This blog, Yours in the Dharma by Sandy Garson, is an effort to navigate life between the fast track and the breakdown lane, on the Buddhist path. It tries to use a heritage of precious, ancient teachings to steer clear of today's pain and confusion so we get at what's truly happening.
Monday, March 03, 2014
Clarifying What I said about Interdependent Origination
When I spoke about interdependent origination in our everyday lives, I was trying to use very familiar situations to introduce the concept of one action leading to an inevitable reaction and so on. As it happens, the Buddha's 12 interconnected links of how things happen are somewhat more profound and unseen. Here are the 12 nidanas, or chain of happening, as explained by someone else and me adding to it.
Ignorance Fundamental ignorance of the absolute truth that everything is constantly changing except for our awareness of that, and the delusion of mistakenly perceiving that what's happening to you constitutes a verifiable solid self.
Formation: As long as there is ignorance, see above, there will be formation of karma: positive, negative and neutral. This leads to rebirth in the various realms.In other words, act out of ignorance, create karma and go from there.
Formation cause the consciousness of the next existence to arise. The
consciousness which propels one towards the next existence is called the
impelling consciousness. And the consciousness that is led to
that particular state, once the conditions have come together, is known
as the consciousness of the impelled result. These two aspects of consciousness are counted as a single link since together they establish the link between two lives. (we are talking here about morphing energy.)
Name-and-form: The power of consciousness causes the energy to seek a womb, and there a body develops. Thus energy takes form and that form inevitably develops sensation,
perception, formation and consciousness (awareness of what's happening).
Sense Faculties: The six sense faculties then come into play to feed consciousness. These are the way we know: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and in Buddhism the sixth sense is the mind which processes all this input into thoughts.
Contact: The coming together of objects, sense faculty and consciousness is contact.
Sensation: From contact arises sensation: pleasurable, painful and neutral.
Craving: Contact leads straight to the desire to not be separated from pleasurable sensations or to get rid of painful sensations.
As that craving to have or avoid increases, it becomes grasping, i.e. intense striving
never to be separated from what is pleasurable and to avoid what is
Becoming: This grasping takes the form of action by the body, speech and/or mind, and that action creates karma, an action imprint on the underlying energy. That karma then determines the energy's next morph, a new existence.
Rebirth: Through the impelling power of karma, something becomes. When the conditions necessary for this energy pattern are assembled, one is reborn in a particular birthplace.
Old age and death: Once born or reborn, one's form is subjected inevitably to the continual process of aging as all the parts change and develop. Eventually there is death. And if it is in ignorance of how this actually works, the same cycle starts again.
So the goal of Dharma, the goal of meditation, the pinnacle of awareness/consciousness/mind/spirit is to break this chain and be freed of all the suffering ignorance creates. And that brings us back to the discussion about adjectives like good and bad.
Happy News for a Happy New (Tibetan) Year (and Meditation Lesson 5)
Today, March 2, 2014 is Losar, Tibetan New Year and this message came from one of the most revered and savvy expounders of Tibetan Buddhism, His Eminence Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, in his own English: Buddha’s teaching on dependent arising distinguishes him from all others as the supreme expounder of the truth. Once dependent arising has been pointed out to us, it’s a truth so blatantly obvious that we wonder how we missed it. Yet in our daily lives, our craving for independence is so strong that we forget how entirely dependent we really are.
We may notice that we depend on food, for example, on shelter and even friendship, but we forget, or perhaps fail to notice, the fine and intricate web of subtle phenomena upon which we are equally reliant. And because we ignore this reality, we find ourselves falling over and over again into a realm of disappointment, where we become numb because we are too hopeful and then sink into the agony of hopelessness.
But the truth is that our conditioning rules us. We both create conditions and depend on conditions, some of which are good, and others we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies. Those of us alive today are extremely fortunate because the name of Shakyamuni Buddha still exists and still has meaning. Shakyamuni Buddha is therefore an important condition, a "dependent arising," that can help us shape our lives.
