Summary: Bhante explains how meditation is this unique activity that allows us to develop the way we see ourselves. He also explains how what we do in the meditation cushion can influence our lives beyond the meditation session:
- Looking inwards instead of at external things or people to improve ourselves
- Using humbleness and happiness as tools for continuous growth, and not just as mere thoughts or emotions
[Bhante Sathi] So [the] most important thing is, now you all are here. So find a way to be settled in somewhere. And remember we are not doing this for our body, therefore we have to place our body properly which can be supported in this practice. The posture is very important. Therefore, come to the posture and you can sit straight.
Any questions or suggestions for discussion today? Looks like [our group] is “thoughtless or question-less” right now. That allows me to bring anything up!
So as a meditator, or as a person who’s concerned about our mind and our life, we are doing a special activity [by meditating]. Not really an ordinary action or work, this [meditation practice] is not something that people do all the time, or this is not a subject for anybody. Only [a] unique person will start a meditation practice or will introduce this meditation practice or will start to think in this way. Therefore, for this unique practice, we have to think in [a] unique, [a] special way. So what [does] this mean? If you really look at the world, in the ordinary world people are finding “the life” outside of them. We are looking [for] happiness and comfort outside of ourselves. But with the action of meditation, we are bringing our attention back into ourselves; we are bringing attention back to us, to see something, which normally we do not see, even what others cannot see. That is the reason I mentioned, we have to start and practice this in a unique way.
So what is the meaning of seeing myself, or seeing inside (of me)? In the ordinary way [of life], our main effort is surviving. We are trying to survive [from] ourselves by protecting us from outside challenges and supporting us to exist. To do those two things, we are doing a lot of things from morning to night. That is what we call “surviving”.
Now looking inside, when you are looking inside or when you are trying to recognize yourselves, we don’t have to work hard at surviving with ourselves, because we are there. Only think what you need to do is: you are recognizing yourself, to just improve you[self], to improve your way of thinking, to improve your lifestyles.
Now, we are not learning from outside. We are doing this mainly by seeing from inside, “How to improve myself”. When you talk about yourself, you cannot see yourself without seeing yourself with others, or without seeing yourself with family, or without seeing yourself from all the activities you do. You are seeing yourself how you are behaving with others and the activities you do. That is the initial thing. If you ask yourself, “why am I doing this?” or “responding in this way?” that will help you to find yourself, your intentions, or some inner thoughts. Improving yourself means simply, you are seeing yourself first by stepping out of yourself; then introducing or maintaining something beneficial.
Now how do we do that? Simply how can I improve myself? Ask you to think, how can I improve myself without seeing me? How can I improve myself without seeing me? Just [put] simply, if you want to improve your house, first you need to look at where your house is, right? If you want to improve your garden, first you need to know where your garden is. Without knowing where is your garden, which garden that you are going to improve? Without knowing [where] your house is, which house are you going to improve? Without knowing [where] yourself is, which self are you going to improve? Therefore, meditation will allow you to recognize how you have built or how you made yourself.
So most of the time, in the ordinary way, we are protecting ourselves as who we are. We are defensing “us”. We are thinking, “oh that is me”. We are trying to take care of myself, and protect myself but we are not willing to shape ourselves or change ourselves or even seeing something that is “not nice” of ourselves. But as a meditator, as an open meditator, we are happy to see what is wrong with me. You are happy to see the area that you can improve. We are humble and happy. This “humble and happiness” work together. “Where to improve?” and “Where or what I need to change?” or “which way I want to support me?”. So humbleness and happiness work together. Whenever you feel or whenever you are not humble or whenever you are not happy – you are not improving yourself.
Sometimes even others are encouraging you to improve. Maybe your family or friends are asking you to change your behaviors. Maybe your therapist is asking you to take some actions. But as long as you are not happy, what is happening? You are doing it sometimes, but it is something you don’t want to do. There you will not find a successful effort. If you really want to see the improvement of the life, you are humble to see what is wrong, what are the areas I need to improve of myself? And also, when you happen to see something beautiful in your life, most of us think: “oh that is something I should be proud of”.
