"When understood, the Buddha’s universe..is anything but alien and inhibiting. It is a world full of hope, where everything we need to do can be done and everything that matters is within human reach. It is a world where kindness, unselfishness, non-violence, and compassion achieve what self-interest and arrogance cannot. It is a world where any human can be happy in goodness and the fullness of giving." ❦ Eknath Easwara

June 22, 2012

How I Work with Breath in the Body When I'm Feeling Blocked

Today, from early this morning, until around 2 pm, I really worked with the skillful means explained in a blog post at my other dharma blog, Metta Refuge.  The title of the post is "Bathing in the Breath to Heal Body and Mind," and it presents an essay by Thanissaro Bhikkhu on this very important and highly effective practice.

The work involves the meditative, compassionate working with the breath in the body—indeed, it involves consciously bathing oneself and immersing oneself and specific areas of the body in the conscious breath energy.  It's an incredibly powerful practice, in my experience, and has brought me much mental and physical healing.

This morning, when I got up, I noticed that I seemed to be "floating" -- kind of disconnected from my feelings and ungrounded.  I got to work with mindfulness of the breath in the body, and found, to my surprise, there were certain bodily areas that my breath energy couldn't reach, so to speak. (If you know how to feel the breath energy in the body and guide its movement in the body, you will know what I mean.  If not, the instructional article I mentioned, above, will big a tremendous introduction to this wonderful and highly skillful practice.)

As I got quiet with my breath and began to pay better attention to my breath and my body, I noticed that my lower abdomen area seemed blocked off from the breath energy. Since that area is powerfully linked to deep feelings, as many spiritual practices have demonstrated, it made sense that I awoke feeling rather disconnected and blocked off from feeling—from feeling alive and emotionally connected to the ground of being, True Self, Big Mind, or citta, or whatever one might want to call it.

My meditative work was to make contact with where the blockage seemed to begin—the energetic "wall," as it were—and to just patiently hold that blockage place in my breath, with my breath energy.  At the same time I was doing this, I was always bringing metta—great loving-kindness—to this blockage place. Not surprisingly, when I paid more attention, the place where I had the sensation of blockage was actually physically painful, too.  So, patiently, patiently, patiently, with each in-breath and out-breath, I just came back to the stuck place and embraced it with my full attention and mindfulness, bathing it in my breath, with love.

Sometimes, I would, so to speak, back away from the barrier, and just embrace my whole body with the breath.  As the Thanissaro Bhikkhu article explains:
"So think of yourself as totally surrounded by the breath, bathed in the breath, and then survey the whole body to see where there are still sections of the body that are tense or tight, that are preventing the breath from coming in and going out. Allow them to loosen up.  This way you allow for the fullness of the breath to come in, go out, each time there’s an in-breath, each time there’s an out-breath. Actually the fullness doesn’t go in and out. There’s just a quality of fullness that’s bathed by the breath coming in, bathed by the breath going out. It’s not squeezed out by the breath. It’s not forced out by the breath. Each nerve in the body is allowed to relax and have a sense of fullness, right here, right now. Then simply try to maintain that sense of fullness by the way you breathe. Your focus is on the breath, but you can’t help but notice the fullness."
I'd like to tell you that the work was easy, effortless, and that the barrier gave way quickly, but it was none of that.  The work today took persistence, it took right effortsamma vayama—and at times, doing the work meant being willing to be totally present with a lot of stress, mental pain, and nameless mental angst.  Sometimes, I would be able to identify the source of that mental pain, look into it, and let it go by insight into its causes and conditions, and its "not-self," impermanent nature.  But often, the mental pain's "name" (nature) was hidden from me, so I just held the pain in the breath, bathed it in the breath, holding the pain like a crying baby, with great compassion and loving-kindness.

Gradually, the feeling of blockage began to dissolve and melt in the fervent but gentle heat of right effort, mindfulness, and loving-kindness.  When I felt myself grasping or clinging at some moment of release, or disbanding of a mental knot, I noticed that the pain would come back—a clear signal of the unskillfulness of grasping at the release itself or some goal of breaking the barrier or dissolving the blockage.  Instead, I saw I had to let go of all of that—all grasping and desire to be free, or to be anywhere else than right where I was—and just be with the breath.  The attention, the loving-kindness, would do the work, without regard to a "self," suffering or not.

