Any questions or suggestion for discussion?
I hope the question was clear enough. The question is about since we have memories how do we still stay in the moment, living mindfully?
That question comes with an answer. The answer is already given with the question by saying “We cannot live mindfully because we have memories.”
So, let’s try to understand this. The question is very clear. It is very clear that we are talking about our mind, or memories, or thoughts. When we think about ourself, just let’s try to understand or use our meditation practice [as an example]. We choose a quiet place to practice meditation. But, even though we choose a quiet place to practice meditation, we do not know how to shut our ears. Still we hear sounds. Even though we close our eyes, still we see pictures. And we are all familiar with dreams Still we see pictures. Of course you are not eating anything during the meditation but that doesn’t mean you don’t feel taste. All the senses are there.
But, with our practice, what happens slowly we manage to not pay attention to all those sense experiences. Not only during the meditation even sometimes we don’t pay attention to what we see. Even sometimes we don’t pay attention to what we hear. If we don’t pay attention to what we see or what we hear, that is not happening to you. Even though your eyes see it, you don’t see it. Even though your ears hear that sound, you don’t hear it. So, whose thinking? What is the meaning of thinking? Where does memory come from?
As a human being, we have six senses. Eyes, ears, nose, tongue skin, and mind. All those senses are active. So, we know how to shut all those senses down temporarily. Most of those senses except our mind… We do not know how to shut off our mind. But mindfulness is not about shutting off the senses.
Mindfulness means, using those senses but knowing you are using it. Which means, when you see something, you are seeing it by knowing what you are seeing. When you hear, you are hearing by knowing what you are hearing. When you think, you are knowing what you are thinking.
But, this question comes from some meditating experience. Which is, at this moment we know that the mindfulness is based on the present moment. At the present moment, you don’t pay attention to any pictures, or you don’t pay attention to any sounds. Because you don’t hear or create any sounds. At the present moment you don’t taste anything. But, those memories come from the past. Or, maybe they come from the future. Just think about it, even though it is about your past, when are your thinking? Even though it is about your future, when are you thinking?
You are thinking now.
Since you are thinking now, you will always have thoughts in the present moment. There is no thoughts in the past. Maybe it is about the past, but, you are having the thoughts in this moment. That is your present thought. That is your present memory. We have versions, we have maybe you are thinking about an argument you had with somebody yesterday. But today, you have a new interpretation, a new version of that experience. It is a present thought. Then, as a meditator, what do we do?
As a meditator, we do not struggle with any picture, or sound, or thought. Without struggling with any of those sensory experiences, we are being aware of what we are experiencing. We are not encouraging us to build another thought based on your present thought. We are not seeing a new picture based on your scenarios. We are not building any new sensation based on your present sensation. That is the activity the meditator is doing. We need to understand, one of the natures of our mind, which we are not doing during the meditation, In ordinary time, or ordinary way of life, we keep creating stories.
As a simple example, we all have our favorite movies. Or maybe you are following your favorite TV show. If you are thinking about any given moment, you are seeing only one picture. On the TV. Now it is like somebody walked into that movie who hasn’t watched that movie at all. If somebody just walked into the movie without previous experience, that person would have a lot of questions. Who is this character? Why is that character crying? A whole lot of questions. Now, the person who is continuously watching this movie, does not have those questions. What is the difference between the person who walked in the person who is continuing watching the movie. The person who is continuously watching the movie comes with the memories. That person is watching the movie with a memory inside [their mind]. Now, is that person living in the present moment? No, that person is living in that story. Carrying that story to the forward. Not only that, but this person is expecting something to happen. Waiting for something to happen. That excitement is allowing this person to go forward. Now, every time this person is coming to watch a new episode or new season, that person already has a plan for each character in that movie to happen. That character won’t lose their strength. That character won’t be here to win. When the character is winning that person is happy. When the villain is winning that person is losing energy and expecting.
