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Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse

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Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse Rashed Arafat 9/22/11 4:53 PM
RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse End in Sight 9/22/11 4:52 PM
RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse Rashed Arafat 9/22/11 5:01 PM
RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse End in Sight 9/22/11 6:11 PM
RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse Rashed Arafat 9/22/11 8:46 PM
RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse End in Sight 9/22/11 9:03 PM
RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse Rashed Arafat 9/22/11 10:17 PM
RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse End in Sight 9/22/11 11:54 PM
RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 9/23/11 11:18 AM
RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse Rashed Arafat 9/23/11 9:19 PM
RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse End in Sight 9/23/11 10:01 PM
RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse Rashed Arafat 9/23/11 11:30 PM
RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse End in Sight 9/24/11 12:18 AM
RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse Rashed Arafat 9/24/11 3:21 PM
RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse Rashed Arafat 9/26/11 1:10 AM
RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse End in Sight 9/27/11 4:46 PM
RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse Rashed Arafat 9/27/11 8:23 PM
RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse Rashed Arafat 9/27/11 8:07 PM
RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse End in Sight 9/27/11 8:43 PM
RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse N A 9/28/11 11:06 AM
Hello,

I'm trying to discern the relative validity of two different perspectives when it comes to changing ingrained/"biologically programmed" behaviors (that give me the feeling of being "stuck" psychologically):
  1. The only way to change my overall outlook is to "starve" a particular behavior until I come into alignment with a deeper aspect of myself. This is basically the same as "committing myself" to my highest possible ideal, and letting the details fall wherever they may.
  2. That it's possibly shortsighted/foolish to take on an "extreme" commitment, such as celibacy, because you can't just OVERPOWER sexuality -- something very, very deeply ingrained in our biological make-up. It's better to try and find a "middle way" or take a holistic approach in such matters.
I have often heard the first perspective endorsed by people who have proclaimed to be Enlightened (and I believe they most likely are).

I have heard the second perspective endorsed by psychotherapists.

I myself think that it's hard to really change if you're unaware of parts of your psyche that are pulling the strings from "behind the scenes" as it were. I do not equate stubbornness with integrity, or will-power.

Any opinions?

RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse
Answer
9/22/11 4:52 PM as a reply to Rashed Arafat.
What have you tried so far, and what have the results been?

RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse
Answer
9/22/11 5:01 PM as a reply to End in Sight.
I tried temporary celibacy in the past (didn't get anything out of it except enormous frustration), but to get to the point and address the present -- I've essentially tried a strategy of "non-interference" with my sexuality, and I don't think I'm getting anywhere with this. I'm single, and for some reason I'm hyper-aware of all of my "independent" sexual activity. I keep feeling as though I need to commit to some form of restrictive action that is not all-out celibacy.

RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse
Answer
9/22/11 6:11 PM as a reply to Rashed Arafat.
Well, you might get better advice on this if you let us know what you hope to get out of curbing your sex life (what it's doing to you right now that you dislike), as well as any other considerations that are surrounding the issue. The reason is, the answer to your original question (with regard to what works better) is "it depends"...and considerations such as those are precisely some of the things it's likely to depend on.

RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse
Answer
9/22/11 8:46 PM as a reply to End in Sight.
I am working on recovering from a compulsive dependence on pot to get spiritual insights (I'd like to get insights "on my own power"). This is currently my #1 priority -- I want to shift to a largely meditative lifestyle that is nevertheless fun & interesting, and hopefully at times truly exciting.

Given the above goal, I just don't think I can keep myself on a tight leash regarding my sexual outlets. That would be just taking on too much for me -- I can only deal with 1 major thing at a time. Yet I feel a considerable amount of guilt (considerable enough, apparently, to post about it here) over not having my sexual needs met through "valid" means (i.e. a partner) and, instead, through pornography and/or fantasizing (how else can it be done sans partner?). I apologize, by the way, if this is too-much-information, but I find being honest is an easier way to cut to the chase and get to the heart of the matter, at times.

So while conceptually I understand that as long as I'm working away on priority #1 (overcoming dependence on pot and using meditation instead to acquire spiritual insights), I can cut myself some slack with regard to my sexual proclivities, I can't seem to detach the guilt I feel over my solo sexual activities. This guilt may be due to Nature urging me to go out and find a mate (and me not listening) -- and maybe I just need to remain mindful of that (or act on it).

RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse
Answer
9/22/11 9:03 PM as a reply to Rashed Arafat.
It seems as if there must be something else going on with respect to sex...is it really just that you feel guilty over it? Or, do you believe that it's standing in the way of your spiritual development? Something else?

As getting high all the time is more likely to be the concern worth addressing first, and it is hard to change too many longstanding personal habits at once, it may be more practical to indulge in one area while cutting back severely in the other...willpower is a finite resource.

RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse
Answer
9/22/11 10:17 PM as a reply to End in Sight.
As getting high all the time is more likely to be the concern worth addressing first, and it is hard to change too many longstanding personal habits at once, it may be more practical to indulge in one area while cutting back severely in the other...willpower is a finite resource.


I agree 100% that the root of my problems lies in my pot usage, and that's the area toward which I must direct the majority of my will-power. It indeed is a finite resource, as I'm slowly learning...

Obviously I've created a sex-life : weed duality here.

I guess it makes sense to not scold myself over, or try to meticulously monitor my sexual behavior as I bear down with the full force of my will upon my weed habit.

I feel severely belittled by an ex-girlfriend of mine (I was truly "in love" with her but she was not with me) -- we broke up a little over a year ago, but it caused me so much grief that I still have not been able to entirely move on. The fact that I'm still "stuck" on her makes me mad at myself, and I guess that's why I feel guilt over my sexual behavior (as though I've been "sentenced" to it).

In general, though, pornography may be "standing in the way of spiritual development," as you put it, but like I said, even if it is, there's a bigger dog (the pot issue) guarding the gate that I have to deal with first...

Thanks for all of your insightful comments, by the way -- this exchange really is clearing things up for me pretty quickly...

RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse
Answer
9/22/11 11:54 PM as a reply to Rashed Arafat.
Glad to hear you benefitted. Honestly, I was surprised to see the way you related sex and weed...I continue to wonder if there isn't something deeper going on, perhaps that you don't yet realize. But, perhaps you simply classify them both as bad habits. Would be pretty nice if they were the only bad habits you had. emoticon

Out of curiosity, what do you think would happen if your rule for independent sexual activity was "only if I remain mindful during it"?

RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse
Answer
9/23/11 11:18 AM as a reply to End in Sight.
End in Sight:
Honestly, I was surprised to see the way you related sex and weed...I continue to wonder if there isn't something deeper going on, perhaps that you don't yet realize.


Maybe an overarching sense of "i must practice well" is involved in the mix? so more of a triad than a duo. with all of them feeding into each other? something to look for as 'i' was (and still am to some extent) caught up in practice a lot

RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse
Answer
9/23/11 9:19 PM as a reply to End in Sight.
Thanks to both of you for the great responses...

I could take a few shots at what the deeper issue/issues could be:

I feel as though I'm too lazy to make progress in terms of my musical career. I spend a lot of time investigating spirituality, but deep inside I feel as though I'm waiting on the sidelines re: becoming a career musician (my truest passion). I think Enlightenment will free me from the imperative to simply grow into being "my own man" (which, to me, includes building a career) -- I feel as though I'm avoiding my existential responsibility this way.

I'm also pretty neurotic about practicing well (as you said, Beoman). I expect to bring all the energy I have going in different directions into alignment simply through sheer practice. Realistically speaking, I don't think it works that way. There are a few concrete life-issues that cannot be "neutralized" through meditation -- rather, they need to be dealt with through conventional avenues.

The above does NOT mean that I think a spiritual path (Hardcore Dharma Practice) is not right for me. It's just that I devalue the role music plays in my life. In a sense I feel as though I'm playing a child's game (finding a girl, getting an ego boost in shallow ways, being popular, etc.) when I really should be focusing on what I want to be doing for the next 10 - 20 years, in the world. Relative accomplishments do seem to matter, at least to me, to a certain extent.

In MCTB, Daniel talks about how one needs to make sure that one builds a life that he would "want to wake up to." I guess I'm just lagging quite a bit in this respect.

RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse
Answer
9/23/11 10:01 PM as a reply to Rashed Arafat.
Rashed Arafat:
I'm also pretty neurotic about practicing well (as you said, Beoman). I expect to bring all the energy I have going in different directions into alignment simply through sheer practice. Realistically speaking, I don't think it works that way. There are a few concrete life-issues that cannot be "neutralized" through meditation -- rather, they need to be dealt with through conventional avenues.


This is a tricky issue, so I offer you the following thoughts, with the understanding that you will have to figure out how they apply to your particular situation.

Depending on what kind of value you expect to get out of the spiritual path, and depending on what kind of person you are, if you can put every last drop of energy into your spiritual work, that can pay off in unbelievable ways.

However, you really have to be unreasonably dedicated (and perhaps unreasonable in some other sense) for that to be a good idea.

What exactly (precisely) do you hope to get out of all this spiritual stuff?

RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse
Answer
9/23/11 11:30 PM as a reply to End in Sight.
What exactly (precisely) do you hope to get out of all this spiritual stuff?


Conceptually I'm convinced that there is an end to fundamental suffering, and I've had glimpses of such freedom. So the short answer would be that I hope to attain that freedom one day -- short of that, no amount of success, love, or anything else that life has to offer will satisfy me on a very basic level. I must "know the Knower" -- until that point, a very vague sense of dissatisfaction will persist.

Although I'm not a proponent of trying to escape the very real responsibilities that life bestows upon an individual by considering it all to be a "dream," I find the analogy of lucid dreaming to be very useful in this case. If I'm being chased by a tiger in a jungle in a dream, and the dream suddenly turns lucid, then all the fear I was feeling would instantly evaporate. The dream will still play out -- the tiger might pounce on me or I might escape it, but since the knowledge that it's all just a dream is self-evident/unshakable, I will no longer be threatened by the prospect of its termination. Another way of putting it is that I've seen the true nature of the dream, and hence have been liberated from the conditions of it.

I'll see if I can try to be a bit more specific (and honest, at the risk of possibly sounding ridiculous) in answering your question:
  • I hope to not feel that life is unhappiness without romantic love. Or that it's somehow less valuable.
  • I hope to see my life as it actually is.
  • I hope to know what my true purpose in life is (or be absolutely certain that there is no purpose).
  • I hope to be able to truly love a person for who they are, instead of trying to "get something out of" them, in however subtle a form.
  • I want to have respect for myself -- I'm not saying that I disrespect myself, but I certainly do not have the degree of self-respect I'd like to have.
  • I want to stop (to whatever degree possible) drawing wrong/erroneous conclusions from life-situations. This is really a more specific way of restating my second point.
  • I hope to not have any existential doubts for my intellect to chew on. If my intellect is gonna be chewing on something, then I want it to be something that's not an abstraction.
I understand that these are high ideals, but those are the things that I ultimately/ideally want, whether or not I will actually be able to get them.

RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse
Answer
9/24/11 12:18 AM as a reply to Rashed Arafat.
To the extent that those are the things you want, and to the extent that you think spiritual practice can get you them (or get you some of them), there is a tension between thinking that and thinking MCTB's advice also needs to be heeded:

In MCTB, Daniel talks about how one needs to make sure that one builds a life that he would "want to wake up to." I guess I'm just lagging quite a bit in this respect.


The tension here is...were you to achieve the things you want from spiritual practice, is there some sense in which that would be a life not worth waking up to?

Similarly, there may or may not be a tension (for similar reasons) between believing that those things are possible, and what you said earlier:

I expect to bring all the energy I have going in different directions into alignment simply through sheer practice. Realistically speaking, I don't think it works that way. There are a few concrete life-issues that cannot be "neutralized" through meditation -- rather, they need to be dealt with through conventional avenues.


Of course, you cannot find gainful employment by being a master meditator...but, many other "real life" problems can easily turn out to be problems that ultimately have a solution that comes from the spiritual path. (Example: the desire to have a "meaningful" life will not be satisfied, in my opinion, by any worldly pursuit or any worldly achievement.)

I think it would be worth discussing how realistic you think your goals are. Are they achievable in this life? In some other life? By most people? By you? By only a rare person? (When I look back on my own practice so far, I would have to say that it was successful far beyond how I imagined it would be when I began; that is my personal reflection about how realistic high goals are.)

