12:02AM Oct 26, 2021
For those of you who don't know, this is Dr. Joe parent. He has been a student and meditation instructor in the Tibetan Tibetan Buddhist tradition for over 40 years. He and Andrew have studied with many of the same teachers and bolted the three year retreat at Gampo Abbey. They met in a class on analytic meditation and debate that Joe taught in 1997, Joe and Andrew taught together for the first time in 2019 at the Sedona Dream Yoga Retreat. So, welcome, and thank you so much for being with us again this week, I will go ahead and turn it over to you. And as always if you guys need me just let me know in the chat.
Well thank you, Alyssa. Always my pleasure. And I want to see if my Gong is working here.
Too soft hang on here we go. There we go. Good. Okay, so we've got our technology issues ironed out, at least temporarily. It's wonderful to see everyone that I can see, and welcome to everyone, even if I can't see you. So, there was an interesting question that came in about focus and concentration. And it's an interesting topic because we talk about that and in the Buddhist tradition. They even talk about as part of the Eightfold Path. They talk about right concentration. Now, when we talk about concentration and focus. Keep in mind that that's a translation. And we're, we're working with the meaning, and what is the meaning in our experience, the meaning in the original term in poly or Sanskrit. In ancient India was actually absorption, that you are fully absorbed in the, in what you're experiencing in the present moment. Particularly now. There was a, was an old hall of fame golfer who said, if you're trying to concentrate, you're not concentrating. So I think that that's really an important key. If you are trying to concentrate, then it's you over here trying to concentrate on something over there. Now we start that way in a lot of the mindfulness practices they, it's the idea of holding your mind on an object, and there are so many different objects of meditation and the mindfulness tradition there are some physical objects like holding your mind like resting your eyes and holding your mind on the form of a statute like a statue of the Buddha or bodhisattva. There's on a candle on a spot on the floor on the wall. And the idea there is to place the mind in a particular way and be aware if it moves to bring it back to that. The metaphor I like to use is if you are training, a new puppy. You don't just let it run around in the yard and hope that it comes when you call, you haven't on a short leash. And when it pulls away. You say something like he'll Fido or whatever you've named your puppy. And, and pull it back so that it, it gets it associates that its name with coming close to staying close to you. So we have a practice called close placement in which we want to hold our mind close to us. Now, the external objects of attention are, as I said, a pebble, a candle, a statue, a spot on the wall or on the floor. And then, then we have the internal, which is awareness of your body, or an issue of your breathing. And that's a very common one and the one that we're going to use primarily today and, and that's because the working with the breathing has particular advantages to it, which I'll talk about in a second. But back to the concentration. The idea of absorption is that you are fully absorbed, and, and so to say, I need to learn to concentrate better. It's a bit of a misnomer. If you have regular vision and don't need glasses 2020 vision. Then you see things clearly. But if there, if there's fog in front of you. You wouldn't say, you know I need to I need to learn to see more clearly, there's fog in the way. And when the fog is cleared
everything that's there presents itself. In the same way, when we are distracted, it's not a matter of learning to concentrate. It's letting go of the distractions and letting our mind return to its natural state and the natural state is being present. We can't hear any more, or I can't. Yeah, okay, I
was trying to make sure I wasn't the only one. I don't know. Can you hear me okay. I can hear you, but I see Joseph just went away so yeah I think Joe disconnected, or maybe he'll be back. I'm sure he'll be back from reboot. Oh, goodness, I just didn't want to work tonight, I guess. Let's see. Maybe he's just coming back in. Zoom install the lyrics.
Can you guys hear me. Yeah, okay, I can see. Let me check my email, see if he said anything up there is, Let me let him back in.
Yeah. Well, that was interesting. Hello, for
sure if it was me
or you or for some reason my computer decided to shut down so as I said, we were over our tech problems, hopefully. I'm not sure what's going on. I suspect that it's something called Norton is an anti virus thing, which, after installing it has only cause more problems. So, I like Barry, Barry said the computer kept the moment. So here we are. Now I think I was talking about concentrate, and the fact that it's not a matter of getting concentration but letting go of the distractions and then we come back to the natural state, the natural state is being focused, and being able to concentrate on what we're doing. It's the being taken away into daydreams and that habit. That makes us feel like we can't concentrate. I work with a lot of teenagers, and sometimes they talk about, add, you know, attention deficit Disorder. And I, I've always felt, that's not, I'm not a medical doctor and, and it's not my area of expertise, but my sense of it and working with these kids, is that it's not so much attention deficit as attention, overload disorder, that there's so much input, and they're trying to pay attention to everything. And so, it's up over here, over here, over here, over here. It's and so it's a game of whack a mole in that way. So instead, it's a matter of letting go and deciding to rest the mind on a chosen object of attention. So instead of concentrating tightly and holding on to it. It's more the idea of resting the mind. Now, for some reason, the chat, Alyssa the chat, and all
thinking that disappeared. Yeah when it kicked you out it let me retype it here.