I did this breath work sitting, standing, lying down (though that always risks dozing off, for me!), and while doing walking meditation in my apartment. At times, my body was clearly telling me that  I need to stop and take a break.  At that point, I did stretches, some yoga poses, and some Qigong exercises.  And, I also stopped and had a little tea, preparing and drinking it with mindfulness, and paying attention to the breath so as to not lose the spiritual momentum of the work.

Refreshed, it was back to the breath work in the body! It's very important to be intuitive and listen to the body and to watch the mind for clues as to right action.  Sometimes you may need to leave the blocked area and work in other parts of the body that are more open to the breath.  Often, doing this, you may find that there were small blockages even there and you can work through them.  This success seems to energize the mind and the whole body, and you can often return to the big hurting, blocked areas with more energy and happiness and assurance.

I have sometimes had psycho-physical blockages give way quickly, but today, it tooks hours of sustained effort and concentration to clear up the feeling of emotional blockage. It was hard work! But was very good work, and there was an underlying great joy knowing that I was working scientifically, and artfully, with wonderful tools of the buddhadharma.  By early afternoon, I was able to feel my breath energy throughout the abdomen, and I felt so much more grounded and alive and back in touch with my feelings.

As I looked back over the morning's work, I thought I would share some of my experience, and the  great article by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, as a help to others.  I like to hear how others work, and I think it's encouraging to hear how others in the path of awakening make progress.  I hope you've found this sharing helpful and that it inspires you to try this practice for yourself.  The blog post at Metta Refuge shares some terrific and highly skillful instruction.  Check it out!  May all beings be free of pain and know the happiness beyond all suffering!

"Bathing in the Breath to Heal Body and Mind"

Enhanced by Zemanta

June 19, 2012

Just *This* Breath - The Key to Meditation

Just This Breath

Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Don’t tell yourself you’ve got a whole hour to sit here. Just tell yourself you’ve got this breath: this breath coming in, this breath going out. That’s all there is: this breath. As for the breaths for the rest of the hour, don’t even think of them right now. Pay attention to them when they come. When they go, you’re done with them. There’s only this breath.

Your meditation needs that kind of focus if you’re going to see anything clearly. This attitude also helps to cut through a lot of the garbage at the beginning of the meditation. You may have experience from the past of how long it takes for the mind to settle down. But by now you should have a sense of where the mind goes when it settles down. Why can’t you go there right now?

Once you’re there with the breath, and you can get your balance, try to maintain balance. Again, it’s just this breath, this breath. See what you can do with this breath. Welcome it as an opportunity for making things better. How deep can it go, how good can it feel? How much of your attention can you give to it?

Ordinarily, the mind is like a command post where you’re receiving information from all directions about all sorts of different things, and it has a tendency to reserve some attention from what you’re trying to focus on right now in case an emergency comes up. But while you’re meditating you want to bring all of your attention to the breath. Don’t hold anything in reserve. If you find any part of your mind or body that’s not connected with the breath, well, get it connected. Add it on. Let the connected parts build up as much as they can with each breath.

The more fully you can be in the present moment, the better. One moment of full attention is better than a whole hour of just drifting around. Of course, a whole hour of full attention is better than just one moment, but you can’t do the whole hour at once. You can only do this moment, so give yourself fully to this moment. Don’t hold anything back."

You can listen to the full article here:

Thanissaro Bhikkhu: Just This Breath


Enhanced by Zemanta

On Bringing Loving-Kindness Practice to Daily Life

Here is a great teaching on mettaloving-kindness practice—by the skillful and great-hearted Bhante Vimalaramsi.

This excerpt from a talk called "Metta in Daily Life" gives many helpful ideas on how to take metta "off the cushion" and into one's daily life.
Metta in Daily Life
by Bhante Vimalaramsi

"...With your daily activities, the other times, you can send Loving-Kindness to anybody. You can send it to individual people, you can send it to groups of people, you can send it to all beings, it's up to you.

