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Lions Roar : November 2015
eightfold path. In Mahayana schools, such as Zen and Chan, the master is likened to a powerful and skilled doctor who does what has to be done to cure our spiritual illnesses. In Vajrayana Buddhism, the teacher is a guru. Tantric gurus are seen as manifest- ing enlightenment mind in this world for our benefit, and through our devotion we discover that their mind and ours share the same enlight- ened nature. That’s the theory at least, but personality and teaching style are also important. In practice, a Theravada elder can mind your business as fiercely as any Zen master, and tantric gurus can be the very embodiment of gentleness. I’m experiencing a fair bit of pain in my knees when I meditate. Do I grin and bear it, meditate on it, or just move my legs? Pain can’t be avoided in our lives, so it’s only natural that it would come up in our medita- tion as well. Often, it may be of the “growing pain” variety, since it can take a while for our bodies to adjust to sitting in meditation posture. (A good argument for sitting more frequently!) If you’re experiencing pain, dharma teachers advise us first to use it as an object of meditation: Notice the pain. Does it come and go? Who is experiencing the pain? When your mind is more focused on following your breath, does the pain seem to ease? Buddhist schools have different suggestions about what to do if the pain still seems too much to bear. Some encourage you to go easy on yourself and adjust your posture to relieve the pain. Others take a harder line and ask you to maintain your position and keep meditating on the pain. Do try to sit as solidly as you can—you’ll find real benefit there—but keep in mind that what’s best for you is ultimately your call. Either way, meditation shouldn’t be torture. ♦ WHO? WHAT? WHERE? MONKEY MIND WE ALL RECOGNIZE monkey mind—that wild mind going in more than one direction at a time, swing- ing from one branch of thought to the next. It wants the next banana, the next big thing, the next small thing. It wants to keep moving. Monkey mind likes texting and online gaming. It’s the mind that likes to be mindless. With our modern culture of distraction, you might think that we invented the idea of speedy monkey mind. However, the Mahayana teachings in both China and Japan have talked about monkey mind for more than 1,500 years. In the ancient description of the cycle of karmic cause and effect, the nidanas, consciousness is symbolized by a monkey inside a house whose win- dows represent the senses. Meditation is a vehicle to tame monkey mind. By sitting simply, being present, following our breath, and label- ing our thoughts, we entice the monkey to come down from the trees and rest. It takes repeated effort, but eventually monkey mind calms down. Surprisingly, when monkey mind is tamed, focused, and quiet, it has great energy and power. Chögyam Trungpa said we might discover the monkey is actually a gorilla—much more potent and expansive than we imagined. It might be buddhamind, in fact. —Carolyn Gimian Carolyn Gimian is a Buddhist teacher and the editor, most recently, of Mindfulness in Action, by Chögyam Trungpa. Tell us what you’d like to know about Buddhism and meditation at