of empathy, and an investigation of the extent to which self-interest affects our communications.
I appreciate a discourse in the Samyutta Nikaya (S. 55:7) that describes the Buddhist equivalent of the Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Consider how you would feel if someone spoke to you in a way that was false, malicious, harsh or frivolous. Then reflect, if you spoke to others in such a way, they would also find it displeasing and disagreeable. Because you know such speech is not pleasing to ourselves and not pleasing to others, you can choose to not speak words that are false, malicious, harsh, or frivolous. This teaching recognizes the value of empathy and the potential for change that comes when we consider the experience of the other party in the communication. Through mindful reflection we can bring greater sensitivity and skill to our speech acts.
The assignment for this week encourages the continued investigation of the extent to which self-interest and desire are a motivating forces in speech. Craving propels action. Often we speak (verbal actions) because we want something. But we are not the only one in a conversation with desire. Each participant, even a silent listener, might be wanting something.
Assignment: Before, during, or after each significant interaction, identify what you Continue reading