2002-12-02: Skillful Means
1:25AM Jul 1, 2020
There's a story of Gary Snyder tells of going to Japan to study you studied very strict Renzi tradition, Dr. Jean Kyoto. And there was one very old, venerable Renzi Zen master, who was renowned for giving great Dharma talks. The thing was that no one ever could hear him because he spoke so faintly. And then Gary Snyder goes up goes on to say, it didn't matter.
So which brings me to a little bit around to the topic of tonight. And that is, I'm going to talk again on the topic I talked on yesterday, which is skillfulness. And skillful means, partly because it's a very important topic in Buddhism. And, and partly because after I left yesterday, Didn't think I did a very skillful job with the talk. And, and, and I can't get away with you know, just, you know, just my charisma is so it's so and sometimes when I feel that way on giving a talk, I think oh, well then, you know, we really feel inspired sometimes Oh, I'd like to do it again do a better job, you know, sometimes I feel like once I've given a talk only Then am I really capable of giving a talk. But they've already done it so and so this is my chance to redeem myself. And there's a certain skills involved being a teacher, right? So it seems appropriate to give a talk on skillfulness and, but also remember there's a skills in being a student. So some of you might need to redeem yourself and that department so we're we can all get to try it again. skillfulness is a very important concept in Buddhism. And probably it's not emphasized enough. And in fact, for many years in my own practice, I had no sense of really its importance, even though unknowingly in a sense, I was developing all kinds of skills in my early years of practice. But it wasn't explicitly told, expressed. That's what I was doing. But that was the point of the practice. Since since it's not emphasized, many people don't recognize its importance. So tonight's talk has probably two major aims. One is to talk. One is to encourage you to look at Buddhist practice as a development of certain skills, including the discernment to distinguish what helps and hinders the spiritual growth. So to feel encouraged and inspired by the idea that what you're doing here is developing a skill set and skills. The second aim is to suggest that in developing skillfulness, and being skillful, you're doing something that you already you'll be doing something you engage in the practice of something you already do, that being skillful and developing skills is something inherent to being a human being. And that when you're asked to become more skillful through Buddhist practice, you're not being asked to do something, anything different than something that you've been doing probably since the time you were born, cultivating and developing skills and then adapting yourself better to this human condition. So I like to think of often like to think of Buddhist practice as building upon what you already do, as opposed to introducing something foreign into your life. And maybe this talk and kind of hopefully point to that, that you already are adept at all kinds of skills. That maybe you don't even give yourself credit for, for having mastered. In the Buddhist teaching, the idea of skillfulness developing skills is emphasized explicitly in two different places that I could think of easily. One is in a somewhat famous least in Asia famous quote from the dhammapada and elsewhere, it's called the Avada potty mark. And it's considered kind of like one of the simple, one of the simple or simplest shortest descriptions of what the Buddhist teachings are. And it goes like this. Do no evil. Engage in what is skillful, purify the mind. This is the teaching of the Buddha's that you simply are Buddha. All Buddha's teach this thing Avoid evil, do no evil. And sometimes is translated as do no evil, do good and purify the mind. But that misses is the important emphasis here. Buddha didn't say do good. He said, Do what's skillful. And there's a big distinction between that and then purify the mind. As a little footnote, to this, in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, they took this famous poem, and they changed one line and line go, reverse goes like this.
Avoid evil, don't don't do evil. Engage in what is skillful, save all beings. This is the teachings of the Buddha.
