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TOPIC: Welcome!

Welcome! 30 Aug 2016 17:06 #104222

Hi,

Just joined this site after recently finding my way to the Dharma over the last 6 months.

I am 44 year old professional male living in the UK.

I have never been spiritual or religious in fact I thought it was all a load of poppycock.

I thought (due to my ignorance) Buddhism was the same but after recently finding out about it, how wrong was I! I don’t see it as a religion but a philosopy / way of living.

I came to it as i had a nervous breakdown earlier this year. I was really struggling with depression, stress and work and was looking for something else. Things that had kept me happy (I thought) previously were no longer working.

My route to Buddhism came from reading Dan Ryckert’s book – Anxiety as an Ally: How I Turned a Worried Mind into My Best Friend. I am an avid video-gamer and i heard him mention meditation on the Giantbomb website. This lead me to another book 10% Happier by Dan Harris. This then lead me to Stephen Batchelor, Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein etc.

So far i am self taught – by reading books, listening to podcasts, using the Headspace app, doing guided meditations etc.

I have been meditating now for about 34 months starting at 10 minutes a day and recently moved to 20 minutes. I have also started doing yoga twice a week.

In the first week of meditating i saw a difference and started to see things more clearly and with better perspective. I am present and attentive at work and definitely happier. I am also recognising the things that make me genuinely happy rather than the habits i thought were making my happy.

I am reading 2 or 3 books a week and keen to learn as much as possible about the Dharma. I tried going to a Buddhist retreat and meditations but i didn’t like the dogma, religious ceremony or idolatory.

Now i have found my self here exploring the “path” and wanting to learn more.

The amount of online resources is amazing but I would like to find some like minded people i can discuss this with.

Are there any secular Buddhist communities / centres in the uk that anyone can recommend? I would like to do a retreat, meet others to discuss, learn and have a place to meditate.

Well that is me.
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Welcome! 30 Aug 2016 20:45 #104225

Welcome to the site, Graham. There are a bunch of UK people here so I am sure they can set you up. Of course, virtual communities work pretty well too!
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Welcome! 31 Aug 2016 00:35 #104228

Welcome Graham. Yes, the 'religious' stuff turned me off also. I went to a Goenka retreat and found that refreshing. One piece of art in the whole place. Good food. Zero idolatry. A very small dose of ceremony that they tell you you can just ignore if you want. A 'dharma talk' every night, but it was very pragmatic. An by the end of a Goenka retreat, you're sitting for an hour at a time, no sweat. And it's free. Now, they are not into 'enlightenment' the way most 'pragmatic' meditators are, but you do strengthen your tools mightily at a Goenka retreat.
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Welcome! 11 Oct 2016 18:21 #104593

Greetings to all here.
I am very grateful that you have accepted me onto this forum.
I am a 49 year old male living in the UK and have been practising various types of Buddhism since I came across it at University aged 19.
At University I had a wild time and took a lot of drugs and had a lot of fun but eventually none of the pleasures I was having were satisfying me.
Slowly Dharma and Practice helped me and I became a happier and more skillful person. I moved between Mahayana and Zen traditions.
I think my favourite school is Rinzai but I now feel there is a lot wrong with Zen, even though I love it.
For years I enjoyed my sporadic practice and developing some mindfulness and really enjoying things dismissed by Zen, such as first Janna and nimitas.
I didn't take my practice seriously but it certainly helped me with life, especially with stress. I had many attachments/defilement's and was happy with mainstream Buddhism Dharma and Sangha, apart from the various stupid theological and power struggle issues you get with any human organisation.
I thought anything further than the lower stages of the path were only possible for a monk and not a lay person due to our modern lives.
Until very recently I was regarded as very lucky and successful by all my friends. I was a scientist working for a multinational company and running a laboratory with 50 scientists and four team leaders. Now I have a less challenging job as a project scientist.

I had many happy years of life but last two years my wife and soulmate had been very ill and was told she was terminal with cancer this January and she died in July.
Last 6 months I was at home all the time looking after her. Meditation kept me sane. For three weeks I was with her all the time in a hospice until she died. Several folks came and meditated with us while she was dying and I learnt a lot from this process and a Therevada tradition nun showed me some amazing things for the time when my wife died.

Anyway this 6 month period on basically retreat and the huge emotions and questions really deepened both my goals for practice and the depth and intensity of my intention, and the breadth of my practice and study of Dharma. I needed to understand more of the universe and become a better person. I wanted to know what might happen to my wife after death. I also saw many great people caring and helping my wife and I selflessly, I felt humbled also I had to cultivate acceptance of the reality I was in.

