Posted in buddhism

The Five Hindrances

This is a list of five things we talk about that tend to get in the way of our well-being. These are the things that often make it more difficult to be mindful and aware in our lives.

 

Attachment; craving and chasing after pleasure all the time.

Aversion; resistance to pain, hatred and resentment about our experience

Restlessness; anxiety, the inability to settle down

Sloth; laziness, procrastination

Doubt; believing we can’t handle any of this

 

 These are the things that get in our way the most. I think restlessness and attachment are the ones I experience the most. These things are part of normal experience and everyone has to deal with all five. I think it helps to remind ourselves that these things are normal, that we aren’t dealing with them because we’re broken. It’s because we’re human. To be human is to struggle with these things. It’s not your fault and you’re not less than anyone else because you struggle with these things. I hope we can stop saying to ourselves, “I’m restless because I’m an anxious person” and instead say to ourselves, “I have an experience of restlessness because I’m a human being”

And none of this is unnatural. Of course we want to avoid pain. We have survived by avoiding pain. We have survived based on wondering what we can handle. It’s all simply part of life. But the question is can we relate to these hindrances in a better way?

I’m not going to suggest that we can come to a point where we’ll stub our toe and just calmly say, “Pain is entering my body” but I am suggesting that we can notice when these hindrances are arising and try to engage with them and overcome them when they get in our way. Recognizing them is the first step.

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Posted in buddhism

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness Teaching is based on a talk that was given by the Buddha in the early days. It’s the foundation of what people call Mindfulness/Insight Meditation. The Four Foundations are considered the underlying principles that form the basis of meditation practice.

So, that’s what we’re going to explore here. We’re going to talk about what the Buddha said about Mindfulness and also how we can apply these teachings in our lives.

The thought behind all of this is that we aren’t mindful most of the time. We do very little consciously and often travel through life as if in a daydream. My favorite example of this is when I’m driving to work in the morning and by the time I get there I don’t really remember the trip. I’ve been on autopilot…which sounds very dangerous.

But if we train in mindfulness then we can shift away from that. We can learn how to be more aware in our lives. If we do that then we can meet the world in a more authentic way.

What’s so good about being aware?

Well, if we are more aware of our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, then we can have more insight into why we do the things we do. With awareness we can see which of our actions come from a good place that benefits ourselves and others and which of our actions come from a bad place. If we know the motivations behind the things we do, then we can make better choices. When we’re acting out of generosity, kindness, and wisdom then our actions are helpful to ourselves and others. When we’re acting out of greed, hatred, and delusion then our actions are harmful to ourselves and others. Mindfulness is what helps us know the difference.

When we’re mindful we can strengthen those good motivations and weaken the bad ones.

This path is fundamentally about suffering less. Mindfulness helps us realize and internalize the idea that these beneficial actions with good motivations lead us to contentment in our day to day life. They also help us progress on the path to Enlightenment. But we’re talking about baby steps here. At the same time, mindfulness can show us that actions that are motivated by greed, hatred, and delusion usually aren’t all that helpful to us.

If we have some mindful awareness then we can have space before we do or say something to ask ourselves, “Is this going to create problems?”

Mindfulness can also help us to notice the changes that are going on in our bodies and minds. Indeed, these changes are happening all the time, especially in our thoughts. We can easily get carried away and not notice the flow of our thoughts and feelings.

We often forget to pay attention because so many things are happening to distract us..I’m not talking about our environment, although that certainly can be distracting. I’m talking about all the things happening in our minds.

When we learn how to pay attention, we can gain a kind of clarity about our lives. We can shift our minds so that we can simply pay attention to the world as it is. There’s a kind of contentment there. In Pali, the Buddha’s language, the word for Mindfulness is Sati, which means “to remember”. We’re being mindful so we can remember the world and our place in it. So we can remember our true nature. So that we can understand that the only place we can find some sense of peace and freedom from suffering is right here, in this moment. Not in some other time or place. It’s with you right now.

 

Mindfulness is rooted in the earliest Buddhist teachings, what I call “First Turning Buddhism”. The Buddha declared to his students that they should train in the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
“What four?” he was asked.

And the Buddha replied, “Dwell contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending, unified, with concentrated one pointed mind, in order to know the body as it really is. Dwell contemplating feeling in feelings….in order to know feelings as they really are. Dwell contemplating mind in mind….in order to know mind as it really is. Dwell contemplating dhamma in dhammas… in order to know dhammas as they really are.”

The practice of contemplating the four foundations: body, feelings, mind, and phenomena, is recommended for people at every stage of the spiritual path.

