2020-04-03 Sati (5 of 5) Abiding in Lucid Awareness + Q&A
11:27PM Jun 19, 2020
So good morning and this morning will be the last of the five part series on the faculty of mindfulness. And how are these weeks I'm going through one week each on the five faculties and focus on three now faith and effort and mindfulness. And those of you who've been following along, might have picked up that these five talks each week are progressive, that they are talking about these faculties are perspective of different points of the path of practice or, as a practice deepens or strengthens as it goes along here.
And, and that, for this mindfulness, the Monday the first day was what I call the initiating mindfulness, the practice of just coming back, waking up, reconnecting to what's here. And that takes certain kind of efforts and kind of engagement commitment to keep coming back and we keep waking up or keep recognizing that we're here. Then as the practice, as we begin to get more in the flow of the present moment, come back more often and be here more often, then that recognition factor can become stronger. And a very important part of mindfulness practice is to recognize clearly Oh, this is what's happening, to recognize a sound sensation, a thought for what it is.
Part of the art is to learn to do that recognition, without coming, bringing along with it, our preferences or desires or aversions, our cars are complex associations and thoughts interpretations of it. But just let the the recognition be very plain and simple, very clear, a clear acknowledgement of what's happening. As we learn to do this, and as they get stronger, then it's possible to have more continuity with mindfulness with awareness in the present moment. And then it's possible to observe to kind of settle back and just observe over time how things are going and to observe the breathing to observe the sounds that come by to observe the thinking as it passes by, like, like train cars going down the track that you watch your boats going down the river, you sit and watch, and you don't get on the boats. Don't get on the train, track, train. Cars, but you just kind of watch it go by. So this kind of observing.
As the observing gets stronger observing as something has more continued continuity, then it's possible to see how things exist in the course of time, brief moments of time. And in particular, what I mean is to see how things are inconstant - the flow of life, the flow of change, that constant coming and going, arising and passing. Somehow or other, mindfulness leads us to seeing change, inconstancy, and impermanence.
One of the functions of this is abiding in observation. And as the practice develops and we see the impermanence of things, this helps to loosen the grip of our attachments, preoccupations, and resistance to things. Then that quality of abiding becomes stronger. And perhaps even the sense of observation falls away. And there is just a sense of awareness. Some people describe it as awareness as a field. And things just exist within the field. Things arise and pass. But there's a strong sense of the quality of awareness, clarity, space, beingness - or a strong sense of restful presence that is here. Things happen, but that sense of awareness doesn't change.
In the Buddha's teachings on mindfulness, he calls this 'paṭisati' [?], which is a very rare word and the suttas, in his teachings, but I think of it as lucid awareness. That's how the renowned translator Bhikkhu Bodhi sometimes now translates 'sati' itself as lucid awareness. But I think this lucid awareness is very clear awareness that we really know we're aware there's a kind of a reflexive quality of: "Yes, I'm resting. I'm here. There's awareness. There's clarity" - where the clarity, the sense of awareness, sense of knowing, is so clear, and so peaceful or so spacious, that it is almost like its own thing, independent of what is known.
This idea of knowing - which is certainly knowing something, but is independent of what is known - is getting close to the idea of how mindfulness brings freedom. And the Buddha in talking about this 'paṭisati' [?] - this lucid awareness, which is possible to abide in. He talks about that as synonymous with not being dependent on anything in the world, and not clinging to, or grasping anything in the world.
And so regardless of how we understand this abiding in awareness, lucid awareness, abiding in presence, in beingness - we know we're in this territory, when we can feel that whatever arises in the moment, whatever we're aware of - the mind, consciousness, is no way dependent on it or influenced by it or caught in it. It doesn't rest on it. It rests in awareness, abides in awareness. There's no grasping to anything. In the awareness that's here when there's no grasping - not being dependent on anything, and not being influenced by anything - just here is a profound state of peace. is a wonderful, peaceful state.
So, in this way, I've talked about this, you know, as mindfulness is a progression, and so there's mindfulness, you know, for beginning and intermediate and more developed mindfulness. And, and so it's easy to assume that there are those people who are just beginners. And they are at the beginning stage. Those people who have been practicing for some time and they're more intermediate stage, and there's people who practice a long time, perhaps in their kind of more advanced stages.
