Archive for the ‘Recovery’ Category

More Recognition

I’m pleased to announce that Paxicab received more recommendation lately. Here’s the link:


The Basics of Seated Meditation

In seated meditation, we set aside the many things that have occupied us in the day past, or are on our mind about the day ahead. This is more than just making time for something we like to do. This is saced time, time we spend even though the work can sometimes be difficult. Sometimes the reward seems far away, and sometimes we are quite excited about having validated the teaching by our own experience. Regular seated meditation makes this possible.


Choose a place where you will not be disturbed for 20 to 30 minutes. Sit in a chair that has a reasonably straight back and is firm enough to support and not so comfortable that you will fall asleep in it. Set a time to ring 20 or 30 minutes from the time you start it. Digital watches and handheld devices have them. Try not to use a mechanical timer, as these can be noisy and less accurate. Be prepared to meditate for the entire period you are timing.


There is no right time of day to sit. Different times have their advantages – early in the morning, on a break during the work day, arriving home, before bed. The important thing is that the task gets done.


Sit without slouching and naturally straight. Don’t strain to sit up as straight as you can. Doing so may leave you spending you meditation period fighting with your posture. There is no need to sit on the floor, with or without a cushion. In the Buddha’s day and in his part of the world, sitting on the ground was a cultural norm. In the West in the 21st century, we use chairs.


Our meditation object while doing seated practice is the feeling of the rise and fall of the abdomen, which comes from breathing. To keep track of it, note it in your mind when the abdomen rises and falls. When your abdomen rises from filling with air, note “rise” silently. When your abdomen finishes falling due to your exhale, note “fall” silently. Do not breathe stronger or lighter than normal, and don’t say “rise” or “fall” out loud.


So what happens when you start to do this? Most new meditators discover that they can’t keep their mind on the rise and fall for very long – sometimes for just a breath or two. What’s important is not that you keep the mind on the breath; rather, it’s that you learn to bring the mind back when it wanders – and wander it will.


So, as they say in AA, “Keep Coming Back.” The mind wanders, you bring it back. It wanders again, you bring it back again. If you can determine what took you away from the breath, or where you’ve wound up, you can note it with a silent label before going back to rise and fall – “thinking,” “hearing,” “worrying,” “itching” for example.


It’s like teaching a puppy how to sit. You set the puppy down and say “sit” and the puppy walks away. You pick the puppy up and set him back down in the same spot and say “sit” and the puppy walks away again. How many times will you have to do that? Probably dozens at least. Finally the puppy will sit on command. You don’t beat the puppy with a newspaper, or hold him down.


Training the mind is like training a puppy. The puppy shows he has a mind of his own, as your mind shows just how much more unwieldy it is than you previous thought. Inventing little tricks to get the mind to stay settled in the short term won’t work. Just like with teaching the puppy to sit, you have to be patient, and focus on bringing your mind back to the rise and fall gently when wandering. Beating yourself up over having a wandering mind is not productive.


You are not sitting to get and keep a perfectly tranquil mind. You are focusing on doing what needs to be done to bring about an end to suffering within yourself. When you see things more clearly as they are, you see for yourself that nothing lasts and that craving is pointless. You only need to have enough tranquility as is needed for observation. You do not need to be a perfect meditator to become enlightened!


You don’t have to observe, and identify everything that comes through your sense bases. You will encounter “intercuts” that simply come and go while you are focused on the rise and fall. You don’t have to stop and label these normally. However, if you find yourself bothered by repeated appearance by them you might want to mentally note them.


Try to keep movement to a minimum when sitting. Don’t scratch, or react to your body’s sensations. Learn to see that they will go away on their own. Don’t open your eyes to check your timer to see how much time remains. Your sitting period will be over when the time is right


Don’t rush away when your alarm goes. It’s a good idea to write down a few lines in a journal about how your practice went. Such a record can be useful to discuss with your teacher at your next interview. Sometimes we bias our report towards the results of one or two sessions. A fuller picture helps your teacher to suggest changes that will be of most benefit. With that completed, gently rise, make a few easy stretches and move gradually into what is next in your plan for the day.

Jason Smith is a Customer Analyst at Economical Insurance doing process analysis, business analysis and business consulting. He is also an insight meditation teacher and author currently taking on new students. Anyone who wants to learn about and practice the Buddha’s way to enlightenment can reach him at Jason lives in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and is willing to consider working with students from outside this area by phone or Internet.

Everyday Right View

Throughout the course of history, people have searched for the right set of principles by which to live their lives.  Some have done so out of fear of death and the need of assurance that a positive life awaits them in the hereafter.  Others have done so to minimize the harms done to others of all kinds.

The Buddha taught that there were different ways to see reality.  He called our everyday understanding of people, places, and things mundane view.  He called our understanding of all things as transient, suffering, and non-self supermundane view.  He also had numerous names for the understanding that comes when enlightenment is reached.

