Willa Thaniya Reid (formerly Ajahn Thaniya, top photos), has been practising formal Buddhist meditation since the 80s. Her primary training has been through the Thai Forest Tradition of Luang Por Chah. The Forest Tradition is in harmony with her affinity for the natural world and for reflective teachings. For 18 years she was part of the monastic community of this tradition based in England. As the senior nun of Cittaviveka for eight years, she offered support to the lay and monastic community; teaching retreats in the UK, USA, Europe and Australia. She brings to her teaching a love for the original suttas of the Buddha. For the previous six years she served the community in Melbourne, offering spiritual support to the dying and their families. She has a Masters degree in relationship counselling, and clinical pastoral training. In 2015 she returned to New Zealand to develop a meditation community with her partner.
Wherever you are, waking up is here. It’s not somewhere else in some other time, it doesn’t belong to somebody out there. Let us come out of small senses of ourselves and take up this tremendous teaching. Again and again, establishing faith and confidence regarding the heart, letting insight arise – this is how we touch nibbāna in the body. [SN 48:50]
How to respond to the energy of craving (taṇhā); how to navigate states of calm; advice for approaching cancer without fighting/setting up a war; how to work with thinking, between suppressing in meditation and reacting while living in the world; encountering doubt after 20 years of practice; how to work with unhappiness/sadness.
We may wonder where love sits in the whole of the Buddha’s teachings. It’s not always directly pointed at in the suttas, but heart cultivations enable citta to know dukkha and wake up to the way things are. Citta is strengthened in its capacity to be present with skillfulness and love, support for which are provided by body and breath.
Returning to sitting, supporting citta to settle and open, we give it skillful things it can be in touch with – breathing, the heart medicines. Understanding the power of perception and feeling, we place attention carefully, bringing qualities of welcome, availability, friendliness – guarding against what is harmful and afflicting. Just knowing, body feels like this, citta feels like this.
Guidance for transitioning to standing, staying present, letting uprightness establish itself. Keeping the quality of opening, meeting what is here with love and friendliness, letting breath wash any strain away.
In this cultivation we’re deepening our understanding of the heart that is at home. The soothing and relaxing quality of breathing supports citta to meet whatever arises. With qualities of love, friendliness and compassion, attune to cause and effect, putting down what brings agitation and contraction, and aligning to what brings well-being.
We practice coming into full presence with the unshakable qualities of heart the Buddha pointed to. Noticing what is here, our relationship with it and the different inflections of the heart. If there’s hostility or unkindness, these are not true, they are defilements that obscure the truth. They need meeting and understanding, but not believing in. What is needed now is the quality of mettā, that deep well-wishing with the absence of any kind of hostility.
Establishing uprightness of mind, heart and body - ground and feel ourselves here. With friendliness and non-contention, opening and attuning to what’s here, establishing presence with the way things are.
As we establish this time of practice, we approach it with faith in the possibility of awakening. Upright in the energetic sense of heart and body, open to what is here. Let the beautiful energy of breathing stroke through the whole of experience of body. Soothing, calming, bringing well-being.