A Huge Range of Possibilities

Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu

A Huge Range of Possibilities

One way of inducing rapture is to ask yourself, “Which parts of the body right now feel relaxed or even just okay?” When you breathe in, can they maintain that quality of feeling okay, or is there a little squeeze on them?

Try noticing your hands. You breathe in, breathe out, and does the flow of energy at any point in the breath cycle put a squeeze on the hands—on any of the muscles in any part of the hand? Can you breathe in a way that doesn’t induce that squeeze? How long can you keep that up? And when you can keep it up, can you let it spread up the arms?

If you don’t like the hands, you can try the feet—or any part of the body. Look for the potentials that are here right now. The Buddha says they’re here. Everything we need to know for awakening is right here, and yet we don’t see it. All we see are the things that we’ve seen before, because we look at them in the same way we’ve looked at them before. We don’t learn to look at things in different ways.

This is why Dogen, the Zen master, said that a large part of meditation is learning how to de-think your thinking. Use different eyes to look at the potentials right here. Ask different questions. Where is the potential for rapture? Where is the potential for ease? Where in the mind is the potential for stillness? What would happen if you developed those potentials and kept at it? When, say, sensual desire does come up in the mind, what would it be like not to give in?

And what would the mind need to do to be in a position where it would feel secure that it would never give in? What would that mind be like? These are good questions to ask. They expand our range.

There’s a huge range of possibilities. As the Buddha said, what he learned and attained didn’t come from anything else aside from his ardency, his resolution, his heedfulness—qualities that we can all develop if we want them.

So it’s good to let the range of the Buddha’s knowledge and the idea of a totally pure mind, a totally free mind, capture your imagination—not so that you just think about them, but so that you ask yourself, “Right now, what am I doing that’s getting in the way of knowing those things? What attitudes do I have that are obstructive? Where am I fixated right now? What do I like to fantasize about? How’s that getting in the way? What would happen if I could drop those things, even for a little while?”

We’ve had our imagination distracted by so many useless things in the world, things that have a certain amount of use but tend to put blinders on us and close our imaginations to the larger things of which the mind is capable, the heart is capable—your heart is capable.

An important part of the practice is learning how not to let those obstructions get in the way.

This reflection by Ajaan Geoff is from the Dhamma Talks Section, Meditation Series book, Meditations 7, “What’s Getting in the Way.”

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