For those who don't know what dependent arising means, the facile explanation is: you never walk alone, or no man is an island and even if he is, he's part of the sea. There is no such thing as independence, absolutely nothing that exists all by itself with no connection to absolutely anything else. No. Life, the universe, the whole shebang is just one thing after another, a shaggy dog story in which the hip bone's connected to the shin bone and the shin bone's connected to the ankle bone and you're no home alone.
What the Buddha realized is that everything that happens happens only as the result of something that just happened, endlessly. There's no start or finish. More importantly perhaps, there's no straight line: it's all an endless spinning circle of one event leading to the next in repeating cycles. He drew a wheel of interdependent origination with 12 sectors, one feeding into the next and so on back around. Dharma students study and often have to memorize the 12 nidanas, links of interdependence. And you can do this easily through books or even on the web by searching Nidanas.
So instead let's talk about what interdependent origination means to us everyday. The Vietnamese Zen Buddhist elder Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a beautiful short tract tracing all the links in, for instance, your breakfast glass of orange juice, starting with the sun that shines on the tree, the person whose land the tree rises from, the rain that waters it, the person who tends the tree, the people who tend the person who tends the tree and so on until the entire universe is in your stomach with that orange juice.
The Japanese Zen roshis will ask you: Who was your mother before your mother was born? This brings us to ancestors without whom we would not be here. You know that old joke: children are hereditary. Chances are if your parents didn't have any, you won't have any either. So we owe our existence to thousands upon thousands of beings who came before us and did whatever they did to survive, reproduce and allow their children to survive.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama always speaks of compassion, how caring for others and being connected to others comes back to us as happiness because there's no way we can avoid contact with others. We're told to treat every single being as our precious mother because, see ancestors above, energy never dies it just morphs, so at some point earlier in time any living being we encounter today could have been our mother. We have a debt to pay.
And that brings us to the law of karma, lately known as what goes 'round comes 'round, once known as "give and ye shall receive." The law of karma unlike the laws of Congress is simple: karma literally means action, as in an action-reaction--reaction chain of events. Its law says virtuous action begets blessings and more virtue while harmful action unleashes negative energy and thus distressing events. According to the law of karma, you can change the course of your life by changing your current karma: every virtuous action you commit will produce a positive outcome for you, the more the merrier. Nothing happens haphazardly or mysteriously if you look closely enough. That's why sometimes, as I've said before based on my sometimes painful personal experience, not getting what you want turns out to be the happily ever after your good karma earned you.
And finally, interdependent origination on the most mundane basis brings us to adjectives and the way we sling them around. Good bad, small, tall, here, there, east, west.....What makes you so sure? Adjectives are a rush to judgement, a search for the absolute, when in fact everything is relative. This is to say, what you see is merely the effect of a momentary collision of causes, action and reaction. So in a second it will all be different: new action and reaction. Everything is always in play like this and thus continually shifting. Nothing is as fixed as you may think it is.
Take this idea of good and bad. As i think I've written before, Tibetans might describe the Chinese invasion of their country and the genocide still going on as bad, really really bad. But can we say that it was all bad when in fact it was the Chinese pushing the Tibetans out of their country that cracked the shell on their secret wisdom and let it leak to us. So what happened to Tibet has been good for us. The Dalai Lama says: Nothing is all bad.
Here's how my beloved Rinpoche likes to explain how adjectives confuse and muddy up our perception of reality: hold up your hand, either one will work. Now extend upward your pinky and your ring finger. Look at those two: one is small, one is big, right? Your ring finger is a big finger, right? Okay, now put down your pinky and thrust up your middle finger. Uh oh. Is your ring finger still big? What just happened?
There's the theory of relativity for you, the theory of dependence on causes, the teaching that nothing exists in a vacuum by itself unchanged by any connection to anything else. So that's us: a huge mash-up of causes and conditions changing so constantly we can't pinpoint anything as fixed.