So you might need to look at these three admonitions together Because it isn't that all skillful action is good beneficial for the Buddhist path, being a skillful robber is not considered to be you know, you know, the good thing is skillful liar that the three go together, it's first you have to avoid evil. So you can't be a robber than or you can't skillfully lie, supposedly. And so that kind of puts one limit on what is skillful the definition there was proper was spiritually skillful. And then the third admonition is purify the mind is do that which is skillful for purifying the mind for liberating the mind for cultivating the minds capacity for love, compassion, openness, to live in accord with the truth. So that's the first place I can think of where this is explicit the idea importance of doing what's skillful. The second place is in a isn't a very frequent reference. differences to distinguishing ethically between those behaviors. activities we do, words we say, even movements of the mind. Distinguish between those which are skillful and unskillful. The Pali word is kusala and akusala. And sometimes this is translated as wholesome and unwholesome, which is a good translation, I think, except it misses the fact that the word literally means skill. Like a craftsperson develops a skill and so that which is skillful in a particular situation. And so, when a person is engaged in the path of liberation, the ethical considerations are not what is good and bad, what is right and wrong, but rather what is skillful and what is unskillful and it kind of loosens up a little bit of it. moralistic tendency that people might have. But oh, this is, you know, you know, right and wrong, good or bad. That's not the point. The point is what is helpful and what is unhelpful. So those are the two quotes the two errors I can think of the first quote, The poem is not so well known in the West, and Buddhist ethics is not so popular in the West. So, you know, unless you tune in to these things, you wouldn't pick up that the skillfulness is there. However, everywhere else in the Buddhist teaching, the idea of skillfulness is implicit in the teachings in the Four Noble Truth, the idea of building skills, becoming skillful in relationships with four noble truths is implicit. The eightfold path, the three three trainings which is an overview of the of the Buddhist system of training, they're all have to do with developing skills. And the sense the idea of being skillful developing skills is the work upon which the rest of the practice and teaching is the West. It goes across as woven across. And sometimes we don't see the work, I suppose that we see kind of what covers it or what what weaves in and out of it. The idea that human activity here human action, is efficacious can can cause a change, a beneficial change is implicit at the foundation of the Buddhist teaching. That the choices you make the activities you do, can make a difference. If you couldn't, then, you know, why bother with any practice at all with the Buddhist basically said, let's assume that skills can be developed and that our choices and our actions can make a difference. One of the reasons to develop our skills a skilled mind a skilled character is so that the monkey mind, the mind of desire doesn't have the upper hand in our actions in the world. An untamed, undisciplined mind is a very dangerous thing. And probably all of you can recognize in your own life someplace where you've saved yourself tremendous amount of suffering by being a little bit disciplined, or maybe the opposite, you can remember some time where a little bit of discipline would have done a lot of good and, and not just disciplined mind so mind that you develop the skills, the self knowledge and self awareness. The self discipline, in order to not be a slave to the movements of the mind is a very important part of developing mature life. Certainly spiritual life. So the question is, what is it to be skillful, to be skilled?
And probably many of you could come up with a definition One is it's an ability to do some tasks, some activity with proficiency with fluency, mastery, expert pneus, efficiency, elegance. And, you know, we often go to watch athletes or dancers or craftspeople or various people who have mastered a skill, and it's just wonderful. It's one of the great delights to watch sometimes, people that really mastered something sometimes spent years and years, sometimes from childhood, in order to kind of master to degree that obviously is magical to watch. You know, what people can do with their bodies or with their minds and, and just, you know, beautiful, beautiful thing to see what can be done. I was really inspired by watching my preschool teacher, my son's preschool teacher had to work and he had after 20 years of being a preschool teacher. He had the ability to stay calm, not only stability, stay calm in the midst of chaos, but also to work very skillfully with all the children in the classroom. So he had to hear the practical skills of working with the kids. And they had the inner skills of being able to turn in towards himself and be attentive and mindful of you know, of what was going on inside of him so he could stay calm. He had developed those skills and I don't think they came easy, but 20 years and he was mentored closely by his teeth. His preschool teacher teacher personally taught him to be the teacher. And he was always a little master to watch him. And so I'm talking about skillfulness for persons just walked in. And the reason I mentioned is because I know she put her is trying to get her son into the same preschool. Now it's talking so nicely about preschool teacher there.
