May 24, 2022

Developing Resilience with Ayya Canda

Developing Resilience with Ayya Canda

In this episode of Sage Advice, we have Bhikkhuni Candavisuddhi, known as Venerable Canda, the pioneering nun blazing a trail for women monastics by striving to establish the Anukampa project, a monastery for fully ordained nuns in the United Kingdom. Th...


In this episode of Sage Advice, we have Bhikkhuni Candavisuddhi, known as Venerable Canda, the pioneering nun blazing a trail for women monastics by striving to establish the Anukampa project, a monastery for fully ordained nuns in the United Kingdom. Those who previously listened to Venerable Canda’s story in a previous episode of Treasure Mountain will know that she has a lot grit to practice in challenging circumstances, and now to lead the way to establish a community of practice, and eventually a monastery in the UK. One quality that she has demonstrated in large measure is resilience, and she joins us today for this episode of Sage Advice to discuss the topic of resilience and determination.

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May you be happy!

Sol

Transcript

44:11.18
sol_hanna
Okay, thank you very much in this episode of sage advice. We have bicuni chant of a shootdi known as venoable chandunda the pioneering nun blazing a trail for women monastics by striving to establish the newcomer project. A monastery for fullyodained nuns in the united kingdom those who previously listened to ven wochhanda's story in this previous episode of Treasure Mountain will know that she has a lot of grit to practice in challenging circumstances and now to lead the way to establish a community of practice and eventually a monastery in the Uk. 1 quality that she's demonstrated in large measure is resilience and she joins us today for this episode of sage advice to discuss the topic of resilience and determination welcome venable how are you this day. We'll get straight into it from a perspective of the buddha spiritual path.

44:57.49
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
Hi So I'm good. Thank you.

45:06.76
sol_hanna
Where does resilience fit into the picture and why do we need resilience.

45:10.20
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
Yeah, so I guess I think of resilience as something like an aspect of patience and the Buddha said that patience or Kanti is the highest austerity. It's one of the highest spiritual qualities on the path. So I think of resilience as the kind of quality that enables us to. Keep on coming back again and again to what's important coming back again and again to align ourselves with the practice with the path and never to give up so I guess one aspect of resilience as well could be being resourced. Because I think to be patient and to have the kind of resilience and determination to keep going. We have to make sure we're not running dry and one of the ways I practice staying resourced is to practice the brahma vihaas so to make the practice of lovingkindness a part of my everyday meditation. Whether I do a meditation solely on lovingkindness to recharge or to send kindness to myself or my body if I'm tired or whether I just practice meta for 5 minutes before I go to sleep or 5 minutes when I wake up in the morning this really helps to resource. The mind and also the heart um, similarly the practice of compassion. You know compassion is a sort of a variation on lovingkindness. It's in a sense the way love meets suffering the way love responds to suffering. So if you are suffering if you're struggling in any way which I do regularly with the the responsibilities that I hold. Um then compassion is a really wise and sensitive response compassion doesn't deny that there's suffering that there's a struggle. Maybe there's anxiety or even despair. It actually connects us to that suffering but then asks the question. How can I care for this? Yeah, not how can I make this go away. But how can I actually open my heart in order to include this in my experience without pushing it away.

47:15.72
sol_hanna
That's a beautiful answer. Um I know it's well I guess go back and I think about when I started my path of practice 3 decades ago barely out of high school I read about the bodis outfa sitting beneath the birdie tree vowing not to get up from that spot until the bones turned to dust or attained awakening and.

47:26.56
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
Um, Smith listen.

47:32.60
sol_hanna
Felt inspired to follow that example, but let's just say it didn work out so well and I discovered I didn't have one Jo of the determination of the bodie satfa. So could you advise us perhaps and maybe extending what you said previously. How would us mere mortals develop resilience and determination.

47:48.93
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
Okay, well first of all, all of us are mere mortals and even the Buddha was a mere mortalt actually in the beginning you know, even the Buddha had to die. But of course he probably approached the path with a little bit more wisdom than us and perhaps he'd been practicing obviously for many many lives.

