having the right objective for meditation

| Kalaw Retreat Mar 2017 - Day 4 Discussion Group A (32:10-36:35)

It’s very important to be clear about our objective for meditation. We should always use meditation and awareness as a means to become more aware, to understand more; not to become peaceful or to sleep. Stuff all these sneaky things that come in!

We are aware so that we will learn something.

At home, when we’re quiet and not being aware, we tend to be lost in our daydreams; we start to think. Mostly when the mind is still, it either sleeps or thinks.

When it has nothing else to do, it will either sleep or think. But now, we train it to be aware.

So, if we put the attention on the awareness, the right effort to continue to have some awareness, we won’t be lost in our daydreams – we’ll notice that thoughts keep arising, that these things arise in the mind because we’re trying to be aware.

Why we can practice at the centre but not at home

| Kalaw Retreat Mar 2017 - Day 3 Discussion Group D (1:27:40-1:28:30)

When we can practice at the centre but not practice at home, it means that our understanding of how to practice skillfully is not enough – our ideas, our attitudes, whatever, they are not enough.

It just means that we have to practice more in life to learn the lessons we need to learn about practicing in life. This is the path; this is the way to go.

This is a long term practice – this has to become our lifestyle, our life.

For me, meditation is a way to live.

meditation is awareness, not pain

| Kalaw Retreat Mar 2017 - Day 3 Discussion Group D (17:50-30:27)

The idea that you should sit without moving – never have an idea of what is good and set a target for yourself because we don’t know the conditions along the way. We want to be flexible enough to deal with it wisely.

When we have unrealistic expectations, we can set up the mind for disappointment. Then, yogis may stop wanting to sit. You have to see the conditions on the way in that hour, how things work out. If it’s unbearable, you shift, but you still remain aware.

Meditation is awareness, not pain; so long as awareness continues, it doesn’t matter whether you shift or not.

The purpose is not to make pain disappear, and the purpose is not to endure it. The purpose is to understand the nature of how the mind and body work – how the mind perceives pain when there is reaction, and how the mind perceives pain when there’s no reaction.

So, when there is pain, you’re to watch the aversion, how you feel, and not the pain.

The purpose is to observe things and learn; but the learning can only happen if the mind observes the liking or disliking with a neutral attitude. But we’re not always equanimous when we watch.

So, the learning is not about the object, but how to make the mind equanimous when there’s a reaction. This we do by watching the reaction. When the mind learns about the reaction of the mind, that’s when the mind becomes equanimous.

When the mind is biased in its observation, we’re never going to learn. It’s more important to see the bias in the mind, and when they clear away, when we recognize and understand them, then the mind becomes neutral and is in the right mood to learn.

It’s not about learning how to get rid of pain, how to fix the object; it’s about learning how to observe.

• When the mind has aversion towards the pain, how does the mind feel about pain? 
• And when the mind is not reacting, what is the mind’s perception of the pain? How does the mind now view pain when there’s no aversion?
• When we have a deeper understanding of the nature of pain, when there is wisdom, how does the mind experience pain?

make it a habit to watch continuously

| Kalaw Retreat Mar 2017 - Day 4 Discussion Group A (57:22-57:40)

Yogi: I was disturbed during a discussion and the mind was not happy, but I kept on with the discussion.

Sayadaw: At that time, you should watch how you were feeling while you talked about it. We must make it a habit that whenever some defilement arises in the mind to watch it continuously.

Make it a habit to watch it continuously; not just recognize it once or twice. We must keep watching it; keep seeing what is happening to it.

Am I aware or thinking?

| Kalaw Retreat Mar 2017 - Day 2 Discussion Group A (00:45-04:44)

Yogi: During daily activities and walking meditation, the mind can be aware; but when I sit, the mind just thinks.

Sayadaw: The posture helps the mind to be awake in daily activities and when walking; and our eyes are open.

In sitting, you have to make it your objective to be alert; that has to be foremost in your mind. You have always to be checking: Am I still aware? And then you need to be checking: Am I aware of the object properly? You almost need to verbalize the question to yourself. That gives the mind energy and makes sure that you’re doing that work.

So, you might need to do this many times throughout the sitting to ensure that the mind is still awake and aware throughout the sitting.

When you start feeling alert, don’t think “Oh, it’s okay!” You have to keep checking: “What am I aware of? Am I aware properly? Am I in touch with the breath? Or am I thinking about the breath?”

If you’re not sure if the mind is aware or thinking of the object, check if you can feel the breath? This way, you can be in touch with the object.

In daily activities, the mind is already taking up the object properly; but in sitting, the mind is not used to being in touch with the object. Or, it may have the idea that it needs to be with the watching more and stop being in contact with the object.

When the mind is not strong enough, it cannot be with the watching mind; it needs to stay with the object. When the mind starts to think, you need to go back to the object.

Journey of awareness into our work place

| Singapore Retreat 2014 141107 Discussion Group 2B (4:10-8.12)

I don’t encourage yogis to practice by moving slowly because none of us slows down in daily life. So, if we practice slowly on retreat, we cannot transfer it to daily life.

Whatever you do, you can be aware if you don’t hurry [yogi’s note: check for eagerness]. You need to know how to watch your emotion; if you hurry, hurry, awareness is gone. When anxiety and worry comes, awareness is gone.

You don’t have to be aware of every detail. Just one thing at a time is good enough; but try to make it continuous. Then, you can maintain awareness.

At work, you must be skillful in watching your thoughts too because you are often thinking of more than one job. Awareness must be fast.

Habit! Practice! You need to practice seeing, hearing, thinking and feeling for a long time; try to be skillful in watching many objects as objects. Then, your awareness becomes faster and faster.