So, that's the, that's the idea of concentration and focus. The way that we work with it, is to have a chosen object of attention and to become aware in a non judgmental way, if our mind is wandering to someplace else, or if it's here. I think you might find it amusing, you can. If you look on YouTube. There's an old comedy team named Abbott and Costello. If you have gray hair like mine, you probably know them. And if you Google Abbott and Costello, you're not here. It's a, it's a lovely exercise because he says he asks this guy, he said I can prove you're not here. And he asks him so you know are you right now are you in Chicago and the guy says no are you in New York no are you in Miami No, and he says so if you're not in New York, you're not in Chicago and you're non Miami, you must be someplace else, right, and he says yeah, He says, Well if you're someplace else, you can't be here. So that's the routine, you can, it's much, much funnier when they do it but that's, that's the routine. So you basically, it's just a question of awareness you see mindfulness is being worth the object of your attention, awareness is sometimes translated as vigilance. So it's a background, sense of, Am I here, or am I someplace else. Now when you're really caught up in a daydream and really in it. You, it's like being in a non lucid dream. You don't know that you're dreaming, you don't know that you're daydreaming, but it always pops. And the fact that it always pops up otherwise we'd go off into the gym and never come back. The fact that it always pops is that it's an overlay, but it's not solid. It's like clouds, and, and they're always gaps in the clouds. I was talking with Andrew about it he liked my metaphor of. It's like your awareness is the base level, and it's always present, always here now. On top of that, is this overlay but it's a lot like Swiss cheese, it's got holes in it. And so you walk around on this upper level in your Daydream, and suddenly you hit a hole and you drop down into the present moment awareness. At that point you realize, oh, I was in a daydream. You don't have to come back to the present moment, you're already here. It's your default mode, It's the it's the base mode. Under the overlay of Swiss cheese like daydreams. So, again, to be concentrated means simply just to the mind rests on the object, the chosen object of your attention. And so if you think of having your mind rest on that rather than grasp onto it and try to hold on to it. That's a more appropriate notion of concentration or focus. I'm curious, and I wanted to do this question before we start, so to inform our practice.
Yeah, that's, that's pretty much it. I think that that would that would cover it. Okay. Both of these in the spiritual path, the Buddhist path and meditation practice. Well, Again, as far as the spiritual paths. Basically, depending on your spiritual path, some are interested in transcendence and going to other astral planes and things like that. This particular mindfulness practice that we're going to work with is part of the Buddhist path which is actually about being more down to earth. In fact, you'll see a posture of the pictures of the Buddha or statue of the Buddha, with one hand in his lap and the other hand reaching down and touching the ground, essentially saying the earth is my witness, that I am completely down to earth. And that's that base layer. We're down to earth, rather than often daydreams. And as I was saying, this quality of concentration or absorption being fully absorbed in the present moment of experience is part of the initial teachings of the Buddha, of the eightfold path, which included right mindfulness right concentration right absorption right meditation, all the different. We have a lot of different English words for these things, but at least two or three branches of the path, were connected with that quality of mindfulness and awareness and being fully absorbed in in what you are attending to. Okay so, with that background, we'll be talking about what we're going to let our mind restaurant, and having awareness of when we go off into a daydream. And it's very important not to beat yourself up about that. If you realize you're off into a daydream have a sense of humor about it. I was just reading some teachings, and they, in the, in the Buddhist tradition, and also the Shambala tradition, sense of humor is actually the found, it's, it's, it's almost the Ultimate Teaching says that's what we're looking for a lightness, a lack of seriousness and self conscious about yourself and what you do. Sense of humor, includes perspective, and light touch of awareness. That's really what we're trying to accomplish. So if you find yourself not concentrating on the object of our attention that we've chosen as the object of your attention, don't beat yourself up have a sense of humor better a light touch of awareness that recognizes that you can label it if you want, as wandering or someplace else. And then gently bring your mind back to your body, because very often our posture disintegrates a little bit when we're off in a daydream and we start thinking and we start thinking we started leaning over and we go Oh, and then so sit back up, reinvigorate your posture. Work with your feeling your breathing and reconnect with the object of your attention. We're going to work, particularly with the internal sensation of filling and emptying with the breath, and the external awareness of the breath going out into space, and tuning into our sense perceptions. So, let's begin. Take a good posture. We're going to go through the grounding practice. A little more expeditiously than I've done before but take your good posture upright without your head slowed chin floating up so you don't get stuck, where your head leaning down so you get sleepy. But sitting upright but not rigid hands, arms, the upper arms hang straight down, swivel your hands up, and either palm down on each, each hand palm down on your thighs, a little behind your knees or palms up, one resting on top of the other in your lap, legs crossed in front of you gently, or if you're sitting in a chair and your legs aren't too long, just your feet just flat on the floor. Even with your hips. With the width of your hips,
