Forest SanghaNewsletter July 2002

Foundations of Virtue & Right View; Ajahn Pasanno
Unity of Dhamma; Luang Por Chah
Yogi Mind; Ajahn Thanasanti
Deep Attention: Connection to Letting-Go; Ajahn Sucitto
The Path to Happiness; Sister Thaniya

Yogi Mind
From a talk given by Ajahn Thanasanti; recently published in Freeing theHeart, a collection of nuns's talks.

After several days on retreat we can see what the result of the practice is.We can observe the effect of mindfulness, attention, a life style ofsimplicity, restraint, moral integrity, and hours of meditation with someDhamma input each day. We can see what our minds and our bodies are like andnotice some change from what they were like when we first arrived.

There's a certain pattern noticeable on the retreats I've been on.People come and they're often relieved to be here, but they're still verymuch carrying the burden and weight of the world they've left behind. Thefirst few days are a combination of frustration, pain, confusion, tiredness,dreariness and dread, mixed with good will, right intention and effort.

Characteristically, faces are long and drawn, and the energy is thickand heavy, and people are doing their best to be good yogis. But the feelingis one of 'me', 'my' pain, 'my' problem, 'my' dilemmas, 'my' poor practice,and 'my' painful knees. It shows in people's faces and is obvious in thequality of the energy in the room. You can feel it.
Does the world really need to be different and give me what I want in orderto be content and feel at ease?

After some time there's a little bit of perspective. The quality of stillnessbecomes more tangible. People's faces begin to lighten and brighten. Then thewhole 'me/my' universe begins to soften and we begin to wake up to realisethere are actually other people in the universe. In fact, they're sittingright next to us. Then, as the mind begins to become more still and morefocused we experience what is commonly known as 'yogi mind.'

'Yogi mind' is a focused and concentrated mind which, like amagnifying glass, doesn't only magnify the pretty things it magnifieseverything. So the pretty things and the not so pretty things are equallymagnified and become more recognisable, more visible, more exposed.

One of the characteristics of 'yogi mind' is the capacity to getobsessed with the minutest detail, to hate -- all of a sudden -- the personsitting next to you because of the way they're breathing. Or to be utterlyconvinced that the entire suffering of the universe is the result of the waythis one person is walking in and out of the door. Or various forms of wartake place between those who want one particular use of a room and people whowant another use of the room. Then, there's the opposite -- the 'vipassanaromance.' You've finally found the beloved you've been dreaming of. They'resitting a few seats away from you. You're convinced they have the samefeeling about you. It's obvious by the way they're doing their walkingmeditation.

'Yogi mind' focuses and concentrates emotions, feelings and mental tendenciesthat are present or latent in conscious awareness. These things just becomebigger than they normally would be or different to how we normally experiencethem. Little things take on grand proportions. Projection is the importantaspect in understanding 'yogi mind.' The intention of mental proliferation isaimed at getting what we want or not getting what we don't want. The problemor the answer is seen to be outside of us.

Meditation and a retreat environment causes increased energy. Whenthere is an ability to use that energy to bring awareness and attention tothe nature of desire, aversion and the way fantasies are used to bypassproblems or seek the answer outside of ourselves, then 'yogi mind' becomes auseful tool for learning. One uses the process as a way to come to terms withthe mind.

I remember once doing a long retreat at IMS in Massachusetts. I hadcome with three different pairs of shoes -- 'Rambo'-type mountainclimbing-boots, a pair of wooden clogs, and a pair of shoes that had strawsoles. As long as the weather was dry and there wasn't snow on the ground, Iused to wear the straw soled shoes all over the place because they would workwell inside and they would work well outside.

Then, it started raining. Then, it started snowing. It took thestraw-soled shoes three days to dry out once they got wet. I couldn't bear tokeep putting on and taking off my 'Rambo' mountain boots with their 25eyelets, so I would just put on the wooden clogs.

Well, the meditation centre at IMS has wooden floors. Unbeknownst to me, mostof those present were convinced I had a sadistic urge to torture everyone;that it was an intentional and completely sadistic thing to be doing usingthese wooden clogs during the walking meditation. A warfare of notes on thebulletin board took place.

The retreat manager, being skilful, intervened. She saw some of thesenotes plastered on the bulletin board aimed at this sadistic yogi who wasdetermined to torture everyone.

She removed the notes before I had a chance to see them so that Ididn't have to deal with the effect of having to read such things. She cameto me to find out what was going on. I explained to her the situation wasthat I just had these three pairs of shoes and the wooden clogs were the onlyones I could use.

I left a little note on the bulletin board asking if anyone had apair of shoes I could borrow. The next time I went down to check there wereno less than ten pairs of shoes that somehow all fitted my feet exactly andwould be quiet on the wooden floors.

For me it was an interesting learning. For one it was illuminating tosee how insensitive and lacking mindfulness I could be to wear wooden clogson a wooden floor. Equally illuminating was to see what happens when webecome, intentionally or not, the object of someone else's aversion or desire.

Such is the way with 'yogi mind.' Because the mind is concentrated,it takes things and it gets very convinced about the absolute rightness ofthe perception. But often there isn't a lot of wisdom, discrimination orequanimity. And these qualities of discrimination and equanimity are onesthat need to be cultivated. Whatever the experience, there needs to be areflective awareness able to return to the heart of the matter and see whatis actually going on. It's important not to get caught in the appearance ofthings or carried by the tide of emotion so much so that the capacity toreflect is lost. It can be useful to ask, whatever is going on, 'Where is thesuffering? What is the cause? Is it 'out there' or in my relationship withwhat I am experiencing?' To ask, 'Does the world really need to be differentand give me what I want in order to be content and feel at ease?' It isimportant to wake up to these things and see them as just another view,another thought, another habit of mind that is constantly being enactedwithout checking if by doing so the desired result is ever produced.

So if you have experienced such things, just rest assured that thisis an utterly normal part of meditation and it's nothing to be distressedabout. But it is something to open up to, to look at closely and not to befooled by or believe in.

When the passions of the mind are saying, 'This is not just anopinion, this is ABSOLUTELY TRUE' you have your signal, your red flag.Anything that presents itself as absolute truth, is a sign to look at. Checkinto it. Feel the screaming mind. Take a look at what's going on. There'susually attachment, often a lot of fear. Anger or self-righteousness can be amask of many things including fear. All of this is very good to notice, toopen up to, to look at, and to have a sense of the way the mind operates inits peaceful as well as its non-peaceful moments.

It is important to learn about the movements of mind so that they nolonger confuse or deceive us, to let the awareness of all experience take usto the still heart. In that way, regardless of what we are experiencing,pleasant or unpleasant, there is the contentment that comes from abiding inawareness. This contentment is worth cultivating.