The practice begins to change on its own, becoming less process oriented and points to deeper, emptiness oriented "stuff." Struggling with some personal and family issues makes the value of the practice evident, reviving faith in the process. Mind becomes enamored of simplicity.
Dec 24 2009, 10:30 AM EST
I seem to have come to a place where the prior practices (concentration, vipassana) are not helping me answer the Question very well any more. And the Question has morphed into one that is less about things and processes and more about identity and, well, let's call it metaphysics.
So be it.
Let's change the practice! Kenneth taught me a new one last week that seems to be exactly what the doctor ordered, and maybe what I'm feeling is based on having adopted that practice. Who knows? Who cares? Who the heck am I, anyway?
The other thing on my mind is the idea of simplicity. I cannot seem to bring myself to tolerate complicated stuff right now. I'm sure it's the stage or the cycle I'm in making itself known, but whatever it is it seems very right to me. Simpler is better and probably more true when it comes to this practice. Everything I know today tells me that the complexity that gets introduced into the practice just obscures it. For me, right now, I need simple and very, very direct. My patience with intricate reasoning, symbolism and any of that complicated kind of stuff is gone, just gone.
One simple truth: there's nothing holding us up. When I first started seeing that and believing it I was freaked out. But there never was anything holding me up, and really, there's nothing there to hold up anyway. We are where we are and we have just what we have and that's it. That's all we need. The rest, the complicated stuff we invent, just props up our "stuff." This may seem like a somewhat sorry, negative update, but I assure you, it's not.
Change is good. New meaning is good. Simpler is really good. It's all very, very good.
Happy Holidays Everybody! (And I really mean that)
Sunday, 1:36 PM EST | Post edited: Sunday, 1:36 PM EST
A part of my practice that I haven't really ever dwelled on here: my teenage daughter. If you want to be presented with a daily challenge, get one of those. Now that I think about it there isn't a corner of my practice that raising a 17-year-old doesn't challenge, but it's uniquely effective at helping me realize I am not in control and that letting go is a really effective strategy ;-)
Sunday, 10:11 PM EST | Post edited: Sunday, 10:11 PM EST
Speaking as a graduate of that particular 'hard school', I'd say it's the graduate level course for which 'the terrible two's' were the college entrance requirement! This is where the 'three characteristics' turn out to be the GOOD news: this sucks (and you were expecting--?); everything passes (thank goodness!); it's not about 'me.' Bodhisattva bhumis, here you come!
Monday, 10:00 AM EST | Post edited: Monday, 10:00 AM EST
Yeah, like that. What Roomy said.
So... from a certain critical perspective the only difference between you and me is the mental suit we put on. The difference between what people call evil and good is, likewise, the nature of the suit. This means that really awful stuff is just over there, right on the other side of the razor's edge. Morality is a mental construct. It's a reasonably good one as mental constructs go, but it's a construct just as much as we are.
What's the cut of the suit you're wearing today? Pushing down on what makes this feel like "me" reveals an amazing amount of stuff, but in the end it's pretty much a matter of perspective -- perspective as in from this particular set of eyes, these ears, this touch, and the bubbling mental activity it all generates (the lava lamp).
I think this might be another cycle, or the effects of one, because this territory isn't unfamiliar, just ... deeper. This particular process is less like a paper travel atlas and more like walking the terrain with map and compass. "In it" as opposed to seeing it from 10,000 feet. It looks like the same territory I explored before, but I think that's just a good decorating job. It's different, too.
Practice, as I said yesterday here, is no longer about doing stuff as much as it is about asking the right question, finding out that leads to a better question, and so on, and so on, and.... obviously, there's no ground to hit. Funny thing about that, too -- I was never holding onto anything. There was never anything to let go of. I'm putting that condiment in my coffee this morning. The practice Kenneth asked me to use has made it easy to watch the universe manifest. I'm going to call this practice "watching the dummy" because that's what it feels like. And it's very, very revealing. I'm sure you can guess who the dummy is.
Monday, 10:15 AM EST | Post edited: Monday, 10:15 AM EST
What Chris is saying about 17 year old daughters is very, very real. I am SO glad to be practicing. She'll never know how much controlling behavior I haven't engaged in because I know how useless it is (it is only harmful). And, I certainly know how much suffering I've avoided because I know I have no power over her behavior and choices.
Monday, 10:38 AM EST | Post edited: Monday, 10:38 AM EST
Yes, Mike, that's it exactly. You can put on your "father" suit and really go to town on your daughter. That makes YOU feel like you're doing something. That will make YOU feel like you're doing something when you get a flat tire, when your boss yells at you, when a "bad" thing happens. That may or may not help your child. Actually, you are less likely to truly help your child, or anyone, if you are playing a role, putting on that set of clothes and acting like... a dummy.
Disclaimer: I have four kids, all are teenagers or older. Despite that, I claim no expertise in the raising of children domain. They seem to work things out on their own, just like you and I did.