I think it's even for people who practice for a long time and are fairly mature in practice. I think that, you know, it's probably a majority of the time they're beginners, probably, I don't know, use pens, you know that there's no fixed number here, but just for the sake of the discussion 60% Someone who's a, you know, mature practitioner, probably 60% of the time, they're just being a beginner, they're doing the initiating mindfulness coming back and waking up. And then, you know, if and then perhaps 30% of the time or 35% of the time, they might be an intermediate practitioner. And maybe they're in the Wednesday stage of just kind of being able to observe in some clear way and not interfere with things too much. And maybe, so maybe that's only 5% of their time left, and maybe 4% of that time, there may be in some really higher quality sense of abiding and awareness without much clinging or attachment and 1% of the time, they have some really, really high quality feeling of peace and, and expansion. And, and whether these numbers are accurate or not, is not the point.
The point being that we're all beginners, at times, and we're all you know, and we all start with. And the important important point I'm trying to say is that the essence of practice is to be at the stage that you're at, to practice with how you are. The, and what I've seen in people who've, you know, fairly mature practitioners is a sense of ease and willingness and acceptance, to practice where they're at. And so if we're practicing as a beginner, that's fine.
That's that's the practice of that moment. In that regard. There's a wonderful saying, for the purposes of mindfulness meditation: "The fastest way to go from A to point B is to fully be at A." So wherever you're at whatever your situation is, whatever the circumstance are, mindfulness is to be with that practice with what you have. Really do that.
And if you find yourself over and over again, as a beginner, that's your spot to practice. That's, that's what's that's, that's the place to find your ease and keep showing up, keep waking up. If you're able to read, start recognizing and find some freedom in that recognition. That's your place. If you're able to rest back and observe, that's your place. If you're able to kind of see the constancy of phenomena, that's your place. And if you're able to tap into the minds capacity to abide and awareness, to have a kind of lucid awareness where there's no or very little clinging or attachment or dependency on anything, that's your place. And wherever your places it's your place.
And then I'll end with I think a lovely kind of, for me inspiring story analogy metaphor the Buddha does gives about mindfulness practice. He talks about monkeys. And you seem to live kind of in the forest, the jungles of northern India, somewhere in the interface between the foothills of the Himalayas and the plains of the Ganges. And, and the Buddha said that if those monkeys go further up into the mountains where there's steep cliffs and Chrebet classes, it's dangerous from up there, they can fall and hurt themselves and stuff. And if they come out of the forest down into the plains, where there's no trees, not a lot of trees or forests, then they're very susceptible to being caught by hunters. But if they stay in their home country in their native land, in that zone between the high mountains and the plains, in those jungles, I guess, then they're safe. So the same way, Buddha said, he talked about mindfulness, the practice of mindfulness as being a person's native home, their home country. So I think that a lot the original language is ancestral lands, lands of your ancestors. And, and if you stay there, then you're safe.
So this idea that this mindfulness faculty is your native land, your birthplace, the place where your most belong. Your home means it's a home you can bring with you anywhere you go. And if you stay close to it, there's safety there. If and if you don't stay in it, then there's dangers to encounter. I hope that's nice for you.
And so next week, we'll do this fourth faculty, which is concentration, samādhi. And then the last one we'll do is wisdom.
And, but since it's Friday, and as we did the last two, Fridays, I'll stay here for a little while if those of you who would like to ask a question, I'll try to ask a question for the next 10 or 15 minutes or so and be a little bit more responsive. I certainly have valued this chance to have a connection through you through the chat and it's actually made it much more alive to sit here in an empty room talking to a camera. I have a vivid feeling of you - all our community out there, and I think that's very much helped by the chat. So if you want to ask questions, You're welcome to to do so. I'll try to go through them. And if there's a lot coming at once, sometimes I can't necessarily go back and find them quickly.
Q1: "How can you work on returning, but not grasping either on the breath or on the pleasant feelings of abiding? Let's see. I don't know
Oh, here we go. Maybe I can. "Does this abiding include the breath focus or can it release even that? Thank you. How can you work on returning to not grasping in the breath or the pleasant feelings of abiding?"
So one of the one of the very important principle In Buddhist practice, is that the ideals that we present in Buddhism. So the ideal would be to not grasping at something that we don't focus so much on doing the ideal, and trying to make ourselves fit into the ideal. It's a little bit dangerous to kind of try to live up to an ideal directly and kind of hold yourself in that position. But in mindfulness practice, we use the mindfulness practice, to see what's actually going on. And if what's going on is we're grasping, then that becomes what we pay attention to. And, and so the way to come to non grasping, is to understand grasping well, and, and so might be grasping the breath or pleasant feelings, or even the idea of abiding and that's suffering that's beginning to cause some contraction or tightness or stress. And so to So that those are those are very important part of mindfulness. So the recognition factor we talked about on Tuesday, to recognize what you know, we're recognizing what's happening. we're recognizing and grasping, the clinging, the resistance. And we're not trying to be dismissive of that, and say, well, that shouldn't be there. But rather we turn towards it to recognize and see it clearly. And then we learn something about it. We learn the stress of it, we learn the discomfort of grasping, we become wise, what we're grasping to and the trickery of grasping. And then over time, because we've become wise, then we begin to grasp less. And then as we grasp less, then what emerges is inability to abide and awareness more. So we're not forcing ourselves into abiding. We're patient and taking our time and kind of growing into it as we start seeing clearly what's going on and how we operate.
