Articles

Mother’s day

posted May 13, 2012, 10:18 PM by ‎(ash)‎ ever mindful

Dear <refernce to mother-in-law>, <reference to mum>, <reference to sister> and <reference to wife>,

Today by convention we celebrate Mother’s day, a ritual practice that one day we must let go of. But today I hope that when we unite with a contemplative mind and thus make it an auspicious occasion.

For sometime I have felt an inclination, an awareness, a knowing. What is that feeling? That feeling is that repeatedly, for a long time have you all been my mother, mother-in-law, sister and wife. It is for this reason that this same letter is written to all of you on such a day. I know that what I write and say is often heard but not listened to. I know that family relationships are a source of conceit. I know that this is just the way it is. So I ask for the next few moments that you head the words not from a loved one, but from a noble one. For a long time have you and I both had dust in our eyes…

My gift to you all this year is a gift of Dhamma. The gift is a blanket, but it is not ordinary blanket. This blanket is a meditative blanket, a contemplative’s blanket. I want you to wear this blanket when you meditate, when you reflect and when you contemplate. When you wear this blanket I want you to draw on your strength. I want you to be mindful, alert and ardent whenever this blanket is wrapped around you. 

This blanket is your shelter. When you roam around in this world without this blanket covering you, I want you to feel naked. I want you to feel embarrassed. I want you to feel heedless. I want you to feel like you have left your ancestral territory and that you can be seamlessly led into states of deprivation. I want you to recall the similes that Buddha gave of the quail that left the ploughed field and got caught by the hawk, the monkey that left the tress in the forest and got caught in the tar ball and the cow that left the pasture. All these animals left their ancestral territory and were snared. So I ask that you stay in your shelter.

This blanket’s purpose is to cover that which is your refuge; ie. this one fathom body – nothing else. When this blanket wraps you I want you to discern what is within and what is without. This blanket serves as the delineation between the two. In without, there are sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations. In without, there is gain and loss of wealth, there is promotion, demotion, praise, criticism, pleasure and pain. Do not as you have habitually done take refuge in without. There is no point to it, there is never enough and it never ends. So I ask that you only take refuge in that which is within.

This blanket is all round, for all season and for all conditions that you may weather. Aging, illness, separation and death are all around you. It is to the north, the south, the east and the west. It is above and below you and every direction in between. You are surrounded and your time is running out. The time has long gone for you to be intoxicated with youth, intoxicated with health and intoxicated with life. So I ask that you wear this blanket soon and often. I ask that you stop searching for Dhamma that is outside of this blanket and search only within. Dhamma books and Dhamma talks only offer concepts and only serve as inspiration. Know that the knowledge worth having cannot be memorised and cannot be studied, it only comes from a still, cool and centred mind.

This blanket has hidden treasures that cannot be given but only taken. These treasures are the five supra-mundane precepts. 1) Do not let other people’s thoughts, words or deeds kill off your goodness within; instead only attend to your own greed, aversion and delusion until without remainder. 2) Do not take other peoples good/bad points for social judgment; instead use others people’s actions/results for your greater discernment and heedfulness. 3) Do not lie to yourself about your Dhamma practice and the release you gain incrementally; instead be truthful, observant and adjust your mental, verbal and bodily fabrications accordingly. 4) Do not indulge in sensuality; instead renounce those things that you hold dear. 5) Do not let yourself be intoxicated with youth, health and life, instead develop a sense of samvega and pasada to fuel your efforts. So I ask you take these higher level treasures hidden within this blanket.

This blanket has only one resting place. When you are not wearing this blanket I urge you to keep it in one place and that place is as the top-most layer over your bed. This blanket must serve as a daily reminder. Each time in the morning that you wake up, this blanket should be the first thing that you see. Each time before you go to sleep, again this blanket is the last thing that you should see. This blanket is your constant reminder of Buddha’s words; “As days and nights fly by, what are you becoming?” Hence, each morning and night may you reflect on your actions of or for the day. So I ask that you may not rest content with a mind defiled. My you be determined to make your remaining waking moments more heedful.

We are heir to our action, born of our actions, RELATED through our actions, live dependent on our actions, have our actions as our arbitrator. For good or for evil for that we will fall heir! 

So please, please, please! Out of respect for the samsara that we have shared together as son/mother, brother/sister and husband/wife, I ask that you heed these words and accept this as the last gift that I may ever give you in any form of consciousness. May your actions be to use this blanket as a cacoon to dwell in seclusion, developing disenchantment, leading to dispassion, leading to cessation and resulting in letting go.