The Buddha presented five principles of right view and we can practice and live by in our everday lives.  They smooth our relationships with others, just like the Five Precepts do.  Here they are:

1.  There is result of action

Most of the world’s psychological and spiritual teaching include the idea that one reaps what one sews.  We enjoy the benefits of efficient, positive choices, and struggle with problems arising from inefficient, negative choices.  Sometimes the results of our choices come about immediately.  Sometimes they come far into the future.  But they do come.  So, it’s best to be careful.

2.  There is result of giving

Generosity is a powerful force, and the Buddha chose to highlight it as such.  It is said that if we fully understood the consequences of generosity, we would never serve a meal without finding someone with whom to share it.

As Westerners, we sometimes balk at the idea of accepting the generosity of someone.  We don’t want to appear needy even if we aren’t.  It’s a cultural thing that tends to disappear when you realize that not accepting generosity is an inefficient action in and of itself.

3.  There is mother and father

The Buddha further zeroed in on particularly powerful forces by highlighting generosity to one’s parents.  Our parents gave us the start of life in the human realm.

However, that said, it’s fair to recognize that many parents harm their children, and there are often good reasons for such children to be separated from such parents.  I believe that if the Buddha was alive and teaching today, he would encourage us to remember our parents, but not continue to be victimized by them.

4.  There are apparitional realms of rebirth

Life after death, and heaven and hell are issues of concern to a lot of people – whether it’s their salvation or the salvation of others.  The Buddha made it clear that realms of existence better than or worse than human do exist, and one doesn’t go through a birth process to appear there.  He also made it clear that the focus of his teaching was helping others come to the end of suffering and rebirth in this lifetime.

5.  There are teachers who can show the way to realms of apparitional rebirth

Finally, the Buddha left the door open to those concerned about their next life by saying it is possible to receive teaching that will lead someone to a better next life.  Our world has many such teachers – Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and even Buddhists – who teach what needs to be done or what needs to be believed to enter a better next life.  Again, though, the Buddha’s focus was doing what needs doing in this life.

Jason S.

Jason Smith is a Customer Analyst at Economical Insurance doing process analysis, business analysis and business consulting. He is also an insight meditation teacher and author currently taking on new students. Anyone who wants to learn about and practice the Buddha’s way to enlightenment can reach him at Jason lives in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and is willing to consider working with students from outside this area by phone or Internet.

This site is a 2010 award winner.

The Five Hindrances

Imagine you’ve just taken off in a jet airplane. You felt the lift-off, noticed how the aircraft was nosed upward, and were obeying the crew by not attempting to get out of your seat. Once the plane reached its cruising altitude, the seatbelt sign was turned off, and you were told you could move about the cabin.

Since you were sitting in a window seat, you took interest in the scenery below the aircraft – cities, farmland, rivers, lakes, mountains. It looked like a giant patch work quilt. Unfortunately, the experience didn’t last for long. The pilot was given new orders, including a change of direction and an increase in altitude. The result was that your aircraft was suddenly flying through clouds and you could no longer see anything below. Instead of peacefully watching the scenery, you were now straining to catch glimpses through the clouds.

This story describes what the experience of a hindrance is like. Hindrances disturb our peace and tranquility when meditating or carrying out any task mindfully. They seem to appear out of nowhere, and dominate our experience of reality – just as the clouds obstructed our view. The Buddha identified five hindrances, and it’s important to know a few things about all of them before looking at each in more detail.

The first thing to note is that hindrances are things we do. Just as the pilot followed an established habit of obeying an air traffic controller and raising the altitude, our hindrances are well-worn habits of mind that we choose when the right circumstances present themselves. The clouds don’t suddenly lower to the path of our aircraft. We fly right into them.

The second thing is that we shouldn’t judge ourselves for the arrival of a hindrance. Such judgement can lead to a compound effect of doing a because of a hindrance – ill-will about worry for example. There are specific things we can do to address each of the hindrances, and judgement doesn’t apply to any of them. It only makes things worse.

The third thing should come as some hope: by developing enough wisdom to see what we’re doing to create hindrance, it is possible to stop doing them – permanently. In the Third Noble Truth we are taught that there is a way that leads to the overcoming of suffering. That includes the hindrances.

So what are these hindrances, and what should we do about them? The first is sensual desire — desiring the experience of something other than what you are doing. Perhaps you are on a week-long meditation retreat and it’s terribly hot. You turn your thinking to the swimming pool at home, and how wonderful it would be to go in for a dip. Perhaps you are working late one night at the office on a report your boss needs, and you turn to thoughts of seeing a movie with your partner, or watching some television at home with a hot drink. Mentally, you’ve turned away from the task at hand and you suffer as a result.

Sometimes, a hindrance like sensual desire will pass on by simply noting it and letting it go. However there are times when a more direct approach is needed. With sensual desire, focus on the undesirable characteristics of what you desire. Watching a movie would provide some entertainment, but it can be costly for tickets and snacks. Watching TV at home might be relaxing but solitary – your partner may not like TV — and you might be hard-pressed to find an enjoyable show. Looking at the downsides of our desires gives us a more balanced perspective.