So, this is what I had in mind when I suggested that my thoughts may or may not be applicable to your situation straightforwardly. If you really as neurotic about practice as you say (if you have the potential to approach practice obsessively and singlemindedly), and you really believe that practice can lead to life-changing insights and improvements in your moment-to-moment experience, and you really want that, and you want it more than anything else...maybe going with that would be a really good idea. It might make your life worse according to some conventional standards, but if you have your eyes set on a higher goal...so what?

If you are not strongly committed and follow this advice, you will probably just fuck up your life and regret it because you have little to show for it. So, it bears very careful consideration.

(Keep in mind that what I just told you is what I would have wanted someone to tell me in the past. It isn't an off-the-cuff remark, but rather, is my well thought-out opinion about what would have been worthwhile and beneficial for me to hear, and what would have been good for me to have put into action earlier in my life.)

RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse
Answer
9/24/11 3:21 PM as a reply to End in Sight.
The way I see it is that I do not really have a choice but to stay on the spiritual path. This may sound reductionistic, but what else is the alternative? I cannot smoke MORE pot. I primarily use it because it brings a lot to my music -- ideas that I normally do not have. Musical inspiration just comes more easily while on it. But, there's a limit to it -- smoke too much and even the music begins to suffer. It's also hard to write songs when I'm feeling guilty over an activity. I guess on some level I need to feel as though I'm a guy who is "worthy" of writing songs.

So you can say that I'm trying to find a sustainable way to remain a songwriter, and that way is spiritual practice. Sure, the ideas and the inspiration don't come as quickly and easily, but I'm not risking prematurely using up all of my creative resources. Also, in quite a real sense, I think all good/great ideas are "earned." A naturally introspective person will question reality more intently while on drugs, whereas someone not as self-reflective will "zone out" to TV instead. Similarly, even if you're naturally introspective, you cannot just "buy" insights by using drugs. Growth is a very real thing and it only happens over time, and by paying attention to experiences -- I do not think this process can by bypassed.

I am committed to the spiritual path in the above sense (that it will help my musicianship in the long run). But a part of me does wish for an easy way out. Or rather, it's the feeling that I HAVE TO do spiritual practice, otherwise I'm f***ed. I wish I didn't have to practice out of a sense of desperation, but that's how things are appearing on this end.

Since I cannot find a convincing enough argument to NOT practice, I have no choice but to continue meditating, and working out my stuff. Ideally, I would engage in practice with an enthusiastic, and eager heart. But there aren't any guarantees that I'll be acquiring such an attitude any time soon, so I may as well do the work because so many people testify to its benefits, and because my reasoning skills point to it as being the only real solution.

I do agree with you that "meaning" cannot be found to existence without doing spiritual practice and inquiry.

Of course, you cannot find gainful employment by being a master meditator...but, many other "real life" problems can easily turn out to be problems that ultimately have a solution that comes from the spiritual path. (Example: the desire to have a "meaningful" life will not be satisfied, in my opinion, by any worldly pursuit or any worldly achievement.)

I think it would be worth discussing how realistic you think your goals are. Are they achievable in this life? In some other life? By most people? By you? By only a rare person? (When I look back on my own practice so far, I would have to say that it was successful far beyond how I imagined it would be when I began; that is my personal reflection about how realistic high goals are.)

It's encouraging to hear that your practice brought you more than you had expected.

I made a list of what I expect to "get out of" all this "spiritual stuff," but speaking in terms of my overall life-goals, they are as follows:
  1. Get to have a (modestly) successful musical career, or at least "make my mark" as a musician in the world. There's no getting around this -- more so than anything else, I ALWAYS come back to realizing just how important music is to me, and how I'd be living at less than 50% of my capacity if I weren't performing with some regularity. I do not care for a great deal of fame -- but I do want to be able to make a living doing what I love doing.
  2. Stop suffering, particularly emotionally. Be happy/fulfilled, and stabilized in that happiness. Derive my happiness from something more than the flux of circumstances.
I certainly think I have what it takes (if in terms of raw talent only) to accomplish goal #1 in this lifetime. The only drawback is that I'm frequently depressed, and hence do not take advantage of the talent that I have. I seem to need more encouragement/reinforcement than I probably should to get started. I also feel some guilt over going "all-out" with regard to my musical career (it's not a path that many people walk, and there's also the fear-inducing perception that it's the rare few who succeed in the music business -- taking one's music very seriously, in a sense, is not a very "modest" thing to do because you're essentially saying that you consider yourself to be one of those rare few).

