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TOPIC: Becoming a person

Becoming a person 22 Dec 2010 21:50 #799

Okay I wrote a wonderful post on this a while ago and left my desk for a minute and when I came back it was gone and I was back on the front page.
This one won't be as good. :)

Anyway, one of the most fascinating elements of buddhist practice to me is no-self, anatta. Once one really begins to get and see this characteristic there can be a wonderful sense of freedom and a greater ability to attain more and more insights into things. However, as a concept it can be easily misunderstood in a way that can actually make one less free and create more suffering.

Now, I've spent most of my life burdened with low self esteem. Enough to greatly effect my life, my choices, my ability to be with and enjoy people, etc. etc., etc.
Now, ironically, that I am really experiencing the freedom from clinging to a wrong notion of a real, permenant self -- low-self esteem is becoming less and less of a factor in my life. Almost in an exponential way -- by that I mean it seems to be getting better, faster. And faster. (of course, this will change at some point, but it IS what is going on right now).

And, again, ironically, since my low-self esteem problem is going away I'm finding myself engaging in life, espcially life with other people, more and more and more and enjoying it more and more. In a lot of ways, finding out about anatta has given this Mike Monson thing the gift of being able to really enjoy being a person on the earth, right now, for the first time really.

I may not be what I used to think I was, but I am something here and now that is capable of feeling great joy just from breathing in and breathing out.

I'm really very rarely spending any time and energy trying to build up and protect and cling to some false self. I've seen, close up and in great detail, how the brain creates this straw man thing OUT OF NOTHING and then does everything in it's power to defend and protect this piece of nothing. Once it is seen clearly, it is seen. Now, the old habits and patterns remain but continued integration and practice can help to lessen their hold.

Note: one thing that is becoming clear to me is that my practice and what I say and do about it is not very book, or sutra oriented. I feel like I am doing a legitimate version of buddhist practice but I am doing it with hardly any knowledge of scriptures and various concepts and dogma and schools of thought. I really take the admonition to "become a light under yourself" very seriously and really want my insights and discoveries (as much as possible) to be new and original and real to me and not something I'm comparing to concepts or ideas I've read or thought about. I wonder how much of what I say really makes sense or seems right to those of you who really KNOW buddhism in and out. But, for sure, at the time I say it, it is true to my experience right then and how I talk about it is not filtered through much scholarly knowledge. I don't want to be a "Buddhist practioner" who follows all the expected patterns of same -- I want to be this new and free and original entity here who happens to be using some buddhist techniques to become something new that has never been seen before.
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Becoming a person 23 Dec 2010 06:20 #800

This is lovely, you know, Mike. It seems to me to cut directly through any possible confusion that 'no-self' means attempting some humorless self-erasure that earns karmic brownie points for humility.

It's profoundly paradoxical that the more lightly you hold your [extremely contingent, momentary, constantly transforming] 'self', the more authentically and confidently present you can be in any moment. My teacher calls it 'pure appropriateness'-- and it's the only 'accomplishment' I think is worth aspiring to.

I suspect that it is not experienced as an accomplishment, either-- it 'abides nowhere': more an astonishment all around than an accomplishment.
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Becoming a person 23 Dec 2010 13:37 #801


... I don't want to be a "Buddhist practioner" who follows all the expected patterns of same ...

-michaelmonson

The paradox being, by doing that, you have become a "real" Buddhist practitioner. There are a great many schools of Buddhism that emphasize learning the true, deep meaning behind 1 or 2 scripture...over familiarizing oneself with the breadth, and failing to grasp the depth, of the teachings.

Trying to see what you've been told is out there to be seen is a big block to progress. At least in my tradition. It is one thing I do admire about the Zen...they don't seem to emphasize teaching. And with Koans, it seems they set you in the right direction, but refuse to tell you more. This can be a big help, IMHO.

(I put a lot of "it seems" in there because I am quite ignorant about Zen practice...what I know, I know from hearsay.)

Lastly, I just want to say that I really like hearing your perspective on things. Someone self-described as [what I affectionately call] a "whiskey & potatoes dhamma practitioner" could be stereotyped as not having as deep a commitment to practice & realization as the "learned brahmins" of Buddhism. Your heart-felt, insightful posts are a welcome challenge to such notions.

We can spend our entire lives getting deeper attainments...yet, if our ego still takes control at inopportune times, what was the point?

In one of the essays in Thanissaro's Purity of Heart, it was said "It's all about purifying the heart...the rest is nothing more than games." I'm big on preaching that the qualitative side to attainments is just as important as the quantitative side.

Please keep posting.
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Becoming a person 23 Dec 2010 14:52 #802

Thanks. Does any one share with me a general confusion about the entire notion of 'attainments?"

