2021-12-06-Benefits of Non-Distraction
3:22PM Dec 7, 2021
Good evening, everyone and welcome. So, yesterday I finished teaching our second in person, seven day read meditation retreat. And it was kind of special to be meditating with people for living with people for seven days. And I usually find it pretty special to be on these meditation retreats. But I want to tell you a little bit of one of the things that I find quite wonderful about it, that it's also true for in everyday meditation, but it kind of expands outwards or more intensified or fuller in on a meditation retreat. And that is that it starts with this principle. And that is that the ways that we live in ways that we are, that harm other people. Ways we live that are kind of not wise ways of living, unwholesome, we say in Buddhism that they are born from a distracted mind. When we sit to Unreal, meditate, we're trying to not be distracted. So we constantly meeting ourselves, or meditation, we're discovering how we wander off in thought, how we get preoccupied, and and not that we're always distracted in meditation. But we certainly that's one of the lessons we learned about how often it is that we get swept up in thought, and we come back and start again. And we went into all kinds of challenges, especially on retreat, people's, their knees hurt, their backs, hurt. All kinds of memories come back that had not been processed well enough before. So they're still being processed. Maybe they happen. A conflict you were in the week before the retreat, or maybe something 20 years ago, that still festers. Maybe there's someone in their retreat that irritates you, because they're making too much noise for you. And so, in all these situations, the mind can get distracted, caught up in those things. And distracted from the work of being in the present moment, really being here. The practice is to keep showing up here in the present moment, in overcoming the distraction. But if the unwholesome ways of behaving and thinking are born from distraction, then when we come out of distraction, we caught we were stepping away from that this part of the source of unhealthy unwholesome kind of ways of being. And even if it's something that is happening in the present moment, that maybe there's good reason to be challenged by it and that no fault of your own. Because we keep trying to show up in the present. The rumination that lingering in the festering that picking out the scabs, the reactivity, the justifications there, imagine conversations we're going to have, we keep stepping out of it, to be in the present moment. And so the the influence of all those kinds of ways of thinking kind of begin to lessen and disappear. So what happens in the process of that is what people are left with is what's best in them is their goodness. And what you see on retreat, especially were so concentrated, the best in people come to the foreground.
And even if people think that they don't recognize it for themselves as a teacher, I can see how much people are trying to be honest how much people are trying to show up too much sincerity. There's sincerity there is to try to work with the preoccupied mind that distracted mind, the reactive mind, anger, angry mind, they're fearful mind of all these forces of distraction. And at its end, and so the tendency to get swept away in, in anger or rage or fear or greed or desire lessens dramatically as we kind of are learning to let go of the distractions. And if we're not distracted, then the seedbed for unwholesome behavior has lessened dramatically. And you start seeing how beautiful people are, you start seeing the goodness that's there. And this is a remarkable thing, this principle that that, if it's true, that a large part of our unhealthy way of thinking and acting in the world is born from distraction, certain kinds of distractions, certain kind of way of being separated from ourselves being disconnected from ourselves, being fragmented by the distractions, returning to mindfulness returning to the present moment, returning to kind of sense of wholeness in the present moment of being present, then the unhealthy tendencies become weaker, and what replaces them, it would be nice to say that, that just, you know, just all the healthy motivations, all the goodness that we have an interest. And that's kind of true. But it's what are you left with, when you're no longer distracted? What are you left with when you're no longer partial? So there's a number of things. One thing we're left with, is we get to see much more clearly the cost of some of our mental behavior, and also some of our bigger, you know, conduct in the world as well. And we start seeing that when we get distracted by greed. Or we get distracted by anger or resentment, or distracted by anxiety, that the cost of that is not very comfortable. It's not very pleasant. And that begins putting that puts a question mark, kind of behind the authority of these destructive tendencies, because we see Oh, is that is it really worth it? Who by trying to benefit here by simmering and by resentment? The person I'm resenting is nowhere to be seen. They don't know I'm resenting them. Which is a real pity, isn't it? I mean, what good is resentment if the person you resent doesn't know it, you know, you want to get off of it, like you know. And so the cost is you're causing suffering to yourself. And so we start seeing this, you know, if you if you use a kind of unfortunate analogy, valid analogy for meditation, maybe the cost benefit analysis of some of our behavior through because on our mind, when we're not not no longer distracted from ourselves, we get to see that the cost benefit analysis, not in our favor, to be fragmented, to be distracted to be involved in these unhealthy ruminations and thoughts of the mind. That doesn't mean that it's easy to stop doing it. But it's a powerful are said to have, or this is not worth it. I don't think I believe in this anymore.
