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TOPIC: Balancing practice - the need for restlessness

Balancing practice - the need for restlessness 19 Mar 2019 20:45 #110896

So ... following on from the discussions on Having Answers, I have been thinking about the seven factors of liberation - Mindfulness, Concentration, Investigation, Energy, Joy, Equanimity and Tranquiliity. It occurs to me that some practices are really heavily focused on one factor rather than others. A very partial and incomplete list would be:

1. Mindfulness of Breathing/Feelings/Mind States/Experience
2. Concentration on objects to develop Rapture/Bliss/Spaciousness etc
3. Investigation of Sensations/Mind States/Self/God
4. Kundalini, Chi Qong or Yoga (and maybe walking) to develop Energy
5. Loving kindness, compassion (or shamatha of the dimension of space) to develop Joy
6. Renunciation and Relinquishment to develop Equanimity
7. Wisdom to develop Tranquility

If you practice one factor really hard, then of course you develop well on that factor, and the other factors all improve a bit as they are somewhat related. But then if you wind up with an A on investigation, and a C- on joy, your practice will be quite unbalanced. And the more you cling to the investigation component, the more likely you are to get stuck. My observation is that I see a lot of this, including amongst those claiming high attainments.

So I wonder if we need a .... map :lol: :evil: ... of how to move from one practice to another, or how to restlessly change practices to balance all the factors of enlightenment. Economists would call this balancing investment across options to the point that marginal returns are equal, as an alternative to over-investing to the point of heavily diminished marginal returns. Or at least, we could extend the technical type of analysis done for vipassana to the other six states ...
Last Edit: 19 Mar 2019 20:46 by Curious Malcolm.
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Balancing practice - the need for restlessness 19 Mar 2019 20:48 #110897

Interesting. The idea of 'restlessness' is novel to me. I hadn't heard anyone express that before. And the term restlessness would make me think of a lack of focus or lack of perseverence. But I see your point about developing in balance. I'll ponder.
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Balancing practice - the need for restlessness 19 Mar 2019 21:02 #110898

Why does balance matter? Who is actually keeping score on this thing we're calling balance, and how?
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Balancing practice - the need for restlessness 19 Mar 2019 21:08 #110899

Well, it's a kind of reverse score Chris. Going, going, gone. B)
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Balancing practice - the need for restlessness 19 Mar 2019 21:18 #110900

Well, I asked because I found that balance came from the path itself - the various dead ends and problems I'd have would lead me to try different things. The problems were actually a huge part of the process and I'm not sure it would have helped to not have experienced them. So are we practicing balance to avoid those kinds of things, and if we do manage to avoid them.... will that actually be helpful? I really don't know. I only have the experience I had. I'd be interested in hearing from someone who purposefully tried to practice all those various things in order to maintain some kind of balance.

EDIT: I'll add that after a certain point the practice just sort of ran on its own. I'm not sure I had a lot of control over it. The whole control thing is a part of this issue I think. My experience was that various "things" would just crop up, unannounced and unprompted. Jhanas, weird energy experiences, swelling up with love and kindness, and so on. So... yeah. Balance seemed to be sort of built in.
Last Edit: 19 Mar 2019 21:23 by Chris Marti.
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Balancing practice - the need for restlessness 20 Mar 2019 00:33 #110901

Yeah, good point. Perhaps I am just seeking to reassure myself, because all of those problems you describe, and unexpected experiences, seemed like some kind of dharma failure or inefficiency on my part. And isn't it nice to externalise our failures so we don't have to deal with them ...

So I guess I should just reclassify all those failures as successes!