By telling us to practice mindfulness of the body, the Buddha is reminding us to see the body not a single solid thing, but as a collection of parts. We are a collection of organs and other body parts that come together to form a whole. We want to learn to see the body as the body, rather than as our self. Like all physical things the body comes into being, is around for a little while, and then is gone. Because of allt he struggles with injury, illness, aging, and death, the body is not a good source of lasting happiness. If mindfulness can help us see the body as temporary and unable to bring us contentment, then we can see the body as it really is.

By telling us to practice mindfulness of feelings, the Buddha is reminding us that, like the body, feelings can be divided. It’s usually said that there are three types of feelings; pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral. Each type is one feeling. At any given moment it’s said that we can only notice one type. We think of feelings in this way to help us cultivate a non-judgmental awareness of them. We want to see our feelings as “my feeling” rather than “me”. Language is powerful here. We say, “I am sad” instead of “I am experiencing sadness.” Why do we do that? Feelings are impermanent because they come and go, sometimes very quickly. Feelings don’t bring lasting happiness because there will always be unpleasant ones. In understanding this we can see feelings as they really are.

The same applies to mindfulness of mind. We talk about the mind as though it’s a single specific thing, but really it’s a collection too. Consciousness arises from our moment to moment awareness of the information that we are perceiving. The mind includes not only consciousness, but also memories and daydreams. It also includes our thought processes, the way one thought leads to another and another. Paying attention to the way thoughts arise and pass away can help us to be less attached to them. If we can be less attached to our thoughts, then we can see the mind as it really is.

By telling us to practice mindfulness of phenomena the Buddha is saying we should be mindful of the world outside of us too. This is where we come to understand that everything follows the same principles. Everything in reality arises, is around for a while, and then passes away. Simply understanding that the world is ephemeral helps us in our practice.

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Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

Posted in buddhism, mindfulness

Taking Away From Our Lives

This life right now, in each moment, is all we really have. The past is gone and the future is only potential. We spend so much time not focused on the here and now, but we do have the power to change that.

We have a few ways that we tend to take away from the fullness of our lives. We take away from our lives by sleepwalking, just going through the motions of life without being present or acting with intention. This is where we just let things happen and we don’t really reflect on why we do the things we do. We also take away from the fullness of our lives by wishing. We pretty consistently don’t value where we are. To wish we were somewhere else is to take away from here. To wish to be entertained instead of doing nothing is to take away from doing nothing. There is value in doing nothing.

To give to our lives is to understand “good enough”. We are good enough. What we are doing is good enough. We’re trying to learn how to enter this moment completely without judgment, without hating our experience or wishing for something else.

We lose so much of our lives by dwelling on the past, obsessing about the future, or just wishing really hard that right now was different. But this is where we are. We might imagine our meditation practice taking us to some special place or giving us some magical experience. That’s not what happens. We’re training to be here. That’s it. It is completely ordinary.

When we’re fully present we can learn how to be content.


Want to come meditate with me? I’m at Ubuntu Village Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Posted in buddhism, meditation

The Three Kinds of Laziness

Laziness is often what stops us from being consistent in our meditation practice. but also from anything else we might do for personal development or self care. Laziness is very common, probably something we all struggle with in one way or another. It’s a powerful force that gets in our way and regularly stops us from working toward our goals.

In Buddhism we sometimes talk about different kinds of laziness. It’s said that laziness comes in 3 different forms. I call them Procrastination, Feeling Unworthy, and Busyness. These are the things that keep us stuck and I think just identifying and being aware of them helps us manage them.

Procrastination is what we normally associate with the word laziness. I want to avoid inconvenience. I’ll do it later. I want to stay in bed. We can come up with all sorts of excuses to avoid doing things. I need to wait for the right time to meditate. I would meditate now but I don’t feel like it today. We’ve all had thoughts like this. You know what happens if you wait until you feel like it to meditate? You just don’t do it. This is all rooted in comfort. If we’re comfortable in the situation we’re in now, then we’re reluctant to change it. This not only stops us from achieving our goals but it also can limit our experience of the world.

Feeling Unworthy is when we don’t try because we feel like we can’t do something. When people find out I teach meditation sometimes they say things like, “I wish I could meditate, but I’m just not stable and calm enough.” It comes from a place of thinking that other people can do it and you can’t. This kind of laziness occurs in all sorts of ways. We might not apply for a promotion because we think we aren’t qualified. Or we might not ask someone out because we think we’re not good enough for them. We might not create art or write because we think we aren’t skilled enough. This is all rooted in hopelessness and ignoring our potential. Whatever the thing is, we should try to do it and see what happens.

