Derek Sivers

Mindfulness in Plain English - by Henepola Gunaratana

Mindfulness in Plain English - by Henepola Gunaratana

ISBN: 0861719069
Date read: 2018-05-25
How strongly I recommend it: 5/10
(See my list of 200+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Thoughts and instruction on Vipassana meditation, explained clearly.

my notes

Experiences are neither good nor bad. They are tepid, neutral, and uninteresting.
But we ignore that fact and thus return to our endless round of desire and aversion.

Learn not to want what you want.
Learn to recognize desires but not be controlled by them.

A well-disciplined mind brings happiness.
Meditation tames the mind.

When you reach a feeling of predictability and sameness in your meditation practice, you have gotten off track and are headed for stagnation.

Become sensitive to the actual experience of living, to how things actually feel.

Do not sit around developing sublime thoughts about living. Live.
Meditation is learning to live.

You don’t need to figure out everything. Discursive thinking won’t free you. In meditation, the mind is purified by wordless bare attention. Deliberation is not necessary to eliminate those things that are keeping you trapped. Just a clear look at what they are and how they work. That alone will dissolve them. Concepts and reasoning just get in the way. Don’t think. See.

Dwelling upon differences between people leads directly to egotism, greed, envy, pride, jealousy, or hatred.

When we watch the working of our body+mind, we tend to ignore things that are not pleasant and hold onto the things that are.

The mind can never be focused without a mental object.

The difference between being aware of a thought and thinking a thought: it passes away without giving rise to the next thought in that chain.

Distraction cannot be seen as distraction unless there is some central focus to be distracted from.

Observe the nature of conscious intention. Watch the delicate interrelation between the breath, the impulse to control the breath, and the impulse to cease controlling the breath.
Eventually you will feel no impulse to manipulate it.
You will have learned a major lesson about your own compulsive need to control the universe.

Self-discipline is seeing through the hollow shouting of your own impulses.

Avoiding unpleasantness is a very unkind thing to do to yourself.

Examine unpleasantness to death.

If you are miserable you are miserable; that is the reality. So confront that.

The way out of a trap is to study the trap itself, learn how it is built.
The trap can’t trap you if it has been taken to pieces.

States of fear arise.
Stand aside from the process and don’t get involved.
Be a curious bystander.
Don’t fight the situation.
Let the whole mess bubble up and flow past.

When any mental state arises strongly enough to distract you from the object of meditation, switch your attention to the distraction briefly. Make the distraction a temporary object of meditation. But only long enough to notice certain specific things about it. What is it? How strong is it? And how long does it last? These questions are not an invitation to more mental chatter. As soon as you have wordlessly answered these questions, you are through with your examination of that distraction, and you return your attention to the breath.

Handle desire in the following manner: Notice the thought or sensation as it arises. Notice the mental state of desire that accompanies it as a separate thing. Notice the exact extent or degree of that desire. Then notice how long it lasts and when it finally disappears. When you have done that, return your attention to breathing.

Craving and desire can apply to things we regard as virtuous: the desire to perfect yourself, craving for greater virtue.
It is a desire for gratification and a clever way of ignoring the present-moment reality.

Happiness, peace, inner contentment, sympathy, and compassion are mental states. See each one as it comes, then watch it drift away.

Experience each mental state fully, exactly the way it is, adding nothing to it and not missing any part of it.

A sound strikes your ear. Conceptualization takes over your experience. When you hear a sound in meditation, pay bare attention to the experience of hearing. That and that only.
Reality is elegantly simple and unadorned. When you hear a sound, be mindful of the process of hearing. Everything else is just added chatter. Drop it. This same rule applies to every sensation, every emotion, every experience

Keep your mindfulness on the breath until something else steps in and pulls your attention away. When you feel that happening, don’t fight it. Let your attention flow naturally over to the distraction, and keep it there until the distraction evaporates. Then return to breathing.

We like the taste of certain poisons, and we stubbornly continue to eat them even while they are killing us. Thoughts to which we are attached are poison. You will find yourself quite eager to dig some thoughts out by the roots while you jealously guard and cherish certain others like parental protectiveness, or true love.
Positive attachments hold you in the mud just as assuredly as negative attachments.

