The extreme conditions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic
are creating unusually high levels of fear and discomfort, while
at the same time offering a precious opportunity to prac-
tice continuously in a liberating way.
Sayadaw U Tejaniya is a monk and meditation teacher from
Myanmar (Burma), who teaches meditation as a relaxed and
investigation into reality to be practiced "from the
moment you wake up, until the moment you fall asleep."
Here he offers offers tips that can be especially helpful during
this period when the most harmful habits of mind—known in Bud-
dhism as the "three unwholesome roots" of greed, hatred and de-
lusion—become unusually prominent and visibly exposed.
Revealed starkly in this way, the three unwholesome roots
become especially susceptible to being seen and known,
understood with compassion, and thus dissolved.
The messages here appeared originally in "The Daily
Tejaniya," a series of daily practice messages that
throughout the Covid-19 crisis are aimed towards
dealing mindfully with the current conditions.
If you would like to receive "The Daily
Tejaniya," click here.
HOW TO WORK SKILLFULLY WITH ANXIETY
How to Work Skillfully With Anxiety (1 of 4)
You need to acknowledge anxiety every time it comes
up. Watching anxiety will help you understand some-
thing and this will allow your mind to let go. Remem-
ber that the purpose of vipassana meditation is not to
relieve you from what is happening, but to help
you understand what is happening.
How to Work Skillfully With Anxiety (2 of 4)
When trying to deal with an emotion you can ask yourself
four questions. The first question is: "When I am having this
emotion, does it make my body and mind feel good or bad?"
If you recognize the emotion every time it arises, and also re-
cognize whether it feels pleasant or unpleasant in body and
mind, the mind will start wondering whether it is worth hav-
ing this emotion. Eventually your mind will realize that
it does not have to live with this emotion.
How to Work Skillfully With Anxiety (3 of 4)
When trying to deal with an emotion you can ask yourself
four questions. The second question* is: "What is the emotion
about, what is it directed towards?" The third question: "Why
am I having this emotion?" The fourth question: "Is having this
emotion necessary?" These questions support the practice be-
cause they create interest and encourage us to use our intel-
ligence. The moment we get a real answer, when the
mind really sees something, it lets go.
How to Work Skillfully With Anxiety (4 of 4)
If you watch and recognize the emotions of anxiety ev-
ery time they come up, they will decrease. But as long
as you haven't really understood them, they will keep
coming up again and again. You will have to watch
them persistently and patiently until the mind
really understands and can let go.
A FEW BASICS
Think of Your Home as a Retreat Center
Think of your home as a retreat center. Begin
by altering the way you see your home. When
you begin to view your home in the same way
that you view a meditation center, your prac-
tice will become smoother. Keep checking
your attitudes and views, your thinking
and your background ideas.
What is Our Understanding of Life?
First, we must ask ourselves: What is our relation-
ship to reality? What is our understanding of life?
From this, we will find meditation is really the only
sensible approach to our reality and the problems
that can arise from living. We can use it as an es-
cape or avoidance from life, or we can use
it as a practice to attend to life.
The World is a Creation of Mind
The world is a creation of mind.
So there is no need to look outside.
Everything is happening right
here in our own minds.
SPIRITUAL URGENCY (SAMVEGA)
Spiritual Urgency is a Kind of Wisdom
Samvega, spiritual urgency, is a kind of wisdom. Under-
standing the fundamental nature of experience can lead
to a strong feeling that we must complete the practice.
For example, we may realize that we can't escape having
to experience. We must experience, and experience, and
experience, and this may feel like an oppressiveness we
are constantly needled by. If we truly felt this as
dukkha—as pain and suffering—how fast
would we run towards the path?
A Story of Spiritual Urgency
One time, my teacher sent me across to the other side of
the monastery to fetch some medicine for him. It was quite
dark with no moon. I knew the way quite well so felt no need
to use my flashlight. On the way back, at one point I had this
intuitive feeling that something was not right. I switched on my
flashlight, and there was a cobra in front of me with its hood
spread, ready to lunge and bite. There was no hospital or doc-
tor close by, so if I was bitten, there was not much hope. I was
very afraid and frozen to the spot, but I was eventually able to
find the courage to back off and retreat to a safe distance. What
came to mind were thoughts that I didn't want to die without
having led a good and wholesome life. I was very aware of all
the negativity in my life at the time, and the fear that I was
experiencing was beginning to drive the determination
to push forward and make changes to
how I was living my life.