Today, 12:40 PM EST
I had another long period of sleeplessness last night. These periods can be interesting and noteworthy or just more of the same. Last night was more of the same, spent tracing the jhanic arc, up and then down again. Despite that, I'm still very focused on the new practice Kenneth taught me and the huge, major change in perspective it has engendered. I'm spending lots and lots of time, all day long, with the locus of consciousness over my head and behind me. This "watching the dummy" perspective brings all experience into a very different framing. It also makes it clear how much all of us are doing the dummy dance ;-)
Now, I'm using the word "dummy" not to mean stupid but in the sense that the Buddha might have described the life we lead prior to any level of awakening or realization of not-self. Maybe that's what "ignorance" means in Buddhist lexicon. Reacting. Not mindful or aware of one's actions, which then creates a karma trail.
Thought for the day: it really helps to believe in your *heart* that you might not be right at any given moment. This is both a cause and a benefit of really learning to let go. And at the very core, when the practice starts to scrape the bottom, it seems to be all about heart. Heart is the source of all the energy you feel inside. When your heart is attached to something through ignorance you will suffer, be uncomfortable, not satisfied. Your life will fit with reality like that unbalanced wheel AugustLeo described a few days ago here on KFDh.
Jan 1 2010, 11:05 AM EST
Starting a new thread with this post. Happy New Year everyone! I don't seem to have much luck with resolutions but here's a great 2010 for all of us. FYI - Kenneth has frozen and locked the old thread for me. It was getting awfully long, so... along with the new year comes a new thread.
Jan 1 2010, 5:26 PM EST
Happy New Year! The old thread is a wonderful resource and I'm glad it's being preserved. I'm looking forward to your posts in this new thread. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and insights on the Way with us.
Jan 5 2010, 6:19 PM EST
Some of the more esoteric discussions on this site have begun to break down for me these days. Not sure why, but they begin after a while to seem so removed from my own practice that I can't find them. I can't understand them and I seem to have no desire to, and that's just weird for me. I'm concerned about this. It's as if I can't "get" the complexity in the discussions. It's making me think there's something going on that I really need to address, or that it's a phase or a stage oriented thing. I dunno. I do know that as I read the solipsism and freedom conversations today this feeling kicks in with a vengeance.
Anyone else ever had this happen? Or is it just me?
And... I've been struggling with emotions again. My emotions sometimes seem to come from nowhere, to be someone else's or like bolts of lightning, as if from on high. If any of you have ever read the "Foundation" trilogy of science fiction stories by Isaac Asimov you will recall a mutant character called the Mule who could alter the emotions of human beings. It feels like the Mule is making me feel what I feel. Not all the time, mind you, but enough to make it quite noticeable. Bizarre and unsettling, but not surprising. It's more evidence that control is a chimera.
Jan 5 2010, 7:29 PM EST
Yes, very much so. Ever since experiencing a flash of the Absolute, I've lost all taste for discussion. Discussion - words, thoughts, concepts are within the realm of dualism. As I've more and more experienced the Absolute, I've lost my taste for discussion, for the play of words, thoughts and concepts, which are like clay and can be formed into anything - it just depends on how clever one is. I rarely get involved or respond to discussion any more, in forums or in person. The point of my practice is to leave duality behind. I can still be involved in a discussion, yet as I am, I know how multi-sided and inconsequential and (for me) unpalatable it is. I prefer the simplicity of direct Understanding. Which is why I practice. Hope this helps in some way.
Jan 5 2010, 7:31 PM EST
One more comment: I love arguing/debating stuff with people like a dog loves to chew a bone. It was always fun, challenging, stimulating, interesting. I've been arguing with other people online for years and years and years. Since forever. All of a sudden, I don't want to argue so much any more. I do though want to communicate. This has never before been my M.O. So the twist here, and I'd say it's practice related if you put a gun to my head and made me choose, is that the heart is now involved at a completely different level. A year ago I wanted to hear me and I wanted to be right. Now, I don't care so much about being right but I do care about "right."
Dominoes..... they just keep falling as that's their nature.
Jan 5 2010, 7:35 PM EST
BTW - to my post up there about arguing and debate -- truth isn't about things and facts. Never was, never will be.
Jan 5 2010, 9:02 PM EST
"Some of the more esoteric discussions on this site have begun to break down for me these days. Not sure why, but they begin after a while to seem so removed from my own practice that I can't find them. I can't understand them and I seem to have no desire to, and that's just weird for me. I'm concerned about this. It's as if I can't "get" the complexity in the discussions. It's making me think there's something going on that I really need to address, or that it's a phase or a stage oriented thing. I dunno. I do know that as I read the solipsism and freedom conversations today this feeling kicks in with a vengeance. Anyone else ever had this happen? Or is it just me?"
Seems normal enough to me - probably good. Why spend a lot of time on things without personal relevance, or mincing words for their own sake? The frustrating thing for me about such conversations is that in trying to express a (nonlinear) insight, one is either forced to go one of two routes:
1. An overly lengthy explanation involving technical and sometimes improvised vocabulary. In this route one often spends more time explaining the insight than it's worth.
