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“Weaving Meditation into the Fabric of your Life”

Li-Anne Tang

April 17, 2024 

Introduction:   Li-Anne is, I think quite extraordinary. She combines both Eastern and Western techniques, as well as being an accomplished insight meditator and experienced meditation teacher. She has a PhD in neuro psychiatry and is both a psychotherapist and mindfulness mentor. She's also a counsellor for patients diagnosed with cancer. She's the author of “Get Off Your Cushion”  and is urging us all to weave meditation into the fabric of our lives.

Helen: Li-Anne, welcome. I’m hoping we can start with your story because you found the spiritual path very young. In fact, you said you were eight, and the results of quite severe suffering. Would you like to tell us that part of your story?

Li-Anne:  I came from a fairly dysfunctional I guess, family. And there was a lot of I don't want to go into absolute details into things because I don't think it’s particularly helpful. But it was a less than ideal childhood, and which ended up me being kicked out of the house and running away from home at a very, very young age. And so wandering the streets at night, I came across a Buddhist temple. And I was in Singapore at the time and so Buddhism was around me, it wasn't totally novel. But so was Christianity and so was Islam, and Taoism so for me all the religions had this commonality. And as a child, I really didn't know the difference between them. I just could tell if someone was kind or not. And there were just some people in my life that I really felt knew something different from other people. And I wanted to learn all I could from all of those people who knew something more.


Helen: The person you found, who became your teacher was a Burmese monk, is that right?


Li-Anne:  I found a few people who were pivotal in my life, one was an Irish Catholic nun, in the convent I was in, another was a few Buddhist monks in the temple not far from my home. And they taught me the basics of what I would just say, is loving kindness, metta, they taught me to be a decent person, they taught me the foundations of what a child actually needs to learn about. It was only later on that I started really practicing in the Burmese tradition. But at that time, it was a Thai forest monastery.


Helen: So through your teenage years, I guess, you began doing daily meditation practice and, and retreats. Is that right?


Li-Anne:  I started retreats later in my life. During my teenage years, I tried to meditate through a book, I didn't speak enough Thai to really understand what they were trying to teach me. I understood the basics, but I couldn't get the nuance of what else needed to happen. So I tried following a book awfully unsuccessfully, because as a teenager, just trying to make up what the book said I should experience. And so I think a lot of my early meditation was actually fictionalizing what I was really experiencing.


Helen: Wishful thinking, perhaps.


Li-Anne:   I think that happens quite a lot for meditators, they kind of maybe have had one little glimpse of something, and they try to recreate that. And then perhaps imagine that that could be it. So I did spend a lot of time struggling with that before eventually coming across fantastic teachers who actually guided me as to a better approach. And those were my Burmese teachers.


Helen: But not in Burma, or in Burma?


Li-Anne:  In Burma, in Malaysia, Burmese teachers in Malaysia, Burmese teachers, who came to Australia and other teachers, including Skye in Australia, as well. So all around the world, I really had this idea that I wanted to learn from anyone who could teach me anything. And so I  sought out teachers from across the world.


Helen: What made you when you were older, decide to study psychology, cognitive science, was that in any way related to your dhamma practice or was it different?


Li-Anne:  I think psychology was a natural movement when I was 17, after finishing high school, I had this need to know about human psychology and suffering. And really, it was very clear to me, there was suffering, and I needed a way out of it and I was going to learn anything I could from anyone who might be able to offer something. Studying psychology was the obvious first step.


Helen: Did you find common themes, were the two compatible, Eastern meditation and Western psychology and psychotherapy?


Li-Anne:  Not initially, initially during my Bachelor of psychology, I ended up studying with a whole bunch of people who didn't seem to get what the deep. I was in Western Australia in the early 90s, where basically, the only way psychology was talked about was cognitive behavioural therapy. And I kept saying, there's more. There's a lot in the unconsciousness, there's a lot of habits that I know I can't just think my way out of. But that was the way things were framed at that time. And I knew there was more. So that's when I moved into new cognitive science and other ways of approaching human suffering, I guess.


