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ATTENTION!: It appears that our server has been hacked through this version of Liferay, meaning it is no longer secure, and so expect instability as we deal with this and attempt to upgrade to Liferay 7, which we failed to be able to do last year the last time the team attempted it, but we have no choice at this point, so bear with us as we try again. Save any long posts in a text file before posting them. You can follow me on Twitter at @danielmingram for updates if the site is down. Apologies for any complexity this causes. We will work as fast as we can. We have backups of the database, so hopefully nothing will be lost. Thanks to all helping with this complex process.

 

 

 

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How does this work??

How does this work??
Answer
5/26/11 8:14 PM
Hey everyone,

Sorry if this question has already been asked before, or if it's answered in Daniel's book (I didn't come across it, if it is). I just have a hard time understanding why paying really really close attention to reality, or even contemplating the Three Characteristics is what leads to higher and higher levels of insight. Of course, a Zen teacher would probably just smack me and tell me to get back to meditating if I asked this, but based on Daniel's book, I assume the culture here is a bit different.

You may also question whether it's even "necessary" for me to understand this. I suppose I could just tell myself, well, this is how they say it works, so just do it, but after having done a certain amount of insight meditation, I can't help but feel a little ridiculous focusing on bare sensation. I feel like I've reached the "Mind and Body" stage--i.e. when I contemplate anatta enough, my sense of self shatters into the five aggregates--but it's like, okay, I get the point, so how is continuing to do this going to help me? (I have noted that Daniel even says, "people can try to hold on to it just as with the first jhana and get stuck," but I've felt really little desire to hold onto it; it's just made me ponder these questions....)

I know the standard explanation is that doing this work makes you sense reality in a "truer" way somehow, but I guess I'm questioning how this is beneficial. I know, because it leads to the end of all suffering, but how? It seems more plausible to me that paying that much heightened attention simply serves to put one into a sort of trance, which is what leads to the altered perception or states that appear to accompany the stages of insights.

I know this seems like a Western or scientific need to understand or whatever, but... well, okay, yes, that's precisely what it is, lol. But I don't see what's wrong with that. And I'm not asking for a detailed neurological explanation; an experiential explanation would suffice. For instance, if someone were to ask a similar question about jhana (which I do have experience with) like "why does concentrating on the breath lead to rapture?" I would say, "Well, actually, you can't just concentrate on the breath; you have to use your concentration on the breath to enhance and deepen a feeling of relaxation, and it's that deepened relaxation leads to internal pleasure, which leads to jhana." (Some may disagree with my explanation, but it's just an example.) I'm able to explain the chain of cause and effect, which makes the process make a bit more sense and may help the would-be practitioner find their way. I know that jhana is different from vipassana, but I'm just using it by way of example in case anyone would care to shed similar light on the early stages of insight...

Thanks. emoticon

RE: How does this work??
Answer
5/26/11 10:45 PM as a reply to Morgan Taylor.
I've got nuthin'.

But maybe these writings by adyashanti will satisfy the question of how and why. I find them satisfying.

http://www.adyashanti.org/index.php?file=writings_inner&writingid=46

RE: How does this work??
Answer
5/27/11 2:57 AM as a reply to Morgan Taylor.
Morgan Taylor:
I feel like I've reached the "Mind and Body" stage--i.e. when I contemplate anatta enough, my sense of self shatters into the five aggregates--but it's like, okay, I get the point, so how is continuing to do this going to help me?

what was that experience like? was there less suffering in that experience than what arises in your daily life? would you like your experience to be like that all the time? and if not, why not?
------------------------

paying really really close attention to the sensations perceivable at every moment ("reality")--leads to clearer and clearer perception("higher and higher levels of insight") because you are sharpening your tools for perceiving more clearly. It's not what you're looking at that changes and becomes more revealing of insight, but it's your ability to perceive that gets sharpened and fine-tuned so that reality is seen more clearly and therefore understood in a deeper way. but in order to keep upgrading the ability to look, we need to keep looking at stuff.

and yes there are altered states and trance-like things that may crop up from time to time, but unless your main goal is just to have interesting experiences, they are just side effects (and for some people very helpful tools) in the process of sharpening perception.

as you sharpen and fine-tune your tools for clear perception (attention, alertness, concentration, energy, equanimity, relaxation, removing blockages) and start seeing all sensations more and more as rapidly arising and vanishing at each split second of your daily life, your experience will become finer, more and more empty of the illusion of self, and more free from suffering.