Or 2. Brief apocryphal, paradoxical, ambiguous, or otherwise nonsensical statements. You can never say - "Hey, have you ever noticed that when putting on a slope above the cup, the most common error is to overshoot? You want to try to underhit it in that situation. (etc.)" So you wind up getting in these lengthy conversations defining terms and whatnot just to get on the same page - when once communicated the insight is of similar value and complexity as that example...
I remember the Mule. Cthonic emotions, eh? Say more about it.
Jan 6 2010, 1:34 PM EST
"Say more about it."
There's really not all that much more to say, David. As I watch these things play out from a third party perspective the emotions aren't always as connected to events as they used to seem to be. So if I'm being honest and thorough about this it could be the result of a view change as much as it is a true process change, if you get my drift. But it appears to be just like what Asimov described. It's like there's a dial somewhere in hyperspace that has settings on it marked "angry, sad, happy" and so on, and someone, not me, is turning the dial and thus altering my moods. You're a psychiatrist so I'm afraid you'll come back and tell me I need to seek real help ;-)
Bizarro World here I come!
Jan 6 2010, 2:00 PM EST
Well, if not connected to present events or circumstances, are they connected to anything else (past circumstances for instance)? Is there a theme or preponderance of any particular emotions? Any patterns you've noticed? For a moment, let's pretend there is a kind of Mule figure - what's his objective?
Jan 6 2010, 2:04 PM EST
His objective is to make me wake up, David.
Jan 6 2010, 2:20 PM EST
In other words, as much as the physio-energetic processes stemming from my vipassana practice have seemed to be driven by something external to "me" the same applies to this "other," whatever it is. It makes little logical sense, of course, but as Walter Cronkite said, "That's the way it is."
Jan 6 2010, 2:31 PM EST
"In other words, as much as the physio-energetic processes stemming from my vipassana practice have seemed to be driven by something external to "me" the same applies to this "other," whatever it is. It makes little logical sense, of course, but as Walter Cronkite said, "That's the way it is.”"
Chris, I can relate to what you're saying. For me, it's like something is calling out to me from the depths of my being, and it's impossible to ignore it. There's a gravitational force to the process, and it just keeps getting stronger - pulling me in. But Who could it be other than Who we are already? That's the part that astonishes me. Although I have some ideas about it, in all honesty, I have no idea what's going on here.
Jan 6 2010, 2:56 PM EST
The words that keep coming to my mind are "tidal forces." Huge, unstoppable, indeterminate energies that push and pull and do what they do. Whatever power I thought I had over any of this is like a tinker toy to this enormous force.
Jan 6 2010, 3:21 PM EST
"The words that keep coming to my mind are "tidal forces." Huge, unstoppable, indeterminate energies that push and pull and do what they do. Whatever power I thought I had over any of this is like a tinker toy to this enormous force."
Let me take a non-Buddhist quote here from my late, great Guru, Adi Da Samraj, that always came back to me when I felt the sort of things you're describing, Chris. Adi Da said "Nothing anyone has ever done has Liberated him or anybody else. Liberation is God's business." There is this sense that we do some sort of preparatory work, and then we get wrenched out of our little world by forces way beyond our understanding or control. We are along for the ride. But we have to hold on like hell or we'll be dashed on the rocks below!
Jan 6 2010, 4:03 PM EST
Ha! You said "felt." I assume this implies that at some later date, maybe an eternity, maybe next week, this will play itself out?
Jan 6 2010, 4:16 PM EST
Not sure about the agency, but the force that propels us toward awakening has to do with what Bill H. called being on "the ride." It begins in earnest with the first Arising and Passing of Phenomena. All of us here know that irresistible pull. It's funny, but what might be thought of as the first half of practice is all motivated by that dharmic gravity. Then, one day, that pull goes away; the ride is finally over, and an amazing thing happens. You keep practicing anyway! I don't know why. Maybe it's habit or momentum, or maybe you've finally ground away enough of the conditioned ignorance that you start to be spontaneously absorbed into awareness. But it feels like rolling down hill. It's not a ride anymore, or a pull. It just feels like going with the flow. And it's so obvious that there is no limit to how deep awakening can go. It goes infinitely in all directions. For me, this is about learning to be a human being, which oddly enough entails learning that I am a fiction, or perhaps a passing thought.
Jan 7 2010, 11:55 AM EST "Some of the more esoteric discussions on this site have begun to break down for me these days. Not sure why, but they begin after a while to seem so removed from my own practice that I can't find them. I can't understand them and I seem to have no desire to, and that's just weird for me. I'm concerned about this. It's as if I can't "get" the complexity in the discussions. It's making me think there's something going on that I really need to address, or that it's a phase or a stage oriented thing. I dunno. I do know that as I read the solipsism and freedom conversations today this feeling kicks in with a vengeance. Anyone else ever had this happen? Or is it just me?"
