As a monk, I bring a strong commitment, along with the renunciate flavor, to the classic Buddhist teachings. I play with ideas, with humor and a current way of expressing the teachings, but I don't dilute them.
Sitting in a field of fifty to eighty people really starts my mind sparking. Since I don't prepare my talks ahead of time, I find myself listening to what I'm saying along with everyone else. This leaves a lot of room for the Dhamma to come up. Just having eighty people listening to me is enough to engage me, stimulate me, and create a nice flow of energy. The actual process of teaching evokes ideas that even I did not realize were being held somewhere in my mind.
Different teaching situations offer their own unique value. In retreat, you are able to build a cohesive and comprehensive body of the teachings. When people are not on retreat and come for one session, it opens a different window. They are more spontaneous and I'm given the chance to contact them in ways that are closer to their "daily-life mind." This brings up surprises and interesting opportunities for me to learn even more.
I'm continually struck by how important it is to establish a foundation of morality, commitment, and a sense of personal values for the Vipassana teachings to rest upon. Personal values have to be more than ideas. They have to actually work for us, to be genuinely felt in our lives. We can't bluff our way into insight. The investigative path is an intimate experience that empowers our individuality in a way that is not egocentric. Vipassana encourages transpersonal individuality rather than ego enhancement. It allow for a spacious authenticity to replace a defended personality.
Meditation practice instructs us to sustain harmonious relationship with our minds, bodies and the world – to not be dominating, not to grasp or push away, but to be present. Sometimes an open accepting awareness, rather than a focus on a particular object, is the proper mode. When mental and body energies are in sync there’s a sense of harmony and unification. This is samādhi.
Our walking gets programmed by the drives of the mind. Whatever affects the mind affects the nervous system of the body – the body shows us the effects of our thinking. Walking meditation can return us to the natural quality of the body, so the mind can relax.
The search for happiness, security and steadiness binds us in a tangle of stressful and unsatisfactory experiences – because we’re looking in the wrong place. Wisdom/discernment helps us detangle and discern what to set aside and what is worth bearing in mind.
Discernment helps filter from the amalgam of experience what’s skillful now. Having picked up what is skillful one lingers in it, dwells in it, sustains it. This is calming. So skim off stressful habits of “trying to make it work”, “getting on to the next”. Use the body to learn what the mind is happy to linger in.
In meditation both the topic and the manner in which we attend can help train our mode of mental engagement. Shifting from stressful tendencies of “making it happen” and “getting it right”, come back to the natural body. This living system is the source for a steady, safe and easeful state.
What is it that we need to take Refuge from? The poisons of greed, hatred and delusion that mask themselves and corrupt our hearts and minds. This requires reorienting from worldly ways and orienting around what has value and meaning, that which you can trust: virtue, embodiment, nature and other people.
Four compass points to orient around while on retreat: how you relate to the earth, to other people, to your body and to the sacred; an explanation of pūjā – recollections and making offerings, as with the offering of food.