With Good will
ash

Email response to a hens and bucks nights invitation

posted Nov 24, 2011, 7:00 PM by ash ‎(evermindful)‎

Hi Rob,

I got your SMS's the other day about the hens and bucks nights. My wife has been flat out working on school reports and hasn't had time to read emails and to do anything else.

We appreciate the invitations to the pre-wedding parties but the truth is that as we both get closer and closer to monastic life these types of events become less and less attractive.

Please don’t interpret this as a judgement on others but more a process of renunciation in ones own life.

I love you and Ali dearly and I want you both to have the greatest happiness. You should know that your happiness is currently defined as sensual happiness in a conventional sense. However, more and more I am gravitating towards a fine-material happiness (ie. a happiness drawn from within the body). As one's mind moves from conventional to ultimate they become less stimulated (and eventually disenchanted) with sense pleasures.

I want you to understand this, because I don’t want you to ever think that I love you less now than before. I have good will for you, compassion for you, empathetic joy and equanimity for you. You remain in my thoughts daily as I express metta to you.

I can imagine that you are thinking that now ash as finally lost it. I am actually really well. It’s just that my mind has transformed from one paradigm to another. The conventional paradigm is like a roller-coaster ride, lots of ups and many more downs, eventually you fly off and die and go on the ride again and again. The ultimate paradigm is just a seemingly infinite stream of cause and effect, eventually the causes cease without remainder and the effect is extinguished.

I have no job and sit and meditate each day, but I know that I am getting closer to true and _lasting_ happiness. I hope that one day that you too will share this experience.

Btw, what would you like as a wedding gift?

love ash

Beautiful girl

posted Aug 7, 2011, 7:54 PM by ash ‎(evermindful)‎   [ updated Aug 7, 2011, 7:56 PM ]

If I was to describe to you how I feel there is one word that I would choose above all others. That word is grateful! 

In a period of time when I live disenchanted, dispassionate, observing and analysing causality in all phenomena, I choose the word grateful. Why?

We have all lived a very long time with dust in your eyes. I would say that we have lived infinite lives but not even that would do the longevity of our karmic stream justice. This dust repeatedly prevents us from seeing the true nature of all things and becoming liberated.

So how does one remove the dust from one’s eyes? Well there is only one way and it starts with good companionship! Good companionship is not the half, but the whole of holy life. Dependent on good companionship one develops faith. With faith one approaches those who are wise. When one approaches those who are wise, one associates more frequently. With association to the wise one lends an ear. By lending an ear one listens carefully. When one listens, the teachings are established in the mind. With teaching established one examines the meaning. Through examination, conviction is developed. Through conviction, interest is aroused. With interest aroused, effort is established. With effort established there is weighing (a momentum) cable of realising the highest truth with the body and wisely penetrating it.

So who is my good companion you ask? It is and always has been my beautiful girl – my wife. It was through experiences with my wife that faith was established. She introduced me to meditation practice. I eventually started to practice and joined her on meditation retreats. If you only knew as intimately as I, how I have transformed over our 18 years of marriage you would know for yourself this is how to remove the dust.

I have had great kamma this life. Possessions and financial wealth previously came easily, Promotion and status was seamless. Praise and achievement just naturally followed after effort. And finally, pleasure increased through the years of marriage. Such is my kamma that I have married a woman that has given me the entire world. We share boundless thoughts, ideas, dreams and fantasies cognizable by the mind. The touch and warmth of her body is my most prized dwelling. Her ability to naturally maintain the most beautiful skin complexion and bodily shape arouses my eyes. Her sweet breath when we cuddle one another as we sleep at night is the most peaceful and pleasant sound. She cooks the most amazing meals with sensational aromas that delight my taste buds.

In the here and now I dwell like a king knowing that life does not get any better than this. But through insight I have experienced impermanence and discovered the truths. Through insight I am certain that my wife’s kammic stream has comforted and nurtured me life after life repeatedly countless times before. Finally, I have arrived at the point of what more could I possibly want. With such knowing disenchantment arouse and dispassion develops.

So my dearest wife, I know the attachment, the uncertainty, the anxiety, and the sloth that has overcome your body and mind. I know the thoughts of renunciation overwhelm you and bring on depressive mind states. I know that your meditation and dhamma practice is now on life support. But I urge you; please stay with me on this path to release. I am so, so grateful to you and only wish the very best for you. There is greater happiness than sense pleasures and worldly wealth. Stay with me!

With metta ash

Who wants to live forever

posted Aug 7, 2011, 4:08 PM by ash ‎(evermindful)‎   [ updated Aug 7, 2011, 4:14 PM ]

Two weekends ago my wife wanted to watch a movie together. Somehow time slipped away and we missed the chance. However, I told her that we will watch one of my favourites next week. There was build up all week as to what this movie is. 

