By Godwin Samararatne
The Gentle Way of Buddhist Meditation
Dhamma Talks by Godwin Samararatne
Day 7: 12th October 1997
Meditation in Everyday Life
I like to welcome you to this one day meditation. I like to offer some suggestions about the practice today.
The first suggestion I like to offer is that every one of you should feel happy that you are able to come here. Today is a holiday and after working very hard for some days, the fact that you have decided to come, you should really feel happy about yourself. Usually we feel bad about ourselves but it is also very important to feel good about ourselves. So I like to emphasize this point, just to feel good about yourself that you are able to come here for meditation.
The next suggestion is try to feel grateful that you are able to come. I know some who want to come today but for different reasons they are unable to come. You should feel grateful that you are able to come and that you are here, present.
Quality of “Just Knowing”
As I have been saying, in meditation a very very important aspect is the practice of awareness, mindfulness, just knowing what is happening. So in this one day meditation, we will try to develop this very important quality of just knowing whatever is happening in our mind and body from moment to moment as far as we can. And even if it is unpleasant experience, even if it is something you consider strange, just to know that it is happening rather than be worried: Am I doing it rightly? Is it normal to experience these things? It is not necessary to have such thoughts but just knowing that this is what I am feeling, this is the sensation I am experiencing.
Another important aspect related to this is to be mindful, to be aware with loving kindness, just knowing what is happening with friendliness. It can be like a mother who is just watching, observing her only child with friendliness. So let us learn today to watch, to observe, to find out, just to know what is happening in our mind and body like a mother watching her only child, with friendliness, with gentleness, with openness.
Learn to Slow Down
Related to mindfulness is another suggestion I like to offer, is let us learn to slow down today. I know in Hong Kong you have to move very fast because the speed here is very fast. Today we will make it a point to learn to relax and just to do things very slowly. Slowly and also in a very relaxed way.
Practice of Silence
Another suggestion I like to offer is the practice of silence. I know it is very difficult for some people to be silent because it is a very very strong habit that we have. So today let us make an effort just to be silent with ourselves and you will see a connection between awareness, mindfulness, and silence. The more aware you are, the more silent you become and the more silent you become, mindfulness will come naturally. You’ll enjoy the space that silence creates in your mind.
Learn to Be Alone with Ourselves
Another aspect of silence is learning to be alone with ourselves. So today, please try to be silent and just being alone with yourselves. As I said in one occasion in one of the talks, we have become so dependent on external things, so today we will try just to be friendly and to see whether we can be in our own company and enjoy our own company. Learning to be our best friend. So it is very very important to make this connection with ourselves where we see ourselves as our best friend, the most precious friend we have, we try to make a connection with oneself.
So today there will be some group discussions. So any problems, any difficulties you have, we can discuss the problems or difficulties you may be experiencing but still it is very very important in meditation to be self reliant, to have our own methods. The Buddha said self-effort is the best effort and being self-reliant. Another very important suggestion I like to offer is that we will try to develop self-confidence today. To have self-confidence that you can handle whatever is arising in your mind and body. In meditation, this is very very important, to have this self-reliance, to have this self-confidence, just to know what is happening in the mind and the body and then learning from them, being open to them. So today we will try to be like children, trying to learn, making discoveries about what is happening in our mind and body. It is very very important to have this childlike quality and learning, finding out, being curious about what are happening in our mind and body, which are something we take for granted. So see meditation as a voyage of self discovery and if you can have this openness, then we can learn from any experience we are having today. As I said, it can be pleasant, it can be unpleasant but learning to ask the questions: What I can learn from this? What does it show to me? And so this kind of attitude to meditation is very very important.
DonÕt Expect to Achieve Something Special
One last suggestion is: please do not have much expectation that you are going to achieve something very special. Meditation is nothing special. It’s just being open to ordinary things. It’s nothing extraordinary. Please remember that. Please realize that. This is something beautiful about meditation. So it is not results that we are going to achieve but the practice itself, that is the result, knowing what is happening is the result, not what comes after. Please remember this. Maybe in this culture there is lots of emphasis on being goal oriented, of achieving result. So in meditation, the result is the practice. This is what is very very interesting about the meditation. So the result is just being open, knowing what is happening from moment to moment. So you are experiencing every moment.
These are some very practical suggestions I like to offer you for today. So as you can see from the program, there is yoga, there is walking meditation, there is standing meditation, there is group discussion, chanting, there will be so many things happening today. So let see everything as part of the practice. Even when we have lunch, let us learn to make it part of the practice. I will tell you how to eat our lunch with a meditative mind.
Let us now do our sitting meditation. So those who like to stand and move your body before the sitting, you are free to do that.
Now please sit in a comfortable position
Now please close your eyes and please spend some time just learning to relax yourself, just to relax your body. Just to feel comfortable with yourself.
Now please spend some time feeling happy you are meditating now. Feeling good about what you are trying to learn.
Now what you are going to do in the present meditation is something very very simple. So until you hear the bell, just know from moment to moment what you are hearing, the thoughts that you are having, the sensations you are experiencing in the body. So it is something very simple that everyone can do. What is important is to be alert, to be awake, to be present, to be alive from moment to moment.
If anyone becomes sleepy and drowsy, please open your eyes.
We hear sounds, we have thoughts, we experience sensations, we may be having emotions, just knowing from moment to moment all these things that are happening. Making friends with them, learning to say O.K to them.