your lips are either lightly closed or just barely open. And for this first part, let your eyes gently close and do a body scan from the top of your head just scanning with your awareness for any tension that you that you find that you don't need to hold your posture, there's a certain amount you need to hold your posture and keep yourself upright, the back of your neck and your lower back and maybe a little with your legs. Not too much. But your face muscles you can let them relax and soften your scalp. You might find a little extra tension in your jaw, you can wiggle it and just let it soften your neck, shoulders. Collarbone shoulder blades upper arms, chest and upper back rib cage, ribcage all around. Breathe out and little attention just melt out of your lower back stomach and deep belly, sometimes you have more tension in our core than we realize. Just let it soften without losing your your posture, upper arms. Forearms hips and pelvis size. Hands on the top of your thighs, knees, calves ankles and feet. One big breath in. Breathe out and sweep all that extra tension out. Let your awareness fall back and down. Usually we think of our minds is just behind our for its let it fall into your awareness you're mindful back and down. Gently drifting down the back of your throat. Behind your chest like a leaf, slowly settling to the bottom of a clear pond behind your solar plexus. Stomach behind your navel down a couple of inches below your navel and the deep core of your torso. Just rest there feeling your lower torso your core. Gently expanding and contracting with the breath. Gentle currents at the bottom of that pond. Breathe out and sink down here let yourself sink into your seat. Sink down and feel like you're sinking right to the earth. Breathe out and merge with the earth. You're part of the earth but your upright posture extends upward, majestic like a mountain. Don't try to control your breath anymore be an observer. Notice it coming in and going out. Sometimes deeper sometimes shallower longer or shorter. Coming and going like the wind. Let your mind relax. Let go of any projects you have in mind for this meditation.
Just be with an open curiosity, let your mind be as open as the sky body like a mountain breath like the wind, mind like the sky
as the sound of the gun fades with your eyes gently open about halfway. Keeping your good posture. With your eyes rest, wherever they're going in that diagonal downward direction, and then let go of that spot, just let them continue to look in that direction. Soften your gaze, open up to the space that you're sitting in. You'll only be looking a few feet in front of you. You can see your lap below you just have a soft awareness of the space you're sitting in focus primarily on the feeling of your posture, and the breath as it shows you how that feels inside the internal sensation, and how it feels as the breath empties, as it, as you breathe up feeling you as you breathe in, empty emptying as you breathe out. We'll do this for a couple of minutes and again. If your mind wanders off into a daydream, when you realize it. You were someplace else, you're already back to here and now. Just smile. Take note, reconnect to your posture in the internal sensation of filling and empty. Do that for a couple more minutes. Notice if you're trying to control your breath, subtly even let go of any control and simply observe the feeling of filling and emptying, no matter how shallow Your breath is.
If you're sleepy raise your gaze. If your mind is wild. Focus your protect your energy deep in your core, and lower your gaze.
Which again is razor. Just blow horizontal. You turn more into the outbreath. Ride the breath. And as the breath, dissolves into the space in front of you, that your mind, mixed with that space and open up
to the space in front and all around you. There's no need to follow the breath back in. Just let it come in naturally. And again, go out with the out breath. Open up to the space with your breath, open up to the space. Soften your gaze with the press open up to the full fields of your peripheral vision. With the press open up to hearing in all directions. Out with your breath. Open up to your body in space. Whatever you're feeling, smelling, tasting with your breath, open up your mind what's moving through the big sky of your mind with your breath let your mind mix with space. Whatever perception your mind rests on. Just let it rest there for at least a few moments. If you notice what you're seeing, notice the colors, shapes and shades of light and dark. If you notice sounds listen for sounds, near and far. Human goes to your body. Be aware of bodily sensations, all through your body. If your mind goes to your thoughts. Watch as your thoughts appear and disappear for a few moments. Let the mind rest wherever it rests for as long as it will, and then go to another perception. Those are all happening in the present moment. Even your thoughts are appearing and disappearing in the present moment. But if you find yourself captured by one by one into a daydream. When you realize it. Just come back to the body. The heart breath and awareness of your sense perceptions. But do that for a few Minutes.