Don't the questions seem so obvious? Who attains what and for what purpose? Why would a truly free person spend even a second lusting after some specific state when something brand new and unknown is just about to happen?
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Becoming a person 23 Dec 2010 15:49 #803

MIke, I have always admired your authenticity. Keep going, just as you are.
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Becoming a person 23 Dec 2010 16:43 #804

Thanks, Chris, it's good to know that my plan to appear athentic is working :)

What has happened to me? I was looking at another forum in which people talk about what state they just attained or hope they just attained- pure land, arupa, NS, PMS, whatever and whether or not that proves that they are now at third path or four path, etc. and then get comments from others on all this.

I was once so interested in the same things but not so much now (this is NOT a dis, it is good to practice this stuff and I fully endorse what they are doing), However, what would be more interesting to me at this point to is to read or hear about how practice is changing all of our lives, how we are experiencing living on the earth right now. How is your relationship different? Your parenting? Your job experience? How does it feel to get up in the morning and walk into the bathroom? What's it like to lean forward and put the keys in your car lock? What does your world look like? Did you discover a new way to relate to someone today? Are you intimate, and if so, what is that like? How connected do you feel? Shit like that.
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Becoming a person 23 Dec 2010 16:49 #805

I like that set of topics!

We who hail from the Theravada tend to get wonky about jhanas and nanas and paths and all that stuff. But, and maybe you and I are on a similar glide path here, all that is far less interesting to me at this point in my practice. What seems to matter much more is how it plays out every day. That is why when Kate introduced me to Aro it was like getting hit by lightning. Wow! That's a new way to see this, a new view, a more appropriate view for me right now.
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Becoming a person 23 Dec 2010 17:02 #806

Most definitely, Mike. This "finding a balance" between quantitative progress (landmarks/attainments) and qualitative progress (changes in the heart, in the quality of "life") is one thing that led me (ever so slightly) away from the pure Abhidhamma-ness of Burmese Theravada to the completely "Purity of Heart" oriented practice of Thai Theravada.

In the end, I settled in with the Sri Lankan Theravada because of [what I see as] a great balance between the two. There are other reasons, too, but--considering the topic at hand--this was a facet that carried much weight.

I think one needs a certain level of quantitative attainment in order to deeply see/understand/appreciate the qualitative aspects.

This is also an important prerequisite to for the higher (3rd + 4th) paths defined from the religious perspective.

Happy Holidays, everyone. I may be away from the computer for a few days.
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Becoming a person 23 Dec 2010 17:23 #807

Brian, not to say any approach is right or wrong, but right now I'm not looking for a balance between "quantitative and qualitative" approaches, but to completely drop all quantitative activities.

Now, the question for me, which addresses your point I think, is at what point is it most effective to do this, to just stop paying attention to (clinging to) states and paths and progress and just ..... completely open up to what is happening?

I suspect that that point is always now.
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Becoming a person 23 Dec 2010 17:52 #808


Brian, not to say any approach is right or wrong, but right now I'm not looking for a balance between "quantitative and qualitative" approaches, but to completely drop all quantitative activities. Now, the question for me, which addresses your point I think, is at what point is it most effective to do this, to just stop paying attention to (clinging to) states and paths and progress and just ..... completely open up to what is happening?I suspect that that point is always now.

-michaelmonson

I would say that whenever one could successfully do this, that would be the point to focus on it. But that is just my opinion.

As far as a certain path being right or wrong...I don't believe that either I certainly believe in a path being wrong or right for a particular person. I was such a hardcore atheist materialist that the religious path worked for me. It addressed the areas I was deficient in...like intuition, conviction, & reverence/humbleness.

For someone that needs to develop rationality, independence, etc. this probably isn't the best route.
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Becoming a person 23 Dec 2010 17:59 #809


I would say that whenever one could successfully do this, that would be the point to focus on it. But that is just my opinion.
As far as a certain path being right or wrong...I don't believe that either I certainly believe in a path being wrong or right for a particular person. I was such a hardcore atheist materialist that the religious path worked for me. It addressed the areas I was deficient in...like intuition, conviction, & reverence/humbleness.
For someone that needs to develop rationality, independence, etc. this probably isn't the best route.

-brian_ananda

Yes. And yes.
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Becoming a person 23 Dec 2010 20:54 #810



As far as a certain path being right or wrong...I don't believe that either I certainly believe in a path being wrong or right for a particular person. I was such a hardcore atheist materialist that the religious path worked for me. It addressed the areas I was deficient in...like intuition, conviction, & reverence/humbleness.
For someone that needs to develop rationality, independence, etc. this probably isn't the best route.


