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TOPIC: Welcome!

Welcome! 03 Dec 2010 00:08 #129

Welcome, Dharma Refugee!

We're glad you're here. Please introduce yourself and then browse around, check out the forum topics and feel free to start posting.

- Chris
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Welcome! 03 Dec 2010 15:58 #130

Hello everyone. I'm Jackson. I started this place with Chris.

I'm a twenty-something "would be hipster" guy living near Portland, OR. I have a BA in religious studies from Marylhurst University, and I am currently working toward an MA in counseling psychology at Pacific University. I'm an indie music fanatic (both listening and playing), and I sometimes post to a blog called Truth a Paradox.

Due to strong differences in opinion with other senior participants of some other dharma/meditation forums we were recently a part of, we voluntarily left to seek greener pastures for our conversations. Feeling a bit like dharma forum refugees, we thought it would be worthwhile to create a base camp for others like us - hence the name of the place.

At this stage, membership to this site must be approved by one of the admins. There is a possibility of opening the forum up to the public sometime in the future, but this is not a goal we're putting any effort into realizing at this time.

We have no special teaching to peddle. We're just honest people wishing to engage in reasonable conversations about dharma and meditation, and to do so with intelligence, maturity and integrity.

-Jackson
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Welcome! 03 Dec 2010 22:59 #131

Yes, that's right. We'd like a place to talk that comes without a specific ideology. We're interested in how we can live better lives, fuller lives, through our practice. Practices come from all over the world, all the traditions and even from the modern fusion of this, plus that, and a little of this other thing. Authenticity is what matters. Honesty is what matters. Being open to new things matters, too, but not so open minded that your brain falls to the ground ;-)

So let's get started!

- Chris
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Welcome! 03 Dec 2010 23:46 #132

I forgot to mention that you should feel free to invite others to join this forum.

- Chris
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Welcome! 03 Dec 2010 23:57 #133

Hi folks,

My name is Mike. I'm a Zen practitioner (priest, actually) but I dislike "party line" anything. My Buddhist Dharma name is Gozen, which is the name I've used in other forums. Since Mike is such a common name, we (that is, you all and I myself) might want to refer to me as Mike Gozen. Which is how I'll sign this message.

- Mike Gozen
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Welcome! 04 Dec 2010 00:03 #134

Thanks for joining, Mike Gozen.
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Welcome! 04 Dec 2010 00:06 #135

From my profile.

54 years old. Married two years to third wife. Sole custody of teenage boy, 15, and teenage girl, almost 18. Live in Modesto. Commute 4-5 hours per day to San Francisco to work as a paralegal. Love vipassana meditation and the insights about and intimacy with life that can be gain from same.
Can't really stand dogma, formality, fundamentalism. Easily annoyed and irritated. Love living. Love to drink beer and vodka and whisky and to eat good food and sometimes take too much of the wrong drugs. Love my family. Enjoy taking long road trips to Reno and Vegas and random rustic spots. Like to hike. Read a lot, watch a lot of tv.

And, used to be obsessed with guitars and guitar-playing and music (Martin acoustics, Gibson acoustics, Fender electrics; acoustic and electric blues music, folk music, rock rock rock, hard country, etc.) but that seems to be on the wane but I never know when the urge and obsession will come roaring back. Still listen a lot.

I'm in a novel-reading phase.

I used to want to be a writer of novels, plays, books, a director of movies. But none of that happened. Though I did work as a newspaper reporter for a Texas daily newspaper and wrote five plays and attended the SF State MFA program in creating writing in 1989-90.

check my my son's latest utube video:



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Welcome! 05 Dec 2010 00:13 #136

That video was surprisingly awesome.

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Welcome! 05 Dec 2010 15:11 #137

The kid has talent!
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Welcome! 06 Dec 2010 01:40 #138

Hi, guys-- long time no see! This is a great idea!

It's Kate [at one time, by a kind of fluke, known as 'Roomy']. I'm an old lady with a peculiar interest in meditation, spiritual matters, visionary experience, and the workings of the physical world in all its dimensions [many of which are not accounted for in 'the consensual reality'].

My trajectory: raised a Christian Scientist-- which left me with an abiding appreciation for the poetry of some of the Bible, a total ignorance of medicine, and a determination to get to the bottom of metaphysical matters. Learned Transcendental Meditation in college and established a practice-- that resulted in changes in my wellbeing, but no interesting 'experiences.' To the extent I was around some of the more 'woo-woo' adherents, I began to be suspicious/uncomfortable about people going on and on about flashy kundalini stuff. I liked some of the Vedas; disliked most of the Bhagavad Gita; REALLY disliked Autobiography of a Yogi.

