Defilements etc. Somebody Stop Me!

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tellyontellyon
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Defilements etc. Somebody Stop Me!

Post by tellyontellyon » Wed Jun 15, 2016 11:51 am

I'm sure this is a common theme here, i.e., knowing what not to do but somehow being unable to stop myself.

I've been listening to some online talks by Ajahn Amaro about dependent origination and how this can be used to understand the sequence of events that lead from ignorance to suffering. It seems to me that I get really caught up in this process. No amount of telling myself about the consequences seems to help. I know I'm going down a wrong path but seem to get swept away by my own defilements, it's a bit like watching a train wreck. Willpower doesn't help. More practical experience of using the understanding of dependent origination would be particularly useful I think.
If I wasn't married I might consider a monastic life, I'm sure a constant supportive environment would help. I'm too attached to my wife to consider that now.

I can get downhearted with the whole thing and I wondered how others here are getting along; what has worked and if there are some inspiring stories that can help us. :smile:
“To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

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Ben
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Re: Defilements etc. Somebody Stop Me!

Post by Ben » Wed Jun 15, 2016 12:23 pm

Dealing with any addictive or compulsive behaviour is difficult.
There may be some really good mundane strategies that will assist you as well as maintaining your dhamma practice on a regular and consistent basis.
For example - I highly recommend the use of nicotine patch replacement therapy to assist in giving up cigarettes. Likewise, AA and NA (or similar organisation) for alcohol and narcotic addiction. Other lifestyle changes can assist in creating a supportive space which will give you strength, such as becoming more active, eating a healthy diet, getting regular sleep, etc.
Above are some sample strategies that will help, but you are going to have to do the hard work yourself. Using the opportunity of the arising of craving and responding with equanimity while difficult is extremely beneficial.
I wish you all the best,

Ben
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Thisperson
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Re: Defilements etc. Somebody Stop Me!

Post by Thisperson » Wed Jun 15, 2016 3:05 pm

tellyontellyon wrote:I'm sure this is a common theme here, i.e., knowing what not to do but somehow being unable to stop myself.

I've been listening to some online talks by Ajahn Amaro about dependent origination and how this can be used to understand the sequence of events that lead from ignorance to suffering. It seems to me that I get really caught up in this process. No amount of telling myself about the consequences seems to help. I know I'm going down a wrong path but seem to get swept away by my own defilements, it's a bit like watching a train wreck. Willpower doesn't help. More practical experience of using the understanding of dependent origination would be particularly useful I think.
If I wasn't married I might consider a monastic life, I'm sure a constant supportive environment would help. I'm too attached to my wife to consider that now.

I can get downhearted with the whole thing and I wondered how others here are getting along; what has worked and if there are some inspiring stories that can help us. :smile:
For help of a more practical application of dependent origination, Ajahn Paññavaddho has some advice. In the selection below the term kilesa is used which can be translated as "defilement", and the term Paṭiccasamuppāda is used which means dependent origination, if you are unaware.
Ajahn Paññavaddho wrote:The point where we can have the greatest impact in breaking this cycle of birth and death is at the nexus between feeling, craving and attachment. It is there that we can start unraveling Paṭiccasamuppāda. Feeling is a critical link in the chain of dependent origination because it is between feeling and craving that you can erect a barrier to prevent the evolution of the process. It’s at this juncture between feeling and craving that we have an option to either accept or reject the kilesas.

Craving’s reaction to the arising of feeling is not predetermined. The arising of feeling simply means that the conditions are present for activating the kilesas. Whether the kilesas spring into action at that point or not depends on our state of mind. The kilesas don’t have to become active. We have the option of accepting or rejecting them. That’s where our freedom of will comes in. It comes in at the juncture where feeling conditions craving. When we do that, we start to dismantle Paṭiccasamuppāda until we reach the cessation of suffering.
From the chapter Feeling (p. 216) in the book Uncommon Wisdom.
http://www.forestdhamma.org/ebooks/engl ... Wisdom.pdf

A bit more:
Ajahn Paññavaddho wrote: Thoughts, speech or actions that follow the lead of the defilements create kamma. The kamma that results will come back to us as feeling in the future, starting the cycle rolling again. When we short-circuit the whole process at the link between feeling and craving, the momentum will slowly lessen, and the offending defilements will gradually die away, bit by bit.

