There are some people who will light a stick of incense in front of them before they sit down to meditate and then make a dramatic determination that they won’t get up until the incense has completely burned down. Then they start meditating, but after only five minutes they feel as if a whole hour has passed and when they open their eyes to look at the incense stick get a surprise when they find that it’s still really long. They close their eyes and restart the meditation and in no time at all are checking the incense again. So, of course, their meditation doesn’t get anywhere. Don’t be like that, it’s like being a monkey. You end up not doing any work at all. You spend the whole period of the meditation thinking about that stick of incense, wondering whether it’s finished or not. Training the mind can easily get to be like this, so don’t attach too much importance to the time.
– Ajahn Chah
This calls to me, instead substitute incense with “clock”. In lay life I meditated outside with an alarm, but here at Bhavana with the meditation hall and its 3 clocks, unless I am into good concentration I have to be mindful not to check the clocks, even accidentally.
Usually it goes like this: “hmm that section of meditation was pretty deep, I wonder(hope!) if 30 minutes passed by and it felt like 10!”. Then I check the clock and 10 minutes passed, which builds more aversion and agitation, leading me further from tranquility.
I agree with Ajahn Chah’s assessment here, and every time I sit down I devote some time to reminding my mind of what I am doing and why, that there is no time limit( or at least I don’t have to worry because of an alarm) and to let go of all the responsibilities and burdens, thoughts about family, friends, work etc, like atlas putting down the world, at least until the meditation is over, this usually helps greatly in coming to calm, which leads to concentration, which provides the stable basis for insight.
In the spirit of these turbulent times for the nation regarding misunderstanding and political animosity, I’m looking for a sutta that might offer some insight on understanding; also on compassion. If any come to mind, I’d appreciate it much.
To start off, a pair from the Samyutta Nikaya:
“On one occasion, while dwelling at Sāvatthı̄, the Blessed One said this: “Bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning. A first point is not discerned of beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving. Whenever you see anyone in misfortune, in misery, you can conclude: ‘We too have experienced the same thing in this long course.’ For what reason? Because, bhikkhus, this saṃsāra without discoverable beginning…. It is enough to be liberated from them.”
12 (2) Happy At Sāvatthı̄. “Bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning…. Whenever you see anyone happy and fortunate,  you can conclude: ‘We too have experienced the same thing in this long course.’ For what reason? Because, bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning…. It is enough to be liberated from them.””
This is important to keep in mind for our practice. Every single living being that exists, offer your goodwill, your friendship, your feelings of camaraderie, for all fellow beings who share existence with you. ALL of US, come into existence, live for a time, then pass away. All of us who have physical forms are children of the stars, ie we are made up of material that came from the heart of a dying star. I’m not talking about a sort of “universal mind” or “universal oneness”, the Buddha never taught that, but a camaraderie born of sibling-ship, of being in the same boat(samsara) as it were. No matter who it is, they are a fellow being who deserves at the very least our equanimity and compassion, if not goodwill.
Understanding, goodwill, and compassion are important in these times, and especially being able to back out of our limited views to try to see a bigger picture. We often get so caught up in situations that it’s hard to see clearly, that requires taking a step back and being willing to see all sides, the grander picture. When you try to understand a persons perspective, perceptions, and motives, you see the humanity in them and that breaks the tendency to create “us vs them”, which begins the dehumanizing process and makes it easier for hate to arise.
I think the now popular term “echo chamber” is important. If people wish to affect change in their world they can’t do it angry in an echo chamber, that is like trying to find your way through a maze in thick fog while drunk.
From the Anguttara Nikaya:
42 (2) The Good Person “Bhikkhus, when a good person is born in a family, it is for the good, welfare, and happiness of many people. It is for the good, welfare, and happiness of (1) his mother and father, (2) his wife and children, (3) his slaves, workers, and servants, (4) his friends and companions, and (5) ascetics and brahmins. Just as a great rain cloud, nurturing all the crops, appears for the good, welfare, and happiness of many people, so too,  when a good person is born in a family, it is for the good, welfare, and happiness of many people.
