Monday, May 26, 2014

Sit Boo-Boo, Sit

Sakula Mary Reinard

Photo by Jennagu
One of the things I noticed (like so many of us) when first attempting meditation was the constant rambling of my mind. I was shocked and dismayed at how a simple thought, feeling, or sensation could waft through my mind and without hesitation tantalize my attention over hill and dale, and I wondered could this mind be trained to sit still and relax?

I have been practicing meditation since 1996, eighteen years. During my first year of practice (I don’t recall who the teacher was at the time), I followed a guided meditation that used an image I still employ today. This image worked then because it encouraged a firm, yet gentle attitude that countered my usual judgmental mind. It works for me still because my training is not complete. I will train in this way . . .

The first step in training my mind was to relate to it like a cute-cuddly puppy. When training a puppy to sit we cup it in two hands, look directly into its eyes, direct its rump to the floor and say “sit.” And it will do so for about two seconds until a dust ball tumbles past its line of sight. Retrieving the puppy I again take it gently in both hands, bring it back to the spot of training, and begin again . . . and again . . . and again. All the while, noticing and delighting in every second the puppy’s attention expands on its new skill.

Silly as it may sound, I named my imaginary puppy Boo-Boo. In this way I practiced kindness with the little boo-boos of wandering off-topic. It’s just a little boo-boo, come back here, right here. That’s it, good girl. Sit Boo-Boo, sit.

This image works for me still as second nature when I realize my mind is about to or has wandered off into unwholesome impressions. Sit Boo-Boo, sit.

Luang Por Pasanno says:
Learning how to meditate, how to develop the mind is learning how to direct attention in a skillful way. What we direct our attention to is what our reality is. We can direct our attention to all the chaos in the world around us or to the chaos of our own personal dramas—but we don’t have to do that. We can direct our attention in other ways; we can learn how to direct attention to things that are very soothing to the mind, things that are conducive to peace, to a sense of clarity. Or we can direct it to the things that come up, investigating and contemplating them simply as feelings.
This excerpt comes from an essay that I found very useful. It’s titled “Meditation of the Breath.” In this essay Luang Por explains the sixteen steps of breath meditation (anapanasati) in very simple and tangible terms. It’s a study worth printing out—clear and precise instructions for directing attention and encouraging it to stay put.

The first set of instructions concerns the body, and the first two stages of it are just about knowing the short breath and knowing the long breath. From then on each set starts off with: “The monk trains himself thus . . . I shall train in this way.”

short breath
long breath
experience whole body
calm bodily formations

experience joy
experience happiness
experience mental formations
calm mental formations

experience the mind
gladden the mind
concentrate the mind
free the mind

contemplate impermanence
contemplate fading away
contemplate cessation
contemplate letting go



Adapted and reprinted with permission from This Upasika Life blog (March 2014).

Sakula Mary Reinard: Spiritual Director

Sakula Mary Reinard is the spiritual director and a teacher for Portland Friends of the Dhamma. In 1996 she came into contact with Buddhism through an Internet search that led her to a beginner’s course at Dharma Rain Zen Center in Portland. One year later she visited Abhayagiri Monastery where Luang Por Pasanno and Ajahn Amaro were co-abbots and immediately felt at home (Ajahn Amaro is now abbot of Amaravati Monastery). Luang Por accepted her as his lay student, eventually giving her the Pali name Sakula, which means “one of good family.” In 2001 Sakula was invited by the Venerables to join eleven others in a three-year training program. The group graduated in 2004 as the Community of Abhayagiri Lay Ministers, or CALM. Sakula co-founded Portland Friends of the Dhamma in 2000, and in 2006 PFOD offered to establish a hermitage in the Portland area for the Abhayagiri Sangha that has become the Pacific Hermitage in White Salmon, Washington.  

Photo one by Jennagu via Wikimedia Commons
Bio photo courtesy of Sakula Mary Reinard, www.notjustus.com

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