Continuing his teaching on concentration, this week Joseph develops the instruction on ways to arouse concentration:
1. Know when concentration is present or not - Joseph encourages us to have the confidence that we can do it. It is a matter of patience and perseverance and we begin by simply being mindful of whether or not concentration is present, in each breath, in each step.
2. Reflect on your sila – As Joseph has taught before, “sila is the cause for nonremorse, nonremorse the condition for happiness, happiness, the cause for concentration, and concentration the condition for liberating wisdom.
3. Develop and strengthen concentration – As we are aware of the breath, we can move on to awareness of the knowing itself. Wei Wu Wei tells us, “What you are looking for is what is looking.”
Joseph goes on to discuss how to work with thoughts that arise. He quotes extensively and helpfully from U Tejaniya. He describes how the factors of enlightenment function in working with thoughts and he concludes by describing some subtle impurities that impede the enlightenment factor of concentration.
1. The Buddha taught sila, or morality, as being the cause of nonremorse, nonremorse the condition for happiness, happiness the cause for concentration, and concentration the condition for liberating wisdom. Have you seen any of that cycle in your practice?
2. If you have a commitment to the precepts, and unwholesome and unskillful past actions arise, are you able to be with these memories, understand them, feel remorse about them, and then let them go?
3. How have you worked with mindfulness of the breath to develop and strengthen concentration? For example, have you noticed in the breath cycle where your mind tends to wander?
4. Sayadaw U Tejaniya points out that thinking is a natural activity of the mind. He reminds us that we are not practicing to prevent thinking, but rather to recognize and acknowledge thinking whenever it arises. While meditating, are you disturbed by your thoughts and have the attitude they should not be around or do you have the attitude that they are just thoughts?
1. Practice being aware when concentration is present and when it is not.
2. If you’re getting involved with thoughts and carried away by their story, look more carefully at their content by asking whether the thought is skillful or not, helpful or not.
3. Notice when you are simply lost in dharma reveries or in judgments about your practice. Sometimes these thoughts help us on the path; however, when you find yourself lost in them, understand them for what they are and let them go.
4. In one of your sittings this week, with each in-breath and out-breath, practice whispering in your mind the word “calm” or “calming the breath” and then noticing the feeling of calming as it arises.