The Importance of being a good person, and never forgetting the impact that has on the world around you. It is important not to let the times and what is going on in the world around you change you into a person you wouldn’t like. Even if someone feels they must do something, it is always best to remain solid in the firm foundation of your principles and perform any action with clarity, mindfulness, and goodwill. When this is done you are following the Buddha’s advice:
“Happy indeed we live, friendly amidst the hostile. Amidst hostile men we dwell free from hatred.” – Dhammapada verse 15
“Having abandoned ill will and hatred, he dwells with a benevolent mind, sympathetic for the welfare of all living beings; he purifies his mind from ill will and hatred.” – DN 2
It also helps to always remember this:
“Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By goodwill alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.” – Dhammapada verse 5
Buddhas words of metta:
Sabbe sattā averā hontu , abyāpajjā hontu, anīghā hontu,sukhī attānaṃ pariharantū
“May all beings be friendly & peaceful, may they be free of mental suffering, many they be free of physical suffering, may they look after themselves with ease.”
Then of course the Kakacupama sutta, simile of the Saw, which begins with a Monk who has been spending too much time with other monastics so that if someone criticizes those other monastics, he “would become angry and displeased and would make a case of it”
In these situations The Buddha advises us to train to be like the Great Earth:
“Suppose that a man were to come along carrying a hoe & a basket, saying, ‘I will make this great earth be without earth.’ He would dig here & there, scatter soil here & there, spit here & there, urinate here & there, saying, ‘Be without earth. Be without earth.’ Now, what do you think — would he make this great earth be without earth?”
“No, lord. Why is that? Because this great earth is deep & enormous. It can’t easily be made to be without earth. The man would reap only a share of weariness & disappointment.”
“In the same way, monks, there are these five aspects of speech by which others may address you: timely or untimely, true or false, affectionate or harsh, beneficial or unbeneficial, with a mind of good-will or with inner hate. Others may address you in a timely way or an untimely way. They may address you with what is true or what is false. They may address you in an affectionate way or a harsh way. They may address you in a beneficial way or an unbeneficial way. They may address you with a mind of good-will or with inner hate. In any event, you should train yourselves: ‘Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic to that person’s welfare, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading him with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with him, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will equal to the great earth — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.’ That’s how you should train yourselves.
The Buddha at the end of the sutta speaks about what mind state we should abide in if you are being sawed into pieces, let alone verbal and physical abuse. This does not mean that if someone is doing something bad to you that you can’t defend yourself or that you should be a push over, but as stated before, any action you must take should be done with clarity and mindfulness, because then you will know the best possible course of action, as opposed to just going with the flow of emotional response, acting instead of reacting.
“Monks,even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves: ‘Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with them, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.’ That’s how you should train yourselves.
To go along with the theme of this email so far, I always love this short poem:
“Outwitted” by Edwin Markham:
“He drew a circle that shut me out — Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But Love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle that took him in!”
When someone shuts you out, you can fight and rail against the circle, try to besiege it like a medieval castle , or you can draw a larger circle that takes them in, it’s your choice, and it’s important to remember that you always have a choice.
Back to the Suttas: Buddhas practicle advice on dealing with aversion(annoyance, anger, hatred) towards a person when it arises.
Aṅguttara Nikāya 5. Book of the Fives : Subduing Hatred
“There are these five ways of subduing hatred by which, when hatred arises in a monk, he should wipe it out completely. Which five?
“When one gives birth to hatred for an individual, one should develop good will for that individual. Thus the hatred for that individual should be subdued.
“When one gives birth to hatred for an individual, one should develop compassion for that individual. Thus the hatred for that individual should be subdued.
“When one gives birth to hatred for an individual, one should develop equanimity toward that individual. Thus the hatred for that individual should be subdued.
“When one gives birth to hatred for an individual, one should pay him no mind & pay him no attention. Thus the hatred for that individual should be subdued.
“When one gives birth to hatred for an individual, one should direct one’s thoughts to the fact of his being the product of his actions: ‘This venerable one is the doer of his actions, heir to his actions, born of his actions, related by his actions, and has his actions as his arbitrator. Whatever action he does, for good or for evil, to that will he fall heir.’ Thus the hatred for that individual should be subdued.
“These are five ways of subduing hatred by which, when hatred arises in a monk, he should wipe it out completely.”
About a year and a half ago I thought up the term “Metta Insurgency”. It came to my mind for a few reasons: The first being that to stand by principles of non-violence and goodwill in a world of greed, hatred, and delusion, is going against the stream. It is an insurgency(an act of revolt, or uprising). To me a Metta Insurgency is about the most radical insurgency that can ever exist.
To make metta your vehicle, to make sure all of your actions are influenced by it, is the greatest gift to yourself and the world around you. It is a hard route, because it’s much easier to just give into the anger and feel ,as the Buddha said its “it’s honeyed crest and poisoned root”. Going against the stream is never easy, but it’s always worth it.