In one of those wry ironies of fate-- my next teacher was right up that Hindu-wannabe alley: Bubba Free John, whose very funny early writings, and calling his teaching 'The Way of Understanding' really spoke to me. It seemed like a stripped-down, essentialised take on what was useful in the Indian sources. Until it didn't: it morphed into 'The Way of Devotion' to someone careening ever further into a solipsism with ever-more troubling behavioral manifestations. When I left that community, after 5 years, I had three daughters to raise on my own, and an educated distaste for highfalutin' claims to community and spirituality that offered LESS concern for women and children and other ordinary folks than 'the world' at large does.

The next 16 years were full of the efforts, rewards, terrors, and sleep deprivation involved in being a single parent. Out of the blue a couple of things happened that got my metaphysical geiger-counter ticking again. Someone I met whom I felt I had always known. A dream I had that seemed to be a grad-level course on the nature of Reality.

Then my eye was caught by an ad in one of those New Age freebie monthlies-- there was Adi Da's old editor, Saniel Bonder, having broken away and started his own 'school of awakening' [if I never was agog at the 'people are awakening here' schtick on the old forum, it's because it wasn't the first time I'd heard that pitch!]. The first time I read it, I thought it was funny; then, a couple of weeks later, I got curious, ordered a book... wandered through the door; had some experiences; the 'Big One', three months after walking through the door; was on the teacher track, when some things stopped adding up and I started noticing the blindside. A couple of people whose opinion I respected had mentioned the word, 'Dzogchen', and Keith Dowman's book, The Flight of the Garuda and then Namkhai Norbu's The Crystal and the Way of Light fell into my hands soon thereafter. And what was written there felt so precisely true that it was a relief and a confirmation. Funny, though, I never really tried to hook up with NN's local organization. Being another anonymous face in a sea of students-- like at Adidam-- doesn't bear repeating.

Another year or so later, I discovered [by the amusing incident of my companion denigrating how dumb he thought it was!] Ngak'chang Rinpoche's book Spectrum of Ecstasy, Over the next several months, I knew I'd found my teacher.

This raises the question how I ever found myself on the 'hardcore' [and Theravadin-oriented] forums. I've retained a sort of fascination with the physiology of meditation. Maybe it has to do with coming so late to any respect and understanding of the body, given my upbringing. My first take on MCTB was, "Wow, a shop manual for meditators! That's interesting." And then there were preposterous things being said on the forums, so I started weighing in...
[this is more than enough for starters]
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Welcome! 06 Dec 2010 01:52 #139

Great to see kategowen here.

Doesn't Mike Gozen also have some kind of Bubba Free John background?
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Welcome! 06 Dec 2010 13:41 #140

Welcome, Kate! Thanks for joining our little soiree.

- Chris
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Welcome! 06 Dec 2010 17:36 #141

I am going to cheat a bit here, and copy/paste a long email I wrote to some of you here already, but it serves as a good status update, esp. since it seems like we are getting new members aside from the original refugees sending emails around. I have tried to edit it to make sense in this current context, but if the verbs or tense get kind of freaky, just try and read past that.

This will be long-winded, but ought to give you all a good feel for where my head is at and where I want it to be. It started with Chris asking me (among other things):

"What is it you really and truly want out of your practice? Why?"

If I unwind the questions, the root-level one is simply "why practice", or equivalently, "what's missing in my life". I came into this practice not really searching, per se, but just trying to get a better handle on the stressors in my life. I work very hard, and I wanted a way to relieve some of the stress that that put on me and my relationships with others. So MBSR was the entry point. But I quickly got interested in Buddhism, which I knew nothing about, because it (or rather, the Westernized version you read about in bookstores) turned out to be more of a philosophy than a religion, and an elegant one at that. I sat, and reflected on the stuff that I was reading about with no overt goal beyond becoming a saner, calmer, more contented person. I also felt that if there were "life lessons" that could be learned that did, indeed, make me calmer and saner and more contented, then I should learn them and pass them onto my two young boys. I saw myself becoming a Yoda.

Truth be told, as I dug deeper into all this stuff, I also became enchanted by jhanas, thinking they were a cool side effect, but more on that in a sec.

