Summary: Radical Mindfulness – Your curiosity gives you the energy to be more open. Being able to see things in a different way. Sathi and some of the meditators discuss why it is so valuable to keep a neutral mind. Neither settling in on the pleasant or the unpleasant thoughts on emotions. To just be an observer.
Any suggestions or questions for discussion today?[Meditator] You started off today speaking of how we don’t know our mind. That really hones in on that unknown. [inaudible] Maybe talk about that. [Sathi] Yes, that’s a good question to think about and to know a little more. I would invite you to think about when somebody tells you, or you don’t know yourself, what is your initial reaction? You don’t have an initial reaction to that comment,
We think, “I know myself”. If somebody tells you, “You don’t know your house.” You’ll have the same reaction. As a mindful person, we have to look at the situation by stepping outside of ourselves. As long as we are stepping in, then we come to that defensive approach.
If I say, “You don’t know yourself.” That’s not completely right. Also, that is not completely wrong. We know a lot of things about ourselves. But, also, we don’t know so many about ourselves.
What do we know? We know our past. We know exactly what has happened in the last few years. Maybe from our birth until now. We know how we have been responding to things. We know what are the weaknesses of ourselves. We know what the potentials.
But, what we don’t know? We don’t know the future from now. We don’t know what is the capacity that we can open ourselves to. What we can do in the next moment. What are the potentials we have? What are the potentials of my mind?
As a meditator, we can recognize when we are not open to see, to experience. [Without] our experiences with this openness we will keep maintaining or following our old habits. Our way of thinking either can be a habit or even an addiction. Emotions are food for our minds. Feelings are something we seek to experience. We are seeking to experience those feelings due to our past memories or past addictions.
Why are we looking for certain foods to eat again? Because you have good memories of eating that same food in the past. Why are you refusing certain foods? Because you have bad memories of eating certain foods or you don’t know that food.
We are limiting ourselves with that personal experience. That is how we are opening ourselves for the next life experience or the next mind experience. We are looking to experience something that you have experienced before. That way, we do not go beyond.
Let me tell you one example. When my mother was here, and Bhante Dhammadeva had a smartphone. He gave that phone to my mom to keep it when she goes outside to walk. My mother doesn’t like it. The reason is, that is not a phone for her. When she calls on a phone, she wants a phone where you can just punch in the numbers to call somebody. That is her mind. She didn’t like the phone at all. She even didn’t want to touch it, accept it, or use it.
Then, after a few days I was asking, “Are you carrying the phone when you are walking outside?” [She answered, ] “No, I don’t like it.”
So, a few days later, I took the phone out and I showed her how to dial numbers. Then, she started to use it. What is behind this?
What are we looking for? We are looking for something we used to do. What is allowing us to see beyond this? Most of the time it is our curiosity and openness. Curiosity gives us the energy to continue our openness.
As a meditator what is happening? You sit down to practice meditation, or you are opening your life to any life experiences. As long as you are open, you will see things that you haven’t seen before. But, if you are not open, what you are looking for? You will be looking for something you are used to. Something you are used to seeing. Even though the new thing is right there in front of you, you don’t see it.
You don’t see it because you are not open to see what is new. We keep justifying or feeling what you are experiencing is not anger, but, you label it as anger and you don’t see beyond it. Curiosity is giving the energy to dig more and see more. When you have a new gadget these days, the person who is curious, they like to see what is new. “What can I do more? What is in here?” That curiosity is giving you the energy to discover what is there.
That curiosity is giving you the energy to go deeper into your practice or your experience. And, you will see things that are fascinating. You will be fascinated by seeing the layers of anger, layers of frustration, layers of fear, or layers of anxiety.
For the ordinary person, anxiety is a pain. Anger is an unpleasant experience. But, for a meditator, they can turn this into a pleasant experience. Because as a mindful person you are digging this, you are seeing the layers. You see how this has been a pain to yourself when you get caught up. As a person who is caught up, you are a person who is experiencing pain. But, when you are not caught up you don’t have pain and you see the layers in there. That [comes with] the ability of being open and curiosity, giving you the energy to dig into it.
We won’t be able to do it if you are seeing those in the traditional experience or the traditional way of seeing. If you happen to label it right away at the beginning, you won’t be able to see it.
In Buddhist culture or history, we talk about enlightened beings. There are a lot of stories about how those enlightened beings happen to become enlightened. Most of them had this realization through ordinary situations. There are many occasions, some enlightened beings got enlightened by observing the way that leaves fall down from the trees, coming to the earth. How many times have you seen that? But, somehow, they could apply that in a different way, into their life experiences. Somehow, those experiences helped them to awaken themselves. Bring their mind to a different level, just by observing that.