For me (and for reasons vastly different than yours) most of the discussions are turning out to be way above my head and level of practice, and I freely admit to looking around for, and trying to set up, more practice-oriented discussions. I have said this many times: the level of experience here and at DhO is staggering, and everyone is very willing to help. But I sometimes feel like I am interrupting a cocktail party of PhDs to ask how to do long division. I avidly follow your Stages thread(s), however, as a taste of what is hopefully to come.
Jan 7 2010, 12:38 PM EST
Hi, Tomo. Have you thought of creating a topic here called something like "Early Stage Practitioner Discussion" or something like that? There are some risks to that but why not give it a try? What you describe is what Daniel Ingram has always wanted to do with DhO but I haven't visited DhO in some time. Isn't that happening there? It certainly used to.
Jan 7 2010, 2:16 PM EST
It is still happening at the DhO. I've been participating a bit in the "Dharma Diagnostic Clinic" page on the site, and there seem to be quite a few practitioners working their way through the ñanas leading up to stream entry. There's no reason why we can't have those discussions here as well. Heaven knows there are people on this site who have lots of experience with that territory, and would be glad to help others with their practice. In fact, the DhO still has Kenneth's "The Idiot's Guide to Dharma Diagnosis" fixed at the top of the above mentioned discussion page. We have the resources, so what's the issue?
I posted a thread separate thread in hope of coming up with some ideas of how we can make this place more friendly to practitioners working toward finishing the first path of the 1st Gear. Feel free to share any thoughts you have on the subject.
Jan 7 2010, 4:06 PM EST
Chris and Jackson,
Starting a generic thread like that is, I think, not super helpful. I want to underscore that, when I need help, I do post specific questions and I do get great answers. I think the issue here (at KFD) is that I don't get the benefit of listening to other's problems and solutions; there does not seem to be that kind of participation. So (Jackson) the issue is not one of resources to solve problems, it is one of not enough in this particular community struggling with the basics as opposed to the "bigger" issues. Yes, DhO is better for that, but I am not getting tons of joy there either for whatever reason. I guess I want more people to have *my* problems so I can get further faster. And I realize that is a near impossible thing to satisfy (hmmm, does not satisfy...why does that ring a bell?) when my only sangha is a virtual one.
Grumble, grumble. Nothing to see here...move on.
Jan 7 2010, 4:15 PM EST
Sorry if my posting a new thread wasn't helpful. I appreciate your added clarification as to why you feel you're not really getting what you need from the various virtual dharma communities you're a part of. Having people within a group who are at the same stage as you is helpful. I am fortunate to have people like Chris and Michael in this forum, who seem to be flying in the same sky as I am (practice wise).
So I now know that it's not a matter of being able to facilitate that sort of thing, but rather just a matter of who hangs out here. I guess there isn't really anywhere to go with this for now. Oh well. I tried.
Now, back to Chris' wonderful practice journal!
Jan 7 2010, 4:46 PM EST
I sure misunderstood Tomo, too. Sorry, Tomo.
Jan 9 2010, 3:28 PM EST
As I practice more I've discovered that certain experiences occur more off the cushion than on, and usually in that gray area between being awake and being asleep, and for me that means waking up early in the morning. Yesterday, however, stuff happened while I was sitting in the living room in the late afternoon. This wasn't jhanic activity or anything like that, but rather it was a dropping of all the mental "fixins" of everyday life. There was a brief spell of dizziness followed by a deep realization of non-duality, and a feeling of floating. Not physical floating but mental floating, wherein there is complete acceptance, quite contented acceptance, of there being no ground, no floor, and no need for the security of anything. That life is a wonderful experience of experience, just that, nothing extra needed or wanted. What we all call "good" and "bad" and "fun" and "sad" and whatever, it's all the same stuff, and the beauty of it is in the experience of all of it, regardless. And there's less vipassana, more heart.
There are now when hearing certain words, when they're put together in a certain way, when said in a certain way, when carrying certain meaning, will cause me to just choke up spontaneously. It can be during the watching of a movie or television, listening to a conversation, seeing certain images. Whatever invokes this, the result is extremely powerful, almost uncontrollable. I can hold it back on most occasions, but not always. It's a huge surge of feeling that comes up from my chest and enters my throat and ends up in my head as my eyes tear up. I've been trying to find a way to describe the feeling, but it's pretty difficult to say that it's anything other than truth flowing directly through me. That sounds odd, I know, but that's the closest I can come.
Jan 9 2010, 4:32 PM EST
Something very deep wells up from the heart. It's not an idea. It's not "cool" like penetrating insight. It is completely authentic and achingly beautiful. It precedes experience, and so is not dependent or grounded in experience. But it sees experience as beauty itself, regardless of what form experience might take: both the breathtaking woman and the aging crone are cherished equally. This is the truth of all experience: none of it is necessary, yet all of it is precious.