As far as goal #2, I'm not sure if it's achievable in this lifetime (I'd like to think it is), but I think spiritual practice can certainly lessen suffering in the long run. I feel as though positive and life-affirming experiences rarely come my way, and hence I have no choice but to try and fabricate them through spiritual practice. This breeds a certain degree of resentment in me (resentment toward my idea of "God") -- why make things seemingly needlessly difficult for Rashed?

If you are not strongly committed and follow this advice, you will probably just fuck up your life and regret it because you have little to show for it. So, it bears very careful consideration.

I don't know what else I'd do with my life if I didn't follow this advice. Where I am currently, something needs to happen, and I highly doubt that it's the foolish path of substance-abuse (for the sake of producing quality music). I resist such a "slow suicide" very strongly. Given this much internal resistance, I cannot really focus on my career anyway. The only two options are either go "all in" or stay "all out." I'm more likely to fuck up my life through substance abuse than through meditation -- there is no middle path to walk for me, or at least not one that I'm currently conscious of.

I've already said this, but I really appreciate you taking the time to put so much thought into your responses.

RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse
Answer
9/26/11 1:10 AM as a reply to Rashed Arafat.
Additional thoughts:

I guess to me it seems if I can get what I want (out of life) without doing spiritual practices, then I will probably take that opportunity. I do spiritual practices because my intellect tells me that it's the safest (time-tested, widely-endorsed over the ages) way to go when it comes to making the most of my life. But maybe such thinking is shortsighted -- maybe there's an attitude that I can cultivate that doesn't see the issue as being all-or-nothing. Or maybe such an attitude is none other than floundering. In which case, it is indeed back to all-or-nothing -- progressing or floundering.

Essentially, there's no way to escape this fundamental tension until one is Enlightened (it seems). Even the "breaks" that a seeker takes occur within a paradigm of sincere (hopefully) effort exerted over time.

RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse
Answer
9/27/11 4:46 PM as a reply to Rashed Arafat.
Rashed Arafat:

I made a list of what I expect to "get out of" all this "spiritual stuff," but speaking in terms of my overall life-goals, they are as follows: [...]


If pursuing one conflicted with the other, to what extent would you trade the one away in order to be accomplished in the other? In other words, which is more important, and how much more important is it?

Rashed Arafat:
I guess to me it seems if I can get what I want (out of life) without doing spiritual practices, then I will probably take that opportunity.


Yeah, it would be nice if the end of suffering fell from the sky out of nowhere. and clobbered you on the head. emoticon

Out of curiosity, why are you pursuing concentration only, rather than insight?

Also, I am curious if you have read the thread "Jhana FTW" and were interested in trying concentration practices along those lines. If you could figure out how to concentrate that way (and the jury is still out on whether it's possible), it would be pretty awesome for you. And it would help others to know that someone who is pre-path is able to do it, or not, whichever the case may be.

RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse
Answer
9/27/11 8:23 PM as a reply to End in Sight.
If pursuing one conflicted with the other, to what extent would you trade the one away in order to be accomplished in the other? In other words, which is more important, and how much more important is it?

Funny that you should ask the above question -- this has actually been my "koan" for 3 - 4 years now (I lose track).

Basically, every time I see a buddy's band playing somewhere, or going on tour, I kick myself for not having been more diligent with regard to the "career/business" side of my music (I've continued to improve as a singer-songwriter, which I think is something substantial in itself -- but I just can't forcibly get rid of the very deep-rooted feeling that this is what I want to do with my life and that I really need to start taking this stuff seriously if I don't wish to end up working in a coffee-shop, or in the service industry for that matter, forever).

I would feel like I did nothing that matters with my life if I didn't give music at least my best shot. I sure as hell have the talent, all that's missing is the impetus. So in that sense, if it came down to a hard-and-fast choice between music and spirituality, I'd pick the former.