If you are having any unpleasant sensations in the body, just be open to them, make friends with them, just to be aware of them.
It’s like learning to say O.K to the noises that you are hearing.
Do you know each thought that arises and passes away in your mind ?
Please open your eyes and when you change your posture, just know you are doing that and feel the different sensations in the body. So please continue to know what is happening in your mind and body from moment to moment.
One can meditate in four postures, sitting, standing, walking, lying down. So today we will be trying to practise in three postures, sitting, standing, walking.
Now let us do some standing meditation for some time. Please stand slowly, knowing that you are going to stand and observing the intention to stand. Now just feel what it is to stand. Feel the different sensations, the different movements in your body. If you are experiencing any unpleasant sensations, painful sensations in the body just to know them and just to be open to them, just to say OK to them. And if you are experiencing any pleasant sensations in the body, just to know that you are having pleasant sensations.
Try to feel every part of your body, the different sensations, the different movements in your body. And learn to feel friendly, gentle and kind to your body. And when thoughts come, learn to let go of them and come back to the body. So please use your body to experience the present moment, the here and the now.
Please learn to feel the body rather than think about the body, please see the difference.
And just feel what it is to stand completely still.
Learn to gently let go of the thought and come back to your body. To be in the present with the help of your body, the feelings, the sensations, the different movements.
Finding the sensations and the feelings in the body more interesting than your thoughts.
Now we will be doing some walking meditation. So the idea of walking meditation is again, conscious walking. So you can walk slowly and just being mindful of your walking. So when you walk, you have to feel the different sensations in the body while you are walking. The thoughts will come but please learn to let go of the thoughts and come back to the present, that is walking. So now we have to organize how we can do walking meditation. I would suggest that we can do it in two groups. One group can walk on the stage and the other group can walk here. So the two groups can get into two circles following one after the other. And while you are walking I will try to offer some suggestions about the practice.
Whatever you are doing, please do it slowly, consciously with mindfulness.
So please walk slowly, consciously. Feeling the sensations in your feet. Using walking to experience the present moment.
Please have your hands in front, folded.
Please walk slowly so that you can be conscious of all the movements, the sensations in your body when you are walking. So let go of your thoughts and come back to the present with the help of walking. Just walking in a very relaxed way.
Learning to enjoy the simple act of walking.
Please look at the feet of the person in front.
Please look at the feet of the person in front without looking everywhere.
When you are lifting your feet you know that you are lifting your feet.
Just feel the earth with your feet.
Learning to relax with your walking.
Learning to walk consciously.
Can you walk as if you are walking on lotus flowers, gently, tenderly.
Being conscious of each step.
Now please stand wherever you are.
Now please stand completely still with your eyes closed.
You can use the sound to experience the present moment.
Just being in the present with the help of hearing.
Can we hear the sounds very sharply, very clearly as if for the first time?
Now it’s time for yoga. So I like to mention a few points about the connection between meditation and yoga. One thing is when you do yoga, you learn to be aware, mindful of your body, you learn to relax your body, you learn to be friendly and kind towards the body, you learn to use yoga exercises to experience the present moment. These are some aspects of yoga in connection with meditation. If there is anyone who will not be doing yoga, please refrain from speaking. You can do some walking meditation in some place you like to. You can sit on a chair or somewhere calmly just observing your mind, what is happening in your mind from moment to moment. So please make use of this opportunity for those who are not doing yoga. Now the yoga Master will take over. Thank you.
Meditation: Knowing the Breathing
Godwin Samararatne :
During meditation please don’t walk out of this room.
So I like you to continue to be aware of your body. You can close your eyes and just feel the different sensations, the different movements in your body.
Learning to feel the body, learning to feel friendly towards the body.
Feel grateful that you have this body and that we can use the body for our practice.
Now just feel what it is to sit in this posture.
Can you feel relaxed with this posture?
If you can relax your body, you can relax your mind.
Feeling relaxed is not resisting anything in the body and in the mind.
Let us now spend some time with our breath. So please allow your body to breath naturally.
Let the body breath the way the body likes to breath.
When the body is exhaling you know that the body is exhaling. When the body is inhaling you know that the body is inhaling.
Having your complete and full attention on the in breath and the out breath.
It is natural that you will have thoughts. Know that you are having thoughts. Don’t resist them, don’t dislike them, but pay more and more attention on the in breath and the out breath.
If you are having any unpleasant sensations in the body, please learn to be mindful of them, to be aware of them, learning to make friends with them, learning to say OK to unpleasant sensations.
(Chanting) – (Bell)
Eating as a Meditation
In a few minutes we will be eating our lunch. So I like to tell you how eating can be a meditation. Here again, we will make an effort to eat mindfully, to eat consciously, to eat in the present as far as possible when you are eating. And please make a conscious effort to chew your food. So slowly, consciously chewing your food. And when you are eating, observe the likes and the dislikes you might have in your mind. Just to know the likes and dislikes when they arise. And when there are no likes and dislikes also to know that there are no likes, no dislikes. All this can be discovered and learned only if you can eat in silence.
It is also important to learn to avoid the two extremes. Avoid eating too much and for eating too little. For meditation it is very important to know the right quantity of food. And you can only learn the right quantity of food if you can listen to the body while you are eating.
Now when you turn, don’t try to turn very quickly but slowly. Be aware of all the movements in your standing. Observing the intention to stand. And please do conscious walking from here to the place you are going to eat. So please walk slowly and in complete silence.