That was one monk who became enlightened seeing dirty water flowing in a drain. By seeing how water behaved. There are a lot of natural, day-to-day experiences that gave them wisdom. Just by looking at those things in a different way. An awakening way.
So every day, we are facing something new. But, we don’t see it. The next moment is a moment we haven’t experienced yet. After 10 or 11 you are going to have a new lunch today! Maybe you are having the same dishes, the same food, but, each bite is new. You haven’t had that bite before.
If we can set up this newness, this curious mind, to see or dig through this new experience, then you will see something new. That is one of the greatest skills for a meditator. We call it radical mindfulness. yoniso manasikāra (https://www.dhammatalks.org/books/Head&HeartTogether/Section0009.html)
With yoniso manasikara you are letting yourself to have a new experience as a new experience without the traditional way of experience in. Or, the habitual way of experiencing. This allows you to see this new experience as a new experience.
That is the part we don’t know. But, what is the part we know? The past. This we know.
How much can we open ourselves to see this part that we don’t know?
Any thoughts or anything you want to add?[Meditator] I was enjoying watching you and seeing you as you imagine I didn’t ever experience before. Just to see you new, it was interesting. It was quite interesting. To try and not bring the “I know this person. I know him” Curious. You are much more handsome. [laughing] [Sathi] Thank you! [more laughing] So, that handsome is a good thing, right?
It is really fascinating to see in Buddhist history. There are more than 4,000-5,000 stories of enlightened beings. Each story was how they got enlightened. Everybody goes through this ordinary experience which we have experienced many many times in our lives. But, you can see, that even with ordinary experiences, you have certain realizations which you haven’t realized before. You notice things. “Oh yes, this is what it is!” Think about that moment, what made you realize it. That your new way of seeing. That your openness allowed you to see it. Can you bring this skill back into yourself? To see your new self. To this new moment? That is the truth.[meditator] It’s mostly conditioning that we fall back. [another meditator] I had a sensation this morning during my meditation practice after having a joyful week. In sitting I was calm this morning. And when you asked, “How is your mind?” the thought that came to mind was “smooth”. Sitting in my meditation I had a sensation of smooth and then I saw my mind differently because I’ve had this joyful week. I saw that my mind looks like a white tablecloth and looking for imperfect threads.
Sitting here I thought, “Gosh, look how my mind wants to do that?” It is smooth, yet it still wants to find those imperfect threads. As I’ve been doing this, and some of you know, I’ve been doing this deeper study on discipline and my effort I’m seeing why mindfulness is so important. Because, as I’m looking for those imperfect threads, mindfulness and Buddhism says, you don’t need to look for those. So, if I’m looking for the thread of ill will, I need that with loving-kindness. Knowing how the brain works and that we look for problems to solve, and there is where my thoughts initially went. I caught myself looking for problems to solve.
But, I’m not in the midst of problems to solve. I could sense myself going and looking for them. In just that moment, how interesting. And then thinking about desire. Like my desire has been to have joyful experiences. And now, I’ve had some joyful experiences and I think, “ah, my mind doesn’t want to bask in the joyful experience that I’ve been craving.” It goes to look for the imperfect threads.
So, it’s imperative that I use my mindfulness and effort of mental discipline to remove those. I can see the truth of that. As you talk about removing the layers and going through layers. Finding out that what I thought was one emotion was actually four emotions stacked up. And as I pull each one away, getting closer and closer to what actually [inaudible].[Sathi] That is wonderful. I’d like to add something to that experience. Can you check your mind while you are doing it? How are we recognizing these emotions? Is it your friendly approach? Your neutral approach? Your complaining/blaming approach? Because somehow we naturally get friendly with certain emotions. We naturally get angry with certain emotions. For this meditator, the meditator is always trying to bring this neutral approach. As long as we can manage this neutral approach, we can maintain this full capacity of the mind to go forward, to get into another layer.
We can easily get lost. If it is favorable or friendly. But, often we don’t see it with the friendly approach because that is something we like to do. Even with the negative or unfriendly approach, we quickly can lose ourselves.
Again, the way you describing this, you are mentioning this neutral approach. Because without a neutral approach you won’t be able to go into these deeper layers because you will have lost yourself.
But, in case you get lost because sometimes we are successful in going a little deeper. But then we feel that we are stuck. That is the moment to remind yourself, “Oh, I get stuck because I lost my ability to be neutral.” Being skillful as a meditator you are [always] reminding yourself, “I have to continue and not get lost by losing myself either way by being friendly or being unfriendly.”
Recorded on October 5, 2019, at the Meditation Center in Chaska, Minnesota.
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