This movie has had a strong connection with me since the day I first saw it in the cinema when I was just 17 years old. The movie was Russell Mulcahy’s “Highlander” (1986).

After the movie as we lay in bed embracing one another, I described to my wife the connection I have with the movie…

As a 17 male the sword fighting naturally appealed to me. The concept of the periods of time also appealed to me with the weaving between past and present. The ingenious transitions between past/present scenes in the editing almost made time appear uniform. However, my favourite aspect of the movie when I was 17 was the notion of mortality.

Strangely at that young age there was a sense that I had lived for a long time, a very long time. There was a feeling that I too had loved another like that.

However now, at the age of 42, there is a sense of certainty that I have lived and loved in that same way over and over and over again. There is a sense of certainty that my wife and I have been partnered together countless times before.

As she lay falling asleep in my arms, we both knew this time is different. This time I have developed disenchantment and dispassion. This time will be the last time that we live and love in this same way.

With metta ash

Money changes everything

posted Aug 2, 2011, 8:52 PM by ash ‎(evermindful)‎   [ updated Aug 2, 2011, 8:56 PM ]

Yesterday we celebrated my son’s 14th birthday. My wife and I gave him a Hallmark with $150 inside and two paperback books as a present.

The font of the card read 
“A birthday is a good time to get lots of money in your card…”. 

The inside of the card read 
“… it’s also a good time to start dealing with life’s disappointments. 
Happy Birthday!”

My message to him was:

Dear Marcus,

I chose this card because only in this last year have I noticed desire growing for money and other possessions. I recall being 14 year old; getting a job and developing a life long obsession over money. 

It has taken much contemplation for me to realise that no amount of money is enough. We always want more. I know this is hard to believe but if you slow things down enough you will hear that voice inside your head saying “Not good enough yet, got to have more, got to make it better, got to be better!”

These few words are far more valuable than the cash enclosed in this card. 

Marcus, I wish the greatest happiness for you and hope that you can find your way through the web of delusion.

Love Dad

Stay

posted Aug 2, 2011, 7:59 PM by ash ‎(evermindful)‎

I’m not going to beat about the bush. I’m going to give it to you straight up.

Meditation can be dangerous! Sitting there, knowing, shaping and freeing the mind is a self transformational journey and if done properly will have results. Any transformation, any change has risks! But are you and your family ready for the results? Are you sure?

I watched my father meditate as a child but it was actually my wife that got me into it in my mid 30’s. However, neither of us could have even imagined where we are today.

You start meditation because you desire relief, calm and peace in your life. You start to practice and after time you taste a bit of freedom. Yes, we all experience moments of happiness but freedom has a sweeter flavour and lasts longer. After a significant amount practice you eventually hit a fork in the road. Each path in the fork leads to a completely different place. There are no sign posts, there’s no guidance or direction for which path you should take. There is only a realisation that you cannot return from where you came and that only one path will lead to true happiness.

Upon arrival at the fork I followed the path that leads to true happiness. As you progress down this path more and more you let go of more and more. The transformational changes can be radical and the addiction for greater release can be intoxicating. You can sense the subtle emotional change within but the behavioural change without is staggering.

Everything was great except until I decided to look back for where my wife was. You need to understand, I have the perfect wife and kids; we share a highly sensual marriage and a wonderful life. We have seriously good kamma and yet I am ready to renounce it all. There lies the problem; one of us is still attached to the kids, marriage and life.

My wife and I talk a lot, a real lot. We talk about renunciation for about 3 hours each weekend on our weekend walks together. She tells me about her conflicts and I share with here my insights, the right view and the truths. I keep seeing a person who has travelled with me for aeons, a person that I am so grateful to experience such stress. I repeatedly see sensual desire, aversion, restlessness/anxiety, sloth/torpor, and the uncertainty/doubt overcome her. I keep seeing her listening to me, comprehending the rationale, yet unable to change her views. I keep seeing someone who is so kind and compassionate, someone that deserves the world, yet being informed that it is exactly her world that she needs to let go of.

I remind her that she is battling aeons of aeons of lifetimes of the same conventional views and habits. I tell her not to expect 6 months of talks with me to erode those views. I remind her that I’m here to exercise patience and stay until she is ready.

With metta ash

True and lasting happiness

posted Jun 5, 2011, 6:03 PM by ash ‎(evermindful)‎   [ updated Jun 5, 2011, 6:08 PM ]

It’s been a long time since I’ve last posted. Where have I been? What have been doing? What am I looking for?

