Sister Khema exposition using the meditation ALL the time – specifically addressing holiday season

MEDITATION AND HOLIDAY BLUES
A holiday talk for you from Sister Khema-  Dec 2011
 
Dhamma Greetings everyone.
 
 
Desires, past emotions, past events, what we wanted but could
not MAKE happen.  All of this can be
exhausting.
 
The subject of Holiday Blues and Depression gives me an
opening to go to the heart of what Buddhist Meditation is and isn’t.
 
It is a way to open mind and find peace.
It is not a place to hide for experiencing bliss and then coming
back into life to face that OTHER WORLD. We live in that OTHER WORLD. We need
to learn how to live in it better.
 
The Holiday season is one of the most difficult  times of the year for us if we don’t
understand how things work.
 
Buddhist Meditation was meant to become an integrated part of
a person’s life; to help them lighten up and smile; to help them let things go
impersonally embracing the experience of life.
 
It was never meant to isolate you in meditation while life
happens around you. 
 
In fact, the Buddha figured out that you could achieve
purification  of mind through retraining mind all the time by LIVING
MEDITATION.
 
That means to discover unequivocal ly that
 
<LIFE
IS MEDITATION; MEDITATION IS LIFE>
 
But sometimes this practice is misinterpreted. . 
 
When we are drifting in the direction  of depression,
sometimes people  think that meditation is
an escape. But in this view, it can only bring  a temporary state of relief achieved by
removing ourselves out of life’s steam and practicing in isolated conditions.
 
It is true that to isolated conditions in training can help
mind calm down and can help to   sharpen our observation power  so we discover HOW things work.
 
But as we achieve understanding, the meditation, we should  NEVER consider this for an ESCAPE from life.
 
Rather, the meditation should be a path leading to a doorway
to peaceful living with a greater understanding of balance and how things work.  
 
When we examine the teachings, its’ NOT just about RELEASING
the unwholesome and RELAXING in that bliss.  This is WRONG EFFORT.
 
Meditation was supposed to be a vehicle to use for the
purpose of RE-TRAINING and PURIFYING mind.
 
To achieve purification of mind, it must be trained to replace
unwholesome mind-states with wholesome mind-states through a continual
systematic RETRAINING PROCEDURE.
 
Mind is being retrained to let go of unwholesome states AND
to REPLACE them with WHOLESOME STATES.
 
This is the new life habit we are trying to establish.
 
TO CRAVE
AND CLING OR NOT TO CRAVE AND CLING;
THAT IS
THE QUESTION?
 
We are retaining mind to replace any
hindrance which arises, by relaxing and gently smiling.

 This is RIGHT EFFORT practiced as a Harmonious Practice, and if continued
persistently all the time in life, it will  result in permanent new wholesome
tendencies becoming established that keep us moving in the right
direction in our life.
 
Even though we might not personally feel like smiling, we
make an agreement with the Buddha here and take him on his word:
 
“What you
do in the present moment,
dictates what happens in the future.”
And
“What you
think and ponder on,
that becomes the inclination of your mind”
 
We don’t try to second guess the Buddha. After all he DID
teach for 45 years and he did see this work for thousands of people.  Therefore, why not surrender to his advice and
commit to doing this for the next few months to just see how things can change
if it does become a habit.
 
So, this PRACTICE OF RIGHT EFFORT is the RE-TRAINING pattern
of this Meditation Practice.
 
Pretty soon, when any unwholesome mind-state arises (
which is any interruptions in daily life tasks in the present moment; anytime
any tension and tightness arises), if this new HABIT of release is taking hold
on us, then mind releases this arising thought on its own and brings up a
wholesome mind- state.
 
In the case of daily tasks, this would mean mind’s attention
comes back to the task at hand  a little bit
lighter and perhaps with a little smile.  You keep doing what is needed with interest and perhaps a little laugh
as being caught one more time ( haha).
 
Pretty soon, the habitual tendency  will
shift from ‘grabbing onto’  into ‘letting go of’ whatever arises to interrupt your work .
 
Mind begins to naturally get lighter as it lets go of things
in this way.
 
It turns out that if we keep smiling into things and seeing
them as ‘just what they essentially are’,  instead of thinking about what is un-essential
about them,  gradually, we find ourselves
working with the here and now with things as they actually are.
 
We begin to recognize the IMPERSONAL moment-to-moment flow of
life as we let things go and to come back into the present moment just as
it is.
 