Jan 10 2010, 9:36 AM EST
"It's not an idea. It's not "cool" like penetrating insight. It is completely authentic and achingly beautiful." -- Gozen
Well, that's where my practice has gone, Gozen. The first many years was about mind. "Cool" mind things, vipassana insights about how the mind processes information, how the senses work, how concentration (still a funky word for what it really is) works and leads to realization during jhanic activity. Mind is driving the process.
Then a huge tectonic shift. Major continental plates move around. It's like going from BC to AD. And all of a sudden the heart is what matters and what drives. It's probably the biggest transition in practice. Bigger than stream entry for me. Bigger than A&P, although all of that is fondly remembered as points at which "Insight Disease" becomes one's daily reality. Then, one day.... watch the universe play out, be it as it plays out, combine with it, flow with it, never struggle in it, never need anything more or anything less. It's all just perfection that can't be any other way (a really crazy idea people seem to have, and I sometimes have it, is that it should be some other way - suffering comes from that), and it's inside and outside and it's endless and it's timeless and it's amazingly beautiful because of exactly the way it is. Oh, you can get a lot out of the practice beforehand, but after The Shift the technicolor, 3D nature of reality blossoms and much, much more truth is revealed, and it JUST KNOWS.
Jan 13 2010, 3:41 PM EST
You will one day have a crisis. I've been in the middle of a pretty deep one since late Monday night. The only reason I want to share this with you is to say that my practice has made coping with this crisis, which is about a person who is very dear to me, survivable. Many folks, and I was one of them, question the practical value of their practice. I've seen highly realized people say they can't place a purpose or value on their practice.
Well, that's BS. I'm here to tell you that there is a very practical value to what you're doing. In years past this particular crisis would have been very difficult for me to cope with. I would have been concerned more about its effects on me than on the person truly in the middle of it, desperately needing my help. My practice brings me enough equanimity and knowledge of the mind to avoid that death spiral. It also helps me deal with healthcare practitioners in a rational, calm and purposeful manner. Knowing that I'm simply not in control of events, and that this is the dharma "warts and all" (quoting Kenneth), has freed me up to be of much more greater use to the person who now needs my attention, full and calm. So if you ever wondered why you're practicing, stop now.
This universe will one day throw you a curve ball. Your practice will enable you to hit it.
Jan 13 2010, 4:14 PM EST
So nice to hear. I've always had two basic ideas about the purpose of my practice:
1. to know myself and reality with complete intimacy
2. to be able to meet real life with as much wisdom as possible in each moment in order to make it fuller and better for myself and anyone else that is effected by my thoughts and actions.
Neither of these purposes has any limits and any improvement in either one is great. It's nice to have purpose #2 so completely affirmed by someone with a strong practice.
Jan 14 2010, 7:59 AM EST
This may sound odd but those two bullet points are actually the same thing ;-)
Jan 14 2010, 10:13 AM EST
Not odd, but exactly right. :)
Jan 14 2010, 11:59 AM EST
BTW Chris, I copied & pasted your post and emailed to a friend, another Buddhist practitioner, who happens to also be going through a crisis right now. It really helped. Thanks for sharing so clearly and openly what you are going through. It is an act of generosity that will not be forgotten.
Jan 15 2010, 8:02 AM EST
I will try to describe something that has just recently become the most important thing. It is a sense, a feeling, an access to, an uncovering of "is."
This sense is accessible all the time. In order to access it I have to stop everything else and let all of it go, then... just be. "Is" then manifests. "Is" has no real definition and cannot be explained, but is sort of like the bottom line, baseline, the *truth* of experience and existence. It's realizing that everything... just "is." This is where all awareness ultimately resides and is the source of everything I see, know, don't see and don't know. It doesn't relate to me and it doesn't care about me. In fact, it doesn't care about anything at all, but it knows everything and it is the absolute truth of everything. Everything "is," and cannot be any other way, so "is' is the identity for the universe, seen, unseen, known and unknown. I can feel "is" but I can't explain it, describe it. You feel "is," too, all the time. It's the simplest thing ever, and you can just drop all the complex ideas and concepts and philosophies that people use to explain spirituality. Those just won't help you find "is."
Finding "is" is like putting on a perfectly fitting glove of the whole of experience and the entire universe. You are home, and all the crap you struggle with, the complexities you see, the problems you have to solve will now be glorious, integral parts of what just "is."
I think "is" has become far more apparent as I have needed it more this week. I can't explain that and don't think I should even try.
Jan 15 2010, 8:04 AM EST
Oh, one more little item: I don't think you can get any simpler and I don't think there's anywhere else to go from "is."
Jan 15 2010, 7:39 PM EST
cmarti, I can't recall if you're the one who finds Tibetan words irritating-- if so, consider that I found the icon for 'lightning flash' and inserted it here... BUT one of the things that blows my mind is that the spiritual 'terms of art' are so precise and profoundly developed. "Cho" the Tibetan word used to translate the Sanskrit 'dharma' means "AS IT IS" ( wherefore the title of Tulku Urgyen's book ). The 'somewhere else to go' from here is the back-flip where 'form is exactly emptiness' turns into 'emptiness is exactly form' and voila, the phenomenal world is transformed in the place where it stands. The 'somewhere' of nowhere else.
