Monday, August 31, 2015

Working With Anger [AUDIO]


One of the traditional five hindrances to our meditation is ill-will, the hatred that is often the product of anger. Most of us have not reached the level of equanimity we strive for and often experience anger. What is critical then is whether we allow the anger to poison and consume us, or whether we can recognize it and channel it into more positive emotions, such as loving-kindness.

The teacher Phillip Moffitt says:
…the antidote to anger is loving-kindness and compassion. If you’re angry with someone, you hold them in your heart with loving-kindness and compassion; if you’re angry with yourself, you do the same. But because you sometimes get swept away by anger, you forget your intention to respond with loving-kindness and compassion. Also, anger isn’t always so easy to recognize—sometimes it’s disguised as numbness, depression, helplessness, or fear. By applying mindfulness to your moments of anger, you can begin to see anger as it is arising and its harmful effects. As you continue to stay present to the anger, you realize that “This anger is not me, nor mine. It is just a mind state that like the weather will change before long.” This insight releases you from the prison of your anger. Although this may sound simplistic, it truly works.

In the audio below we discuss how we can change how we can work with our anger by practicing the cultivation of loving-kindness, together with a fully guided 30 minute Metta (Loving-kindness) Meditation.




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Phillip Moffitt quote from "Working Mindfully with Anger"
photo credit: (d)anger via photopin (license)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Finding Meditation Hard? That's Good! [AUDIO]


It should all be so easy. You just sit, do nothing for 20 minutes, thirty minutes, an hour. How hard can that be?

Sometimes it can be a shock that meditation is so hard. It is easy when that happens to assume that somehow you are a lousy meditator. Yet when we do this we are missing the point. Meditation is hard. We should expect it to be so. An athlete who sweats is getting a great workout. A meditator who struggles is doing real work.

The individual struggle with meditation is not new, and The Buddha spoke much about it. Remember, he was mostly speaking to monks who had devoted their whole lives to meditation - and they still had the same difficulties we do. He identified five key 'hindrances' to meditation, as described in the passage below:

There are five impediments and hindrances, overgrowths of the mind that stultify insight. What five?
Sensual desire is an impediment and hindrance, an overgrowth of the mind that stultifies insight. Ill-will... Sloth and torpor... Restlessness and remorse... Sceptical doubt are impediments and hindrances, overgrowths of the mind that stultify insight.

In the audio below we have a short introduction to the traditional five hindrances to meditation, together with a fully guided 30 minute Mindfulness Meditation.




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Quote from "The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest: Selected Texts from the Pali Canon and the Commentaries", compiled and translated by Nyanaponika Thera. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Lessons from the Bamboo Acrobat [Audio]



Is meditation practice ultimately selfish? Is it right to spend our energy focused on ourselves when there is so much pain and suffering in the world?

This dilemma is not a new one, and is explored in one of my favorite stories - the story of The Bamboo Acrobat. Here is what it says:

[The Buddha addressed the monks:]
Once upon a time, monks, a bamboo acrobat, setting himself upon his bamboo pole, addressed his assistant Medakathalika:
"Come you, my dear Medakathalika, and climbing up the bamboo pole, stand upon my shoulders."
"Okay, master" the assistant Medakathalika replied to the bamboo acrobat; and climbing up the bamboo pole she stood on the master's shoulders.
So then the bamboo acrobat said this to his assistant Medakathalika: "You look after me, my dear Medakathalika, and I'll look after you. Thus with us looking after one another, guarding one another, we'll show off our craft, receive some payment, and safely climb down the bamboo pole."
This being said, the assistant Medakathalika said this to the bamboo acrobat: "That will not do at all, master! You look after yourself, master, and I will look after myself. Thus with each of us looking after ourselves, guarding ourselves, we'll show off our craft, receive some payment, and safely climb down from the bamboo pole. That's the right way to do it!"
[The Buddha said:]
Just like the assistant Medakathalika said to her master: "I will look after myself," so should you, monks, practice the establishment of mindfulness. You should (also) practice the establishment of mindfulness (by saying) "I will look after others."
Looking after oneself, one looks after others.
Looking after others, one looks after oneself.
And how does one look after others by looking after oneself?
By practicing (mindfulness), by developing (it), by doing (it) a lot.
And how does one look after oneself by looking after others?
By patience, by non-harming, by loving kindness, by caring (for others).
(Thus) looking after oneself, one looks after others; and looking after others, one looks after oneself.

I love the lines "Looking after oneself, one looks after others. Looking after others, one looks after oneself." This is a mantra we can all live by.

In the audio below we have a short exploration of what this story means to those of us who meditate, together with a fully guided 30 minute Mindfulness Meditation.




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photo credit: bamboo via photopin (license)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Gratitude Meditation [AUDIO]


In his classic 'The Gospel of The Buddha', Paul Caras recounts this tale:
On a certain day when the Blessed One dwelt at Jetavana, the garden of Anathapindika, a celestial deva came to him in  the shape of a Brahman enlightened and wearing clothing as white as snow.
The deva asked,
What is the sharpest sword? What is the deadliest poison?
What is the fiercest fire? What is the darkest night?
The Blessed One replied,
The sharpest sword is a word spoken in wrath; the deadliest poison is covetousness;
the fiercest fire is hatred; the darkest night is ignorance.
The deva said,
What is the greatest gain? What is the greatest loss?
Which armor is invulnerable? What is the best weapon?
The Blessed One replied,
The greatest gain is to give to others; the greatest loss is to greedily receive without gratitude;
an invulnerable armor is patience; the best weapon is wisdom.
I find it interesting that of all the things that The Buddha could have listed as 'the greatest loss' he specifically chose receiving without gratitude. When we are lacking in gratitude it is our own lives that are the poorer.

The teacher Philip Moffat says the following:
Gratitude for the grace of conscious embodiment evolves into the practice of selfless gratitude, in which your concerns slowly but surely shift from being mostly about yourself and those close to you to being about all living beings. As this occurs, you need less and less in the way of good fortune. It becomes enough that there are those who are happy, who are receiving love, who are safe, and who have a promising future. It is not that you would not prefer good things for yourself, but your sense of well-being is no longer contingent on external circumstances. You are able to rejoice that amidst all life's suffering there exists joy. You realize that pain and joy are part of a mysterious whole. When this state of selfless gratitude starts to blossom, your mind becomes more spacious, quieter, and your heart receives its first taste of the long-sought release from fear and wanting. This is grace. 
In this meditation we practice cultivating gratitude in our own lives. The form of the meditation we use is based on one suggested by Jack Kornfield. I highly recommend you read the whole article that this is based on, it is an excellent teaching.

The audio, including a  fully guided meditation is below.



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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Abiding in Lovingkindness [AUDIO]


In this week's meditation we practice Metta Bhavana (Cultivating Lovingkindness), while contemplating what it means to abide in lovingkindness.

Metta, or lovingkindness, is one of the four Brahma Viharas, or heavenly abodes. We consider what it means to abide in metta as we practice.

As inspiration for this we use the beautiful Karaniya Metta Sutta, which says:
This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
Not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born —
May all beings be at ease!
Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

The audio, including a  fully guided meditation is below.



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translated from the Pali by The Amaravati Sangha. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 2 November 2013