begun to look at what the Buddhists traditionally call "hindrances"
or difficult energies which arise in the mind and in one's
life as a part of meditation practice, particularly as householders,
and how we might look at them, deal with them, and work with
to read a passage from an article by a woman named Portia
Nelson. It's called Autobiography in Five Chapters.
I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in. I'm lost. I'm helpless. It isn't my fault. It
takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the
sidewalk. I pretend I don't see it. I fall in again. I can't
believe I'm in the same place, but it isn't my fault. It
still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the
sidewalk. I see it is there. I fall in. It's a habit. But
my eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault and
I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street. There's a deep hole in the
sidewalk. I walk around it.
I try walking down a different street.
speaks very directly to our human experience which is not
that one sees and immediately learns, but that in some sense
our spiritual practice and our life of growing in general
is a process of making mistakes and confronting our demons,
and oftentimes looking at the same patterns and difficulties.
They are the forces that the great Christian Desert Father
Teacher Evagrius described attacking those people who went
out to meditate in the desert in Egypt in the second century
A.D. There they talked about them in terms of demons. They
would be assailed by the demons of desire, wanting to go back
to Alexandria and have a pizza, or whatever they served in
Alexandria at that time, or wanting a soft bed, or the demons
of aversion and frustration because it was too hot or too
cold or what we call the Noonday Demon, which is the demon
of sleepiness that would creep up in the middle of the day
to want to take them into unconsciousness. Or if you got rid
of all those, the demon of pride who would come only after
you were successful in routing the other demons, to say, "See
how good I am? I got rid of desire, frustration and anger,
and I'm really a good meditator."
what one discovers is that what was available and in fact
a part of meditation in Egypt in the 2nd Century A.D., or
in ancient India, or in China, are exactly the same forces,
the same demons one encounters here, in our lives, in our
work, in our families. As I mentioned, there was an article
that articulated this very well that describes the traditional
hindrances of desire, anger, judgment, restlessness, sleepiness,
laziness and doubt in terms of marriage. In fact, in relating
to anything, whether it's our meditation, our work, our financial
life, the same states of mind will have the tendency to arise.
important to understand is that these very states are the
place of practice. The doubt, the fear, the difficulty, the
anger, that arise in our life are what make practice juicy.
If you could just sit and be peaceful and get up, your meditation
wouldn't take you very far in terms of opening a heart of
very deep compassion, or in terms of some inner centeredness,
a capacity to relate to birth and death -- and all of the
changes that are inevitable in life -- with wisdom, with deep
Buddhist tradition there are a number of different strategies
for dealing with these hindrances or difficulties. An image
that's used is of these hindrances or difficulties being the
same as a poisoned tree. One strategy is that you go and find
the poisoned tree and you cut it down; you chop it down and
try to get rid of it. We'll talk about working with that strategy.
A second strategy is to simply put up a sign near the tree
that says, "This is a poisoned tree. Don't eat the berries,
don't eat the leaves," and instead of killing it, to
take shade in it, and to enjoy it for what there is of value
in it, to have some friendly relationship to it rather than
one based on fear. The third and the most interesting strategy
is the person who comes along and says, "Oh, a poisoned
tree of this kind, just what I've been looking for. These
berries make the best medicine for curing a number of illnesses,
including the illness of greed, fear, desire, anger and doubt.
person that takes the very energies that are difficult and
learns to work with them or distills them in their own body
and heart until something more valuable comes to them. The
phrase that Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche used was, " These
difficulties are manure for bodhi, manure for awakening
or enlightenment." The most famous biographer of Sigmund
Freud, Lou Andre Salome, at one point in the introduction
wrote a statement -- This is a paraphrase. I didn't have it
to look up but I basically remember it -- When we look at
the life of a great person, rather than condemn their faults
and weaknesses, should we not be grateful and awestruck that
such light could shine through in spite of them.
very different spirit of relating to difficulties, when seeing
them as who we are, to see that there is some light of our
being, of our wisdom, of our heart, that can shine through
even in the midst of these, even in spite of them.
talked about hindrances and difficulties before we found that
mostly as they arise they're based on stories we tell ourselves
-- he did, she did, they did, I wish, if only -- and as we
begin to look at the nature of mind, we can see what storytellers
we are. I mean, I'm a storyteller by profession. In part,
that's what I do. But I don't think I'm the only storyteller
in the room. It goes on and on inside there.
do a couple of things. They make us right, they make us feel
better, they justify, they make us feel more comfortable,
and they also help us to avoid feeling things that we don't
want to feel, or facing things that are just here in front
of us. These hindrances, in a sense, are an avoidance of what
is present in the reality of the moment.
of people long for immortality who do not know what to do
with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
to have visions of eternal peace or whatever one's spiritual
ends might be, but in fact, it's really more about facing
our life each day, each hour, and each moment.
we relate when these different forces arise during the day?