Q2: Great. So let's see what else we have here. "Can you say more about staying motivated through the beginning? intermediate advanced status, especially in the beginning? intermediate stages?"
Great question. The Yeah, so there's two sides of practice. There's the like, again, like the ideal, there is the path there is it's onward leading to take us someplace to freedom from suffering because we don't want to suffer. Buddhism has a lot to do with going from suffering to the absence of suffering. And so there is a path and change to say there's no path that's you know, it's kind of discouraging, perhaps. But at the same time, mindfulness has mindfulness can help us take us on that path. At the same time, there's something about mindfulness Moment of recognition, the moment of being aware of something that has inherent in it. qualities of peace qualities of freedom, qualities of non reactivity. And an eye fi I would like people to first learn as a beginner from the very beginning, if they can to begin looking for experimenting with how is it that a moment of mindfulness is a moment of freedom or is a moment of peace doesn't have to be dramatic. But how is it useful and valuable, so that you will never regret having been mindful? if you're if you're a beginner for your whole rest of your life. You will say to yourself, that was a life well spent. All those moments that you know, that each moment of mindfulness is in a certain way, complete in itself. And, and that's the idea of, you know, to go from A to B be fully at A. So I have put a lot of value with it for a beginner for anyone to really kind of begin to explore and develop and talk to friends and and really find for yourself, what does it take? What is how is it that a moment of clear mindfulness is itself has something you'll never regret doing? It was valuable to really see and be present. And, and so if you do that exercise, then probably you'll be much more at ease about where you are on any kind of stage model of practice.
Q3: "Aversion to aging, illness and death and judgments about things happening in the world right now make it difficult to find a place of calm abiding. How can you find this abiding out in the world?"
That's a very good question. I think it's a question I think many people will share with you right now. There's a lot of uncertainty, a lot of stress, a lot of fear, a lot of distress about what's happening in the world. And this is the time to practice more than any other time, I think. And the and so too I think as I said to the earlier question, you want to study you want to bring a lot of compassion, to studying our distress studying our difficulties and our challenges we have with what's happening right now. And, and not see it and begin looking at how we're reacting to what's going on. What are we doing? And maybe first, it's important to allow yourself in certain situations to allow your heart to break. These are difficult times and there's A lot of pain and suffering and people are dying people are up against very dangerous situations, people working in the hospitals and elsewhere and there's a lot of distress in families and people people are home. Sometimes home is not a safe place for people to be and they're cooped up with each other in ways that they don't usually have to be.
And so there's a there's some way there's a better way of sitting and practicing, that we radically allow ourselves to be who we are. Let the heartbreak let us feel how difficult it is and the weight of all this. And then see if and feel it in your body. Use all the skills of mindfulness you have, do it in small dosages. Touch in and I then sometimes I like to give the instructions. Then when things are really hard inside lots of difficult emotions. Imagine mindfulness is a soft cotton ball that you gently touch up against the wound or this challenge that you have. And then you pull back. Because just to use mindfulness to go right into the difficulties and stay there can be just too much. But they have that wisdom. It's that it's valuable to see and recognize, acknowledge what's there, make space for it, even if it's two moments, and then pull back. And then when you're ready, again, touch it again.
We're looking for how can we transform learn, allow this beautiful heart We have to find a way to resolve what's going on for us. So it takes a lot of honesty. It takes a lot of discomfort. Sometimes, mindfulness practice can be taught in wonderful, ideal ways of peace and things. And I apologize if I give that impression too much. Sometimes with mindfulness is a really important part of mindfulness is to learn How to be comfortable with discomfort to learn about all our reactivity, our beliefs, our sense of self, all these things that come into play. And so I hope that you realize that all of you that that practicing mindfulness with discomfort is actually a really important part of mindfulness. It's not in the public advertisement, but don't go looking for discomfort. But if discomfort visits you in your practice, that's an important area of learning, to learn how to be more economist nonreactive to become wise about what goes on inside of us.
