Gilbert Beginner-Advance Meditation

Gilbert's Beginner/Advance Meditation

The Basics
         This time around, the teaching from Gilbert Gutierrez was a bit unorthodox. Since the audience consisted mostly of beginners, the program was adjusted to incorporate the basics. It was not just the usual sitting sessions. Gilbert did go over, briefly, the meditation techniques of sitting and posture. But what Gilbert wanted to teach was the basics of why we meditate. Gilbert went pre-meditation, meaning he taught the foundation needed even before we begin to meditate, which will essential make sitting meditations more meaningful and more alive; not just sitting there like a “cold stone on dry wood.”

        We went through a method called “cat and mouse.” The mouse represents our thought. The cat represents our mind. We simply meditate and use the mind to catch the thought. Once caught, we just release it. And this repeats until the sitting meditation exercise time expires. The purpose was to understand the difference between mind and thought; which is the host and which is the guest. This is a fundamental idea that is essential in helping understand the use of meditation techniques to calm the mind.

        One great example Gilbert used to illustrate the emptiness of the mind was with the movie screen. He said that our mind was like a screen (or mirror). When pictures are shown on the screen, the screen becomes active. Since the movie is shown on the screen, we think the screen and movie are one, mistaking the movie to be the screen and the screen to be the movie. But in reality, the screen and the movie are separate things. We get caught up in the movie and forget the screen. One purpose of meditation is to help us differentiate the screen and the movie. Once we can differential the screen and movie, continuously, then enlightenment will just be around the corner.

Cause and Condition Never Fail
         This is an idea that is very important for us to understand. Gilbert emphasized this many times. If we plant apple seeds, we will get apple trees. If we plant orange seeds, we will get orange trees. This is the law of “cause and condition.” The cause and condition is the event after planting the seeds. Without cause and condition, the tree may never appear. But with the correct cause and condition, the seed will become the future plant. This never fails.

        Another example was in the movie “The Color of Money”, starring Paul Newman. In a pool game, every time Paul Newman knocked a ball in a pocket the opponent would say “I don’t deserve this.” At the end, when Paul Newman won the game, the other guy still said “I don’t deserve this.” At that time, Paul Newman replied “Yes, you did.” Because Paul Newman practiced much more than his opponent, the cause and condition of Paul Newman’s practice enabled him to win the game. While the cause and condition of that other guy’s practice was not enough to allow him to win.

Walking Meditation
         In the afternoon, we went outside to practice. It was a beautiful, warm, and windy afternoon. Outside, we did walking meditation. There were three types of walking meditation. One was slow walking. The main point is to move as slowly as possible, feeling each movement of the feet. Our hands are held near the belly button, just one inch in front. The right hand makes a fist and the left hand wraps around the back side of the fist, with the thumb slightly inserted into the top of the fist. The second was regular walking, which is similar to the speed of our everyday walking. For this, we still use the method of feeling each step; be aware. The third was fast walking meditation. This requires a slight forward lean. As we lean, we will naturally move our feet quickly forward to keep from falling. While keeping the lean, allow the arms to swing naturally. The speed will naturally increase.

         After walking meditation, we did some form of opposite-direct contemplation. We simply just open our eyes and observe. When we observe, we try not to focus on any one thing. Instead, we try to look at everything at the same time. Not focusing on something, allows us to develop our awareness of equanimity. The goal is not to pick and choose. Instead we see all things as equal. If we focus on something, that means our minds have started to distinguish. For me, as I began scanning the area, I saw people, trees, birds, bushes, rocks, etc. Towards the end, I only saw things that move and things that are still. My mind was beginning to have that equanimity of awareness.


Back in the Chan Hall
        Continuing with our practice, we were asked to close our eyes and imagine an apple. Then Gilbert asked us about the apple. Where did it appear? The answer was in the mind. This example taught us that the mind is where everything happens. Due to cause and condition, images will appear in the mind. If we attach to the images, then the image and the mind will be one. Eventually, we will mistake the images to be part of our true mind. But the true mind is just the mind without the images. This is what we call Buddha nature. This is similar to the example of the mind being like a screen.

        Another thing Gilbert mentioned that was a bit subtle, but very important, is the idea that we “humans” are strange looking. Many people may not realize this, but it is true. We have one head, two arms and two legs. This is indeed strange looking. What Gilbert is trying to say is that we have gotten so used to seeing ourselves as who we are, we don’t realize we are strange looking. To understand this point, we must not attach to ourselves. We have to see from a baby’s eye. If we suddenly see a ghost, we will be frightened, because we are not used to seeing it. But if we approach everything we see as being equal and do not attach to it, then we will not like or dislike. We will just see it as it appears. If we see a pig, we just see a pig. If we see a snake, we just see a snake. If one day we see a ghost, then we just see a ghost. Do not attach. If we attach, then we will feel happy if we see a pretty girl or handsome guy. If we attach, then we will feel afraid if we see a ghost. If one day we see a three-armed human walking on the street, we should have a mind of just seeing a three-armed human; nothing good, nothing bad; just a three armed human.

        Overall, Gilbert Gutierrez gave a very powerful dharma sharing. There were many powerful ideas unleashed by Gilbert. He tried to squeeze a lot of good ideas into one day. Whoever has the right cause and condition was able to pick it all up. I picked up what I can and have shared with everyone that found their way to this report. It was definitely a great day. All participants seemed to genuinely enjoy the event. For me, I am looking forward to Gilbert’s next visit to DDMBASF.