Here are a number of strategies one can work with in meditation
and in one's daily life. The first and the major way to relate
in terms of skillfulness is to identify with the present and
to become mindful of it, whether it's fear, judgment, anger
or desire. If you want to, you can work with mental notes
or labels, "fear, fear, judging, judging, anger, anger,
irritated, irritated," not just when you're sitting on
a cushion, but try it if you're in an argument with somebody,
or if you're feeling frustrated over something, or if you
feel very confused one morning, note, "Okay, I'll look
at this and label it, 'confused, confused,'" and see
what that experience is like. To pay attention to it means
to let yourself experience what arises in the body, in the
feelings, and in the mind, all of them. Confusion might arise
and there will be a physical sense with it. It will arise
and there will be a certain feeling, a state of being confused.
There will be a quality of pleasant or unpleasant. In most
cases it will probably be unpleasant. There also might be
an aversion or judgment, "I shouldn't be confused. I
wish it would go away." If you try to make it go away,
what happens? Anybody ever try it? It generally gets worse,
plus which you add more judgment, "I shouldn't be judging,
I shouldn't be confused, I'm really not doing it right, if
only this would go away," and all of a sudden you have
four more judgments on top of the first one.
was a person at a retreat who came to me because she noticed
in her mind that in most everything she did there was a voice
of judgment. So I asked her in a simple way, a 15-second psychotherapy,
what were the first names of her parents. It turns out to
be this person and that. Did that voice in her mind remind
her of either of those? It could have been someone else, but
in this case it happened to be her mother. She grew up in
an Italian family. I said, "Alright, every time you hear
that voice saying you're not doing it right or you should
do more, or whatever, first of all, count the judgments for
awhile just to see them." She tried that and she was
still fighting with them. I said, "Alright, say 'Thank
you, Mom.' Whenever that voice comes, you should do a little
bit more, you should get that better, 'Thank you, Mom.'"
She said, "That's not really right because I called her
'Mama' and I would have spoken to her in Italian. It's more
like 'grazie, Mama.'"
this note after a couple of days of trying it.
judging process and saying, "Grazie, Mama," was
very useful and even became amusing. At one point the judging
process of mind seemed to be a giant web of interconnected
judgments. Once I started counting them, there were so many.
I counted during two sittings all told about 220. Many of
them were repeats. But it got to be fun after awhile.
had difficulty in walking meditation. She would get bored
or frustrated. So I said, "Instead of walking a little
bit, do a long walk. Take an hour and a half or two hours
and just walk back and forth and die. Whatever arises, you
just keep walking."
did the hour and a half walking this morning. It was proceeded
by an hour sitting in dread anticipation, frustration, anger
at you, and irritation at the upcoming walk. The walk itself
was like all things, good and awful. The first 15 or 20
minutes I really got into it and thought, "This isn't
too bad." Then a lot of aversion came out, mostly impatience,
then rage, then calmness, then sort of psychedelic nature
stuff, then pride, lots and lots and lots of pride, over
and over again, theN planning on what I'd write you in this
note, then more pride, I did it so well, then back to my
feet and legs and sensations, then irritation, then "Grazie,
Mama," again. Then it all started all over.
that most of my unawareness occurred during the time between
sitting and walking, so I realized that's the place for
me to focus on next in my practice.
after ten years of sporadic vipassana, I touch for a moment
into beginner's mind.
spirit of it, whatever it is that you're dealing with, whether
it's fear, whether it's judgment, whether it's anger, whether
it's doubt or confusion, is just to begin to name it and identify
it. You might find that it fits your habitual tendency like
some people's tendency to move out of the present through
desire all the time; others have a tendency through judgment
or aversion or disliking; for others it might be through confusion.