We’ll be meeting again after one hour for group discussions. So thank you very much.
So you can patiently wait for the lunch to arrive. So this can be also a very important practice.
What I would like to discuss with you is what actually happen when you are meditating and doing walking meditation, doing yoga and so on. Just to share your experience and ask questions in relation to your experience while you were meditating this morning.
So can I ask are there any problems, questions about sitting meditation? In the morning I said just sit and just try to know what is happening in your mind and body. So any questions, any difficulties about this?
Question: When I meditate my head kind of vibrates and my body also moves, and the intention is to incline forward or to the left and at times to the right. I like to know if there is any problem with that, any side effects with that.
Godwin Samararatne: Actually I like to meet you individually. I saw what has happened to your body so I like to meet you individually and talk to you about more aspects, more details about what is happening.
Question: I want to know if there is any “should be” or “should not be” when we meditate. For example, when I’m doing the sitting meditation, I can’t stop thinking. It seems that when I’m doing the walking meditation, the situation is better but when I’m sitting, when thinking comes out, I have a conflict whether to stop it or just allow it.
Godwin Samararatne: I’m happy you have raised that question because it is a very very common problem. It is not possible to stop thinking. The more we try to stop thinking, the more thoughts we have. That is why when I gave the guided meditation, I said: it is natural that thoughts will arise. So in the first meditation we did, what we are trying to do is also to be aware, to be mindful of the thoughts themselves. Thoughts, sounds, sensations whatever there is in the mind and the body. So in that meditation if you have thoughts, there is no need to have a conflict.
And in the second meditation we did, in which we were trying to be aware of our breath, when thoughts come, we should be aware, mindful that thoughts are coming, to make friends with them, not to have a conflict and then come back to the breath. But then we can be aware of the breath for a few minutes, then again thoughts will come. This is the nature of the mind that we don’t have any control. So meditation is understanding how our minds work, making friends with our mind and whatever is happening, and training to slowly, gently coming back to the breath. So it is very very important, even when we are not sitting, to continue to be aware and mindful of the thoughts that we are having. So even while sitting, while eating, we are having thoughts. So whatever we are doing, it’s a very good practice to be conscious of our thoughts, not only when we are meditating. And we can learn a great deal about our thoughts by just watching, just knowing: What are the thoughts that I’m having? So most thoughts are either about ourselves and about others. And sometimes the thoughts are negative about yourself, negative about others, so it’s just to know how we are having negative thoughts about ourselves and others and how when have negative thoughts, what emotions are created. So these are very important insights to develop by watching thoughts. Do we have thoughts more about the past? Do we have more thoughts about the future? Why do I have more thoughts about the past? What happens when I think about the future? Do I have anxiety? So this is why we have to find out, learn about the thoughts and how the thoughts can create emotions and how they can create suffering. This is a very very important aspect of the practice. So it is not only stopping thoughts but understanding, learning, discovering about them.
So any other questions? Any other difficulties?
Question: While I meditate, I had lots of thoughts and some are so obvious you don’t need to observe them but some are delicate minor ones. Is it necessary to observe these thoughts?
Godwin Samararatne: We should try to observe every thought. On one occasion when I gave a guided meditation, I said, ÔCan you be conscious of every thought that arises in your mind?Õ And it is very important to learn to observe thoughts without judging them: this is delicate, this is not delicate, this is good, this is bad. Without judging, without giving pluses and minuses. Can we just observe the thoughts as they arise and as they pass away?
Question: I am able to get more aware when doing standing meditation as well as the walking meditation rather than the sitting meditation and I want to know how we can actually apply what we have learned in the meditation practices in our daily life.
Godwin Samararatne: I’ll be giving a talk in the evening about this very very important theme. It is very very important to integrate meditation with daily life. So I’ll be talking about this later on.
Question: I’ve been meditating for over a year and I have lots of problems like my body moving, left ankle hurts and after meditating for a while when I try to get up, I have difficulties but after I walked for a while, it is O.K. Now my left shoulder hurts. So I’m having all these problems. I want to know if I’m doing the meditation in the right way.
Godwin Samararatne : I don’t see them as problems. In the morning I tried to make it very clear that meditation is just knowing whatever is happening in our mind and body without being concerned: ÔAm I doing it right? Am I doing it wrong? Is it very strange that this should happen?Õ I repeated a few times: ÔJust to know what is happening and can you say O.K to whatever is happening specially if it is unpleasant.Õ Anyway I like to repeat that it is extremely important to learn to work with unpleasant sensations in whatever forms they arise in the body. Just by knowing them and learning to make friends with them, not to see them as problems, but that is the practice because while meditating if you learn to handle these unpleasant sensations that arise, then in everyday life when they arise, we know how to handle them. So it is very very helpful that these unpleasant sensations arise when you are meditating.
So there is time for one last question.
Question: Whilst doing the standing meditation, my body had a kind of movement. I want to know what was happening.
Godwin Samararatne: As I said a few minutes ago, just know that the body is moving.
Now I like to meet another group. Thank you very much. Thank you for asking the questions. Thank you very much.
Now as I said please continue to observe the thoughts. This group that I spoke to when they are walking, so please continue to have mindfulness of whatever is happening in our mind and body.
So I like to know what actually happened when you were meditating in the morning.