I have been mostly been in the here and now. There has been my wife’s post graduate study last year. There has been organising the kids in her absence. There has been helping my wife return and adjust to work as a primary school teacher this year. There has been such an enormous mass of stress surrounding me yet I stand mostly unshaken.

I was doing some full-time work last year and part-time work this year. I have been playing the role of Mr Mom trying to keep a family in balance. I have been cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping and generally being a taxi service for the kids. I have maintained a routine of getting up at 4:30am to start meditation. On a good day I can manage to get in a 1.5hr walking meditation and 7hrs of sitting meditation. The minimum daily meditation sitting is at least the 1.5hrs morning meditation.

I have been searching for a long time. I have been looking for something that we are all looking for. What I am looking for has us all on the same playing field. There is no difference between a murderer, noble prize winner, president, prostitute, slave, artist or even an athlete. We are all equally close should our minds incline that way. I have had the fortune to have had a taste of something close to it. But I am still learning on how to possess it for longer. I’m talking about true and lasting happiness.

So now that I’ve told you what I’m looking for, let me describe its characteristics. This is important because just as there is fool’s gold, there is also fool’s happiness. Unfortunately, fools happiness has us all blindsighted and hinders us from seeing true happiness.

So walk with me for a while and let’s take a journey reflecting on moments in your life. Pull out your photo album, open your IPhone or Flickr photo gallery. Look for a photo of the happiest moment. Now, launch your iPod or your MP3 player. Scan your library and look for that favourite long. Now close your eyes for a moment. Try and remember that aroma that had you spellbound. Keep your eyes closed and try to recall that taste that had you shamefully wanting more and more. Finally, keep your eyes closed and now recall that touch/tactile sensation that had you entirely absorbed and shaken. There is no doubt that these moments are indeed moments of happiness. However, they all share a common trait. They are all short lived and others may kill, steal, lie, have illicit sex and consume intoxicants just to have them. Think about it for a second. We as a race kill, steal or lie over the sight of our partner having an affair, the sound of torment and bullying, a smell so repulsive that the body cannot withstand it any longer, a taste so savoured that we cannot bear to see it wasted and a touch so arousing that it must not be shared with others.

Now ask yourself, why is it that there isn’t just 1 photo, 1 soundtrack, 1 aroma, 1 taste or 1 tactile sensation? Surely, if each of our happiest moments were truly satisfying then there would be no album, no library, no repeated experiences searching for more! The problem here is that sensual happiness is fools gold. In fact we are so foolish that often we do not even realise that it is not the object, but the feeling that we associate with the object that we lust for. 


But we don’t need to walk that path. There are other forms of happiness. There is happiness that is dependent on concentration. This happiness is harmless because it is not an object that others can possess. That is, others cannot kill, steal or lie in order to gain it. However, happiness born of concentration needs to be cultivated. It takes time, commitment and energy and when developed can lead you to blissful and peaceful states. But like sensual happiness it too has drawbacks. It too is inconstant, subject to change and foolish if you get addicted to it. But it purpose is to only provide refreshment for the body until insight is gained. Hence, it is the path leading to true happiness.

True happiness is a happiness that is not dependent on anything. There is neither a sensual object nor an object of concentration required to sustain it. It is gained only by the penetration of truth and once gained it is permanent; there is no regression or loss. And what is this truth you may ask? This truth is not bitter. This truth is that there is a true happiness and that it can only be gained when the lust for foolish happiness has been abandoned without remainder.

So the next time you hear that voice in your head that says “Not good enough yet, got to have more, got to make it better, got to be better” remind yourself, that is fools gold.

with Metta ash

Moving meditation

posted Apr 30, 2010, 7:47 PM by ash ‎(evermindful)‎   [ updated Apr 30, 2010, 7:51 PM ]

The other day @SmashinCourses asked me about how I felt about Taichi and moving meditation. I feel neither good, nor bad about moving meditation, it is just such…

I define moving meditation as an awareness practice where one is mindful of the form and the changes in state with respect to movement. Form is composed of the four elements: solid, liquid, gas & temperature.

With that definition there are many types of moving meditation. The moving mediation that I practice most is walking meditation. Walking meditation is an awareness practice where one keeps the mind in the moment of walking. It’s a practice where one pays attention to the tactile sensation and feels the change and transitions of the four elements. Walking meditation serves various purposes depending on the time of the day and the preceding activity. The practice is best intertwined with sitting meditation such that the skills of relaxation, concentration and awareness can all be established and developed together.