Busyness doesn’t seem like a form of laziness at first, so I have to unpack it. There’s one aspect of this that’s an excuse and another aspect that’s sort of true. “I don’t have time to meditate.” “My life is too active.” These are lies. You may not have time to go to meditation classes, but if you have time to breathe, you have time to meditate. We use this for other things too. Anything we do that’s to better ourselves, we can convince ourselves we don’t have time, whether that’s meditation, working out, spending quality time with your family, or whatever else. You have time. But the other aspect is this. We fill our time in unexpected ways. Social media has us glued to our phones and we’d be shocked if we really measured how much time we spend scrolling. Phones are the busyness of our era. We fill our times with scrolling through apps and for most of us it doesn’t even really bring us joy. Most of social media is either boring or frustrating.

We need to remember to make time for self care and personal development. We could all manage our time better. We have to make time for quiet and to be present. So let’s see if we can challenge our laziness.

 


If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

Want to come meditate with me? I’m at HDKC Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Posted in buddhism

Becoming Free

When we really understand ourselves we become free.

The purpose of our meditation practice isn’t to stop thinking or to banish wandering thoughts. It’s to learn how to stop grasping at them. We want to see our thoughts and feelings for what they are, temporary phenomena that are passing through our minds. You are not your thoughts and you are not your feelings. You have thoughts and you have feelings. Thoughts and feelings come and go and they’re always changing. Seeing thoughts and feelings as they are, without attaching to them or being distracted by them, is the essence of meditation. Realizing that thoughts and feelings are fleeting and changing is wisdom.

The truth is our minds don’t have to be dominated by these thoughts and feelings, or by labels, baggage, attachments, or any other names we give to the activity of our minds. The nature of our mind is originally free, just distracted by junk. If we can learn how to get some stability and cultivate freedom in our minds, then we will see things more clearly and we will suffer less. We can only understand ourselves and the world if we learn how to see clearly.
Our suffering depends on how much we wish things were different, our attachment to views and ideas about the world. When we attach to them, we let go of our freedom. If we allow ourselves to be open instead, then we can remain free.

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Want to come meditate with me? I’m at Ubuntu Village Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Posted in buddhism

Wake Up

“The Buddha” simply means “the one who is awake.”

I try not to get to caught up thinking about him because when you get down to it this path we’re on isn’t about his journey. It’s about yours. Awake means fully present in the here and now, not lost and confused somewhere else. It also means being real, being completely genuine. What we’re trying to do is learn how to come into every situation without bringing all our baggage and bullshit and delusions. Being here and being real. That’s what it’s about.

The Buddha wasn’t a god or spirit. He was a regular person like you and me. He didn’t create anything, really. He just described a different way of seeing the human condition. He described life as like a daydream and I really like that. We go through life and we have trouble truly being present and intentional. We’re on autopilot and just reacting to things a lot of the time. It’s harder to make good decisions when we’re sleepwalking through life. And we miss what’s happening, even things that we really want to pay attention to.

Also, because we’re in this dream, we don’t see things as they really are. So much of the way we see the world is shaped by our expectations and baggage. So what we’re talking about doing is waking up. This is about empowerment and clarity. Many of our problems come from being in this daydream. We are pulled around by greed, aversion, and ignorance. These are the things that sap our sense of well being. Often our delusion effects our relationships too. Sometimes we don’t pay attention to the people we care about the most. If you’ve ever been talking to someone you love and realized you aren’t listening..that’s what I’m talking about.

So what we’re trying to do is learn how to see through all this. We want to see the world as it really is, to learn how to truly pay attention, and to live our lives in a better way. In this we hope to reduce our suffering and also reduce the suffering that spills out of us onto others. We suffer because we don’t see things as they are. We also suffer because we struggle to be content, we are always wanting more. We have trouble settling into uncertainty.

We’re trying to turn our minds so we can empower ourselves. Once we learn how to calm and stabilize our minds with meditation practice, it really gives us a chance to open ourselves up to wisdom. The path is sometimes called the gateless gate. That’s because there’s nothing special about it and there’s nothing stopping you. We’re just training to put down our shit and be in the world in a more authentic way.

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Want to come meditate with me? I’m at HDKC Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear Dharma Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

 

Posted in buddhism, podcast

Interview with Sergio Moreno (podcast)

Sergio Moreno is a Buddhist and a Chaplain in Kansas City. We talked about his career in spiritual wellness and his life as a Buddhist influence each other. We also talked about Right Livelihood and being present for people that really need it. It was a great interview and I’m thankful he was generous with his time. This was recorded on 10/20/19.

