Being lost among the causes of suffering is to abandon supreme happiness. Why do you delight in unhappiness? From ‘Engaging deeds of Bodhisattva’
Making Friends with the Cement Mixer,
by Ajahn Sumedho
. . so the retreat continues and today wasn’t so noisy. We didn’t have such a good chance to meditate and make friends with the cement mixer and the pneumatic drill, but that is being facetious. In a way, it is also an opportunity of adopting a realistic attitude towards meditation, and not creating hostility towards the way it is. There is noise and unpleasant things happen, but if we become averse to them, then we are creating hostility. When we are mindful and accept the way it is, then we are not creating hostility. So the real suffering is not the sound of the pneumatic drill and the cement mixer, but the stuff you create in your own mind—that is what dukkha is.
Sometimes we want to have a monastery that is perfectly silent, like a dream place. Spirit Rock in California is a beautiful place, it’s in Marin County across from San Francisco, and they have built some lovely buildings and a meditation hall. It has been well thought out and it is modest and convenient. But there are these turkey vultures. Outside the meditation hall they go ‘gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble . . . ‘ One of these birds likes the people, he’s made friends with them, but the quandary is that some people think they should be got rid of. Well, I always think friction and having annoying things around is absolutely essential for good meditation. Otherwise, you become incredibly selfish, controlling, and easily upset.
If the standards are too high and everything is just perfect, then any little thing that disturbs can get you into a rage. This is an important reflection. Luang Por Chah was very good at getting me to see that suffering wasn’t really anything there in the monastery—the food, the climate, the insects—it was what I created in my own mind. And that is where wisdom is. You begin to realise that the world is going to be this way, that there is always going to be something you don’t like, that is not going to suit you, that is going to be irritating or undesirable in some way.
How do we respond? One way is to react and try to get rid of the turkey vultures, the cement mixer, the pneumatic drill, the lawnmower, and any other annoying thing. Sometimes you get somebody that is into ringing bells, and they just hammer away on that bell out there—that can be really annoying! And this isn’t to say that we don’t try to set up quiet and suitable places in which to meditate, but what we are aiming at is liberation from conditions, not control. When we get into environmental control and try to make everything the way we want it to be, even if we get what we want, we become somebody who has to have our own way in order to meditate. Then you are very dependent.
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