But the thing that you want to try to do is start making "keys" for yourself. A key like: when you're brushing your teeth, that that's your time to send Loving-Kindness. When you're walking from your house to your car, try to use that as a key, for that's the time to open up your heart and send Loving-Kindness. Now you're going to forget sometimes, just like you do here, and that's OK. There's no problem with that. But when you see your mind is wandering, then you want to begin again. And that should be the name of this practice: "Do It Again", or "Play It Again", is that the...? [laughter]

When you're walking from your car to wherever you have to go, what are you doing with your mind? Your mind is just kind of ho-humming around, getting caught in all kinds of unwholesome mental states, or it's just kind of flying around thinking about this or that. So you use that, getting out of your car, or getting into your car, as your key to practice your Loving-Kindness. Open up your heart and, and if there's someone that you know that is suffering, send them some kind thoughts. Put them in your heart, radiate that Loving-Kindness to them.

The more times you focus on having an open heart, the more easily the practice progresses. And this is because, when you have an open heart, and you're radiating that Loving-Kindness, you'll notice it very quickly when it closes, when you get caught by thoughts and feelings and all kinds of whatever the circus is that's running in town at that day. So gently let go of those thoughts, let go of those feelings, relax. Wish somebody happiness.

When I was in Malaysia, I used to tell people to keep a little diary: how long were they able to practice Loving-Kindness during the day. And a lady came to me and she said, "You know, I wrote down every time I practiced Loving-Kindness. Sometimes it was only fifteen seconds and sometimes it was a little bit longer, sometimes it was less. And I only practiced Loving-Kindness for eight minutes during the day, that's all I could remember." And she thought she was being a failure. And I said, "Gee, that's great! That's just not regular good, that's real good! That's good practice. And, as you become familiar with doing it, it will become easier."

Now when you have your Loving-Kindness with you during the day, and then you go and sit and do your Loving-Kindness practice in the evening or in the morning, whenever you happen to do it -- I recommend the morning -- your sitting is easier, because you've been mindful during the day. You've seen that your mind has been, wandering around doing this and that, getting caught by this thought and that thought, this feeling and that feeling, and, you start working with it right then. Letting it go, relax, come back to that open heart and giving that love away.

One of the keys that I use, is, every time I see a little baby, makes me smile. So I send Loving-Kindness to that baby. It was funny, I went into a restaurant with some people, and as I was walking out there was a little, oh, must have been two or three year old baby, sitting in a high chair, and he started looking at me. And I started smiling, just because he looked so great. I mean he was just, really, really soft-faced, and he started smiling back. And then he started bobbing his head up and down. He knew what I was doing. [laughter] And by the time I'd reached the door I started chuckling. Now this was right after the Twin Towers thing, and I walked out the door laughing, and some people were walking right by the door and they heard me laughing, and they had a look of shock on their face. And then they started smiling. So that was a real successful trip. How do you affect the world around you?

So you use as many different keys as you can remember, to, let go of whatever you're thinking about -- it's not that important anyway -- relax, come back to your heart-space and feel that open up, and then send that Loving-Kindness. You're standing in line at the grocery; what are you doing with your mind? " Awh, this lady's got a lot of stuff, it's going to take a long time, aww man." And you know, everybody else in line is doing the same thing. "I can't wait to get out of here, I've got other things to do, I don't want to be here." So you can have compassion for those people.

Now, what's the definition of compassion? Compassion is seeing another person's pain, allowing them to have that pain and loving them anyway. When I would go into the hospitals, when I was doing that quite a bit, I'd walk into somebody's room, smiling. And, ok, they have a lot of pain, they're really in serious trouble, they're getting close to death. OK. That's a sad situation. That's right. And I can love them anyway. Now it was real amazing because, people would tell me that when I walked in the room, it felt like some fresh air came into the room.

Now, if you know somebody that's depressed and you walk into the room where they are, how does that feel? Not very nice. Your have a choice at that time: you can either take their depression and become depressed right along with them, or you can allow them the space to have those kind of feelings, and love them. They can go through whatever they want to, that's their karma; they want to get caught by these things, that's fine. But, ultimately, I'm responsible for me. So what I wind up doing is just radiating Loving-Kindness and wishing, quite often it's all beings. And after a little while the energy in the room starts to change.

