2020-03-24: Virya (2 of 5) Right Endeavor
11:46PM Jun 19, 2020
So again Good morning. And the theme for these dar Mets this week is effort. And yesterday I emphasized initiating effort that sometimes initiating effort takes a lot of energy, because of all the forces of distractions, forces of preoccupation, strong inner life, emotions that and motivations desires that sometimes take over and make it very hard to be present. Sometimes the initiating effort takes a lot of effort. Sometimes initiating effort takes very little effort. Initiating effort often has to be done over and over again, in terms of meditation and being aware and that it's not an incidental thing to keep beginning again, beginning again. It's really a very powerful conditioning. It's a very powerful shaping of us and, and realigning and harmonizing and resetting. What is it that drives us? What is it that moves us? Where are we, and how present we can be in this life? how aware as initiating efforts kind of takes hold, and we begin to become a little bit more familiar and more able to kind of see what's happening in the present moment. And maybe even dwell in the present moment more fully for some period of time, maybe not so long. But just enough to see that we have some choice about where we put our energy where we put our effort. And that comes to the second part aspect of effort, which in the Buddhist teaching is called right endeavoring, right endeavor. The sixth step of the Eightfold Path. And it's called endeavor because it's what we're trying to do, what we're aiming towards in our activity in our practice. And there's a very simple principle involved in understanding what is right endeavor. It's not a particular thing we do, but it's a way of kind of finding our bearing or direction, what's useful to do what's important to do. And the analogy I'll give for it is for a farmer who is growing food, growing plants for food. And that farmer has four different activities that has to be done to grow the crop, you know, many but for kind of overarching things about growing those plants. For first it has to clear away the the ground. So there's space there for the plants to grow so the ground can be tilled, fertilized. And so there's the seeds that seedlings can grow there. So it's clearing away the weeds. The second step is that if there are weeds grow to remove them so the weeds are you know, so the ground is cleared but then they appear or do they have to keep killing the soil or holding the soil to keep the plants the weeds from growing. This the next two principles is that the farmer needs to plant the seeds or plant the seedlings that can grow into some food plant and then the farmer has to nourish the growth of that plant. support it, let it keep growing and be healthy water it, maybe fertilize it, protect it in various ways. So these four steps of things are called avoiding, removing, cultivating and maintaining. And what we're doing when it comes to when it you know, that's one thing for a farmer but for us what it means in practice is we want to remove and avoid unhelpful states of mind, unhelpful activities, things which are unskillful unwholesome, that are unhealthy psychologically, spiritually, physically. And we want to, we want to bring forth plant seeds gets planted. seedlings
of things which are wholesome or helpful, healthy to do, skillful. And once we've planted those seeds, we want to keep them going when practice them keep them developing, keep them going. Many years ago, a friend of mine told me of a kayaker in Alaska who came up with his own analogy for this. These are called the four four right endeavors. And that is kayaker has to stay out of trouble. out in the open See, I guess. When the character gets in trouble, get out of trouble. kayaker should cultivate good kayaking skills and then the character should maintain those skills. So When we find ourselves meditating have enough presence of mind to recognize what's happening. If we have the capacity to recognize make a distinction between what is it that leads to our detriment? What are we doing that brings suffering? Or we get to contracted and tight limited? And where and what is it we do when where's the direction to go to become free of the suffering free of the contraction, that tension, the pressure that we kind of caught in? And so one of the purposes of initiating effort in mindfulness practice is to bring us present enough that we begin to feel sense, see, perceive this very simple distinction between where is the suffering, where's the tension, where's the pressure, the stress And where is what's wholesome, which is freeing, opening, relaxing, non suffering and what activities of mind what activities would actions of body lean more in one direction or lean more in the other direction. And so, to be able to see that and then have a very simple course correction, let go of what is harmful, let go of what is unhealthy or unhelpful and then pick up what is healthy, healthy. So, in terms of meditation directly itself, it might entail looking at how we are meditating. If we are present enough to see that we're meditating, with striving and attend sway we can feel that tension of the end the pressure and even the suffering, that's striving, pushing, expecting demanding, wanting something to happen. And I've known people who've gotten the headaches from trying so hard to really, really try and push to get something to happen. We can feel for ourselves or this hurts, this is not comfortable this is, you know, has is unhealthy to keep doing this. Then we can say, Is there another way? Can we move to the other side to what's wholesome? And can we bring a wholesome energy wholesome approach to mindfulness? Can we be more relaxed as we cultivate our awareness of the present moment? And how can we be relaxed and persistent, relaxed, persistent, persistent relaxation in the awareness practice that we do and and to find that kind of to see the difference between those To is very helpful. There might be things we're thinking about beliefs we have about meditation that are operating. We might be, for example, believing that, that it's wrong to have physical pain or it's wrong or bad person to have our mind wandering often thought or that if we're spiritual, we shouldn't be thinking or feeling certain things. And if we pay careful attention to what it feels like to have those thoughts, we can feel that it's a narrowing constriction, a dampening, a shutting down of the inner light, that hurts, it says an Ouch, and those kinds of thoughts. And so those would be considered unwholesome or unhelpful for us. And if we criticize ourselves for having those thoughts, that's even more outrageous, even more unwholesome.
So instead if what we do is Then explore and see if we can find. Are there other thoughts that are more appropriate? Can we let go of those? And then can we cultivate Other thoughts? Can we is it other viewpoints of how to look at our experience, and one of them, that is kind of at the center of mindfulness practice is to replace these critical thoughts with economists awareness. To have the thought this too is appropriate to experience right now, this too is appropriate to hold in the field of open awareness. This too, can be held. Just Okay, this is how it is. I don't have to be critical of it. I don't have to support it. I don't have to be engaged in it, but I can be simply aware of it. And that kind of thinking is more helpful and more so supportive, and then to then to have that thinking and then try to do it just be there with it, not make a problem with anything. And so, this principle of right endeavoring is based on what we let go of, and what we cultivate. And that's the kind of two big sides of Buddhist practice where the energy the endeavoring of Buddhism goes to into, sometimes the focus is on letting go. And sometimes the focus is on in cultivation or developing our or doing something that's wholesome and skillful with and and if you keep, keep looking and reflecting on MIT, is this right endeavoring. Then the very way in which you make the effort to do right endeavor, hopefully it'll be nourishing, satisfying, relaxing. I say that because From not a few people, the language of effort, you have to make effort now, endeavoring is almost, you know, oppressive, it's almost like a burden like not have to strive and push and really walk up hill, steep hill or something. But always come back to kind of be your own teacher, try to understand how you are to understand is this is there is this effort I'm making? Is it draining? Is it contracting? Is it stressful? Or is it easeful are supportive or nourishing in some way. And over time, we learn what's nourishing we learn what supportive we learn how good it is to make a certain kind of mindful effort, that it becomes more and more our home and the effort to be present becomes slowly becomes more second nature. We become able to settle and be in groove of breathing being present. So, initiating effort and right endeavor. And I hope that you can maybe practice with these things for today and tomorrow morning, we'll take the next step and the five step energy effort talks. Thank you for being here.