skill is something we develop and cultivate we train for. Even people have natural abilities will usually need to kind of train and cultivate repeat that ability until they've mastered it and become real experts at it. So does it have developing a skill in Buddhist practice? Means implies that Buddhism means you have to apply yourself if it's something you do you engage yourself in the repetitive action, of doing the same thing over and over again, that you learn to master something, a skill. So you have to kind of do that you have to put yourself in situations where you're going to repeat the same thing over and over again. Even something is as simple as watching your breath has the virtue of repetition, where a lot of development can come And when we see a skilled person, sometimes it's not always often obvious to us, the amount of training has gone into that ability. I remember I was so inspired when I saw my university mentor when I was in graduate school. I had a mentor, my professor wrote brilliant papers. She read, really wonderful to read, they're so smooth and so well argued, and, you know, and I was in awe of her articles that she wrote. And, you know, I would sit there and you know, labor away and it's just like pulling teeth to write this these articles and then draft 32 and draft 55. And, you know, and, and then one day, she showed me an early draft of one of her papers. And it was crossed out and there were things in the margin and there was, you know, all this, you know, corrections and changes and you know, I was amazed to see that her too. I always assumed she sat down the typewriter, you know, but actually this very skilled papers, you know, that she was able to produce came through a lot of effort, repetition going over and over and over again. Same thing with concentration. I've known people who have been praised for their ability to get concentrated in meditation. And some people think, oh, that person is so easy for that person, that person can be concentrated. And I know that person has spent sometimes years plugging away working at the developing concentration, and really making an effort at it. And sometimes with great, certainly sincerity, but great exploration and playfulness and great kind of trial and error and testing and, and really kind of making it as you know, central part of their life. Remember one person who developed tremendous concentration Seemed like for him it was. It was like the thing that he was like his life was going to be about for about four or five years, I believe. And he worked and all kinds of other things went on retreats, but the thing is most interested in doing was developing his concentration. And it wasn't that he had maybe some unnatural ability to get concentrated, even though later looked that way. He just put in the time, like a great athlete would. And he made it important enough for himself. I feel I'm that way a little bit. I don't feel like I have a natural ability to get concentrated. But I've done I've put in the time and the effort. I've noticed that some point I noticed that I've gone on long retreats. And it's a little bit dangerous to talk this way. But I would you know, I've noticed that the the the the progress on the The degree to which I got concentrated in my mind and God still, what happens should sit faster and faster on the retreats, like would take, you know, five months on one retreat, to get to point x, the next retreat would take two months. And the next retreat would take a month, the next week, where you take two weeks, you know, you could be faster each time. And what I attributed that to was developing skills, not only skills in the techniques that I could use or how to use my mind, but also I became fluent in the tricks of my mind, how my mind operates, and what the map is and how to work with the mind and all these things. And so part of the fluency of developing a skill was also be able to read myself very carefully, and to know myself be familiar enough with myself, so that, you know, I could, you know, be much more efficient and applying myself as I went along. Remember, if you remember, some people have been really inspired by how some venerable old Zen priests bow, and just totally inspired by their bows. And
some of the Zen priests have been battling for 50 years, you know, every day, you know, dozens of times he was up and down, up and down, and they've mastered the skill in somehow there's the efficiency, the elegance, the complete involvement comes from this lifetime of pulling themselves into this into this one activity.
So I find it interesting that the word skill, if you look up in the dictionary comes from the indo European root, that means, to separate to separate the ability to separate things, the ability to separate and from that, in Middle English is meant to make distinctions to an end to make to discern discernment to make this thing with distinguishing discern I think a lot of it about developing skills is developing our capacity to be discerning and to make distinctions. I read a very recently an account of someone who has learned to master the art of swimming. And he swam for many, many years. And then, but has kept working on a skill with repetitive motions over and over again. And he felt that he could have started making a quantum jump forward in his skill and swimming, when he was able to make finer and finer distinctions in the movements in each stroke. So one stroke wasn't just one big movement, it was made up of dozens of different little sub movements of muscles working, and because he was doing it for so long repetition, you could see the subtle subtlety going on and make a subtle distinctions and then adapt himself accordingly. Same thing happens in meditation. As we get more still more familiar with ourselves more concentrated more present. Part of the value of that is be able to make finer and finer distinctions. discern finer, finer differences of what's actually happening in our experience. It can be as simple as discerning the very finer and finer difference between what's really going on in physical pain. I sat here with back pain when I'm sitting here with you today. And I did then I kind of zeroed in the back pain. And it wasn't a solid mass of pain. It actually was kind of moving around, I could discern differences within it. And I could certainly discern what my mind did about having pain. And not believe it or not get caught by it. At least, you know, might not make up my mind is ready to spin out stories about what it means for Dharma teacher to sit in front everyone with back pain. 30 years of meditation, I'm a failure. I shouldn't have back pain, or whatever right.