This is what MIND DEVELOPMENT ( BHAVANA) actually
involves; 
 
TO PURIFY MIND
Means
RETRAINING
MIND INTO A WHOLESOME DIRECTION.
 
In today’s terminology this means:
 
‘ Letting go of an old bad habit by 
producing a new healthier habit that is better for us..”
 
Now, sometimes this can be tricky. A person may think they
have let go of the old habitual tendency to grab onto things, to desire things
to be a certain way, to try to CONTROL things to BE THE WAY THEY WANT THEM
TO BE, THE WAY THEY RENMEMBER THEY WERE BEFORE. 
 
But when they look closely, at those lines, they see that
they are not really letting go because they are still DEMANDING TO TAKE LIFE
PERSONALLY!
 
THEY WANT CONTROL. THEY DEMAND CONTROL.
 
But the real trick here is
 
IF YOU
WANT CONTROL,
YOU HAVE
TO GIVE UP ALL CONTROL
TO SEE
HOW THINGS ACTUALLY WORK!
 
 The thing to do here
when you realize this is going on, it to GET OUT OF THE WAY.
 
LET GO.
 
STEP BACK and REALLY LOOK AT WHAT IS GOING ON WITH WHAT IS
ARISING.
 
Are the thoughts coming up, memories from the PAST?
Are they DEMANDS of how things SHOULD BE in the FUTURE?
 
Most of our thoughts are just this.
 
But we are here and now in the PRESENT AND this PRESENT is
moving all the time.
 
The GAME here is,
 
Can you be
with the Present Moment as it flows along?
 
The job of a good guiding teacher is to
notice what a student is really saying and then steer them slightly so
they can stay on track. .
 
Can we see what is in between the lines when you are writing
to us?
 
Are you taking life personally, OR are you Impersonally
stepping back to see what is essentially going on when thoughts come up?
 
What is written to us that the writer subconsciously
does not notice, and  can we pick out carefully the
indications of what it really meant?
 
This can be tough when we are only dealing with writing on
this support list.
 
We have to do the best we can and trust that everyone tries
to be helpful to one another as we go along.   
 
We can only write back what is indicated to us from our own experience
and try to offer careful instructions to shift the meditation practice
back in line with the Buddhist Texts.
 
Our job is to encourage you to stay with the instructions as
closely as possible.
 
Meditators sometime indicate that they cannot simply let go
of absorption meditatio n in one fell swoop and come directly over to purely
investigate TWIM. 
 
This is one of the topics we often deal with.
 
It makes perfect sense to expect a period of adjustment and
some frustration.
 
If the person still flexible with an open mind to consider a
slightly different approach, and they begin practicing TWIM, and they are
operating RIGHT EFFORT correctly, then any adjustment period will balance
itself out rather quickly IF the instructions are followed exactly. . 
 
But sometimes there is am ‘underlying tendency towards the PERSONAL
perspective’  that subconsciously demands
some kind of control and escape and they have to stop and see this tendency
before they can LET GO, GET OUT OF THE WAY and  be successful.
 
This is where patience comes in.  
 
People facing this are not alone with this
experience. 
 
Believe me when I say that this is not an isolated experience.
 
It has happened often in
the stepping over  process.
 
The
length of time it takes to be successful with the meditation
is
directly proportional to how well the person keeps RIGHT EFFORT going
during
their meditation sessions, AND in daily life off the cushion.
 
If there is any DESIRE  involved to make things a particular way,
LIBERATION will not happen.
If there is any AVERSION to the way things are, LIBERATION is
impossible.
 
One strong suggestion is to keep a journal. Keep notes
on what difficulties arise for you, when do you fall prey to wanting to
stop and just sleep  in relationship to
what is popping up in your mind. Keep track of this for awhile and read over
it.
 
Do not rely on your memory to talk about your experiences.
Write them down so that you can detect any pattern that is
operating that keeps on leading you back towards the hindrance of sloth and
torpor, sadness, the desire for escape, and sleep.
 
The hindrances keep us from facing the truth of the present
moment.  They block us.
 
But they are also our teachers because they show us where we
are still personally involved and cannot let go of past experiences.
 
If We are still personally  involved, then this blocks our understanding
and development of knowledge and wisdom.
 
This is why the hindrances are our teachers.
 