Helen: And the human mind.


Li-Anne:  Yes, yes.


Helen: And do you think your study of neuroscience and cognitive behaviour helped your understanding of the dharma of the way the buddha explains the mind.


Li-Anne:  I think it helped me really question what might be happening. But when I initially approached the dharma, it was exactly through whatever my teachers taught, so I didn't try to bring it together whatsoever.  I'm very fortunate, I think that I'm actually a very good student in the sense that I never feel like I know. And so if I go to a new teacher, I'm always open to anything they teach me in the way they teach me without sort of interjecting in my mind even about what might or might not be happening. It's only after I feel like I've learned something, in my own experience through what they've taught me that I think that integration happens. So that's always a post hoc thing.


Helen: Are you talking about your dharma teachers, or about the Western teachers, or both?


Li-Anne:  Both, both and everything. This call, I had no idea what you were going to ask me and I was happy not knowing. I'm always open to whatever emerges from conversations.


Helen: I'm sort of just going through your story about your technique in a minute, but I just wanted to say it's an extraordinary life because you've also managed with all that study, you managed to have a family.


Li-Anne:  Oh, that was accidental.


Helen: Any mother would say that.   I really don't know how you manage it all, but well done.


Li-Anne:  I think that was actually just youth and foolishness, thinking that was the stage where I thought I could do everything. I learned from that, and I wouldn't deliberately put myself through things. But at that time, it kind of felt very natural and I had boundless energy, I don't think I have boundless energy anymore.


Helen: I'm not sure if this is related. But my next question is, you know, you're going along very well, you're doing all this study, I gather, you're still doing lots of meditation and then in your book, you say you hit what you describe as a dark night of the soul, which was actually diagnosed as PTSD. Do you know what happened? And what caused that? And that experience?


Li-Anne:  It was a very interesting time. I was meditating a lot because I tend to be a little bit obsessive when I get to sink my teeth into it so I was meditating a lot. I was also exploring psychotherapy, because I was training to be a psychoanalytic psychotherapist, so there was a lot of stuff happening there. And so there were a lot of influences at that time. What actually, the physicality of what happened was basically, a lot of flashbacks and a lot of visceral reactions to my experiences of life. And so it was pretty classic PTSD, as described in the textbooks. But I happened to go on a meditation retreat with a very astute teacher, who asked me hang on here, because I said, I've got PTSD. So I'd like if it's possible to check in with you every day, because I don't want to go off course. And he said, That's fine. And then he said, Hang on a sec, step back here. When did this first happen? And so I described it happened during a meditation sit. And then I described a lot more of what I experienced and then he kind of said, Ah, that's fine that’s just a dukkhanana*, that's the fear. And we just went through the whole thing, he normalized the whole experience as something that sometimes happens to some people, and this is what you do. And so that was the important piece that I didn't have. I didn't have any sense of this was okay there was any way out. So this teacher was absolutely brilliant  in being able to say, normalize that and say, and this is what you do. This is what it's about.


Helen: This happens to quite a few meditators did your teacher say?  


Li-Anne:  It has happened to a number of people in different circumstances. I have students now who come to me to ask me about that, assuming that just because they’re experiencing a lot of fear, for example, that they are in the dukkhnanas, and I have to remind them that dukkha  is the suffering part but the nana is the knowledge part.  Actually, the dukkhanana is actually gaining knowledge through whatever suffering you are encountering. So going through that process, even though it was pretty extreme in my case because of my background, was simply my own expression of the dukkha and the nana part was the wisdom that unfolded as a result of knowing how to practice in a wiser way.


*dukkha (means suffering or unsatisfactoriness) and ñāṇa (means knowledge or insight). The compound word refers to insight into suffering, which is what wisdom is in the Third Noble Truth.


Helen:  I'm using a quote from your book here, you wrote , “it led to a seismic change in your worldview, your understanding of the Dharma” Can you tell us more about that?


