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Sam's Zen Practice Log

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Sam's Zen Practice Log
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7/7/12 4:49 PM
Hey everyone. I'm not a vipassana practitioner, but I still have found MCTB and this forum of great use. I also feel like starting a practice log will give me more motivation and clarity in my meditation. So, here goes...


For starters:

I practice with the huatou "Who am I?". The way we deal with this question in Zen is quite different from other traditions. Instead of investigating sensations and mental phenomena to discover where our sense of a separate self is, we use the question to directly point to the Mind in-itself - similar to "Who hears this sound? Who sees this wall? Who is asking this question?"

There is no way to approach this question. You can't get closer through reasoning, or visual thinking, or any other process/method. There's no "half way point" or goal posts or anything like that. Either you know the answer, or you don't. Degrees of understanding only come after the initial enlightenment.

By repeating the question to oneself in seated meditation, one eventually begins to generate greater and greater degrees of questioning and doubt. Over time, the mass of doubt becomes so strong that one goes into a kind of samadhi. This is called the Great Doubt. In this state of mind, it generally only takes a few days to attain kensho (stream entry, Path).

I've been working on this for a few weeks.

Points on my practice as it's going right now:

-Though somewhat unrelated to huatou practice, I am (most things indicate) in the minor stages of Equanimity. This can make it difficult to really care about the question intensely, but it also gives it a much more profound and penetrating quality.

-Most of the time, I live at the Zen center with my teacher (Philip Kapleau lineage). This is incredibly beneficial for practice. There's usually at least 2 hours of formal sitting a day, with plenty of time for informal sitting. Everyone around me is a practitioner. Work is done with a collective spirit of mindfulness. Get to participate in all of the retreats. Have 2 formal interviews with my teacher per week. In general, a very healthy and practice-oriented environment. For the next few weeks, however, I'll be at my mom's house (who is also a practitioner).

-Have been noticing a lot of bodily tension lately, which gets stronger in the night time and when I go out. It comes mostly in relation to the flow of impermanence. My general reaction is to tense up. When I accept the tension, it becomes stronger and more flow-like. Definitely a remnant of the Dark Night, possibly a sign that I'm still in Re-Observation. Doesn't come up much in meditation.

-Been having the tendency to get computer-locked, which makes it hard to get up for meditation. Definitely related to the aforementioned tensions. I've only been doing 30 minutes to an hour of meditation a day, even though I am entirely capable of doing 6 hours, as I know from being at the Zen center. This is a problem. Not sure what to do about it yet.

-Being computer-locked also makes it difficult to bring my practice off the cushion. Nonetheless, mindfulness is my default state.

Did 30 minutes so far today. Will update with more later.

RE: Sam's Zen Practice Log
Answer
7/8/12 12:45 PM as a reply to Sam S.
I was thinking last night about how I sort of jumped into this practice before attaining proper mastery of the first Jhana. This is pretty common in Zen, which doesn't place much emphasis on the Jhanas - most likely due to the addictiveness of the bliss of such states. I see the reasoning of that, but huatou meditation is a form of insight practice, and can't really begin in earnest until the first Jhana has been cultivated to some degree. I'm also in desperate need of some positive emotions to re-engage my motivation.

So, I'm going to work on mastering the first Jhana before getting back to Who. I'll do this by following the breath, emphasizing the pitisukkha.

First 30 minute foray into this practice:

-Pitisukkha very easy to generate, blissful feelings coming up in the first 5 minutes.
-Have found that there's 2 kinds of bliss so far: the pleasure of the breath itself, and the blissful feelings that come up from focusing on that pleasure. Need to put effort into focusing on the former until the latter is stable enough to be its own object of concentration.
-There is a kind of sad tone to the joy, like that of a beautiful memory. It's been so long since I've felt emotions this positive.
-Concentration is effortless but weak at the same time. Not a surprise for the first 30 minutes sitting of the day.

It's been a while since sitting, and I still feel a lot of blissful resonance. This practice is better than heroin.