The goal of meditation is not to develop relaxation, awareness and concentration. The goal of meditation is to know the mind, shape the mind and free the mind. Knowing the mind is to be able to see the ego and observe those things that we cling to which results in stress. Shaping the mind is the process of making adjustments as a result of contemplation in context of the Dhamma to deal with stress. Freeing the mind is the process of developing wisdom, ethical conduct & mental faculties to be liberated from stress.

So, how do I feel about moving mediation? Any assessment of moving meditation should be in context to the overall goal of meditation. The goal of meditation is to know, shape and free the mind. Indeed moving meditation contributes to this goal by developing the skill of awareness. But awareness is just part of the journey among many other parts. Hence, moving meditation is such!


Under Pressure

posted Mar 7, 2010, 3:04 PM by ash ‎(evermindful)‎   [ updated Mar 7, 2010, 4:00 PM ]

For many years now I have been giving my son personal cricket coaching. In addition to his 3hr training session with the rest of his team, I take him out to the cricket nets each week for another 3 hrs over 2 days.

For the first few years of coaching my son I noted that I was teaching him technical skills. With respect to batting I taught him about balance, momentum, timing, placement, feet movement, position, pitch, stillness of the head, getting behind the ball & adjustment. However, over the last two years he has struggled with confidence issues and social issues with some members of the team and the coach.

For the last year I have noted that my coaching has changed. I am no longer coaching him the technical elements of cricket, I am coaching him on the Dhamma. Understanding the Dhamma can only be achieved by making connections to practical applications in one’s own life. Cricket has become the instrument where we explore and understand the nature of phenomena together.

Coaching a teenage son can be very difficult. Often I feel like a medical practitioner that conducts treatment on his mind. The operation is difficult, the areas are very sensitive and there are a lot of emotions at play.  In our coaching sessions I have seen him untroubled, happy, completely dejected and at times enraged. I have seen him compassionate, generous and at other times ill willed and full of greed for equanimity. However, to see my son let go, drift freely and be without stress is the greatest reward. Together we explore why things happen, why it hurts so much, why we should continue to try our best and what he/we can do to stop the pain.

With cricket as an instrument he is developing critical life skills. He is learning right view as we explore each event in context to the Dhamma. He is learning right effort with the development of self-discipline, honesty and kindness to himself. He is learning right concentration with the development of staying in the moment and not straying into the past or the future. He is learning right mindfulness as we review events as they are; no more, no less. He is learning right action as he subdues his ill-willed aggression. He is learning right speech as refrains from stating things that are unfactual, untruthful, unbeneficial, undeceitful and unhurtful. He is learning right intention as he accepts each moment and then transforms ill-will to compassion and greed into generosity.

My teenage son is enormously gifted and more talented than I will ever be. We both know that our coaching sessions in the cricket nets only offer short term treatment. Long term treatment is a solo journey. The best I can do is equip him with the framework, cultivate the right home environment and foster the development skills. Some day there won’t be any more cricket coaching sessions, he will be all alone under pressure.

To my son, May you always be free of anger, hatred, fear and suffering. May you be well and happy.

Across the universe

posted Feb 20, 2010, 3:45 PM by ash ‎(evermindful)‎   [ updated Feb 20, 2010, 4:46 PM ]

In Australia we keep financial and business records for the last 5 years. We file these records away as supporting documentation for our tax returns. The amount of paper statements, notices, brochures and transactions is staggering.  In recent years these records have been piling up and a clean up was well overdue.

It's a big job scanning each piece of paper, validating the financial year, re-filing it or discarding it. However, this process offers a unique opportunity; the ability to relive experiences through transactions, statements, through paper. As I was going through this process I experienced a sense of liberation.  This was highly unexpected...

As I reviewed each piece of paper I experienced the associated moment rise, replay and pass. Each time the paper was thrown in the waste basket there was a true sense of letting go. It wasn't just letting go of the physical piece of paper; it was letting go of that moment, let getting go of the past.

I concentrated on this task for over eighteen hours which spanned two days. I stood and sat mindfully processing paper, mindfully letting go repeatedly...

“Words are flying out like endless rain into a paper cup, they slither while they pass, they slip away across the universe.”

“Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind possessing and caressing me.”

“Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes that call me on and on across the universe. Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box, they tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe.”

“Sounds of laughter, shades of life are ringing through my open ears exciting and inviting me. Limitless, undying love which shines around me like a million suns. 
It calls me on and on across the universe.”

However, unlike the song I know that “Everything's gonna change my world”. I see the inconstancy, impermanence and kammic nature of life. Across the universe is a transition in the mind, a place where everything is let go of with total unbinding. "Nothing's gonna change my world" will one day be true when I genuinely experience the fallacy of self.

Jai guru deva om → Jai triple gem om

With Metta ash

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