And it comes a day that you can learn to be a certain kind of way comfortable with discomfort, and the world. It's an uncomfortable place. The world is inherently in many ways and unsafe Place and what has this current status of the Coronavirus? It just highlights what's always been true that this world is a fragile place that dangers are here ever present. And some people have them visit sickness, old age and death comes sooner than others for other than for others. But that that is always here. And so what's happening now is just highlighting in a way that's distressing and difficult. But now's the time to practice. And if that begins with just caring for yourself, compassion for yourself, getting exercise, getting food, talking with friends, doing whatever is needed to come into some kind of balance, and once or some balance, then maybe the practice can take you deeper into it.
So yes, I apologize. The way that this works, I find it a little hard to go through them chronologically the way they've come.
Q4: "Why does mindfulness seem to wax and wane over the days, or to be stronger after retreat and fade are easy, fade away or be easier doing peaceful times and harder during stress?"
I suspect it has a lot to do with our preoccupations, we get involved and active and thinking about things and and you know, all these kinds of concerns that come along. And the more we're concerned about things more active we are, the more preoccupied The more we the emotions come along with that. The the more the groove of thinking is operating. We're caught in our thoughts involved in our thoughts. There could be mood shifts that go on and emotions come and go. We can have a good night's sleep But not a good night's sleep, we could, you know, have we physiologically something could be going on that makes life difficult for us or we're not quite our best self or something. There's so many variables that goes on in human life.
And And certainly, you know, with the coming from retreat, on retreat, there's a there's a calmness of steadiness, a concentration factor that's gotten strong. We've really cleared the table to some degree of a lot of preoccupation. And so all those things begin to wane, preoccupations come back the concentration wanes and it's hard to keep the same level of concentration day life as we have on retreat. But again, this really be at A. Don't be so concerned about the ideal.
The idea is to learn how to practice with what is and if what is complicated is preoccupied is you know, we're at agitated, there is this wonderful art of this discover, I think it's a real treasure of mindfulness is to in a certain kind of way, except that or, maybe better say, don't be in conflict with any way that you are. But see if you can start discovering how there can be a moment of mindfulness, a moment of recognition: "Now this is how it is." And in that simpler This is how it is. It doesn't fix it, there's a making go away, things are still uncomfortable. But there is a gap there is a little crack in our experience, where there is some degree of peace, of freedom of the ease of acceptance of non conflict, in which there's space maybe, for more compassion, more wisdom to operate, and we can find our way
Q5: "How not to be afraid?"
to answer the question as short as it's been asked and to the point of what it's asked. How not to be afraid, is don't cling to anything whatsoever. That fear is definitely a byproduct most fear definitely a byproduct that we're clinging to something attached to something. So, the question is short, my answer short, I feel like it's doesn't really it's not really a short answer doesn't really respect the complexity of, of fear and what goes on and, and the care that's needed to be with fear.
One of the wonderful little instructions that I will give around fear is is when you're afraid. Help your fear, feel safe. If you're distressed about your fear is not going to feel safe to be there. And it's going to be more afraid or you're going to get the whole system can be more upset. If you feel like it's wrong to be afraid or you're afraid of fear, it all makes it more complicated. Your fear is a very important part of who you are. It's in a sense fear is trying to take care of ourselves. It's a movement of self care of self protection. Sometimes the fear is misplaced. Sometimes it involves that acts imagination, imagination that predictions and fears of the future that are not really realistic or even appropriate. But regardless of that, fear is still wonderful. improvement of self care and self protection and to take that movement of self care and self protection, and hold it with cupped hands of awareness, and help it feel safe. It's okay.
The great mantra for fear is, "It's okay. It's okay." And to do that, especially in meditation, and then see what happens to fear, fear will begin to fall, fear will begin to relax. If it starts feeling that you're a safe person for it. It's kind of like a small child, maybe who's really afraid. And maybe that you're not gonna psychoanalyze the child, that child will just get to get more afraid or turn off. You're not going to try to tell the child to be different. You maybe maybe bring the child over and put a hand on the shoulder and you say, "It's okay. It's okay." You help the child feel safe and, and maybe give the child the child some treat or something to eat or drink. But just it's help your fear feel safe.
So thank you very much. I appreciate the questions and they're all very important and I wish I could have answered even better, better and more respectful and really meet you. I would love to be able to meet and support each one of you as you are and offer the kind of care and acceptance of each of you that I think the mindfulness can bring, that you can bring yourself through the mindfulness practice.
So thank you so much and and hope to see you on Monday.