Another aspect of being skillful is knowing what isn't appropriate. response in any given situation. So skillful responses and appropriate response. And so I think part of developing a spiritual life or a wise life is learning how to be adaptable in a wide range of circumstances, ideally in all circumstances. So there's flexibility to know the appropriate response. And I think there's a Zen koan. So you remember how it goes, there's, what's the teachings of a life, what's the teachings or someone's asked, What's the teachings from a lifetime of practice? set how it goes, remember this column? So you know, there's n students here? Yeah. What's, you know, what's the teachings of a lifetime of Zen practice? And the Zen Master says, an appropriate response. So knowing what's an appropriate response, seeing when appropriate responses is a result of you know, not some particular state or experience but knowing how to respond So that's very, very much true in doing a spiritual practice Buddhist practice, knowing to be discerning enough make distinctions enough to see to read yourself carefully enough to know what's the appropriate attitude or response to yourself in any given situation. So there might be times when you're filled with anger, and you sit down to meditate. It might not be appropriate sometimes to bring mindfulness to that anger. Maybe what's needed is to bring loving kindness. Or the opposite is true. It might be inappropriate to bring loving kindness to it. And what's appropriate is to bring mindfulness to the anger. Different, you know, anger in both situations, but different appropriate responses. And a certain skill sets gets developed where we know we can discern or we can find our way to what is the appropriate way of responding to our anger or to anything that's coming up. So you sit down till you see you can go to do your meditation. Practicing you find yourself tired. And what is the skillful response to tiredness? having low energy, there's many possibilities. One might be is that that's not the day to do sitting meditation. Rather that they spend your meditative meditative time doing walking meditation, as as valid as doing sitting meditation, but the walking meditation brings my energy and keeps you more alert. So one of the interesting things about emphasizing skills and develop developing skills as part of practice, is that we can distinguish that from the emphasis on developing having experiences cultivating certain experiences, or certain states. It's very common for meditators, especially here in the West, to fixate on experiences and states of mind as being the point of the practice. I'm trying to reach that state you know, that person has a great state I'm gonna have that state to know for you know, there's a rights To have that I really you know, I'm in the right spiritual track or the right you know, sense of being in contact with a sacred or something, something, some great feeling we have, you know, that's the point. And I don't want to be little those things, experiences and states and feelings they have, they're important, but sometimes I neither over emphasize their importance. What's more important in Buddhist practice, I would argue, is cultivation of skills. skillfulness, cultivate cultivating an ability. And part of the advantages of this is that spiritual experiences spiritual feelings, spiritual states are not enduring. And so they're not so reliable. But if you cultivated an ability, abilities are much more enduring. You can bring them into many different situations. So I think that you find yourself much more supported by the skills you develop then By the experiences that you, you know, have or don't have, that makes sense, that was important point. Oh, good.
The other thing is if you develop a skill set certain skills, you can use them in times of great difficulty. So you find yourself in crisis. And you might find that your ability to get calm, your ability to be discerning your ability to not get caught by your thoughts is really, really important in that period of crisis. But if you hadn't developed that ability to do those things, then you know, you tried to hold on to your peace or your calm, you probably get yourself more and more fragile, more rigid. But if you have this, you know, skills you've developed, then you can call them those and try to use them in a particular situation or I find it very encouraging when I find myself in challenging situations, to kind of think Oh great. I get to kind of try to cultivate my skills here to hone my skills develop my skills here. And the example I gave yesterday was Saturday morning, I had this very, very feeling was inspired by this challenge. It was time to make breakfast usually not a very challenging time. And but my wife was sleeping in because she was tired nursing Milla night. And I was carrying the baby My left arm, it was nuts, you'd have to kind of sometimes take some doing to keep them happy, you know, whatever, you know, with one hand, and while we have this four year old at home, who's also awake and wants to play with me, once they be engaged and do something's kind of round, you know, go to you, you know, you know, doing your stance and you know, the four years All as to eat really soon. Because if you don't eat soon enough, then it gets out of hand. Because you know, what happens when you kind of revs up, he's hungry or tired. So it's really important get breakfast done. So with one hand so that was a challenging situation for me. But in that particular challenge, I felt I felt, you know, it kind of inspired, okay, what were the skills here not getting caught up being present, and paying attention to the whole situation, being focused on task at hand. You know, the skills of communication with a four year old, you know, just all these things had to be developed. And so playing that and working with it, made it much more interesting and probably prevented me from going off the deep end.
