Summary: Sathi asks, “How is your mind?” By asking this question often you can see if your mind is where you want it to be.
Sathi uses the metaphor of a lake with very high waves, as the world around us. An unmindful person is like going out in a kayak and becoming swamped. But, a mindful person is like having a larger motorboat with more power and being able to handle the rough water fairly easily.
You can either wait for the waves to go away, or you can build a stronger boat. Through meditation practice, you are learning how to become more mindful, separating what are outside influences (out of your control) from what is your true self. This allows you to simply observe the “waves” and not be overcome by them.
[Tibetian bell rung at the end of the meditation] [Sathi] How is your mind? [Meditator] I was able to actually be kind of joyful that I was watching my breath! [Another Meditator] Mine is calm now. [Another meditator] Mine is a little more comfortable. [Another meditator] Aware, settled. [Another meditator] My mind is a good mind today. Good, bad, I don’t know. An interesting mind. [Sathi] If you bring this question more often, you’ll be surprised by seeing how many times you are having your mind as you like, or how many times you don’t have the mind you like.
There are a few steps you will recognize as you are cultivating mindfulness.
The one-step would be that clear difference between what you like or don’t like. Once you go a little deeper then you will see some skills and weaknesses of yourself that will bring into that happy or unhappy situation. Ultimately all of those come to you.
Just think, what can you change outside of yourself? You only have influence things outside of you. But, if these outside [influences] can change the happiness or unhappiness of yourself, as a mindful person, recognize what is behind it. Who is responsible for that?
Of course, when it is happiness, you don’t have any questions. When it is joyfulness or laughter, you don’t have any questions or complaints. But, we only complain in our mind when our mind struggles. It will start with a complaint, frustration, leading to hatred. Sometimes we will hate ourselves.
I have seen meditators, how they hate themselves, during the meditation. This is where mindfulness can help us. Not only on the cushion but even outside the cushion.
I often bring this example to describe similar situations. Think about the unsettled lake or pond. When you see a current, if you a canoe rider or if you want to go by kayak, you would complain about that current on the lake. If you are on a jet ski or motorboat, you won’t complain like a kayak person. What do you see there?
With less strength, with less capability of handling, you would be scared by a small challenge. Certain challenges come our way in our life. Some people handle those challenges very well. Some people are not scared of certain challenges. But, some people will lose themselves just because of a small challenge compared to other people.
Now, what would be the strength of this mindful meditator? The mindful meditator is preparing their mind to recognize an outside challenge as an outside challenge. If you only have a kayak, that mindful person will know, “I should not place myself in danger today because the capacity of my kayak would not handle this wind or unsettled lake.” Then, mindfully you will not put yourself into danger. By knowing that it is outside of you. You will not invite those challenges or troubles to get into your mind. Sometimes, that can be your spouse who is bringing those challenges. Sometimes it can be a family member. Your kid your siblings. But, by knowing your capacity of what you can handle at the moment, this mindful person will say, “For right now I just have to be here. I don’t have to make this internal. Inside of me.” To have that toleration, that mindfulness, to not lose yourself for another person’s trouble, we have to have this skillfulness.
A skillful person will recognize the outside trouble as outside and keep it there. Even when you come back to the meditation posture, the mindful person will recognize the pain or unsettledness of your body is not you. Unsettledness of your leg is not you. You don’t have to lose your mind for the pain in your leg. You don’t have to lose your mind due to the sound you are hearing by the person next to you. You don’t have to lose yourself.
Sometimes we lose ourselves due to another person’s look. When a family member acts unsettled or unhappy or angry you would lose your entire self. And you will think, “Oh, what is wrong with this person today?” That will get into you.
To have that skill we need strong mindfulness and to separate ourselves from your true self and what is not yourself. We should be able to separate these two. Once you can separate these you will not lose yourself for something that is not you.
That is the standard of skillfulness we are talking about with meditation.
When you are cultivating your mindfulness, it will help you to catch yourself when you are losing yourself. But, if you are not that skillful, what would we do? Even if you catch yourself you will start to blame yourself, “Oh, how come I engaged in this?” Rather than appreciating yourself.
