Welcome to our twentieth online suggested practise for the week. We are now broadcasting a live teaching each Monday evening. If you would like to participate please contact us using the contact form on the homepage.
1.0) If you feel so inclined, begin by reciting the usual prayers (please follow below links for text). Alternatively, try to think or articulate a wish for all beings to achieve liberation from suffering, etc .
Four Thoughts: contemplating each in turn – https://northantsbuddhists.com/the-four-thoughts/
Refuge Prayer: twice in Tibetan, once in English – https://northantsbuddhists.com/the-refuge-prayer/
2.0) Advice from Thich Nhat Hanh (‘Thay’)
i). The Art of Transforming Suffering (from: No Mud, No Lotus)
There is a Buddhist teaching found in the Sallatha Sutta, known as The Arrow. It says if an arrow hits you, you will feel pain in that part of your body where the arrow hit; and then if a second arrow comes and strikes exactly at the same spot, the pain will not be only double, it will become at least ten times more intense.
The unwelcome things that sometimes happen in life—being rejected, losing a valuable object, failing a test, getting injured in an accident—are analogous to the first arrow. They cause varying degrees of pain. The second arrow, fired by our own selves, is our reaction, our storyline, and our anxiety. All these things magnify the suffering. Many times, the ultimate disaster we’re ruminating upon hasn’t even happened. We may worry, for example, that we have cancer and that we’re going to die soon. We don’t know, and our fear of the unknown makes the pain grow even bigger.
The second arrow may take the form of judgment (“how could I have been so stupid?”), fear (“what if the pain doesn’t go away?”), or anger (“I hate that I’m in pain. I don’t deserve this!”). We can quickly conjure up a hell realm of negativity in our minds that multiplies the stress of the actual event, by ten times or even more. Part of the art of suffering well is learning not to magnify our pain by getting carried away in fear, anger, and despair. We build and maintain our energy reserves to handle the big sufferings; the little sufferings we can let go.
If you lose your job, of course it’s a normal response to feel fear and anxiety. It is true that in most cases to be out of work is a suffering; and there is real danger attached if you don’t have enough to eat or can’t afford necessary medicine. But you don’t need to make this suffering worse by spinning stories in your head that are much worse than the reality. Some people in this situation may think “I’m no good at this or that,” or ‘I’ll never get another job,” or ‘I failed my family.” It’s important to remember that everything is impermanent. A suffering can arise—or can work itself out—for anyone at any moment.
Instead of throwing good energy away on condemning yourself or obsessing over what catastrophes might be lurking around the corner, you can simply be present with the real suffering that is right in front of you, with what is happening right now. Mindfulness is recognizing what is there in the present moment. Suffering is there, yes; but what is also there is that you are still alive: “Breathing in, I know I’m alive.” Your eyes still work: “Breathing in, I’m aware of my eyes. Breathing out, I smile to my eyes.”
To have eyes in good condition is a wonderful thing. Because you have eyes in good condition, there’s a paradise of shapes and colours available to you at every moment.
ii). Letting go of Ideas of Happiness (from: How To Relax)
Thay tells the story of the Buddha having a silent lunch with his monks in the woods. A farmer comes hurrying by and asks if they had seen his cows, which left him that morning. The farmer bemoans that the loss of his cows will create hunger for his family. Insects have already devoured his crops. If he doesn’t have milk to sell, he might as well kill himself. The Buddha tells the farmer they have not seen his cows and he should look somewhere else. Once the farmer leaves, the Buddha turns to his monks and tells them, “Dear monks, you are very lucky. You don’t have any cows to lose.”
As Thay explains: “A cow stands for something we need to let go of. Our idea of happiness is a cow. Our idea of happiness is the main obstacle to happiness. And it’s because of this idea of happiness that we cannot be happy.”
How can our idea of happiness become the main obstacle to happiness? When we aspire for things in the future that we believe will bring happiness, we are no longer present with our lives and situation for what it is. Our source of happiness has shifted from the present to the future. If we are not happy and joyful in the present, “it’s because we’re caught in our ideas.”
If we believe that certain conditions must exist for our happiness, for example a bigger house, a new car, weight loss, more money, a more loving spouse, grandchildren, etc., then we’re not present in recognizing the joy and happiness that already exist. Our focus is the pursuit of the ideas of happiness, which may or may not happen. And, if they do, who is to say that they will make us happy.
Thay’s suggestion: Take time to write down the names of your COWS, something you need to let go of. Some of your cows will be ideas of happiness. Learn to let them go. As Thay says, “Let go so that happiness, joy, and peace can be possible.”
2.1) Meta Bhavana – ”Loving Kindness Practice” – Presented by Steve Reynolds (Session 6 of 6)
HH Dalai Lama XIV, Cultivating A Daily Meditation
Metta Bhavana means the development of friendliness and loving kindness and is the first of The Four Limitless Contemplations that we do each week in our sessions. It is the foundation for developing Bodhicitta, the mind of enlightenment and compassion.
‘Metta is the softness and tenderness of the mind that needs cultivation.’
A Flower Called Metta
‘The ultimate goal of meditating, of practicing Dharma, is to bring happiness to every sentient being…’
Lama Zopa Rinpoche
How Things Exist