Like holding a baby

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Thich Nhat Hahn from the Zen Tradition using the Christmas story as a way of teaching how to meditate:

I am going to remind you of the way to practice. First, “in” and “out.” It means that when I breathe in, I know I am breathing in. It’s easy. And when I breathe out, I know I am breathing out. I don’t mix the two things up. Breathing in, I know it is my in-breath. Breathing out, I know this is my out-breath. By that time, you stop all the thinking, you just pay attention to your in-breath and your out-breath. You are 100 percent with your in-breath and your out-breath.

It is like holding a baby in such a way that you hold it with 100 percent of yourself. Suppose this is a baby and I hold the baby like this. I hold the baby with 100 percent of myself. Remember, there are times when your mother holds you like this. Have you seen the image of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus? She holds him like that: 100 percent. So here, our in-breath is our baby, and we hold our in-breath 100 percent. “Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.” You just embrace your in-breath, nothing else. Don’t think of anything else. That is the secret of success.

Thich Nhat Hahn

Representations and reality

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Consciousness works by making maps, and there is always a gap between our maps and the territory of our lives. A surprise is a landscape feature that was not on my map.  Surprises are common and an indication you are alive. Our representations are fragile and based on poor data. The mind assigns value to events, saying, “This is good” and “This is bad,” but the values we give things are usually just arm-waving and scrambling about. The world is truly unpredictable in its consequences and our reactions to events are also unpredictable, even if we have a deep meditation practice.

We can make an ally of surprise. Meditation methods are not intended to make the world predictable, but they provide a space in which we can have our reactions without fighting with ourselves. And in the end, meditation resets the maps and opinions to zero.  When we meditate, there is nothing else in the world, and whatever we have is enough.

John Tarrant, 7 Ways to Make the Most of Life’s Surprises.

Storms of Life

Rain forecast for Friday with milder temperatures

Wild, wet and windy weather in Ireland today, making it hard even to walk outside.  A day for sitting in beside the fire.

Teachers often suggest considering your thoughts to be like clouds in the sky.  Some are dark and stormy, some are beautiful and fat, while others are wispy and ethereal. Sometimes there are no clouds at all.  No matter. Just like clouds in the sky, thoughts pass through your mind. And just like the sky, your mind can contain it all. We are accustomed to identifying with every large or small thought that comes along. But you can train in identifying as the sky instead. When you do, tremendous confidence arises. You see beyond doubt that you can accommodate it all — sunshine, storms, mist, fog, hail — and never give up.

Susan Piver

Over and over again

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Narrative loops […} play over and over in our mind, the trains of thought pulling out of the station one after another and taking us for a long ride down the track even before we know we’re aboard. Meditation has to do with looking deeply into the mind and body to discern the various processes unfolding each moment that fabricate the virtual world of our existence.  For most of us the monkey mind chatters incessantly as it swings from one branch to another, seizing first this thought, then that idea, then a host of miscellaneous associations, memories and fantasies. We could watch this show all day and learn very little. As the mind gradually settles, however, upon the breath or some other primary object of attention, it gains some strength and becomes more calm. Then it is better able to see the stream of consciousness for what it is: a sequence of mind states unfolding one after another in rapid succession. As the foundations upon which mindfulness are established become more stable, one can look upon the flow of experience rushing by instead of being swept away by it.

Andrew Olendzki, Unlimiting Mind

Simple instructions to guide us

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Very easy to say but which in reality requires ongoing practice to achieve. However, these are as succinct a guide to meditation as you will ever find. Because of the hectic pace of life in the world today and here in Ireland, this practice is no longer a luxury, but is a necessity for overall health:

Let the body assume its natural ease.

Let the mind assume its natural ease.

Now, just stay alert to anything that arises to disturb that natural ease.

Ajahn Amaro