WHEN CHALLENGES BECOME VERY REAL
When Challenges Become Real (1 of 4)
When we meditate at home and in daily life, the
challenges and benefits of practice become much
more real than when we are on a meditation re-
treat. It takes a real practice to deal with real
situations and real unwholesome reactions.
When Challenges Become Real (2 of 4)
It's like learning boxing. When you are training in
the gym, which is like going on a meditation retreat,
no one throws you a really hard punch. In the boxing
ring of daily life, the punches are real, and you quickly
learn how to throw a punch when you need to. You
need to get in the ring to learn the real practice.
When Challenges Become Real (3 of 4)
At first you will often find yourself in
a protective crouch. The blows just keep
coming. Never mind—just keep defending
yourself and punching back! Keep being
mindful. In this way you become very
skillful and learn how to win in life.
When Challenges Become Real (4 of 4)
If you continue to practice daily, all day
long, always with the commitment to try
to bring awareness to every part of your
life, it will happen. You can become
enlightened in daily life.
SCENES FROM SAYADAW'S
Scenes from Sayadaw's Escape from Depression (1 of 2)
Hi Everybody, with extra time on our hands for many of us these days, I
thought we might enjoy two wonderful short films about Sayadaw's escape
from paralyzing depression as a young man, to the ever-cheerful sage of daily
life meditation that he is today. Today, "Homecoming," in which Sayadaw returns to his boyhood home in Yangon to celebrate Chinese New Year with his family, including his aged mother. Interspersed, he vividly describes moments and lessons from this specific liberation, often standing with the very people
and in the very places they originally happened. ~ Doug
Scenes from Sayadaw's Escape from Depression (2 of 2)
Hi Everybody, the central story of Sayadaw's liberation from depression took place in the Theingyi Market in downtown Yangon, where he taught himself how
to maintain continuous awareness while running a busy garment stall,
amid piles of clothes and swatches. He'd learned how to meditate at
at a monastery, but was forced by circumstance to apply it in daily life
under these trying conditions—and it saved his life. In this short
video, we return with Sayadaw to visit the very market where
he developed the style of meditation he teaches
to this day. Enjoy ~ Doug
STAY WITH AWARENESS WHILE LISTENING
Skillfully consuming news, whether it's delivered person-to-person
or via the media in speech crafted for emotional impact by govern-
ment figures, broadcasters and "experts," is a critical skill at any
time, but especially in times of crisis. In this series, Sayadaw
offers general guidelines on mindful listening that
will come in handy. ~ Doug
Stay With Awareness While Listening (1 of 5)
Keep your attention on yourself when you're listening to
someone speak. This doesn't mean to stay with the stories
your mind is telling, or with your desire to speak up or to stay
silent. It means staying with your awareness of everything
that's happening in your mind and body as you listen. Notice
your thoughts, your feelings, your posture, your breath, your
facial expression, how you are holding your arms and
hands. Everything! Notice everything you can.
Be interested and learn.
Stay With Awareness While Listening (2 of 5)
If you put too much attention on the other person when
they are speaking, then there is not enough attention for
yourself. When you stay with awareness when the other
person is speaking, you'll still hear the other person and
can follow what they are saying. But you'll also be
able to notice many other things that are hap-
pening in awareness.
Stay With Awareness While Listening (3 of 5)
Let's say another person is talking and you have heard
it all before. If you remain interested in your reactions
and not interested in what the other person is saying—
their stories and complaints—then you will have some-
thing interesting to do while the person drones on. No
matter what the situation, in this way you'll
always learn a lot as you listen.
Stay With Awareness While Listening (4 of 5)
If a person says something that makes you
angry, that's their business. There is never a
good reason to be angry. Instead of attaching
to the words that arouse your anger, get in-
terested in your reactivity instead.
Study and learn.
