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hard work, determination, and following instructions

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When I found the dharmaoverground and MCTB, I was so attracted to the idea of hard work and following instructions. I knew that these were my strong points. I am probably somewhat obsessive on these things. I don't know many people who follow instructions with such obsessive level of detail as me, and I often get comments from friends asking how I can be so disciplined and hard working. At my last retreat, after working in the kitchen, one of the other servers finished the weekend by saying "you have an unbelievable work ethic."

I thought it would bring me these great results: stream entry, paths, fruitions, jhanas, bliss, altered states, freedom from suffering. I thought that if I just work diligently and follow the instructions, then I would reap these heavenly gifts. I haven't gotten any of the things I thought I would get. I do get great benefit from the practice, but not the heavenly gifts I expect. I don't know if I make progress on the path of insight, or if I make progress in concentration. I'm not sure if I would know how to measure such progress anyway. I make progress in terms of understanding myself, understanding reality, and being less compulsive with the contractions of the self. I make progress of awareness.

For a long time I assumed something was wrong. For a long time this gave me such utter frustration and agony. I thought to myself.... "they say that if I work diligently and follow instructions I will get these results. I work diligently and follow instructions and I don't get those results. What is wrong?" Now I don't think of it so much, mostly because when I think in this way I suffer, and I don't really like to suffer.

I don't know if anyone can recognize or make sense of what I'm saying. I think it could be a useful contribution to the discussion, however. If someone knows what I'm talking about, please let me know.

RE: hard work, determination, and following instructions
Answer
5/29/13 4:47 PM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
When I found the dharmaoverground and MCTB, I was so attracted to the idea of hard work and following instructions. I knew that these were my strong points.


Maybe your strong points are also obstacles. Perhaps a practice that emphasizes surrender or calm abiding would be an interesting challenge? Maybe you've tried that.

I think it's entirely possible that your nervous system just isn't giving you the usual cues that make MCTB-style practice such a neat, cut-and-dried thing. I also think it's very possible that you could get MCTB stream entry and continue to have a lot of suffering. Without the blip and the cycling, there's nothing very obvious about it.

Anyway, MCTB is just a framework. Works great for lots of people, but it's not the only good one.

RE: hard work, determination, and following instructions
Answer
5/29/13 9:36 PM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
Daniel,

I can certainly relate to what you are saying. I'm somewhat obsessive, though I didn't know it until I began to practice. I began three years ago practicing in the same way that had served me so well in other areas of my life: Understand the instructions, put them into practice, talk to people who are more knowledgeable then I, to learn from them, and really bear down and work hard. It got me part of the way, stream entry and perhaps more, but I was still suffering, and I could begin to see clearly that "I" was the cause. My definition of hard work had resulted in success in school and work. It did not lead to success in meditation/practice/spirituality or whatever you would like to call it. It got to the point that even applying an instruction such as "relax" became an activity to do which I would obsess over. Big surprise, this added to my tension. My practice log is full of examples of this tension, it most often appeared in my forehead. And the harder I worked, the worse it got.
It has taken me well over a year of trying different approaches of letting go of my obsessive nature, I'm moving in the right direction, but still have further to go. I'll have weeks of great relaxed openness and presence, then I'll slip back into old routines and try to "work" to get it back. Two steps forward and one step back...if I'm lucky.
What I have found to work best is to "just sit" don't do anything, just sit on my butt and get bored. Watch what happens. As Ajan Chah said (paraphrase): To meditate, just set a chair in the middle of a room, sit down, and see who comes to visit.
I have found that using self-enquiry has also been effective, ask "Who am I?" and see what happens. There is nothing to do beyond asking "Who am I?" whenever a self referential thought arises. "Who is dragging this corpse around?" "Who is having this thought?" "Who is tense?" any and all these questions asked and left unanswered by my conscious mind helped me to break the need to work/do a practice.
I even found some modern Advaita teachers to be very helpful. The ones who are often ridiculed here for saying things like "there is nothing to do". With my personality doing nothing is probably still a lot more doing then some peoples trying hard. And I don't mean that as a compliment to myself, the opposite in fact. I've really almost completely stopped reading about practice because I find I "try" to implement anything new I learn, and that does not work for me. It's just more obsessing and more tension. I am currently sitting 60-75 minutes/day so practice has not let up, just the "effort"
It has been trial and error to try to find the right level of effort. I believe that if you are willing to be patient then you can also find your own "middle path".
The people/places I found to be of the most help are:
Gary Weber, "happiness beyond thought" a blog and a free e book.
An Eternal Now, he posts here but also has a site "Awakening to Reality".
John Wheeler , also has a site and you tube videos and books.
Bhante Vimalaramsi and Sister Khema, dhammasuka.org (relax and smile, great advice.)

None of this is meant to be taken as the writing of an expert, that's the last thing I am. But, I can relate to the frustration that comes through in your writing and hope that these words may be of some help to you or others.

Metta,

Brian

RE: hard work, determination, and following instructions
Answer
5/29/13 10:59 PM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
Oh boy, I do relate, dude. I totally feel ya.

I think part of the frustration comes from the fact that while we can make a linear map from unenlightened to enlightened, with instructions on how to proceed, the thing we're going at is all about stopping making perceptual mistakes over and over in real time. It's frustrating to hit a jhana, then get in a fight with your family right afterwards, feeling frustrated that you couldn't keep calm even after having so much bliss. The A&P is also a big downer, since it feels so great and marks obvious progress, but doesn't last long and then leads to a spiritual/mental low, if not the dark night. There are lots of descriptions of how simple the enlightened perspective is and how it's immediately there once we have enough mindfulness. Thus, when we can't just get there, it feels like a shortcoming. I haven't solved the problem yet, but I totally feel ya. Here are a few things that might be motivating or calming.

