Sacred geometry

Thursday Morning Instructions

Date1st October 2006
Retreat/SeriesSilent Autumn Retreat, Finland 2006


Pretty much all the practices that we're doing, all the meditation that we're engaged in, involves quite some sensitivity to the body. This sensitivity to the body is one of the things that really remains a thread, whatever practice we're doing -- so with the breathing, with certainly the awareness of body, even in the mettā practice. Yesterday, Kobe began talking about the third foundation of mindfulness, mindfulness of the mind, talking about emotions -- that's part of that. Here, too, the sensitivity to the body is quite central. So when there's an emotion going on -- joy, anger, peace, depression, sadness, fear, whatever it is -- where do we feel it in the body? We usually get so caught up in the mind, in a stream of thought. Where do we feel it in the body? Just noticing, where is it manifesting in the body?How is it manifesting in the body? Heat, pressure, tightness, openness, warmth, softness? Where and how is it manifesting in the body?

For positive emotions, emotions that we want to cultivate -- love, joy, peace -- this attention to the bodily aspect actually is one of the factors that helps that to grow in our life, helps those emotions to grow. For negative emotions, difficult emotions that we are looking to gradually let go of -- anger, jealousy, depression, etc., fear -- this attention to the body helps us to not let them spin out of control, because we're with the body, and not dragged off by the mind and the thought, which will add to the negativity. So where and how is it in the body? Just to be there, present in the body. Second, can we notice our relationship to it? Just to notice, what's the relationship to it? "I really want it to go away." "I hope it never leaves me." "I don't want to know about it." What's the relationship? Just to notice. Can it be, is it possible, that it can be a relationship of interest, of curiosity? Can it be a relationship of kindness? What would that mean? What would that feel like? What would it look like? Can it be a relationship of openness and spaciousness?

When emotions are difficult, we are gradually developing the capacity to accommodate, to embrace -- in a way, to be larger than difficult emotions. This is extremely healing. Because mostly emotions have the better of us and we are surrounded by them, or trapped by them, or sunk in them. Slowly, gradually, we develop the capacity of awareness to accommodate, accommodate; anything can be there in awareness. It's very healing. In working in this way, gradually, slowly, we are developing courage in terms of difficult emotions. Developing courage, developing openness, developing also confidence, which is one thing we often lack with difficult emotions -- fear comes, depression comes, and we don't feel confident in relation to that emotion. Slowly we see we can be with this, we can accommodate it. Mindfulness, awareness can accommodate it. We are developing, gradually, the inner resources that we need to work with our emotions throughout our life in a really skilful, really healthy and healing way.

Now, this isn't easy. This is not easy. No one would say it's easy. It actually needs kindness and it needs patience. It needs interest. It needs that curiosity. Sometimes we can get very quickly into analysing, figuring out our emotions and the psychodynamics of it and why it is -- it's because my parents and their parents and da-da-da-da-da. And you know, there's really some usefulness to that, but sometimes much more healing, much more helpful is to let go of all the talk, because we can talk all day about our emotions, around that. To let go of all that and all the analysis and just to be with it -- what does it actually feel like? Can I embrace it?

So a second part of this third foundation of mindfulness, mindfulness of the mind -- emotions is one part, thought is another part. I want to say a few words about thought. As I said at the beginning, this meditation is not so much about getting rid of thought. Rather, we might say it's about freedom with thought, freedom in relation to thought. Sometimes we're sitting, walking, going through the day, and the mind is thick with thought, thick. It's hard to see any light. It's like a swarm of mosquitoes or locusts totally covering up everything. Sometimes when it's that thick, the mettā practice is actually very skilful, because the mettā, with the phrases, is actually thought, so it's using the energy of thought but in a helpful way. It's actually harnessing that energy. So we learn to put down the obsessive thinking by just returning to the mettā phrases, to that thought over and over. If we want to start observing our thought, being mindful of our thought in meditation, then this really needs quite a groundedness in the physical sensations, quite a groundedness in the body. If we're not so mindful of the body, so rooted in the body, thoughts come and we're just pulled off, to yesterday, to tomorrow, to something we like or don't like, to whatever it is, daydreams. Thoughts are so quick, and so attached are we to thought, we really have to be quite grounded in the body, and from that anchoring then we can begin to notice thought and understand something.