Li-Anne: Whereas before, it would have been, let's say, a lot of shaking in the body, visceral reactions from a flashback that was happening and another flashback happening and more visceral reactions and they'd be, they'd be moving in a circle, a loop. And each time a flashback happened, there 'd be more visceral of reactions, and then there'd be a reaction in my system, in my mind, going Oh, not this again and that would exacerbate the shaking and exacerbate the onset of flashbacks. Being able to see that this was just the cycle of what happens when there is that minds reaction of aversion it automatically exacerbates the reactions, when I saw the aversion as a separate entity, I was able to explore that and understand that this is actually what the Buddha talked about as one of the main causes of suffering, this, you know, in terms of the second noble truth, and so being able to isolate the sensations, the feelings, the expression of aversion when it was there as separate from the actual physicality of the flashback, allowed me to examine it, investigate it, explore it, understand it, appreciated it, and appreciate how its impact on life when it's there.  Similarly appreciate the impact of life when it was not there. So there were other times when I started seeing that, that the flashback would occur that the shaking would start, and I noticed there was no aversion, and the shaking would settle on its own. There was an understanding,  the mind saw through that cycle, and the cycle broke itself.


Helen: It sounds like you were able to take quite an objective look at some of your past experiences that were coming up in meditation.


Li-Anne: Yeah. I think it was not so much taking an objective look on the past experiences, but it was taking an objective look on the present effects and the minds’ reaction to the present effects, the minds’ current reaction. And so my mind was no longer holding on to the past experiences, but it was rather seeing the minds current reactions, and seeing it from an objective perspective.


Helen: And was this when you were able to as you said, in the book, straighten the bars that were in your life, that you'd seen in your life as sort of crooked and they gradually stopped?


Li-Anne: Yeah.  I definitely had no say in that one. I didn't do that. That just seemed to happen, when it was clearer, that seemed to be what was happening, it was just a descriptive term.


Helen:  You're on different paths, but amazing paths, these experiencing meditation, and obviously working towards a PhD. You're doing your practice, you’re a mother, you're teaching meditation, raising a family.  Did you compartmentalize your life? Like, at this time of day I'm a mother, at this time of day, I'm a meditator? Or did you sort of combine it bringing all the strings together?


Li-Anne:  The idea of compartmentalizing my life never crossed my mind. You know, people said, How did you do it, it's like, it just didn't cross my mind to do that. It just didn't make sense. It kind of went into my brain as does not compute when someone asks me that. And I for me is you can't compartmentalize it. Sure, when I was in my teacher’s monastery, I was a meditator  because I'd spent a lot of effort and a lot of time, making sure my kids were all right, organizing everything such that they would be okay for the period I was there. So when I was there, I was fully there. But when I came home, I was fully home with the experiences  and the insights gained from the monastery. So I knew that my job was always to bring my understandings into life. So it didn't matter if I was interacting with my kids or speaking to a patient or interacting with a stranger on the street, it was all the dharma. So for me, it was all the same.


Helen: It sounds like a fabulous way to be a mother - to be able to stand back a bit, you know, because kids can be pretty annoying. Stand back and as I said before objectified a bit. Is that right?


Li-Anne: What I found I came across this way of looking at my mind’s reaction towards greed and aversion. And one of the most fascinating things I did when I went home was I took my son to his basketball game like I usually did, and he was playing basketball and I saw the minds reaction impulse lurching forward to go shoot that goal, shoot that goal, get it, get it and instead of continuing on with the story of wanting him to shoot the goal and get that, I became more interested in the mind going lurching forward. And so that sort of lurching or pushing away became my main sort of practice and that became far more interesting. I was still there for the practice, I still saw whether he scored the goal or not, but I was more interested in my mind's reaction to the various different things?


