FEAR / ANXIETY / RESTLESSNESS
◉ HANDLING FEAR OF DEATH| Gaia House 2015 Retreat Q&A Hall Session (45:48-47:40)
That’s what we are practicing now – learning how to deal with our own fears and the need to fix them. People who are dying need people beside them who are at peace. It is much more helpful to the dying person if the person with them is not also anxious and fearful.
Use the practice to find your own peace. You need to practice a lot, a lot. You must start practicing now. You don’t wait until the fear and the need to fix it is strong in the mind. So, start practicing now so that you can deal with all that later. If you’re ready, if your awareness is already strong and there is momentum, you’re much more capable of facing things when they come up.
◉ FEARFUL VISION DUE TO OVER CONCENTRATION| China Feb 2014 Retreat Q&A File No: 20140220-1 (1:00:02 – 1:03:00)
A yogi observed rising falling of the abdomen and saw a vision of the abdomen like a cover with the edge turning into powder. Even when lying down, the movement was very strong; she got scared and stopped watching.
Sayadaw: If you concentrate too much, the mind starts to think about the object and imagines what it looks like. Then it becomes a concept and the mental image of the abdomen is not normal. Actually movement is only a natural process, not change to something else. Movement is just movement, why should it be like this or like that. It is just imagination, just concept; the natural way is just movement.
Just know that the nature of movement is like this; the awareness is soft and it is happening naturally. Must be like this. Now people interfere too much. If you use energy to focus on the object, the mind then starts to think what the object looks like; then it becomes a concept, something the mind imagines.
◉ FEARFUL OF PAINFUL STORIES| Spirit Rock Retreat 2015 Q&A Group A Session 1 (13:30-22.19)
Yogi: The mind likes to go into story telling. Strong emotions arise with the stories, often painful stories about getting old and ill in the family.
Sayadaw: It’s natural to have these fears. As a practice, recognize story telling happening and emotions arising due to these thoughts. Then bring in the right view that a thought is just a thought, feelings are just feelings. If you can give yourself that space then you can start observing thinking mind and feelings; and you can begin to see the connection between them, what happens to the emotion when there is more thinking or less thinking. When you truly understand how thinking mind affects emotions, they won’t affect you so much when they arise.
When you watch your mind, you must clearly differentiate between reality and concepts; for example, thinking mind is reality, but the story is concept. You will notice that when the mind is paying attention to concepts, that’s when emotions arise. If you tune into reality – that the mind is thinking – then the emotions will not follow. You need to experiment and see if you can tune into reality and notice how most of the time we are so much with the concepts, our perception and our meaning.
In the beginning when you look at a thought, it’s our habit to be with the concept. But you need to notice the concepts and stories and remind yourself that they are nature and there is the thinking mind (behind the story). If you do that often, at some point the mind will tune into the thinking mind, that’s when you see the nature of thinking mind which is separate from the story.
It is just practice – the more often we do it, the more skillful we get and the more understanding will arise. What we are trying to understand is how the mind works. Memories will never go away, not until we die. If you understand the nature of thoughts and memories, then the emotions don’t arise with them because there is acceptance that this is the nature of the mind, this is the nature of emotions and feelings
What will we do when we are on our death bed? How will we die peacefully?
◉ FEARFUL THAT AWARENESS MAKES DEFILEMENT INTENSE| SOM 2014 Vassa Q&A File: R05_0003 (7:30 - 9:18)
A yogi has high fever and thinks that awareness makes him suffer more because the pain appears more painful when he’s aware. When the mind is on other things, he forgets about the pain. When he is mindful again, automatically the pain appears to return.