47:51.82
sol_hanna
So.

48:07.93
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
We never know with ourselves but I do think we have to be we have to find a balance between being gentle but being persistent so I like the idea of gentle persistence as um, a form of resilience and determination as well. So I think I mean I have practiced in the past with something called aditana. Which is like a strong determination. It's one of the paramis that were taught in later buddhism um, and the way that would work for me was to determine to sit still for an hour and I would do this in the context of quite intensive retreat. So it wasn't too much of a stretch. It was a little bit of a stretch but with that you have to be careful not to overdo it so always maintaining that mind of compassion. So if your legs are say aching or you actually feel you're doing some physical damage move you know move beforehand and move with a lot of mindfulness and care. Um, I do think there's a place for that kind of determination. It might be something you know smaller than that it might be just I determined to at least take 10 minutes of each day to practice. You know to go to a quiet place in my house or in a room where I can close the door. Or even just outside on a park bench if you live in a warm country or it's not pouring with rain and just take you know a little bit of time for yourself to go inside so that can be a kind of commitment to kind of determination and um, one really lovely analogy that I like that's found in the buddhist texts and I'm not sure where this is. It's the idea of putting drops in a jar. So. The analogy is that you have these huge jars or say water tanks and you don't see how high the water level is in those tanks or in those jars but you just put in drops and you know that so not longer. There's there's no leak. In that tank drop by drop the jar gets full and I think it's the same with our practice in everyday life. You know we don't have to do great things. We don't have to sit for a now. We certainly don't have to sit until our bones turn to dust and our blood runs dry. You know I don't know anybody who's done that not even the buddha did that.

50:13.40
sol_hanna
Ah.

50:17.93
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
Came out with that delusion pretty quickly. Thank goodness. That's why we have a buddha so but we can make a determination just to never give up just to use our minds. In wholesome ways whenever we get a moment whenever you realize you know that the mind has gone off track and it started thinking in ways that are harming yourself or harming others just remember. Okay there's another way to look at this you know I can have thoughts of lovingkindness or I can have thoughts of compassion towards myself at this moment. Maybe at this moment I can also look at that person's good qualities and and rejoice in those the practice of Mudita yeah or or just remaining equamous understanding this too will pass. So these are all ways that we can be determined and and.

50:54.58
sol_hanna
Ah.

51:05.63
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
Develop resilience and that attitude of never giving up.

51:07.24
sol_hanna
So I'm hearing from you is that when it comes to developing determination. It's like don't stretch yourself too far too soon but build it up little by little perhaps start with something that maybe stretches you a little bit not too much but then also use a lot of.

51:15.78
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
Um, and then. Yeah.

51:27.14
sol_hanna
Softness A lot of kindness compassion to not to make it a even a fun or ah at least ah a bearable kind of practice.

51:34.76
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely so to use the compassion and the gentleness in your way of handling your experience but also to see if you can align your motivation. With lovingkindness with gentleness and with letting go these are the 3 right intentions the second factor of the out-fold path and in a way that's not just how we relate to the world. But it's where we're coming from. It's our motivation for practice. So check before you sit. Am I sitting because I feel I should because I'm bad because I need to improve you know I need to transcend this terrible self that I can't stand or I mean that's one extreme right? But it's that some people approach the practice that way.

52:18.50
sol_hanna
Oh yeah, been there been there.

52:21.92
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
Been there? Yeah yeah, you know this can come in with anybody no matter how experienced practitioners we are um or on the other hand we can practice because we know it's for our benefit. We know it's for the greater good and we come to it. With an attitude of lovingkindness. One of the perceptions I really love which um is inspired by a Jim Brown my teacher is to come to the practice and regard it as a gift so we're not coming to meditation with the. Question about what can we get? What can I get from this is this meditation going to make me feel better. You know maybe I'm going to get enlightened I'm going to get deep samadhi but let me practice as a gift. You know, let me really give of my time give of my kindness give of. Care to this moment even give this moment to the buddha you know give this half hour or however long you have this 5 minutes this 1 minute to the buddha you know just to connect with the idea that there are enlightened beings in this world and that the Buddha was enlightened fully enlightened and gave this path.

