iamom: (coltrane)
(x-posted here to [livejournal.com profile] nonduality)

This article in today's Nonduality Highlights (Issue #4483, edited by Mark Otter today) contains a great article about meditation by Adyashanti, who is one of the clearest speakers on contemporary Nonduality practicing these days. His website is here if you want to check out more of his stuff or if you happen to live somewhere that he's giving satsang.
True meditation has no direction or goal. It is pure wordless surrender, pure silent prayer. All methods aiming at achieving a certain state of mind are limited, impermanent, and conditioned. Fascination with states leads only to bondage and dependency. True meditation is abidance as primordial awareness.
Read more... )
iamom: (riker muzzle)
On Distraction
Our minds need to go on a diet.
Spring 2010

One of the more embarrassing and self-indulgent challenges of our time is the task of relearning how to concentrate. The past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds steadily on anything. To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible.

The obsession with current events is relentless. We are made to feel that at any point, somewhere on the globe, something may occur to sweep away old certainties—something that, if we failed to learn about it instantaneously, could leave us wholly unable to comprehend ourselves or our fellows. We are continuously challenged to discover new works of culture—and, in the process, we don’t allow any one of them to assume a weight in our minds. We leave a movie theater vowing to reconsider our lives in the light of a film’s values. Yet by the following evening, our experience is well on the way to dissolution, like so much of what once impressed us: the ruins of Ephesus, the view from Mount Sinai, the feelings after finishing Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Ilyich.

A student pursuing a degree in the humanities can expect to run through 1,000 books before graduation day. A wealthy family in England in 1250 might have owned three books: a Bible, a collection of prayers, and a life of the saints—this modestly sized library nevertheless costing as much as a cottage. The painstaking craftsmanship of a pre-Gutenberg Bible was evidence of a society that could not afford to make room for an unlimited range of works but also welcomed restriction as the basis for proper engagement with a set of ideas.

The need to diet, which we know so well in relation to food, and which runs so contrary to our natural impulses, should be brought to bear on what we now have to relearn in relation to knowledge, people, and ideas. Our minds, no less than our bodies, require periods of fasting.

Alain de Botton is the author of The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work and other books.

From  http://www.city-journal.org/2010/20_2_snd-concentration.html

(via Nonduality Highlights Issue #3914, edited by Jerry Katz)

iamom: (flying by)
A key part of The Gabriel Method deals with creative visualization. Each day, in the morning and before bed, you're supposed to spend some time visualizing yourself in an ideal body. Change the mind, the logic goes, and the body will follow.

My wife pointed out a flaw in this logic the other night, though. She said that you might not do anything productive to reach that ideal state if all you visualize is that ideal state. What might be more useful would be to visualize yourself as you are now, but to see yourself doing the behaviours that will lead to the ideal state.

I've been thinking about that. It makes a lot of sense. In other words, visualize yourself preparing healthy meals, visualize yourself sitting down to eat them in a leisurely, focused way without distractions, and visualizing yourself performing physical exercises that you enjoy. Then maybe when those visualizations really get ingrained in your mind, you'll start to try some of them. And once you start to try some of them, you'll start to repeat some of them more often. And then once you start to repeat some of them more often, you'll start to change your relationship with food and exercise and start to lose weight successfully.

I think this all comes out of NLP, that technique that Tony Robbins uses in his self-improvement seminars. I've been gearing up mentally for starting some of these visualizations, because I haven't even made the effort to sit quietly and try them. We'll see what comes out of them. Frankly, it's so easy to maintain the status quo that trying to do ANYTHING can feel like a really challenge sometimes.
iamom: (suntrees)
Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist lama who also paints very striking, abstract art. He was featured in the current issue of Buddhadharma, and a small excerpt from an article he wrote on his abstract painting begins with some striking points about meditation and the nature of mind.
As Buddhists, we are taught that the natural state of mind is pristine and enlightened in itself. To embody this view of the natural state, first we need to work with our mind through discipline. In our meditation practice, sometimes we are present with this experience of the natural state and sometimes we are not. When something pleasant arises, we often grasp at it, and when something unpleasant arises, we may reject it. Our discipline is to transcend these grasping and rejection tendencies that cause us so much suffering.