The "goal" then was somewhat nebulous. I did not believe "enlightenment" was realistically achievable by non-monks, so that was never a target. But I felt that if I at least tried to follow the eightfold path, I would be better off than not. For me, a pivotal practice document was the Anapansati sutta. And that is where I got the notion, that I hold to this day, that jhanas, while a side effect to practice, provides markers on a path to being equanimous with life, whether you call that equanimity "enlightenment" or "awakening", or whatever. And so I practiced my ass off trying to get the first jhana.

I read a lot of Zen stuff, and was confused that they dismissed jhanas as makyo, since the Buddha clearly used jhanas to teach. What was up with that? But I also really dug the concept of shikantaza and thought that I'd eventually like to do that. So, I was kind of adrift, doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that, with some short-term goals but no "big picture" stuff.

When I found MCTB I was blown away. Here was a document purporting that "enlightenment" was possible, and provided what seemed to be clear steps to do so. And, there was a forum where people were doing just that, apparently successfully. I didn't think too much at that time about what enlightenment really meant because I was caught up in just doing it. I trusted the process and assumed that the transformations and the "overlapping experiences" were worth having because it was presented in such a way as to modernize a millenia-old practice, and that original practice was what I was drawn to. Who knew that these same mentors would flip-flop to newer practices from some dude walking on a beach in Australia.

But the forums kept me going and helped me to refine my goals. Truth be told, I was also really excited by some of the mental gymnastics a number of people displayed. But I saw them as teasers, or rewards, for doing the practice correctly.

So to get back to the original question: what am I missing? Equanimity, for one. I still don't have that "even keel" that I had hoped to cultivate, not even close. But now, after having hung out on the forums with the likes of Chris, Jackson, Mike, and others, I am drawn to the perspective you now have on existence, that whole non-dual, emptiness thing. I don't fully understand it but, again, I take for granted that it is rather mind blowing. And that I can actually get there from here in some very finite amount of time is equally mind blowing, and which is why I now practice. I don't BELIEVE in the sense of "well, it's good enough for [insert name] so it's good enough for me", but I do believe as far as "I don't think (s)he is shitting us but since all I have to do is x, I can verify it for myself", and so I sit.

Clearly your [addressing Chris directly now...] view on life and existence as a whole has dramatically changed for you. And it is somehow related to this Buddhist practice, possibly amped up by some hard core, result-oriented techniques. My goal is to see for myself, because IF there is something there and IF it helps me live out my life in peace, then it is something that needs to be shared. I was looking into one of my kids eyes the other night as I was doing his teeth, and I could still see the wonder and simplicity of his outlook on life. That will change. And if there are options that I can impart to him and his brother first hand, I'd be a dick not to. So I guess my goals for doing this practice haven't changed since paragraph 1.

I would be thrilled to discuss this with any of you.

-- tomo
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Welcome! 06 Dec 2010 17:49 #142

Hi, Tom,. Good idea to repost that exchange. Do you want to create a separate topic to discuss the issues listed in your comment?

One thing I will say - nothing I've ever done in my practice has allowed me to "live my life in peace." (I'm assuming here that you mean by this not ever being afraid, worried, anxious, angry or depressed.) At best my practice has allowed me to understand better what I am and how I relate to the world I find myself living in. If stress and anxiety are reduced by my practice it's because of that now different understanding. Things like anxiety and fear used to be mysterious and thereby very powerful and frightening for me. The understanding of those things and how they work, how I work, has dramatically lessened the resulting mystery and fright, but the underlying feelings, emotions and thoughts all remain and continue to occur for me.

What better thing to impart to our children than this kind of knowledge or, as it's often defined classically, wisdom.

I guess that's where my disagreement with Kenneth Folk's new direct path method comes from. It seems to me those who practice that are avoiding something. That something seems to me to be an awful lot like themselves, as expressed through their feelings, thoughts and emotions.

Later!

- Chris
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Welcome! 06 Dec 2010 18:41 #143

"One thing I will say - nothing I've ever done in my practice has allowed me to "live my life in peace." (I'm assuming here that you mean by this not ever being afraid, worried, anxious, angry or depressed.) At best my practice has allowed me to understand better what I am and how I relate to the world I find myself living in. If stress and anxiety are reduced by my practice it's because of that now different understanding. Things like anxiety and fear used to be mysterious and thereby very powerful and frightening for me. The understanding of those things and how they work, how I work, has dramatically lessened the resulting mystery and fright, but the underlying feelings, emotions and thoughts all remain and continue to occur for me."

