THREE: BEING PRESENT WITH STRONG EMOTIONS
When a painful emotion comes up, stop whatever you’re doing and take care of it. Pay attention to what is happening. The practice is simple. Lie down, put your hand on your belly, and begin to breathe.
Stop thinking, and bring your mind down to the level of the navel.
When you look at a tree in a storm, when you direct your attention down to the trunk of the tree, there’s not so much movement. You see the stability of the tree, and you see that the tree is deeply rooted in the soil and can withstand the storm.
When we experience a strong emotion, the mind is agitated like the top of the tree. We have to bring our mind down to the trunk, to the abdomen, and focus all our attention on the rise and fall of the abdomen.
Breathing in, you notice the rising of your abdomen. Breathing out, notice the falling of your abdomen.
If there is anything to be aware of, it’s that an emotion is only an emotion, and that you are much more than one emotion. You are body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. The territory of your being is large. One emotion is very little. An emotion is something that comes and stays for a while and eventually goes away. If during the time of the emotion, you have that insight, that insight will save you. You don’t have to die just because of one emotion.
We shouldn’t wait until the strong emotion comes to begin learning. That may be too late; the emotion may carry you away. But you can learn now. Then, if the day after tomorrow you have a strong emotion, you’ll have confidence that you can handle the strong emotion.
FOUR: INVITING THE BELL
Every time we hear the sound of the bell, we have the chance to practice mindful breathing, calm our body, and notice our happiness. We can invite all the cells in our body to join us in listening to the bell and allowing the sound of the bell to penetrate into us.
It is possible to invite all our ancestors to join us in listening to the bell.
Metta meditation is a practice of cultivating understanding, love, and compassion by looking deeply, first for ourselves and then for others.
Once we love and take care of ourselves, we can be much more helpful to others.
To love is, first of all, to accept ourselves as we actually are. That is why in this love meditation, “Know thyself” is the first practice of love.
When we practice this, we see the conditions that have caused us to be the way we are. This makes it easy for us to accept ourselves, including our suffering and our happiness at the same time.
Metta means loving kindness in Pali.
The willingness to love is not yet love. We look deeply, with all our being, in order to understand. We don’t just repeat the words, or imitate others, or strive after some ideal. The practice of love meditation is not autosuggestion. We don’t just say, “I love myself. I love all beings.” We look deeply at our body, our feelings, our perceptions, our mental formations, and our consciousness, and in just a few weeks, our aspiration to love will become a deep intention.
When we practice, we observe how much peace, happiness, and lightness we already have. We notice whether we are anxious about accidents or misfortunes, and how much anger, irritation, fear, anxiety, or worry are already in us. As we become aware of the feelings in us, our self-understanding will deepen. We will see how our fears and lack of peace contribute to our unhappiness, and we will see the value of loving ourselves and cultivating a heart of compassion.
The sitting position is wonderful for practicing this. Sitting still, you are not too preoccupied with other matters, so you can look deeply at yourself as you are, cultivate your love for yourself, and determine the best ways to express this love in the world.
May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May she be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May he be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May they be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May I be safe and free from injury.
May she be safe and free from injury.
May he be safe and free from injury.
May they be safe and free from injury.
May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.
May she be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.
May he be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.
May they be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.
Practice on others (“he/she,” “they”)—first on someone you like, then on someone neutral to you, then on someone you love, and finally on someone the mere thought of whom makes you suffer.
According to the Buddha, a human being is made of five elements, called skandhas in Sanskrit. They are: form (body), feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. In a way, you are the surveyor, and these elements are your territory.
To know the real situation within yourself, you have to know your own territory, including the elements within you that are at war with each other. In order to bring about harmony, reconciliation, and healing within, you have to understand yourself. Looking and listening deeply, surveying your territory, is the beginning of love meditation.
Look at the condition of your lungs, your heart, your intestines, your kidneys, and your liver to see what the real needs of your body are. When you do, you will eat, drink, and act in ways that demonstrate your love and your compassion for your body.
Feelings flow in us like a river, and each feeling is a drop of water in that river. Look into the river of your feelings and see how each feeling came to be. See what has been preventing you from being happy, and do your best to transform those things. Practice touching the wondrous, refreshing, and healing elements that are already in you and in the world.
Then meditate on your perceptions. The Buddha observed, “The person who suffers most in this world is the person who has many wrong perceptions, and most of our perceptions are erroneous.” You see a snake in the dark and you panic, but when your friend shines a light on it, you see that it is only a rope.
Please write beautifully the sentence, “Are you sure?”.
Next, observe your mental formations, the ideas and tendencies within you that lead you to speak and act as you do. Practice looking deeply to discover the true nature of your mental formations—how you are influenced by your individual consciousness and also by the collective consciousness of your family, ancestors, and society.
Unwholesome mental formations cause so much disturbance; wholesome mental formations bring about love, happiness, and liberation.
Finally, look at your consciousness. According to Buddhism, consciousness is like a field with every possible kind of seed in it: seeds of love, compassion, joy, and equanimity; seeds of anger, fear, and anxiety; and seeds of mindfulness.
Consciousness is the storehouse that contains all these seeds, all the possibilities of whatever might arise in your mind.
When your mind is not at peace, it may be because of the desires and feelings. To live in peace, you have to be aware of your tendencies—your habit energies—so you can exercise some self-control.
find their roots, to see which feelings need to be transformed, and nourish those feelings that bring about peace, joy, and well-being.
You can continue with the following aspirations, first for yourself, then for others.
May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I learn to look at her with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I learn to look at him with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I learn to look at them with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in her.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in him.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in them.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in her.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in him.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in them.
a young laywoman said to me, “When I meditated on my boyfriend, I found that I began to love him less. And when I meditated on the person I dislike the most, I suddenly hated myself.”