Over time, as we feel more self-confident and secure in our practice of meditation -- and in our understanding of the true nature of mind pointed out by our teacher -- we will see that the true nature is pristine and stainless. In the traditional analogy of the ocean and its waves, it is said that however large or small the waves, all are essentially made of the element of water and cannot be separated from the ocean. Similarly, in the view of meditation, all our thoughts and various feelings arise out of the natural state of mind and are ultimately made out of the same "material." That material is empty awareness itself. If we do not succumb to habits and insecurities, or preconceptions about meditation and how our mind should be, we can then recognize that everything that arises is simply a manifestation of this very nature. Any expressions that arise from this enlightened nature can be understood as enlightened expressions when we do not approach them through the habits of acceptance and rejection.

Realizing this, we can begin to experience relaxation, as well as a lessening of judgments and reactivity. We experience more openness and acceptance. Slowly, and naturally, we begin to see the world as pure -- not as in "pure" versus "ugly," but pure in the sense of seeing the perfection of its existence. This existence is not determined according to some concept or idea of the way it should be; it simply has come to exist naturally. Its beauty is found in it being just the way it is. The world has found its own shape, form and colour. All of it arises out of the nature of mind.
These are such wise words. But I can imagine that one reason so many of us might not jive with this is that it seems to say that there's nothing wrong with the world as it is, that we should accept everything as it is without trying to change it. And it seems to many of us like there's so much wrong with the world right now, how could we possibly accept it as it is? But the point he's making is subtler than that, and more specific as opposed to general. Despite how much we might want to, there's very little that we can each do today that will affect something like the situation in Darfur, for example. But there's a lot we can do to affect our own lives today, our own life situation. By getting in touch with the equanimity that he describes, we can resolve the conflicts in our own minds that result in conflicts with our family and other people in our lives. By looking at our immediate outside world without judgment and reactivity, we can successfully embody the Tao, weaving our way effortlessly through our own external world without fighting it.

In this way, we attain peace and enlightenment in this very moment. It's as simple as that.
iamom: (Default)
I just came across another gem from the winter 2009 issue of Buddhadharma. It's a magazine I used to read frequently but haven't picked up in awhile. This issue keeps drawing me in though, and I've enjoyed lots of the stuff I've read in it so far. The following excerpt, from a Tibetan Dzogchen lineage holder I'd never previously heard of named Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, really resonated with me in terms of the struggles I've been having recently with my youngest two kids: boys aged 22 months and 3 years. So often each day I run into situations with them where they seem to be working actively against my expectations for their behaviour, for their safety, or for the safety for our treasured goods in our home. These words made me think about how I could develop more acceptance around situations which rail against my petty expectations.
The moment we experience disruption in our practice or in our life is in fact an opportunity, or doorway, to let go and radically open. What we often do instead is react with aversion, tensing our body and becoming angry. We are trying to maintain continuity of our sense of self, our focus, our agenda. This is the opposite of meditation practice. In our meditation practice we should not have a fixed goal, or idea, or agenda to attain. Rather, our practice should support us in recognizing each moment in its aliveness and in connecting with clear, open awareness. Open awareness is not something we produce, but something we recognize. As we continue to practice meditation, we become increasingly familiar with openness. We discover that openness is the source of all postiive qualities, such as loving-kindness or compassion for another.