The benefits won’t appear suddenly; old habits don’t die easily. But with persistence, over time they can be reformed. What’s important is developing the good habit of being mindful of feelings as they arise and assessing their potential danger to us. It’s almost like seeing a red flag come up, warning us to be vigilant. We immediately turn inward then, thinking, “I mustn’t let this get out of hand.” This is a fundamental part of the training in sense restraint.

So the way to deal with feelings is not so much a matter of deliberately not reacting to them, but rather one of being mindful of them. When we are mindful, not reacting will take place automatically. Mindfulness is a kind of monitor that checks what’s going on without interfering with it. With mindfulness, we sometimes feel like we are standing back and watching the feelings, as though from a back seat inside somewhere. Observing from that back seat, we can see clearly what’s happening, but we don’t interfere in any way. Pleasant and painful feelings are just happening, and that’s all. It’s that sort of attention that is required.

So pay close attention to feelings. When unpleasant feelings arise, examine them at the point where they occur. Don’t let those feelings turn into thoughts about blaming others. Think only about the feeling, not other people. In other words, if you keep the mind inside, no harm is done. Trouble comes only when you let it escape out into thought, speech or action. By allowing the mind to go out and blame things externally, you make kamma, and that kamma comes back to you in the future in the form of the same sort of feeling. So the wheel just keeps spinning. If you don’t learn to correct this recurring cycle, you will never get free from it.
So getting in touch more directly with feeling and craving (using mindfulness), instead of trying to use thinking and the intellect to "reason away" craving should help.

JohnK
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Re: Defilements etc. Somebody Stop Me!

Post by JohnK » Wed Jun 15, 2016 9:39 pm

tellyontellyon wrote: I wondered...if there are some inspiring stories that can help us.
This may not be all that inspiring, but:
So I realized that I had gained about 15 lbs. and wanted to loose it.
The reason I gained the weight is because when I felt a desire to snack, I would indulge the desire -- straight from the pleasant feeling of imagining the snack to the action, mindlessly.
From practicing mindfulness, I knew that I could be mindful of desires and that they would pass of their own w/o acting on them. For example, sitting in retreat I could have a strong desire to get up and go outside. Because I did not want to break my commitment to sit for the whole period (publicly no less!), I would not move and the desire would pass of its own. I'm not saying this was always easy ("I gotta move, I gotta move"), but you can sit with this discomfort of wanting and stay. You can even wonder a bit: how do I experience this severe restlessness that makes me feel I must do that thing that I am imagining?
In any case, my mindfulness practice informed my ability to lose the 15lbs. w/o a lot of trouble. I would want the snack, and realize, oh yeah, there's that wanting, I don't have to be a robot that must automatically respond to the desire with the action; the desire will in fact resolve w/o that. I lost the weight w/o a lot of forcing and aversion. I chose to be mindful in a situation where I had not been. I may not have been able to do that w/o my experience with mindfulness practice. Even an intellectual understanding of the process (it's not that complex!) might not have helped -- it is about continuity of mindfulness, seeing the process, knowing the impermanence of what arises,and knowing the impermanence of the gratification from acting on the desire.
Good luck!
(I'm just saying what Thisperson said -- may not hurt to hear it a couple of different ways!)
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

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tellyontellyon
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Re: Defilements etc. Somebody Stop Me!

Post by tellyontellyon » Wed Jun 15, 2016 10:23 pm

Thank you, this is useful. :heart:
“To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

JohnK
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Re: Defilements etc. Somebody Stop Me!

Post by JohnK » Wed Jun 15, 2016 10:24 pm

And because you used the term "defilements" in the subject line, I'll share a short quote (perhaps not precise as I jotted it down just after it was spoken) from Shaila Catherine:
"The defilements can't arise without misperception."
So, maybe, next time you experience that defilement of yours arising, ask yourself, what misperception is behind this? -- be curious!
The particular misperception being referred to in the quote happens to be seeing the aggregates as I, me, mine, but there could certainly be other misperceptions that could be behind your defilement.
Good luck.
"...the practice is essentially a practice, and not a theory to be idly discussed...right view leaves unanswered many questions about the cosmos and the self, and directs your attention to what needs to be done to escape from the ravages of suffering." Thanissaro Bhikkhu, On The Path.

