Monday, October 12, 2015

Just Do It

Today, I found renewed inspiration for practice in Ajahn Chah's injunction to 'Just do it!'. It is so easy wanting to complicate practice, when in fact the idea is to just do it, meaning simply following the breath, and keeping at it for a set period of time.
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don’t be interested in anything else. It doesn’t matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don’t pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. 
Don’t take up anything else. There’s no need to think about gaining things. Don’t take up anything at all. Simply know the in- breath and the out-breath. The in-breath and the out-breath. [In] on the in-breath; [out] on the out-breath. Just stay with the breath in this way until you are aware of the in-breath and aware of the out-breath....aware of the in-breath.... aware of the out-breath. Be aware in this way until the mind is peaceful, without irritation, without agitation, merely the breath going out and coming in. Let your mind remain in this state. You don’t need a goal yet. It’s this state that is the first stage of practice. 
... watch the inhalation to its full extent until it completely disappears in the abdomen. When the inhalation is complete then allow the breath out until the lungs are empty. Don’t force it. It doesn’t matter how long or short or soft the breath is, let it be just right for you. Sit and watch the inhalation and the exhalation, make yourself comfortable with that. Don’t allow your mind to get lost. If it gets lost then stop, look to see where it’s got to, why it is not following the breath. Go after it and bring it back. Get it to stay with the breath, and, without doubt, one day you will see the reward. Just keep doing it. Do it as if you won’t gain anything, as if nothing will happen, as if you don’t know who’s doing it, but keep doing it anyway. Like rice in the barn. You take it out and sow it in the fields, as if you were throwing it away, sow it throughout the fields, without being interested in it, and yet it sprouts, rice plants grow up, you transplant it and you’ve got sweet green rice. That’s what it’s about.  
Of course it is not so easy. The challenge lies in making it to one's seat and staying with the practice. What helps is knowing that in the end, the mind will eventually calm down, and we may get a chance to experience peace. Meanwhile, we let go of any goal, any desire for any outcome. And we just follow the breath.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Meditation is Easy for Old Folks

I have been re-reading the Teachings of Ajahn Chah. Such a delight and food for one's practice . . . I was especially interested in what he had to say about aging and mindfulness practice. A common view is that one should undertake mindfulness at a young age while one's health is still good. Ajahn Chah takes another stance, that I find worth sharing for the many older folks interested in taking up mindfulness practice. Here are some excerpts:
Older persons, who often can’t sit very well, can contemplate especially well and practice concentration easily; they too can develop a lot of wisdom. How is it that they can develop wisdom? Everything is rousing them. When they open their eyes, they don’t see things as clearly as they used to. Their teeth give them trouble and fall out. Their bodies ache most of the time. Just that is the place of study. So really, meditation is easy for old folks. Meditation is hard for youngsters. Their teeth are strong, so they can enjoy their food. They sleep soundly. Their faculties are intact and the world is fun and exciting to them, so they get deluded in a big way. For the old ones, when they chew on something hard they’re soon in pain. [...] When they open their eyes their sight is fuzzy. In the morning their backs ache. In the evening their legs hurt. That’s it! This is really an excellent subject to study. Some of you older people will say you can’t meditate. What do you want to meditate on? Who will you learn meditation from? This is seeing the body in the body and sensation in sensation. Are you seeing these or are you running away? Saying you can’t practice because you’re too old is only due to wrong understanding. The question is, are things clear to you? Elderly persons have a lot of thinking, a lot of sensation, a lot of discomfort and pain. Everything appears! If they meditate, they can really testify to it. So I say that meditation is easy for old folks. They can do it best. [...] You have to see it within yourself. When you sit, it’s true; when you stand up, it’s true; when you walk, it’s true. Everything is a hassle, everything is presenting obstacles – and everything is teaching you. Isn’t this so? Can you just get up and walk away so easily now? When you stand up, it’s “Oy!” Or haven’t you noticed? And it’s “Oy!” when you walk. It’s prodding you. When you’re young you can just stand up and walk, going on your way. But you don’t really know anything. When you’re old, every time you stand up it’s “Oy!” Isn’t that what you say? “Oy! Oy!” Every time you move, you learn something. So how can you say it’s difficult to meditate? Where else is there to look? It’s all correct. 
So now, you have no excuse!