But thankfully, and realistically, it doesn't appear to be that way for me (being forced to make a choice). In a sense, I'm a slow learner -- I seem to really learn a lesson when life pushes me to the edge with something. In order to take the necessary steps as a career musician, I first have to sort out my personal psychological "stuff." I basically have to have enough optimism to get moving -- I had been dragged down pretty low over the last couple of years (very painful romantic relationships and experiences), which really did not leave me regarding myself that highly.

As a musician, I find that I first have to have at least a decent amount of respect in my abilities as a human being. Essentially it's an issue of self-esteem. It's hard for me to write songs or be creative if all I'm thinking about is how fucked up I am/my life is (I know there are musicians out there who revel in self-pity, but I'm not one of them, and I don't care for their music).

I have found authentic spiritual methods -- especially Training in Morality in conjunction with energy-work (saving and re-channeling energy) -- to do the job of harnessing for oneself a healthy respect in one's ability to accomplish goals, as well as generally staying true to oneself.

So, the way I see it is that if I actually want to be a career musician, then I cannot bypass spiritual work. It's vital that I form an "inner core" or an "internal moral compass" of sorts that's going to get me through the bumps on the road that I will inevitably encounter (especially in the music business) in the future.

Yeah, it would be nice if the end of suffering fell from the sky out of nowhere. and clobbered you on the head.

I know -- it seems so simple when you put it this way! But basically if what I want out of life = a musical career, spiritual practices aren't divorced from that pursuit -- that's all I meant (and hopefully explained pretty clearly above).

I've come to the point where I just cannot associate "quality of life" with a non-spiritual way of being. I've grown enough to know that 90% of my problems and troubles originate from within myself. Change your view, and you change the world.

So in that sense, spiritual practices are inevitable for me -- but as far as really, really, really desiring the Ultimate -- I seem to feel more fulfilled through the act of performing songs I've written. It's an inexplicable sense of fulfillment that I would even equate with some sort of "meaning."

To put it another way -- as I'm performing, and fully immersed in the music, the existential question of "meaning" disappears -- and I basically want to make a life out of that.

Also -- Daniel says in MCTB that it's good to have a present-oriented component for a future-oriented goal (Enlightenment). In my case, I know I want Enlightenment, but I'd never leave my bands to pursue it (I know a lot of people do). Knowing this, when I do spiritual practices, I just try to really, really do them well. Yes, I hope that they will pay off, but the fact remains that I am more committed to my fellow musicians, and my bands.

In a sense I like to think that there are "real" musicians for whom there was never a question as far as what they wanted to do (Jimi Hendrix, or some of the old-school blues guys comes to mind). I aspire to be like them.

I will address your question about Concentration Practice in the next post I make.

RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse
Answer
9/27/11 8:07 PM as a reply to End in Sight.
Out of curiosity, why are you pursuing concentration only, rather than insight?

I have a thread here, where I address this issue to an extent.

In a nutshell, I do not conceptually -- and more importantly, experientially -- understand Insight Practice just yet. I need someone to explain the nuts and bolts of it to me. I know that sounds really dumb, but from having read the chapter on it on MCTB, the mental impression that was created for me is something along these lines: notice as many physical sensations as quickly as possible while on the cushion. For instance, if you notice the breath rising, mentally say: "rising." If you feel a discomfort in your leg from sitting, note, "pain."

However, the issue I have with doing it really fast is that introduces an active component into the whole thing -- as though I would be rushing myself to catch as many sensations as possible. I thought meditation was about becoming grounded and not getting worked up (that's at least what I think would happen if I go along with my current understanding of Insight Practice). I guess the issue gets worse if we're talking about not picking any specific object, and simply noting whatever sensations arise. This to me sounds like would lead to an absolute mess. My mind wouldn't be grounded on anything specific, so there will be no depth or stability to the meditation.

But even if I picked a specific object for Insight Practice such as the breath, how can I make it go any faster than it's going? My breath is only rising and falling at the rate in which it normally does -- how can I pack in more sensations? Am I supposed to be looking for finer sensations that generally get overlooked, such as the "texture" of the breath for instance (in between "rising" and "falling")?