One big concern about Burnout and the kind of depression
sometimes described in life  is that if
you did not go into a hospital when the most serious symptoms happened, for a
period of time to rebuild your eating, exercising, and resting patterns,
you may find yourself in  dangerous
waters with what feels like very strong currents trying to pull you under.
 
You can go somewhere else  and completely
rest in an isolated situation  instead where you could
sleep without restriction, eat properly, and get enough exercise. But, the
most important thing if you have nearly collapsed  or almost given up on life is that you DO AT
LEAST NEED a support group or a buddy to check in on you and help you get back
on track.  
 
Depression can be very tricky because,  at a certain point, we no longer realize our
condition and there is a real need for someone else to watch us from the
outside until we regain our balance.
 
These kinds of Depressions can be devastating to both mind
and body.
 
This is especially true for an untrained mind that is without
knowledge of how things really work.
 
I would be dead now if I hadn’t taken care of this
properly in my 40’s. There was a complete breakdown  losing all
motor skills, a depression,  collapse and during treatment,
a stroke was accidentally  induced from some hospital drugs! I was blessed
and extremely lucky with the people who crossed my path at that time in my
life.
 
Of all people, I am equipped to deal with this kind
of story and, unfortunately, this is not isolated in today’ s world.  According to the WHO figures worldwide, 3 in
every 4 people you see on the street are taking some form of drug to find
relief from any number of kinds of depressive disorders in the industrialized
nations of this world.
 
Most of the stress causing these kinds of depression come
from our past or future worries.
 
If you get caught in the memories from the past, one of the
best things to practice before taking off with any other meditation seriously
is to PRACTICE FORGIVENESS for a period of time to clean out the rubbish, so to
speak.
 
You simply step away from all other meditations and move into
the preparation mode of practicing FORGIVENESS for about a month or more in
needed.
 
Many meditation teachers have used this for as long as one
year before getting onto their deeper meditation track.
 
But the thing to remember here is for anyone who has
developed a practice on the breath  or another
method first, rather successfully, and then switches over to TWIM, they have a
legitimate adjustment period to go through and  THIS
IS NORMAL.
 
If a person was successful in another practice, they may have
gotten quite comfortable while practicing. They could have hit on   kind of
deep bliss and because it feels so good, they are now liking this kind of
escape.  
 
People devise many different ideas about what
“successful meditation”, “balance”, “concentration and
collectedness” actually are.
 
 Even the question of what
is CRAVING and what is CLINGING and what is CESSATION really differs greatly
tradition to tradition?
 
There is a lot to uncover and this is why we need
to set up the proper terminology and to speak to each other about our practice
clearly as we learn it together. This is so we can make good progress and we
know it.
 
It can be confusing for both of us when teacher and student
are not speaking in  the same language.
 
This is why I try to get us to stick to the terminology we
use while training people here are DSMC.
 
I think there are those out there who will certainly agree there
can be difficulty if we don’t use the same definitions as we go along in our training.
 
 
Part 2
Now, its time to
do some meditation.
 
When we are going into the meditation using TWIM, we don’t do
this blindly. 
 
These instructions come straight from the texts and you need
to follow them exactly.
 
You can listen to the instructions at the http://www.Dhammasukha. org  website.
 
First of all, very clearly, MEDITATION is “observing the
movements of minds attention as it moves from one thing to another to see
clearly how everything is working.
 
Secondly, “MINDFULNESS is remembering to do this observation
all the time.”
 
This meditation is not a thinking activity. There should be
no tension in this internal observation.  There is no forcing here to make anything happen.  The non-judgmental observation  is done just for the purpose of seeing what
happens next.  
 
You will naturally come to understand that whatever arises,
then passes away  (anicca).  You will detect the symptoms of the beginning
of craving, and, you will see how the suffering happens (dukkha).  You will naturally see the impersonal nature
of everything happening (anatta) and you will learn how to let this tension go
and relax deeply into a pure open mind  (nirodha).
 
If you feel tension when you try to follow these directions,
then sometimes the best advice is to STOP and re-group for a moment.
 
Why?
Because your runway for taking off with your meditation plane
is NOT CLEARED FOR TAKEOFF.
 
To clear the runway for takeoff, we need to let all of the
rubbish thoughts go that put any pressure on mind.
 
To do this, the first exercise is to lighten up!
How?
The first step if to just go out in life and,  FORGIVE EVERYTHING AND SMILE INTO EVERYTHING
SENDING PEOPLE  LOVING KINDNESS ALL THE TIME no matter what’s happening or
what you are doing.
 