Helen: Yeah. Let's move on to the meditation technique, really “a way of living” you were talking about in your book “Get Off the Cushion” and it's really, as I understand it, saying that we can practice throughout our everyday lives. Now, most of us, you know, you've been involved with the dharma think that if we do 20 minutes, half hour, meditation morning and evening on the cushion that's our practice for the day. But you're saying, take it further?


Li-Anne: Yes. And of course, it depends on how sometimes people limit the definition of meditation, to perhaps placing your attention on the breath at the nostrils or something like that. And so that's a very limited definition of meditation, if we sort of think of it more in terms of the dharma definition: meditation is the training of the mind. What are we training the mind to do? To cultivate attention and awareness? Why are we doing that, to be able to move towards more peace and wisdom, then we've got the whole vision of why we're doing this, and we know what we are doing. And so that very limited thing of keeping your attention on the breath, the nostrils, or whatever your particular practice is, becomes just one small facet of this entire training towards peace and wisdom, not just on the cushion, but everywhere in your life with every interaction you have. And so that is really what meditation is. So remember the big picture of why we're meditating, we can actually remember to incorporate it more in life.


Helen: As I understand that a key point seems to be working with attention and awareness throughout your day in your daily life. Can you explain what you mean first, perhaps, attention?


Li-Anne: Attention is what we all know and some people mistakenly believe that the seated meditation exclusively trains, you know, if you can keep your attention on, let's say, your movement of your breath, for the whole 20 minutes, or hour or two hours, or whatever amount of time you're doing it, we think that's a good sit, and if not, is a bad sit in some sort of sense in our mind. Actually, the attention part is only a tiny fraction of the more important part of meditation which is the awareness part. The awareness allows us to know that our attention has moved away into thoughts. If our attention is on our thoughts, it's there. If it's on something, on a thought it’s there and if it's on the sensation here, your attentions been moving there, so your attention can move around. The only way we have a bigger perspective on what's happening is through awareness. And so training that awareness, actually, first and foremost needs to happen in order to be able to train that attention. And after you've trained the attention, all the training of attention does is it stabilizes the mind such that it can move more to what the dharma offers. And so that awareness piece is actually the more important part and so that's what I emphasize a lot more. And that's why I encourage people to train throughout their daily lives, in every moment of their lives in fact.


Helen: Let's take an example - say we're going shopping.  Your attention is probably on what you want to buy, your purchases, but your awareness is what taking in the whole shop and other customers.  Have I got that right?


Li-Anne:  Yep, your awareness could be on that. Or you could narrow that scope of awareness a little bit more to noticing, let's say you've decided that you'd like to cultivate your patience a little bit more. Okay, so let's say that's just what your aim is in this particular week, month, whatever. So you can at the beginning of the day, remind yourself that's what I'd like to do. You keep your awareness on your level of patience. So you're in a hurry in the shops, you've got that list, you've got all these things and these people in the middle of the aisle and your  impatience arises quite strongly and you're getting quite agitated rather than going into the story of oh, they shouldn't be there, they need to get out of the way, I need to go right now, instead of doing all that you're aware of that impatience that's arisen, and you do something about it. You take wise action at that point, you calm yourself down a little bit, remembering that you have chosen to actually cultivate better patience. You bring that awareness to that particular goal. This goes the same when people who get impatient in traffic, next thing  you finish your shopping, you're in the car, and there's a traffic jam, you're getting annoyed at that and you see silly behaviour, then you're getting angry at that as well. Are you checking in on your patience there? Are you cultivating that peace of mind that you were hoping for in that 20 minutes sit in the morning? Are you continuing to cultivate that awareness that gives you more wisdom in terms of how you might act from here on.


Helen: Do you have to bring, in the shop, do you have to sort of do a little technique like concentrate on your breathing? Something like that? Or do you do it all through attention and awareness?