Are we talking about grounding the mind on an object, then "scanning" it faster and faster and faster with the mind? Considering each sensation as a separate, self-existent "object" with no relationship whatsoever with the sensations before or after?

Also -- I've read that a good place to start Insight Practice is from one of the higher samatha jhanas (4th jhana, ideally). I believe I have access to 2nd jhana. But when I'm in the 2nd jhana, I do not deliberately pick an object to focus on. If I'm focusing on anything, then it's the "effortless" aspect of the experience.

Things come up on their own while I'm in this state, and my mind considers them for a while until they pass away on their own. Concentration is palpable as all this happens. Usually these "things" are formative experiences that left a mark on me, but were never resolved (or fully let go of). Identification with these experiences weigh me down as a person -- observing them arise and pass away is liberating, and creates more internal space if you will for my mind to travel deeper within (into higher jhanas, hopefully). Sometimes, these things are external objects that act as "kasinas." I could look at the pattern on a brick and find it fascinating -- or be solidly concentrated on it. Overall, the experience is contemplative (in the 2nd jhana). I know some spiritual traditions (Christian mysticism for instance) focus almost exclusively on contemplation, so there must be something to it.

So, the whole idea of "dry" Insight Practice makes no sense to me. Samatha jhanas, on the other hand, feel transformative to me. My mind clears up a lot after a samatha sit, and I can look at my life/consider it with much more calm, peace, and poise.

Also, I definitely "get something out of" Concentration Practice -- the experience of the jhanas, and a much, much calmer mind that does not easily get distracted by trivial concerns. I'm not sure what exactly I'm supposed to "get out of" an Insight Practice session just yet...(that's what I mean by not "getting it" experientially -- once a whole bunch of sensations have been noted, what exactly happens, or is supposed to happen??)

Basically, I want to minimize my chances of "fucking up" on the spiritual path, and that's why I want to create the strongest possible foundation for Insight Practice for myself by working on Training in Concentration and Training in Morality simultaneously -- a well-lived, truthful, considerate and honest life "topped off" with concentration states intuitively seems like the healthiest option for me for a while to come. I have suffered from a lot of psychological pain/issues (was very suicidal in my teens/early 20's) in the past, so I want to make sure that I'm pretty stable and sane before I take the plunge into Insight Practice (which is supposed to lead me through the Dark Night first before providing any relief).

I would say things have already begun to clear up quite a bit for me since I joined this forum. I'm trying to "straighten myself out" in the mundane sense, and I've been trying to stabilize my mind as best as I can by getting into the concentration states. I'm sure after a while of this, I will feel psychologically prepared to go further, and begin deconstructing reality as I find it.

Thanks for listening. By the way, what does "FTW" stand for? Could you please provide me a link to the thread?

RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse
Answer
9/27/11 8:43 PM as a reply to Rashed Arafat.
I would like to talk about the issue of musicianship and spirituality further, but it will have to be when I return in two weeks.

Rashed Arafat:
In a nutshell, I do not conceptually -- and more importantly, experientially -- understand Insight Practice just yet. I need someone to explain the nuts and bolts of it to me.


I strongly suggest starting a thread and getting input into this from others, as the "point" of insight practice, the thing you get from it, is enlightenment.

Even if you don't plan to do insight practice right now, if you are practicing in accordance with the Buddhist path (as described in part by MCTB ), you will need a "big picture" view of what's going on.

Rashed Arafat:
By the way, what does "FTW" stand for? Could you please provide me a link to the thread?


For the win!

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/2250673

RE: Changing oneself by force vs. compassionately considering an impulse
Answer
9/28/11 11:06 AM as a reply to Rashed Arafat.
Rashed Arafat:

Are we talking about grounding the mind on an object, then "scanning" it faster and faster and faster with the mind? Considering each sensation as a separate, self-existent "object" with no relationship whatsoever with the sensations before or after?

That's just an intermediate step (A&P). I think it's more accurate to say that all sensations which arise at the same moment are parts of the same object, the field of awareness. To see them that way is a fundamentally different perspective from the one we normally use. Like focusing on chords instead of voices in polyphonic music.
I'm not enlightened so not gonna make any claims about the goal of this approach.