Question: I was thinking about anxiety. I had anxiety for some time but when I try to call it and to look at it, it doesn’t come or not in such a strong form as I used to suffer from. That is the first question. And the second question is that if one has anxiety over some problems and he cannot recall the anxiety when facing the problem, then when the problem crops up, there is no time to practise, to have enough experience to face the problem and examine the anxiety and to get rid of it and to face the problems squarely.
Godwin Samararatne: So my answer to the first question: Is there can be a problem because you wanted anxiety to come and it didn’t come? So what’s the problem? Isn’t it interesting when we have anxiety it’s a problem and even when you don’t have anxiety it’s a problem?
Question: My question is when we have some problems, anxiety for example and it occurs from time to time, we want to get experience how to handle it. And when you want experience to practise on it, it doesn’t occur as it occurred before so there’s no preparation, experience to solve the problem.
Godwin Samararatne: I think you were present when I presented the tools on how to work with emotions. So I like you to go back home and I saw you making notes, so please go over the notes and then find out for yourself, experiment with the tools and see how you can work with anxiety. Anyway, just a brief comment on how to work with these emotions when they come, because I know some of you were not present when I presented these tools on how to work with emotions.
So one thing that we learned today is, whether it is anxiety, whether it is fear, whether it is anger, whether it is physical pain, just learning to know that these things are there. And as I suggested in relation to physical pain, learning to say O.K to these anxiety or fear. Learning to feel friendly towards these unpleasant emotions can help us to work with them. So this is one of the tools that I presented and if those who are interested in the other tools I presented, maybe you can get a copy of the talk that I gave on emotions and how to work with them.
I like to know from this group what happened when you were doing yoga.
Question: I want to talk about a personal experience of mine. Once I read some sutta, I went to meditate for about 10 minutes. What happened was that there were lights flashing in my eyes. It was golden light. Whether I opened my eyes or closed my eyes, the light still flashed for more than half an hour. So I was a bit scared of this phenomenon that arose. I did not know whether this phenomenon was normal or abnormal and I would like to know how to handle this phenomenon.
Godwin Samararatne: Seeing vision, seeing such things are different phases in the practice. Sometimes these visions, these pictures you see are very pleasant, sometimes they are very unpleasant. So as I was saying very often today, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, just know that you are seeing lights, you are having this experience without thinking: ÔIs it abnormal? Is it normal?Õ If you react in that way, you are getting involved with what is happening. So what you need to do is not to get involved but just to know and I was saying, just to say O.K and then after some time, the feeling of lights or whatever will stop.
The question I raised for this group is yoga. Please I like to hear your experience about yoga.
Question: I found some postures are difficult but that didn’t really matter because I have done it before. But when I did yoga this morning, I found that there was not enough space for everybody, there were too many people in this hall and I realized anger arose in my mind. For example when the person next to me stretched his leg too far, I would say to myself, ÔWhy does he have to stretch so far?Õ
Godwin Samararatne: This is why this morning I said that today we have to be open to learn from whatever happened to you. Learning to see everything as part of the practice. So whether you get angry, whether you get annoyed, when you are reacting, just to observe that and see how you are creating suffering for yourself by what others are doing. So in that situation the anger is the object of meditation. So then you learn to make that the object of meditation and see how far you can let go of that anger. And as I was also saying earlier, these are unpleasant experiences we have physically, mentally and not only when we are doing yoga, in other situations as well. So just knowing them and making friends with them is a very important aspect of the practice. So if you can practise in this way, anything can be a learning experience, anything can be a meditation. So if you can have that openness, then without getting angry with your neighbour, you feel grateful for this person because he or she is giving you an opportunity to work with anger. The person who is annoying you, irritating you becomes your teacher at that time. It is a beautiful way to live. When I give my talk I will speak about this aspect.
Anything else? Maybe one other comment about yoga. Another experience about yoga? The yoga Master is also here.
Question: Whether our practice is yoga or breathing, I would like to know when we focus our mind, do we focus on breathing from the lung or breathing from the abdomen.
Godwin Samararatne: I said allow the body to breath naturally. So if you try to breath with some part of your body, that is not allowing the body to breath naturally. So it is very very important to learn to allow the body to breath naturally. Then when the body is breathing naturally, you’re just being conscious of the breathing, that is all. It is like when we are doing walking meditation, we just allow the body to walk and we are just being aware of walking. We don’t try to walk in a different way. So in meditation it is very very important to learn to be natural, not to interfere with the natural process of what is happening when we are meditating whether it is walking, breathing or whatever.
Anything else, any other questions?
Question: About 7 or 8 years ago I had minor pains in one particular side of my lung. This pain has already gone but this week I came here to meditate and last night I realized that this pain returned and this morning I also realized that this pain was there. I would like to know why this pain arose, whether I used the wrong method or posture.
Godwin: I feel that when you are meditating, perhaps you are trying too hard and maybe you are trying to breath in a different way so that when one tries to breath in an unusual different way, it may be a strain on the lung. So it is very important when we are meditating, to learn to meditate in a very relaxed way, not to try too hard. If you try too hard it can be a strain on the body and also the mind. So in next meditation please try to sit in a very relaxed way and don’t make it a strain to any part of the body. Anyway if the pain comes again, stop focusing on breathing and send thoughts of loving kindness, friendliness, gentleness to the lung.
Question: While we are practising sitting meditation or walking meditation, we can train our consciousness and mindfulness but how can we do that in our daily life.
Godwin Samararatne : This evening I’ll be giving a talk about meditation in everyday life. I think the same question was asked a few minutes ago.
