A More Tranquil Heart And A Clearer Mind

A More Tranquil Heart And A Clearer Mind

Discussion date: Thu, May 03, 2018 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

When I first learned to meditate I was instructed, as many people are, to sit upright, relax, become aware of my my breathing, and return to my breath when my mind wandered. It was a useful introduction in the sense that it did not overload me with directives. I was able, bit by bit, to strengthen my mindfulness and concentration. However, no one told me then that these were just the first steps on a long journey.

In The Miracle of Mindfulness Thay (the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh) explains how it is possible, as we deepen our practice, to attain a more tranquil heart and a clearer mind. Beyond relaxation and mindfulness of the breath, Thay advises that we should become continually mindful of our feelings, perceptions, thoughts, and the activities of our mind.

Six key paragraphs from the “Mindfulness of the Mind” section are below. Several weeks ago my friend Andre Vellino, a Dharma teacher and teacher of web design, sent me these paragraphs reformatted using a software tool called LiveLink (http://liveink.com/) that endeavors to “illuminates the structure and meaning of language that is masked by block text.” Andre said he found it more conducive to contemplation as well. Perhaps you will agree.

Someone
    might well ask:
     is relaxation
      then the only goal
         of meditation?

  In fact
       the goal
         of meditation
    goes much deeper
         than that.

  While relaxation
        is the necessary point
         of departure,
    once one
      has realized relaxation,
    it is possible
      to realize a tranquil heart
       and clear mind.

  To realize a tranquil heart
   and clear mind
    is
         to have gone far
        along the path
         of meditation.

Of course,
    to take hold
      of our minds
   and calm our thoughts,
        we must also practice mindfulness
          of our feelings
             and perceptions.

  To take hold
         of your mind,
    you must practice mindfulness
      of the mind.

  You
      must know
       how to
        observe
          and recognize
             the presence
         of every feeling
      and thought which
          arises
         in you.

  The
         Zen Master Thuong Chieu
    wrote,
      “If the practitioner
        knows his own mind clearly
       he will obtain
          results
         with little effort.

  But if he does not know anything
      about his own mind,
    all
     of his effort
         will be wasted.”

  If you want
      to know your own mind,
    there is only one way:
         to observe
        and recognize everything
             about it.

  This must be done at all times,
    during your day-to-day life
      no less than
         during the hour
           of meditation.

During meditation,
    various feelings and thoughts
      may arise.

  If you don’t practice mindfulness
      of the breath,
    these thoughts
      will soon lure you away
         from mindfulness.

  But the breath
    isn’t simply a means
      by which
         to chase away such thoughts
          and feelings.

  Breath
    remains
     the vehicle
    to unite body and mind
         and
           to open
        the gate
             to wisdom.

  When a feeling
      or thought
          arises,
    your intention
      should not be
        to chase it away,
    even
      if by continuing
             to concentrate
          on the breath
             the feeling
      or thought passes naturally
          from the mind.

  The intention
    isn’t to chase it away,
        hate it,
          worry
         about it,
           or be frightened
         by it.

  So what
      exactly should
       you be doing
         concerning such thoughts
           and feelings?

  Simply acknowledge
        their presence.

  For example,
    when a feeling
         of sadness
    arises,
      immediately recognize it:
        “A feeling
         of sadness
        has just arisen
         in me.”

  If the feeling
         of sadness
          continues,
    continue
         to recognize
      “A feeling
         of sadness
       is still
         in me.”

  If there is
        a thought like,
      “It’s late but the neighbors
        are surely making
            a lot of noise,”
         recognize that
           the thought
        has arisen.

  If the thought
    continues
     to exist,
    continue
         to recognize it.

  If a different
      feeling
          or thought
              arises,
    recognize it
         in the same manner.

  The essential thing
    is not to let any feeling
      or thought
    arise without recognizing it
         in mindfulness,
    like a palace guard
   who is aware of every face
          that passes
              through the front corridor.
             
If there are
      no feelings
             or thoughts present,
    then recognize
      that
          there are
              no feelings
                     or thoughts present.

  Practicing
    like
      this
          is
    to become mindful
      of your feelings
         and thoughts.

  You
      will soon arrive
        at taking hold
          of your mind.

  One
       can join
         the method
           of mindfulness
             of the breath
                 with the mindfulness
         of feelings and thoughts.

. . .

Whenever a wholesome thought
    arises,
      acknowledge it:
        “A wholesome thought
          has just arisen.”

  And
     if an unwholesome thought
      arises,
    acknowledge it
         as well:
           “An unwholesome thought
        has just arisen.”

  Don’t dwell on it
      or try
        to get rid
         of it,
    however much
      you don’t like it.

  To acknowledge
   it is enough.

  If you have
      departed,
    then you
        must know
      that you have departed,
    and
   if you
     are still there,
    know
   that you
     are still there.

  Once you
    have reached
      such an awareness,
    there will be
      nothing
    you need fear anymore.
   
There is
         a temptation
           to look
      upon them,
            or
             at least some of them,
            as an enemy force
          which
            is trying
              to disturb
             the concentration
          and understanding
             of your mind.