So, to cut a long and very complicated story short I just recently passed through one of the three gates. The gate of suffering (mixed in with a bit if no self).
For someone who came to meditation initially for a bit of relaxation through breath control and some nice hallucinations/visions this was not something I ever expected.
For me the actual experience was quite prolonged and at times terrifying, I did not have much enjoyment at the time and was initially a bot dissatisfied with what had happened considering all the hype. Has taken a while for me to realise the profoud changes that occurred and for happiness to come back. At first I thought I immediately had to take precepts and become a monk. I did not feel I could tell anyone in my Sangha what as happened as I myself almost couldnt believe it and certainly couldnt put the experience into any meaningful words, though quite a few seem to have worked out that something has happened to me. It is a Tibetan tradition and hierarchical and believes in things like a correct path and Dharma transmission. After that though I sort of wished I hadn't done it, but the compulsion to practice and reach something was like an obsession before. I felt pain and loss during the experience when a large chunk of my ego self was torn away (many attachments were a big hinderance in my previous practrice). I didn't fully understand what was happening as my Sutta knowledge is not that great as I was always more interested in practice that study, not believing half of the stuff I heard in Dharma talks. Also I couldn't fully see what was looking back at me, it slipped out of phase whenever I tried to turn my concentration to it, either my mind wasnt up to it or it didnt want to be seen fully but there was definitely some kind of consciousness.
Parts of the experience were incredibly fast and now hard to recall and other parts seemed to have me held for an eternity

How I got there was with my wife dying it made me really go in for insight meditation, particularly on impermanence (nine points on death) and nature of self and nature of mind but my core practice stayed as breathing/calm abiding and body scanning. My first big breakthrough came with singing bowls (who is hearing) and realising that hearing was happening but no hearer was ther, and then other insights came very quickly one after the other at almost every sit (the speed of this surprised me, it was like a tiny snowball causing a huge avalanche). In my personal practice I strayed a long way off the reservation from what I had been taught (for example I was taught specific point body scanning but suddenly developed a way to feel my whole body all at once). I took a deliberately fast path due to my huge suffering seeing my wife suffer and then being alone, and have left a lot undone. Now all my shortcomings are really visible to me. I had a long dark night, working through things as they came up in my sitting just using dwelling in the mind and being aware of gross and subtle body sensations. I seem to have found some sort of equilibrium now and have backed off from the very long sits I was doing and thoughts of retreating from the world, also from thoughts of abandoning meditation.

Anyway wanted to thank this place and Dharma Overground from existing. Since I have found this place I have realised that what has happened to me is not a mental illness and actually not something that has only happened to me.

I have changed a lot as a person outside of my formal sits. I am now re-engaging with the world and consciously acting much more skillfully. I have become a vegetarian and modified a lot of my old behaviours. I have very little ego invested in anything now which is liberating. Not 100% sure where to go in my practice now. I have a strong feeling now to try and help others and intend to do a lot more Meta practice. Also I think I want to go back and strengthen my weak areas and approach one of the other doors in a more positive way. I am glad I wrote this (apologies for length but I haven't written anything for a while) as for a while I had a strong aversion to writing or speaking anything. Words are a very poor tool to describe reality or anything that occurs within practice.

Wishing Loving Kindness and Successful Practice to all here.
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Welcome! 12 Oct 2016 09:43 #104596

Welcome Simon. There's lots of good advice and support here.
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Welcome! 12 Oct 2016 10:50 #104597

Simon, thank you so much for being so open with us and sharing your process.
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Welcome! 12 Oct 2016 15:25 #104599

Philp and Chris, thank you for the welcome.

Having moved recently for a new job from Kent to Sussex I dont have many friends here and only go out a couple of times a week for yoga and meditation sessions. The folks I meditate with dont do the same level of practice as I do and dont have deep Dharma knowledge so though nice to talk to them I am missing advice and someone to talk to about more advanced practice.
I think I will learn a lot here as I dont have as much theoretical knowledge as I would like, always being quite practical and preferring sitting to reading.