-brian_ananda

Brian, I really appreciate this comment. I think it is wise to consider that the different expressions of the spiritual path are appropriate for different people at different times. I know the word upaya is thrown around a lot, but I think the idea of skillful means is really important to consider these days. What style of engagement with the path will encourage one to really open up, and to really take part in the process? That's a question each one of us should take the time to answer for ourselves.

-Jackson
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Becoming a person 23 Dec 2010 21:56 #811

"I suspect that it is not experienced as an accomplishment, either-- it 'abides nowhere': more an astonishment all around than an accomplishment."

I think that is correct, Kate. The 'accomplishment' was all the crap that I used to do to create and prop up and maintain that false and truly awful self for most of my life. That is a lot of work and takes infinite energy.

Now, there is often just freedom and things just 'happen' from that, there is no entity behind the curtain. .
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Becoming a person 23 Dec 2010 22:33 #812

And, ironically again, I'm STILL mostly interested in myself - how I feel, how I look, how I'm doing, and on and on --it's just different somehow.
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Becoming a person 23 Dec 2010 23:29 #813


And, ironically again, I'm STILL mostly interested in myself - how I feel, how I look, how I'm doing, and on and on --it's just different somehow.

-michaelmonson

How do you think it is different? I've noticed that some habitual thought patterns still play out in my mind semi-often...though not as strongly...and I seem to be watching them play out instead of identifying with & reacting to those thoughts.

Would you say the same? Or is it different from that?
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Becoming a person 23 Dec 2010 23:43 #814

I don't know.
It is less painful.
Less time and energy is spent on such things for sure.
It is all held a lot lighter, you know?
It all seems literally a much smaller part of the universe I live in.

It's like if my world was an inflated balloon. Before all the thoughts about me and mine would be the water inside a water baloon -- just about ready to burst. Now, though, it's a big strong nearly empty baloon and all the energy and thoughts about "me" are like a couple of small marbles rolling around inside.

But is there anything else in there?
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Becoming a person 24 Dec 2010 00:22 #815


Brian, not to say any approach is right or wrong, but right now I'm not looking for a balance between "quantitative and qualitative" approaches, but to completely drop all quantitative activities. Now, the question for me, which addresses your point I think, is at what point is it most effective to do this, to just stop paying attention to (clinging to) states and paths and progress and just ..... completely open up to what is happening?I suspect that that point is always now.

-michaelmonson

Efficacy is a key point here. The point "is always now" in the sense that the ultimate goal is to avoid clinging to shit like that so it is better not to start. But our mind muscles need to be developed, esp. if you are a householder that needs to reach "that point" in a finite lifetime while simultaneously paying a mortgage, raising kids, etc., and can't just sit in solitude.

It is tempting to draw a line in the sand, but I think it is a gradual process: shifting from attainments to integration with life. Stream entry seems necessary to me, however.
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Becoming a person 24 Dec 2010 00:28 #816

I'll never understand how "sitting in solitude" is a better existence for awakening than being a householder. Not to be argumentative with you, Tomo (though this is my favorite argument to have with you) but just in general I just don't get it. I'm convinced that I first got stream entry while going to college full time and working as a waiter about 30 hours a week.

Isn't awakening about being with "what's happening right now?" How is 'what's happening right now' while sitting in a monasterry any differnet than 'what's happening right now' while doing the dishes or driving a car or reading a bedtime story or sitting on your bedroom floor for 20 minutes while your spouse watches "the Amazing Race?"

I'm serious. I just don't get it. If anyone has an answer I'd love to hear it. Also, if anyone wants to know more about why I don't think there is a difference, I'd love to explain. (not for the first time :) )
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Becoming a person 24 Dec 2010 01:28 #817

Mike, here's how I see it. Practicing meditation is a way of refining the instrument we use for investigation and insight - the mind. The more well-trained one's mind is, the more clearly they are able to see with great detail the way the mind works.

So, at the level of everyday, ordinary experience, there's a lot of work we can do to make our lives better. We can practice the Buddha's teachings (or other wisdom teachings) and benefit from them. We can learn to let go, to live in the 'now', and to be kind, compassionate people.

But, we can also work with the mind at a deeper level. I think that adding this deeper level of skill development (vipassana/vipashyna/"clear seeing") can do more to relieve suffering than does the ordinary gross perspective of mind and its workings.

It does little good to practice the deeper stuff without also working on the gross level stuff. Our everyday mundane choices/actions are not only foundational to insight practice, but improve our lives in general. It doesn't really work that well the other way around. Catching a glimpse of the unconditioned is good and all, but it doesn't really matter unless we continue to develop the skills that got us there.