  But,
        in fact,
          when we
       are angry,
         we ourselves
        are anger.

  When we
   are happy,
    we ourselves
      are happiness.

  When we
        have certain thoughts,
    we are those thoughts.

  We are both
         the guard and the visitor
          at the same time.

  We are both
     the mind
         and
           the observer
      of the mind.

  Therefore,
    chasing away
       or dwelling
         on any thought
    isn’t the important thing.

  The important thing
    is to be aware
      of the thought.

  This observation
        is not an objectification
         of the mind:
     it does not establish
      distinction
        between subject
      and object.

  Mind does not grab
         on to mind;
     mind does not push
      mind away.

  Mind can only observe itself.

  This observation
    isn’t an observation
         of some object outside
           and independent
      of the observer.

This Thursday evening, our meditation period will begin with the usual guidance to sit upright, relax, follow the breath, and return to the breath when the mind wanders. Then we will move on to the observation of the feelings, perceptions, thoughts, and activities of the mind using excerpts from “Mindfulness of the Mind.”

Our Dharma sharing will focus on how we practice mindfulness on the cushion (or chair) and in daily life. Has our practice helped us develop a more tranquil heart and a clearer mind?

You are invited to join us.

As is our tradition on the first Thursday of the month, we will also offer a brief newcomer’s orientation to mindfulness practice and to the Still Water community. The orientation will begin at 6:30 pm, and participants are encouraged to stay for the evening program. If you would like to attend the orientation, it is helpful if you let us know by emailing us at info@StillWaterMPC.org.

The above six paragraphs from Thich Nhat Hanh are in the usual block format below.

Peace and joy to you,

Mitchell


A Tranquil Heart And Clear Mind
from The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh

Someone might well ask: is relaxation then the only goal of meditation? In fact the goal of meditation goes much deeper than that. While relaxation is the necessary point of departure, once one has realized relaxation, it is possible to realize a tranquil heart and clear mind. To realize a tranquil heart and clear mind is to have gone far along the path of meditation.

Of course, to take hold of our minds and calm our thoughts, we must also practice mindfulness of our feelings and perceptions. To take hold of your mind, you must practice mindfulness of the mind. You must know how to observe and recognize the presence of every feeling and thought which arises in you. The Zen Master Thuong Chieu wrote, “If the practitioner knows his own mind clearly he will obtain results with little effort. But if he does not know anything about his own mind, all of his effort will be wasted.” If you want to know your own mind, there is only one way: to observe and recognize everything about it. This must be done at all times, during your day-to-day life no less than during the hour of meditation.

During meditation, various feelings and thoughts may arise. If you don’t practice mindfulness of the breath, these thoughts will soon lure you away from mindfulness. But the breath isn’t simply a means by which to chase away such thoughts and feelings. Breath remains the vehicle to unite body and mind and to open the gate to wisdom. When a feeling or thought arises, your intention should not be to chase it away, even if by continuing to concentrate on the breath the feeling or thought passes naturally from the mind. The intention isn’t to chase it away, hate it, worry about it, or be frightened by it. So what exactly should you be doing concerning such thoughts and feelings? Simply acknowledge their presence. For example, when a feeling of sadness arises, immediately recognize it: “A feeling of sadness has just arisen in me.” If the feeling of sadness continues, continue to recognize “A feeling of sadness is still in me.” If there is a thought like, “It’s late but the neighbors are surely making a lot of noise,” recognize that the thought has arisen. If the thought continues to exist, continue to recognize it. If a different feeling or thought arises, recognize it in the same manner. The essential thing is not to let any feeling or thought arise without recognizing it in mindfulness, like a palace guard who is aware of every face that passes through the front corridor.

If there are no feelings or thoughts present, then recognize that there are no feelings or thoughts present. Practicing like this is to become mindful of your feelings and thoughts. You will soon arrive at taking hold of your inind. One can join the method of mindfulness of the breath with the mindfulness of feelings and thoughts.

. . .

Whenever a wholesome thought arises, acknowledge it: “A wholesome thought has just arisen.” And if an unwholesome thought arises, acknowledge it as well: ” An unwholesome thought has just arisen.” Don’t dwell on it or try to get rid of it, however much you don’t like it. To acknowledge it is enough. If you have departed, then you must know that you have departed, and if you are still there, know that you are still there. Once you have reached such an awareness, there will be nothing you need fear anymore.

There is a temptation to look upon them, or at least some of them, as an enemy force which is trying to disturb the concentration and understanding of your mind. But, in fact, when we are angry, we ourselves are anger. When we are happy, we ourselves are happiness. When we have certain thoughts, we are those thoughts. We are both the guard and the visitor at the same time. We are both the mind and the observer of the mind. Therefore, chasing away or dwelling on any thought isn’t the important thing. The important thing is to be aware of the thought. This observation is not an objectification of the mind: it does not establish distinction between subject and object. Mind does not grab on to mind; mind does not push mind away. Mind can only observe itself. This observation isn’t an observation of some object outside and independent of the observer.

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, May 03, 2018


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