I am experiencing new things all the time now.
I had a great sit today with just sitting and being in the mind, with a completely calm and relaxed body and no thoughts. Started as usual with breath and then left the breath to go into the mind and then moved down to my heart and channelled metta. I am finding joy and happiness now again in my sits which is great. Today a ring of light developed in my third eye chakra and then it opened into a view of a black void, then stars appeared in the void, then an actual eye pupil and surround, which looked very like my own eye, then the ring came back and changed into a sort of infinity sign which then moved up to my crown chakra. Then I felt my whole awareness drawing out of myself and up to the ceiling of the room. About half way through this my root chakra started working overtime and I felt very grounded in reality, whereas before I felt I had been looking somewhere different. With my root chakra whirring away my consciousness slowly came back down again and into my body. I was full of a calm joy and had a big smile on my face, I felt as if my whole body and mind was somehow cleansed.

Thought I would share with you all again as maybe this means something to someone. I am not analysing any of the things happening to me on a conscious or analytical level, just enjoying them.

Simon
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Welcome! 12 Oct 2016 15:33 #104600

Welcome Simon. Can I suggest that you start a dedicated practice thread to start documenting your progress, so that others may comment specifically on your experiences? If you like, I can peel this last post off into a new thread, or you can just continue on from here.
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Welcome! 12 Oct 2016 15:56 #104601

Thank You Tom

That is a good idea. I hadn't meant to start a practice log as felt no compulsion to before but now somehow its seems I would like to, probably because I feel there may be folks here that can offer suggestions and comments.

I hope I dont jinx my recent run of goods sits now by expecting to something to happen so I can record it ;)

Thank you again for the great suggestion.

Simon
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Welcome! 12 Oct 2016 16:00 #104602

Simon Redfern wrote:
Thank You Tom

That is a good idea. I hadn't meant to start a practice log as felt no compulsion to before but now somehow its seems I would like to, probably because I feel there may be folks here that can offer suggestions and comments.

I hope I dont jinx my recent run of goods sits now by expecting to something to happen so I can record it ;)

Thank you again for the great suggestion.

Simon

The first thing that someone (like me) might say on such a practice thread is, what makes a sit "good"?
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Welcome! 12 Oct 2016 16:51 #104603

Hi Tom

Hee Hee, I know, the very act of sitting is the good bit :)

For me not having to go back round any of my unresolved attachments and blockages anymore is "good"
My dark night was pretty intense and sometimes I wondered if I would come out of it as a functioning person.
So for me a good sit is one where nothing unpleasant happens, meditation is after all meant to be enjoyable, and a sit where I can just calmly be.
I do understand every sit is good as it has a lesson even ones where very little happens or where impediments or difficult experiences arise.
One of my most insightful sits was unpleasant and involved a dream like sequence where a guardian/hellbeing was breaking the bones in my ankle, knee and hips due to a bad karmic action I had taken (killing a different hellbeing). That sit showed me I was holding onto ego pride about my perceived strengths and achievements as I had killed the other being as it was evil and a cause of suffering. Of course in "reality" I would not kill anything but in the dream I did. Also i think that it was a lesson that suffering is good in that eventually it brings the mind towards a path of liberation.
Also for me a good sit is one where I learn something or see something new (I am a scientist after all).
But to be honest now I am not so sure what a good sit is really. Before I was all fired up with impermanence and the wish to achieve stream entry in this life so I could be a better person and better able to try and do something to stop the suffering of myself and others, so any sit where I felt I was "making progress" I liked. Now I dont really feel any sort of urgency anymore in my sits. Sometimes they seem pretty boring though, sitting in equanamity with a clear mind is pleasant but not exciting.

Simon
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Welcome! 12 Oct 2016 18:38 #104604

Hi Tom

Just had another thought on the above.
A good sit is one where I can release a "burden" and move on without it to something new.

Simon
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Welcome! 12 Oct 2016 19:53 #104605

Hi Simon, thanks for sharing your experiences. I'm sorry to hear about your wife.

I tumbled into the Dark Night, without any guidance or understanding whatsoever, and ultimately spent several years pulling away from meditation, trying to put my feet back on the ground. That's where I am now, so it's very interesting to read your experiences, and get a glimpse of where I could go if I summoned up enough courage to re-enter the DN again and push through to the other side. It's all still a bit scary to me, sad to say, but I hope one day to give it another go. An honest account of your experiences moving forward, however brief, would be very interesting to me as someone contemplating the trip. Thanks.
Last Edit: 12 Oct 2016 19:55 by Johnny W.
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Welcome! 13 Oct 2016 15:05 #104614

Please note that I have put on my moderator hat and moved the subsequent discussion to its own thread.
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Welcome! 14 Oct 2016 03:50 #104619

