Dhyana. Meditation. Cultivation of Malleability

Dear Friends,

With the practices of dana/selflessness, sila/harmlessness, ksanti/patience and virya/diligence, the approach to life becomes more open and flexible. Long held beliefs and assumptions about ourselves and the world lose there hold and are seen to be impractical or even irrelevant in the present moment of experience. The urges to grasp or avert and the afflictions of greed and hate are are understood to cause suffering for ourselves and others and perhaps inspire a longing to experience a sustained relief from these habitual behaviors. In time this longing may lead to some form of  practice of meditation.

The practice of meditation promotes the calming of the blizzard of the thought stream that gives rise to these behaviors. The warm open-hand attention to what is arising and gentle restraint of the thought stream allow for some space in the field of the mind for the natural or endemic qualities of humanness to sprout and flourish.

This practice of the paramitas that inspire the practice of calm abiding and the longing for the stillness of  the quiet mind in meditation might be compared to a garden that experiences the seasonal transition from fall to winter to spring. In the fall the earth prepares for the winter by giving away its bounty of fruit in the harvest and there is the discipline of canning and preparing the larder and planting cover crops and mulching before winter ensues. As winter arrives, patience is necessary to make it through the darker cloud filled skies while longing for spring. Then there is the diligence of keeping paths and roofs cleared of ice and snow. During the longest nights and coldest days, stillness spreads over the land and a good deal of time is spent interiorly, repairing tools and preparing seeds for planting; attending to just what can be done in the season of stillness. With the passing of winter the snows diminish and the earth begins to thaw with the gradual increase of exposure to the longer days that bring the light and warmth. The freezing temperatures of winter have cleared away the weeds and bracken making room for the crocus, daffodils, asters and other perennials to break through from the moist loamy malleable soil.

Like the garden which has been prepared in the fall with cover crops that adds nutrients and the mulch that holds back the adventitious weeds, meditation that arises from the nutritious practice of the first four paramitas quiets the adventitious unconscious “weeds’ of the habitual thought stream. The diminishing presence of these thoughts during the quiet stillness of interiority allows for an open space for natural qualities of humanness to be realized. The ground of the mind becomes malleable and adaptable to whatever is experienced, similar to the spring earth which has been softened by the hard winter and opened by the warmth of the sun. Like the perennials, these qualities of loving kindness, compassion, joy for joy and equanimity, for example, are already present and endemic to humanness. They do not need to be achieved or strived for. They naturally spring forth when the timing is right and the mind is stable in stillness, providing delight for ourselves and others. 

This process is referred to as cultivation in some of the commentaries on the buddha’s teaching. Cultivation in this sense are the practices and efforts that prepare the ground of the mind for the natural and nonconceptual presencing of the human qualities that alleviate suffering. The subtle difference between this cultivation and that associated with gardening is that once the preparation has been done, the sprouting, growth, fruiting and seeding (i.e the realization of these innate qualities) happen with minimal effort of  human hand or thought. There is some effort still as we continue to turn our attention away from grasping and averting, greed and hatred, similar to weeding the garden, through the summer and up to the fruition of realization.

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With these words I pay homage to all buddhas, bodhisattvas, sentient beings, and the totality. May these words not confuse, bring doubt, or harm, but bring ease and warmth and an end to suffering for all beings throughout all times and in all directions.

William

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 Practice

Practicing in sangha, even virtually, supports the practice of meditation differently than practicing solitarily. The members of the Sangha of the Pandemic, invite you to practice with us. No experience is required. There is no cost. Everyone is welcome. 

 We practice on ZOOM:

Mornings

  • Mondays – Calm abiding. 6:30 AM Pacific Time
  • Tuesdays – Body awareness. 6:30 AM Pacific Time 
  • Thursdays – Tonglen, 6:30 AM Pacific Time 
  • Wednesdays and Fridays – “Formal” Practice 7:00 AM Pacific TIme
  • Sundays – Paramitas. 7 AM Pacific Time 

ZOOM Link:   https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89989680789 

Please feel free to reach out with questions or insights. Please also feel free to forward this post and invite others to join the sangha. You may find more reflections, poetry, art at sanghaofthepandemic.org . If you would like to comment or offer feedback and insight you may do so in the comment section on the website or by email to wrgentner@gmail.com 

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Check-In

If you have questions about meditation practice, or would like to have a conversation about the practice or anything else, you can check in with William by making an appointment. Go to “Check In Appts.”

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