Jan 15 2010, 10:08 PM EST
"Oh, one more little item: I don't think you can get any simpler and I don't think there's anywhere else to go from "is."
Yes, no matter what we choose to call it -- and each person resonates strongly with whichever word or phrase touches them most deeply -- the idea of the most fundamental, most simple, most basic and irreducible as the root and home of all, is what we point to with our chosen words. For me, the resonant phrase is "the feeling of BEING."
It is a feeling, not an idea. It is sheer BEING, prior to form and attributes. It can be known directly, but not as something other than who you really are.
Jan 16 2010, 11:12 AM EST
"cmarti, I can't recall if you're the one who finds Tibetan words irritating"
Roomy, I'm sure I gave you and others that impression at some point. But I did not, do not, find Tibetan words irritating. I found the houses of cards some human beings construct from Tibetan words frustrating. That frustration is MY FAULT, not theirs. Just wanted to clear that up ;-)
See, in the process, while we're in the throes of whatever this is, when it happens, as it is happening, the glimpse we get is through a foggy window. Aiming at the real and authentic at that point can be a hit and miss kind of thing. Once the fog clears nothing could be more obvious and the errors we made - I made - look silly, childish and misguided. I appreciate your pointing this out to me so I can correct it and apologize to anyone who was in the path of my silliness. Today I'm walking around in a familiar world that I get to see for the first time.
Jan 16 2010, 11:13 AM EST | Post edited: Jan 16 2010, 11:14 AM EST
Oh, I have a "sort of" koan:
What is the most powerful thing?
Jan 17 2010, 12:00 PM EST
I've been thinking this morning that there is a boundary that gets crossed by human beings that leads to this practice, i.e.; the investigation of what's really going on. I was thinking about how I got started. What motivated me? It was a deep dissatisfaction with my understanding (really a misunderstanding) of how this body and mind fit into the rest of the universe. It was clear something was wrong. The maps I was using, the explanations I was given or adopted just didn't quite match up to the experience. I was often at odds with experience, my expectations of it, my models of "the way things work."
This, I think, is the essence of suffering, otherwise known as unsatisfaction, or dissatisfaction. It's not physical pain or even emotional pain that causes this feeling. It's a metaphysical, psychological, paradigmatic disconnect. It's the hint that the suffering is happening to a fiction, a shadow of the knowledge that the idea "this" is happening to any one separate thing in particular is wrong. Somehow when a human being recognizes or experiences this disconnect a quest can be born.
I see this now in my daughter, who is 17 and suffers from depression. She and I got the chance to talk at great length earlier this week and it became clear to me, unless I'm projecting, that she senses the same dissatisfaction with the process of life that I did, but at a much older age. So now I'm thinking that people who recognize this mismatch, this paradigmatic disconnect, are the ones who will ultimately develop the drive and energy to awaken, and that we, people like us, need to figure out a way to provide an opening to these people.
I recognize this experiential paradigmatic mismatch in my daughter but not in my three sons. I don't know what causes one person to perceive this and another not, but that is a fascinating, even compelling area of investigation that I would dearly love to explore.
Jan 17 2010, 12:06 PM EST | Post edited: Jan 17 2010, 12:07 PM EST
"It can be known directly, but not as something other than who you really are."
This is critical, I think, as feeling what I call "is" cannot be done until the dropping of all conceptual baggage and the unspoken assumptions about who "I" am are gone. I remember reading, way back when, that this process is one of subtraction, not addition. Nothing could be more descriptive in this regard, Gozen, and I think your point should be etched into the doorway of every Buddhist temple. One has to "die" before one can feel it.
Jan 17 2010, 12:12 PM EST
It's time again to read "Moon in a Dewdrop." This is my way, outside of talking to Kenneth and Gozen, of testing my understanding. Every time I read it I see more and find more beauty. It's a gift from no one ;-)
Jan 18 2010, 1:12 PM EST "
"This is critical, I think, as feeling what I call "is" cannot be done until the dropping of all conceptual baggage and the unspoken assumptions about who "I" am are gone. I remember reading, way back when, that this process is one of subtraction, not addition. Nothing could be more descriptive in this regard, Gozen, and I think your point should be etched into the doorway of every Buddhist temple. One has to "die" before one can feel it."
Chris, I especially like your last sentence: "One has to 'die' before one can feel it." A contemporary Zen master from Japan whose name I forget would freak out some of his American students when they sat down for zazen because he would proclaim "Die on your cushions!" When I first learned about this, I laughed. It's perfect! That's exactly the right attitude! Talk about a stark injunction to drop EVERYTHING!