Your awareness must be ready all the time. If you can maintain awareness, the mind is calm and fresh. Then you can think how to finish your job well.

Targeting requires too much attention

| Singapore Retreat 2014 141108 Discussion Group 4B-4A (15:20-16:07)

When you’re doing walking meditation, you mention that mindfulness is not continuous whenever you turn around. But if you’re mindful, you can be mindful of anything; then why should mindfulness not be continuous?

Mindfulness is not continuous if you’re paying attention to the objects. You walk and you’ve targeted something to observe – your feet, your movement or whatever – and when you turn, it’s not the same object anymore. So, you feel like you lose mindfulness.

If you are aware of the mind and what it is aware of, then you walk and when you turn, you continue to be aware of whatever the mind picks up when you’re turning. Then, mindfulness should still be continuous.

Attention should be on the awareness

| Kalaw Retreat Mar 2017 - Day 4 Discussion Group C (55:45-58:45)

Whatever arises, observe that – just keep stepping away and observe that. And when a defilement arises in the mind, that should be first thing to keep an eye on.

The weakness of all yogis is that when things go good, we want to hang on to the experience – we feel happy with it, in a sense almost content with it. And then the right effort and wisdom, they fade when greed takes over.

The mind going into a blur state

| Kalaw Retreat Mar 2017 - Day 2 Discussion Group A (05:10-8:55)

When you know that you’re in a blur state, you cannot just stay like that.

At that time, the mind is already lacking effort and wisdom; that’s why it is blur. You need to put in effort. Ask: Do I know properly? It’s blur – what should I do? Should I open my eyes?

You need to think of different ways to deal with it, but you cannot stay in the blur state and try to be aware because the mind is not strong enough.

How do you use your wisdom? Ask a question; think what to do. That’s it.

We must learn to recognize the states of our mind and learn what we need to do to adjust the activity of the mind to suit the state of mind.

If things are becoming light, bright and energized, we recognize that it is a good state of mind but we should also recognize that complacency can set in.

On the other hand, when you’re dull, you can’t continue like that because the mind is not strong anymore; it’s not active, energized and working anymore. So, you need to work the mind.

We constantly need to be checking what the mind needs in the moment. Checking also keeps us alert and active.

HOW NOT TO BE DROWNED IN THOUGHTS

| Singapore Retreat 2014 141103 Discussion Group 2B-2A (30:11-31:40)

If you do not have a strong object, the mind has more chances to think. If you can be aware of your thinking, then there’s no problem; you won’t be lost. If you’re not skillful and you watch your thoughts, then you can get lost in day-dreaming for a long time.

That’s why you need to use a strong, obvious object, like a physical object. It is easier to use a physical object together with the thoughts to stay more and more with the awareness. 
Thoughts are subtle and fast. If you’re not skillful yet, you cannot watch your mind.

Because of physical object, awareness is present; because awareness is present, you can know the thoughts without following them. If you do not have a strong base to keep awareness strong, then it is easy to follow the thoughts because it is the mind’s habit to pay attention to concepts, the storyline. The mind is already interested in the storyline; so, if you pay more attention to the storyline, you get lost.

Now we try to recognize thoughts and come back to the physical object. When you keep doing this, slowly the mind understands that thinking is an object – being known. Because of this understanding, you cannot be involved with the thoughts.

WATCHING AND INVESTIGATING ACTUALLY HAPPEN SIMULTANEOUSLY

| Singapore Retreat 2014 141104 Discussion Group 3B-3A (1:07:57-1:09:08)

We use the word ‘watching’ to talk about the part of the mind that is just watching only, but when we watch, the mind speaks to us; and that’s the investigating bit.

You’re watching something and you think ‘What should I do now? What am I aware of now? What’s happening now?’ – All that is investigating happening.

Whether you should investigate more depends on your state of mind. If awareness is better and your mind is calm, then you should investigate; but too much investigation is also not good.

We should prioritize awareness because we have to gather information first; when you have enough information, you can then investigate why and what. Then only you can see the whole picture and understanding can arise.

DISCERN THE QUIET MIND AND THE THINKING MIND

| Singapore Retreat 2014 141103 Discussion Group 2B-2A (20:30-21:36)

When the mind becomes quieter, the quietness is a state of mind; it’s the background of your mind. All the other things that you see – the busy stuff, the thinking that is happening, that is the activity of the mind; and you must know both.

So, don’t keep bringing the mind towards quiet, which is the state of mind. Because you want the quietness, you think that the mind should not be busy; but the mind is always busy. So, you should know both; recognize that both are the nature of mind – one is the state of mind and the other is the activity of mind.

You think that the quietness is good, the busyness is not good; but actually your mind is knowing what is happening in the mind – there are the state of mind which is quiet, and the things the mind is doing which you can see because the mind is quiet.

Usually the mind is doing things, but you don’t know, right? The stillness gives you the opportunity to see and know the thinking mind. This is your opportunity; you should not be ignoring it.

Don’t keep going back to the quietness. Just recognize both.

DON’T DO ANYTHING WHEN THERE IS A DEFILEMENT – WATCH AND CLEAR THE DEFILEMENT FIRST

| Singapore Retreat 2014 141105 Discussion Group 2A-2B (28:25-29:02)

First, you need to clear your worrying mind by watching it – watch the feeling of worry, anxiety and not liking. You watch without thinking because if you think it will keep growing; so, no thinking, just watch the feeling, the feeling calms down.

When the feeling is not there, when you are not worrying, then you need to think about what you should do.

Doing something because you’re worried, or doing something because you’re disliking it, is following the defilement. But if you can be clear of the defilement, then you can decide what you should do. Maybe you can move away; then you move away with a clear mind, knowing that this is what is necessary.