Is the sound of the gong foods we transition to compassion practice, because your eyes open or closed, whatever you choose. Imagine in your heart center that's the center of your chest at the level of your heart,
ball of light, either white or rainbow colors light colored brilliant light. It's three dimensional sphere of light but not solid. That is your true nature of wisdom and compassion, and its infinite energy and ability to transform negative into positive.
So imagine, with that ball of light in your heart center, your nature of wisdom and compassion, any negativity that you have toward yourself any feelings of negative emotions, negative concepts about yourself, physical discomfort, illness, imagine that as you breathe in, they're all gathered into that ball of light in your heart center instantly transformed and as you breathe out. The light radiates out cool moonlight of kindness that softens and relieves of the negativity. The discomfort the illness, the suffering, the struggle, gather in all of that from yourself into the ball of light as you breathe in, Breathe out positive energy, kindness, compassion, freedom from suffering and struggle.
Breathing negativity and suffering. Breathe out positive energy, relief, peace, happiness, your happiness doesn't depend on external circumstances. You have the capacity to transform all the negative feelings and concepts into recognition of your basic goodness. Basic kindness. Now, now having done so your compassion is around for others. All the people in the world who are suffering so much. So many have died from this pandemic that it's touched everyone in some ways we all know someone who has lost someone. Breathe in their suffering and pain, anger and frustration. Any negativities. Enter the ball of light in your heart center which instantly transforms, all the negativity of the world, and radiates to all beings. The cool moonlight of kindness filling their beings with peace, happiness, health freedom from suffering and struggle, gather in transform radiate out. Continue to include yourself in the gathering and of negativity, you're one of these beings in the world. Include yourself as you read the cool Moon letter of kindness filling yourself, and all other beings, peace, happiness, health freedom from suffering, freedom from struggle. If you can take it one step further, And as you breathe in all the negativity radiate out yourself and others the capacity for compassion and kindness toward our fellow beings, gather in all the hatred and animosity, transform it. Really to compassion, so that all beings feel compassion and kindness for themselves and each other.
Egon shades let go the visualization returned to taking a few simple breaths, or the feeling of filling and emptying. Simply here simply now. Thank you. Let's close the practice portion with a dedication of merit or benefit, that it's always more powerful if the benefits that we get from that this practice, our intention that we as when we start, and our intention where we end is to share those with others. So you can repeat in after me or in your own words, as, as you as you wish. May the practice I've just done be of benefit to others, as well as myself. Of course if you're feeling generous, or want to cultivate generosity. May the practice I've just done be of even more benefit to others than myself. So thank you. If there are any questions, you can use the reactions button on the bottom of your screen. And raise your hand and we'll unmute you and you can ask your question or you can type it in the chat box. And this is when I, we do what I like to call waiting meditation. So nothing to do place to go for a few minutes. Isn't that nice, you don't even have to just hang out. Huh, mentioned this before. My teacher used to say that when the gong rings, everybody has the best meditation because they've stopped trying to meditate. If you're stuck trying to concentrate. So just hanging out and waiting meditation is lovely. It's also good practice to check your state of being, are you impatient, are you hoping someone will say something or thinking, who I should say something. That's excellent practice to be aware of that. I'm thinking How long should this go before I say goodnight. Or should I do a Ferris Bueller if you've seen the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off the teachers going anybody.
It's a wonderful being with everyone. And I always feel like it's actually a good sign of practice that we, we don't have all these questions that we're generating, but what I would like to ask is that as you go through the rest of the evening or anytime between now and when you, when we get together again with whether it's me or Andrew. Make a note, if a question comes up about the practice. And it'll be great to be able to talk about it together. So thank you, we can unmute everyone. Oh we should definitely unmute. Can Can you do that elicit and you can say anything that comes to mind. As long as it's not it's not X rated. Thank you. Thank you. Buddy, I have a heart moon up there and that's great. Go ahead and unmute if you can. Thanks everybody, lovely seeing all of you. Sangha is wonderful. So sweet. Thank you so much everyone. Beautiful. Thank you, thank you so much Joseph. Good night. Good night Alyssa.