Now, when you have strong Loving-Kindness, when you're able to focus on it very deeply, there can be some heat arising in your body. And this heat is a healing energy. And when you focus very strongly with Loving-Kindness, when you practice enough, your mind becomes very calm. And because your mind becomes calm, their mind becomes calm. And when their mind becomes calm, then they start letting go and that depression starts to raise up a little bit. It starts to dissipate a little bit in them.

So you can't take another person's pain away, no matter how hard you try or how much you indulge in their pain; you only make yourself suffer. The more you practice focusing on Loving-Kindness and having an open heart, that's where the healing is. The more you can radiate that feeling of happiness and love, the more you can smile -- and laugh once in while, the more you effect the world around you in a positive way by your example. . ."

You can read the full talk by Venerable Bhante Vimalaramsi here:
and you can learn more about this wonderful teacher here:


Enhanced by Zemanta

June 12, 2012

The Middle Way of Balance Between Concentration and Discernment


In practicing the Dhamma, if you don't foster a balance between concentration and discernment, you'll end up going wild in your thinking. If there's too much work at discernment, you'll go wild in your thinking. If there's too much concentration, it just stays still and undisturbed without coming to any knowledge either. So you have to keep them in balance.

Stillness has to be paired with discernment. Don't let there be too much of one or the other. Try to get them just right. That's when you'll be able to see things clearly all the way through. Otherwise, you'll stay as deluded as ever. You may want to gain discernment into too many things—and as a result, your thinking goes wild. The mind goes out of control. Some people keep wondering why discernment never arises in their practice, but when it does arise they really go off on a tangent. Their thinking goes wild, all out of bounds.

So when you practice, you have to observe in your meditation how you can make the mind still. Once it does grow still, it tends to get stuck there. Or it may grow empty, without any knowledge of anything—quiet, disengaged, at ease for a while, but without any discernment to accompany it. But if you can get discernment to accompany your concentration, that's when you'll really benefit. You'll see things all the way through and be able to let them go. If you're too heavy on the side of either discernment or stillness, you can't let go. The mind may come to know this or that, but it latches onto its knowledge. Then it know still other things and latches onto them too. Or else it simply stays perfectly quiet and latches onto that.

It's not easy to keep your practice on the Middle Way. If you don't use your powers of observation, it's especially hard. The mind will keep falling for things, sometimes right, sometimes wrong, because it doesn't observe what's going on. This isn't the path to letting go. It's a path that's stuck, caught up on things. If you don't know what it's stuck and caught up on, you'll remain foolish and deluded. So you have to make an effort at focused contemplation until you see clearly into inconstancy, stress, and not-self. This without a doubt is what will stop every moment of suffering and stress....

From READING THE MIND — Advice for Meditators

from the Talks of K. Khao-suan-luang (Upasika Kee Nanayon)
Translated from the Thai by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Other Teachings by Upasika Kee Nanayon and highly recommended:

Pure and Simple: The Extraordinary Teachings of a Thai Buddhist Laywoman

An Unentangled Knowing


Enhanced by Zemanta

June 11, 2012

The Truth Beyond Emptiness and Dependent Origination

Madhyamika Teachings

By Nargarjuna And Gyalwa Götsangpa

Everything in it is merely inseparable appearance and emptiness the union of the two truths.

Analysis of verses from Shenpen Ösel — 
the clear light of the Buddha's teachings which benefits all beings

Those whose intelligence has gone beyond existence and nonexistence 
and who do not abide in any extremes 
have realized the meaning of dependent arising, 
the profound and unobservable truth of emptiness.


Transcending existence and non-existence / the inseparability of appearance and emptiness / the union of the two truths: when one really understands dependent origination, then one transcends all extremes, like existence and non-existence. Because, the true nature of everything, including the mind, is beyond the four extremes of existence / realism, non-existence / nihilism / idealism, dualism and monism.

It is inconceivable, beyond all description / conceptualization, beyond causality space and time, beyond all dualities, beyond all karma formation. It is even beyond the conventional truths of dependent origination and of emptiness, beyond this duality. It is called the union of the two truths, the inseparability of appearances and emptiness. It transcends all. -- the two truths, like dependent origination and emptiness, are not different, not the same.

Enhanced by Zemanta