Once you catch yourself [getting wrapped up with outside influences] you need to appreciate yourself. “Oh, I appreciate that I caught myself while I’m losing me.” Just imagine, if you don’t catch yourself, you will sink into that situation and you will lose yourself. But, if you can catch yourself just after you begin to lose then you can still pull yourself back by knowing this is an outside [influence]. That is how we are gaining skill as a mindful person.
So, therefore, I always say an unsettled meditation is a blessing. An unhappy meditation is a blessing. Then, you are learning.
At military training or any good training, what do they do? They create the most difficult challenges for the trainees. They are helping them to learn how to overcome those challenges. As long as they can go through those challenges, then they are fit to face any challenge that comes their way. That is the purpose of the training.
Similar to that, life comes with a lot of challenges. The meditator should appreciate it. Without saying, “Why am I going through this and not others? Other people are happy and all those challenges and pain come only to me. I’m such an unlucky person.” Now, these are the complaints of unskillful people. Of course, we all have been there. But, what is our practice? Our practice is moving us from that place to a skillful place. That is what this practice is helping us to do. Moving us from that unsettled place to a settled place. Not by avoiding reality, but learning how to work through the reality.
Once you become that person, you will see all of those things are there. But they cannot disturb you anymore. That is how you make those things powerless.
The Buddha made an interesting comment that I’d like to share. When Buddha was talking about enlightened beings, awakened beings, he said, “They have overcome aging, they have overcome death, birth, and all the pain.” Yet, they are going through aging, they are all passing away, and they will be sick. There is a lot of evidence that the Buddha was sick in his old age along with the other monks. But, what the Buddha was saying is that these things all come, aging, sickness, and death.
What does this mean? It is not about the body. It is about the pain that people are going through when they are sick. Or the mental challenge we go through with old age and the struggle people have with dying. Using that example, think of the nature of a skillful person. You will not lose yourself.
For the meditator, our training is, once you lose yourself, you bring your mindfulness to catch and recognize it. Not to run away from it. To learn from it. Just recognize, “Okay, now I lost myself in this.” That mindfulness will help you resettle yourself, by being able to see and recognizing what is not yourself and what is.
Once you see you are losing yourself to something that is outside yourself, you’ll say, “It is not worth it. It is not important for me to lose myself for something that is outside of me.” That is how we can help us become a skillful person.
Okay, let’s check out the questions or thoughts you have.[meditator] This reminds me of two things. One is the Buddha’s thought that there is what happens. And then there is the story I tell myself about what happened. They are usually not the same thing. It is really important to be able to accept reality without interpreting or judging or doing anything other than observing. It is a difficult thing to do. But it is an important distinction.
Another way of looking at this is, adjectives are not nouns. I may have certain characteristics but that is not who I am. I may be a poor man. But, first of all, I’m a man. In addition to which I am poor. In addition to which I may be extracted. In addition to which I may be under incredible stress. In addition to which I may have some serious mental health issues. In addition to which I may not feel well. I may be in the hospital. I could be in prison. But, these are all things that will pass. Things that are impermanent. Things that I do not need to identify with. They are not me. I think of the phrase, “Life is miserable, but, I’m happy.”
There is this inside that is ineffective. Before I tell the story. Before I accept the adjective for my own and identify with it. Before that happens there is something else. There is a self that is not affected. It is still alive, still well, and still skillful. And that is the awareness that I need and like and that is why I meditate.[Sathi] Thank you. Any other thoughts or comments? [Another meditator] The example of how to look at how we affect other people’s outward looks will affect you. You ask someone “What is wrong?” They say “Ah, ha, I’m fine.” These leave you a little less than you were. That happens all the time. It is difficult to not get that I think. [Sathi] Think about that most of the time when we use the judgment of disappointment. Disappointment is somehow a blindness. The reason, we are expecting something else. Expectations are there. Yet, we forget the possibility. Then, who’s expectation is that? Who’s blindness is that. Then we get disappointed. A skillful person will see that possibility. Then, rather than disappointment, you will have compassion.
Even sometimes we get disappointed with something. Sometimes we get disappointed with the trees, with the weather. How many times have you gotten disappointed with your car? Tires, or, look how far you have gone away from reality.
