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Deciding What You Want to Keep

--by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Aug 24, 2009)


Look at your life in the same way you’d look through an attic, deciding what you’re going to keep, what you’re going to throw out. You’re moving from a house with a large attic but you’ve got only a small trailer to make the move. Some things have got to get thrown out so that you have space in the trailer for the things that really mean a lot to you. In other words, there are things you’ve got to give up in order to have the time for the things that really make a difference, that really do give substantial results. That’s the underlying insight that informs the teachings on renunciation.

When you think about it, you realize that the time best spent is the time spent
developing good qualities in the mind, because those are things that can help you in any situation. You have to devote a certain amount of time to keeping the body strong, but with the body you reach a point of diminishing returns. Ultimately there will come a point where no matter how much you’ve looked after the body, it’s just going to leave you. And sometimes it doesn’t leave you nicely. Sometimes there’s a messy parting. And in cases like that, you’ll be glad for the time you spent working on the mind, because you realize that that’s much closer to home. At the same time, the strength of the mind when really developed doesn’t have to depend on the strength of the body. It doesn’t end when the body dies.

This is one of the things you discover as you meditate. Ordinarily, when people are tired they get in a bad mood. They feel overwhelmed, really put upon. But when you learn how to develop a greater sense of spaciousness in the mind, a greater sense of wellbeing in the mind, after a while you begin to realize it doesn’t depend on the level of energy in the body at all. The mind begins to have its own internal nourishment, its own internal place to recharge.

This is why we spend so much time sitting here with our eyes closed, working on mindfulness, concentration, and discernment, because these are the qualities that will see the mind through any situation. When you see people really “losing it,” this is what they’ve lost. They’ve lost their mindfulness, they’ve lost their concentration, they’ve lost their discernment. So you want to work on strengthening these qualities. Whatever time is spent making them stronger is time well spent.

-Thanissaro Bhikkhu, from "Meditations 2"


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11 Previous Reflections:

 
On Dec 7, 2009 Sunday Arimoro wrote:

Sir, I love reading and putting into practice, the inspirational storieson these pages. I would appreciate it - if these stories could be sent to my mail on weekly basis. Thanks.



On Aug 31, 2009 susan bradley wrote:

Amazingly each Wednesday as part of this community of people who've come together to sit quietly together, reflect and than break bread in communion - I find myself humbled by the deep insight of my companions! Intermittantly all week I thought about my "choices".  This thought empowers me and gives me the responsiblity of manging my life - my thoughts, the attic of my mind, the physical house of mine... I find i like "things" figurtively and physically. The beauty of our Wednesday community is that in the most sincere and genuine way these companions of mine assist me on my journey - daily! As we passed the mic and introduced ourselves and shared reflections on the reading and of those in our hearts many themes came to mind and to the group... the notion of the mind body connection and health and aging and of simplifying our thoughts and our belongings in a way that frees up space for fresh new thoughts and behaviors.  I can put this behavior in to act  See full.

Amazingly each Wednesday as part of this community of people who've come together to sit quietly together, reflect and than break bread in communion - I find myself humbled by the deep insight of my companions!

Intermittantly all week I thought about my "choices".  This thought empowers me and gives me the responsiblity of manging my life - my thoughts, the attic of my mind, the physical house of mine... I find i like "things" figurtively and physically.

The beauty of our Wednesday community is that in the most sincere and genuine way these companions of mine assist me on my journey - daily!

As we passed the mic and introduced ourselves and shared reflections on the reading and of those in our hearts many themes came to mind and to the group... the notion of the mind body connection and health and aging and of simplifying our thoughts and our belongings in a way that frees up space for fresh new thoughts and behaviors.  I can put this behavior in to action!

Another notion that came to mind is the metaphor of a house and our minds and memories being the "attic".  Taken directly from Thanissaro Bhikkhu's writing, the idea of putting away or of hiding things/feelings/experiences in our attics and that periodically it was healthly to take out the old and unused no longer usefull to lighten our psychies for a more open approach to ourselves and others.  This is a practice I can put in to action, too!

Another notion was one of clearing space to enable acting out of kindness to another especially in times of frustration or anger or when feeling a need to be blatantly honest with another.  When we free up the space in our minds it allows for a more thoughtful approach to others.   Love this thought, too!