Forgive me for being dense... but where can I find it? :)
Last Edit: 14 Oct 2016 03:51 by Johnny W.
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Welcome! 15 Nov 2016 19:00 #104901

Hi. I'm Leia. I'm 43, have two kids aged 19 and 5 and work as an academic. I've been cycling back to Buddhism for over 20 years in periods of intense practice followed by periods of aversion. Strangely, the pull back always happens around this time of year. I've tried a number of communities over the years and meditated in my community with Tibetan Buddhists, Insight Meditators, Thich Nhat Hanh groups, Zen. I've done a 10 day Vipassana retreat and dabbled in online communities before (Buddhist Geeks in its various incarnations). I mostly found the people that I met IRL at these places seemed to be a bit too blissed out for me and the incense and other bells and whistles irritated me. I guess I'm attracted to a 'stripped back' practice, free of the pretty stuff involved in each of the traditions. Or maybe I'm just not a people person.

I am a refugee at present and looking for some connection with others as doing it alone has proved isolating. Specifically, I'm hoping that the experience of being here might draw me out of my isolation a little and lead to sharing my experiences and consuming the experiences of others more.

One reflection that I have from my experiences is that online buddhist communities do seem populated by more men than women. This doesn't bother me, it just makes me curious.
Last Edit: 15 Nov 2016 19:03 by Leia Prime.
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Welcome! 15 Nov 2016 20:05 #104903

Welcome Leia. What academic area do you work in? I was an academic in humanities (cultural studies/sociology) til a few years ago, and Laurel is an English lit academic also - perhaps we have some sciences people too, can't recall?
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Welcome! 15 Nov 2016 21:29 #104904

Hi Leia, and welcome. In addition to academic members, I should also point out there are a number here from Oz (but I realize that is a very big place).
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Welcome! 15 Nov 2016 21:29 #104905

Hi. I'm an academic in social work and ethics. Great that there are some other Australians!
Last Edit: 15 Nov 2016 21:30 by Leia Prime.
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Welcome! 15 Nov 2016 23:00 #104906

Welcome Leia,

I found every community too 'religious' for my taste, till I met the pragmatic crowd clustered around the book 'Mastering the Core Teaching of the Buddha'.
Last Edit: 15 Nov 2016 23:26 by matthew sexton.
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Welcome! 15 Nov 2016 23:57 #104907

Oh yes, I'm in Sydney and Shaun is Australian, plus Rod who drops in occasionally...
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Welcome! 16 Nov 2016 00:11 #104908

I'm in Brisbane. I read Daniel's book (Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha) when it came out and it was the first thing that really spoke to my particular approach. That and the Buddhist Geeks, who I listened to from the start. I joined their Google community hang out but meditating online with others was a bit odd for me, so I didn't get that much out of it. I lurked around on the Dharma Overground site a bit but I think I'm looking for a less crowded space and some deeper connections with others. I'm at the point where I'm trying to locate what I need to help me sustain a meditation practice and my sense is that connection to others might be it. I wish I could just tough it out and go to a local centre and focus on the teachings rather than the cultural trappings of each tradition - but I always wander off. There seems to be a lot of wistful smiling, birkenstocks and chai in most centres I go to and I end up feeling put off.

So I'm here. What have you all found helpful in terms of using this site? Posting personal logs of your practice? Raising questions that come up in your practice?
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Welcome! 16 Nov 2016 02:16 #104909

Leia Prime wrote:
So I'm here. What have you all found helpful in terms of using this site? Posting personal logs of your practice? Raising questions that come up in your practice?

A practice log which provokes advise from people that have been there before. That said, I had a hard time valuing advice or comments from faceless people with odd names on the internet till I met them face to face at BG2014. I think the path is too person-specific for a only the text of a book to be a guide. The guiding has to be live, responsive to the individuals experience.
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Welcome! 16 Nov 2016 16:31 #104919

Practice logs are good. If you resonate with someone else's practice log (quite a few of them on this site), bug them to death with questions. :) Check-ins with teachers/guides/spiritual friends are good, it clears up confusions and keeps you practicing consistently (if you get a guilty conscience like I do!). I've worked with 3 teachers and it was during times when I really needed that "pressure" to keep me practicing and motivated by a sense of possibility.

Hope that helps!
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Welcome! 16 Nov 2016 18:11 #104923

Yeah, and read shargrol's stuff. Seriously.
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