The second hindrance is ill-will. It’s known by many names in the West – frustration, anger, irritation, rage, and resentment to name a few. Perhaps your boss took the report you wrote for him and gave you no feedback or thanks at all. You choose to sit in your office and brood about his lack of gratitude. Or maybe you go on a vacation with your partner and spend your time complaining about the poor service you are getting at the resort. In both these cases, your own ill-will is spoiling your experience of the day.

As with sensual desire, ill-will can stop, at least for a time, by letting it go. If that doesn’t seem to be working well, you can take a few minutes and contemplate on exactly how ill-will is disadvantageous to you. Ask yourself what ill-will is costing you right now. You might also consider how ill-will is affecting those around you and how that affects you as well.

Sloth and torpor is the third hindrance. When you put too much effort into your practice, you pull your mind onto it. In response, the mind becomes thick, heavy, and unmovable. Pushed further, and chances are you’ll fall asleep. To address this hindrance, you need to get up and move around – take a walk, smell the flowers, and gain a little distance from that feeling of fatigue and laziness.

The fourth hindrance is worry. In doing this hindrance, you look back at past actions and chew them over in your mind. In the middle of a retreat you might worry about what your colleagues might think of you for spending your vacation this way. You might worry about whether or not your neighbour will take in your mail and feed your cat as promised. Sometimes it’s hard to separate worry from legitimate concern. Worry, like other hindrances, can often just stop upon recognition of it but sometimes we ruminate about things.

My teacher said that the solution to worry is happiness. Be around people who know more about the dhamma and can help you with your thinking. See your teacher and talk about what worries you. Read uplifting books that encourage you in your practice and give you some distance from your worries. A very successful businessman once told me that two of the most powerful levers for personal change are the books we read and the company we keep.

The final hindrance is doubt. It can have many forms: doubt about your ability to do something, like progress in the meditation; doubt in others, like one’s spouse or teacher; and doubt in things, like the teaching itself, to name just three. You might find yourself at an evening lecture by your teacher thinking that you’ll never understand all the terms and instructions you’ve heard. You might look at some other meditators you know and doubt that you can ever get the grasp they have.

Worry does come and go, but when it’s troubling, the solution is the same as it is for worry. Spend time with people who can help you. Make a time to see your teacher. Try to apply the suggestions you are given. If you are teachable, then there is every reason to believe that you can make real meditative progress in this lifetime. That’s what the Buddha’s teaching is for – enlightenment in this lifetime.

Eventually, your flight will leave the clouds for good, and your pilot will follow instructions that lead to your destination – nibbana, the end of all suffering, no longer any desire for things to be different than it is, the highest happiness, the place that travellers seek.

Jason S.

Jason Smith is a Customer Analyst at Economical Insurance doing process analysis, business analysis and business consulting. He is also an insight meditation teacher and author currently taking on new students. Anyone who wants to learn about and practice the Buddha’s way to enlightenment can reach him at Jason lives in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and is willing to consider working with students from outside this area by phone or Internet.

This site is a 2010 award winner.

HOW to Be a Successful Meditator

My first year of recovery was filled with new learning – about the nature of alcoholism, about the living problems I had, about the twelve-step program, and about applying those steps in my life. I also learned about the components of recovery – meetings, sponsorship, service to others, and slogans.

One slogan, an acronym called HOW stood out for me. It’s short for Honesty, Open-mindedness and Willingness. I was told that each of these terms is connected to different steps and that, together, they are necessary conditions for recovery.

Honesty is needed to admit powerlessness over alcohol, complete a moral inventory, ask for help with character defects and continue to take an inventory of character assets and liabilities on an on-going basis. Open-mindedness is needed to take beginning steps with a power greater than oneself, review one’s moral inventory with someone else, making a list of people harmed, and beginning a life of meditation and prayer. Willingness is needed to put one’s life in the hands of the higher power one chooses, to become ready to have that higher power remove the defects of character identified in the moral inventory, to make direct amends to the people harmed, and to carry the message of recovery to others willing to receive it.

That’s a tall order. Fortunately, the steps are put into an order for good reasons, and one doesn’t have to do them all at once or rush through them with great speed.

HOW also provides some keys to being a successful meditator. One needs to be honest about what one is experiencing during meditation periods and between them. A teacher can’t help a student that isn’t disclosing how his or her practice is actually going. One needs to be open-minded about new concepts and not dismiss them out of hand. Sometimes it is necessary for a teacher to present concepts like transience to students and have them begin to try to see them in their meditation. Being closed-minded about these concepts can severely impact one’s meditative progress. Finally, one needs to be willing to do what his or her teacher says to do – within reason, of course. Specific guidance from a teacher needs to be tried out and only disregarded after being given a good try.

How to be a successful meditator? HOW is how!



Jason Smith is a Customer Analyst at Economical Insurance doing process analysis, business analysis and business consulting. He is also an insight meditation teacher and author currently taking on new students. Anyone who wants to learn about and practice the Buddha’s way to enlightenment can reach him at Jason lives in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and is willing to consider working with students from outside this area by phone or Internet.