So the impulse to develop a skill can give a person a sense of purpose, even in situations that it might otherwise seem hopeless. And I've known people in art situations that can seem hopeless or hopeless, that you can do anything to help yourself in that situation. I'm thinking now of going into into surgery, many people report they're laying there on the bed waiting for everything to happen. There's major things going to happen in their life, they don't know where they're going to wake up ever again, you know, or, you know, they're taking off the wrong leg or who knows what the we're kind of worried about what's going to happen, you know, they, you know, you can't do anything, you know, seemingly. And it's one of the things that makes surgery I think, difficult for people, when people report when they feel that they can do something, they feel so much better about the whole surgery, and maybe you feel they recover better also. And, and so, even in that moment, when you feel like you normally can't do anything, having a practice you can cultivate and develop can be very helpful. A very common one that people use before surgery is loving kindness meditation, to just do loving kindness and feel Oh, great. I had something to do something to kind of hold on to or some some purpose here. From the situation that otherwise, I couldn't do anything. Remember when I was first learning Vipassana meditation in Thailand, I had done maybe about eight, nine weeks of Vipassana practice by this time, so a lot of lot of retreat time. And for some reason, the meditation teacher, the abbot, there, took me along to a funeral in Bangkok. of a probably a very wealthy Thai general Thai general. And it was incredibly gaudy funeral. glitzy you know, like the Roman Catholic Church or something just like full of, you know, full full regalia. And there was this long ceremony, funeral ceremony, which was all in Thai or poly, no language that I couldn't understand. And I found myself very bored. And I was stuck. You know, this place. I couldn't go anywhere. I was teacher wanted me to be there. And I was bored. And I couldn't understand anything. Why was I there? And after being bored for a while miserable for a while, then I remembered, Oh, actually, I'm still kind of on retreat that's supposed to be doing. And this thing of mindfulness paying attention, you know, maybe I can do that here too. And so I started paying attention, and being mindful of what's going on in the board and vanished and I felt quite happy about being there. I had a sense of purpose. That was different than just kind of waiting for something more important to happen. That's part of the beauty of having spiritual practice. It can give you a sense of purpose in every situation you find yourself in. Isn't that nice?
The idea Oh, sometimes a bad meditation. So called, is better than a good meditation. So they can we emphasize so much people emphasize No experience having a good meditation experience whatever, not had a bad meditation experience, actually good meditation experience can be better than a bad one. I mean, bad would be better than a good one, in that, the bad one so called, might give you a lot more self knowledge, self understanding, there's a lot more patients might develop a lot more compassion, self compassion might arise. So all these good qualities can come from from a really bad meditation. Whereas a good meditation, maybe all you get is pride. Right, I did it. And that's not a skill you're in develop. Right? And in fact, habits are kind of like skills, right? habits get anything gets developed by repetition. You want to be very careful what you develop what you repeat. And if what you're repeating is to, you know, egotism over and over and over again to be self centered. That gets stronger and stronger. Did he have a spiritual practice spirituality Practice entails skillfulness developing skills can be daunting to some people. And it can be very, very idea of hearing about it can seem exhausting. Some of you feel exhausted already hearing this can be exhausting. And I think it's partly because many of us, our minds are exhausted from doing so much doing, doing doing doing. And then they have some kind of implication that a spiritual practice also involves doing. Give me a break, what I want is a vacation from my mind. And so there are spiritual practices that emphasize not doing and they're very profound in the wrong way. But we might not understand the profundity of them we understand is this is the antidote, maybe very wise antidote for the exhausted mind. So what is the appropriate response? If your mind is exhausted from doing maybe the appropriate skillful response is doing a practice of not doing for a while. So the mind can rest and relax. You will, we don't want to make a religion out of the practice of not doing. This is the only true way but rather, oh, given given these sets of conditions, this is a useful practice to do those conditions change, you have to then be adaptable and to change your practice accordingly. That might be after a while your mind is cooled out and relaxed at ease. And that non non doing doesn't help you anymore. Doesn't kind of continue to develop your practice. And then you need to switch to something more active at that point. cultivating developing
now, so again, I think I'm also afraid that some of you listening to this might want to re to dismiss the idea of becoming more skillful at developing skills. Because of all the doing involves seeming doing involved. But remember that being skillful also means having the ability to discern Learn what is the appropriate thing to do? What's the appropriate response? That's skillful right there. And if what you need to do is to rest and not do. You have to be skillful enough to see that are skillful, not skillful enough to see when that's not appropriate.