As I listen to my companions each Wednesday evening I'm humbled at the insights that are shared and too, by the compassion, love and support that shows in each face as the mic is passed and sharing continues.  Even first time visitors share openly their feelings and needs in this respectful environment.

Even as the week moves closer to the next Wednesday, I find myself still reflecting on the lessons, the insights I gain each week about my companions and myself... thank you!

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On Aug 31, 2009 roshan singh wrote:

i think ,peace of mind is very necessary for any type of task which are performed by us. i m also feeling that i hav lost my peace of mind and in a situation of illusion.i dont know what i should do by which my concentration ,peace of mind would be regained. please suggest me.....



On Aug 27, 2009 Pancho wrote:

My family calls me Pancho and you might think that I don't know you, but I'd like you to know that I love you all... Yesterday's sharing circle was very powerful. All started with a profound collective meditation. Stillness is the mother of all intuitions. These were the 3 "intuition points" that flowed through me: 1. The Sufi Filters of Speech. 2. Being not Nice but Kind. 3. Vinoba and the Illuminated Inner Firmament. 1. The Sufi Filters of Speech. I've been finding very challenging to pass through the 3 filters of speech advised by the Sufis. They advise us to speak only after our words have managed to issue through three filters: I) Is it true? If so, II) Is it necessary? Our words must serve some meaningful purpose. Do they clarify the situation or help someone? Or do they strike a discordant or irrelevant note? III) Is it kind? In my experience, if it is true and necessary, many times the biggest challenge is to find the kind way to say it. When I do  See full.

My family calls me Pancho and you might think that I don't know you, but I'd like you to know that I love you all...

Yesterday's sharing circle was very powerful. All started with a profound collective meditation. Stillness is the mother of all intuitions. These were the 3 "intuition points" that flowed through me:

1. The Sufi Filters of Speech.
2. Being not Nice but Kind.
3. Vinoba and the Illuminated Inner Firmament.


1. The Sufi Filters of Speech.
I've been finding very challenging to pass through the 3 filters of speech advised by the Sufis. They advise us to speak only after our words have managed to issue through three filters:

I) Is it true? If so,
II) Is it necessary? Our words must serve some meaningful purpose. Do they clarify the situation or help someone? Or do they strike a discordant or irrelevant note?
III) Is it kind?
In my experience, if it is true and necessary, many times the biggest challenge is to find the kind way to say it. When I don't place myself in the shoes of the other person, it has been very difficult to tune into harmony, into Truth. The self-centered isolated behavior, aka ego, says: "It is true and it is necessary! It's time to learn the hard way! What are you waiting for my righteous fellow?" If we still feel we must speak out after this third filter, we need to choose words that will be supportive and loving, not words that embarrass or wound another person. And for that we need to be creative.

What I have found is that most of the times, in this final kindness gate, actions speak more than words. That is, I try to apply the 3 filters of speech to action. Or as the Mehtas say: Walk the Walk ;-)

2. Being not Nice but Kind.

"Niceness is often filled with falseness—it is a way to not tell the truth, or to obscure it. “Be nice!” is something many of us heard as children as a way of avoiding upsetting someone. While niceness might be a strategy that gets us through an immediate situation, it is not effective in the long run as a way to come together to solve the myriad difficulties facing our communities, both local and global."

Form my point of view, this is an excelent article: Don't Be Nice Be Kind

"It is crucial that we hold ourselves and each other accountable, and we can do this with hearts of kindness. This often takes a lot of courage. Kindness allows us to say the hardest of things while preserving the dignity of those around us. It allows us to take the big risk of letting people know what is on our minds in a way that is unclouded and respectful. It is an action of the heart."

That's what we are doing here on Wednesdays. We are training our minds in stillness to be kind, to respect all living beings and to offer dignity to each other.

3. Vinoba and the Illuminated Inner Firmament.
Hermano Viral encouraged us to share something we had let go. I'm letting go of the rushing mind. One of my heroes who walked this planet, citizen of the World Vinoba Bhave, has been one of my guides:

"Calm the mind a bit. See the World with a more positive and friendly eye. An infinite number of springs will begin to flow within your heart. Then your inner firmament will be illuminated with the stars of noble ideas and feelings."