With nonjudgmental observation, you see things without condemnation or judgment. You are surprised by nothing. You just observe.

If you are remembering your second-grade teacher, that is memory. When you then become aware that you are remembering your second-grade teacher, that is mindfulness. If you then conceptualize the process and say to yourself, “Oh, I am remembering,” that is thinking.

Mindfulness reminds you of what you are supposed to be doing, when your mind wanders from this focus.

Every worldly thing is, in the end, unsatisfying.

We avoid greed, lust, hatred, aversion, and jealousy because they are compulsive; because they take the mind over and capture the attention completely.
Thus, mindfulness is the specific antidote for hindrances.

Cultivate mindfulness and concentration, side by side. If one is strengthened at the expense of the another, meditation becomes impossible.
Concentration is forcing the mind to remain on one static point. It can be developed by force, by sheer unremitting willpower.
Mindfulness notices things.
Concentration keeps the attention pinned down to one item.
Mindfulness is not trying to achieve anything. It is just looking.

Seated meditation is not the game. It’s the practice. The game is the rest of your life experience.
The most important moment in meditation is the instant you leave the cushion.
Bring those skills with you into the rest of your activities.
Spend the rest of your days standing aside from your own needs and greeds. Just stand aside and watch it all flow past.

Spend a few seconds every few minutes to check your posture - not to correct or to improve, just notice.

Perform simple activities at very low speed - making an effort to pay full attention to every nuance.

Meditation Instruction:
Once you sit for meditation, do not change the position again until the end of the time you determined at the beginning.
After taking three deep breaths, breathe normally, and begin focusing your attention on the feeling of breath going in and out.
The purpose of counting is simply to focus the mind on the breath. Once your mind is focused on the breath, give up counting.
The mind goes to sounds, memories, emotions, perceptions.
Focus our attention on these states one at a time.
As they fade return to the breath.
The mind becomes more insightful from the impartial and unbiased watching of these occurrences.
The various postures promote physical immobility, which is then reflected by an immobility of mind.
The meditator’s three main enemies are pain, muscular tension, and falling asleep.
Sit with your back straight. Head held in line with the rest of the spine. The rest of the body just hangs from it.
An erect posture is very important.
A position of arousal, and with it goes mental alertness. If you slouch, you are inviting drowsiness.
Wear loose and soft clothes.
Sit on a chair or a cushion.
When sitting on the floor you need a cushion to elevate your spine - firm and at least three inches thick when compressed. Sit close to the front edge of the cushion and let your crossed legs rest on the floor in front of you.
You need some sort of padding for your legs. A folded blanket will do.
Ways you can fold your legs, in ascending order of preference:
a) Native American style. Your right foot is tucked under the left knee and left foot is tucked under your right knee.
b) Burmese style. Both of your legs lie flat on the floor from knee to foot. They are parallel with one in front of the other.
c) Half lotus. Both of your knees touch the floor. One leg and foot lie flat along the calf of the other leg.
d) Full lotus. Both knees touch the floor, and your legs are crossed at the calf. Your left foot rests on the right thigh, and your right foot rests on the left thigh. Both soles turn upward.
Hands are cupped one on the other, and they rest on your lap with the palms turned upward. The hands lie just below the navel with the bend of each wrist pressed against the thigh. This arm position provides firm bracing for the upper body.
Chin is up.
You can always use a chair instead. Your back does not lean against the back of the chair. Legs side by side, feet flat on the floor.
Begin by focusing the attention on the breathing and then go on to note all other physical and mental phenomena that arise.
Establish a formal practice schedule.
After a year or so of steady practice you should be sitting comfortably for an hour at a time.
Recitations are psychological cleansing devices. "May all living beings be well, happy, and peaceful. May no harm come to them. May they always meet with spiritual success. May they also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life. May they always rise above them with morality, integrity, forgiveness, compassion, mindfulness, and wisdom."
Put most of your effort into one-pointedness at the beginning.
A couple of months down the track and you will have developed concentration power. Then you can start pumping your energy into mindfulness.
If you find yourself getting frantic, emphasize concentration. If you find yourself going into a stupor, emphasize mindfulness.