What is happening here? We are watching the movie we want to watch. We are not watching the movie on the TV or on the theater. So, in this particular ability we are maintain in our life all the time. Not only in the TV, not only in the movie, not only with those outside stories. In this particular ability we are maintain in our life all the time. We have expectations, we have excitement, we have all these emotions, tied into this ability. Without those abilities, emotions will not be there. Emotions are anger, expectations, anxiety, fear, all of those are the by-products of that ability.
In Pali there is a beautiful word used to describe this. It is called “prapañcha”. Now, this is the skill of your mind, creating a story which is not there. That is the important thing. Creating a story which is not there. Living in the story.
What is happening during the meditation? During the meditation we are trying to live without creating that story. We are practicing to observe or to see what is there. We are not continuing the story. We are not creating or maintaining that ability. Watching the slide, what is there. Then moving to the next slide, without carrying the previous slide forward. Each time, each experience is new, arising and passing away, just like each breath. Just like each moment. This is the ability.
So, during the meditation, we are not maintaining that ability of prapañcha. So that is the meaning of living in the present moment. We are not running away from the pictures. We are not running away from the sounds. We are not running away from the thoughts. We are not running away from anything. We are just running away from creating the stories. That is the meaning of “living in the moment.”
So, the meditator is not scare of thoughts. When the thoughts are there you observe the thoughts, just like you are observing the breath. You will recognize how thoughts are arising and passing away. When it passes away, you let it go. And then each thought you are observing as it arises and passes away. How much you are not continuing, that much you are giving less power to creating new thoughts. That is what is happening with our meditation practice. So, I hope I answered your question. Are there any other questions that arose from that answer. Is there anything anybody would like to share? How is your skill of creating stories?
So, now some of you might say, if you are not carrying those past into the present you are watching a boring moving! There is no excitement, no expectations, no villain or hero in your movies. Just only the characters.[A meditator asks] You know you are getting caught up in the story. How do you stop it? Actually, if you know you are getting caught up in the story, that is a good thing. Because once you know you are getting caught up, that wisdom or that mindfulness helps you not to lose yourself in that story. Just like when you are angry. Once you know you are angry you are trying to protect yourself by stepping away.
But, if you don’t know you are angry that is a trouble. That is how ignorance works. Ignorance allows you to lose yourself in it. If you know you are getting caught up in the story you are not giving it powers as others might. Knowing is good. That is a wonderful skill.[A mediator says] I wish you had taught us that when we first started meditating. [laughter]
Actually the reality is, when you really know how to live in that kind of life, you will enjoy every slide. You will enjoy every moment in your life. Every single moment in your life.[A meditator says] That idea of prapañcha, I think of what we call personality disorders. Or, the trouble with my personality, things I don’t like. It is a pattern. And I see that story all the time. And I see that story as being the only one to tell. [Bhante Sathi responds] Lost in your story, right? So, one of the abilities that the meditator is is creating with the meditation, is that the meditator is always practicing to see new breath, as a new life, a new moment. That allows you to let go of the guilt, the pain in your life, because you are becoming a new person you are not the old person. You are allowing yourself to be new. That’s the skill we are building and cultivating with ourselves by living in the moment, living in the present moment. That’s a wonderful ability.
If you are wrong in the past, or stuck in the past now, by knowing, you are not the same person anymore. Look at you, “Yes, I was , not I am, I was stuck in the story.” “I was the angry person.” “I was the anxious person.” “I was the unhappy person.” Not anymore. That’s the ability. Every time you can take a deep, fresh breath. And with each breath you don’t have your last breath anymore.
It is a new breath. When that breath goes, you are having a new breath again. If anybody gets stuck with one breath, that would be the end of that person… If you get stuck with certain memories, that would be the end [laughing]
Okay, I hope that you may enjoy your new breath. Enjoy your new life, your new self. Enjoy your present moment.
Thank you very much for being here to day. It’s wonderful seeing all of you. Thank you.