But, if we have skillfulness to get ourselves back into the present moment, you will see there’s another possibility. It is against my favor. But I need to see it and move forward from here.[A meditator] There’s the reality and then there’s the story about reality. When you are speaking about disappointment. There’s my story. To recognize my story. To bring whatever it is. Your teaching resonated with me. I’ve spoken numerous times about one of my challenges, gifts while practicing meditation over time. I am very self-critical of my wandering mind, my distraction. I’m learning to move that to an appreciation for recognizing that I actually know when my mind wanders and to recognize and have a silent thank you. That transition has been very healing. Because it rolls out to the rest of my life too. From the judgment of bad mind and self-criticism and judging to thank you for recognizing. So I appreciate that reminder to be grateful when the mind recognizes the story from reality and not be harsh but to be grateful for it. That’s a lovely gift.
We can laugh at ourselves.[Another meditator] Today you introduced a new skill to me. One of being able to look at a situation and make a decision of whether or not I want to turn into that because I think my habit is just to accept what is going on. And then, losing myself in that. Being able to stand back and say, “Do I want to enter into this.” That opens up another choice. [Another meditator adds] Will I put my kayak in the turbulence out there? [First meditator] Yeah. Right, exactly. And I always thought, well if this is the reality that is going on, but not believing that. But now, I have a choice. So, thank you. [Another meditator] That’s a big example. If you miss a disturbance. If a kayak is not good enough it will start to [inaudible]. So, your mind is strong so you either want to get in the boat so only the reality in our place is keeping it. You go through it. [inaudible]. [Sathi] So, you have two choices. You either wait for the lake to get settled by knowing what will be the best condition for the energy I have. Or, you have to boost your energy, become a boat instead of a kayak.
Now think about this. If the nature of the lake always has waves, then keeping your kayak outside and waiting for it is not going to work. [laughing]. So, what you have to do is, you have to build yourself to become that boat that will not be affected by the waves.[Another meditator] Or, waiting a little bit until you have the skills. That’s the piece that is important for me. That I don’t have to put my kayak in the water when it is turbulent. I can wait for a little bit and see if it changes. If it doesn’t change, what can I change in myself to make myself more skillful in that situation? [Sathi] That is the beauty of mindfulness. How can I build myself to become the boat? Not just calm the boat. Not just keeping you away from your work. But mindfulness will show you the weaknesses, the areas that you can develop and cultivate within yourself to become a person who can control. [Meditator] Me knowing my own mind. My own self. That’s where the value of mindfulness is. I know if someone tells me I didn’t do a good job, I’m going to be defensive. And for me to know that and to realize, okay, I don’t have to be defensive. Maybe there is something they don’t understand here. Or, maybe they need more information. Whatever. I don’t have to jump into that way of thinking. I can be a different way. [Sathi] Yes. [Meditator] But to know that about my mind. How it works and what is the automatic kind of default program that it goes into. That’s really valuable. Being able to say, “Oh, I don’t have to push my [inaudible] [laughing]” and swamping my boat and waiting a little bit until it calms down. I always thought I had to push my boat [inaudible]. [Sathi] Ignorant, stubborn, [laughing] [Meditator] Yes, totally. If only I can identify my mind. [Sathi] What is happening to us, we blame the waves rather than building our boat. Then, we are begging the waves to stop. The waves themselves don’t know about fears. It is caused by the wind. Whatever waves you are talking about in your life, itself doesn’t know. It doesn’t have power. It is the result of something else in which the “wave” doesn’t have the power to override. [Meditator] For me, it keeps me so limited. If I can’t be in the pond with three-foot waves. If you have a life with three-foot waves all the time, or quite often, you have to learn how to navigate that. [Another meditator] Get a bigger boat. [Sathi] So, what is happening with this unmindful person, waiting on the ground begging the waves, or asking or waiting, “It will stop. It will stop. Now, this is the last one…” But, remember, one after another will come. It is nature. Make sure to build a boat. [Another meditator] Bhante, you talked about self vs. outside-of-self. How do we help ourselves separate those two things? How do we bolster ourselves, protect ourselves from