It's useful just to begin to be aware of what your habit is,
what your strategy is. Basically, it's a strategy to deal
with what's uncomfortable. For certain people when it's uncomfortable
there will come desire, for others there will be aversion,
for some there will be spacing out and confusion. Begin to
be aware of that and notice just what's there.
start to look, like our friend here, you see how amazingly
frequent it is, how many mind moments we spend desiring, judging,
irritated, sleepiness or doubting. It's really quite a lot.
Has anybody ever noticed that? Then you say, "Oh, my
God, this is an impossible task. A little mindfulness to overcome
all of that?" But it's really universal. It was true
in Egypt 2,000 years ago, and it was true in India 2,500 years
ago with the Buddha, and it's true in the monasteries on Mt.
Athos, it's true in the Zen temples of Japan, and it's true
in Fairfax, San Raphael, Sausalito, Berkeley. It's the same
thing. It's really universal and it's just part of what the
a book that I've been reading on three-year olds and it's
entitled, Three-Year Old, Friend or Enemy. It is written
by a well-known psychologist writing on this particular stage.
Three-year-olds have a lot of aggression and a lot of testing
of limits and a lot of periods where they regress and get
very needy and they go through all these things. I see myself
in her, it's not just that she does that, but there she is
acting out all this stuff that I find in myself. There are
times when I just get completely frustrated with her and want
to just throw her out the window.
teaching at Esalen and there was a whole group of us in one
large room. There was some conversation about spiritual life.
One of the people there had their child. It was a young two-
or three-year-old who was crying and making a lot of noise,
being very difficult at that particular time, and finally
just started to wail and cry. The mother picked it up and
carried him out of the room, and there was this kind of, "Ahh,"
a relief of everybody in the room. One woman among the many
who had children, just said exactly that. She said, "Do
you remember the time when you really just wanted to pick
them up and throw them out the window, and you didn't care
how far down it was to the street?" Everybody in the
room who had children laughed because they all remembered
that moment. It's not that you do it, mind you, but that it
just comes along with everything else that arises.
need to do is to see that it's human and begin to look at
it directly anyway, to label it, to acknowledge, "Well,
there it is, there's aversion, there's irritation, there's
judgment, there's confusion" or "there's fear."
Actually, when we see it truly, the moment that we can name
it, it's like we turn around and face it rather than being
caught or running away. We say, "Oh, I know you."
Maybe it's the dark night instead of psychosis, or maybe it's
just boredom after being with a person for some years. Instead
of saying, "Oh, I've got the wrong relationship"
or the wrong marriage, when you don't face it, it seems much
bigger and worse, but when you turn around and actually look
at it, it's not as bad as it seemed.
the first step. Things become workable when you simply acknowledge
what that energy is that has arisen in that time in your life,
in your practice. To work with these forces, in addition to
naming them and being aware of them, you really have to let
yourself touch them with your heart. It's not just to name
it, but somehow it's to let it in, to let yourself connect
with it from a place of tenderness or caring, somehow to make
friends with it or at least not to be upset or judgmental
of it, whatever it is.
find that there's anger, or fear, or desire, maybe it's your
food craving, and you eat over and over again, and you say,
"Oh, I wish I didn't do it," or maybe it's the way
you treat your body in some other fashion, maybe it's the
relationship with some person in your life, you look at it
and say, "Ugh, I hate that." See if you can acknowledge
what that state is. Is it judgment, is it aversion, is it
dislike, is it fear, and then in acknowledging it, send some
loving kindness, send some metta to it or embrace it.
Let your heart connect with it as if it were a poor down-trodden
dog or something like that, that generally whenever it came
you kicked it, and instead you are going to be nice to it
today and touch it in some way with more tenderness. If we
can't let things into our heart, we don't really let ourselves
grow and there is still some sense of aversion or trying to
get over them or rid of them.
and identify it, let yourself be touched by it without pushing
it away, and as you open to it, notice its nature and then
study it as if you were a botanist or a biologist. It's a
part of the nature of mind. It's what every mind does. Every
mind doubts, every mind gets restless, every mind gets confused,
every mind judges. Anybody who doesn't have all of those things?
Not a single person back there.
look at its nature. When does it begin? What's the middle
of it? How intense does it get? What's its end like? Is there
something you want to learn about? What's the most powerful
point of it? What are the body sensations like, if you want
to learn to deal with this particular energy? What triggers
it, what's the thought or the image that generally comes right
before it? What's the story line that goes along with it?
There you are driving and you're annoyed by some driver for
doing something for the umpteenth time. What's the story that
goes through your mind? "California drivers are this
. . ." or "People who drive on the road should .
