A nice way to settle the mind is to do the following. Stay with each stage for a few minutes before moving on, but if you feel you are ready, move on at that point:

  1. Sit comfortably and take a few deep breaths.
  2. Spend some time doing a mental ‘tour’ of your body. Imagine, as you pay attention to a particular part of your body, that any tension or discomfort simply melts away. I usually split up my body into head, neck and shoulders, arms, torso stomach and back, legs. After the tour, imagine your whole body as being relaxed and comfortable for a few minutes.
  3. Then pay attention to how your body feels. Your hands many feel colder than your back, for example. See where your body is in contact with your seat or cushion. Spend a few moments paying attention to these things.
  4. Then bring your attention to your breathing – look for physical signs of your breathing such as your shoulders rising and falling, or the rubbing of your clothing against your body. Stay with this for a while.
  5. Then bring your attention to the sensation of your breath in your body. It may be that there is a sensation of air movement at your nose or upper lip. Watch this sensation for a while.
  6. After this try to simply focus on the ‘point of balance’ between the in breath and the out breath.  Don’t worry about what this means. It will make sense when you are there.
  7. After this simply focus on the stillness of your mind: the sheer pleasure of having a still mind.

You should not feel that you are concentrating ‘harder and harder’ as you progress. You will find, if you go through these steps one at a time, that you will natually and easily enter a very focused and concentrated state without any effort.

Enjoy!

I will definitely die. What then? 

Everything I perceive, including death, is a appearance. What will appear after death?

Everything that appears to us is a manifestation of our karma. In this current life the broad parameters of my experience are limited by the human form I have taken and the environment. 

But when I am reborn all bets are off – my body could be in any form. My environment could be anything. I could be an animal in an unhealthy place. I could be a hungry ghost in a barren place. I could be a hell being in a firery place. 

I say ‘I could’ but really this is a distortion I am subconsciously introducing to make things better. In fact if I succumb to future rebirths I will definitely be reborn as a hell being in hell. Maybe not the fist rebirth, but it will happen. 

I will remember that I am in great danger of being reborn in hell as a hell being. 

When I die, this illusion-like world will disappear, the self I normally see will disappear, and all my concerns and worries will disappear. Since this could happen today, I shall strive to remember that everything I normally perceive is illusion-like, and keep a calm peaceful mind. 

When reading and studying Dharma we should always be thinking ‘how can I use this wisdom in MY life, to develop and maintain peace in MY mind.’ 

When studying Dharma we should not say ‘sound is impermanent because it depends upon causes’. We should think ‘this means *I* am impermanent because *I* depend upon causes’. 
If we read Dharma without finding its direct application to ourselves it becomes a mere academic process. If we apply it to ourself we can transform ourselves into a limitless being with the power to help each and every living being every day.

Don’t expect others to be perfect..

Walking along a sea front today I noticed some benches with little plaques. 


That reminded me that the names carved into memorials are the only possessions of the dead. When we die, we have to leave everything behind. 

May we use wisdom in how we live our lives. 

In Lidl today, I noticed all these healthy treats by the till:


How many people have contributed to my ability to choose delicious healthy food?

How can I repay their kindness? Surely the best way to to dedicate my life to the attainment of Bodhichitta – the continuous and spontaneous state of mind that constantly strives to attain perfect enlightenment solely for the benefit of all living beings. 

Something as mundane as a fruit bat can lead us to generate the most meaningful aspiration possible. How wonderful!

I just had the great good fortune to attend a day course given by a treasured friend on the topic of Life and Death. 

The meditation in the afternoon had a profound and unexpected effect on me which I wanted to share. 

My friend pushed all the right buttons with me as she led the mediation imagining that the time of death had come. 

I settled on the image of myself in a hospital bed, coming to the understanding that my life is now at an end. 

I thought about all the things that I will never see or do again:

I will never see my family or talk to them again. 

I will never see my friends again. 

I will never see the sky again. 

Then I thought about the big things but the other things that I take for granted but play a massive part in my life. 

I will never see cars again. 

I will never drink tea again. 

I will never walk again. 

I thought about these things and the entirety of death overwhelmed me. I rested in that finality until our teacher said: ‘when we are ready we can arise from meditation’. 

  
I then experienced a complete elation! I have a second chance! I was at death, but I am not going to die now! How wonderful! 

What an extraordinary feeling. I was filled with gratitude and the determination to make this second chance as meaningful as possible. Such is the power of death meditaion. 

Today is NKT Day – a day that is as important to Kadampas as Easter or Christmas is to Christians. Today we remember and celebrate our great good fortune in being able to benefit from the activities of the founder and members of the New Kadampa Tradition.   
That reminded me of how many days we actually have in this life. If we live till 70 we have about 25,000 days at our disposal. Sounds like a lot. But if we are 35, then that’s 12,500 gone already – what do we have to show for that time? If, like me, you are closer to 50, the math looked even less appealing and more alarming. 

So are you happy with your life and how those days are being used?

How do we see our lives anyway? Is our life the sum of the external factors acting upon us, forcing us to squander our spiritual potential? 

Or is our life what we make it?

We can do anything with our life – externally we may be constrained – internally we are completely free. We have choice of action which we can use to intervene in the seemingly automatic cycle of action and reaction. 

In between stimulus and response there is a space, and in that space lies our freedom to choose – the key to our growth and happiness. 

If we want to achieve something meaningful with our lives we need to use every day that passes to move us closer. The law of the harvest applies: you will reap what you sow – no more, no less. 

We are so fortunate. We are living at the dawn of the age of Modern Buddhism. In many senses this is a degenerate age but for Kadampas this is a golden age – a time when we have a teacher who has not only passed on the teachings he has received in a beautiful presentation we can easily understand, but has also shared his most intimate experiences as a fully qualified practitioner and master. 

We have everything we need to make every day truly meaningful. How wonderful. 

In the days that remain, may I sincerely honour the NKT and Geshe Kelsang by putting Dharma into practice in all my daily activities. 

It’s the end of March. My personal Filofax thing works in thirteen week chunks, and it’s time to move to the next book. 

  
How quickly has this three months gone? Just like that. 

That reminds me not to waste a single day. 

Modern Buddhism

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