Sayadaw: The pain is not due to awareness. The pain is already there. It is whether there is attention on the pain or not. If you’re aware, you can notice all your body sensations. Because the pain is there, therefore you can be aware of the pain. Not because of awareness. Because there is pain in the body, whether you are aware of it or not, it is already happening. Pain is due to conditions - because you’re sick, the body has pains. Because you’re day dreaming, you’re not aware of your body, therefore you don’t know that there is pain in the body. For example, when you’re asleep and you don’t pay attention to the body, therefore you don’t know that there is pain. When you wake up, you realize that there is pain again. Pain happens not because of awareness.
◉ IMAGES IN THE MIND ARE JUST THOUGHTS – NOTHING TO FEAR| China Retreat Feb 2014; File: 20140218 (34:49-37:54)
They are not important – just imagination. Don’t believe that they are real. When you notice them, just acknowledge and go back to body awareness. The image arises because of the thinking mind (subtle level). Whatever you see in the mind when you close your eyes is not real, is not important; it is a concept, just the mind creating the image. Whether scary or beautiful, image is just image. No need to fear it, no need to be happy or sad; it is just a thought.
Different images appear depending on our personality; for some scary images like blood and bones and for others beautiful images like the Buddha and the forest.
If you don’t have this information, you will have a lot of problem; you may be scared or think that the images are important and become excited.
◉ DEALING WITH STRONG PERSISTANT FEAR| Gaia House 2015 Retreat Q&A Group C&D Session 2 (18:45-20:08)
Take a tangible object like the breath or rising and falling and work at it steadily. The main purpose is not to feed the fear and let it snowball. Fear will do its work and you will do your work of watching the breath. When your work is done more and more steadily, it takes up more space in the mind because it is what is being practiced more and the other side will lose momentum.
[Yogi's note: we can do the same with powerful greed and hatred]
◉ WORRY, ANXIETY AND FEAR| China Retreat 2016 02/29 Interview 8 (Volunteers 1) (1:46:40-1:47:40)
If you try to maintain awareness and stability of mind, it is not easy for worry, fear and anxiety to overwhelm the mind. Once you are ready, because of awareness, you maintain your peacefulness and the defilements cannot overwhelm the mind.
If awareness and samadhi are not strong, worry, anxiety and fear can easily overwhelm the mind. If awareness is not present when something happens, immediately the mind thinks that it is fearful; then worry and anxiety arise. The mind reacts strongly because you are not ready. So, be prepared by maintaining awareness.
◉ BUSY-NESS IS THE TEXTURE OF A CHAOTIC MIND| Switzerland Retreat C4 Group Interview 20160527 (2:05:06-2:06:43)
When the mind is more mindful, there is more awareness during the day. The mind learns what it wants to reduce to give itself more energy, space and time. The mind learns. It takes time.
It’s never as much work as we think or say it is. Because no matter how much work we have to do, we can only do one thing at a time.
When we know how to watch our mind and the mind is more settled, then the mind sees that there is just what we can do at that time. It is the mind that complicates things by thinking about everything; then it feels busy. But the practical reality is never as busy or chaotic.
Our mind is chaotic and then it perceives everything as chaotic.
◉ WORRY OVER SLEEPLESSNESS| Gaia House 2015 Retreat Interview Session 3 Group C & D (29:50-31:13)
The quality of mindfulness is wakefulness; so, when you are practicing correctly, then you become wakeful. That’s no problem with that. When you lie down to sleep and you are not sleepy but continue to be mindful, that’s fine, that doesn’t actually make you tired even when you don’t sleep.
It’s when you worry that if you don’t sleep that it’ll affect you, the worrying makes you tired. And then trying to sleep shows that the mind is worrying; it thinks that there’s something wrong. So, there’s a little bit of anxiety and doubt; all these little defilements, they tire the mind. So, when you fall asleep, you don’t sleep so well; whereas if you are just being mindful and relaxed the mind quiets down and it’ll fall asleep.
Never worry that because you don’t sleep the whole night that you won’t be well in the morning. If you feel sleepy in the morning, you can just go to sleep; there’s no problem with that.