During her practice, she began to see him more clearly, and therefore it was deeper and healthier.
She also had fresh insights into the person she disliked the most. She saw some of the reasons he was like that, and she saw how she had caused him to suffer by reacting to him harshly.
Appropriate mental attention, yoniso manaskara in Sanskrit, brings us happiness, peace, clarity, and love. Inappropriate attention, ayoniso manaskara, fills our mind with sorrow, anger, and prejudice.
Next, we use mindfulness to illuminate our speech, so we can use loving speech and stop before we say anything that creates conflict for ourselves and others.
Then we look into our physical actions.
Mindfulness illuminates how we stand, sit, walk, smile, and frown, and how we look at others. We recognize which actions are beneficial and which bring harm.
Understanding of oneself and others is the key that opens the door of love and acceptance of oneself and others.
The soil of our mind contains many seeds, positive and negative. We are the gardeners who identify, water, and cultivate the best seeds.
We look deeply to see how these came about, what are their roots, and how long they have been there. We practice mindfulness in our daily lives to be aware that such poisons as craving, anger, delusion, arrogance, and suspicion are present in us. We can look and see how much suffering they have caused ourselves and others.
We need to master our own anger before we can help others to do the same. Arguing with others only waters the seeds of anger in us.
Don’t think you’ll feel better if you lash out and make the other person suffer.
The Buddha taught that when anger arises, close your eyes and ears, return to yourself, and tend to the source of anger within.
Everyone around you and even those more distant will benefit.
Anger is just an energy, and all energies can be transformed. Meditation is the art of using one kind of energy to transform another.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in her every day.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in him every day.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in them every day.
May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May she be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May he be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May they be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
May she be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
May he be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
May they be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
When we believe that happiness should take a particular form, we fail to see the opportunities for joy that are right in front of us.
Happiness is not an individual matter; it has the nature of interbeing. When you are able to make one friend smile, her happiness will nourish you also.
Before going to sleep at night, take a few minutes to review the day. “Did I live in the direction of my ideals today?”
“Indifference.” When we are indifferent, nothing is enjoyable, interesting, or worth striving for. We don’t experience love or understanding, and our life has no joy or meaning. We don’t even notice the beauties of nature or the laughter of children. We are unable to touch the suffering or the happiness of others.
All of us, young and old, have a tendency to become attached. As soon as we are born, attachment to self is already there.
Attachment obstructs the flow of life. And without mindfulness, attachment always becomes aversion. Both attachment and aversion lead to suffering.
SIX: DEEP RELAXATION
When we’re sad, we call it emotional pain. But mind and body are not separate, and suffering is not just an emotion. We hold suffering in our body. The practice of deep relaxation is a way to acknowledge and soothe the suffering in the body and the suffering in the mind.
Deep relaxation begins with observing our bodies. You can start with your eyes. “Breathing in, I’m aware of my eyes. Breathing out, I smile to my eyes with gratitude and love.” Then bring your awareness down to your nose, your mouth, your throat, and continue down to your toes. You’re doing a scan of your body, with a ray of mindfulness; bringing your awareness to each part.
My heart is essential to my well-being. It works nonstop and nourishes all the cells in my body. I’m so grateful to my heart. I get to rest and sleep, but my heart never stops. Yet I’ve done things to hurt my heart.
This kind of insight can transform and heal.
You go through all your organs, all the parts of your body in this way. This is the contemplation of the body in the body.
The body is an important object of meditation. It contains the cosmos, the Kingdom of God, the Pure Land of the Buddha, and our ancestors both spiritual and genetic.
SEVEN: THE FIVE MINDFULNESS TRAININGS
You can recite them daily or monthly, alone or with a group.
the first mindfulness training: reverence for life
I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life.
in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.
the second mindfulness training: true happiness
I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking, and acting. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others; and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.
to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering;
true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion;
running after wealth, fame, power, and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair.
I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy.
the third mindfulness training: true love
Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy, and inclusiveness—which are the four basic elements of true love—for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others.
the fourth mindfulness training: loving speech and deep listening
When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person.
the fifth mindfulness training: nourishment and healing
I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming.
EIGHT: WALKING MEDITATION
we are always on the run; we run away from the present moment.
But life is available only in the present moment;
Taking a step and taking refuge in your step, means to stop running.
It would be a pity to let a whole day pass without enjoying walking on the Earth.
"I have arrived." then "I am home".
“Home” means being at home in the present moment where you can touch all the wonders of life.
The Buddha said that freedom and solidity are the two characteristics of nirvana.
Let your steps follow your breath, not the other way around. Let your breathing be natural, never forced.
Every step should be enjoyable.
When we see something we want to touch with our mindfulness—the blue sky, the hills, a tree, or a bird—we just stop, but while we do so, we continue breathing in and out mindfully.
Practice stopping while you’re walking. If you can stop while walking, then you’ll be able to stop when doing your other daily activities, whether that is cleaning the kitchen, watering the garden, or eating breakfast.
If you suffer from depression, your depression won’t be able to go away until you know how to stop. You’ve lived in such a way that depression has become possible. You’ve been running and not allowed yourself the time to rest, to relax, and to live your daily life deeply. Spending time each day doing mindful walking can help. Arrange your life so that you can do mindful walking every day.
You don’t have any desire to arrive anywhere. Walking and not arriving, that is the technique. And you enjoy every step you make.
Your true home is the here and the now, because only in this moment, in this place, called the here and the now, is life possible. Every step you take should bring you back to peace, to the present moment.
According to Master Linji the miracle is not to walk on water or in thin air, but to walk on Earth. Walk in such a way that you become fully alive and joy and happiness are possible. That is the miracle that everyone can perform.
If you have mindfulness, concentration, and insight then every step you make on this Earth is performing a miracle.