2020-04-01: Sati (3 of 5) Observation
11:28PM Jun 19, 2020
So good morning. And to continue this series of talks for this week on mindfulness as part of the five faculties. And so I've given now, five talks on the first Faculty of faith. Five talks on the first faculty of the second Faculty of effort. And now we're doing the third faculty. And those of you listening to these series, might have understood that these Monday through Friday talks for each faculty is offered somewhat progressively. That's somewhat goes along with the notion that Dharma practice is onward leading. There is a way that it evolves and moves and develops over time. And it's Certainly it goes in spirals, come back to the same place. Again. Sometimes it goes back and forth ups and down. It's not linear. But it overall the pattern of practice is to move along a certain direction to greater and greater freedom.
And for mindfulness, then Monday was the initial establishment of mindfulness, the effort it takes to begin the practice to show up to if we're lost and thought to wake up from that and be mindful and begin again, begin again. Once we are able to kind of begin and really kind of starting to be more present, then mindfulness has another quality that can come into play. And that is that not only are we present and aware of what's happening, but you also can begin recognizing what's happening. And recognizing allows a little bit more to I suppose to be anchored in the present moment, a little more clarity about what's happening. And a little bit more begins to have its own momentum to keep us in the present moment, keep us in the overtime.
As we're more rooted in the present, and have more clarity what's going on, then the practice can open up to a capacity to observe what's happening. We said, We're not trying to make the effort so much anymore. But the effort more is to stay observing, stay present, let go with things that interfere so we can stay and settle back and just observe whatever is happening.
And this sequence is the sequence in which the Buddha teaches mindfulness as well. He talks about establishing mindfulness first, and then a lot of the exercises that the Buddha gave for developing mindfulness have to do with recognition understanding what's happening. And once that's been established, then he talks about observing the body in the body, the feelings in the feelings, mind in mind, dharmas in dharmas.
So its ability to observe and observing has some characteristics. One is that when you watch look at something, the looking itself does not to interfere with what's being seen. Certainly if you touch something your hands might change it and pick it up and do things with it. But eyes The seeing in and of itself doesn't change anything that's being seen as your sees. And so that way, it's minds the minds ability to perceive to see to to the settling back and just allowing it to be there just know it or see it or is a knowing that without interference of what is known. And certainly we don't physically interfere with it. But also we don't, we don't interfere with the perception or the seeing with judgments and stories and commentary, and attitudes of being for and against it.
These are all like pulling curtains across the window or little bit obscuring or making it a little bit more cloudy or not so clear what we're seeing. When we add all these things on top of just simply sitting back and watching. It's certainly not easy to just to watch without interference. And that's why it's can be useful to have the watching be 360 degrees. And what that means is that everything can be included, including our interference, including the way we judge it, or we have to watch and not once and not to condemn any of that, but in a sense, just keep opening up the awareness, the field of observing. "Oh this too, I get to observe. This too, I observe. And I'll just hold it all as just one more thing to observe."
And over time, this simple observation of experience is a radical act. Because of how much human minds are involved with fixing and doing and commenting and planning and all kinds of things. It's a radical act to be simple. It begins to loosen and dissolve and unravel all these complex sick complex, complex worlds we have of reactivity and judgments and ideas and stories through which we see ourselves and see our world. And so this settling back to observe
The analogy that I like for it is to imagine that you're on a edge of a river leaning up against the river tree. And you're just watching the river go by. And as the river goes by, all kinds of things are seen. There's a grifter that comes by leaves that go by and just very nice just to watch the current, the waves, the driftwood that goes by, it's very relaxing. And then there comes along a wonderful recreational riverboat with a band and dance show and, and theater and lots of partying going on. And the next thing you know, you are involved, you're on the boat, but it's taken a few weeks to realize that you're on the boat partying and
And then you get off the boat and so out that was a long trip. And you finally make your way back up river to where that tree is you sit down, just watch the river, it's so nice to still watch the river. And it's calm, relaxing, peaceful content. But then down the river comes a war about fighting the great right war and shooting its guns in all directions. And it's the good cause and so you jump on the war boat and you're fighting the war. And it takes you a few months to realize that you are been fighting a war.
And so finally you get off and you've takes a long time to walk back up and find that tree again. And then you're sitting there under the tree, just watching the river go by and it's peaceful and calm and nice. And then comes along this decrepid raft that's so poor, so ruined and just barely, barely can stay afloat and it you feel so much pity for this raft and Before you know it, you're you find yourself I don't know you don't know how it happened but you're on the raft. And you've been on the raft for years. On this poor raft for me, it's so so hard.
And then you finally able to get off the raft. And then you go back up the river. This next time there, something comes along a boat, very alluring, interesting, fascinating. boat, and you stay in the river, and you watch it go by and you you don't get on. And then another one comes by and just watch it go by all kinds of boats go by us watch it go by. And you don't realize you realize that well I don't have to get on those boats. The boats are doing their things. They're going to their place. They come in they go there's endless boats. And I can just stay here. Observe and watch it Stay peaceful and just watch it go by.
So this example is kind of how we watch ourselves in meditation, all kinds of thought boats come along all kinds of stories and ideas. They just coming down the river of time, the river of experience. And all too often we find ourselves on the boat on the thoughts, entertaining ourselves fighting the good, good fight, you know, caught up in some self, pity yourself, just feeling sorry for ourselves or, or the great, you know, purpose in life or the great fantasy or whatever it might be. And it might not be wrong to be involved in get on boats. But sooner or later, we realize that there are other options as well.
And there's other possibilities of inner growth and development, and for a real discovery of freedom that's not possible if we keep getting on the thoughts, keep getting on the boats. So this idea of settling in, I just watch things go by, watch feelings go by. Watch sensations in the body go by thoughts, watch the breathing go by.
And one of the great things about breathing is that it's, it just has this wonderful rhythm and flow of waves and the units like the waves on the river coming and going up and down, and just settling back and watching, observing.
So to observe, to establish mindfulness, to have a clear recognition of what's happening in the moment, so that the mind begins to step back a little bit. It's not so entangled and cotton experience. This is an end Breath. This is an out breath. This is a thought, this is anger, this is contentment. This is sounds coming. Whatever it might be to clearly recognize it is to begin changing the flow of the mind and what the mind is involved in. It's beginning of movement of freedom to recognize rather than being caught up in.
And as the recognition becomes clearer and clearer, there comes a time when it's possible to lean back or just settle in and just observe the experience in a peaceful and a calm way. And, and this creates the foundation for the next possibility that mindfulness practices the faculty how the mindfulness faculty is used and how this practice unfolds, which will be the topic for tomorrow.
So You might, in this intermediate time, between now and tomorrow. Be curious about this human capacity to observe experience. And you might even go and use your eyes and sit someplace quiet. And just to watch. Things go by watch nature, watch the squirrels playing the trees or the cars go by whatever your situation is like, just to watch the clouds go by and see what you can learn about what it's like just to observe. Just to observe and not interfere and not be reactive, not make stories about things. Just gently let things flow by flow by stand in the middle of your river, and let things all things flow and just go by and until such a time, that it's just everything is just observed. And there's no observer Even the observers flowing by.
So thank you very much for being part of this and sharing in this now this very wide community of people meditating together and, and, and sharing in the Dharma, appreciating the Dharma - and maybe spreading goodwill together into the world as we go through the next day. So thank you. Thank you very, very much.