“To see our own mind clearly, without being caught up in its movement, to watch thought without trying to do anything with or about it, simply seeing it and letting it go, this is the way to freedom…”
Luang Por Teean (หลวงพ่อเทียน) – To The One That Feels
Luang Por Teean (“Luang Por” means respected father in Thai) developed a mindfulness technique called mahasati (มหาสติ) meditation. ‘Maha’ is an Indian word for ‘great’ and ‘sati’ means ‘mindfulness’ so mahasati means ‘great mindfulness’.
Mahasati is my main meditation practice, and it is what I teach to clients at Hope Rehab. People who are dealing with drug withdrawals can struggle when it comes to focusing on the breath, but the physical movements of this dynamic form of meditation are easy to perform.
Mahasati is the same practice my 7 year-old son learns in school here in Thailand, so it’s an ideal place to start for those of us who have short attention spans. I also like the fact that it is done with the eyes open because this makes it easier to remain mindful afterwards (there is no abrupt switch between the practice and real life).
Here is a video showing the simple movements of mahasati meditation
Practicing mahasati means we develop enough concentration so we can clearly see what is happening in our own minds. The more mindfulness we cultivate like this, the more we can deal with in life.
Luang Por Teean believed striving for deep states of concentration was ultimately a dead-end. He likened it to placing a large boulder on a patch of weeds. While the boulder is in place, the weeds will begin to die, but they will grow back as soon as the boulder is removed. Mahasati is about treating the soil so that the weeds can never grow again.
You can perform dynamic meditation in the lotus position or you can do it sitting in a chair, standing, or even lying down.
Luang Por Teean
Luang Por Teean was born in Loei in 1911. His family were poor so he became a novice for ten years so he could get some type of education. It was during this time that he developed his interest in mediation.
After school, Luang Por began work on the family farm and eventually got married and started his own family. He never lost his interest in meditation, and as he got older, he would attend regular retreats.
It was while at one of these retreats that he experienced a spiritual breakthrough. He had been assigned a certain technique that involved hand movements where he was meant to label each movement, but he got bored with this and started experimenting. He spent the next few hours just with his awareness on the bare movements, and it triggered a profound awakening experience.
Luang Por Teean was so altered by this experience at the retreat that he asked his family’s permission to ordain as a monk. This was granted and he spent the rest of his life teaching his technique to other people.
Luang Por is one of the few (maybe the only) meditation teacher who offered a money-back guarantee. He promised to handover the equivalent of three months wages to those who practiced under his direction for three months and didn’t have an awakening experience.
He died in 1988 but thankfully there are now many monks who continue to spread his teachings.
“Truth is the reality that is latent in everybody, regardless of nationality, language or uniform.”
Luang Por Teean (To the One That Feels)
My First Encounter with Mahasati Meditation
My first encounter with mahasati meditation was back in 2004 at a temple in Hua Hin. This was back when I would turn up half-drunk at temples looking for a solution to my alcohol problem.
I’d arrived in Hua Hin after a month long meditation retreat at Wat Rampoeng in Chaing Mai. It was such a positive experience that I decided it would be safe to drink again afterwards. Bad mistake. The fact I’d tasted mental freedom during the retreat made the suffering of addiction even more unbearable.
It was during one of my drunken temple visits in Hua Hin that I met this monk who took pity on me and tried to teach me the meditation technique of Luang Por Teean. I visited a few times and at the end of each visit he would ask me to return sober the next day. I never did so my drunken meditation lessons didn’t progress very well.
The other reason I didn’t benefit much from this early exposure to mahasati meditation was my drunken arrogance. I saw dynamic meditation as too bizarre and a bit beneath me. I wanted to experience jhanas (altered states of consciousness) again, and I couldn’t see how waving my hands around would make that happen.
I love the way life regularly makes me eat my words. I can now see that mahasati is the perfect practice for me. It is a bit of pity I didn’t make better use of my time with those monks who tried to teach me it.