The Buddha encourages us to use our right effort to perform meritorious deeds from a place of goodwill. We should strive to perform acts of generosity. This generosity can be mental, physical and verbal. It is a giving of yourself in some way to others and is the very basis of the practice. Helping others with your money, time, and/or effort, IS metta in action and is a skillful act that leads to your benefit and the benefit of others for a long time to come.
We can speak in ways that unite, in ways that benefit others, in ways that bring happiness and trust, speaking with a calm, peaceful and trustworthy manner. Your words can be a vehicle for good, if you put in the effort to make it so. This is our metta in action.
We can perform various acts of kindness, compassion, and good will, from as small as simple things like holding the door for others to as grand as we can imagine. This is our metta in action.
The Buddha said patience is the best meditation. Oh what benefit we give to the world when we practice patience. Patience is metta in action.
I think that’s about all I have for now my friend. Continue to practice well and see you soon.
***I wrote this last year but I think it still holds up quite well and is accurate. Of all the many hang ups that I’ve seen westerners have over the years regarding Buddhism, it’s Rebirth. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve seen ” I really like Buddhism but I can’t get into this rebirth and kamma thing”. This is my typical response when I speak to people having trouble.***
Westerners who are exploring Buddhism always have questions regarding “rebirth”, and I’ve been asked by people before if I believe that we move on to further existences when we die.
It is hard for me to give a quick and dirty answer to a complicated question like this, but if I’m forced then the best answer I can give right now is “almost”.
And you know what makes that so awesome? is that it’s perfectly ok. Where else could you be a clergymen/monastic and openly be able to say “ I don’t know”. The Buddha never forced us to believe anything, he called us to come and see for ourselves, to put the teachings into practice in order to gain insight through examining our experience.
In the Pubbakotthaka Sutta, the Buddha gives a discourse and then asks his right hand man, Sariputta, if he believes what the Buddha just said. Sariputta says that he does not have to believe, because he knows it for himself. In the Kesaputtiya sutta, in which the famous Kalamas are exhorted, the Buddha advises us to not just believe something because a book or a teacher says something, or your intellect reasons something out, but to question and explore and see for yourself through your own experience, does this lead to my benefit and the benefit of others, or to my harm and the harm of others.
As for my personal views on repeated existence, I’ll start out by saying that as far back as I could remember thinking about these deep questions, I’ve always been agnostic. Growing up Catholic you are of course taught to believe In God and the like, but I can’t say I ever truly believed, nor have I disbelieved. My scientifically bent mind and my agnostic mind come together to say I cannot prove nor disprove the existence of a God or rebirth, so until such time as my experience tells me otherwise, I’ll remain agnostic, ie I’ll “shelve it”.
There are some indications of a preference for repeated existence in me growing up. from an early age I remember often thinking about what great historical figures I was in a former life and how I’d like to be reborn again in the future to be a starship captain, since I won’t be alive long enough haha. I always thought an eternal heaven sounded boring, and the possibilities of all kinds of various lives more exciting. I remember as a teen watching that movie “What dreams may come” and thought it was cool that there could be a heaven but also you can go back and be born again.
OH I was such a happy go lucky idealistic child haha. These days however my view matches the Buddha’s with regard to living again and again. I’ve had enough of that thank you! I have no desire to be reborn and have to go through it all again anymore.
I do like the concept though of viewing it as a journey of self improvement. You don’t just have one life to get it right, but you have all the chances you need to break the cycle, making yourself better second by second, day by day, year by year, life by life, until you awaken into a radiant being of unlimited wisdom, goodwill, and compassion, breaking free of the cycle and gaining ultimate freedom.
I also look at nature itself. Everything in nature is cyclical, from the smallest scale to the largest, even the stars themselves are born and die, seeding new stars. Now those who propose the multiverse suggest the possibility of universes themselves being born and dying out creating new big bangs etc. Nothing in existence is static, nothing is everlasting, everything is always changing, in Flux. This is exactly what the Buddha taught 2600 years ago.
In the previously mentioned Kesaputtiya Sutta, where the Buddha is speaking to the Kalamas, who are confused about various teachings, including whether there is rebirth and whether there is fruit of action(ie Kamma). The Buddha gives four assurances:
“This noble disciple, Kālāmas, whose mind is in this way without enmity, without ill will, undefiled, and pure, has won four assurances in this very life.
“The first assurance he has won is this: ‘If there is another world, and if there is the fruit and result of good and bad deeds, it is possible that with the breakup of the body, after death, I will be reborn in a good destination, in a heavenly world.’