. ." or what is it? Just look at not only what the event
is but what's that inner thing that triggers it. See what
the story is. Just look at it, and then ask yourself one other
question. Who is making up the story? Very useful question
at that moment. It's really beginning to observe the movement
or the dance of the mind.
called, "The Cosmic Dance" or in other traditions,
"The Dance of Shiva," or "The Dance of Maya."
restless waters of the lake appear to make the moon dance.
own storytelling that makes things move. You pay attention
and you watch its beginning, its end, its nature, what it
feels like in the body, if it is painful, if it is pleasant.
If you want to learn, if you have some hindrance or difficulty
in your life that you want to learn about, particularly study
the moment when it just ends. Suppose it's desire. We'll take
a simple one. You have a desire for something you want to
eat. Maybe you have a chocolate craving, and you decide to
go out and get an extraordinary triple fudge Swiss chocolate
cake, or whatever it is, and you fantasize and you imagine,
and finally you get to that place that specializes in catering
to people just like you. They know you're coming and they
put all the extras on, and there it is. Instead of just going
for the cake, this time you're going to watch. You feel the
desire in the body, you watch the salivation in the mouth,
you imagine the pictures and the satisfaction. You really
let yourself look at it and you feel it. It's tense. In that
very craving, there's a certain amount of tension and pain.
That's alright, you're going to get it satisfied. You get
in your car, you go to the ultimate bakery and you get that
thing. You don't even take it to your car. You sit down at
the table, you take your first bite, and then all of a sudden
there's this whole shift that happens in your body. From this
place of tension, it all just softens and relaxes. That chocolate
touches your tongue and it melts some in your mouth, it tastes
delicious, it's really good. At that point, it almost doesn't
matter whether you have any more than that. That's probably
just about enough. If you watch, the desire moves at that
moment and the desire ends. Why is that? Anybody have an answer?
Because the great happiness of it is not just the pleasure,
although there's pleasure and that comes from sense delight,
a certain happiness, but the great happiness comes because
the desire ends.
want to learn something really powerful about the mind or
about particular energies that are arising in your life, whether
it's in relation to food, people, love, work, look at it and
discover what happens at the moment in your mind when that
anger, that confusion, that doubt at a certain moment ends
-- it is a very, very interesting place to study. There is
where you learn a lot about its nature.
happen easily. Whatever this is, it requires practice. How
many times have these states arisen in our lives? Countless,
unbelievable number of times. So you practice. Maybe you start
with little ones. Remember that quote of William Blake?
is to do good,
it must be done in the minute particulars.
General good is the plea of the hypocrite,
the scoundrel and the flatterer.
anything well, it has to be done here immediately, in this
moment, rather than with some ideal -- "I'll get rid
of this," or "I'll change the world." How do
we actually relate to our family, to the people nearest to
us, to our coworkers, to the people that we encounter in the
day, or to the immediate circumstances of our life? I regret
to say this about Mr. Blake, but I also have a quote from
Catherine, his wife, who was asked about William, particularly
about the quality of his company. She replied:
to say I have very little of Mr. Blake's company. He's always
busy in paradise
who I know whom I will not name said:
really want to know about a master, a Zen master or otherwise,
talk to their spouse.
this was a woman. She said, "Talk to their wife,"
but there are a number of female Zen masters. That's really
where you learn about yourself, and that's also where you
learn about what it means to be free. It's not in the theory
but in the nitty-gritty, in the little things. In traffic,
as I said, when somebody cuts you off or does some idiotic
thing which only a human being could do, and they do it, that's
the place that you learn. You have that argument with your
lover or your husband. Maybe you come home and you know you
want to argue. Have you ever seen that one? If you look at
it, there is a desire to make contact, but not too close.
It's sort of a safe way to make a connection and still keep
some distance at the same time, or maybe to discharge something
because you're grumpy at someone else, or some other reason.
These are very interesting places to learn about our minds,
to learn about how things operate.
to be right, you might just listen for that voice. I don't
know if any of you have that. I just love to be right, it
feels so good to be right. Do you know what I mean? You notice
that voice that comes, and you feel its quality, what's it
like in the body, what does it do in that moment to the relationship,
and what is the sense of self that is built around that story
that I'm right and therefore somebody else is not. You look
anything new, is it? There's nothing new in tonight's talk.