Stay With Awareness While Listening (5 of 5)
If you get angry while listening, don't dwell on the per-
son speaking, but instead watch the anger. Stay with the
mind and body. Get interested in the process. What is hap-
pening when you are angry? What leads to what? How are
the thoughts, physical sensations, and perceptions all relat-
ed in the overall emotion of anger? Notice what happens
to anger when you get interested and simply watch and
learn from anger in this way, instead of reacting
to it. Does it get stronger or weaker or
stay the same? Watch and learn.
RELATING TO FAMILY ON HOME RETREATS
"Think of your
home as a retreat center," Sayadaw says. But
there's one big difference at home for most of us: there are
family members around who aren't necessarily retreating with
us. Over the next week, some tips on how to work with loved
ones on home retreats. ~ Doug
Relating to Family on Home Retreats (1 of 7)
We are usually more careful and aware with
strangers, or with people we meet only once in
a while, than we are with our own family mem-
bers, whom we see all the time. We take them
for granted, and we don't pay attention to
them, even though that's the most impor-
tant thing we could do at home.
Relating to Family on Home Retreats (2 of 7)
When I began to practice at home, I started to realize the
little things that parents do for us—how parents always keep
their children in mind. I really began to love my parents very
much. I appreciated all the little things they do. Then my par-
ents would would feel it. They would notice and appreciate the
love they were getting, and they would show their love more.
When we do everything with awareness we start to notice and
learn these things. Everything comes together. You can't miss
anything if you're doing everything with awareness.
Relating to Family on Home Retreats (3 of 7)
We must remember that the state of the
mind colors our experience. Experience is
always colored by the color of the mind. It's
like with members of our own family: some-
times we love someone to death and some-
times we can't stand them—same person!
Relating to Family on Home Retreats (4 of 7)
How should a person practice on a home retreat?
In exactly the same way as they do on retreat
at a center: by maintaining continuous awareness of each
activity throughout the day. The moment that you wake up
in the morning, know that you are awake and aware. As
you get out of bed, know that you are getting out of bed.
As you walk to the bathroom, know that you are walking
to the bathroom. As you wash your face, know that you
are washing your face. As you brush your teeth, know it;
when you are making breakfast, know it; when you are
eating, know it. Continuously know everything you are
doing. This is how we should always practice, even
when there's not a crisis.
Relating to Family on Home Retreats (5 of 7)
Greed, hatred and delusion are very strong at home.
Why? Because it's MY house, MY wife, MY husband,
MY car, etc. There's a lot of attachment at home. We
can't even stand to throw away our old shoes! There-
fore, we need to practice more at home. Only then
will greed, hatred and delusion diminish
and wisdom grow.
Relating to Family on Home Retreats (6 of 7)
I share a space with a partner, and we are around
each other much more often than before. It's tense,
like we are breathing down each other's necks. What
advice can you offer someone living in close prox-
imity with a loved one during a lockdown?
You feel like this because you are thinking about the
other person, and watching the other person. Your atten-
tion is all outside yourself. At a time like this we will be
in close quarters with other people. If we are not wise
we are going to notice and think more things about them,
and this will create problems. This is a time when it's
most important to keep your mind inside yourself. Don't
be a busybody. Don't just quarantine your body, quaran-
tine your mind. Keep it inside itself, don't let it wander
out and start judging and thinking about other people.
Relating to Family on Home Retreats (7 of 7)
When greed, hatred and delusion decrease you'll
know how to love your parents, family and friends
better. As attachments decrease, feelings like loving-
kindness and compassion naturally grow. In other
words, whenever the three unwholesome roots
decrease, wholesome minds grow.
HOW TO PRACTICE WITH OVERWHELM
How to Practice When You Feel Overwhelmed (1 of 3)
At these times we need to take strength
from tiny moments. Take a moment to go
within yourself. Meditate, don't think. Don't
think of anything. Take the moment to just
drop into the present moment and gather
your mind. This is where concentration
practice is very helpful.
How to Practice When You Feel Overwhelmed (2 of 3)
In concentration practice, you keep awareness focused
on a single object, and in this way calm the mind. If you
can do it for one minute, do it for one minunte. If you can
do two minutes, do two minutes. Take as many opportuni-
ties as you can like this throughout the day. If it's ten sec-
onds, it's ten seconds. As many chances as you get,
take them. Use them to ground the mind,
to calm and stabilize the mind.