“The second assurance he has won is this: ‘If there is no other world, and there is no fruit and result of good and bad deeds, still right here, in this very life, I maintain myself in happiness, without enmity and ill will, free of trouble.
I highlighted the second assurance specifically. When I first read this section I had already been a practitioner for a good five years and listened to dozens upon dozens of dhamma talks, with never hearing this section discussed, but to a westerner such as myself it was like a light bulb coming on. Here was the Buddha saying that even if there is nothing after death, this path of practice brings immense benefits right here in this very life.
And I’d say he was correct.
Following the Buddha’s path has so far in my experience shown the Buddha to know what he is talking about. Every step along the path so far he has been right, so I think to myself, well if the Buddha has been right about all of this… why not the rest? I believe this can also be anyone’s experience as well when following the path honestly and sincerely.
This his is how I am able to say I “almost” believe. I’m probably at about 90% believe, 10% doubt, good enough odds that if I were a betting man I’d put my money on it. The Buddha did say however that knowledge of past lives is something you gain on the path as you get close to awakening, so it is something verifiable , just not yet, so I remain open minded and “shelve it”. It really does not make a huge difference in my daily practice, but it does inform my practice and put it in the right framework.
So in summation my advice for those who are interested in Buddhist practice but repeated existence is a hang up, is to not worry about it too much, keep an open mind and shelve it, ie put it away for later. You don’t need to believe to begin the practice, you just have to want to begin to look inward. This practice will make you question much more then do I go to heaven or be reborn, you will question all of your most deeply held views, including the view you are a self to begin with.
Until that time you can practice for more peace, happiness, and contentment in your life, which is how I myself started, you never know where the practice may lead you.
May your practice blossom my friends.
Normally at this time I’m getting ready to enter into a month of silent seclusion in February, but thats not in the cards this year.
Just a little over a week until the start of the NYC Metta Retreat with Buddhist Insights. The goal of this retreat is to bridge the gap between ancient wisdom and modern practice, to show how the suttas can act as a guide for how we live our lives, even in modern times.
I’ll be sticking around NY/NJ afterwards until the 19th as I will now be taking part in activities at a Catholic college, doing some meditation, metta, interfaith dialogue and who knows what else as part of a week long set of events at the college.
So the last two seclusions I experienced one aspect of the monks life,solitary meditative seclusion, this month I’ll be experiencing the other, sharing the dhamma with the people. I’m already feeling a little sad at not having a month to myself, but sharing the dhamma with others is always worth it.
*** As a quick introduction to this letter I wanted to give some explanation. This letter was written by me in the final weeks before moving to the monastery, some two and a half years ago now.
This was a hard time on my family, their only son and oldest child leaving their lives, and so there was fear, confusion, and self-blaming. There are few times in my life where I have been as honest and bore my full inner “self” out in words as I did in this letter.
For three points of explanation that are relevant to this article, I was married in my mid 20s and helped my wife through a fight with cancer that eventually took her life over 10 years ago, and as a child I was deathly afraid of aliens and use to have dreams nightly that the greys would come for me and entertained thoughts of not being fully human. I also lived with and helped raise my nephew from the time he was 1 till age 10.
Some of my revealed thoughts may be taken in a bad light by some readers, but that is the price and vulnerability of being open. I promised myself long ago that I would be as open and honest as possible with my practice and who I am, to avoid hiding myself behind too thick a mask as humans tend to do, afraid to be open and honest for fear of rebuke. I want to do my best to live as an open book, with strengths and weaknesses out in the open.
I decided to do this because I know that brings benefit to others, as the few people who were willing to be open and vulnerable helped me in my practice. We are often so self judgemental and critical of our thoughts and feelings, thinking we are so horrible and different then everyone else, but my experience has shown this to be quite a false perception.
I was reminded of this letter recently in speaking with a friend who is looking at following the same path, and now I present it here in hopes it may be of some benefit to others.***
You asked for “the truth” of the reason why I want to renounce and become a monk. I have struggled for years to try and come up with a short answer that can be understood by the average western person, but the truth is there is no short easy answer. I will be as truthful and blunt as possible in this letter.
It’s no secret that the “conventional” world has never held me in much sway. I have never felt part of the “normal” world, never really wanted to be a part of it, and I always felt destined to rise above it in some way or another. I often wonder if that is why the whole “alien” thing came into play when I would jokingly say stuff like I was an alien. I think that was me trying to understand my feelings as a child.