Well, that was easy. :)
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Balancing practice - the need for restlessness 20 Mar 2019 04:12 #110902

reminds me of this cartoon: images.app.goo.gl/tjntKfotpTLuGSSg7
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Balancing practice - the need for restlessness 20 Mar 2019 04:34 #110903

Ona Kiser wrote:
reminds me of this cartoon: images.app.goo.gl/tjntKfotpTLuGSSg7

Lol, Exactly! ... and still laughing 30 seconds later.
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Balancing practice - the need for restlessness 20 Mar 2019 07:01 #110904

Riffing off of Chris' comment, and certainly rambling, possibly contradicting myself throughout: I'd agree that if one isn't rigidly resistant and controlling the practice will teach you what you need to know in the time you need to know it. My practice from when I started meditation through the present has largely involved a sense of 'following the bread crumbs'. I do not have a tendency to avoid difficulty (generally, if the going gets tough I rise to the occasion and do more and work harder...though sometimes that is in itself a bit counterproductive). So I'm unlikely, for instance, to start swapping practices any time I have some discomfort to try to get more pleasurable experiences, and I don't tend to narrow down on one rigid type of mental practice and neglect all other aspects of life. It could be that if you are very distractable and highly averse to anything hard that you could end up bouncing around...but then again, if that's how you are, that's what you have to work with.

That is to say, God will hand you the experiences you need to become a whole, healthy, loving, holy person, as long as you make a small effort to listen and cooperate to the best of your ability. It's okay to be rather incompetent! Any time I've thought I was really clever and getting a good job done it turned out I was an incompetent idiot.

All the unpleasant bits teach you everything you need to know, really. The pleasant bits are largely irrelevant in the big picture.

As to 'controlling the practice' - the one really unpleasant experience I had was trying to follow a rigid daily practice routine given to me by a teacher. I really missed my natural tendency to be more spontaneous. And I'm really boringly non-adventurous, but just for example, if today I just feel like sitting and looking at nothing for a half hour, and tomorrow I want to read the monastic morning prayers, and the day after my mom calls right when I'm about to do my sit and I talk to her for half an hour, those are all attending to God, listening to God. I say that, but I do go to Mass nearly every day and pray the rosary every day. Not because I 'have to' but because I adore Jesus and Mary it's a lovely thing to do to spend that intimate time with them.

One of the 'tests' for whether a practice is doing you good in my tradition is: a) are you becoming a more loving, patient, generous, etc person as a result (even if you are having a bumpy ride inside, and ups and downs, is your 'outside' improving?) and b) it must not interfere with taking care of your health, duties family life or duties of work. In fact those are your first practice, and retreats or meditation time or etc are second.
Last Edit: 20 Mar 2019 07:02 by Ona Kiser.
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Balancing practice - the need for restlessness 20 Mar 2019 08:53 #110911

Bluntly put, all the problems we encounter are gifts or opportunities for us to address what the problem represents. I worked with a teacher for a while during my practice and while that was a good thing for me to do the real benefit was in how my teacher was able to just let me know that what I was having trouble with was normal and expected and not a reason to freak out. The suggestions on what and how to practice were at times helpful and at other times not.
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Balancing practice - the need for restlessness 20 Mar 2019 14:20 #110921

Chris - yes, I am slow to realise that.
Ona - yet again, I love your spiritual poetry!

Anyway, I have been reflecting on this a bit more, and I realise that I did follow a particular sequence, with some iterations, but nonetheless a pretty consistent order. And my practices evolved with each step. This was the sequence.

1. Energy (martial arts and energetic breathing exercises)
2. Concentration (anapansati and jhana)
3. Investigation (conceptual study of the mind, self inquiry, flux of sensations, then investigation of mental states)
4. Tranquility (from renunciation, relinquishment, letting go and cessation of urges)
5. Joy (from dwelling in the dimensionality of space)
6. Mindfulness (of the body, developed through wim hof breathing)
7. Equanimity (from rigpa)

The main iterations were from 3 back to 2, from 4 back to 3, and from 5 back to 4, but moments of concentrating more on prior steps arise all the time. Nonetheless, as I have gone through this sequence, I have retained each factor that I developed and they all become integrated into ongoing practice.

So I don't know if any of this means anything, but given the predominance of the noting method in pragmatic dharma, I thought it would be interesting to consider a non-noting sequence (admittedly with n=1).
Last Edit: 20 Mar 2019 14:33 by Curious Malcolm.
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Balancing practice - the need for restlessness 22 Mar 2019 07:45 #110940

I recently heard something from Joseph Goldstein that essentially says that that each factor of awakening begets the other. In other words, it all has a way of working out. Personally, I have a strong affinity to concentration, and yet these days my practice seems to be naturally drawn to other things despite that.

The Dharma moves in mysterious ways.
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