How to Practice When You Feel Overwhelmed (3 of 3)
When a person feels overwhelmed, you recommend keep-
ing awareness focused on a single object to calm the mind.
What objects of concentration do you recommend?
Pick whatever object serves you best. Only you will know,
so experiment and find what works for you. It could be the
breath, or the senation of the whole body, or the senation
of one finger touching another. It could be a memory that
brings you joy. It could be a different object each time. Use
whatever makes you feel grounded and brings you to the
present moment as fast as possible, right now. The most im-
portant thing is that in these moments when you are calming
the mind, not to allow anything in that frazzles the mind.
Do not let anything in that unsettles the mind.
HOW TO PRACTICE AMID FEAR AND UNCERTAINTY
How to Practice Amid Fear and Uncertainty (1 of 5)
How should a person practice to maintain aware-
ness and equanimity amid all the fear and anxiety
that Covid-19 has unleashed??
As far as the practice is concerned, I can only say, practice
as usual. I only give instructions for practice, and the prac-
tice instructions are always the same. There's almost a man-
tra in the way I teach, which is, we're not practicing to make
things happen in the mind, such as equanimity, or to make
things go away, such as fear or anxiety. Rather, we practice
in order to observe things as they are happening, and to understand.
How to Practice Amid Fear and Uncertainty (2 of 5)
The most important thing is not to think about how to prac-
tice in order that something will go away, like your fears, so
that you can then enjoy equanimity. That's not the way to
approach the practice. The way to approach practice is to
remember, first and foremost, that the mind suffers when-
ever it either resists or craves having an experience. The
right attitude is instead accepting, observing, and
learning from your experience just as it is.
How to Practice Amid Fear and Uncertainty (3 of 5)
It helps if someone already has some understanding
of the three characteristics of impermanence (anicca),
unsatisfactoriness or suffering (dukkha), and not-self
(anatta). If you have this understanding you can then
remind yourself about what is happening outside in
the world: "This is nature, this is the nature of
impermanence, suffering and not-self.”
How to Practice Amid Fear and Uncertainty (4 of 5)
What is happening in the outside world is nature—it is
the nature of impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha),
and not-self (anatta). But what is happening inside of us is
also nature. If the mind understands and accepts what is
happening both outside and inside as nature, then you'll
be able to know how to think and act in the most
appropriate ways possible.
How to Practice Amid Fear and Uncertainty (5 of 5)
Keep the right frame of mind. Whatever simple
practices you have learned to keep you grounded in
the present moment, do them, to keep your mind
aware and ready for whatever you have to face.
“SAYADAW, HOW DO YOU PERSONALLY HANDLE FEAR?”
"Sayadaw, How Do You Personally Handle Fear?" (1 of 3)
It's not that I don't have anxiety or fear, but I
do have the understanding that this is just what
happens in the mind. I cannot prevent the mind
from having fear or anxiety. They will arise.
But my view is, "This is natural for the
mind in this situation."
"Sayadaw, How Do You Personally Handle Fear?" (2 of 3)
The worst thing that you could possibly do is to
think: "How can I get rid of this?" Because the
desire to not have anything bad happen at all is
exactly what causes the worst fears to arise. The
mind that doesn't want any sorrow or suf-
fering creates the most anxiety.
"Sayadaw, How Do You Personally Handle Fear?" (3 of 3)
For me, the key is that someone, anyone, can ac-
cept in their mind that "fear or anxiety is natural,
that it can happen, and it's happening now." If the
mind accepts that this is just nature at work,
this acceptance settles the mind so much.
ADVICE FOR NURSES AND GROCERY STORE WORKERS
Advice for Nurses and Grocery Store Workers (1 of 4)
I always tell yogis that it's not only in times
of crisis, but at any time in life, that first we
always want to know the intention before any
action, before any speech. We want to know
why we are doing something, and we want
to know how we are going to do it. This
is a basic tenet of wise awareness.
Advice for Nurses and Grocery Store Workers (2 of 4)
Plan ahead and set your mood for the day. Establish
positive intentions so that you carry out your actions
and speech in the best possible way. Approach each
day with the most wholesome mind possible. Then,
with your mind being wholesome, you will feel more
at ease and peaceful, and you will carry out your
actions in the most peaceful and wise way.