Meditation gives us more choices. Choices to be truthful, pertinent and kind.

If you want to be a rebel, be kind. Human-kind, be both.

May all become compassionate, courageous and wise.

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On Aug 25, 2009 anon wrote:

I think it would be enlightening to know why we carry our past with us.  Is it out of insecurity, want, guilt, pain, desparity, comfort or security.  Why do we feel the need to not let go of past things or people.  Answering that question, might bring a better clarity allowing us to move on so that we may live in the present.



On Aug 25, 2009 Rev Mary wrote:

I good lesson for me - getting rid of stuff.



On Aug 25, 2009 Rod Templin wrote:

To paraphrase the Dalai Lama:

While engaging in material progress and maintaining physical health we need to give equal attention to developing peace of mind.



On Aug 25, 2009 Daniel Ankrah wrote:

Life is never fair it never gives you what you want but what you fight for.



On Aug 24, 2009 ganoba wrote:

Nothing is useless. It is another matter that you see no use for it just now.

Nothing deserve to be thrown away. This is judgment of a very harsh kind and throwing it away as useless is violence of the worst kind.

If we have no use for it now we may let them go. the farewell can be a decent one too.



On Aug 24, 2009 Liz, ijourney Audio Editor wrote:

Prayer, spiritual study, meditation – these are all things that bring me closer to G-d, closer to myself, give me clarity and the ability to discern best actions (or non-actions) for myself and my family.  Then why do I fight it?  Why, sometimes are those books the heaviest to pick up?  Or those meetings or classes the most inconvenient to attend?  Or to sit quietly and claim my necessary daily bread seem such a daunting task?  As much as I love the mindfulness, strength and connection to my purpose and G-d that I feel afterward, why is it more natural for me to stay stuck in the murkiness and clutter of my own mind?  This struggle drives me to sit.  This ego battle pushes me to prayer.  Sometimes willfully, sometimes gritting my teeth, it is my choice no matter what.  Because I cannot afford to keep what is useless. 



On Aug 24, 2009 Prasad, ijourney Photo Editor wrote:

  I travel alternate weeks. Sometimes, I travel within US or India but at least once a month, I am on long flight from one end of the world to another. Then I live in a hotel room or somebody’s house for a day or two and move again. I have reduced my baggage from two suitcases to one and now to carry on and a back pack. I leave some clothes in my parents house in India and some others in my house in California. Over time, I use less and less of what I have as possessions but miss them even less. I used to carry my computer, camera equipment and other stuff that I worked on for a while — in my backpack all the time. Now, I am able to walk out without any of them and while I still miss them once in a while, I can get along just fine. What the reading from Bhikku brought to my attention is that more I let go, more I free I am. Less I carry, less I need. I used to depend on my past, my credentials, my articles, tools, photos etc. etc. Over time, I am recognizing that  See full.

  I travel alternate weeks. Sometimes, I travel within US or India but at least once a month, I am on long flight from one end of the world to another. Then I live in a hotel room or somebody’s house for a day or two and move again. I have reduced my baggage from two suitcases to one and now to carry on and a back pack. I leave some clothes in my parents house in India and some others in my house in California. Over time, I use less and less of what I have as possessions but miss them even less. I used to carry my computer, camera equipment and other stuff that I worked on for a while — in my backpack all the time. Now, I am able to walk out without any of them and while I still miss them once in a while, I can get along just fine.
What the reading from Bhikku brought to my attention is that more I let go, more I free I am. Less I carry, less I need. I used to depend on my past, my credentials, my articles, tools, photos etc. etc. Over time, I am recognizing that it is really ‘baggage’ from the past. More I get attached to it, more I want become dependent on it. In that process, I lose. I lose the present moment. I lose relationships because I am so caught up in images, commitments, expectations and standards. Teaching awareness, I am lost in knowledge. Rarely aware. Rarely mindful being full of mind.
Then it stuck me. I am aware now and empty of thoughts — no past, no future. NO Prasad, no others. Just being here. Just observing. No decisions to keep or take. No choice as well. Just aware.

Did you experience it yourself? Tell me about what you are keeping and what you are deciding...

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