So part of what it means to develop skills being skillful, are inherent in being skillful is building the ability to read a situation accurately. The skill for kayaker reads the currents, the waves, the position of the boat, her own abilities, at the particular moment in time, or on balance in the boat and the kayak. All those things, a lot of different things are taken into account. And because of the training of endless training and endless endless repetition, all those assert discernments happen almost effortlessly, there's tremendous information is taking in. When a person kayaks with person rides a bicycle, when a person develops skills that have become for some people second nature, and or, you know, and also part of the joy of it is you're so absorbed in the present moment that everything else is forgotten. But the present moment is where you live. And in that present moment, the mind is so tuned and sensitive to all the information coming in, they can make very fine adjustments, very fine distinctions to know how to proceed. The same thing happens in meditation. At a point when the concentration gets really strong. Sometimes I felt like it's like riding you surfing, you caught the wave, you know, you're kind of on the concentration, the concentrations hooked you or you're hooked into the concentration. And it's kind of like you're on the wave and you can see it's really exciting sometimes meditates like feels exhilarating sometimes to be there on the wave and kind of you know fully present and then your all your senses, kind of get tuned in or tuned. to what's happening in the present moment and kind of riding the wave and staying on it, and not letting the thoughts carry you away or I get caught by them or whatever.
So a skillful meditator needs to be discerning about what their own their energy level, concentration levels, emotional state, the thoughts, the concerns of the mind, there's lots to track. In order to really master the art of meditation, to be adaptable, and to know how to respond to different situations. It's a slow process will learn that mastery. And one of the first skills that a lot of meditators need to learn though sometimes they're slow and learning it is patience. takes a lot of patience to be a meditator. And it's sometimes that's a lesson that's hard, hard, hard, hard, learned that word or you know, we learn it Through the fire of not having it How are we doing? Can I continue a little bit longer? So interestingly enough, yeah, I'm gonna say no. It's finally says know that I know I've succeeded in being good teacher. But anyway
in the Bhagavad Gita, which is a Hindu text, there's a quote, there's a line that says, yoga is skillful action. Yoga is skillful action. The reason I mentioned this now, is that here we find outside the Buddhist tradition, another Indian spiritual tradition which emphasizes the importance of being skillful. Yoga in Bhagavad Gita, I think synonymous with spiritual practice. Like Hata yoga and john specifically but spiritual practice in general. And and skill is something that's universal developing skills is universal in our human condition. I see it in my new baby, who's now five weeks old, that he's been very busy in the minutes that he's awake during the day, developing skills, the most rudimentary basic skill that I never thought about what a big deal how difficult that is to learn. You guys haven't probably never thought about it because you learn that skill before you had thoughts. So you probably don't even remember is holding your neck up all your head up. You know, the first few weeks we had to kind of hold his neck up he couldn't do it himself. And you know, he's constantly trying now tries again, you know, and it's a skill he's developing. And, and, you know, it takes takes a lot of coordination and attention. And it also seems to be learning skills and how to use it uses eyes and how to focus. So, you know, very actively involved with developing these skills. And it's so inherent, it seems like there's a drive in the human psyche in human beings system to develop skills to explore. And a lot of growing up in the, you know, is is this drive to develop your skills to master all kinds of different things. By the time you get to be a teenager, you're trying to master things your parents don't want you to master. But maybe that's part of the system works. And my sense is that if a person is relaxed enough, or not to stress too much, sensitive to their own inner life in a deep way, that that impulse to developing oneself developing skills cultivating to mastering certain things is still inherently there. And it's not something that's foreign to us. But it's already here while we're doing it as we keep growing older, we're developing skills and how to be old. Which you know, is good thing to learn if you're gonna be old.