◉ CANNOT WATCH MIND DUE TO INTENSE EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS| China Retreat 2014 Q&A (3 March 2014 PM; 59:09 – 1:03:08)
Now you know that your mind cannot watch objectively. First, you must acknowledge this situation. Then continue to be aware of this process [yogi's note: thinking and emotion] again and again until wisdom arises. It takes time. Because the old habit is strong, attachment to the idea is already there. You cannot change in a short time. We don’t know when the change can happen; but depending on your level of practice, wisdom can grow.
In my battle with depression, it took 2-3 years to truly understand why the mind suffered so much.
Now you try to think that the emotional problem is nature, it doesn’t belong to you. But this is not your understanding. It is second hand knowledge – you use other people’s understanding first. It is not your understanding yet; that’s why the mind still believes that this mind is ‘me’, feeling is ‘me’, body is ‘me’. Then you notice ‘Oh, the mind is still attached’. That’s it; just recognizing what is happening.
You must recognize that there is ‘I’, there is ‘I’. But when the ‘I’ disappears, at that time it is very obvious in the mind. Then only it becomes your own understanding.
◉ DISTRESS| Gaia Retreat 2015 Q&A Group A & B Session 3 (8:05- 10:54)
There is distress, not somebody is distressed. It’s the mind’s idea that distress is distressing rather than distress is one of the qualities of the mind, that distress is something the mind can experience.
This is distress; distress feels like this, distress is an experience, distress is nature. You need to change the idea of the mind about distress. And when you adjust your view, it becomes easier to observe the sensation of distress.
You should welcome any defilement – we should not think that defilements disturb or hinder us, but are rather a stepping stone to develop more awareness, more skillfulness. If the mind has that attitude, it’s then in a good mood that is stronger and better able to face things.
Meditation is the use of our experiences to build wholesome responses in the mind, wholesomeness in the mind; and to do that we have to meditate. In Burmese, to meditate is to bring out that strength to build the wholesome at that time.
◉ GUILT OVER ENJOYMENT| IMS 6 May 2014 Discussion Group A4 (1:11:50-1:14:24)
Yogi: I notice increasing amount of guilt doing things I enjoy. “Am I greedy or not” I start to think. I want to go for a walk. Am I greedy to go for a walk? Or I don’t go because I should know better. And it seems that I take this logic where we land up doing nothing.
Sayadaw: When we think about the defilements in this abstract way rather than apply that knowledge just to the objects of observation in that moment, it gets crazy like that. You know you can get depressed. You’re thinking about it, you’re not looking at what is happening now and applying it to what is happening now. Then you’re trying to suppress your actions or the defilements but there’s nothing that’s not supposed to arise – greed can arise, why not?
Yogi: Just say I want to go for a walk; am I greedy to go for a walk?
Sayadaw: Then go for the walk and watch the mind. The important thing is to be aware. Go for the walk and if there is greed, watch the greed. It’s not that you can’t do things because there is greed. And it is not that greed can’t or shouldn’t arise. Greed will arise. Aversion will arise. Just know the greed and aversion. If they don’t arise, then you won’t be able to know them and learn about them.
The only time wisdom comes into what we want to do is if what we want to do is something dangerous, Right? Like we want to take drugs or walk off a cliff. Things that are harmful for us, yes, we want to consider that, not just do that with awareness.
When I say all objects are equal, that’s at the level of reality because they are all being known, at the level of its value is being known. At that level, yes, it’s choiceless, there is no preference. But wisdom also makes choices. Wisdom knows because at the ultimate reality level, everything is equal, but on the conceptual level there are defilements and the wholesome. They still have their consequences, right? So, wisdom also chooses. Wisdom knows what is wholesome and what is unwholesome and what is good versus bad. There are values in the world that we have to live with, otherwise we have to live with the consequences. And when it comes to making choices for what we do and all, he says it is about understanding that we choose what is practical because it makes more sense. Sometimes its about what is more practical, sometimes it is about what is more useful.