Because before doing some kind of introspective work like meditation, people unconsciously believe the value of rumination and thinking and distraction and trying to solve that takes their lives through that way. But if you don't believe in it anymore, and you're still doing it, things begin to shift and change. You either we're not 100% behind it. We're not committed to it. And so something else begins to happening. We start pausing, we start not acting on some of that saying some of the things we want to say not acting and some of the things we want to do. And things begin to take a different turn for us. When we're not distracted, and we're here in the present moment, we also observe becoming more aware of the optic with the goodness or the benefits of the opposite of being distracted. We start feeling that oh, you know, actually, it feels better to be present in a relaxed way that it is to go back up into those ruminating thoughts, those distracted thoughts. Now, it might seem boring, to not be a distracting thoughts, it's kind of fascinating, interesting to be presenting someone or being fantasizing about desires and all that. But then it turns out that if you pay careful attention, boredom itself is kind of a distraction. It's actually a subtle form of rumination of thinking of that is also kind of distracting. And we start seeing these subtle ways that we fragment ourselves or pull away from ourselves or, or cut ourselves off. And so then, if we stop, begin letting go into the present moment more and more, and have a kind of intimacy in the present moment. That's not possible when we're distracted, not possible when we're ruminating. We start slowly, not only feeling sort of feeling how good it feels, not to be tense, not to be stressed, not to be to have lost a kind of inner freedom. Because, you know, fears taken over anger is taken over greed is taken over. And he starts feeling there's a kind of goodness a kind of a peacefulness, a kind of healthy feeling that begins feeling here. And people start feeling more settled, more at home and themselves, more available, more attentive and aware of the people around them. less inclined to ignore people, because when we're distracted, we're also not only ignoring ourselves in some way, we're also not really were kind of ignoring others, or ignoring their foot, the wholeness of the other people. We might have desires for other people or animosities for other people. But these are all partial ways of taking people in, we don't take the whole person in. And so as we stopped being so distracted, we take more of ourselves and more other people in and more of the situation that we're in. And that feeling of connection of camaraderie ship of beauty, of mutual care for humanity is a beautiful thing. So slowly, in meditation, it tends to diminish the unhealthy ways in which our mind operates. And it starts slowly bringing out the healthy parts. And that slow process is faster on retreat. Because a meditation retreat there we do, people are meditating, you know, a good part of the day, there's a there was something like 910 periods of meditation a day, so there's a lot and then there's walking, but that's sitting meditation, and there's walking meditation in between sometimes. And so there's a lot of this dedication, so much of the day is to either being undistracted or attempting to become distracted. And if that doesn't work, a good part of the day is discovering how much you are distracted. Wow. I'm really caught up here. And
in a way that we don't do in daily life often when we are working and taking care of our everyday life and so what I see because I get to meet with the teacher I get to meet people I get to visit help beautiful to watch the the the arc of a seven day retreat. And you see that more and more to beauty of people come to the foreground, the goodness in people and, and people sometimes telling me Gil, you just see the best in people. As if that's a mistake. That's a problem. I think it's pretty special. It's pretty inspiring to me. know, there's so much goodness in people so much wonderfulness, and that people are capable of so much kindness and warmth and care and, and sincerity. So So I find that kind of very inspiring for our, for my appreciation of people and humanity and what's possible. So what if we can do that more and maybe what's that's what we're trying to do here is not only in ourselves but in others is to bring out the best in us to bring out the best and support the conditions that allow every the best in everyone to come forth. And some of that is that as we begin recognizing in ourselves, we might be better able to recognize it and other people as well. And if we appreciated others, it tends to support others to be that way as well. Do I so that was my inspiration coming out of this retreat? And so the principle is that all were unhealthy ways and that we relate to ourselves and to other people. Probably has some source in a distracted mind. And what happens if you're no longer distracted? That's the question. So we have some time now. And delighted to have you here. And if you have anything you want to ask her any questions about meditation practice, or anything that's related to what we do or to what I've said today, or if you had a testimonial about what I said, you know, this is lovely to hear from you as well. Yes, and if you would say your name when you start to be nice.
I'm Charles and thank you so much for the talk. In the sitting. My question is what does an undistracted mine look like?