Ego is a complication, or obscuration, of this fundamental openness. There is a "me" who is absorbed and now interrupted, a "me" who becomes argumentative with an "other", etc. This back and forth internal dialog, which of course can become external and lead to many unpleasant complications and dramas, can simply be abandoned on the spot if one is willing to experience in a raw and direct way whatever sensations and feelings are present. If we simply feel what we feel -- without judging or elaborating -- the feelings and sensations come, stay for a moment, and then leave on their own. This is a natural process when we don't interfere by engaging our conceptual mind. In this process we can directly observe this "who" that is interrupted.

Naked observation, without commentary or analysis, is very powerful. In the presence of our naked observation, the structure of ego dissolves. It simply cannot remain if we are not feeding it with our conceptual mind. So what begins as a feeling of interruption, insult, or injury, instantly becomes a reminder to observe directly. As we observe, our reaction dissolves, and what remains is openness. And there we can rest, or abide. Even if this is only a glimpse of openness, perhaps lasting for only thirty seconds, it is the foundation upon which to build one's dharma practice. Remember, the space that opens up is the source of all positive qualities, which do not have to be coerced or forced but are naturally and increasingly available as we become more familiar with open awareness. We have so many challenges in life that can become opportunities to let go and open. In this way, irritation itself becomes the doorway to the inner pure space of our natural mind, the mind of all the buddhas.
Now don't get me wrong. What he's describing isn't easy. He's asking us to use apparently negative and frustrating experiences and conflicts in our everyday lives as opportunities to develop pure awareness of our true nature -- in other words, to use conflict as a means towards spiritual practice. But as idealistic as this may sound, I believe it's very sage advice. It's not natural to try and deny the anger or frustration we feel in conflict situations; however, if we can experience it fully, observe it objectively, and then let it move through us without hanging on to it and feeding it with our own petty psychic energy, then those negative feelings will pass pretty quickly and we can move on to the next situation in life.

God knows this is what most young kids do. Despite the frequent blow-ups that my 3-year-old has over a toy not working the way he wants it to or his little brother taking something away from him, within literally seconds he's usually moved on to a different activity and the conflict he just had is apparently erased from his memory. Little kids live inherently in the present moment, they let their emotions run wild, but they also let their emotions burn out as quickly as they came on if you give them the space to do so. More and more, I find these conflict scenarios in childrearing to be fertile learning experiences for my own spiritual awakening.

Even though they really piss me off sometimes.
iamom: (looking out)
This short, lucid piece appeared in the Winter 2009 issue of Buddhadharma. As is often the case with Chögyam's writing, I found it very clear, easy to understand, and enlightening.
The practice of meditation is not so much about a hypothetical attainment of enlightenment as about leading a good life. In order to learn how to lead a good life, a spotless life, we need continual awareness that relates with life constantly, directly, and very simply.

The attitude that brings about mindfulness and awareness is not an opinionated one. Mindfulness is simply about a sense of being; you are in contact, you are actually being there. When you sit on the meditation cushion, you feel you are sitting there and that you actually exist. You don't need to encourage or sustain your sense of being.

We might actually question what is the purpose of meditation, what happens next, but actually the idea of meditation is to develop an entirely different way of dealing with things, where you have no purpose at all. One is not constantly on the way to somewhere, or rather one is on the way and at the destination at the same time.

Meditation is not a quick cure or cover-up for the complicated or embarrassing aspects of ourselves. It is a way of life. It is extremely important to persist in our practice without second-guessing ourselves through disappointments, elations, or whatever. We might actually begin to see the world we carry with us in a more open, refreshing way. Meditation is very much a matter of exercise, a working practice. It is not a matter of going into some imaginary depth, but of widening and expanding outward.
iamom: (Default)
Issue #2508 of the Nondual Highlights (edited by Gloria Lee today) has a number of interesting snippets about the highly esoteric yet accessible form of Buddhist meditation practice called Dzogchen. These excerpts summarize it well, but further reading can be found on this page of Nonduality.com, this Dzogchen retreat report, the Dzogchen.org home page (also the home of Lama Surya Das), this Google results page on Dzogchen or this one on Dzogchen sky gazing. Furthermore, one book that's mentioned today is Charlotte Joko Beck's Everyday Zen (Amazon.com | Amazon.ca), which I couldn't recommend more highly, especially for anyone looking for motivation to develop a regular sitting meditation practice or for people who are pulled towards a "meditation-in-action" kind of lifestyle.