the outside? [Sathi] What is happening is we have lost the inside self and have become this outside self as ourselves. That is our trouble. With the mindfulness of what is happening. The first step is that you will separate yourself from what is you and what is not. Then, the second step is to try not to involve these outside things. You will stay with your inside. That is how you can minimize the pain and struggle you are going through. By knowing what is your true self. That is why, when you talk about meditation, we say meditation is a technique you are learning how to get back into your true self. Otherwise, you will call it “yourself” but it isn’t your “self”, it is outside of you. [Meditator] So, don’t engage. [Sathi] Yes, that is the ultimate result. Even, there is nothing to engage in at the end. [Meditator] But, that is the challenge. I think that is what we be able to, be the observer of the external, that outside of myself without falling into it. So, that’s a challenge. So, the how is just a good question. How do we do that? It is our challenge to not allow the sound out there to take me away. It is out there. It’s not inside me. [Sathi] Even recognizing that it is out there, that it is inside of me. [Another meditator] That’s the first step. [Meditator] How. Yeah, that’s what we are learning, practicing. There’s no magic. There’s no lightbulb. [inaudible] often says “I catch myself more quickly than I used to.” And, I suspect you find yourself where those things that used to pull you in and engage you and now you say, “Ahhh, now I don’t have to.” You’ll find that you’ll slowly get better at seeing what our story is, as Jay says, there is the reality of what is and then there is the story I think. Recognizing our stories a little sooner than we used to. [Another meditator] I think that it is true, it happens to us self-consciously see how it is making it happen. A good example, several months ago I could hear Dan’s little kid [inaudible] outside keeping the conversation [inaudible]. But now I don’t have any idea. It’s just happening. Even if I skipped a couple of things, I suppose. [laughing] [Another meditator] To trust that process that if I keep practicing that it will just happen if I keep the commitment and to trust it. Believe it. Allow it. And, to not judge myself for not doing it soon enough. Be grateful when I finally did recognize it, finally the light coming on. For me at least that’s been the big thing, letting go of self-criticism. I should be better. I come to see there’s progress in the error of my thinking that I should be better than I am. I humbly accept that “Okay, that’s where I’m at in my process.”
So, keep practicing. Trust it. A life-long journey for me.[Another meditator] For all of u.
[Sathi] Well, I think today can stop here for meditation but we can continue with tea and mindful chat. It is good to see all of you. [Meditator] But, that is the challenge. I think that is what we be able to, be the observer of the external, that outside of myself without falling into it. So, that’s a challenge. So, the how is just a good question. How do we do that? It is our challenge to not allow the sound out there to take me away. It is out there. It’s not inside me. [Sathi] Even recognizing that it is out there, that it is inside of me. [Another meditator] That’s the first step. [Meditator] How. Yeah, that’s what we are learning, practicing. There’s no magic. There’s no lightbulb. [inaudible] often says “I catch myself more quickly than I used to.” And, I suspect you find yourself where those things that used to pull you in and engage you and now you say, “Ahhh, now I don’t have to.” You’ll find that you’ll slowly get better at seeing what our story is, as Jay says, there is the reality of what is and then there is the story I think. Recognizing our stories a little sooner than we used to. [Another meditator] I think that it is true, it happens to us self-consciously see how it is making it happen. A good example, several months ago I could hear Dan’s little kid [inaudible] outside keeping the conversation [inaudible]. But now I don’t have any idea. It’s just happening. Even if I skipped a couple of things, I suppose. [laughing] [Another meditator] To trust that process that if I keep practicing that it will just happen if I keep the commitment and to trust it. Believe it. Allow it. And, to not judge myself for not doing it soon enough. Be grateful when I finally did recognize it, finally the light coming on. For me at least that’s been the big thing, letting go of self-criticism. I should be better. I come to see there’s progress in the error of my thinking that I should be better than I am. I humbly accept that “Okay, that’s where I’m at in my process.”
So, keep practicing. Trust it. A life-long journey for me.[Another meditator] For all of u.
[Sathi] Well, I think today can stop here for meditation but we can continue with tea and mindful chat. It is good to see all of you.