Audience: I would like to relate to the experience of the lady who raised it earlier about the pain in the lung. I also experienced a similar kind of pain this week but according to my own experience, I tolerated the pain for a few days and today I do not have the pain anymore, so I think that this could be just an old wound and nothing to do with the meditation itself.
Godwin Samararatne: Thank you very much for sharing that with us. It brings up a very very important point, that when we have unpleasant experiences, to go through the unpleasant experiences, to be open to them and then they may drop away on their own. It’s a very valuable experience you have shared, thank you very much.
Question: When I practise sitting meditation, my body moves to all four directions, front and back, left and right. I asked others what to do and they advised me not to pay attention to the movements so I just continued sitting with the movements. I do not know whether this is right or wrong. That is the first question. And the second question is when I sit, my back is not straight. When I try to make my spine erect, the movements intensify and I do not know what I should do in that situation.
Godwin: When the body starts moving, as I have been saying, just to know that the body is moving. And I like to suggest you can also try to control the movements, see whether you can stop that movement on your own. As I said earlier, these are passing stages in the practice. If you see this as problems, you get stuck with this. So to get into the next stage, as it was said earlier by that meditator, we should learn to say O.K to it, we should learn to feel friendly with those things rather than have the question: “Is it right? Is it wrong? Is it normal? Is it abnormal?” By doing that we are getting involved and we get stuck. So this is one of the suggestions I like to make.
And about having your spine erect, it’s nice to try to have your spine erect but it should be very relaxed, not artificial, it’s not tense. So try to find a posture where you feel relaxed and natural with that posture rather than experience tension and discomfort with your posture. So you need to experiment, explore the sitting posture more and more.
So thank you very much and can I meet the last group now please.
I like to know from this group what happened when you were eating your lunch, silently and with awareness. What further discoveries did you make.
Question: While I was having lunch, being mindful and keeping silent, I found lunch tasted specially good and I was very grateful to the people who prepared the food because I did not know we have lunch provided here so I didn’t need to go out and buy my lunch. So that is the first thing. And I want to share some of my own experience in meditation. I haven’t been meditating for too long but from my experience, different parts of the body ached when I started meditating, and also we may be in different stages but we try not to hang onto whatever comes, otherwise we will get stuck. As for the movements in the body, my own experience is that, having practised meditation for a while if you want your body to move to the left, it moves to the left and likewise, if you want it to move to the right, it moves to the right. So if you want to stop the movement, you can just tell your body to stop the movement by practising.
Godwin Samararatne: Thank you very much for both points that you have made. The first point is very interesting that when we eat with mindfulness, we can taste the food. Eating becomes such a special experience. Otherwise we eat like machines, not even knowing what is happening when we are eating. So I am very happy that you mentioned that and it’s also nice that you mentioned that you felt gratitude, grateful. This is a very important quality that we need to develop. In fact in traditional Buddhist countries, before we eat, we spend some time feeling grateful for those who have prepared the food and who have been responsible for the food. So I would like to suggest to everyone here to spend even a few minutes, few seconds before you start to eat feeling grateful for those who are responsible, feeling grateful that you are able to eat.
About the second point is exactly what I meant when I said that we should also control this phenomenon of movements. So it’s a very good connection to make with your body. To give it very friendly, gentle orders: Now please stop moving. Sometimes when you gave such orders the body might respond to it. So I would suggest sometimes we can allow the body to do that and just be aware of it, feel friendly with that and sometimes to tell the body: Now you’ve had enough, so please stop. The body might respond but for that to happen, you should have a very good connection, sensitivity with the body. Thank you very much for those two points.
Question: I want to thank you for the different practices and meditation during this week. In the past I have used similar techniques to deal with emotions and unpleasant experiences and when I did that I felt pleasant. But what I want to know is that you also mentioned in your talk that we should learn from our unpleasant emotions and making them a learning experience. I want to know how do we know what we learnt from the unpleasant experience is right or wrong.
Godwin Samararatne: Very simple answer. Without resisting if you can say O.K and make friends with it, that’s it. Put it in other words, in Buddhist terms, when we have unpleasant emotions, the normal tendency is to suffer as a result of it but here, by making them as learning experiences, we learn not to suffer and see them as our teachers and feeling grateful for them because if they do not arise, how can we learn to work with them.
Question: This is the first time I’ve done meditation and sometimes my feet become numb. When that happens should I terminate the meditation immediately or should I continue to meditate? When I meditate I use the traditional method of having my legs crossed but you mentioned that the posture should be natural. That is the first question. The second question is: how do I know how long should I meditate for? How long is enough?
Godwin Samararatne: About the first question, when you feel numb in the body, again as I said earlier many times, just to feel that it is numb and learning to say O.K to it. And if it becomes unbearable, you can just change the posture. In a way the problem is not with the numbness but how we relate to it, how we react to the numbness is the problem. So again we should be grateful for the numbness because we learn when the numbness is there, learning how not to react to the numbness even when the numbness is there. So this is why I mean that all these unpleasant experiences are really valuable teachers for us because if you do not feel numb you do not know how to handle it, how to work with it.
About the second question, actually meditation has to be a way of life. This is what I will be trying to tell you in the talk, that there is no beginning meditation and stopping meditation. Meditation should not be confined to a particular posture, a particular time because from the time that we wake up to the time we go to sleep, our mind is moving, we are having thoughts, we are having states of mind. So ideally we should have this constant awareness, constant alertness, constant checking out what is happening in our mind throughout the day. Then as I said, meditation becomes a way of life. Life and meditation are not two things, they are just one.