What is it undistracted may look like? I can give you an unsatisfying answer first. And the unsatisfying answer is that's your test to discover. And I'll try to give you an a more satisfying answer. I think an undistracted mind, begin is a mind that begins appreciating how not to be not how the mind doesn't live in conflict with itself. The mind discovers how to be at peace. How does that sound? You want to ask more than say that? Great, thank you.
Before we ask the question, my name is Jay. Did the Buddha also say something about everybody's mother talks in terms of the unrestricted mind he had given analogous of like a lake,
you know, I forgot to put my hearing aids in. So if you could talk a little bit louder and a little slower.
I think even my mask was sort of muffling it. In some other topic we were talking about in terms of the falling on the distracted mind. I thought the Buddha gave some analogy also of like a lake or something. Is there something like that? Or?
Yes, there's, there's a lot of analogies, metaphors using water for the mind. And at different stages of meditation that the mind and our body also begins to feel a little bit like our lake might feel like and feel something. So at one point, the surface of the lake can be very, very peaceful, no waves at all. It just feels like completely still unclear. Sometimes there's a very embodied feeling of being very settled, but there's a flow of energy inside that feels really good and pleasant. Some people describe it as kind of joy or bliss. But but it has energetic, it has a kind of a flow. And that's like into a a underwater spring that's bringing fresh water into the lake. And just kind of imagine an underwater fountain that's kind of bringing is refreshing the lake. And that as the meditation gets still there and quieter. They're all the movement that have that the wonderful kind of sense of vitality and movement that can might happen there. quiets down And then it's, then it's a very still quiet Lake, that the analogy is that it's a lake full of lotus blossoms that are some are most of them are underwater and some are above water. But the ones underwater, no part of the of the blossoms are the Lotus plants are not lovingly touched by the water, it is still refreshing supportive water. And so I don't know if those those kinds of metaphors or analogies work for you, but that is one that's used sometimes for deep meditation.
Actually a question on walking meditation. Yeah. So I've done some going retreats as well, where there's no walking at all. It just it's it's it. And definitely in the Spirit Rock tradition, or here that is walking. And in my head, I get a general sense that walking is almost treated like a stepchild, or it's not as high as sitting. Is there any truth to it? And also curious like in Buddha's time, was it treated as equal as sitting? Or is it like you do it only when you can do sitting or something like that?
Yeah. But we do know that the Buddha did walking meditation, and that was taught. And then we know the Buddha, when he was teaching meditation, he was teaching it in four postures than it was. But the most common one seems to have been sitting meditation, but in walking, meditation, standing meditation, and lying down meditation, they all work well. They all have their benefits, and they all have their little more challenges. What we do on retreat is we alternate between primarily sitting and walking, but some people do lying, some people will do standing meditation. And it's very, very powerful to alternate, you get some of the benefits of both. And different things, different psychophysical processing aside, tend to get stronger in one word than the other, and they tend to balance themselves out. So for example, if you sat all the time, many people would find it, they might get kind of dull, and it's hard to keep the energy up. But if you walk, it tends to be energizing. But if you worked all the time, you wouldn't be able to get this calm. And so by the by going back and forth, you get the best of calm and energy and keeping those in good balance that allows meditation go for are there. And there's other things that come into balance as well. And so we're, we're big on going back and forth. And that's it a long tradition in Buddhism, to do to do walking meditation. And if you go to some of the monastery, especially the forest monasteries, you'll see in the woods, they'll have these paths that are really well worn paths, because they've been people walking on them for maybe centuries. But they're only about 30 or 40 feet long. And it's their, their meditation pass where people have walked back and forth, back and forth, and it's kind of touching to see them.
For instance, great, excellent.
One of the advantages of walking meditation is that it's a little bit more like daily life people do. Many people do a lot of walking in daily life. So if you get the hang of meditating while you walk, it's easier for some people to bring the the meditative mind the mindful mind into their daily life because they can bring it into their walking
Hi, thank you. My name is Auberge. I'm going off walking meditation. How would you advise doing walking meditation?