Jan 18 2010, 2:30 PM EST
"Chris, I especially like your last sentence: "One has to 'die' before one can feel it." A contemporary Zen master from Japan whose name I forget would freak out some of his American students when they sat down for zazen because he would proclaim "Die on your cushions!" When I first learned about this, I laughed. It's perfect! That's exactly the right attitude! Talk about a stark injunction to drop EVERYTHING! "
And this really is how it works. This letting go of our small, constricted self - allowing it to "die before death" - is what allows us to gain the True perspective. I think this is true at all stages of awakening, from stream entry to the final transition and integration. It is rather amusing, however, to see for one's self that the small, constricted ego-self doesn't really die. There has never been a small self in the first place! Hence the reason why enlightened people still appear to have "egos". A human being without a personality is no better than a stone Buddha, and we know from the sutras that the Buddha's enlightenment didn't render him comatose. What a wonderfully paradoxical universe we are.
Jan 18 2010, 4:38 PM EST
Good point, Jackson. It's more accurate to say, "What dies is one's belief in the separate, permanent self," but part of me says that's nowhere near as impactful or poetic, and the impactful and the poetic do have a role to play in our awakening ;-)
Jan 18 2010, 4:40 PM EST
BTW, Jackson, I see you're taking a break from your deep, hard practice. I think that's a smart move. I do it, too, probably more than I should but then being a homeowner, jobholder, spouse and parent forces it on me.
Jan 18 2010, 4:55 PM EST
Yep, I'm just going to reduce the intensity for a while. I have a graduate school application to complete, student loan stuff to deal with, and household concerns to attend to. Periods of intensive practice are important, and so are periods of rest. It's time to explore the latter.
Jan 23 2010, 9:09 AM EST
Business has taken me away from these message boards most of this week but not away from my practice. Though I'm busy and can't sit formally the practice still goes along under its own power and inertia, driven by whatever universal energies drive such things. I notice a vast difference in perspective these days. It waits for me to feel it when I want or, when idle, the mind drops away and it just manifests. Kenneth asked if I noticed folks around me noticing this difference. I said "no" but I wasn't paying enough attention. After he asked and after I started watching, I think they do notice. It shows in a subtle way. I'll post more about this later because at first I thought it might be wishful thinking and I was more or less engaged in a self-fulfilling prophesy or a placebo type effect. Now I don't think so but I want to observe a little more and talk about it in detail later.
Jan 25 2010, 6:07 PM EST
Bottom line -- people pay more attention to the person who is most present at the time. Presence, a calm, steady presence, seems to equate to energy, the energy being focused what's really going on right now. I've been paying attention to this phenomenon and it's quite real. One who is truly present is also able to "see" the energies of others, read that energy, read those others, in a way that many people might call clairvoyant. It's not. It's just that most people are preoccupied. Asleep, to use the Buddha's metaphor.
Jan 25 2010, 10:08 PM EST
Yup-- as Anne Lamott said, 'You must be present to win.' (Understanding 'win' as a gross metaphor; it's not the kind of winning that requires others to lose.) It's really a shocking discovery-- how elaborately and systematically one has gotten in one's own way. And everyone else's. Feels so good to stop.
Jan 25 2010, 10:38 PM EST
"Feels so good to stop."-roomy
Reminds me of something Bill Hamilton used to say about the afterglow that follows an intensive meditation retreat:
"Meditation is like beating your head against the wall; it feels really good when you stop." :-D
Jan 26 2010, 7:12 PM EST
I don't know exactly what this means but my old "light-headedness" feeling is back and has increased substantially yesterday and today. It's akin to being right on the edge of entering a jhana, and if I stop doing things and relax.... BOOM! Jhana-land. This feeling brings an odd image to mind -- that of a jelly-like brain infused with an electrical current. Wet, static-y, energetic.
Jan 27 2010, 4:42 PM EST
While laying in bed last night I was meditating on the nature of "me" and how that manifests. It's really quite persistent. If I start in what I would call a normal, everyday operational mode almost everything I think or feel is presumed to be me. As I peel back the layers off the "me" onion and as each successive layer is objectified the grosser sense of me fades but some subtler sense remains. Even when the onion has been peeled way, way back there is a nagging sense of some nebulous little kernel that is presumed almost unconsciously to be me.
Maybe this is the hall of mirrors effect folks talk about, but the persistence of the idea that there is a static, permanent me from which I observe all else is very, very strong and persistent, almost all the way down. There is, then, an intellectual component of not self that arises, usually as a mental image for me, and a felt, in-the-bones sense of not self, which is the absence of any conscious or unconscious assumptions of a static, permanent me.
In the end I was left with this: I am nothing more than a unique perspective on the universe, which has organized a tiny fragment of reality (this body and this mind) in such a way that it can loop back through that perspective and be aware of itself. I am truly no thing but the universe observing itself. That perspective thus created is what causes space and time to arise, because in the raw, undifferentiated ultimate reality there is no time and there is no space. Those, too, are mental constructs.
So, ultimately..... no time, no space, no me.
Jan 27 2010, 5:26 PM EST
"That perspective thus created is what causes space and time to arise, because in the raw, undifferentiated ultimate reality there is no time and there is no space. Those, too, are mental constructs. "
Just curious-- does this perspective on time and space come from an intellectual/conceptual basis, or are there any experiential / practice-related insights that indicate this?