So happy new year. None of us are stuck; none of us are good or bad or tall or short or anything at all except changing. When you sit quietly and meditate, watching your thoughts streaming endlessly across your attention span, you can see the constant changing. If you look more carefully, you can even see how one thought leads right into another, interdependent origination in HD. And when you really see that, you begin to see how you alone are the master of your own fate. Happy New Year of the Wooden Horse. May it carry you to the joy of no suffering.
Meditation Class 4: You've Got it All So You're Good to Go.
Maybe you are just reading these lesson posts like a textbook or maybe you are reading them as an instruction manual and actually trying to follow along. So I need to tell you that in this endeavor, there is absolutely no substitute for experience. There are no crib notes or cheat sheets and it doesn't matter if you memorize every word I've written. You're never going to get it. Sorry. From the Buddha onward, great teachers have always insisted nothing is going to save you but yourself. Meditation is strictly DIY. So there is no God here to call upon for help. At least no external being hiding up in some mysterious heaven. No. Not even a son who showed up once. But...and here's the really big BUT of good news ...there is something sublime in you. And that's what we're trying to locate. That is why your personal experience of what happens during meditation is going to be all that you are going to have to go on, the only thing you can count on.. Only you will honestly know how you are doing, how far along the path to the end of suffering you have journeyed. And only you will be fooling yourself if you haven't budged for lack of effort.
So trust yourself. Give yourself a break. Buddhists don't put much stock in reading other people's ideas in books and taking tests to prove you've absorbed them, which is of course what we reflexively do in school. Buddha taught that there is a huge difference between education you acquire and experience you actually have. It's the difference perhaps between to do and to be. Somebody can tell you in excruciating detail about their trip to the Everest Base Camp and bombard you with their selfies and videos, but until you actually go there yourself, you have no absolutely certainty what and where the Everest Base Camp really is. Someone might warn you not to put your hand in the fire but that's academic, something you could have doubt about, at least until you put your hand in the fire and burn the hell out of it. That's how you learn beyond doubt. Experience is certainty. It's unimpeachable. The Buddha insisted it is the only thing we can ever wholeheartedly trust.
That's why he maintained that he was merely a teacher, just someone who could tell us what he did to get where he got--enlightenment, and encourage us to try it for ourselves. What he said, what he is saying, is that we can be just like him and get to the end of suffering like he did because we already have everything he had when he started: a body, a mind, experiences of suffering. Those are the only tools necessary for the trek to enlightenment.
Rinpoches-- that is a title of great respect for Tibetan gurus, sometimes refer to our Buddhanature, pointing out that every being inherently has it. What they are saying is we all have what the Buddha had within him: the ability to tame our mind and wake up, the ability to end every last shred of suffering from birth, life, old age, sickness and death. Here is how one of the earliest Tibetan Rinpoche's, Je Gampopa put it: Sentient beings possess the essence of buddhahood. . . . The actual way
in which they possess it can be exemplified by the way silver is present
in silver ore, the way sesame oil is present in sesame seeds or the way
butter is present in milk. It is possible to obtain the silver that is in the ore.
It is possible to obtain the oil that is in the sesame seeds. It is possible
to obtain the butter that is in the milk and likewise it is possible
to obtain the buddhahood that is in sentient beings.
