NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE WHEN AWARENESS IS ABSENT OR PRESENT

|China Retreat 2018 File: 20180530 Q&A 8 (26:00-27:10)

Yogi: I try to recall moments when I don’t have awareness – i.e., when there are emotions, desires, anger. When wrong view and defilements are present, awareness is lost. 

Sayadaw: When you have defilement action, awareness is gone. When you have wrong view, defilement overwhelms you. 

That’s why we try to practice all the time. Every time there are awareness and right view, we can know ourselves very well, everything in detail – how good or bad we are; we can know ourselves everything in detail. 

If you have the right practice, slowly the mind has more interest in the practice because faith or saddha in the practice increases.

THE WHOLE POINT OF BEING AWARE IS TO BE AWARE

|Sweden 2019 Retreat Opening Instructions (47:37-49:10)

The whole point of being aware is to be aware, nothing else. There’s no agenda. We’re not being aware so that life will become better, or the pain will go away.

In the moment, the point is only to know what is happening; nothing has to change. We want to appreciate that what is happening in the moment, what is magical, is that we’re aware – that’s hard to appreciate because we don’t usually think that being aware of what is happening now is something special.

We tend to think that what we become aware of must be nice and then that’s a sign that we’re doing it right, but no that’s not it. What we’re doing is recognizing that we’re aware – knowing that awareness and appreciating that it is present.

When we’re suffering in the depths of our chaotic mind, remind ourselves that there is awareness; it feels horrible but there is awareness.

TRY TO BE AWARE EVEN WHEN WE FOLLOW THE DEFILEMENT

|China 2018 Retreat File: 20180529 Q&A 6 (30:20-31:40)

Yogi: Doing business or sales at work, sometimes we are forced to lie. What’s the effect when we lie with mindfulness? (When defilement is stronger than wisdom, and we go along with it, is it still useful to maintain awareness?)

Sayadaw: Because of mindfulness, the mind is still knowing (collecting information). Knowing is not nothing; it is something.

If the mind is being aware and gathering information, over time, one day if the mind is balanced, then wisdom can decide whether to do it or not. When wisdom decides that we should not do, then we won’t.

Until then, try to be aware whenever we go along with the defilement.

CONCENTRATING TOO HARD IS NOT RIGHT MEDITATION

|China 2018 Retreat File: 20180528 Q&A 3 (43:30-45:28)

Yogi: I experience sleepiness and have neck pain and tightness in the head during meditation.

Sayadaw: Something is wrong during meditation. You concentrate too much during meditation; it causes tension in the head and neck. 

Also, if you are tired, the mind is not happy, it becomes bored and sleepy.

The problem is using too much energy. Now you should learn how to relax and not force during the sit. When you use the breath as an object, you over-focus. Even if you are aware of the whole body, don’t focus too much.

Yogi: Is my bodily discomfort during sitting meditation due to past kamma?

Sayadaw: No, this happens due to present kamma because now you’re not practicing the right way.

CHECK THE QUALITY OF THE MEDITATING MIND, NOT MANIPULATE THE OBJECT

|China 2018 Retreat File: 20180529 Q&A 5 (20:00-20:53)

Yogi: I have the habit of exerting too much energy when I meditate. Can I reduce the energy by being aware of 2 objects instead of 1?

Sayadaw: The better way is to know the quality of the meditating mind. When the meditating mind has defilement, you will use a lot of energy.

We are not sure of using less energy by manipulating the objects; if you don’t see the mind, you won’t know that it is exerting a lot of energy because defilement is present.

Our emphasis is on the awareness mind, not the object.

WHEN THERE’S NEGATIVE THINKING, REASONABLE THINKING CANNOT ARISE

|China 2018 Retreat File: 20180528 Q&A 4 (1:17:30-1:20:01)

Yogi: I get agitated when I’m with people or when I talk to them, and I think that I stress them out too.

Sayadaw: You think and pay too much attention to other people. The mind pays attention to them because you dislike interacting with other people.

Now, you practice how to be aware of yourself (be aware of the 6 senses happening). If you can be aware of yourself, this problem is solved.

Because you’re aware of yourself and you continue to be aware, the mind settles down. There will be less thinking because the mind is busy being aware.

Now you’re agitated because the mind pays attention outside and thinks too much about other people.

When the mind is agitated, there can only be negative thinking; reasonable thinking cannot arise.

CHECK FOR EAGERNESS IN WHATEVER YOU DO – THAT’S MEDITATION

|China 2018 Retreat File: 20180528 Q&A 4 (57:25-58:20)

Yogi: I arrived late for the retreat – the body is tired but the mind is eager to meditate. Even during eating, the mind wants to recover quickly to meditate.

Sayadaw: There is no need to hurry to practice; you need to take the time to relax. Whatever you do, if you hurry (or are eager), craving comes and the practice becomes difficult.

Whenever lobha arises during eating, don’t try to change anything; just recognize that greed is present.

LEARN AND BUILD UP WISDOM WHILE THE PROBLEMS ARE NOT SERIOUS

|China 2018 Retreat File: 20180528 Q&A 4 (47:50-48:18)

You need to learn the skill now that the problems are not serious. Before serious problems arise, you need to learn how to be aware of any good or bad experience with equanimity (the understanding that an experience is just an object – something that is being known).

You need to learn before the big problems happen so that you can apply the understanding. If you don’t have the wisdom, it is difficult to face these serious problems.

UNDERSTAND THE VALUE OF AWARENESS, NOT THE VALUE OF THE EXPERIENCE

|China 2018 Retreat File: 20180527 Q&A 1 (1:10:11-1:11:40)

Yogis need to understand the value of awareness, not the value of the experience. Appreciate that there is awareness; don’t complain about the experience, about what is happening.