I agree that stream entry is very important. I think that it is possible for house holders, and I think a lot of the work has to be done on the cushion. Integrating practice life with every day life really gets started after SE, and I think it continues indefinitely.

-Jackson
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Becoming a person 24 Dec 2010 01:32 #818

Also, just as not everyone can pick up a guitar and play their favorite songs proficiently in as little as a few months, not every yogi is born with the ability to meditate as well as some others. We all have different capacities for skill development in various arenas. I think there are those of us who are prone to progress, and those of us who have more of a difficult time. So for someone like you, 20 minutes a night may be enough. For me, retreats weren't necessary. Others may need to devote more time simply because they didn't come into this world with the innate potential to do so.

Some people might really need to be monks to get enlightened. Of course, most of us know that it isn't necessary for everyone to live the ascetic lifestyle.
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Becoming a person 24 Dec 2010 01:53 #819

I could just see one 40-year-old guy who wanted to learn guitar say, "but I CAN'T, I have no time." While another 40-year-old guy with the SAME free time just figured out how to best use the time he had. FIve years later the first guy still can't play guitar while the second guy can sit down and play his favorite songs profficiently.

I still am convicted that stream entry comes from a certain momentum and continuity of awareness of present experience no matter what that experience is and that it can happen while doing anything. Just watch. And watch. And watch. And watch. Just watch. And keep watching. Don't discriminate about WHAT your are watching, just watch. Watch yourself watch. Watch youself stop watching and start thinking and reflecting instead. Watch yourself chastising yourself for thinking instead of watching. Become committed to always watching. Watch yourself committ to always watching. See your mind. See what it does. See how it changes. See how everything changes and everything ends. See what a fool you are. See what a dumbshit you can be. See how kind and loving you can be. See how awesome you are. See how what you just thought was true isn't. Be willing to be the stupidest human on the planet and just watch that with bare awareness. See the parts between thoughts. See the parts between the parts between thoughts. Never stop looking. Never think that anything that is going on isn't worth looking at. Don't look for anything. Look at youself looking for things.
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Becoming a person 24 Dec 2010 02:57 #820


I could just see one 40-year-old guy who wanted to learn guitar say, "but I CAN'T, I have no time." While another 40-year-old guy with the SAME free time just figured out how to best use the time he had. FIve years later the first guy still can't play guitar while the second guy can sit down and play his favorite songs profficiently.
I still am convicted that stream entry comes from a certain momentum and continuity of awareness of present experience no matter what that experience is and that it can happen while doing anything. Just watch. And watch. And watch. And watch. Just watch. And keep watching. Don't discriminate about WHAT your are watching, just watch. Watch yourself watch. Watch youself stop watching and start thinking and reflecting instead. Watch yourself chastising yourself for thinking instead of watching. Become committed to always watching. Watch yourself committ to always watching. See your mind. See what it does. See how it changes. See how everything changes and everything ends. See what a fool you are. See what a dumbshit you can be. See how kind and loving you can be. See how awesome you are. See how what you just thought was true isn't. Be willing to be the stupidest human on the planet and just watch that with bare awareness. See the parts between thoughts. See the parts between the parts between thoughts. Never stop looking. Never think that anything that is going on isn't worth looking at. Don't look for anything. Look at youself looking for things.

-michaelmonson

Regarding your second paragraph, the point I am hoping to make is that while it is just that simple, one doesn't really get it until that moment when SE happens. Or at least, I don't. There is intellectual knowing how to do something, and a visceral understanding.

As to guitar, yes, practice makes perfect. But just random strumming, and fingering chords that make no sense are not music, and so if you are practicing to make music on your guitar, you are wasting your time (unless, of course, by music you just mean jazz).

So you are not necessarily better off by doing something; as Jackson notes, this is a skill being developed. And speaking as someone that has taken up guitar and meditation in my 40's, only to drop both right now because I have no time, I am acutely aware of my skills at both withering.
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Becoming a person 24 Dec 2010 03:01 #821

I still don't get it. You are always alive. There is always stuff to look at. So, you always have time. That's all you got is time to look.



I may just have to really get this through to you in SF over really good draft beer in January of 2011.
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Becoming a person 24 Dec 2010 03:02 #822


I may just have to really get this through to you in SF over really good draft beer in January of 2011.

-michaelmonson

Maybe I'll get SE once and for all as I practice in the hotel room each night!
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Becoming a person 24 Dec 2010 03:13 #823


Maybe I'll get SE once and for all as I practice in the hotel room each night!

-tomo

Maybe you'll get it as you step off the curb to walk into the hotel to register for your room.
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