53:33.12
sol_hanna
Most.

53:33.50
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
Was you know this is my gift to the Buddha I'm going to just sit here quietly. Um and do his bidding.

53:42.90
sol_hanna
Thank you very much. That's very good advice. Um, but for the final question and I'm gonna saved the hard 1 for last. This is all all very good advice and anyone can do this day to day but there are times where.

53:48.62
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
As if really.

53:59.00
sol_hanna
Everything seems to be going wrong. Everything's forced by all the weight of the world is on our shoulders and we just feel like I can't keep going on. You know what wisdom can we keep in mind at that that time when we hit rock bottom.

54:01.20
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
Um, and yeah. Um, yeah.

54:14.86
sol_hanna
No, we've got the intention we want to keep on going and doing the right thing but we just feel like we can't What do we do? then.

54:19.50
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
Can't we just feel like we can't I think first of all is to know that this is just a feeling. This is just a thought um not to push that away because it's very real to you at that time. But at that time I think he's not the time to struggle not the time to push on so this kind of happened to me actually last year on my rains retreat after 2 years of the pandemic and a lot of isolation a long period of complete solitude which had by now turned into a sense of isolation. So it no longer felt healthy for me and I was on retreat on my own in the middle of nowhere basically in a little b and b because we hadn't got our vihara anymore and I was doing my best to meditate sometimes feeling quite peaceful and resourced but from time to time I'd get this sinking feeling of despair. And I developed something that I now call the quicksand meditation again I think I'd heard this analogy in one of Ajan's talks but I developed it into a kind of meditation where I would just sit feeling crushed feeling hopeless feeling like I'd hit rock bottom. You know the depths of despair and I would just sit there and say okay I just give up I just let go I'm in quicksand I'm sinking and if I struggle I'm going to sink further and quicker. So I'm just going to give up the struggle because the way that you overcome quicksand is to just relax. You know if you relax then you don't keep digging yourself in deeper. So I would just in a sense open the sphere of my awareness to include all those feelings and just sit there and say okay over to you in a sense I guess it was a perception as well of handing over my practice to my teachers. Buddha I give up you take over I just relax here in this quicksand and that's the only way I can survive so I don't know if that makes sense. That's maybe 1 thing you can do in your meditation. Um, but I guess another tip for you know those feelings in your daily life are just. To try to remember that this two will pass and to really care for yourself in that moment with whatever it is that you need sometimes it can just be a very good deep sleep. Maybe you know some time off work maybe two weeks of deep sleep. You know, just to really let yourself relax. I know that not everybody has the opportunity. But um, see if you can really take time out and look after yourself rather than you know, beating yourself up over it.

56:57.85
sol_hanna
True true and it does sound like maybe this is when we hit that point This is the point where we've got this opportunity to really let go and and and potentially that could be could teach us something of great value I but I just.

57:05.40
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
Um, yeah, yeah, yeah.

57:16.29
sol_hanna
Remember the story of the um enlightened nun in the Terry Carter I can't remember her name. She was she her practice was just pure frustration and got was getting nowhere and she was going to. She's that's it like I've done with this life I'm going to finish it and she's climbing up a tree she was going to hang herself from the tree.

57:23.46
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
Oh yeah.

57:34.79
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
Yes, that's amazing. Isn't it. Yeah, that's a very great thing to yeah, a story to bring up here in this context and definitely not advised for for anyone here.

57:34.81
sol_hanna
And that was the point at which she she broke through what? what do you think was going on there.

57:52.62
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
But um, it's an analogy isn't it of how desperate things can get before something in as wakes up, you know and I think for me I guess I can relate it to my practice at various times where I have been winding myself or tying myself up in knots and I've been feeling like the weight of suffering and just feeling like so much. And suddenly I realize that I'm tightening around that I'm believing in that I'm basically creating a very solid sense of self and at that moment sometimes I can remember compassion you know, just be kind to this experience and I've had the experience where in an instant.

58:30.68
sol_hanna
M.