Li-Anne: First, we need to know that the impatience has gotten the better of us, if we don't even know that, it's just going to usurp our every action. So that's where the awareness comes in. Once you're aware of something, then yes, you can take a few deep breaths, longer out breaths, just calm your system a little bit, and then go ahead. So you don't have to be, you're  certainly not going to be stopping in the middle of the aisle, closing your eyes, and coming back to your breath, just a couple of deeper breaths. And you can do that while continuing to walk while continuing to do other things. The whole idea of that is just to bring your nervous system down a little bit, if it's impatience that we're working with, so that we don't get overwhelmed by the impatience and have that drive our actions.


Helen: Going back to my original starting point, should we keep our sitting down on the cushion meditation practice so that these techniques work together?


Li-Anne: Oh, absolutely. I have heard a number of students who leave the cushion and then wonder why the attention gets flitted from one thing to another or they get caught by their social media, which actually is there to grab their attention. And they wonder why then they don't have that stability. I mean seated  meditation doesn't just have to be working on attention, it can also be working on awareness. And in fact, I think that's even more powerful when you actually work more on awareness and then you bring attention into the puzzle later on. But the more aware we are, the more consciously we can live. And surely that leads us to a wiser existence.

Helen: You talk about modern life and how it's very stressful for a lot of people and in that context, you talk about just bring it down a notch, as perhaps a starting point. Could you explain that?


Li-Anne: Yeah, I teach online, so I teach people from all over the world and most of my students are very experienced meditators. And I've come across way too many very experienced meditators who've been meditating for a very, very long time, decades, who still find that they get caught up in the stress of life. Now stressors in life happen but do we have to get caught in them every single time. And I've been surprised at how many people get caught in the stresses of life despite having all the techniques they need to have to be able to stop that cycle, break that cycle, and create a new habit. And so the whole idea of taking things down a notch was to be able to just be aware, give your stress levels a number. Okay, it's at eight right now. Take a few deep breaths, deep breaths just help give a physiological response to the brain to calm down. Then smile to yourself for a job well done. Do that positive reinforcement because that's the best way that the brain works when we positively reinforce our actions.


Helen: To realize that you're bringing your stress levels.


Li-Anne:  I guess the important path out of that was I gave the example of a stress level of being level eight. Well, it doesn't have to be go down to zero, it doesn't have to go down to one, it can just go down in the right direction. It's now seven and a half. Yes, I'm on the right track. Well done me.


Helen: You're learning to practice, as I understand it, really, in every waking moment of your life, or is that too much?


Li-Anne: Not at all. I think if we're more aware in every moment, now, we're not saying that we bring the stress levels down at every moment, because sometimes you've got a stress level of two and it doesn't really matter, if you can still be aware of. So if our stress levels are high, our bandwidth for processing life and coping with life reduces. If it's at a manageable level, then we have more bandwidth to be able to be more aware of other things and we can be more interested in other people, in other things and in ourselves. And that's ultimately what I encourage people to get to informing this new habit of reducing their stresses. So that the reaction to stress is never a problem. Now we can work with what I call the second half of the book, the other interesting things of the dharma.


Helen: And another difficult area is when we get those unhelpful, negative and self-critical thoughts, you notice, your awareness is telling you they're coming up? How do you suggest we deal with those?


Li-Anne: What I usually say usually surprises students initially, they will report, I noticed this really unhelpful thought happening. And I usually say that's great. And they look at me very, very strangely, because it's great, because they've noticed that, if they didn't notice that, that would mean that they would automatically believe it, and fall in the cycle of that story. Whereas in that space of noticing in that awareness, they are separated enough to recognize this is what's happening. From that space of awareness, they have a choice, to believe the thought, or to choose something else, to choose to do something else to choose to put the attention something somewhere else. And so it's okay that that thought arose, because that's just nature. That's just the automatic habit that your mind got into due to previous conditioning. But in this moment, it's arisen, and you notice that you smile to the awareness Ah, thank you, thank you for giving me that space from that to not just believe it automatically. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to form a new habit, that new habit could be questioning, is that actually true? Is it a fact, it could be recognizing, oh, it's somewhat true, but not entirely true. It could be a whole bunch of different things. But it gives you an opportunity to create a new habit of pattern of mind.


