August 27, 2012

Practice for the Week: The Six Sense Spheres Part 1

Hello Everyone,

Still basking in the glow of last night's beautiful and delicious picnic with a great turnout of people! The memory got me through my IVIG treatment at the hospital today. Thank you all for coming and bringing such delicious food to eat - it was amazing!

For your reference and to help you with practice of the Six Sense Spheres this week, I have posted the chart I brought last night on the Resource/Handout section of the website here. I will reference this chart throughout the talks.

Before I recap how to practice this week in silent sitting as well as in daily life, I would like to remind you all that to have sense consciousness or as the Buddha says a "knowing" of the eye, ear, nose, mouth and touch, and knowing of a fetter that may be arising,, three important factors or conditions must be in place and they are:

1) Presence of one of the organs or sense bases (see chart)
2) The sense object being experienced corresponding to the sense base (see chart)
3) Mindfulness:  the choice to become aware and bring our attention to the six sense spheres in a way in which we have never done so before and have characteristically taken these sense spheres for granted, which then gives way to sense consciousness or the "knowing" that the Buddha talks about.

Remembering the beautiful metaphor of the Buddhist nun I mentioned: "Why can't we open the clenched fist of the mind and let go?"

Wanting to clarify the Three Poisons as most common form of fetters or defilements (see chart), Greed, Hatred or Delusion and the idea that I ended the talk with last night that Ajahn Jumnien described of a mind that is liberated from defiled mental states. He said, "......a perfect balance of mind with no reaction, there is no longer any doing." I also talked about how we can awaken and become liberated in ways (through practice repeatedly) in which we may feel or see the fetter arising in a momentary experience of our world through the six sense spheres, but be able to not feel pulled in any direction to grasp at it (greed) or try to push it away(hatred).

Once again, these are mental states from fetters arising that are unwholesome and may even hurt ourselves and/or others. Someone mentioned last night, is it ok to help a sentient being if we can help them ease and/or rid them of suffering. This is a wholesome desire and if the skillful action can be accomplished without hurting oneself or others, then go for it! Perhaps the confusion was in the idea of not being pulled strongly in one direction or another, so I just wanted to clarify.

Practicing on the cushion this week:

Feeling the tactile sensations of the breath in the body. While bringing mindfulness and attention to the breath, begin to notice if there is any resistance, any wanting, or an aversion that is very subtle. (like for me last night during our guided meditation of noticing vedana in the sitting, I was unable to stay with the bloatedness and fullness of my tummy from all the good food at the picnic because it was unpleasant.) Or even if there is any resistance or wanting in the actual practice of the sitting, like wanting to push on the breath and "effort" too much to try to get to a more deeper and peaceful place quicker. These are just examples. Please note your own experiences.

Practicing in daily life

Allocate 15 to 30 minutes of time, preferably alone so it will be easier to be very mindful. As you move through your home doing various tasks bring mindfulness and attention to each moment, moments engaged in action and moments deciding to do one thing or another. DO NOT MULTITASK.

If you choose to fold the laundry, just fold the laundry. And here our work with the six sense spheres begins. I automatically move to the body and touch because I tend to always palpate the world around me. You could certainly start with the eye. As we explored last night, mind will probably always be at the forefront, regardless of the sense sphere we decide to focus on.

So for this particular example, we note, body, touch. Spend some time feeling each garment we are folding with care and attention. After a few moments, while still engaged in folding, notice Vedana; is this pleasant, unpleasant or neutral? This happens to be my favorite tasks, so it is very pleasant for me and I delight in making nice stacks of underwear, T-shirts, pants, etc.  See if there is any craving; do you want to do more? Perhaps there is a hidden agenda of procrastination or something else. And, there may be no craving at all, but just a nice resting in the accomplishment of this particular task.

You may also want to try this practice while you are peacefully taking some time to pause in your busy day to look out the window and just revel in the garden or other view.

I hope these suggestions for practice help and I look forward to seeing you all next Sunday for Part 2 of this important teaching of the Buddha.

Reference: Satipatthana, The Path to Realization by Analayo. Thanks to the foresight of one of our sangha members, this book is available at the Alameda Library

with gratitude for all your practice and energy,


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