But [the] meditator is having a unique approach. For a meditator, even by seeing something good, or really [that] makes you happy – some kind of skill, still [the] meditator, without being proud, is still being humble, and trying improve it more. Why is [the] meditator being humble, because [the] meditator knows “this is what makes me happy, this is what [brings] me success, and [is] bringing me peace”. And always recognizes that as a success of oneself. Therefore, the unique pathway for the meditator is “improving the self with the support of humbleness and happiness”. Sometimes, your weakness, downfalls, mistakes can become [the] greater teacher, but only if you happen to be [a] mindful, humble person. If you happen to be egotistical or ego-based person, you would never see that mistake as a mistake. You will never support you to improve yourself. That allows/supports us to always think: “as I’m a perfect one”, even you want others to tell you “you are perfect”.
For [the] meditator, that will not make them unhappy by hearing they are perfect, but still [the] meditator is to listen to this in [a] humble way. So that would be the pathway to improve ourselves. When somebody is improving themselves with humbleness and happiness, then you (or “the mediator”) will see the weakness we had in the past. Then most of the time when people happen to see their downfall or weaknesses, people feel they have regrets, and are unhappy about themselves, they feel bad about themselves, they bury themselves in their regrets. Even some people would say, “I hate myself” for saying that or doing that. They would only say that after they see their mistake or their downfall. But for this meditator and humble person, you would never say, “I hate me” and you would not engage with these regrets. Still, this would make you happy: “oh, now I’m glad, I am not the same person; I can see how much I was suffering without knowing this in the past”. That, by seeing it, by changing the self, by recognizing the downfalls and weaknesses, that will make the meditator happy. [Just] by seeing: “I am now able to become a different person, becoming a happier person”. So regrets are not a part of the mindful person.
That is how a meditator is going to see the past regrets, or past weakness. And for [the] meditator, when they happen to see some “goodness qualities” or something you appreciated you have done in the past, that makes the meditator more happy. You would be proud, but you would be “humbly proud”. Not to promote yourself to others or not for praising yourself, but still you are really proud of being who you are. And [the] meditator will not stop their good actions by thinking: “I have done those things enough, I have done those good things in the past”. For mindful, humble person, you will find more and more good activities by knowing them as examples: “even in the past I have done those things, now I can do more, I will do more”. That is how the meditator is improving themselves, by learning from the past [from] the good they have done.
And another important thing for this mindful, humble person [is to] keep introducing some goodness, some good training, some good practices which can be beneficial. As an example: “in the past, even though I wanted to do this good thing to support my mind, now this is time for me to introduce those”. Then you will have more effort and determination of introducing some good practices or beneficial practices which can be beneficial for yourself. That will support you to improve yourself more.
This is how a mindful person is improving themselves. [The] meditator is gaining the ability on the cushion, but you are applying it outside [off] the cushion. Any questions or thoughts?
[Meditator] The last statement: “the meditator is developing skills on the cushion, but are applying them outside the cushion”. Maybe it is not super obvious to me, how I’m learning on the cushion and actually applying them afterward? I do see myself trying to observe myself during the day and I don’t know if these conversations are part of the cushion practice or not, but I know I learn a lot from them. It is throwing me off a little! What am I doing on the cushion?
[Bhante Sathi] Sometimes I am using this example: think “you are charging your phone, but I have to have a charged to use it”. The “charging part” [of yourself] is happening on the cushion. Then when you practice your mindfulness, when someone says something you don’t like, before you respond, that’s how your mindfulness is helping to catch yourself, “oh I am getting angry” or “my comment is not a pleasant comment I am going to make”. So you are going to stop yourself before you are going to make that statement. That is how you are applying mindfulness, to stop yourself. To prevent that action. In many ways, you will catch yourself. But where you have gained this ability, is on the cushion. And often meditators think, “I don’t have, or nobody is supporting me to practice meditation” or “this is not a good time to being mindful”, or “I don’t have enough freedom to practice mindfulness”. Think about it, all of us are calm and we are happy until we have a trouble. So this skillfulness or this mindfulness that you are cultivating [is] because you have to use it when we need it. When do you need it? When you are having trouble in time. It’s like immunity. When do you need immunity? You need immunity when you get attacked by the virus or germs; the immunity helps you to not get sick. Your mindfulness works in the very same way. It will help you to not lose yourself due to a certain challenge.
[Meditator] I see what you are saying, it makes sense. Now that I think about it, it not that weird like I first saw it. We do learn to be patient with ourselves, and recognize when the thoughts come up, and to be patient with others [and], with whatever the noise we have in our surroundings…just to cite a few things. I will be thinking of that for a while!
[Bhante Sathi] Ok, I think it’s time to stop for today, and good to see all of you.