Advice for Nurses and Grocery Store Workers (3 of 4)
Those on the front lines like nurses, doctors and gro-
cery store workers can try to do their work while con-
tinually wishing well for themselves, for everyone around
them, and for all beings. If they can maintain a mind that
is consciously and continuously wishing everyone well as
they go about their difficult work throughout the day,
that would be an extremely healthy practice.
Advice for Nurses and Grocery Store Workers (4 of 4)
If there is high anxiety or panic, it's harder for you
to deal with the world and with your mind, and you're
more likely to make mistakes. And you're also more like-
ly to spread the virus through unconscious and compul-
sive actions. That's a basic understanding and approach
to practice that is always important, but right now
is more crucially important than ever.
DOES A CRISIS PRESENT A SPECIAL OPPORTUNITY FOR PRACTICE?
Does a Crisis Present a Special Opportunity for Practice? (1 of 3)
At a time like this, everybody becomes more con-
scious of themselves. It doesn't matter if it's someone
who meditates and understands awareness and being
aware of the self or not. You don't have to have stud-
ied anicca, dukkha, anatta and all of that. Everybody
naturally becomes much more conscious of their feel-
ings and all their fears and thoughts at this time.
Does a Crisis Present a Special Opportunity for Practice? (2 of 3)
When someone who becomes more conscious also thinks
in the right way, this heightened awareness will naturally
turn practice into a real learning journey. It becomes a prac-
tice of Dhamma. There will be a marked change in attitude
away from fear and towards acceptance, interest, and a de-
sire to learn and understand. Instead of resisting feelings in
the mind and body, these feelings will now be seen as na-
ture. A great release and relief comes from seeing and
understanding one's experience in this way.
Does a Crisis Present a Special Opportunity for Practice? (3 of 3)
For those who meditate, this can be a time for
greater clarity. It's like an alarm that's awaken-
ing us to the quality of dukkha that is inherent to
this life. Dukkha is always present but now the
alarm of the pandemic is waking us up very
clearly to the fact that life has this nature.
"SAYADAW, HOW ARE YOU PRACTICING DURING THIS TIME?"
"Sayadaw, How Are You Practicing During This Time?" (1 of 5)
I am finding this period is a tremendous opportunity
to fine-tune my practice, not only when I am sitting but
throughout the day. There are no more interviews with
yogis, and there are very few interactions or daily respon-
sibilities. So I can really focus much more within msyelf,
practicing detailed awareness. That's how I can help.
"Sayadaw, How Are You Practicing During This Time?" (2 of 5)
Have any special insights arisen?
No deep or astounding insights, but just the other day,
while just simply noticing my breath, the mind suddenly
appreciated so deeply that I was still breathing. It recog-
nized that there are so many people who are having great
difficulty breathing today in the world, and I was very
grateful that I could still breathe and that I was aware.
"Sayadaw, How Are You Practicing During This Time?" (3 of 5)
I noticed something while doing an experiment with
my mind, which is that when I changed my thoughts,
this changed how I felt. For example, if I thought,
"This is a truly frightening situation right now, etc.,"
then the mind became full of fear. Terrified! But if I
then changed my thoughts to something like "After
all the virus isn't here yet, and we are taking strong
precautions, etc.," then the mind settled and felt at
ease. It was really interesting to see that the mind
could take eitherposition. Depending on the thoughts,
my feelings changed, not because reality had changed
but because my thinking had. In this way I saw that
how I think becomes how I feel.
"Sayadaw, How Are You Practicing During This Time?" (4 of 5)
You have to learn the right limit. You have to be
balanced, not so carefree that you are reckless, but
also not so afraid that you are paralyzed. To main-
tain that balance, be cautious as necessary, and
don't worry about what you cannot control.
"Sayadaw, How Are You Practicing During This Time?" (5 of 5)
I've become much more conscious of how often I reach
reach up to touch my face for no reason. You have to be
really mindful to not touch your face—it's very difficult!
