February 28, 2013

Pitfalls Outline

Dear Friends,

Here is an outline from my notes on last Sunday's dharma talk. Also, the audio of the talk is available on our web site now.

Hope these help,

Common points at which people stop pursuing their practice

1. At the start, people see a multitude of thoughts & get frustrated, feel they’re failing at watching their breathing.We need to understand:

a)  It’s not about the breath. It’s about watching what the mind/heart does when we try to watch the breath.
b)  We should make an effort to be present & develop enough concentration so we can observe the mind/heart.
c)  Staying with breath is relaxing & pleasant -- but not transformative.
d)  No matter how many years of practice we have, there are times when the mind will not settle down.
e)  Distraction doesn’t make it a bad meditation & concentrating doesn’t make you a “good meditator.” 
f)  Just trying regularly (daily) is good .
g)  We need to accept what the mind does & love ourselves (metta) in order to watch the mind.

2. Eventually we see into the mind & notice suffering; for some it’s too much and they run away.
We need to understand:

a)  Thoughts & emotions arise on their own. They are not ME or MINE. (I didn’t choose to think or feel each one.)
b)  Seeing suffering means we’ve begun the process that will change the mind’s habits.

3.  When they see the connection between thoughts & suffering, many let their practice stagnate or stop because:

a)  They’re frustrated they can’t control their thinking,
b)  They don’t like feeling emotions, or
c)  They’re averse to the kind of thoughts & emotions that arise because they contradict their idea of self.
c)  We need to understand thoughts & emotions are not ME or MINE, accept what arises & love ourselves.

4.  Others quit meditation because of a sense that they are “to blame” for all the suffering they see (so I am bad).
We need to understand growth is a process of watching how the mind’s habits cause suffering until they drop away.
5.  People watch themselves have the same reactions (maybe for years) & feel frustrated that the practice isn’t working.
Here a sangha/teacher can really help us see the progress we have made, and that this process is the same for us all.
6.  With study, retreats, and being part of a sangha, we make progress seeing through the idea of self (not destroying it).
a)  The lack of a center amidst the constant change of experience can become overwhelming.
b)  Traditionally, this “rolling up the mat” stage is just before 1st level of enlightenment.
c)  At this point, the student needs a teacher who’s been there to encourage, not create idea of “a goal” to be reached.

Common to all pitfalls is clinging to idea of self
If you find yourself down in one of these pitfalls, ask, “Just who do I think I am?” and “What’s that go to do with it?” Even if there’s no clear answer to either question, exploring them will be a great practice!

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