So if in the meditation one feels somewhat grounded in the body and the thought isn't too thick, one can begin contemplating thought. What can help -- some people find it helpful -- is a little bit of labelling of what kind of thought it is. So you might notice a thought of judgment. Instead of getting involved in it, just notice, just label it, "Judgment." Just very quietly, "Judgment. Judgment." Or, "Planning, planning." Or, "Worrying." Or, "Remembering. Daydreaming," whatever it is. That labelling of the thought, very quiet, subtle labelling of the thought, can help just create a little bit of distance from the thought, a little bit of space around the thought. That's usually the thing that we're lacking with thought -- we have no space. It's literally in our face and we can't see anything else. So for some people this quiet labelling is really quite helpful, quite skilful. Again, what's the relationship to the thought? Am I trying to get rid of it?

Sometimes when one really feels quite settled, it's possible to investigate the kind of obsessive thoughts we have and see what's hidden underneath this. Is there an emotion hidden underneath? A feeling somewhere in the body? What are the assumptions here? Am I assuming something? Am I believing something? Just to see what's holding all this in place. This often goes unexamined.

So this labelling or examining of the assumptions is dealing with the content of thought, but a lot of practice it's actually more skilful to investigate, to turn the attention to what we might call process rather than content. So not so much what a specific thought is about or what is it that I'm obsessing about, but to begin to notice, for instance, the fact of the arising and passing of thought. It comes and it goes, it comes and it goes. How long does a thought last? One thought. Arising and passing. So noticing, more than getting involved in the content, turning the attention to the fact of its impermanence. We begin to get a sense, if we look at the process of thought, just this stream, this arising and passing, its impermanence, its nothingness almost, intangibility, insubstantiality, ephemeral nature. There's almost nothing there. We begin to get a sense of this with thought.

Thought is also, when we begin to really notice it, we see it's completely unpredictable. What will you be thinking in six seconds' time? [laughs] It's impossible to say what will come up. Where does it come from? It's not willed, either. It's not something I say, "In six seconds, I'm going to think this." Probably by six seconds we've forgotten. Thought is arising. It's, again, "not me, not mine." It's just coming out of nowhere and disappearing into nowhere, and see this impersonal nature of things, impersonal nature of thought. We tend to take thought as me, as mine, but actually, look, it's just completely unpredictable, completely unwilled. It's not coming from my will. So see its impermanence, its nothingness, its not belonging to me. Like I said the other night I think, the image can be very helpful of awareness like the night sky, spacious; thought arising like colourful fireworks bursting in awareness, and we go, "Ooo," or "Wow!" or whatever, and then it fades, and it's nothing. It's just faded back into awareness, into the night sky. So this can be very skilful. We can use the listening and the body sensations as a kind of anchor, and within that, seeing thought flickering in and out of existence, not me, not mine. That sense of space is really helpful with contemplation of thought.

So again, not necessarily easy all the time. Sometimes it actually can feel quite effortless, but not necessarily all the time at all. But gradually, slowly in practice, with practice, we really, truly begin to undermine the authority, the power we give to thought in our lives. It has tremendous power. You think, all the wars, all the racism, all the madness that humanity is capable of, all the thieving, everything, it's all coming from the power of thought. It needs thought. And also all the beauty, or a lot of the beauty, the creativity, the building, the structures, the helping. Thought is so powerful, and yet oftentimes we are the victims of thought -- we think something, and it has so much power in our lives. So contemplating this way, we begin to truly undermine the power of thought, and then we can use thought, instead of it using us. We have, through not understanding, invested thought with a power that it doesn't really deserve, that it doesn't really have, even, by itself. We can, in a way, take that power back, or take that power away. And one begins to see, one may get a glimpse, actually a thought is just a thought. It's just a thought. That's all. It's just a thought. And then one begins to sense the relief, the relief of a freedom and spaciousness around thought.

Okay. So settling into a posture that's comfortable. Posture reflecting some ease, some openness. Also a quality of brightness, of presence, uprightness. Really settling the consciousness in the sensation of the body, just simply how the body feels right now. Just present to the bodily sensations, the dance of sensation in the body. And when you feel ready, turning the attention, the mindfulness, in a very alive and wholehearted way, to the breathing. Breathing in with mindfulness. Breathing out with mindfulness. And in the practice today, really using the breath as the principal place of collecting the consciousness, collecting the mindfulness, a place of simplicity and ease. And at times, if you like, to explore the body sensations, to explore the vedanā, to explore the emotional life (especially if it seems to be really strong, to be calling). If one feels quite grounded in the body sensations, feeling free to begin to explore the thought and thinking life. Whenever one feels a little scattered or ungrounded, returning to the breath. When things seem a bit too complicated, just return to the breath, collecting the mind once more.

Sacred geometry
Sacred geometry