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samseva
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Re: Defilements etc. Somebody Stop Me!

Post by samseva » Thu Jun 16, 2016 1:30 am

It is difficult to give advice without much information, but I will however say that willpower and discipline are the two main things that allow change of unhealthy behaviours (if you think of AA, willpower is what gets them out of the behaviour and discipline is what maintains them out of it). The thing is that willpower and discipline don't have a great reputation and are portrayed imprecisely. Willpower isn't about forcing yourself; it is about taking strategic actions to change one or different behaviours and putting forth the effort do put these in action. Whether it's throwing away the 50 pounds of junk food you have around your house, at the time when you have a clear and bright mind and headspace, or putting in place things to prevent you from doing the things you want to stop (such as eating a huge and healthy supper rather than heading over to the bag of chips a few hours after your meal, or having healthy and tasty snacks all ready in your fridge, for example).

Discipline is similar. It isn't really about forcing yourself, but it is about knowing what actions to do and what actions not to do, and then staying true to your logically (rather than emotionally) sound plan of action. If you know you shouldn't be buying that cake, don't buy it. It'll take effort to put it down, but you'll see how emotionally light and joyful you feel after the tense situation.

These are just examples and a crude explanation, but it's to say that willpower and discipline, however unpleasant they usually are (or are purported as being), they are the two things that make positive change possible.

Cheers.

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samseva
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Re: Defilements etc. Somebody Stop Me!

Post by samseva » Thu Jun 16, 2016 1:59 am

Also, once you get the ball rolling, willpower and discipline are actually very positive and pleasant qualites and states of mind to experience. The Buddha considered zeal (appamāda) the highest of qualities and most of the teachings (the first third of the Tipiṭaka being only for this purpose) is based on discipline (Vinaya and sīla).

Pinetree
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Re: Defilements etc. Somebody Stop Me!

Post by Pinetree » Thu Jun 16, 2016 3:46 am

No amount of telling myself about the consequences seems to help.
You need a meditative approach.

Alternatively, maybe a less elegant solution, increase the amount. Choose an inspirational phrase that you are comfortable with, and repeat it, do few series of 50 times every day. For some reason, the idea came to me that this could be done on mala beads.

Couple of links about renunciation:

**************

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

**************

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUGHY6_HIp0" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

************
More practical experience of using the understanding of dependent origination would be particularly useful I think.
This is a nice scheme built around replacing unwise attention with wise attention.

http://wisdomthroughmindfulness.blogspo ... thana.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

--------

This is a quote, a story which I found inspiring:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... html#talk1" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
In the Buddha's teachings, this principle is similar to restraint. There's a famous passage in the Dhammapada [§26] where the Buddha says that if you see a greater happiness that comes from abandoning a lesser happiness, you should be willing to let go of the lesser happiness in order to gain the greater happiness. This sounds very simple and commonsensical, but it's not easy to practice and many people even resist the idea of practicing it.

I have a friend who writes novels and teaches at a university. Every time she writes a new novel, she's invited to read passages from her new novel at some of the university's alumni clubs. So each time she has to choose a self-contained story from the novel to read to these groups. In her last novel, the story she chose was about a young woman in 17th century China. The woman's mother had died, and the father had promised that he would not remarry. But you know how fathers are. After two years, he did remarry. Not only that, he married a courtesan.

Now, the courtesan was very intelligent, and she wanted to be a good stepmother to the girl. One night they were playing chess. As they were playing, the stepmother was also using the occasion to teach the daughter an important lesson in life. The lesson was this: If you want true happiness in life, you have to decide that there's one thing you want more than anything else, and that you're willing to sacrifice everything else for that one thing. Of course, the daughter was half listening and half not listening, as children often do to lessons like these, but she began to notice that her stepmother was a sloppy chess player, losing pieces all over the chessboard. So the daughter became more aggressive in her game. Well, it turned out that the stepmother had done this as a trap, and soon: checkmate. The stepmother won. And of course, the way she played chess was illustrating the lesson she was trying to teach the daughter: You have to sacrifice some of your pieces in order to win.