It's really old stuff. Here it is again. It's the nature of
mind, and we're learning to relate to mind in a friendly,
compassionate and wise way, not to stomp it out or get rid
of it. You need it for certain things, like planning a few
things here and there, writing once in awhile. It has its
interesting is watching as you begin to allow yourself to
look at these energies and not just act them out habitually.
You might just pick one for the next week or two. Pick one
hindrance or difficulty in your life and study it. Maybe we
can have a little botany lab work here. At the end of a couple
of weeks we could have a meeting and we'll share. We'll have
a little time and people can share which particular hindrance
they picked and what they learned about it as they observed
look you also discover that each has a beautiful side. Isn't
that interesting, that each has some creative energy locked
up in it? For example, the Tibetans talk about those forces
of greed, hatred and delusion, in terms of Buddha families
or types of personality energies -- if you will, archetypes.
The padma energy, which is that of greed and seduction,
when one learns to work with it and doesn't get quite so personally
caught up in it, turns instead to incredible creativity and
a beautiful sense of esthetics and beauty that's not oriented
toward manipulation or grasping but can be part of something
creative and skillful. Or the vajra type of mind which
is in its negative or its difficult aspect portrayed as cold,
hard, judgmental, and seeing what's wrong with everything,
when one learns to work with that energy and open it and not
be so afraid and learns how to use it skillfully, it becomes
transformed into what's called "discriminating wisdom."
Instead of being something that's undermining, it's the clarity
of mind to see exactly what is going on and to know how to
relate to it wisely. It is depicted as the sword which cuts
through all illusion and all nonsense. Similarly, the Buddha
family type which is associated with delusion and being spaced
out, not being so present, avoiding things, when one learns
to work with that energy and allows it without getting caught
in the story, it moves to a place of great peacefulness, of
spaciousness, of a kind of mirror-like quality which can receive
everything in the world without doing battle with it.
these things are strong, what if desire, fear, anger, judgment
and so forth, are very strong, and it's really too hard to
pay attention, how can you work with them? There are five
traditional strategies that are also listed as ways to work
strategy is called, "Letting it go." It arises,
you see it, and you just let it go. Terrific if you can do
it. The thing is it is not so easy to do. There's also a danger
in it that letting go of the judgment, or the desire, or the
fear, or whatever, often gets twisted in our minds a little
bit until it becomes, "I can't wait to let go of this,"
which is to say, "I can't wait to get rid of it."
It becomes an aversion, "I don't like that." A better
phrase for it is to "let it be," better than "letting
go," more the quality of "letting be." To be
mindful and just see it, see that "it's mine," and
let it into the heart rather than resisting it.
interesting if you let things be is first of all they come
and go on their own. It's quite terrific if you really watch
them. They do that all by themselves. Secondly, if you pay
attention and you really let them be and let them in, what
you see is not so much greed, hatred, delusion, desire or
restlessness. Even those, deep though they are, are something
more superficial or on some medium level, and underneath what
you touch when those arise is pain, emptiness, loneliness,
fear, some grief or sorrow, or some kind of contraction. All
those things arise as a strategy to not feel something.
let them be, it's not only to let that state be, but to really
open yourself to feel what is present, and to soften your
heart enough so that you can get just to the bottom of it,
whatever that particular energy is, and that's what begins
to heal you. That's what begins to allow you to work with
it in a different way. That's the first strategy. Suppose
that doesn't work, what other ones can you use?
a second one. That first strategy is like turning the poison
into something valuable, into insight. That's the strategy
of making it into a useful medicine. A second strategy is
one of balance. For example, if there is a great deal of desire,
you can reflect on the brevity of life, on death and impermanence,
and think, "Is this something I really want?" or
"What really matters to me? If I only had another month
or another six months to live, what would I be wanting to
do with my body, heart and mind? How would I want to live?"
Very often it puts desires into perspective. The balance for
doubt is faith, to seek out some inspiration. If there's confusion
and doubt, to read something or to speak with someone -- it
just reminds you of another part of yourself that's a counter
to that ,so then you come into enough balance to watch it.
for anger and judgment -- and it's a difficult one -- is forgiveness.
You can't do it too soon, but some time when you're ready.
At first you can extend maybe a little, and then maybe a little
more, with forgiveness to yourself or to another person. You
can work with forgiveness when the anger is too strong to
to sleepiness or laziness is to do those things which raise
of strategies, if it's too strong, you can kind of cool it
out a little by raising energy when you feel yourself being
too sleepy or dull, or by working with forgiveness when the
anger is too strong to just observe.
strategy is suppression. Very interesting that this should
be listed in here. It is generally talked about as a bad thing.