I love that and it is also so true for me. I have to add that for me (and I imagine for Chris as well) a lot of the stress and anxiety that used to pop up barely gets any life anymore as long as I am practicing some basic mindfulness throughout the day. (living in the place "just before thought" )

And, thinking about it and noticing, I think that sometimes I will purposely leave the place "just before thought" because I actually think I need to experience some feelings in order to be wisely intimate with what is going on around me. I think this could be an error on my part and I'm going to look into it. A good example is with my sick son in law - I often purposely let the FEELINGS and THOUGHTS rush in and even overwhealm me for a while so I know what I'm dealing with. Is this skillful or not? hmmmm.
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Welcome! 06 Dec 2010 18:57 #144


Great to see kategowen here.
Doesn't Mike Gozen also have some kind of Bubba Free John background?

-michaelmonson

Quite right. I first sat with him and had extremely powerful experiences (including conditional Nirvikalpa Samadhi) in 1976.

I became a student/devotee in his community in northern California in 1984, but left 3 years later.

His teaching still speaks powerfully to me. I still consider him my Guru, although I have no affiliation with his organization, Adidam. As a friend of mine there says "The community is still dysfunctional."

Mike
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Welcome! 06 Dec 2010 20:15 #145


One thing I will say - nothing I've ever done in my practice has allowed me to "live my life in peace." (I'm assuming here that you mean by this not ever being afraid, worried, anxious, angry or depressed.) At best my practice has allowed me to understand better what I am and how I relate to the world I find myself living in. If stress and anxiety are reduced by my practice it's because of that now different understanding. Things like anxiety and fear used to be mysterious and thereby very powerful and frightening for me. The understanding of those things and how they work, how I work, has dramatically lessened the resulting mystery and fright, but the underlying feelings, emotions and thoughts all remain and continue to occur for me.

-cmarti

Yes, that "peace" part was kind of wishy washy. I should have edited it as opposed to just copy. But I did not mean freedom from fear, worry, anxiety, anger, or depression. Rather, I meant dealing with them with wisdom and/or grace and/or skill. Kornfield has this expression of "creating space" around feelings, and I visualize that as a buffer that gives you time to react skillfully to whatever life throws at you.


What better thing to impart to our children than this kind of knowledge or, as it's often defined classically, wisdom.

-cmarti

As our dude Mike likes to say: "palabra".
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Welcome! 07 Dec 2010 23:52 #146

Well, Cmarti, here I am. Whether I belong here or not is yet to be seen.


Hell, I don't even know if I've figured out this posting process. I guess we'll see that too.

Over the past couple of days I have been reading and re-reading some of the posts. You have all practiced much longer than I. I find your comments interesting and especially liked the comparison of faith to "floating or swimming." My mind is encapsulated by logic which is on occasion peppered with mysticism. So where does that leave me? Truthfully, I'm just learning to swim and love the sensation of floating and that magically does give me a meditative "off the cushion" experience.

I grew up in a Baptist home with my father as a pastor and my mom the pastor's wife. In reality they were more humanists than baptists. I, on the other hand, was basically a brat who rebelled against anything organized. Dogma appalled me and the crusades, whew, well...so I looked in other directions.

Early on, I had "seeing experiences." Those were times when I could look at a flower or a blade of grass and get lost in them. Absolutely lost. I would feel as if I could experience them on a microscopic level and it was enjoyable. Then one day as a college freshmen, I stopped to look at a flower, and there was no absorption into the essence of the plant. That was a sad day. I thought that my childhood had left and I had traded such awareness for the preoccupations of adulthood (namely boys, education, new friends and probably in that order).

The 1960's were pretty good and the only drugs I did were an occasional diet pill and a tad of "grass." (Oh, and no doubt more booze than I ever should have done) I smiled a lot and generally enjoyed life. Others began to talk about meditation and I listened. It seemed too mystical and too much like a private club that had special rules and chanting that seemed nonsensical to me. At the same time, I began to discover that sitting quietly, I could "go away." Sound would be clear and only occasional thoughts would pop in and out but it was relaxing and peaceful. And this was without drugs. No searching for life's meaning or my place in the universe...simply sitting and being and listening and letting go.