Helen: You're saying it can also help our relationships, girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, whatever. How?


Li-Anne: If we're more aware of how we're feeling, we might, for example, in a conversation, be aware that we're getting impatient, back to the impatience thing, impatience was something that I had to work with a lot, so I have a lot of experience with that. You can notice that perhaps you're quite impatient in what they're saying, you just can't wait to say what you want to see tell them about your day. Or you might notice that they're saying something, and it's hurt you. And rather than react from that space of hurt, or anger,  and sort of get into a spiral of hurt to throwing out more hurt, you recognize that you hurt you calm yourself down and then you see if you can come from a bigger space to discover what else might be happening. There's so many different ways to use interactions with other people, to learn more about yourself, to learn more about them, actually listening to them. And to learn more about what you are creating in that moment and the potentiality of what could be happening instead of those old patterns.


Helen: Is part of that bringing more love and kindness, more metta into relationships? Or is that another technique?


Li-Anne: I mean, loving kindness always comes into it. Loving kindness for ourselves seems to be sometimes lacking more than anyone else. So being able to actually be kind to yourself, you know, if, let's say a negative, self-deprecating thought arose, can you be kind to yourself knowing that if you really didn't want it to arise, and if you had any control over it, it wouldn't have arisen, the fact is you didn't have any control over it, it just arose. So recognizing that in a kind way, not kicking yourself because it arose. And it's the same thing with other people.


Helen:  I understand with your teaching, some of your students don't realize you're coming from a Buddhist background.  I was wondering how this does relate to traditional teaching to the Buddha's teaching, for example of the Eightfold Path.  I know you talked quite a bit about right effort, perhaps we could begin there, which is what number three or four on the path.


Li-Anne: Yeah, just to clarify, all my students know I come from a Buddhist path. All my meditation students do know because that's how they found me. Perhaps you were thinking about the patients that I used to work with. So that was more in a secular setting?


Helen: Right effort, how does that relate to awareness, anxiety and doing this practice throughout your life?


Li-Anne: Right effort simply means choosing some right effort, let's call it wise effort. Okay. So this is the importance of awareness, when there is awareness of whatever's happening, whether it's you getting angry at someone who's cut you off on the freeway, or being a thought  that's arisen in your meditation or whatever, whenever you're aware of whatever's happening, the first bit of right effort is to smile at the awareness, appreciate the fact that this is what's gotten you out of just mindless loop off habitual patterns of mind. So that's the first step of wise effort. Sometimes that's enough. Sometimes the pull towards, let's say, believing that negative way of that self-deprecating thought that came up, maybe that pull, that attraction is too strong, then the right effort is appreciating that and very quickly going on to something else, putting your attention on to something else, you can ask yourself, what else am I aware of? Bring your attention to let's say your bodily sensations, your posture, or what's around you, that's certainly wiser than going into believing that self-deprecating thought and making yourself feel more suffering from there. So wise effort is only vaguely possible if there's awareness, and hence my emphasis on awareness. When we appreciate awareness, we encourage that awareness to arise more and more frequently. And then when it rises, then we have the option of taking wise effort. Otherwise, all our actions are going to be these habitual things, good and bad.


Helen: Now, this can all seem very serious and quite hard work concentrating all day, in a way, but you say it should bring enjoyment, there should be enjoyment in your practice. Does that happen naturally, or do you have to work on that?


Li-Anne: You just need to remind yourself. What I usually say to my students who start with me, is at the beginning of the day, remind yourself, your task for the day for each day is to refresh at the end of the day, reflect on three things that you might be grateful for. Which means at the beginning of the day, you want to remind yourself that you've got a task at the end of the day. So all day, be on the lookout for things you appreciate. Be on the lookout in other words, we're building the awareness. We're building the awareness, not just building the awareness on fairly neutral things, but on things that are beneficial to the system. And so when you're looking out for things to appreciate there’s going to be joy that emerges from this whole process. You know, someone smiles at you, and you have that slight warm feeling, you can notice that and you appreciate that, that joy arises quite spontaneously from that process of gratitude. So, that process of building awareness through appreciation, and thereafter joy becomes this positive reinforcement for the building of awareness.


