How to read the posts

The posts are arranged here with the most recent appearing at the top of the page. If you are new to the blog, you might find it useful to start with the first posts. Go to the blog archive on the lower right to access the posts in the order in which they were written.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Guarding the six sense doors (part 3)

The simile of the ant hill (as quoted by Ven.  Samahita):

One should dwell like the snake, which sees the mouse hide in ant-hill with six openings! By lying rolled up on the anthill - constantly watching - the snake remains on the thought: Out of which hole may this mouse appear ?! Even so one thinks: Through which sense door may the next contact appear ?!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Meditating just a little

The ideal of meditating for long stretches of time, for 30 minutes to an hour, is often difficult for people to realize.  For that reason, I have always recommended that beginners start out with three to five minute meditation sessions and expand as their commitment to meditation grows.

A meditation teacher from Burma, when asked about how busy people in North America could meditate, recommended short periods of meditation in the morning, afternoon, and evening.  These meditations could be focused on activities that we normally perform.  For instance, when getting dressed, do so in a mindful fashion, paying attention to what you are doing and noting each activity (e.g., bending, stretching, reaching) as closely as you can.  When going from the house to your car and preparing to drive the car out of your garage and then your driveway, focus on what you are doing rather than where you are coming from or where you are going.  Throughout that transition focus on seeing, hearing, and touching.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Guarding the sense doors (part 2)

The tool that we use to guard the sense doors is noting.

Consciousness arises when there is contact between a sense object and a sense organ.  Blue's seeing, for instance, arises because a sense object (what we conventionally call the propane delivery truck) is in contact with his sense organs, his eyes, under suitable conditions such as the right amount of light.  His barking is an indication that seeing has taken place.  But for him to bark something more has taken place, and that has to do with his interpretation, for instance, that the object he is seeing may be a possible threat and, with this interpretation, all sorts of instincts and habits kick in leading to barking.  If Blue had truly been mindful he would have simply (and silently) noted "seeing, seeing."  He would have been a truly mindful dog but not much use as a watch dog.        

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Guarding the sense doors (part 1)

When we are mindful we use restraint and guard the six sense doors--hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, and cognizing (e.g., knowing, thinking).  What this means is that we are watchful for what is arising at the doors, we note what appears there, and we don't admit it in the sense that we don't get caught up with it and all our associations to it (liking, disliking, etc.).  One can think of a guard who protects a household against intruders.  When an intruder shows up, the guard alerts the household to the presence of the would-be intruder, ensuring that the intruder does not get past the door.

The other day I was observing my dog Blue.  He is an old dog and has lost his hearing. Our house is in the country and quite a ways from the road in front.  Blue used to start barking whenever a car or truck came down our driveway long before he could see it.  Now he spends much of his day sitting on the front deck staring at the point at which a vehicle would first be visible when it comes down the driveway.  This day I heard a truck coming long before he became aware of it.  However, once it was visible, he started barking.  It was a propane delivery truck.  Although he puts on a good show of fierceness, he is actually a very sweet dog.  His basic friendliness is betrayed by his tail wagging.  I guess that the propane delivery man knew Blue because he went about his job without any evidence of fear even though Blue continued to make perfunctory barks for a while before he resumed his post on the deck.

If I had not already heard the truck, I would have first become aware of it by Blue's barking.  He was doing his job, although somewhat belatedly.  He was alerting me to the presence of the truck by barking as if to say, "Look, something has arrived!"  In his way, he was practicing a bit of mindfulness for me.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Standing meditation

Standing meditation involves standing with your hands grasped behind your back or in front of your abdomen.  You should close your eyes.  Try to feel your body in space, from head to toe, and note, "standing, standing."  You can focus on the abdomen rising and falling as you do in the sitting meditation.  At some point you may find that heaviness moves up your legs or you feel them becoming warmer.  Note these sensations until you no longer wish to stand.  When you are finished, you can move into another posture, such as walking or sitting, and alternate with these postures being careful to maintain the continuity of mindfulness that you have developed.