Dharma practice is medicine for the mind -- something particularly needed in a culture like ours that actively creates mental illness in training us to be busy producers and avid consumers. As individuals, we become healthier through our Dharma practice, which in turn helps bring sanity to our society at large.
Giving dharma talks offers me the opportunity to express gratitude for my Thai teachers -- Ajahn Fuang Jotiko and Ajahn Suwat Suvaco -- in appreciation of the many years they spent training me, which came with the understanding that the teachings continue past me. Giving dharma talks also pushes me to articulate what I haven''t yet verbalized to myself in English. This in turn enriches my own practice. When you help a wide variety of people deal with their issues, it helps you practice with yours.
When giving a talk, I try to remain true to three things: my training, my study of the early Buddhist texts, and the needs of my listeners. The challenge is to find the point where all three meet -- not as a compromise, but in their genuine integrity.
For this, I play with analogy. Meditation is a skill, and our meeting point as people, whatever our culture, lies in our experience in mastering skills: how to sew clothes, cook a meal, or build a shelter. So I've found that one of the most effective ways of explaining subtle points in meditation is to find analogies with more mundane skills. Through the language of analogy we find common ground from which our practice can grow to meet our individual needs, and yet remain true to its universal roots.
In one breath you’ve got everything you need for the practice, so be fully aware right here, and the fullness of your awareness will develop over time without your having to pace yourself or to plan ahead.
As meditators, we can easily slip into the attitude that we’re like people watching T.V.—passive consumers, watching a reality that’s ready-made—but that’s not what’s really going on. We’ve always active, always shaping things, even when we seem to be perfectly still. The purpose of the meditation is to be more careful about our intentions, more alert about how we’re shaping things.
The simple things we already have in the present can be put together in such a way that they can lead to true happiness. We don’t have to go searching outside. All we need is to develop what’s right here.