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.
INTRODUCTION TO BREATH MEDITATION
Learn how to enjoy keeping the mind with the breath. If you spend time with the breath, you get sensitive not only to the breath, but also to what the mind is doing in the present moment and to the way it causes unnecessary suffering for itself.
GETTING TO KNOW THE BREATH
We live with the breath, and yet we don’t know it, and as a result don’t get as much out of it as we could. The breath can provide food, clothing, shelter, and medicine for the mind if you take the time to get to know it well.
INSIGHT FROM THE BREATH
The type of insight that’s going to make a difference in the mind has to come from the mind’s being solidly based. So, until your mindfulness of the breath is really solid, this is where you want to focus all your efforts.
WHY THE BREATH
The breath is like a mirror for the mind. When there’s greed, anger, delusion, they’ll show up in the breath. And you find that not only does the breath reflect the mind, but you can use the breath to have a positive effect on the mind as well.
THE FULLNESS OF THE BREATH
When the breath in the body is full, you find that it’s really resilient and eases your burdens in lots of ways. So experiment to see what a “full breath” is.
THE BREATH'S POTENTIAL
The mind is like an animal: that if it hasn’t been trained it’s difficult to live with. Once we train it, though, it stops creating so much suffering for itself. So we begin by staying in one place with something really simple: the breath.