Question: You mentioned that we should learn to call upon some of our unpleasant emotions and to make friends with them and learn from them. I tried that during the meditation and I focused on anger. So I thought of a person I hate very much and tried to get that angry feeling but I found that that anger did not come. Can we apply this in real life? If I keep on meditating, will I be able to apply this in life and in turn later on, I will hate this person less?
Godwin Samararatne: Thank you very much for sharing that experience. This is one of the tools I presented when I spoke about emotions. It is extremely interesting that these unpleasant emotions that we don’t like, when we invite them, they don’t come and when we don’t want them to come, they come. So this shows the importance of openness, and then with more and more openness and waiting for these emotions to come, they don’t come. So I’m very very happy that you had this very important insight. You can use the same principle in relation to thoughts. When we don’t want thoughts to come, they come and if you invite them, let any thought come, you’ll experience that they don’t come. And as you said, with this kind of practice, I’m sure that the anger you have towards that person will become less and less. And as I said in relation to meditation on loving kindness, I would like to suggest to think of that person and try to forgive that person, accepting his humanness, otherwise, you’re still carrying a wound in relation to what he has done to you. We should learn this very important quality of forgiveness. Forgiveness to oneself and forgiveness to others because these things have happened in the past, you cannot change the past, why should we carry the past as a burden, unnecessary burden which is creating suffering for us.
Question: During the meditation this morning, I found my back perspired a lot. I got all wet. The second question is when I focus on breathing, my breathing becomes very quick. When I try to focus on something else, then my breathing returns to normal.
Godwin Samararatne : The first question about the perspiration in the back, just know that there is perspiration in the back and let it be there. Make friends with that perspiration. About the second question that when you focus on breathing, the breathing becomes fast and when you focus on something else, the breathing becomes normal, so I would suggest in the beginning allow the body to breath naturally, forget about focusing on the breathing but just sit and then let the body breath the way it likes. So please spend some time just learning what is called “non doing”, allowing the body to do what it likes in relation to breathing. Don’t see it as a meditation but just see it as some exercise that you are trying to develop, just non doing, allowing the body to breath the way it likes. There is a meditation Master in Sri Lanka who says that when we sit, when we think meditation is something special, then we have special problems. So here we are trying to give special attention to the breath and then the breath behaves in an unusual way and when you ignore the breath, it becomes normal. So don’t see meditation and breathing as something special and just be with it. And even when you are outside, when you think you are not meditating, just continue to have a connection with the breath, to continue to be aware of the breath at other times also.
Thank you very much for the three groups for asking very practical useful questions and also thank you very much for those who have shared some positive experiences with us. So it is very nice that we can sit here as a group of spiritual friends, just sharing each other’s experience. This is something very very valuable. So now you can prepare for yoga and I hope during yoga you’ll have challenges, difficulties as it was mentioned earlier, I hope you learn to make them the objects of meditation. And hopefully during yoga, your body may relax and then when we do sitting meditation, let us sit with that relaxed body and relaxed mind and see what happens. Thank you very much.
Godwin: Now please allow the mind to do what it likes. So let any thought arise, thoughts about the past, thoughts about the future. And let us learn to observe the thoughts without judging them, no plus, no minus, just thoughts arising and just thoughts passing away but please be alert, awake from moment to moment.
Learning to make friends with our thoughts. Learning to create space for our thoughts.
For those who have problems with thoughts, please learn that there is nothing wrong with thoughts if you can be aware, if you can know what thoughts are arising and passing away.
In this meditation you don’t try to stop thoughts, you don’t try to control thoughts, you create space for any thought to arise. What you are learning now is to develop a non – reactive mind in relation to the thoughts.
Now let us learn to make friends with the emotions that we don’t like. So please allow these emotions that you don’t like to arise and see, like the thoughts, whether you can make friends with them, create space around them, just to allow them.
If anyone is feeling sleepy or drowsy, please open your eyes because it is very important to be alert, to be awake.
It is very important for us to learn not to push away, not to control unpleasant emotions but to allow them to arise and to make friends with them and to create space for them. So let us learn this very important aspect.
Let us now learn to do the same in relation to unpleasant sensation. So allow the unpleasant sensations in the body to arise. What you consider as strange feelings, unusual feelings, what you consider as abnormal sensations, so let them arise. It can be in any part of the body.
Can we learn to relate to these sensations without giving a minus. Just to relate to them as just sensations.
Thoughts, emotions, sensations, learning to see them just as they are. Learning to relate to them without a plus, without a minus.
This is learning to have loving kindness to our thought, to our emotions, to our sensations. Then they don’t become problems for us. Then they become our friends. This is what we are trying to do with this meditation.
Talk: How to Integrate Meditation with Daily Life
Now I’m going to give a talk on how to integrate meditation with daily life. So please listen carefully with your complete attention.
Make a Commitment
We have to be clear about our priorities in life. So we have to be clear where the practice of meditation figures in this list of priorities you have in life. If you are really prepared to make a commitment for the practice of meditation, that person will never say I don’t have time to meditate. So please be clear on this point.