so instead of a way of looking around in order to find new things or a "truer reality", insight meditation is more like the sharpening a knife you already have so that it can cut through things you never imagined you could cut before, or upgrading your pixelated computer screen to one that has finer resolution, or cleaning your camera lens so that the image gets clearer and clearer, upgrading the auto-focus and zoom accuracy and speed, etc. It's the seer/experiencer and experiencing capacity that changes, and then--only as a result--what you see.

if I'm not mistaken, i think Daniel talks about "integration of insight" in his book. for me, that's the whole point of practice and the answer to your question "how will it help me." it's not just about seeing new things and finding new insight, but incorporating the new insight into every bit of your life, every second of it. and this is possible if the insight is really insight and is worth anything. if you really give insight meditation a serious trial, there are critical points that will come when some threshold or another of your experience is raised and your moment-to-moment daily life is never experienced without certain liberating insights ever again.

jill

RE: How does this work??
Answer
5/27/11 12:20 PM as a reply to Jill Morana.
TJ Broccoli:
Morgan Taylor:
I feel like I've reached the "Mind and Body" stage--i.e. when I contemplate anatta enough, my sense of self shatters into the five aggregates--but it's like, okay, I get the point, so how is continuing to do this going to help me?

what was that experience like? was there less suffering in that experience than what arises in your daily life? would you like your experience to be like that all the time? and if not, why not?


It was pretty trippy. I don't mean that I had visions; I just found it strangely uncanny and disconcerting. But yes, it contained much less suffering than the usual levels in my daily life. lol emoticon Given that, I suppose it would make sense for me to want to feel like that all the time, or at least to try it out for more extended periods of time...

TJ Broccoli:
as you sharpen and fine-tune your tools for clear perception (attention, alertness, concentration, energy, equanimity, relaxation, removing blockages) and start seeing all sensations more and more as rapidly arising and vanishing at each split second of your daily life, your experience will become finer, more and more empty of the illusion of self, and more free from suffering.


This seems to me to hold the explanation I was looking for, even though it's basically what I've read elsewhere a bunch of times. emoticon So, correct me if I'm wrong, it seems to me that instead of "cleaning your camera lens" as you mention, this process actually is like zooming so far into a photo that all you can see are a few pixels, which are inherently meaningless and convey so little information about the photographed object that you can't tell what it is. Daniel mentions something like this (I forget which chapter) when he says that if he's feeling upset about something, he just focuses on the feeling and essentially breaks it down into all its components, which makes the whole feeling dissolve, since it's become essentially meaningless.

RE: How does this work??
Answer
5/28/11 6:34 AM as a reply to Morgan Taylor.
Morgan Taylor:

This seems to me to hold the explanation I was looking for, even though it's basically what I've read elsewhere a bunch of times. emoticon So, correct me if I'm wrong, it seems to me that instead of "cleaning your camera lens" as you mention, this process actually is like zooming so far into a photo that all you can see are a few pixels, which are inherently meaningless and convey so little information about the photographed object that you can't tell what it is. Daniel mentions something like this (I forget which chapter) when he says that if he's feeling upset about something, he just focuses on the feeling and essentially breaks it down into all its components, which makes the whole feeling dissolve, since it's become essentially meaningless.


actually at a certain stage it becomes like zooming far in and far out at the same time--perception becomes simultaneously full and panoramic (zoomed out) as well as fine and subtle (zoomed in). but along the way there are different exercises and ways to practice (and everybody's different) that might emphasize one aspect of "sharpening" at a time.

as for feelings and emotions, it can help a lot to be able to recognize them right when they arise. the problem with not being aware of them as they happen is that feelings tend to become justified or explained by other feelings, and layers of feelings can contradict each other and make a person end up not knowing what they really feel or want. what the person ends up thinking they feel is whatever feeling seems most "acceptable" to them, despite all else brewing under the surface.

it's not uncommon that a novice meditator may experience some altered state or condition and say "well I've given it a try and I've experienced 'xyz' and it doesn't seem all that attractive to me," or "it makes me suffer this and that too much," or "it was scary, disturbing, tiring, annoying, etc.," BUT such imperfection, dissatisfaction, inner crap, all that suffering and lack of insight are the very reasons why others stick with meditation, because realizing how much crap there is inside is just the first step to getting rid of it!

RE: How does this work??
Answer
5/27/11 6:34 AM as a reply to Morgan Taylor.
Paying attention to things as they are

leads to

dispassion towards phenomena

leads to

the end of clinging.

---

As clinging (craving, aversion, tension, identification, etc) is all that is in the way, the less it happens, the more you can enjoy being here now, again and again, until eventually you enjoy being here always, which leads to you no longer needing to "be" at all --- the end of suffering.