So that's what we're trying to do here and why it's up to you to do it. Let the good news motivate you. You already have everything you need, everything worth having, so you're good to go. You are just perfect right now, just the way you are. We are not embarking on a regime of self-improvement here. We are not trying to wash away some original or more likely unoriginal sin. There is nothing wrong with you, no reason to have guilt. You just don't know how fabulous you can be because until now nobody has pointed that out to you. Nobody has told you that, with right effort, meditation can bring out the sublime already in you. So please try to sit still at least once a day and tune into your own mind. May all beings be freed from suffering and dwell with happiness and joy in the great equanimity
Oh my. It's getting harder and harder to see the Buddhanature goodness in other human beings, particularly in those behemoth corporations lawyers claim as the newest members of our ever evolving species. (Got that, Darwin?) This last week alone Comcast flexed its monopoly power here in the supposed epicenter of tech innovation, San Francisco, to raise my internet rate by almost 5% to over $75 a month for nothing new and nothing to rave about. Because I refuse to pay them an additional $100 to watch TV that has nothing worth watching, they prevented me from viewing the Winter Olympics. i do have a small TV with an HD antenna on which I get to watch Downtown Abbey, but I can't watch anything on NBC. Comcast owns it and thanks to money squabbles in San Francisco, the station picked up and moved to San Jose with a transmitter that deliberately doesn't reach the city. So if you don't meet their demands, no NBC, no winter Olympics, no SNL for laughs. This same week Comcast announced it wants to be gatekeeper to all communication and nobody except consumers like me flinched at being screwed with our own non-negotiable fees. As I was digesting this, the annual renewal for homeowner insurance showed up in the mail not only with a hefty unexplained premium increase, but an extra $230 payment for worthless terrorism coverage that is not legally mandatory but I am not permitted by the issuer to refuse. They can do this because there's not much competition in this particular niche market. You got another definition for extortion?
I went to buy a new batch of the See's Candy chocolate lollipops I distribute as small spontaneous thank yous for sudden acts of kindness and also take to the Tibetan monks who seem to love them. For at least four years, these treats were $.50 a pop so i could be very generous in handing them out. Then See's the corporation changed hands and its mission was not so much to sell candy that made people happy but, you know, "to unlock pent-up financial value." So despite stability in the price of basic foods and minimum wage labor, every few months over the last two years, See's Candy has increased the price of the lollipops by a nickel. They're now $.85 a pop, for the moment anyway.
And to top it all off, I went from the candy store to the pharmacy to fill a prescription, the only prescription drug I have needed in the last at least ten years except for the occasional generic antibiotic, and had to pay out of pocket $150 because the insurance company refuses to pay for the only available option of a drug needed by thousands if not millions of menopausal women. They know we have no options. I have been trying not to seethe and Dharma practice is a help with that. Yet I have been thinking more than usual about basic goodness and Buddhanature and the compassion supposedly buried in all of us. Frankly, and probably because one of my signs is Scorpio, what I have been thinking is that if I were trapped in a room with one insurance company executive and one Jihadi terrorist, and I had one shot at saving myself so I might benefit beings, I wouldn't need to hesitate to decide who to kill as the more evil. Life has become that twisted in the United $tate of America. To get away from it all, the insidiousness we have to live with, I've four times in six weeks re-read the entire collection of Peanuts comic strips given to me by surprise as a birthday present by the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, which I visited on my special day. It still tickles me that the most awful words in the world, according to Snoopy, are: "You stay home now and be a good dog." And that when Linus tells Lucy there's something she needs to know: "The world does not revolve around you", she looks at him and says: "You're kidding." What's so infinitely loveable about these comic characters, like the sitcom characters of Seinfeld who delighted everyone with a surprise re-appearance in a Superbowl ad, is not just their inner goodness struggling to shine through, but seeing the sweet fallibility this bottleneck produces. George and Charlie Brown, Elaine and Sally, Lucy and Jerry are all striving, struggling and conniving but--and it's the really really big but--they are all clearly sometimes mystified by life, often in fact a mess at meeting its challenges. They're allowed to fail and keep on going. Getting to see that is what makes us love them. We all used to be able to fail too and love ourselves and each other and keep going...before too big...you know...only monopolists and big money got to do that-- at our expense.
Meditation is, as you have started to discover, very much a mind/body experience. So it's useful to know there is a particular physical posture that benefits the mental effort, a posture people 2,600 years ago, without see-through machinery, devised to channel the energy and emotions of the body. It starts with being seated. Optimally this is on a cushion on the floor, but if you can't manage that, use a very comfortable straight back chair. It's critical for circulation that your hips remain higher than your knees. It's also critical that the back is ramrod straight, not slouched or slumped to block energy flow. We want our front, chest and gut, to be fearlessly open to the world and whatever it may offer. We are warriors, not wimps.