Jan 27 2010, 11:34 PM EST
"I am nothing more than a unique perspective on the universe, which has organized a tiny fragment of reality (this body and this mind) in such a way that it can loop back through that perspective and be aware of itself. I am truly no thing but the universe observing itself. That perspective thus created is what causes space and time to arise, because in the raw, undifferentiated ultimate reality there is no time and there is no space. Those, too, are mental constructs."
I know I am going to regret this, but I need to wade into this because, every time I take out my telescope and look up...well...there is a whole lot of stuff going on quite nicely without me. I may be a "part" of it, and there may not even be a distinct "I", but this I-thing didn't cause it. The universe was there long before me, and will be there long after me.
Furthermore, it is not a construct of my mind, because you can see it too and if I got hit by a car tomorrow, you would still see it. Am I taking something too literally?
Jan 28 2010, 8:17 AM EST
".. does this perspective on time and space come from an intellectual/conceptual basis, or are there any experiential / practice-related insights that indicate this?"
Both, Brian. There is an experience, the "feel" of what I have described here as "it" (experiential, felt, whatever you want to call it) generated by the dropping/death/elimination of everything, and then there is the concept/idea/thought version of it. Pretty much what Nagarjuna decribes, I'd say.
"Am I taking something too literally?"
Tomo, there really is a universe. It's not imaginary as far as I can tell. It's not a product of any one of us... me, you, anyone. It IS us. All of us, all at once, inseparable. And as you say very accurately, it is timeless and it doesn't care one tiny little bit about you, or me, or anyone. As for the concept of causation, well, that whole idea is kind of moot, ultimately. "It" has always been there and will always be there, so what could "cause" even mean in relation to that?
FYI: I'm describing my very own practice experience here. Yours may differ. I could be wrong, misguided, foolish, stupid or otherwise confused. I'm not an authority on anything but my own experience. I make no claims other than that I will post what really happens to me that I believe is practice related with no embellishment and nothing hidden.
Oh, I totally get and appreciate that. The only reason I felt compelled to ask is because you are not the only one that has said something like that here and on DhO, and the "I am the universe, the universe is me" thing has been bugging me for some time. All my desktop pictures and screen savers are different Hubble shots, and I have been into astronomy for a long time, so "the universe" means something very precise and stupefyingly incredible to me. And, similarly, "no space, no time" says something...incongruous?...to me. I have internalized the "we are all star stuff" message from the first time I heard Carl Sagan say it. But I too am on this journey to figure out how the "me" part of my star stuff fits in.
Time will tell how that plays out, but your insights and observations continue to be a real inspiration.
Jan 28 2010, 10:05 AM EST
Tomo, you have given me a "Aha!" moment and I thank you.
This is a problem with my use of language, methinks. Yes, the "universe" as I always thought of it, conventionally, is what we saw Carl Sagan describe in his "Cosmos" PBS series years ago. Though I have been using that term here I would have been better served to use the word *reality*. Substitute that word for the other word, and see how that sits with you. Now, that doesn't change any of the meaning of what I said, at least in my mind, but it might make it more palatable and less confusing.
So I'm sorry. My language confused you, I think.
Jan 28 2010, 2:05 PM EST
"I know I am going to regret this, but I need to wade into this because, every time I take out my telescope and look up...well...there is a whole lot of stuff going on quite nicely without me. I may be a "part" of it, and there may not even be a distinct "I", but this I-thing didn't cause it. The universe was there long before me, and will be there long after me. Furthermore, it is not a construct of my mind, because you can see it too and if I got hit by a car tomorrow, you would still see it. Am I taking something too literally? "
Except with consciousness the universe is not there as it presents to you. Colours, shapes, stars whatever is percieved or thought of does not and can not exist of itself. When others "see it", "it" is not a "thing". Every - "thing" must be only an appearence. The same is true of movement, space and time perception. When you look through your telescope there is a lot going on only as an appearence, and nothing can be said of reality except as it appears. No "thing" exists without consciousness, to consider something as existing after your gone only comes about by firstly attributing reality with some-thing where there is nothing.
Jan 28 2010, 2:27 PM EST
Garyth: I'm still trying to understand your POV. Are you saying that the universe exists in some sense, but , in the exact way we perceive it only exists in our own indiviual minds because our brain and senses construct an object's appearance anew moment by moment?
Jan 28 2010, 2:34 PM EST | Post edited: Jan 28 2010, 2:40 PM EST
I'm going to start a new thread based on Gary's comment. See ya there! EDIT: Sorry, guys, but I sense that the discussion deserved its own thread as it is interesting and important on its own merit.
Jan 29 2010, 7:58 AM EST
Just want to say -- I miss Haquan. I hope everything is okay, David, and that you reappear here soon.
Jan 29 2010, 9:11 AM EST
I was thinking exactly the same thing yesterday.