04 OCTOBER 2020, THE DAILY CUSHION
Laypersons & Illusions of Future Self by Brad Hunter
“And so these eight qualities
Iccete aṭṭha dhammā ca,
of a faithful householder
are declared by the one who is truly named
to lead to happiness in both spheres,
welfare and benefit in this life,
and happiness in the future lives.
This is how, for a householder,
merit grows by generosity.”
cāgo puññaṃ pavaḍḍhatī”ti.
SELF-GUIDED MEDITATIONCULTIVATING GENEROSITY(BOUNDLESS ABODE OF KINDNESS) RECOGNITION & RECOLLECTION:
Bring to mind acts of kindness and generosity from childhood, no matter how seemingly small and insignificant. Memories that touch and move the heart. Asking someone to be your friend. Offering to help. Giving a pretty leaf to a friend or family member… and so on. Invite memories of words and acts of kindness that you have received from others in childhood. Allow such memories to warm the heart space and release resistance. Now turn the mind closer to the present and spend a few moments recollecting both giving and receiving kindness and generosity.
Once you have the felt sense of kindness established in the body—in the heart space, in the solar plexus, in a softened radiant face—continue to nurture, cultivate and deepen this sense by breathing into the body all of the goodness of the world. The goodness and beauty of nature, of the earth, the elements, space. The goodness of the millions of acts of kindness and generosity that occur everyday with ordinary people moved to act in extraordinary ways. (A kind of inverse Tonglen practice). Before getting too involved in narratives and pulled into papanca, try to drop the verbal fabrication and just stay with the embodied sense of kindness/goodwill/generosity—the felt warmth, spaciousness, lightness and joy of it, right in the heart space.
Gradually breathe the embodied sense of this throughout the body. If the mind gets distracted, give it the job of taking up the single word “kindness” with each breath. Soaking, suffusing, pervading the body with kindness. Skin, muscles, tendons, organs, blood-stream, nervous system, bones and marrow, all permeated with kindness. Relaxing the willful ‘doing’, turn to receiving and allowing. Inviting the feelings of kindness to ‘ride’ bloodstream and be received by every cell, and to pervade the nervous system to be appreciated in every nerve. Whenever necessary, take up the verbal fabrications of the language of absorption and concentration: suffusing, pervading, soaking, ‘no part of the body untouched’. Encouraging, deepening, expanding the felt sense of kindness, redirecting attention as necessary.
Now bringing up the metta phrase ‘to others as to myself’. Begin pervading the space around you, in all directions with this same sense of kindness. This kindness becomes an offering to all beings in all realms. Try to be guided more by your intuitive feeling sense and imagination than by verbal fabrications of the intellect. Periodically you can insert a word or a short phrase to keep the mind focused: ‘kindness’, ‘may all beings be at ease’, ‘may all be free of suffering’ etc. Continue to follow the feeling, relaxing and releasing wherever you meet difficulty in the heart, body or mind. Pervading the space above, below, in front and behind, to the left and to the right—all radiant with kindness.
Breathing kindness into the body from the space around, and breathing it back into that space. Continue until you feel the body suffused with kindness sitting with space pervaded with kindness. Abide in this space. When it feels like time to end, offer your presence of kindness and goodwill to beings in all directions as an act of generosity emitting from the sincere desire of the heart to bring an end to suffering.
MEDITATION OPTION 2:
GIVING IT ALL BACK
Take up a basic 4 primal elements meditation. Consider the body as mere elements and bring the elements to mind for all the parts of the body that arise in awareness. Reflect on the qualities of the earth element present throughout the body, the water element, the fire element, the air element. Take as long as you want, exploring skin, flesh, organs, muscles, bones and marrow.
different segments of the body. See how the qualities of earth, water, fire and air all permeate the body in various ways and how the elements interpenetrate one another. (Combine this practice with the 32 body parts if you like.)Bring up images of the primal elements as expressed in nature: mountains, rivers, trees, grasses, earth, oceans, air, sunlight, snow, ice, rain, fire, heat and so on…
After a period of reflection, begin ‘giving it all back’. Visualize returning everything in the body that is of earth nature, offering it back to the earth, the hills and mounts. Think of the water element throughout the body and offering it back to the clouds, the rain, the rivers and oceans. Imagine the heat of the fire element radiating back into the world from the body. Feel each exhalation of the breath as an offering being breathed back into the world, into the air, into space.
• Becoming increasingly sensitive to the body-heart-mind complex, notice the contractions, tension, stress of clinging, craving and attachment. Train oneself in releasing and letting go.• As above, noticing this stress whenever something is clung to as I, me or mine. Relax through metta and the breath. Release and let go.• Notice cause and effect. Notice the (momentary) cessation of suffering and the arising of gladness, lightness, joy and contentment through releasing and letting go, through thoughts and acts of generosity and giving.
• Possessions only ‘belong to us’ in a conventional and conditional sense. Ultimately, nothing whatsoever—even ‘my’ body—is should be clung to as I, me or mine.
• Cultivating generosity simultaneously enhances many other aspects of the path: Kindness and Compassion, Joy and Equanimity. Selflessness and the gradual diminishing of the tyranny of personality view.
• Even if ‘future lives’ is outside of one’s conceptual framework currently, one can still discover directly, here and now, the results of acting in the world from a baseline of kindness and generosity.
• Follow the sense of wholesome pleasure and joy in the heart.
• Keep the ‘concentration’ open, spacious and kind. (Be mindful of adding more stress and contraction to an already stressed body and mind.)
• Give yourself permission to enjoy the blameless pleasant feelings arising from generosity, without going to pride or attachment to merit. Kindness and generosity are the natural states of an unobstructed heart.