The head should rest comfortably erect above the shoulders, straight in line with the back, not cocked or slumped. It helps to spread the shoulders like an eagle ready to swoop, and to tuck in the chin just a little. Don't seal or pinch your lips: open them just enough to let air in. Everything should be as relaxed as possible.
At some point somewhere, you've likely seen an image of someone meditating on a cushion with legs folded like a pretzel. Maybe the soles of their feet were upturned on their thighs. Maybe you found this contortion frightening and don't want to go there. Well, you don't have to go that far. Since the idea is to keep the body relaxed to get the mind calm, torture is not an option. Still, if you are on a cushion, you need a stable base to keep you straight, and no shape offers more stability than a triangle. So you need to try at least to cross your legs, then lower them so your left foot is under or touching your right knee and vice versa. This is also a bit of mental trickery meant to erase the distinction between right and left so there's only straight up and straight ahead. If you are sitting in a chair, try to at least cross your ankles. The finishing touches on this posture are to rest your hands palms down on your thighs or your knees, whichever reach is most comfortable, and to rest your open eyes on a point about 1 foot in front of you-- on the floor is okay. Don't look for something to look at and think about. Just gaze forward.
So the practice is to sit like this, count your breathing cycles and discover what happens. You can try for five or even ten minutes a day. As we learned earlier, you're going to tune into a torrent of thoughts, an endless news channel. That's okay. It's always been there and now at last you're noticing.
Meditation is about discovering how that stream of thoughts has controlled us and how we can control it. This reversal is not going to happen in a day or even a month. How could it? You've been creating that news channel for lifetimes, so it's going to take some time to get it off the air. Every time you sit and meditate for five minutes or more definitely gets you closer to that achievement. It gets you more and more familiar with how you operate. Now if you are going to try this, it's useful to know there are actually two kinds of genuine Buddhist meditation and they are necessarily sequential. The first is called "shamatha", which means calm--perfectly calm, and it's the key to the second, "vipashyana", clearly seeing or in a word, insight. There's no point trying to jump ahead to that more fun stuff because we can't get insight into what makes us tick until we calm our mind enough to make it a steady searchlight. The traditional image for describing this situation is the ocean. Our mind is indeed a vast ocean of consciousness. Can you understand that? Well some times, the ocean can be very stormy, tormented by white caps, thundering rollers, even just a constant chop that means danger for many boats and swimmers. Traditionally thoughts are viewed as waves stirring up the ocean of your mind. They are part and parcel of your consciousness--they are coming up from the depths, yet they are passing over and through it, energetically churning it up until it's tough to be out on it. Everything is way too stirred up to see where the reefs and shoals are.
Sometimes, in contrast, when there is no wind, the ocean lies flat, calmly reflecting the sun or moon, even the landscape at its edge. It reveals what's hiding underneath. It's not a scary, unknowable expanse.
So to see into our mind, we need to calm it down. Just noticing your thoughts can do that. Just seeing them pricks them so they burst like a bubble or balloon-- when you remember to see them that is. And that's the trick here. So this is the basic starter practice: sit in that prescribed posture for at least five minutes a day and try to monitor your mind. That means: try not to get carried away on a train of thought. You will. Trust me, you will again and again. We all do even after years of practicing this. But you will get better and faster at realizing you've been thoughtnapped. Soon, at some moment of your life, you're going to be doing something or talking to someone and suddenly realize your not there: you've gone off on a train of thought. You're missing out, not seeing what's really happening.
And that should encourage you to keep making this effort. The teaching is very simple: as soon as you realize you've been carried away, take a deep breath to signal a fresh start and begin again to notice you are breathing. Notice, like that elevator sign says, you are here, on a chair or cushion or wherever you may physically be. Keep coming back to that. This is fitness training. Basic points to remember when you attempt this: it doesn't matter what you are thinking. Treat all thoughts with equal opportunity and let them go bye bye as best you can. As soon as you recognize you are thinking, the thought will vanish all by itself. Don't worry when another comes along. Inevitably it will. We never stop thinking, we will never stop thoughts from flowing like the current of the ocean. But we can stop from getting carried away by them. That's the goal here. To stay calm so we can carry on without making a mess of things. Please remember to share this with anyone who might be curious about meditation. And please ask questions by posting a comment. I'll do my best to respond asap. By this merit may all beings be freed of suffering.