Helen: A phrase I liked from your book, talking about awareness. is just ask yourself what is happening right now? Sort of checking? That works for you?


Li-Anne: Yeah, absolutely. We will automatically get drawn to whatever our attention brings us to. That's just the way our brains are, attentions a lot louder I guess, in terms of its pull, then this subtler awareness, which is why it takes some time for people to differentiate between attention and awareness, but awareness, that perspective, that bigger picture that is always there. So in order to move back to that space of awareness, just asking what's happening right now, like, if I were to ask anyone here, you might be aware of these tiles in front of you while you're watching looking at the screen, or you might be aware of, a white shirt and hands moving all over, you might be aware that you're sitting down, you might be aware that you're hot or cold, you might be aware that you are feeling comfortable or uncomfortable. It doesn't matter what you're aware of, that awareness is the precious thing, that awareness is our consciousness. And that is what we want to learn to appreciate more and more.


Helen: What do you do when you suffer from what you've called a really busy mind, your mind is all over the place. So how do you calm that mind and bring that awareness into it.


Li-Anne: The first if it's really, really busy, that very basic thing of taking a deep breath in and a longer breath out, do that, again, will invariably calm the parasympathetic nervous system down a little bit, they use that this this very simple, you might have heard of the box breathing technique, and various different techniques. Basically, the idea is to actually breathe out particularly out longer. So that breathing out breath really, really helps the parasympathetic nervous system relax a lot more. So if your mind is too busy, let's relax it. And then we can move on to other things. But until you can relax your mind, sufficiently calm your mind sufficiently, there's no point trying to figure out what to do, the flustering will just get more flustered.


Helen: Another thing you say that as you get into this practice, you'll begin to notice more things about yourself about qualities or tendencies. Like you talk of some people have a tendency towards perfectionism. What do you do when you notice these things about yourself?


Li-Anne: Well, first smile to the awareness, really appreciate the fact that you've noticed. If you've noticed a tendency towards perfectionism, I would bet anything that tendency has been there all this time. You may not have noticed it before, but you're noticing it now. So this is actually the most important first step. Appreciate that. Unfortunately, what people do is they beat themselves up about what they notice. And then what that does is it punishes the awareness. Your awareness has noticed this very subtle quality about yourself, and you've just said, Oh, no, I noticed that, as opposed to going, thank you for letting me know that. Now what can I do about it? You can take wise action only from that space of awareness. And so that  actually is what people miss the most.


Brigid: Yeah, this has been beautiful. Thank you. I'm learning so much. Just, I don't know if this is a question you'd like to answer but some teachers that I've worked with, for example, Steve Armstrong, or the Tejaniya teacher, Alexis Santos  they talk about awareness and that you can notice the quality of your awareness. So you might go, the quality of my awareness is dull, there will be different qualities of our awareness. And I've just wondered, once you do that, once you go oh my awareness is dull, or my awareness is impatient or whatever. Is just to notice that the thing? Or Should one then go right? Improve my awareness? If you see what I mean. You've noticed what the awareness is, then is that the job done? You go, Okay, I have insight, this is the quality of my awareness, now I'm in traffic, I'm grumpy, whatever. Or do you at that point, maybe try and go, okay, shift the awareness into a different, maybe more wholesome state? Any thoughts?