A question: If we simply dropped all of our concepts and "thoughts" about everything including self, ego, others, karma, Dzogchen, Buddhism, teachings, teachers, empowerments, paths of practice, techniques etc., and simply took refuge in our non-conceptual Presence of Awareness, what issues would remain needing to be clarified?

Jax on Dzogchen Practice
Intelligent practice always deals with just one thing: the fear at the base of human existence, the fear that I am not.

And of course I am not, but the last thing I want to know is that.

I am impermanence itself in a rapidly changing human form that appears solid. I fear to see what I am: an ever-changing energy field...

So good practice is about fear. Fear takes the form of constantly thinking, speculating, analyzing, fantasizing. With all that activity we create a cloud cover to keep ourselves safe in make-believe practice. True practice is not safe; it's anything but safe. But we don't like that, so we obsess with our feverish efforts to achieve our version of the personal dream. Such obessive practice is itself just another cloud between ourselves and reality.

The only thing that matters is seeing with an impersonal searchlight: seeing things as they are. When the personal barrier drops away, why do we have to call it anything? We just live our lives. And when we die, we just die. No problem anywhere.

-- Charlotte Joko Beck in Everyday Zen
In traditional Buddhist texts the five energies of Lust, Aversion, Torpor, Restlessness, and Doubt are called "Mind Hindrances" ...because they obscure clear seeing, just as sandstorms in the desert or fog on a highway can cause travelers to get lost. They hinder the possibility of us reconnecting with the peaceful self that is our essential nature. They confuse us. We think they are real. We forget that our actual nature is not the passing storm. The passing storm is the passing storm. Our essence remains our essence all the time.

Five different energies seem like a limited menu, but they present themselves in an infinite variety of disguises. Ice cream sundaes are different from pizzas are different from sex, but fundamentally they are all objects of the lustful desire....Grumbly mind is grumbly mind; sleepy mind is sleepy mind; restless mind is restless mind; doubtful mind is doubtful mind.

The fact that it's in the nature of minds for storms to arise and pass away is not a problem....[It] helps in keeping the spirits up to remember that the weather is going to change. Our difficult mind states become a problem only if we believe they are going to go on forever.

-- Sylvia Boorstein
"The particular skill required is that it must be a state of total relaxation which is not distracted or dull. It is not an objective experience of looking for the mind or looking at the mind. On the other hand, it is not a blind process; we are not unaware. There is seeing without looking; there is dwelling in the experience without looking at the experience. This is the keynote of the intuitive approach."

"While the mind is poised in the state of bare awareness, there is no directing the mind. One is not looking within for anything; one is not looking without for anything. One is simply letting the mind rest in its own natural state. The empty, clear and unimpeded nature of mind can be experienced if we can rest in an uncontrived state of bare awareness without distraction and without the spark awareness being lost..."

Ven. Kalu Rinpoche
by Jax on Dzogchen Practice
(x-posted to [livejournal.com profile] nonduality)


Apr. 6th, 2006 08:27 am
iamom: (zoesad)
The Zen moment is one in which everything feels perfectly balanced. Your state of mind is whatever it is, yet there is an awareness of imperturbable other that is also felt. These two are in harmony, are fused as one, yin and yang, the nature of the universe.

What or who feels this balance, I cannot say. Simply returning one's awareness to it is enough, though. That awareness becomes a meditation in itself, expressible by simple words like

I am I AM.

This balance, this awareness, can also be experienced and expressed through slow, conscious breathing.

breathe in

breathe out


iamom: (Default)
Dustin LindenSmith

January 2013

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