Embarking on the Practices-II

Likes vs. Dislikes

When sitting, some of you are distracted with pain, or are trying to fight off drowsiness. At night, maybe you are angry at someone who is keeping you awake with his snoring. But instead of letting it annoy you, just observe the snoring. Soon the snores may become hypnotic and repetitive, actually pleasant sounding. If you start counting the snores, before you know it you will be asleep.

Physical Tension or Subconscious Motive?

On the other hand, becoming attached to a certain pleasurable experience in meditation can also be an obstruction. One student I had would rock her body during sitting meditation. She felt that she had no control over the shaking; it just happened spontaneously. Actually, this was not caused by any physical tension but by a subconscious motive. The rocking was comfortable to her. You cannot practice effectively if you give in to such things. By examining them, you will be able to control the mind.

Mind Should be Exclusively Applied to the Methods

When you first set out to practice you will definitely have a goal in mind. You will be frustrated with your preset condition and aim either to change yourself or to improve your circumstances. Certainly there is something you hope to achieve by practicing. You cannot just practice aimlessly. So, practice itself implies some intention or desire. To fulfill your original intentions, you must constantly keep your mind on the method of practice. But as you focus on the method you should be thinking of what you want to accomplish, what level you want to reach, or what problems you want to get rid of. Instead, your mind should be exclusively applied to the method itself, free from all motives.

Put Down the Myriad Thoughts. Take up the Practice

There is a saying that is useful for practitioners: “ Put down the myriad thoughts. Take up the practice.” The myriad thoughts are scattered, random, extraneous concerns. The practice is your method of cultivation. When your mind wanders to extraneous concerns, put them down as soon as they appear. But should you treat the method in the same way as a wandering thought – putting it down as soon as it appears? No. From moment to moment, put down extraneous thoughts and return your mind to the method of practice.

Are You Having Many Extraneous Thoughts?

One time I asked a student, “Are you having many extraneous thoughts? “ He replied, “Not too many.” I said, “I’ll bet I know one of them. You’re thinking of your girl friend all the time, aren’t you?” He retorted, “How can you say that?” After the retreat he said, “Originally, I wasn’t thinking of my girl friend at all. But after Shih-fu (Master Sheng Yen) mentioned her I couldn’t stop thinking of her. “I told him that he hadn’t seen through his problem yet. He may have thought that his mind was not on his girl friend, but his concern was still there.

Being Here Presents a Wonderful Opportunity

Perhaps you try to put down extraneous concerns but find that you just can’t. Every time you put one down, it comes back again. This upsets you. You keep telling yourself, “Put it down. Put it down.” Actually it doesn’t matter if you can’t put it down. If you eventually get to the point where you say to yourself, “It doesn’t matter if I can’t put it down, “ then you will be putting it down. You should not fear failure. Neither should you embrace it. You may conclude that the retreat is just not going well for you – your body is uncomfortable, your mind is in tumult. You are unable to control yourself. You haven’t made the proper preparations. Why not forget this one and leave tomorrow? Maybe try again the next time. Don’t succumb to this defeatist attitude. A Chinese proverb says: “A hundred birds in a tree are not worth one bird in the palm.” If you let go of that one bird to go after the hundred you will end up with nothing. Even though you feel unprepared and doomed to failure, being here still presents a wonderful opportunity to practice.

Extended Reading:
Embarking on Practice-I

Abstrat from Faith in Mind - A Guide to Chan Practice
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