While it’s true growing up I wanted to have a family, I also wanted to be someone free to do what I wanted and go where I wanted, free of the constraints of “conventional” society. The older I got the more I realized this was the idealistic dream of a young naive person.
With my experience being married and helping to raise Anthony these 8 years, I now understand much more about what it means to have children and raise a family, and I have zero desire to subject myself to that bondage as it has not brought me 1/10th the peace and happiness that my Buddhist practice has given me.
As far back as I could remember, I always felt a certain “dissatisfaction” in life. Even though I’ve had a great life, there is always something in the background, something I feel I’m missing, that kind of leaves me incomplete. I was never very attached to the “concept” that society tells us is how to live our lives and what should make us happy.
I think I was intuitive and understanding enough from an early age to recognize much of it does not bring happiness.Indeed it was in my early adolescent years when I first started experiencing the Dalai Lama on TV and books that I thought to myself ” why are these guys so happy, they have nothing.. whats going on there?”.
The years with Jackie also taught me much. Aside from the whole cancer situation making the marriage somewhat extraordinary, just the daily every day experience of “married life” lost its appeal to me as time went on. It may sound horrible but in a way when Jackie died part of me was happy to be free from marriage. I’m not sure if she had lived that we would of been married until death do us part, it’s certainly possible, but just as possible could of been an eventual divorce.I’m not saying I did not have love for Jackie, I did, but even still it did not bring me complete fulfillment.
While on the Topic of Jackie I wanted to address many peoples Hollywood assumptions that I am doing this because of my experiences with Jackie. If this were the case I would of tried to “run away” somewhere in the first year or two, but what did I do? Got a career and moved forward, even started dating and seeing other women again, until my meditation practice brought me to the point where I no longer needed such relationships.
I will say one thing however in that I will admit that Jackie was the tail end of a string of deaths that helped me see reality more clearly and opened up a deeper spiritual search that lay dormant inside me. Indeed as someone who has experienced more death and been to more funerals in 35 years then most people twice my age, how could it not? Life is short, why waste it on frivolous pursuits that don’t bring true peace and happiness?
For much of my life I have done my best to escape this world through movies and video games,but now I know to truly escape this world you cannot do it by running away, but by facing it head on.
You may think the average person faces the world head on, and becoming a monk is escaping the world, and I will probably not be able to change that, but those who have seen beyond understand.
This “conventional” world IS a movie, it IS a video game, it’s an illusion of our own creation, and we are just running around blind like chickens with our heads cut off trying to avoid things that bring us pain and suffering while trying to find happiness, pleasure, and peace in outward things like family, friends, entertainments, etc, when it has been my experience so far that the only true lasting peace and happiness I’ve ever experienced in this life comes from within.
If this is the case you do not need anything else, relationships, entertainments, and the various experiences of the “conventional” world, etc, because none of that will bring you true happiness and eventually will change or end, causing sadness, where as the steady happiness remains inside you and stems from you.
My whole life I searched for something that fit my world view, explained my experiences and the nature of life. It was not until I found Theravada Buddhism and the words of the Buddha that it all clicked… it all made perfect sense. This was the first time in my life I felt the missing pieces of the puzzle were found and placed in their rightful spots.
The Buddha taught about how we experience life and how there is a better way to experience life through changing how we perceive and interact with the world in a way that brings a person and those impacted by that person much peace and happiness.
This path has gone a long way in lessening the feeling of unsatisfactoriness I have with the world, which is the Buddha’s first of four noble truths, that there is said unsatisfactoriness, the second truth being the cause of this, which is our craving/clinging, the third truth being that there is a way beyond this unsatisfactoriness, and the fourth truth being the path of practice leading to that way.
This is something that calls to me, connects with me, and makes much more sense then anything I ever experienced in 12 years of Catholic school, being an altar boy and all those other experiences in the catholic church ever could. Instead of going through the motions and pretending to be something I am not, I can now be free to follow my heart to the utmost degree.
I have been lucky enough in my short 36 years on this planet to experience and gain wisdom from situations most people deal with over the whole course of a whole life. I am thankful for all of these experiences as they have shown me a way towards peace and freedom. I intend to take that path as far as I am able to take it.
I am not taking this path because of what anyone else has done or not done, there is no “blame” to be placed on anyone for me taking this path, nothing that someone else could of done or not done to “keep me from going”. This is all negative, fear filled thinking that has no grounding in truth and views my decision as some sort of affront to other people or that is some negative experience someone else is forcing me to do. This could all not be further from the truth.