This doesn’t cost you anything to give out this kind of
kindness and compassion!
 
When most of us begin practicing, we need to step back and
review some natural laws.
 
First,Knowledge
is the foundation of what sets us free.
 
We often think everything is happening to us.
 
But, the natural law here is that EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING
FROM US!
 
That kind of makes you stop and rebalance a little bit,
doesn’t it?
 
This can be a real eye-opener because things can feel really
heavy at times.  It feels like you are
carrying the weight of the entire world on your shoulders but if you LAUGH a
moment at this, you notice that the weight just got much lighter. 
 
Everything that is giving us trouble is happening because we
are taking it so personally.
 
When we begin to think of what comes up as ME, as MINE, and
as MY SELF, we begin to really feel bad.  Letting go of this idea can change everything.
 
 
 
Secondly,
Knowledge and Practice
is what changes our perspective. We have to be
persistent with our practice.
 
The untrained mind has a very personal perspective and often
gets caught in thePAST.  It’s just like I described above.  As we take memories personally, then when
they come up in our mind, old emotions get stirred up again.
 
But once you are given the truth about how this works, then
you don’t have to just sit and think about things that come up. You have a
choice about what to do.
 
You can CRAVE and hold onto what is going on and have your
head hurt a lot, OR you can let go and look at what is going on from an
impersonal perspective without getting involved in the drama of it.  Once you see what is really going on, then you
will KNOW how to respond instead of re-acting.
 
If you don’t understand what’s going on, you have no choice
about what to do and you fall into thinking about thoughts and they grow bigger
and you re-act as you always have to the past events.  This keeps happening in the same way over and
over again.
 
But if you do KNOW how things work,  then you know the Past is gone and you begin
to see things as they are,
 
Then memories are memories and their impact on us fades away
as they were meant to.
 
You can get caught by the  FUTUREjust as
easily if we are not clear about that aspect too.
The future is not here. We don’t know what it will be.
Therefore, there is nothing that we can do about it until it arrives, is there?  
 
So any worry about the future is only wearing us out and
taking energy away that we could use for being alive here and now.
 
Thirdly,
The way in which
you handle what comes up in mind is the most important aspect of Buddhist
practice.
 
How do we change through this meditation?
 
There are some ways to let go during the meditation that
actually retrain mind and that can continue to help us in daily life.
 
TWIM offers us a way that we can keep our meditation going
all the time so this helps us to be more productive in school, at work, or at
home.   
 
We call this practice the 6Rs in English. It is actually the
practice of RIGHT EFFORT.
 
–RECOGNIZEany
unwholesome mindstate; whenever there is tension and tightness arising in mind;
–RELEASEthe
unwholesome mindstate/ negative thoughts; and RELAX  the tension and
tightness;
–Bring up a wholesome mindstate/positive mind/RE-SMILE and  RETURN  to whatever you are doing in life.
–Then REPEAT this
cycle any time mind is pulled away from a wholesome mind-state.
 
This is the simple practice of RIGHT EFFORT as it is described
in the texts. ( see MN-77 for example). Four Steps are kept going continuously.
 
All practice is a gradual learning, a gradual practice, and  results in a gradual development.
 
PATIENCE
AND PERSISTENCE IS THE  WAY
TO
SUCCESSFUL MEDITATION.
 
Fourthly,
Take care of your
body. The Buddha proved for us that the truth cannot be useful unless the body
is in a healthy state. 
 
If you have a harmful habit of any kind, it’s good to set up
a support group and have a friend to help you change that habit.
 
If we have any problems with drugs or cigarettes or alcohol,
we have to personally decide whether we want a break from this kind of
suffering  or we truly want to end the
suffering.  
 
All of us are here to help each other in this life.
 
Supporting each other while we try to keep our precepts is a
good support for anyone.
 
Best to let the habit go and come to the meditation cushion
or chair without anything but the body and mind to work with. Sometimes we do
bring more than that with us, don’t we?
 
If there is anything blocking our meditation from working,
then  sometimes it is wise to take a
break and clear this up before you try to dedicate yourself to developing the
meditation.
 
Fifthly
Clear away any
blockages before you go into deeper meditation.
 
There is a way to clear any blocks away before taking off
with steady meditation to achieve progress.
 
1.      Stop doing regular sits for a while.  Instead take a break and light up!  A light mind is more successful when doing
the meditation later on.