Meditation Lesson 2: Tuning into your own 24/7 HD Channel
To understand what we're doing when we meditate, it helps to know the original Sanskrit for the effort, bhavana, can be translated as "mental development." When Tibetans imported the practice, they deliberately chose instead to call it gom, which translates as "to familarize" or, if you prefer, to become familiar with. In other words, meditation is simply the process by which we discover how our own private mind actually works. We just have to dive in.
We are clueless only because we haven't. We've never bothered to even tune in. Our lives have been entirely outward bound, outwardly focused on all the hubbub around us. We think of ourselves as control freaks, yet ironically, we have no idea what's really controlling us and therefore how out of control we really are.
In Lesson 1, when we just stopped for a minute, literally a minute, and for the first time ever peeked inside, we made the I bet shocking discovery that our mind is a runaway, a daredevil that doesn't want to stay
home and be with us. It lives on the streets. By running back to replay what we've already done, or racing ahead to imagine what we're going to do, our mind makes daydreamers out of us. It forces us through our lives like drivers who sit at a red light
and until horns start honking, don't notice the signal's green, drivers so distracted, they can't remember how they got where they ended up. Daydreaming makes us sleepwalkers; meditation helps us to wake up.
Why should we want to do that? Mainly because there are no limits on the glory that can be achieved when all the energy of the mind is working in perfect tandem with all the energy of the body. Mind and body as the same team is the essence of "peak experience." It's the meaning of enlightenment. Perhaps more importantly on an everyday basis, it's the cure for our subtle stress and sharp emotional pain. . Meditation is like a police hunt for the culprit who won't stop bothering us, the one holding us back. (Spoiler alert: we're going to find out that we are our own worst enemy.) Meditation shows us that when our mind runs away from where we actually are and what we are doing, we can't see straight and thus get into all kinds of trouble. We cause ourselves suffering because we cannot respond with wisdom and skill. The Buddha called his teaching medicine for the mind. He said it was the way to end our suffering. And in fact it is. Best of all, when we learn how to help ourselves stop suffering so much, we're going to be able to help others too. So there's nothing to do but be Inward Bound and familiarize ourselves with our very own mind. It's good to do the 60-second sit again to see what you can see this time. Try it for 2 minutes, even 3. Just notice how you start out counting your breathing cycle maybe one, two or three times and then what? Just try to discover what is going on. Just watch. My teacher says we should just watch our mind like a birdwatcher focusing their attention on the species they've spotted. They just watch it. They don't try to control it and they definitely don't judge it. They just watch to become familiar with its ways. That's how we should watch our own mind while we are learning to meditate. It's optimum of course to meditate sitting very quietly in a comfortable chair or on a fat floor cushion if you are able. The reason the Buddha suggested crossing ankles or sitting cross-legged is to blur distracting distinctions like left and right, so do that if you are able. Rest your hands palms down on your thighs or knees, and leave your lips slightly ajar so air flows. It will help immeasurably if you can sit erect instead of slouched. Sitting erect makes you a warrior unafraid to face whatever happens. It also helps energy flow more freely through your body to keep it relaxed. The point is to get your body situated comfortably enough to not have cramps or itches or pains that distract you from watching your mind. Try this simple mind watching meditation twice a day if you can. Just watch for a minute or two to learn. And never feel bad about anything you discover. It's all good because it's helping you get better at life. If it wasn't there, you'd have nothing to work with, no fertilizer to make perfection grow. This is very important to remember. Everything you need to reach perfection is right there inside you just waiting to be discovered. This is a practice in which all that toxic stuff works like homeopathic medicine to cure you. And by the way, here's more good news. Meditation is a very portable practice. You can try one minute of it while standing in the endless post office line, ignoring a commercial on TV, riding public transit, even lying in bed. Just not while driving, okay?