Click below to listen:

Sergio Moreno: Buddhist Chaplain

 

 

 


Want to come meditate with me? I’m at HDKC Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear Dharma Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Posted in buddhism

Simplicity

We think of the Buddha as this grand spiritual teacher, but what if he wasn’t? I picture the Buddha as a practical person. He was a lot more interested in what we can do in our lives than in complicated doctrines. That seems obvious.

He came up with this unique idea, the truth of suffering and how to overcome it. He was an innovator. He was followed by a series of teachers who turned his ideas into a religion and also a philosophy. The way he taught it was really neither.

He was just a guy who was encouraging people to find the freedom to experience life more fully by engaging with the present moment, but cultivating awareness and compassion.

The teachings of the Buddha weren’t always complicated, but they sure have become that way over the years. He just encourages us to face reality as it is.

It can be hard for us to accept how simple things really are. That’s why people have gone out of their way to try to make Buddhism more complicated.

I’ve taught a lot of people how to meditate over the years and there have been many times when people say, “That’s it?”

Because they expect more than the simple practice of being right here.

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Visit my YouTube Channel to hear Dharma Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Posted in buddhism, zen

Virtue – Meditation – Wisdom

Our goal on this path is to live as genuinely as we can. We want to be real and unleash our full potential to see things clearly and to lessen the suffering of ourselves and others. We have within us incredible potential for wisdom and compassion and what we’re trying to do here is manifest that potential. We are enslaved by our baggage, delusion, and lack of clarity. This path is about learning to manage those things.

How do we do this?

The Zen tradition has something called the threefold study that we can think about here. The cultivation of virtue, meditation and wisdom. All Buddhist teachings contain these three categories, really.

The traditional way of cultivating virtue is in the five precepts. No killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no false speech, no indulging in intoxicants. These are not commandments, I can’t stress that enough. It’s just been demonstrated that if you’re not going around killing people, you have an easier time settling your mind and developing clarity. Precepts also help us lessen our attachment to our ego. We are so pulled around by our desires and our aversions. Precepts are meant to help us resist our temptations some. We might try to think of precepts as a walking stick rather than as a chain. The nature and intent of the precepts is to help us maintain a life of harmony. If we have harmony with the world around us, we have a much easier time practicing. As a result of cultivating virtue, the mind has an easier time settling and focusing.

When we turn our awareness inward, we can start to develop deeper and deeper awareness. This is what meditation is all about. When we develop concentration and clarity, it gives us a chance to see our true nature, which is free of all this baggage and delusion. Our attention is scattered and fractured and meditation helps us to direct it where we need it to go.
When we learn how to focus, it gives our minds a chance to manifest our inherent clarity. This is wisdom. Wisdom means seeing the world as it actually is, without being clouded by our judgments and preconceived ideas and labels. These things filter our reality and we rarely get a clear picture of what’s happening. Wisdom is the great insight into how things really are: interdependent, dynamic, and full of wonder.

To cultivate virtue is to free ourselves from our fixations of attachment and aversion, love and hate. To cultivate meditation is to free ourselves from distractions. To cultivate wisdom is to stop obstructing our true nature. In this tradition we are practicing these three together as a way to awaken to our true nature.

 


 

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear Dharma Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

 

Posted in buddhism, ch'an, zen

The Great Way

“The Great Way is Gateless,

Approached in a thousand ways.

Once past this checkpoint

You stride through the universe.”

 

This is the opening of the famous Zen text “The Gateless Gate”.

It sounds like weird hippie nonsense. A lot of old Zen sayings like this are a little hard to unpack because sometimes they seem so weird.

I think it’s worth a second look.

The Great Way is the path we’re on. The path inspired by the Buddha, the cultivating of awareness and compassion. Find your true nature and help others, that sums up the path.

When we say it’s gateless, we’re saying there’s nothing stopping you. It’s right there, like an open door. Your true nature is always with you. It’s never not present. The door is open. Spiritual teachers can point you to the door, but they don’t open it for you. It’s already open. The gate is gateless. We could say teachers are just selling water by the river.

“If you can’t find enlightenment here and now, where else do you expect to find it?” -Dogen

Your true nature is free and awake, you just have to notice that the gate is open.

It’s approached in a thousand ways because we all come to the path bringing different things with us. My difficulty on the path might be giving into temptation all the time or making excuses to not meditate. Yours might be a tendency to give into anger, or to compare yourself to others too much. We’re all a little different and we come to the path for different reasons, so it’s approached in a thousand ways.

But we’re all on the same path.

And once we enter the gate, freedom is on the other side. The freedom to put down our emotional baggage and our insecurities and our fixations. When we can put those down and truly see ourselves as we are, we can stride through the universe.

“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” -Rumi

What do we need to do? We need to set our intention. We need to decide we want to go through the gateless gate. That’s the beginning.