My friend read this story to three different groups, and then had to stop. Nobody liked the story. Now, maybe this tells you something about the attitudes of modern consumer culture, but I think that it's also a general human characteristic. We want to win at chess and keep all our pieces. That is not a healthy ego function. The wisdom of suppression lies in realizing this: that you have to sacrifice some things in order to gain what you really want. And this is what the Buddha teaches in restraint. If you see that any actions are unskillful, you learn how to avoid them for the sake of a greater happiness. It's a trade.

And this is an important point, don't do the renunciation with the feeling that you're putting happiness aside, but with a feeling that you are cultivating happiness.

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Aloka
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Re: Defilements etc. Somebody Stop Me!

Post by Aloka » Thu Jun 30, 2016 8:19 am

tellyontellyon wrote: knowing what not to do but somehow being unable to stop myself.
Hi tellyontellyon,

Be determined, say to yourself "OK, I'm going to do this from now on"....and then just do it! (That's the way I gave up cigarettes and did a few other things.)
I can get downhearted with the whole thing
I think its very important to relax and be gentle with yourself. Try doing a session of samatha meditation every day. (Outside in the open air is best, in my opinion). When the mind becomes calm and stable and opens out, insight can begin to arise.

With kind wishes,

Aloka

dhammarelax
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Re: Defilements etc. Somebody Stop Me!

Post by dhammarelax » Thu Jun 30, 2016 10:06 am

tellyontellyon wrote:I'm sure this is a common theme here, i.e., knowing what not to do but somehow being unable to stop myself.

I've been listening to some online talks by Ajahn Amaro about dependent origination and how this can be used to understand the sequence of events that lead from ignorance to suffering. It seems to me that I get really caught up in this process. No amount of telling myself about the consequences seems to help. I know I'm going down a wrong path but seem to get swept away by my own defilements, it's a bit like watching a train wreck. Willpower doesn't help. More practical experience of using the understanding of dependent origination would be particularly useful I think.
If I wasn't married I might consider a monastic life, I'm sure a constant supportive environment would help. I'm too attached to my wife to consider that now.

I can get downhearted with the whole thing and I wondered how others here are getting along; what has worked and if there are some inspiring stories that can help us. :smile:
Try this method: https://suttacentral.net/en/mn19
Even if the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, I will use all my human firmness, human persistence and human striving. There will be no relaxing my persistence until I am the first of my generation to attain full awakening in this lifetime. ed. AN 2.5

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tellyontellyon
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Re: Defilements etc. Somebody Stop Me!

Post by tellyontellyon » Wed Aug 03, 2016 12:23 pm

Thank you, this is all good help. :heart:
“To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

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ihrjordan
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Re: Defilements etc. Somebody Stop Me!

Post by ihrjordan » Wed Aug 03, 2016 1:04 pm

I sympathize with your problem as I used to and sometimes still do get caught up in thoughts. But what has worked like a charm is to come to see any unwholesome or otherwise unwanted thoughts as "other". If an undesirable thought arises I repeat in my head "this thought is evil, this thought is alien, this thought is cancerous, this thought will lead me to hell, this thought is alien" this usually works in recognizing the unwholesome as unwholesome and not doing it. But failing this I will recount the consequences of following an evil thought say for example if I wanted to smoke as I had in the past I would say to myself "smoking will make you ugly, it will make you poor, it will make you sickly, it will give you cancer, it will make you depressed when you don't have any".

These two usually work but in the off chance that they don't then I ask myself questions about the present situation "where is there suffering?" What am I doing to cause suffering and how could I overcome it?" What you will find is that simply posing the questions to yourself will aide you in finding an answer.

One thing I always like telling myself is that one is considered wise in direct proportion to the quality of questions that he asks. You can't learn anything if you already have all the answers ; )

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