So many of us think of mindfulness as something that we do on the cushion. As long as we meditate correctly, our problems will either disappear or become easier to deal with. But the Buddha taught just the opposite: mindfulness is a skill that, when developed correctly, facilitates an intimate relationship between us and the world we live in. Nowhere is this more apparent than when we relate to our actions with mindful awareness.
This week, we would like you to begin exploring mindfulness of intention. In particular, you should concentrate on one particular area of your life:
Mindfulness of the intention to act from a place of meanness, aggression, selfishness, or bitter competition. Those are powerful words, but your actions don’t have to be dramatic to be noteworthy. This can be as subtle as cutting someone off in traffic, rolling your eyes at someone’s behaviour, or pretending you don’t hear the panhandler asking for money. Remember that this should be done in the spirit of inquiry rather than the spirit of recrimination. Our bad behaviours are the result of lots of conditioning, much of which we didn’t choose. Nonetheless, the first step in truly uprooting these behaviours is seeing them clearly. It’s also important to recognize that many of our behaviours are not spurred by a single intention. Often, more than one intention is at play.
In addition to paying attention to the “bad” intentions, also be aware when you are acting from a sense of care, friendliness, compassion or kinship. Remember the ultimate goal here is to choose something (in this case, the intention of your actions) and to try and keep that thing in mind throughout the day. That ability to keep something in mind is a major part of mindfulness.
Here are some questions/exercises you can work with throughout the week. Remember that writing things down is going to help our community have a more productive discussion.
- At the end of the day, reflect back on your actions and see if you can identify any times when you acted from a harmful viewpoint or a loving viewpoint.
- Notice if you tend to get selfish and aggressive in any specific parts of your life.
- Reflect on how you feel deep down when doing something harmful or loving. Is there something going on there?
- Don’t just be kind to others, also be kind to yourself. Does self-kindness bring up a sense of guilt for you?
- Reflect back on your life and see if you can identify any instances where you thought you were acting from kindness but you were actually acting solely in your own narrow self-interest.
As you know Ian and I freely offer our time to prepare for and guide discussions on Sundays, and meditations on Sundays and Tuesdays. We do so following the age-old tradition of offering the Buddhist teachings freely, and accepting any support* (ie donations, dāna in Pali). To date, the donations collected** have gone to purchase the supplies LMC needs to operate: cushions, tea, fees for this website, offering support to the organizations where we draw our materials from (namely Dharama Seed), and an annual gift of thanks to Moksha Yoga London for allowing us to freely use their space/resources.
I have the opportunity now to participate in a dharma (buddhist) teacher support and development program. This being a second program over and above the teacher training I am already working through.
I would like to accept this opportunity – and I ask for your support to do so. What Ian and I intend is that the dāna collected over the next several months will go towards helping me pay for the support and development program.
If you have any questions about the development program or the allocation of the dāna, please feel free to speak with Ian or I .
Thank you in advance for your support.
*It’s helpful to think of dāna as if your contribution is ‘paying it forward’. Not so much that you’re trying to put a price on what value you get from this community, rather that the dāna offered is aimed at the continuance of the community.
**The LMC dāna box is placed in the foyer of our practice room (by the coat hooks, before you reach the main hallway) so that our members can anonymously offer dāna when they can.
Hey folks! Not a surprise, we had a small turn out last week on the long weekend. We decided to hold the discussion on ethics until this week so we can kick off the eight fold training together.
Please refer to last week’s post for more info.
For the coming weeks, we’re going to use the 8 component course (more commonly referred to as the “eight fold path”) as the basis for discussions. This is a pretty pivotal (and as you’ll see all encompassing) way to look at the teachings.
A bit of context: the Buddha said, and I’ll paraphrase, “1.Reality is, there’s discontent and suffering. 2. And when you really pay attention, you can see why and how that happens in your life. 3. And you’ll also see that it doesn’t have to be like that – there is a means to an end to that. 4. How did I end the unsastifaction in my life? I can describe it by listing these eight categories…”.
You might have otherwise heard of that as the Four (en)Noble(ing) Truths. The fourth is a list of eight trainings or eight things to do right. What are the eight?
- Sound Action
- Sound Livelihood
- Sound Speech
- Sound Effort
- Sound Mindfulness
- Sound Concentration
- Sound View
- Sound Thought
The first three is where we’ll start. They as a group describe Ethics or Morality.
Getting clear about your ethics is a really important foundation to your life! I’m sure you’ve noticed that you feel crummy when bad things happen as a result of things you did. Have you also noticed that when you know you made the best decision you could and you had good intentions you feel better? Moving deeper, maybe you’ve also seen that in those situations its easier to make amends. That’s just some simple illustrations of why ethics is worthy of reflection (and action!). We’ll get more in depth on Sunday about the “whys” of ethics, and how that will influence what you hold as your ethics, and thus create appropriate action, speech, and livelihood.
Some questions to consider over the next days:
- How do you usually go about making a decision?
- Do you reflect on the outcomes of your actions?
- Do you have a standard general set of things you consider before acting?
- Do you have a clear understanding of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ or are there grey areas?
- In what ways will be having a clear understanding of your personal ethics be supportive to your well being?