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  • How to Practice When You Can’t Practice
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  • Women Acquiring the Essence
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  • Buddhism and women: Calling for Bhikkhuni ordination and gender equality in the Forest Sangha
  • Present Moment – Appropriate Response
  • Dipa Ma, The Story of a Great Master
  • Know For Thyself
  • Changing Tides
  • Dharma in the Fast Lane

    September 8, 2014

    How to Practice When You Can’t Practice

    by Amma Thanasanti

    Common meditation instructions tell us to sit still with our body upright and mind focused on an object.  The stillness of body supports settledness of mind. As we focus that too creates stillness as mindfulness and clear comprehension gather. With sufficient settleness of mind we have more capacity to see what is arising and relate to it with wisdom and compassion. This method has been tried, tested and proven. It works. So it is good to practice. Yet there are times when sitting still, sitting upright or focusing the mind is not possible either due to illness, injury or profound destabilization. For those of us who find meditation a refuge, it’s common to feel like a failure or that the meditation isn’t working.

    Rather than going down the rabbit hole of failure, there is another alternative. Instead of trying to sit in an upright posture and focus on an object what’s helpful is to find a posture where you can completely relax. Take time to let your body help you find the posture as well as the place that is the most relaxing and take time and care to details to let yourself relax into it as completely as possible. As you relax, let go of trying to do anything. Let go of any idea of meditating. Instead of concentrating, let attention rest.  Relax into the awareness that knows you are relaxing.  Follow the awareness until you can even let go of the feelings associated with relaxation. This will support your body to relax more.  As more muscle tension releases, the awareness becomes more and more embracing. This awareness is able to hold everything.

    The end of June I fell off my bike and have been recovering from a concussion.  Profound fatigue and lack of ability to focus have been my steady companions. The remarkable thing I am discovering about head injuries is how they catalyze all sorts of mental phenomena nearly all of which disable the capacity to sit upright and focus attention. Yet when I meditate through resting in awareness, the fatigue, confusion, disorientation or the whirlwinds of emotions that get stirred up all relax. My resistance to these unpleasant mind states softens and sometimes ends. When I am not reacting then I stop wanting these mind states to go away.  When I am simply present with what is, without expectation about what is going to happen next, there is no aversion feeding the mind states. When there isn’t a problem with the mind states that are present, they usually relax. But even when they persist, when I rest in awareness, it is a refuge making it possible to see the whirlwinds of the mind as passing phenomena, not who I am.

    The scans consistently say that the head impact hasn’t caused structural damage. But no one knows how long the symptoms take to recover. Estimates are 3-6 months.  This is the context why the last newsletter didn’t come out, why I have been slow on responding to emails, have missed some and why it is likely going to be like this for a while. As my capacity for most things is limited and particular so for computer, I started a caring bridge site for those who are interested in staying connected and sharing concern around the details of how this is unfolding.

    I trust that with attention to what is arising and the consistent and considerable outpouring of support from Sangha and family, all manner of things shall be well.

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