You don't want to suppress things because it makes you sick
and it just comes out some other way anyway. This is like
the old adage of counting to ten when something is difficult.
You just stop and you count to ten.
you a better example. Suppose you are a surgeon and you're
in the middle of having an argument with your husband. You're
on call that day and your beeper goes off. He did something,
and you're quite upset. It's time to go the hospital. You
get in your car and drive right over. Someone is lying on
the table and they need open heart surgery. You get scrubbed,
you get your gloves on, and you're about to do surgery. That's
not a very good place to ruminate and think about that argument
and try and finish it up. That's a very good place to put
it aside and just complete your task of surgery and wait until
there is a skillful place, a place that's the right container,
where it feels safe, where there's the support or the time
to let yourself solve it. Sometimes it is a skillful strategy,
when something is very strong, to put it aside, especially
if you're willing to say, "I will come back to it when
a better or a safer opportunity arises after this circumstance
is over." It requires patience.
letting things be and being aware of them, that's the first
one. Bringing some balance is the second. The third strategy
is suppress them if necessary or put them aside for awhile.
The fourth is sublimation, taking the energy and transforming
it into something else.
example, if you're very angry, is to take that and do something
useful with it, to go and chop the firewood that you need
for the woodstove for the winter and get some of it out of
your system, let go of it and also do something useful. That's
externally. Internally, you can work with it in the same way.
For example, if there is a lot of lust and sexual desire that's
really compulsive, just as you can move it outwardly, you
can also through some practice move the energy in your body
and take it from being just sexual up into your chest and
heart in some way that the desire is still there but it is
transformed more into the desire to be loved or to love or
to connect in some way. It is to find some other outlet for
it that is skillful.
of these categories is the most interesting and dangerous
one They actually get more dangerous as you go down the list
because suppression is dangerous if you don't work it out
later, and sublimation is dangerous also or can be because
it can be an avoidance. The most dangerous, but also the most
interesting, is the category where you exaggerate it. If you
haven't learned, it is, "Alright, let's do it; let's
look at it." I don't mean particularly if it is going
to be harmful to someone. There are two ways to do this. First
is just put in your mind Part A, where you take that desire
or anger, whatever it is, and you imagine taking it to its
extreme. What would you do? How far can you imagine taking
it? Instead of resisting it, you play it out to the umpteenth
degree. The only way that this is a spiritual practice is
if you do it and you pay attention. If you do it and you're
not very mindful, then it is reinforcing it and pretty soon
you'll go after that unconsciously. It can be done very skillfully.
If you have that desire or that anger, imagine what you would
do to that person. If you have a desire and imagine getting
it a hundred times as elaborate as can be -- see what it's
like. There, you've ended the 100th time, and how do you feel?
There you are in the same place. Does it arise again? Can
you really see that it's endless if you just try to fulfill
part, Part B, is to actually act it out, which we do all the
time anyway. It's nothing terrible to say that most of the
time we act on our desires, and that's fine. Even for these
difficult ones, go out and indulge that thing, whatever it
is, see, but just do it by paying attention as well, and learn
from it -- not just automatically.
I usually tell with this is one of Munindra, Joseph Goldstein's
teacher in India, who had this incredible craving for Indian
sweets, particularly for gulabjaman. Gulabjaman are so sweet,
they're in this sugar water and they make baklava seem like
dry toast. He loved them. After each meal he would want to
go and have his gulabjaman. Finally, he was tired of this
craving, so he went into town, brought some money with him,
and he ordered something like 20 or 30 rupees of gulabjaman,
this enormous plate full of it. He sat down. I don't know
how far he got into it, but I don't think he could eat very
much before he started getting really sick, and certainly
sick of gulabjaman. After that he said he could take it or
leave it, as one would say.
going to do it, okay, pay attention. At least learn from it.