So developing skills is common as a common human endeavor.
And as we get into adulthood and spiritual practice is impulse to develop to a higher level of maturity. I think of spiritual development as being a maturation process, as opposed to something which is adding kind of something to your life, which I don't know what to say, but it just continuing that process of maturation development, so the more mysterious than that It's not, you know, some great esoteric thing. Now one of the things that happens as we develop as we mature, though, and become adults, is there's a kind of a second level learning. And that is we learn how to learn. We develop the skill skills of how to develop skills. I saw I was at my son's school today, and they had a pamphlet called learning how to learn. It made me so happy, especially since I was going to give this talk today. So learning how to learn learning how to develop skills, what are the qualities that we need to have within us to develop skills that we bring to a situation. one of the foremost is patience. A second is persistence, repetition over and over and over again, don't underestimate the tremendous value of repeating your attention. Under breath, one breath after the other self monitoring, having the right attitude humility and developing a skill, willingness to learn willingness to learn from others self knowledge, interest, willingness to fail and to learn from how one fails suspending preconceived limiting ideas. So you find some Buddhists emphasizing a lot the not knowing mind practice not knowing if you do it well and supposed to imitate Korean teacher salsa, salsa name kind of popularized this in America and he would say something like, I can't even do it then. I'm Paris, myself and my profession, I guess. Forget it. I'm sorry. Don't know
No knowing any skills not to let self limiting ideas, get the upper hand. When I was writing my dissertation, I had a ton of thoughts about how I couldn't do this. This was impossible. You know, you know, you can go through a list, I can do it. It can't be done these thoughts and but from my years of meditation, my familiarity with my mind. They were like little pesky flies in the background. They were there. I didn't let them bother me. I didn't let them get in the way. I just took the next footnote. Could be right next, but no, if you don't do the next sentence, you just kept plugging away and plugging away and plugging away and just kind of, you know, ignored, didn't get caught by those thoughts. And it might be that the As we grow up, that is the skills and learning how to develop skills, which is most useful because it's most applicable everywhere. along this line, last thing I'll say, apologize for going over is even choosing one thing to master, like in terms of meditation practice, trying to cultivate concentration, that breath or mindfulness in the breath, choosing one simple thing. There's so many different skills, so many different aspects of our psyche that has to come into play to make that happen. It's simply doing that day after day, month after month, year after year. You'll learn to refine so much of your character so much of your of who you are, through that very simplicity of that one thing. you'll develop things like patience and self awareness and concentration and you know a whole slew of things and you Trying to develop mindfulness in the breath in all the different circumstances of your life. And you see yourself in so many different circumstances, by having this one reference point, the breath, the same activity you can repeat day after day, day after day. And you can select like a vantage point from which you can see everything else much more clearly. To develop great skill on one thing can often then translate into, into the kind of self knowledge is kind of self refinement, that can help us in how we engage in life outside of that particular skill. So I encourage all of you to think of developing a skill. It doesn't have to be a meditation, but certainly that chooses a meditation group. It's a great place. So encourage it there, develop skills. Don't be discouraged by failure, even years of failure. It might actually be more useful, sometimes you if you're learning about yourself in that process. But it could be other things to develop skill. And when I was at San Francisco Zen center there was a lot of emphasis on this idea of developing skills, they didn't use that kind of word. And so they would have, sometimes as n students were sent to a study, Japanese tea ceremony. And tea ceremony is a skill that you develop resuming refinement, very refined way of, you know, behavior and action. And they're really encouraging people to develop themselves by developing this particular skill. So, developing skillfulness and in thinking about the pedagogy, pedagogy of this talk, and trying to redeem myself from yesterday, I had said that it's really important not to talk for too long. You want to give a short talk and have questions.
I still Trying to learn how to do this. So thank you very much for your patience and listening and have fun