Then back in the early summer, I met a Buddhist Monk and had some interesting conversations. But somehow, I feel as if I got confused. Should I sit with eyes open or eyes closed? Sit in a chair or on a cushion? Doing walking meditation (keeping my balance and not looking like a staggering dolt) Eyes open threw me into confusion and my mind was awash. Eyes closed and I was peaceful and relaxed (never falling asleep by the way and always alert). Walking meditation is way too slow for me.

There have been several things in the past few years that have "rocked my world" and I think the eyes open or closed is one of those things.

I truly do not know what I need to know or experience because at my core, all I want to do is "sit."

Oh by the way, I also have a big ego and that is one hell of a challenge.

So, this is me...if it is ok...I'd like to read here and maybe speak up once in awhile.
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Welcome! 08 Dec 2010 00:12 #147

Welcome, Sheila.
Nice intro!
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Welcome! 08 Dec 2010 00:14 #148

Thanks for joining us, Sheila.

Two sevenths of us are now women, which is a much higher percentage than the usual dharma forum. Good.

I was also raised in a Baptist family, though my parents weren't ministers. Actually my mother was the churchgoer (she joined up once she had kids after being raised without church at all) and my father would never go. But all four of us kids went until we were teenagers. I know there is such a thing as the American Baptist denomination which is centered around PA and is basically moderate to liberal and humanistic while we went to the more evangelical-type Baptist Churches -- all in California. Were your parents possibly "American Baptists?"

I can relate to your mystical experience as a child, though I don't think mine were as frequent or as deep as what you seem to be describing.
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Welcome! 08 Dec 2010 04:28 #149

Thank you all for the welcome.

My Baptist upbringing was "Freewill Baptist." Freewill as in nothing predestined and we are responsible for our own choices made based on paths presented to us. Choices...that's where my direction changed from most of my piers...I took the idea of choices seriously.

Mom and Dad were less fundamental or perhaps my mother was more of a buffer and I got to do things others in my area did not.

I was raised in Kentucky and moved to Michigan after I was married, 40 + years ago.

Nice to meet you and thanks again.

Nite y'all.
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Welcome! 08 Dec 2010 12:48 #150

Just so folks know how she got here, Sheila and I have been online friends since about 1995, or thereabouts. I invited her here over the weekend. We first "met" on the Entertainment Weekly magazine message boards. She was a frequent poster there, I was the hired hand moderator. Sheila recently started a Zen meditation practice so I thought she might enjoy this little group. I KNOW we will enjoy her participation :-)
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Welcome! 08 Dec 2010 13:07 #151

And now -- a hearty welcome in advance to Alex Weith, who I just approved as a member here after inviting him in yesterday.

Welcome, Alex! It's great to have you join us.
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Welcome! 08 Dec 2010 15:50 #152


So, this is me...if it is ok...I'd like to read here and maybe speak up once in awhile.

-sheila

You are more than welcome here, Shelia. Thanks for joining in!

-Jackson
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Welcome! 10 Dec 2010 19:27 #153

Hi All!

I've wandered over here from that other site recently, after Jackson was kind of enough to point me towards it and invite me in. And I was like, "oh, here's where everybody went! (hey look at that, itallics!)" I was very much missing literally all of your presences over there (except Sheila, nice to meet you Sheila!) and I'm glad to see you all gathered in one place.

I haven't had time to read much content here or on the blog, but I am glad to be here. Work and real life have (and will continue) to be keeping me busy for the next few months, but I am hoping for things to open up after that. I'll be keepin ya'll posted.

My background? Life long interest in spirituality, mostly in the written form, then a bad breakup, a few online websites and finally MCTB brought me around to "hey, there's actually something to all this, and it something that happens now-a-days, not just in olde times... Maybe I should take that seriously..." So I took up Zen for a few years with the Moutains and Rivers Order and then came over to KFD earlier this year.

Despite some success with the noting practice, I was left feeling like I was missing some parts of the spiritual path that were important for me to look into. So I've switched over to a combination chikung/bodysweeping/open awareness, along with some of Reggie Ray's somatic meditation techniques. I'm getting really into exploring the body right now and how things change and open up when I do so.

I've not stopped my fascination with the written word either though, and my interests include Gurdjieff, shamanism, and taosim. I'm of all over the board, but I'm having a fun time of it and it feels right thus far. I guess you could call it a freestyle awakening practice. It's all looking at the same reality, right, so it must fight together somehow...

I'm looking forward to being part of this community and seeing where all this goes.

- Ian Reclusado
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