As one Zen master said:
life is a series of mistakes. True practice is one continuous
mistake, one after another anyway.
difference is that you pay attention so you learn from it.
you can hear in going through these strategies of letting
it be, of observing it, feeling it in the body, of noticing
what the loneliness or pain or fear or contraction is out
of which it comes, of sublimating it or transforming it in
some way, or even acting it out and observing it, that if
you're willing to do it with the experience or particular
hindrance in your life, it starts to make the practice quite
alive. That is where it becomes juicy, where you learn from
it. It frees a tremendous energy. Instead of running away
or acting habitually, you start to evoke and allow this inner
energy that's been bound up in these patterns to be understood
and to become more a part of your conscious being.
of these, in all of them, what's important is to learn to
watch the movement of mind, the mind that wants to close or
is afraid, that wants to defend itself or to avoid opening
to the fact of whatever is actually here, to the "just
this much" of the moment, to the spaciousness of it or
the meaningless of it in certain moments, or the emptiness
of it, or the birth and death of it, the loss, and the next
thing that comes.
process of working with these states of mind and these energies,
is to finally learn to come to rest, to open to this moment,
one after another, as it is, and find a kind of stillness
that allows for all the coming and going of the ten thousand
joys and the ten thousand sorrows, and it brings an ease and
humanness and compassion.
by reading a letter. This is from one of Munindra's students,
a woman who was in a prisoner of war camp in Europe during
World War II, and involved at that time in very painful and
horrible things that were happening in the war camps in Europe.
She finally escaped as a teenager at the end of the war and
moved to Australia. She wrote him this letter after doing
some years of meditation practice. She said:
weeks ago I was sorting out old files with notes and stories
and thoughts which I had written down over the years. Reading
through them before destroying them, I was more amazed than
I have ever been in my life of so much misery and unhappiness.
How is it possible that a human being could live for 55
years through so much fear, despair, unhappiness, morbidity,
depression, pain, suffering, and not be utterly destroyed
by it? I must have been stronger than I thought. And when
I look back over the past four years, since the first time
I came to practice in India, life has become simple and
so serene that it's unbelievable.
a very fine yogi. She is one of Munindra's greatest students.
reaching the first deep stages in my mental development,
I lost my depression. My headaches, fears and nightmares
went away, and after doing deep practice for another year,
during my second visit to you, I don't even understand anymore
what all the fuss was about, those first 55 years of my
live life as it is and as it comes in a calm wholeness with
some equanimity and I find myself content with whatever
arises. Sometimes I meditate, sometimes I don't meditate
at all, but you see my life has become more of a meditation
because I try to live each minute of the day in mindfulness
and openness, and somehow nothing seems to be able to touch
me in the same way anymore. It's like living on two levels.
The outer level to make conversation with people and say
the right things at the right time, but under that is a
second level where there is a core of untouched and untouchable
stillness, of quiet attention and peace, because somehow
life is so simple, uncomplicated, and all those old upheavals
were after all really just of my own making, weren't they.
You only get upheaval through the ways you react to things,
and once you react the right way, the direct and simple
way, there aren't problems left, and somehow the right way
of reacting is most of the time not reacting at all.
this makes some sense to you. I'll tell you a little story
to show you what an enormous success you are as a teacher.
her success was that she had suffered so deeply in some way
that she brought that strength and that genuineness that had
gotten her through that to her spiritual life. She said:
months ago the man who I love more than any in the world,
and who was for the past 17 years as close to me as any
man and woman could be, died rather suddenly. If that had
happened before you started to teach me, I'm sure it would
have completely destroyed me. I would have committed a quick
suicide and ended it all. But now of course I felt sorrow
about losing this man's close love for me and I missed his
company, but for the rest, a stone thrown in the water would
have caused more ripples than his death.
his death with an amazing serenity and detachment. He's
just finished this life trip of his and they have already
started another one. I don't know that, but apart from this
personal loss and his companionship, there isn't the kind
of upset and conflict in me about death. I am not afraid
as I used to be.
I've always been able to see and understand other people's
problems and help them somehow, but in the old days other
people's miseries tore out my heart and gave me stomach
ulcers in my pity and concern for them. But now when people
come to see me with their miseries, I can listen to them,
sometimes help them, and have a much deeper compassion,
but when they leave, it's over and done with, and they haven't
torn my guts out in the process.
been working with an alcoholic this past month or so, and
for some odd reason my willingness to listen seems to help
him in his struggle to stay away from alcohol and find his
true spirit again.
you can be proud of yourself as a teacher and content with
me as your pupil.
is something really wonderful and joyful about working even
with the pains and difficulties in one's life and mind, for
that moment when you realize, "For that little thing,
I don't have to take it so seriously. I really can be free
to touch that." It makes practice wonderful.