This is a natural progression of the practice as I lessen my attachments, make peace with the world, and begin my journey beyond it.
Are you having a hard time building a consistent daily meditation practice? Rather than worrying about how long your sessions should be, focus on really trying make daily meditation a habit.
Start out with the expectation of just sitting or walking for 5-10 minutes a day. Trust me when I say from experience that doing 5-10 minutes of meditation a day is much more fruitful then doing 30-60 minutes once or twice a week.
When you build up the habit of every day sitting, even for 5-10 minutes, you are creating a skillful habit that will bring you and others great benefit. As you start to see these benefits you will naturally have the desire to meditate longer periods and the seeds of your initial practice will grow.
That’s not to say it will be easy, or that you reach a point where meditation is all sunshine and rainbows. Meditation is hard work and you will have your good and bad days, cycles of practice where you feel like a meditation master followed right after by cycles that make you feel less then a newbie, it’s all the nature of the practice, and it’s all worth it. Consistently practicing through the ebbs and flows is how it’s done.
Remember consistency breeds stability, start small and build a strong base that will lead you to peace.
Let be the past, Let be the future, I shall teach you Dhamma – Mn79
If you let go a little you a will have a little peace; if you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace; if you let go completely you will have complete peace. – Ajahn Chah
“The Past is shadows and dust, the Future is shifting and uncertain, there is only this moment
I wanted to discuss another little meditation technique I’ve come to use myself that has worked quite well in terms of setting my mind right for the meditation ahead. This is actually a creation of my own which I believe is based off of a teaching of Ajahn Brahm that I can’t seem to remember much about. This is about letting go of all the things(past, present, and future) that our monkey mind wants to obsess about constantly so that you can more easily gain concentration in your meditation.
This is a temporary letting go, not a total one. It is suitable for all meditators, and is a very important step in the meditation process. I can tell you from experience that you will not get far in your meditation if you drag the world with you into it, although learning to let go is a gradual process, so don’t fret if it takes time. Let’s go directly to the technique then discuss some aspects of it after.
After you’ve done the normal preliminaries, sitting down, setting up posture, bringing mindfulness to the fore and starting to follow your meditation object, you can tell yourself:
- “Let go of the Past, let be the Past”
- “Let go of the Future, let be the Future”
- “Let go of Responsibilities…”
- “Let go of Work… ”
- “Let go of Family…”
- “Let go of Friends…”
- “Let go of _______”
As always you can make it your own. You can use your own wording and add in anything else that may assail your mind that you’d like to let go of. It’s been my experience that as I go through this list I feel gradually and slowly like a burden is being put down, like atlas putting down the globe. There will be plenty of time after meditation to pick up the world again and carry it on our shoulders, but for now we can practice without the world invading our every waking thought moment. There is a gradual peace that arises and concentration comes easier.
You may actually find this exercise to be anxiety and fear producing, this is a natural reaction to thinking about letting go of what and whom we are attached to. You can remind yourself that this is a temporary letting go, like taking a vacation. If that doesn’t work however and you have the strength to stay with it(if not that’s ok, I didn’t at first), then you have the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness through the four frames of reference. You will then be looking deeply at what anxiety and fear does to your mind and body. You should attempt to observe objectively, like someone would sit down and watch a t.v, a total observer who has no direct interaction with what they are observing. This also is a skill that develops as you practice it, so don’t lose heart if it is hard.
“There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings… mind… mind-objects in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world._
Observe what the thoughts of letting go do to your mind state(emotional state) and to mind-objects(thoughts) themselves. Observe the base feeling of the state, and what it does to your body, including your breath. This is valuable direct personal experience that will be of great benefit to the practice. This will also tend to calm you down and lead to concentration and you can move forward with observing your meditation object from there.
So that is yet another simple technique that I’ve found benefit in. It’s been my experience as a meditator that over the years you create many such techniques as you work with your practice. Some stay with you , some you grow out of, some you forget, even as you create new ones. I share this one in hopes that it may be of some benefit to others.
“Let not a person revive the past Or on the future build his hopes; For the past has been left behind And the future has not been reached. Instead with insight let him see Each presently arisen state; Let him know that and be sure of it, Invincibly, unshakably.
Today the effort must be made; Tomorrow Death may come. who knows? No bargain with Mortality Can keep him and his hordes away, But one who dwells thus ardently, Relentlessly, by day, by night – It is he, the Peaceful Sage has said, Who has had a single excellent night. – MN 131