Yet when you notice this, you start to become aware of the
intention that is formed before you touch your face. Once
you start to become aware at this level—that is the level
of intentions before an action takes place—then you can
choose to stop that action if you want. If you can notice
the intention to touch the face, that gives you the pow-
er to choose not to do so, which at a time like
this can literally be life-saving.
“SAYADAW, HOW ARE YOU TAKING REFUGE IN SANGHA, NOW?"
"Sayadaw, How Are You Taking Refuge in Sangha, Now?"(1 of 2)
There are two views of sangha, the conventional
(samutti) sangha and the ultimate (paramattha) san-
gha. The conventional sangha is the people who prac-
tice, who maintain the Dhamma by writing books, or
who safeguard the books and the knowledge. The ulti-
mate sangha is the pure mind, the wholesome mind.
"Sayadaw, How Are You Taking Refuge in Sangha, Now?"(1 of 2)
The ultimate sangha is the pure mind, the whole-
some mind. When I'm practicing, I bring my mind
to a wholesome state. At that time I am relying on
the mind that is sangha to me. The wholesome mind
is a sangha that I can depend on. The meditating
wholesome mind is the sangha that you can rely on.
That's the ultimate sangha. It's not people, it's a quality.
THE UNWHOLESOME MIND MUST NEVER LEAD
Fear seems to increase the voltage of mindfulness.
For example, fearing that touching my face could give
me coronavirus seems to heighten my ability to be a-
ware of the intention to touch my face before I do so.
We must be careful about letting fear become the moti-
vator of any thought or action. The unwholesome mind
should never lead. If fear arises, you can watch the fear.
But don't let it lead, because defilements always bring
in other defilements. For example, if you let fear be the
lead, it will quickly bring in other defilements such as
anger, worry, impatience, sadness or depression.
BE WITH REALITY NOT YOUR THOUGHTS
Be With Reality Not Your Thoughts (1 of 4)
How can I practice with feelings of loneliness that
come from living alone during the lockdown?
The problem again* is thinking. You are thinking "I'm so
lonely," "I'm all alone," "I feel like this" and "I feel like
that." It's all this thinking that's the problem. If you were
being mindful of your actions continuously throughout the
day, you would be getting samadhi and be on a high. You
would be feeling happy and you would not be thinking.
Thinking is what provides the word "loneliness." If you
are aware, if you are with reality, there is no loneliness
because there is always two—there is awareness
and there is object. You are never alone.
* Refers to this earlier question.
Be With Reality Not Your Thoughts (2 of 4)
I'm unemployed now and my prospects seem hope-
less. I have a family to support, children to educate,
and I can't sleep at night due to my fear. How can I
approach all of this with wisdom and equanimity?
The problem, once again, stems from thinking. It
comes from rehashing the problem over and over again
in the mind. That's what causes the anxiety. Think of the
worst possible thing—that you have no money, you have
no food. What can you possibly do? Instead of worrying
about it, know that at any given time the only thing you
can do is whatever is possible. You might ask somebody
for food. It's not like the world is without kind people.
Be With Reality Not Your Thoughts (3 of 4)
Instead of dwelling on fear and worrying thoughts, the
most important thing to ask yourself is: "What can I do
right now?" There is no point in thinking about certain
things. If the children can't go to school, there's no point
in thinking about that right now. What can you do now?
One thing you can do right now is to keep your mind in
a happy state. Deal with what's happening on a case-by-
case basis. Keep your mind in the best possible state.
Be With Reality Not Your Thoughts (4 of 4)
Worrying is useless. It never solves a problem. Wor-
ry is always a state of mind that robs your creativity,
your resilience, and your ability to see things differ-
ently and more openly. So, just stop your worried
thoughts. Stop those thoughts in their tracks
and put your mind on something else.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “NO WAY”
There is no such thing as "no way." There are always
many ways. What worry does is to block off all the ways.
It says "Oh, this is not possible, that is not possible." Wor-
ry only thinks about what is not possible, and it only gives
you one possibility, which you do not want. It doesn't want
to accept anything else. It's a self-defeating state of mind,
so don't encourage it, and don't believe the thoughts
that come from the worried state of mind.
New practice messages in the "Practicing Through the Pandemic" series will be posted as they appear in The Daily Tejaniya. To subscribe, click here.