Dharma practice is medicine for the mind -- something particularly needed in a culture like ours that actively creates mental illness in training us to be busy producers and avid consumers. As individuals, we become healthier through our Dharma practice, which in turn helps bring sanity to our society at large.
Giving dharma talks offers me the opportunity to express gratitude for my Thai teachers -- Ajahn Fuang Jotiko and Ajahn Suwat Suvaco -- in appreciation of the many years they spent training me, which came with the understanding that the teachings continue past me. Giving dharma talks also pushes me to articulate what I haven''t yet verbalized to myself in English. This in turn enriches my own practice. When you help a wide variety of people deal with their issues, it helps you practice with yours.
When giving a talk, I try to remain true to three things: my training, my study of the early Buddhist texts, and the needs of my listeners. The challenge is to find the point where all three meet -- not as a compromise, but in their genuine integrity.
For this, I play with analogy. Meditation is a skill, and our meeting point as people, whatever our culture, lies in our experience in mastering skills: how to sew clothes, cook a meal, or build a shelter. So I've found that one of the most effective ways of explaining subtle points in meditation is to find analogies with more mundane skills. Through the language of analogy we find common ground from which our practice can grow to meet our individual needs, and yet remain true to its universal roots.
Rather than burdening our over-worked minds with yet another job ' meditation ' staying with the breath is a way to strip away our mental burdens and give the mind a solid, safe place to stand amidst our chaotic lives.
A lot of our preconceived notions come out of ignorance, so it’s important to clear away as many unnecessary expectations as possible when you meditate. Just stay with the breath as it comes in and out. That’s all you have to know.
The skills you learn in meditation don't fall off your lap when you get off the cushion. You learn to be steadier, more precise and sensitive, and you can take those skills to use in the rest of your life -- where they show their true worth.