You're going to find your mind is a fascinating 24/7 running news channel you can tune into at any time.
Meditation Class1: Discovering Your Own Personal Operating System
Meditation...mindfulness...you've heard these trendy words, but what do they actually mean? What are we talking about when we're talking about meditation? You've probably heard someone, maybe even you, say: "Go meditate on that" as if meditation is simply a synonym for "think about it." Well, ironically it's a synonym for "don't think about it."
You could say the whole point of meditation is to get over thinking, especially that long hot shower mulling over something. You could say meditation is about finding out what you think isn't worth the paper it's printed on. It's just a lot of heavy baggage weighing you down. You could say this getting rid of baggage is why meditation is known to be en-lightening.
Here's a good example. People believe, often with dismay, that meditation is something Buddhist, something "religious" like Catholic mass, so they don't try it because they don't want to get near religion. That's the idea they carry around and operate on when in fact the Buddha who brought us meditation, based on the available Hindu spiritual technology of his time, wasn't a Buddhist himself. That word was invented more than two thousand years later by Europeans, searching for a way to equate this "exotic" practice they'd found in Asia with something very familiar back home. Buddhism....Catholicism.... Protestantism ...Mohammedism ....Judaism..... The Buddha called himself a teacher. (I think of him as a spiritual Sherpa.) The Buddha clearly said over and over: "I simply teach how to tame your mind." And he did/does it by just telling us how he managed the job.
So if you like your religion you don't have to give it up to meditate and if you don't like Religion, you don't have to fear finding it all organized in this practice. Think of it as mind science because that is actually what it is.
In case you can't believe me, let's try a very basic introduction to genuine meditation. Push back from your computer and sit in your most comfortable chair in the most comfortable position. If you can, cross your ankles and rest your hands on your thighs. Do not close your eyes but do let your mouth open just a tad so it isn't pinched. Once you're comfy, set a timer for 60 seconds. One minute. One minute that could change the rest of your life.
Now all you have to do for 60 seconds is sit still and notice that you are physically breathing. Breathe comes in, burrows, then leaves your body. Over and over this happens, has been happening since the second you were born. So just sit there and notice what you forgot. Sit, see and count every breathing cycle: one in, burrow, out; two in, burrow, out.... That's it. Just do that for 60 seconds, no cheating because it's only yourself who will lose, and let's see what you discover.
I'm going to bet you got as far as two, maybe even a heroic four breathing counts before your attention bolted for tomorrow or yesterday or maybe even ten minutes ago. Instead of paying attention to what your body is actually doing right now, you were reliving the past or plotting the future. In retrospect you can see attention deficit. Your operating system was not paying attention to how you are operating. Your mind--your thoughts and awareness--were like a riderless wild horse galloping all over the range. If I am right, you just discovered that while you sat there, your mind took off, meaning your entire life has been an out-of-body experience. That is why the Buddha said: I teach how to tame your mind. If I am right about what happened to you, you just discovered how incessantly you daydream. That's why Buddha literally means: one who is awake.
If you found this helpful, tune in again. Lesson 2 will explain the process for meditation and what mindfulness means.
Author of How To Fix a Leek and Other Food From Your Farmers' Market, new edition published May 2011; and Veggiyana: the Dharma of Cooking, published September 2011 by Wisdom Publications. Founder and president of Veggiyana, a charitable effort to feed Buddhist monastics and schoolchildren in India, Nepal and Tibet.
This is a blog of essays from the Buddhist perspective of Sandy Garson.
Visit my web site Yours In The Dharma, where I try to make sense of the bewilderment in daily life. I meditate aloud on how the teachings of my guru Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, the golden rosary of his Tibetan Kagyu lineage and the Buddha himself come alive in the headlines and heartaches to rescue us all from suffering.