(Listen to this on the audio page)
Q: I wanted to ask: “Is it alright to do ‘Metta’ sometimes, which is a Buddhist form of loving kindness meditation?” For instance, in the last half hour the mind just didn’t go to the breath. It’s like a dog being put on a leash. It was just off at every point and it just seemed like I needed something else to focus the mind on, and so I took it to “Metta” and did 20 minutes of that, and it was much, much better.
Linda: How did you do the Metta?
Q: I kept it really simple and on the in-breath I said “May we all be…”, and on the out-breath “…happy and well”. So, I just radiated the room with it and just kept repeating it.
Linda: Well, yes that’s fine. That’s a bit like counting the breath. It’s just like a mantra.
Linda: I was never very good at Metta. I didn’t really care about anyone else, and I couldn’t make myself care.
Q: I was desperate – I really was.
Linda: So was I :)
Q: I mean I tried the counting and it was like: “Nah, nah, we’ve done this over and over and over the last few days. Don’t even go there. Not now. Don’t even go there.” I went to plan B. And it seemed to do something different and useful.
Linda: Sometimes if you change it, it helps. I did a few Buddhist retreats, not Zen Buddhist – other Buddhist – and they have this period where you’re supposed to do Metta. And I really tried but I couldn’t . . .
Q: I’ve been there too on that one. But I was taught this much simpler technique recently, and it’s just … it’s been so good for me.
Linda: Well, yes that sounds just like a mantra.
Linda: That’s fine. But sitting there and thinking about all the people you don’t like and trying to like them … I couldn’t do that.
Q: No, this was far more general. It was something different but still a concentration practice. I just felt, “I’ve got to do something here. My mind’s just not responding anymore.”
Linda: Your mind is not the thing going to the breath. The breath … coming to the breath is bringing your attention … your awareness, your attention, whatever you want to call it, away from the thinking movement back to your body, to here. So, you’re never going to bring the mind into it. It wants to stay out of your body. You know, people talk about out of body experiences – most people are having out of body experiences most of the time. Very few people are actually in their body.
Q: But don’t you draw the mind to the sensation of the expanding and contracting of the abdomen as you breathe?
Linda: No, not the mind, but the attention, which is not the mind. The mind – it’s a very vague sort of thing and it’s just a convenient expression to use, so maybe forget about the mind – just see that movement of thinking. See that every time you move away from your body you’re starting to create this time-based, what you see as reality. You’re moving away from here. You can’t be here and think about it and the mind can’t be here. It can’t exist here and that’s why it will resist as much as possible, because the more here you are, the less power the thinking self has (if you want to call the mind that).
So, each time you realise you’re thinking, doesn’t matter what it’s about, you turn around and bring your attention back to here. It’s more your intelligence, your awareness, but not the mind. And it’s not about thinking. It’s about feeling, just feeling the sensation.
Q: So what happens then in those times of being really present for quite some time? Where is the mind? I always thought it was there, in the sensation.
Linda: Well, until you’re almost completely free from it, it is to an extent. So, any experience – and an experience is something that you come in and out of, that has a beginning and an end – is still slightly relative, however sublime and deep.
You might not be aware of thinking at all, but there’s still a degree of fear and thinking there if you come in and out of it. So, in those states where you do feel you’re very present, the mind is just not there. Well it might be there just on standby, sitting down but very, very small.
Q: Consciousness is there because you know that breath is occurring.
Linda: Well, you’re conscious of the breath but consciousness, pure consciousness … I wouldn’t say it is the mind. The mind I would describe as this entity that we have created to avoid being here because there’s so much fear involved in just being here, in the unknown. Not knowing. Not even knowing that you’re here.
So, we use thinking to avoid being here. And thinking is always time-based – it’s always the past or what we see as the future. It’s always something that’s already happened, and as long as you’re thinking, you just can’t be here. It’s impossible. But it’s a very, very deep habit and addiction. What we’re doing in this practice is breaking that addiction. And to break an addiction, I feel it’s always good to use something as a stepping stone, something to temporarily replace that, and that’s why you use the body.
The body is something very tangible and most people believe,”This is where I start and begin,” so there’s a deep attachment to the body already, but if you keep coming back to the more pure sensations in the body it’s like a mantra. Your body becomes your mantra. And it starts to become more attractive being here, more real being here because that’s what you’re looking for. You want something real, and thinking is not real. It’s imaginary. What is it? Look at it. It’s nothing. And if you look at it very, very closely, it just goes… you just can’t.
The body is something much more tangible and real and solid, and eventually you see that even the body is just a thought, but leading up to that, I feel it is very necessary to use the body. Use the physicality of the body, and the sensations, to keep bringing your attention back here. Then you start to feel resistance in the body to being here – pain – which is that past that’s stored in your body that’s built up over the years and blocked that free flow of energy. So, as the blockages start to clear it can be quite painful, but the energy starts to free up and your consciousness starts to quicken. Everything starts happening faster and faster until you get to this point where it’s so fast it’s still. And that’s what now is. It contains relative time, but it is not relative time. It contains everything now and it’s something that the mind hasn’t got a hope of comprehending. It can’t. But the body is much closer to reality than any thought that you’ve ever had.
So maybe forget about this thing called mind and just feel that movement, and each time you feel you’re moving away, which is what thinking is, thinking about anything, visualising anything – turn around and come back to the sensation in the body. And the sensations are just a way, particularly when they’re very extreme, of forcing you to be here. And really, you have to be forced to be here. And I was saying to someone in the interview this afternoon, if you do want to fast track it, it is actually the pain that can do this because it’s forcing you to be here and burning it out … quickening the whole thing.The pain is actually a catalyst.
Q: I can see that when pain does occur, it’s so much easier to be here. While it’s really uncomfortable there’s not a lot of thinking going on.
Linda: Yes, and you start to prefer that. It’s not like you’re enjoying it, but it’s preferable to the hell of thinking, of unreality, imagination, suffering.
That’s what it is – suffering. So emotional suffering is much worse than feeling the pain of being here, the resistance to being here. Eventually that resistance goes and everything frees up. The energy just implodes. There’s so much in there. It’s like a dam bursting but it’s contained inside. . .