Just Knowing What Is Happening
The second point is, as we have been trying to do today, as I have been emphasizing very much today, is this very important aspect of just knowing what is happening in our mind and body, otherwise you are becoming more and more like machines. Machines also can function very efficiently but the machine does not know that it is functioning, no understanding, no knowledge. So knowing, understanding how our mind and body work, we can only do in everyday life. The things that we do habitually, mechanically, like brushing our teeth, combing our hair, dressing up, all these small acts, little acts, please make an effort to do consciously, to know that you are doing it, to have your complete and full attention when you do those things. So whether you are at home, whether you are travelling in a car, whether you are in the place of work, just to know, just to be aware of what is going through your mind and body from moment to moment as far as possible. It is the only way to integrate meditation with our daily life.
Be Conscious of Thoughts
Another aspect that I emphasized here is our thoughts. So during the day, just be aware, just to be conscious: “What are the thoughts that I’m having? Are they about the past? Are they about the future? Are they about me? Are they about others?” From the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep, we have these continuous thoughts going through our mind, they never stop. So we have to make an effort to learn about these things. By learning about the thoughts, you try to understand the type of person you are, self knowledge, self understanding. This is very very important for the meditation.
Another problem in everyday life related to this is our emotions, unpleasant emotions that create suffering for us, create conflict for us. So unless we are meditators, we really don’t know how these emotions are created. So what happens to these people is they suffer from these emotions and they don’t know how they are suffering, why they are suffering and they continue to suffer in this world. So if you can understand the mechanism, the relationship, the conditions that create these emotions, how they are directly related to thoughts, then you can work with them, you make them the objects of meditation.
Another aspect that I have been emphasizing and it is very very important in everyday life is to find out, to learn, to make the object of meditation what is unpleasant to you, what is disturbing you, what is bothering you. You might remember today when we were meditating, we heard some big noise outside. At that stage, I suggested to you, let us listen to that sound. I suggested we could hear that noise as if for the first time, otherwise we consider it as a noise, we consider it as a disturbance, we might get angry, we suffer as a result of that noise outside. So when we learn to make that the object of meditation, we can learn from any situation, any experience in life. The same thing applies to people we have problems with. This is one of the greatest challenges we have in everyday life: relationships. So you have to have relationship with people at home, you have to have relationship with people at the place of work. We cannot move away from relationships. So let us take the case of someone in everyday life making your life miserable, creating problems for you, creating suffering for you. An interesting way of relating to such a person is to relate to that person as your teacher, as your guru. So you learn to use that person to observe your own mind, to see your own reactions to that person. Then you realize that the problem is not with that other person but how you are relating to him, how you are reacting to that person. This is the beauty of the Buddha’s teaching. If the suffering is outside, we can never free ourselves from suffering. So because we are creating our own suffering that we can free ourselves of the suffering. Sometimes I define meditation as finding the medicine for the sickness that we create ourselves. So as we create the sickness, we have to discover the medicine. So once we discover the medicine as meditation, we have to use it, we have to apply it in everyday life. And sometimes as you know medicine can be very unpleasant, it is not always sweet, always nice but if you want to cure yourself, even if it is not pleasant, you have to take the medicine. So these unpleasant experiences we have, physical pain, mental pain, it is unpleasant certainly but as I have been saying, we have to learn from them, they have to be our object of meditation.
Materialism & Consumerism
Another challenge you have in everyday life, as I said on one occasion, is materialism, consumerism. So when you live in a rich country like this, you cannot separate, you don’t know, it’s not clear what you really need and what your greed is. The society you live in can create desires for you, needs for you which are really not necessary.
A very important aspect of meditation in everyday life is learning to lead a very simple life. It is something very beautiful to be simple, learning to be simple in our way of living. So when there is an urge, when there is a need to buy things when you see things you should ask: “Now is this really necessary for me? Why do I really need this? Is it because other people are wearing that or other people are using that or do you really need it?” So one needs to really ask that question when you live in a consumer society. Then you’ll realize your joy, your happiness, your lightness comes not from external things, not from goods, not from what you possess, not what you buy, but from something that comes from within yourself. This is the beauty of meditation. The need for external things drops away because you have become so independent on external things. They drop away. And as I said, joy and lightness come within yourself.
Loving Kindness Meditation
Another very important aspect of meditation, especially practised in everyday life, is meditation on loving kindness. So one aspect of loving kindness is learning to be your best friend. So if you can really make that connection, you’ll never do things which are unskilful for you, unwholesome for you, which create your own suffering and suffering for others. And it is only when you are friendly to yourself that we can really be friendly to others. Firstly we have to open our hearts to ourselves, then we can open our hearts to others. There are many aspects of loving kindness, in fact I gave a talk on that and on that day, we distributed a booklet on loving kindness, so please read that. But I like to just mention two aspects of loving kindness, one is forgiveness and the other is feeling grateful. So in everyday life we need to forgive ourselves and to forgive others. If we cannot forgive ourselves and forgive others, then what happens is that you can be holding on to certain experience, certain wounds that have been created, and this can create lot of suffering for us in everyday life. So as we are human, we are bound to make mistakes. So when you make mistakes, there is no need to suffer and no need to feel guilty and beat yourself for having made mistakes, rather learn to forgive yourself and learn from these mistakes. And other human beings, as they are also human, as they are also imperfect, they are also bound to make mistakes. So if you cannot forgive other people what happens is that you are holding onto hatred and ill will, which is very very unwholesome for you. So when we develop more and more friendliness to others, more and more friendliness to ourselves, and more and more forgiveness to others and ourselves, then we learn to be kind to others, we learn to have loving kindness in our relationship with others. There are so many human beings who are suffering unnecessarily. So when you see human beings suffering, we should try to relate to them with gentleness, with kindness, sometimes smiling with them, sometimes doing a kind act can make such a difference to them and you. And if you can really open up to loving kindness, you’ll see so many opportunities in life. In society where you can act in such a way and this can generate lots of happiness for you and happiness for others.