Li-Anne: Whenever you’re at the space of noticing, that's quite a subtle thing, you're able to notice whether your awareness is dull or sharp, the fact that you can means that you've got very good awareness, that is great, celebrate that. That is how you continue cultivating that subtle awareness. Now, unfortunately, a lot of students at that point go, oh, no, it's dull, or what did I do wrong? That is punishing that awareness. Whereas if you celebrate the fact that Oh, I noticed that there's dull, this is really quite amazing, because I've never before notice, dull awareness and bright awareness, sharp awareness. This is really new. You encourage that awareness to continue noticing these subtle things. And the more subtle qualities we notice with the right attitude, which is the fundamental thing of Sayadaw U Tejaniya’s teachings with the right attitude, the more we'll notice, and then it flows from there. So don't stop the process when you notice dull awareness, appreciate the fact that you can notice such subtlety. Different when you're talking about noticing that you're getting angry in traffic, because then you might want to take it down a notch so that you don't act from that anger.


Skye: I was wondering what role you use with walking as far as part of the daily process because I often find there's a transition between sitting on a cushion for example and standing and then walking to the next activity. And the walking often is a way for me to just check in how is the body experiencing movement or, and it brings me very much into the immediate present. And I think I'm always walking through the day wherever I'm going and that seems to be something that really helps bring the attention into the body but also holds the awareness to oh here I am standing. Just wonder how much you use walking and standing in awareness of daily life?


Li-Anne: Yeah, I use that a lot actually because we are always walking. I mean, I use sitting a lot as well, because a lot of people are actually in front of their devices a lot as well. So if you can check in on yourself, but walking certainly because the body has to move and therefore, they're going to be different sensations in different parts of the body. It's a really, really nice way and of course, I’m not talking about the traditional, the formal slow walking, I'm talking about just normal at normal pace, and taking learning from Sayadaw U Tejaniya I encourage students to really walk at normal pace. Don't slow things down. You can for different purpose, but in your daily life just notice. Notice that your mind can keep up with even not fast walks. It can keep up with anything really, it's a lot faster than the body. So utilizing that, just to check in on bodily sensations is that the best way to bring your attention and awareness to bodily sensations.


Skye: I sometimes find actually that my mind is way ahead of my body. So much like my body is trying to catch up with my mind. Jumping way ahead into the future. And it's a good way just to bring it back into I’m here.


Helen: You have worked with cancer patients, and we all know someone who either has or has had cancer. How does this technique help them? What have you found?


Li-Anne: Well, it's the same thing, as the aim for why we meditate, why we train our minds. I think most people are looking for some, there might be different words that they use, but I'll use these two words, people are looking for more peace and wisdom. So if I talk to people who are agitated, all they want is peace. But once they've got peace, they also want other things as well. And so how best to live the last few, whatever amount of time they have left, how best to be with their loved ones in the remaining moments of their lives, how best to live in a way that is meaning making for them at this point of their lives. Now we all are faced with the prospect of death but it's only when we receive a diagnosis like that, that we're really really face, it's not only then, but that is one of the times where we really face with that reality. So being able to live more consciously is really this gift that patients have been able to learn from. And there's something about meaning making and satisfaction in life that I feel revolves around that ability to be calm, and the ability to have clarity. And that combination I think it's a commonality to all of us as humans.


Helen: To bring things back to where we started and back to that title, some tips, how do we weave meditation into our lives.


Li-Anne: Just choose one thing you'd like to be working on, choose one thing that's really important for you, if it's better connections with the people around you choose that. Don't, choose something that's got you think conceptually, you should do what's actually meaningful for you. And choose that as what you'd like to aspire towards. At the beginning of the day, remind yourself, I’d like to be a little bit more connected, for example, to the people to everyone I'm with, including myself, because I'm with myself most of the time. If that's what you've chosen, remind yourself at the beginning of the day, and check in with yourself throughout the day. how connected do I feel? Or how angry do I feel or whatever you've chosen? Let's choose one thing alone. And keep checking in with yourself throughout the day. And every time you've checked in on yourself, give yourself a smile and a pat on the back. Irrespective of whether you're connected or not connected. You're aware now, and that's ultimately the most important thing.


Helen: Thank you. Yeah, that was wonderful. And thank you for everything this evening, was very profound. And we really appreciate you sharing your time and your wisdom. Thank you so much.

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