Every time you notice a small defilement arising, what happens? If you notice, the defilement stops.

(But because what we often notice in the mind is unpleasant and suffering, the mind resists the experience, forgetting that it’s the awareness that we are developing, not the experience.)

The first thing to keep in mind when meditating is that we’re not trying to make the defilement disappear. The first thing is that the defilement is not 'me', that the defilement is nature (a natural process – whatever is practiced again and again shows itself naturally). This information must come first.

Good quality of mind and bad quality of mind is nobody. It is nature. When you think the defilement is you that is why you don’t want to see.

(After setting the idea right, we can watch this natural phenomenon.)

DIRECT THE MIND TO WATCH WITH WISDOM

|China 2018 Retreat File: 20180528 Q&A 4 (51:10-52:48)

Yogis need to know this. Naturally, the mind reacts to all objects – pleasant objects come, the mind likes, and unpleasant objects come, the mind dislikes. We do this our whole life long.

As meditators, we try to change this wrong idea that if the mind thinks something is good, it likes; and if it thinks it is bad, it dislikes. Now, we don’t think that the experience is either good or bad. How?

We need to understand the meaning of object – ‘being known’. Being known is neither good nor bad because, whether good or bad experience, it is being known.

If we understand the meaning of an object, neither liking nor disliking can arise.

Yogis need to practice a long time to understand this.

Every time a pleasant or unpleasant object arises, we try to change our idea that it is just being known, neither good nor bad. If we understand the object is something being known, is nature, it is then easier for the mind to be aware and learn.

HOW CAN WISDOM GROW FROM JUST BEING AWARE?

|China 2018 Retreat File: 20180528 Q&A 4 (1:48:04-1:50:03)

Yogi: How can wisdom grow from being aware, aware, aware?

Sayadaw: Awareness is information gathering; when there is sufficient information, then wisdom can make a decision. 

The duty of awareness is to get information from any experience all day long, and we begin to know more things about the nature of the mind. 

When information is complete, the mind can decide what it is, or how it is happening, or why it is happening. 

For example, how do you feel when you’re alone, with a friend, or with the family? 

The mind quality changes all the time – the nature of the mind is different under different situations and we need to know what is happening in the mind under any situation.

We learn from our direct present experience, not intellectual understanding. Awareness notices our direct experience.

Another example, we all know that anger is not good, but we still get angry. It means that our understanding is no match for the defilement because if we really understand that anger is not good, anger cannot arise anymore. (So, we need to watch and learn more.)

WE WATCH THE DEFILEMENT TO LEARN, NOT TO STOP IT

|China 2018 Retreat File: 20180527 Q&A 2 (25:10-28:30)

Yogi: I’m worried about the safety of my children and there is anxiety when making decisions.

Sayadaw: The mind is like this: every time any experience happens through the 6 senses, liking and disliking always arise. This is the nature of the mind; what the yogi needs to do is to be aware of the liking and disliking first.

Take care of your mental state first – when the reaction subsides, go back to the object again, your view or idea will then change. You can then learn something about the mind.

We must have this attitude towards the defilement – we’re watching the defilement not to stop it (so that we can be calm and comfortable), but to understand the nature of the defilement. Because of understanding, the defilement can subside.

Our aim of watching objects is to understand something about the experience; we’re not trying to change the experience, we’re trying to learn.

DON’T TRY TO FIX DEFILEMENTS – JUST DO THE 3 YOGI’S JOBS

| China 2018 Retreat File: 20180528 Q&A 3 (20:08-23:48)

Whenever yogis face defilements, they try to fix the defilements so that the mind calms down. Then they forget about it; and the next time the problem surfaces, the defilement becomes stronger. Every time defilements recur, depression included, they gain strength.

Sometimes defilements come and go away; but when they return, they become more powerful. That is the nature of defilements. It is best to practice continuously; then, they cannot grow and when understanding arises, they subside.

This is a good reminder for yogis to practice non-stop.

So, don’t try to fight with the defilement; if you do so, they become even more powerful. Trying to get rid of the defilement is also a defilement. 

Try to understand the mind – what is the mind and how does it work. It is only through understanding that defilements cannot grow.

Awareness has to gain strength to notice initial subtle thoughts and defilements; the earlier it is the easier for the defilement to subside. So, awareness is very important. 

It is beneficial to maintain continuous practice. 

WHEN DEFILEMENTS ARISE, WATCH THINKING MIND AND FEELINGS

| China 2018 Retreat File: 20180527 Q&A 2 (28:13-29:20)

Yogi: What should I be aware of when eating?

Sayadaw: In the beginning, you try to be aware of any object when eating. 

You can use chewing as the main object, and as you continue to be aware, naturally, you can also know other objects if you don’t just focus on chewing. For example, you can also know the taste, bodily action like the hand moving, and you can also know the feeling. 

How do you feel as you eat? When you’re aware of taste, the mind can either like or dislike it. All the time when we eat, we eat with craving. 

If craving is strong, we wait and watch the craving first before continuing to eat. Eagerness to eat, intention to eat – i.e. craving – is very obvious. 

You have to take care of the eagerness – when it is too strong, awareness is lost. When eagerness comes down, awareness comes back.

When eagerness subsides, you can be aware of chewing or any other object such as seeing and looking.

When we eat, our 6 senses are working; so, we can use any object – sometimes chewing, looking, seeing, hearing, tasting and also thinking. You can be aware of any of these objects one at a time.

You need to also know that the mind is thinking (e.g. planning what to eat next). You need to recognize that the mind is thinking and go back to a physical object.