Another very important quality I mentioned in relation to loving kindness is this quality of feeling grateful, gratitude, which we take for granted. Before coming here, I spent some time in India and then I was reflecting on what the Buddha did after he became enlightened while I was in that place. And there, according to the traditions, according to the account, after he became enlightened, he spent 7 days looking at the tree which gave him shelter. Just reflect on this: Buddha spending 7 days showing his gratitude for a tree. So it shows what a very important quality feeling grateful is. Do we feel grateful for things? Do we feel grateful for other people? Do you feel grateful that you have discovered the Dhamma, that you have a group of spiritual friends? Do we ever make an effort to develop this quality of feeling grateful? Do we ever feel grateful that we can see? There are people who cannot see.
Do you feel grateful that you can hear? There are some people who cannot hear. Do you feel grateful that you are healthy and that you can practise meditation without a problem? So these are small things, little things, which we take for granted. You should visit very poor countries like India and Sri Lanka and then you might realize that you should feel grateful for some of the things you enjoy in this country. But do we ever realize about this? In those countries, there are people without food. So shouldn’t you feel grateful when you have food to eat?
And there is another aspect of feeling grateful. As I said earlier in the discussion, when we have unpleasant experiences, we should also feel grateful because you can learn from them, they become our teachers.
To have Spiritual Friends
Another aspect of meditation in every day life is to have spiritual friends around you. So I’m very happy that you have some groups here so that you can go to these groups and can spend some time with them, meditate with them and discuss with them, so feeling grateful that you have a group of spiritual friends helping each other.
When you practise in this way in everyday life, you can really see the result, you can really see that the medicine the Buddha has given us really heals, it really works. Then you have more and more faith, more and more confidence in the medicine. Then you have more and more confidence in yourself. Then you really feel grateful for the Buddha who discovered this medicine, and you feel happy that you have discovered it and that you are using it and you are feeling the result. And what is beautiful about the Buddha’s medicine is that it can be applied in any situation in life. This can be applied when you are sick. It can be applied when you encounter death in any way. It can be applied when we are hurt, frustrated, disappointed. It can be applied when we have very serious problems, very serious conflicts. The only thing, as I said in the beginning, is one has to be very clear about the practice. Are you really making a commitment for your practice? Have you really made a commitment to take the medicine? I think it is also important that while you are taking the medicine, that you should also encourage others to take the medicine by just sharing with them. This is what I am doing. Please see for yourselves.
Determination to Take the Medicine
Some of the suggestions I have been making so far about integrating meditation with daily life, are they too difficult, are they unreasonable, are they not within your reach? Buddha never said anything which normal human beings cannot do. The only thing you have to be clear about the teaching is to have a clear understanding of the teachings and knowing how to apply in different situations in life. So this is the point that I am emphasizing. I don’t think there is any need for me to speak anything more. So I like you to now just spend some time reflecting on some of the things that I have been mentioning. This kind of reflection is also very very important meditation. Just reflect on a particular theme which will help us and which will help others. It helps us to look at ourselves, to find out where we really stand in life. It helps us to find out whether we are really wasting our life. According to the Buddha’s teaching, to get a human birth is something very precious. So are we really making use of the preciousness of human birth? In what way can we use this preciousness? So let us reflect on this very important theme for a few minutes. And in reflecting on that, we can make a determination: Now from today onwards, I’m making a real determination to take the medicine and then free myself from the suffering that I create myself. And also an aspiration: Let me also get opportunities so that I can share the medicine with others, so by doing that, I can make others happy. So let us close our eyes and really reflect on this.
May you continue to use the medicine and free yourself from the sickness that you create yourself.
As this is my last talk, I like to thank everyone. Firstly, I like to thank the organizers who have done a very excellent job. I am very impressed with the way they organize things so well, so nicely. We should really feel grateful for the fact that there are organizers who are able to organize things so well. We should also feel grateful for this nunnery for giving us permission to use this place, it’s a nice place. Lastly, I like to thank every one of you who have been attending the talks and who have been participating in today’s meditation day. It makes me really happy to see your interest, your commitment for the Dhamma, for the practice. So I hope, as I was saying, that you continue to have this commitment for the practice. Let us now do some chanting and end with loving kindness meditation.
We’ll now end with meditation of loving kindness.
Please feel the area of your heart. Please spend some time just feeling that area.
Can you feel that your heart is opening up like a flower, feeling gentleness, softness and tenderness?
Can you feel that you are your best friend, can you really feel it in the area of your heart and every part of your body?
As your best friend, can you really forgive yourself for whatever mistakes you have made in the past. If you do not have to forgive yourself, just feel happy that you are not carrying any wound.
As your best friend, can you forgive others for whatever mistakes they have done, letting go of any hatred or ill will you are carrying in relation to them?
May you all be well. May you all be happy. May you all be peaceful. May all beings be well. May all beings be happy. May all beings be peaceful.
I forgot to thank the interpreters, translators, who did a very difficult job. I had the feeling sometimes they improve what I said. I also would like to thank our yoga master for teaching yoga under difficult situation.
Chi Lin Nunnery