I’ve been doing a practice called “the four thoughts that turn the mind to the dharma,” or the “four reminders.” I’m going to offer up a thought I had first, before I mention my interpretations. My thought was this: it can be pretty easy to think up ideas about life, the dharma, religion, what have you, but it’s remarkably hard to realize those, in the moment. There’s a stubbornness to life, and to people’s minds (and maybe hearts). For the past few weeks I’ve been contemplating these four thoughts, and it took me a while to notice that I could think about them pretty well, have some good ideas about what this meant, but then somehow these ideas weren’t happening in real life.
Of course, it takes time. Ideas take time to sink in, and then you have to keep remembering to apply them. My teacher has mentioned “concentration” very specifically to me a few times now, and I’m seeing that I need a lot more of that. I’m generally extremely unfocused. Anyway, here are the four thoughts, in overview, and then my thoughts about the thoughts.
1. Precious human birth
2. Impermanence (change and death)
I think that’s a pretty good summary. So here is some thoughts I’ve had on this.
1. It’s hard to find a good situation, one in which you can practice the dharma (or, at least, have a satisfying life).
2. You never know how long you’ll live, so this is a good motivation to get stuff done.
3. Learn about cause and effect.
(Karma often takes on mystical or mythical overtones for Americans, I think. It can just mean cause and effect.)
4. Work on overcoming clinging, to get to a balanced state of mind.
That’s all for that one. Time for some coffee and food.
I’m going to share a very advanced practice with you. Ready?
Lie down in bed.
You could do this sitting, but it’s best lying in bed. The TV and music should be off.
Don’t meditate, don’t control your emotions, don’t practice. Just lie there, and think. Let your mind go.
If your thoughts go way off, into daydreams and so forth, come back a tiny bit.
In general, just lie there and think and relax. That’s it.
This is what some people call “simple but not easy.”
I’m one to advocate lots of practice, every day, whenever possible, but this one is really really good. I so often resist just relaxing, in a quiet room, and thinking to myself. BUT! whenever I do it, I’m glad I did. The hard part seems to be turning off the TV and leaving the email alone and not listening to music, that, and making yourself stop, and think.
Once you get there, it’s good to do it for five or ten minutes, or even more. Even more is better. A half hour is good.