Mind at Work Workshop - a Scientific Approach to Find Peace in Life

It was quiet in the Ch’an Hall of the Dharma Drum Mountain Vancouver Center in the morning on Labour Day, September 2, 2013. “Relax your…” said Abbot Venerable Guo Xing, guiding 125 people on relaxation.

What happened in the childhood were past events. They are only memories and do not exist in this present moment. When you recall them, they are simply images you retrieve from your memory bank; those images are not real living persons, rather, they are the conversations and, events that occurred during your childhood. Therefore, there is no need to use your memories to hurt yourself repeatedly. The Venerable’s remarks went on….

The Venerable then played a video clip of blindfolded, young women passionately kissing – chimpanzees – thinking they were the young men they saw before they were blindfolded. Only after their blindfolds were removed, did they realize otherwise, and were shocked and embarrassed. Venerable Guo Xing then posed this question “Did the girls’ pleasure come from kissing chimpanzees or from thinking they were kissing young men?”

Through an ingenious series of striking photographs and another video clip, the Venerable led us to realize that we react to the external environment, people and occurrences with our judgements and perceptions coming from our experiences. As a result, we experience happiness, anger, worries, sadness, anxiety, vexations and sufferings in life. However, by focusing 90% of our attention on the relaxation of our body and mind, the Venerable guided us to experience our reactions to the same external environment, people and occurrences became less drastic.

The Venerable commented that medical studies reported when an angry mother breast-feeds her baby, she adds an ingredient of anger (poison) through her mammary glands into her baby. The Venerable reminded us that in every moment we are constantly interacting with and affecting the people and environment around us with our feelings, sensations and attitudes.

To practice relaxation in each moment, we were asked to concurrently walk and converse with others while holding a straw with a ping pong ball on the top of the straw, In addition, we were asked to place our name tag on the top of our head, while retaining the relaxation of our body and mind and the awareness of the external environment in the 90% to 10% ratio. Furthermore, before the lunch, we were given three raisins to practice mindful eating meditation, taking several minutes to eat each raisin. It turned out to be a most relaxing and enjoyable eating experience.

Through a PowerPoint presentation, he introduced the concept of karmic consequence. In every moment, we receive instantaneous karmic consequences from our actions, speech and thoughts. Our state of mind and body is the result of the consequences we choose to bear.

He further illustrated that the results of our karmic consequences appear in feeling, sensation, and attitude; with feeling being comfortable or uncomfortable, sensation being pleasant or unpleasant, and attitude being favorable or unfavorable. By realizing the interrelated operational principle of body, sensation, mind, and speech, we are able to control our instant karmic consequence. He explained that how our body, sensation, mind and speech influence each other. For example, when we are angry, our body is tense, our mind is agitated, and our voice is raised.

The Venerable continued by explaining results are directly derived from causes; e.g., anger will cause an uncomfortable feeling, and will not lead to a joyful sensation. For example, when we are waiting for a red traffic light to turn green, we constantly look at our watch and stare at the red light; our body is tense and stiff, the stomach is tight, we feel agitated, we think there are too many red lights along the road and they are the cause of our lateness. In this moment, our state of mind is impatient and agitated. However, if we are in the car with our girlfriend or boyfriend, we will be smiling and holding hands, our body is relaxed and feels comfortable, we feel happy; we accept the red light and patiently wait for it to turn to green.

Throughout the afternoon, the Venerable led us to experience this realization through a series of exercises and group discussions on several scenarios that resemble our daily activities. For example, we were asked to talk about the habits of our family members with the others and then hear others’ feedback while having the name tag on our head and holding on the straw to help us retain the relaxation of our body and mind and the awareness of the external environment in the 90% to 10% ratio. While retaining the 90% relaxation, the volume and tone of our voice was low and soft, the words we chose became gentler. We became more understanding and tolerant to our family member’s habit.

The Venerable used the terms “to king” others and “to be kinged” by others. The Venerable explained that “to king” (to control) and “to be kinged” (to be controlled) are happening all the time in our daily life. While going through the exercise of ordering someone to carry out a task while retaining the relaxation and awareness at the 90% to 10% ratio, the whole process was carried out in a calm and harmonic atmosphere. It turned out that we became more considerate and constantly searched for polite and more acceptable words, instead of harsh words when we were kinging others.

During the Q&A, Venerable Guo Xing explained that our mind is like a mirror that reflects everything as it is. He further drew the analogy between the mind and the sea; while the mind is unmoving, it pervades and has the ability of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching and thinking. Our actions, speech and thoughts are like different shapes of waves arising above in the sea; while, waves are like various functions of the mind. The essence of each wave, regardless of its shape, is the sea. For example, when we utter “I am angry”, where, “I” has a fist shape of wave, “am” has an index finger shape of wave, and “angry” has a combination of index + middle fingers shape of wave; and, these three waves are made of the sea.

Nevertheless, we have mistaken the shape of the wave for the sea. That is, we mistake the arising and perishing phenomena that are transient and fleeting for the mind. As a result, we segregate the sea into the wave of “I”, the wave of “you” and the wave of “he”, and subject and object come into existence. However, we overlook the fact that each wave (phenomenon) is a function of the sea (the mind), yet it is not the sea.

Actually, all phenomena, including our thoughts, are merely images created by our mind. Our reactions to the external environment, people and occurrences are merely responses to images created by the mind. There are no living beings, no phenomena in these images. Phenomena exist; however, we cannot see the phenomena as they are. Instead, we see our own perceptions about the phenomena.

In addition, our perceptions are products of our experiences. Similarly, when we are engaging in conversations with others, in reality, there is no person speaking, no listener, and there is no conversation. This is because we are continuously grasping, interpreting, and filtering what we hear through our own judgements and perceptions. Hence, we do not realize that our reactions to the external environment, people and occurrences are merely responses to images created by the mind.

Through scientific and logical approaches, Abbot Venerable Guo Xing guided us with concepts and practice to explore the mind. And, in turn he led us to realize that we mistake the images created by the mind for what is actually out there. We have the choice to be happy when we can better manage our emotions and our reactions to the world around us.

Jen-ni Kuo
September 19, 2013

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