58:31.00
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
Things can shift and it can change from you know, immense suffering to a feeling almost of bliss just from that slight change of perception that slight change in our attitude in the way we relate to the the world inside so that could be what happened to her.

58:38.12
sol_hanna
Mm.

58:44.89
sol_hanna
I Really and I really like what you just said it like there's some part of it as can under a maybe under repression situation could just wake up and's that it's like that sense of where our ego is trying to control everything and it can't and it. And it just gets as you said wound up wound up wound up but there might be some part of the swiss just kind of can wake up at that moment and just let go who is just.

59:07.14
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
Yeah, exactly I think that's true and I think what often happens is like you say the ego can't do it and we realize that and if at that moment you know you've been practicing meditation. You've been conditioning yourself with the teachings. You've been hearing the buddha's words. Sometimes they can come up just when you need them and everything can change so you know we're conditioned in so many different ways and it's quite natural that we're going to wind ourselves tie ourselves up into knots. You know that's the way society works isn't it. It pushes us to our absolute limits to try to. Is as much juice and economic value out of us that it can so it's bound to happen. You know that this happens internally as well. But if we are you know this is where daily practice comes in if we take the time out every day to practice if we read the buddhist teachings if we listen to Dhamma talks. Then that conditioning is also going on insiders. It's kind of it's accumulating and it's starting to change the direction of our minds. The conditioning of our minds and so when we most need it. Those things can actually come up. Um, and if they don't for a while just don't despair. Try not to disper things change. Um I had the most difficult year of my life last year. It was really really tough I did hit rock bottom I wasn't sure if I could continue in the robes and without being a bicuni. My life honestly has very little meaning because this is a vehicle that I really believe is the most efficient. To take me all the way to escaping from samsara so it was a really tough year and I didn't really see a way ahead and yet things have drastically changed already just by you know a change in life circumstance a changing conditions and again being immersed in the teachings. Being around other practitioners. So our fortunes can change.

01:01:03.98
sol_hanna
Well thank you vanable chandar for that very valuable sage advice and thanks for being our guest on our show today. Thank you.

01:01:09.52
Ven Canda Bhikkhuni
Thank you very much for having me take care.

 

Ayya Candavisuddhi Profile Photo

Ayya Candavisuddhi

Spiritual Director

Bhikkhuni Canda was born in Chesterfield, England, in 1975. She came into contact with the Buddha's teachings in India in 1996 at the age of twenty, through the Vipassana tradition as taught by S.N. Goenka. During her first retreat she decided to devote the rest of her life to ending suffering through practising the Buddha's teachings.

For the next seven years she meditated and gave service on numerous retreats, mostly in India and Nepal, as her aspiration to renounce lay-life intensified. However, ordination opportunities for women were so rare that she was unable to find any suitable monastery. Eventually, while undertaking an Ayurvedic Medicine degree in London, she heard about a promising monastery in rural Burma called Thephyu Tawya, and took temporary ordination there with Sayadaw U Pannyajota at the next opportunity. In 2006, after graduating, she returned to ordain for the long-term, and spent the next four years in intensive meditation and service under Sayadaw's guidance. During this time Ven Canda also encountered the Thai Forest Tradition through Ajahn Mahaboowa in Thailand, and became increasingly drawn to samatha practice as a means to develop deeper insight.

By 2010 the ascetic lifestyle, climate and diet in Burma had taken its toll on Ven Canda's health, leading to a return to the West. This happily coincided with the chance discovery of Ajahn Brahm's teachings. His emphasis on love, kindness and letting go resonated so deeply and immediately that learning directly from him became a new goal. After 2 years as a wandering nun in Europe Ven Canda finally had the opportunity to travel to Australia and has been living there since 2012. She joined the Dhammasara community in Perth and took Bhikkhuni ordination in April 2014, with Ayya Santini as preceptor (pictured above to the left of Ajahn Brahm).

In October 2015 Ajahn Brahm asked Ven Canda to take steps towards establishing a monastery in UK, to increase equality in practice and ordination opportunities for women. She is currently practicing wherever support is available, with a view to settling in England when conditions are ripe.