How do you guys advise, like how to deal with walking? Or do you walk great. So the classic way for us is to find a walkway someplace you can walk with, there's not a lot of visual stimuli, like how they don't do it downtown in the middle of, you know, people going to work someplace that's pretty calm, and find, and it's about 30 or 4020 or 30 paces long. And then simply walk back and forth. And wear a sincere and seated meditation, our primary focus would be the in our tradition here is to focus on the breathing. And there's something about the rhythm of breathing, anything that's rhythmic in the body tends to make a nice focus of attention. Because it keeps the mind relaxed and focused. If it's if it's something that doesn't move through focus on the mind tends to get tight. But because it kind of has a nice kind of rhythm at the mind kind of follows it. It's kind of like if you're looking at a river going by so sitting on the Mac because of every very relaxing to watch the flow and the movement. So we're watching the flow and the movement of the breathing and walking meditation, the rhythm that we're tuning into the rhythm of the feet and legs alternating as they walk. And it's usually if you're walking fast, and they feel that the sensation is mostly just feeling the soles of the feet against the ground as they hit the ground. But if you're walking slower, then you're, you're paying attention to the sensitive the flow of sensations that come into place as you lift and move your foot forward. And some people say that's pretty pedestrian, it's pretty boring to just simply put your attention there. But it's not that the, the sensations are necessarily so fascinating. What's fascinating is the clarity of attention that builds up when we're able to keep the attention in a relaxed way, right there. So one way, one little image that I tend to teach that helps support that is imagine that your feet are sponges. And like a sponge, we put it put sponge in water, it soaks up the water. So if if the feet are sponges for sensations, so you just kind of feel that they're used to receiving the sensations that come as your walk, and just receiving and taking them in. And that becomes the primary object of attention, the mind gets distracted, you go back to that. That's a brief instruction. Thank you. And then we walk back and forth. And and if you walk slow enough, it's nicely when you come to the end to stop, turn around, stop and then start. And what is stopping does is that you're much more likely to notice that you've gotten caught up in thought. And then you start over again. And this starting over again, is really a big part of any kind of meditation, and learning how to start over. So that the starting over doesn't agitate your mind. Because some people like oh, no, I got distracted again. Oh, I'm a terrible meditator. And I got to try again. It's I don't know if I can, it's so hard. By tiny go through all that. The mind is so agitated, stirred it up, right? So learning how to start over again. Oh, look, we'd be more like, Oh, my mind is distracted. Okay, I'll start over again. I'll just start like, I'll just begin again. Okay, here we are. And so the difference between those two mindsets, one supports more meditation one doesn't.
My name is Padma. So I think I'm trying to figure out, I noticed the distractions, you know, and then I try to come back to the breathing. But how? And then you just explained the walking meditation, which I had a question about, thank you for that. But if the distractions,
like the koan like this, like there, because so if
the distractions are more like resentment, you know, the silly thoughts, of course, I noticed them and it's like, okay, it's late. Right. But how do you go about with more like, life, trauma related distractions,
Probably with trauma, it's a big question. And so it'd be very careful about how we work with it. If so, a lot of trauma, you should work with a trauma counselor. But if the I think it's best not to treat trauma as a distraction. I think if you treat trauma as a distraction, it kind of accentuates the the wound. But some people if they turn towards the trauma and feel it also makes the trauma wound bigger. So the art of it is how do we not? How do we open up to the trauma without being hurt more by it. And that, that takes a lot of care. And so one of the ways there's a number of ways to do this, but one of the ways is to is to open to the trauma be present for it in a very short for a very short time. Just almost like imagine your mindfulness is like a soft cotton gauze, like soft cotton balls. And you go feel the physical experience of trauma that resides in your body. And you just kind of gently touched the trauma, maybe three times with awareness. So I know you're there. There you are. And then you pull back. And then maybe you do a little bit of metta loving kindness to kind of stabilize or maybe go back to your breathing and just stabilize and then it feels like it's useful again. Go with a soft cotton gauze. It's okay to trauma I know you're there. And the idea is to show the trauma that you can be present for it in a safe way that you're not afraid of it and you're also not reacting to it you're not attacking it, you just there in a friendly way and then you come back to your breathing. You do that and you don't have to do it don't have a big agenda don't try to work too hard at it. So that's one thing you can do with trauma. Does that make some sense?
Yeah, I think it does. I think it requires more me practicing that right so I'm hoping so I'll be coming to the retreat the next one hoping they'll help
right well if there are no more questions or something then let's sit for five minutes and then we'll call this evening.
A distracted mind has very little very little room in it because it's kind of become claustrophobic with its preoccupation
they're out are crowded access better word crowded with its preoccupation
and undistracted mind has more rumba, more space in it. And one of the things it has room for is love
what does it feel like? When there's a room for Love?
Thank you very much I look forward to a chance of being together with you again