2.      FORGIVEeverything
that is routinely happening around you.
 
3.      Set your mind on smiling and experiencing the
present moment just as it is for about a week; longer if you can; and still
longer if you like this meditation.  Some
people get hooked on this good feeling of release and keep on doing it for them
and for other people around them too. I practiced this for over 6 months the
first time and still come back to it as one of the most important tools anyone
ever gave me for life’s little tool box.  
 
Details:
While going about your day, if a thought arises bringing up
something from the past, FORGIVE it, relax, send some loving-kindness to
yourself and then smile.
 
FORGIVE yourself for not understanding and if anyone else
comes up in mind, FORGIVE them too for not understanding, send some loving
kindness to them, and smile.
 
If you identify something  from the PAST or FUTURE  just let
these unwholesome thoughts go 
If it’s from the past, imagine throwing  it away
over your left shoulder. If it is from the future, throw it over your right
shoulder. If it’s something you need to remember, for now, toss it to the back
of your mind.  Don’t worry. When you are
done, it will come up again, I promise you.
 
So Let things go along as they will and don’t try to reroute
the river! Don’t take things personally, Relax and smile a lot to begin with.
 
Remember too, that meditating can become our living of life. SMILING
can become our very meditation <grin>.
 
4.      AND IF THINGS GET HEAVY during the holidays, keep
the meditation going strong like this.
 
The gist
of this FORGIVENESS MEDITATION is that you will really feel better and you can
have a really nice holiday by being present but not getting involved too much
in the drama of the day.  
 
Just FORGIVE, SEND SMILES INTO THE DIRECTION OF PEOPLE AND
SEND OUT LOVING KINDNESS TO THE WORLD AND TO WHATEVER YOU ARE DOING IN THE
MOMENT!
That’s all.   That’s
the start.
 
 
5.      Someone asked me about health advice  with meditation.

As far as your health, if you feel exhausted, rest!
We want to be sure that we get proper rest, proper food, not
do any extended fasting or taking in of any drugs or alcohol.  We need to at least keep up a regular walking
routine of some kind to keep our energy up for meditation.
 
If you feel blue about something, keep diary notes to make sure you are not
just hiding in different ways because of wishing things were different or the
way they were before!
 
If you mess up about anything with all of this, then, forgive
yourself and start over again.
No beating up on yourself is allowed, ok? It isn’t worth the
stress.
 
In daily life, no matter what you are doing, DO things where
you are giving joy to others. Keep developing this behavior always.
 
Holiday stuff all seems to boil down to this:
 
THE PAST
TEMPTS US, IT TRYS TO PULL US AWAY. DON’T LET IT;
THE
FUTURE FRIGHTENS US, WE TEND TO WORRY ABOUT IT;
AND THE
PRESENT CONFUSES US IF WE DON’T KNOW HOW THINGS WORK
 
If we are in the dark with no knowledge about how
things really work, then
OUR LIVES
CAN SLIP AWAY IN THE VAST IN-BETWEEN.
 
But this isn’t you anymore, because now, you have been told
the basics. <grin>.
 
So,  I am giving you
this knowledge now so you can be clear about how this all works for real. AND
IT DOES WORK!
 
Sixth
We are the Happy
ones!
 In the Dhammapada
there is an entire section on Happiness. And how does a human being express
happiness?
 
Each morning when you wake up, SMILE.
Take your shower and SMILE as you get dressed.
Take your daily energy portion, eat your breakfast and SMILE.
As you travel to work, SMILE.
Now start giving that smile away while helping others, giving
a kind thought, word, or tiny deed each day.  
Open your heart and smile, then give that smile away, that’s
the way to grow more smiles!
 
A SMILE
becomes priceless when you GIVE IT AWAY!
 
Now. LAUGH!
 
SEE?
How did that feel? RIGHT! 
Now, that’s what I mean.
 
I am not at DSMC this winter but, I will be online when I can
be to help you if you need a word or two. I have no idea what my schedule will
be, but I will try to keep you posted.
 
Please let go of desiring for your meditation to be
anything other than what it is.  Good
things take time and when YOU get out of the way, the meditation will open
right up. But YOU have to let go first.
 
Relax into the holiday season and be happy wherever you are.
I hope this is a little talks finds some of you and it is
useful to read and reread again when needed.
 
Metta and smiles.
Sister Khema

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