-Some people seem to be able to do it quickly, even spontaneously, while others take many years, even decades, with many retreats. Some people don't get hit hard by dark night stuff, others (like me, it seems) will have much more trouble there. We all come in different shapes, sizes, predispositions, and intuitions. So naturally, some will excel quickly and others will go slowly. It could be less frustrating to just stop practicing and forget all about it. But, there you're at 0% chance of enlightenment. Even if we're the most unteachable dummies, if we're trying, we're not at 0% for sure, and knowing you have even a 10% chance to succeed is slightly motivating.

-Standard disclaimers about the various nanas and how they can make you feel, how they can make you doubt (3rd vipassana jhana in particular), how they can color your experience and cause particular thoughts to come about. Then, standard disclaimers about how it all passes.

-Standard disclaimers such as: just keep noting and going, it is all grist for the mill.

-Track record of others who have succeeded. I think the whole contemplation on the triple gem of Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, is really about confidence... The Buddha succeeded, the Dharma is the way that it happened, and the Sangha of Noble Ones, our buddies here talking about fruitions and great results, are the living testaments that what seems impossible is possible

-Equanimity: easy to get stuck and frustrated here in my experience, since there is a feeling that there isn't much going on, that there's nothing to do, that you're not meditating anymore, that everything is ordinary. But as we know, it's the last nana before path and fruition, so keep on trekking.

-Keep on trekking! Possibly the least useful, but from a meditator to meditator, I'm just saying, it is definitely hard work, but we know there's a pot of gold at the end of the trail, and I'm genuinely hoping we get there, and kindly reminding you as I often have to remind myself: keep on trekking!

-Standard disclaimer on the 3C's: maybe your feelings now are resulting from increasingly seeing how everything is dukkha, how there isn't anything we can hold on to for satisfaction, including all of the transient things that can result from meditation such as peace, joy, metta, all that stuff. Although it seems there are "permanent" changes after stream entry... but of course getting there is the hard part. Also, I've noticed that no-self and suffering play with each other in meditation and off the cushion. It can dawn on me that I don't leave the cushion with anything new, and that experience is still experience, the same causes lead to the same effects. That can definitely give you a trapped feeling, like no progress is possible, but it could be that the cause of this feeling is progress itself.

-Patience and acceptance: they seem very crucial to practice and progress, and the very act of striving to accomplish path or whatever can try our patience and acceptance. Looking into the factors of enlightenment and applying the standard technique of looking for hindrances and applying their opposite could be useful.

-As others have told me, exercise and grounding in daily life is very helpful. Exercise feels good and can definitely help in de-stressing and feeling more human and comfortable. But I seem to remember you are into weight-lifting, so, sweet!

-Blind spots: when we have strong feelings, such as discouragement or whatever, they often blind us from applying technique. We get discouraged and feel like it's not worth applying the effort, and then the slackness hinders practice, and then we're more discouraged, etc... or we have so much energy from the A&P that we forget to balance concentration with investigation and then end up losing our mindfulness. Or we hit equanimity, and feel like there's nothing more to do, so we get complacent, or worse, frustrated, breaking the equanimity in some way or another.

-Standard, boring disclaimer: that all things, even the thoughts and feelings you mention, should be accepted, regarded as more stuff to be mindful of, although sometimes we still feel like mindfulness is not enough

-Work in concentration: I do admire how effective balls-to-the-walls, shoot-em-down noting is, however, I think concentration and all the various jhanic factors are a bit more important to develop than is generally said. I've found lately that if I begin with concentration practices, my experiences are much more intense and visceral, similar to using a much more powerful objective lens. Sure, you just need to be able to look into the microscope and say, ah, this organism is actually all these little things. But you might be straining far too hard with your eye when taking the time to craft a better, more powerful lens may be useful.

I don't know much about your practice so some of this might be completely useless to you. But I hope some of it is useful. My message is basically, dude, I totally feel your post, and I'm here alongside you, trying to get this thing done. If you ever want to skype about practice or whatever it may be, I'm totally down. It would keep me motivated to stay consistent in practice and could offer an opportunity for an outside perspective on meditation problems or whatever comes up.

With respect and sympathy,
Kellen

RE: hard work, determination, and following instructions
Answer
5/30/13 6:21 AM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
Daniel Johnson:
When I found the dharmaoverground and MCTB, I was so attracted to the idea of hard work and following instructions. I knew that these were my strong points. I am probably somewhat obsessive on these things. I don't know many people who follow instructions with such obsessive level of detail as me, and I often get comments from friends asking how I can be so disciplined and hard working. At my last retreat, after working in the kitchen, one of the other servers finished the weekend by saying "you have an unbelievable work ethic."
[...]


Do you find hard work to be fun? Can you choose not to do something in a way that feels like "hard work"?

My own experience: on my first mahasi retreat I didn't know anything about MCTB, maps or anything like that yet. It was easily the retreat on which I was the most balanced. I suppose that the smallest attitude of "hard work" hiding in your practice must not be ignored. Instead it must be noted like anything else. If you fail to do so, then you've crucially modified the instructions, and not getting anywhere is not much of a surprise.

(If you want to read some more about the relation between "hard work" and "(in)effectiveness", then reading (or trying out the method of) Moshe Feldenkrais may provide some valuable insight for you.)

RE: hard work, determination, and following instructions
Answer
7/6/13 1:58 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Thanks for the responses. As I suspected: I am not a singular case. Hard work, determination, and following instructions may be useful for some people or perhaps not as useful for others.

bernd the broter:
Do you find hard work to be fun? Can you choose not to do something in a way that feels like "hard work"?


It depends. In general, I find hard work to be incredibly fun. Often I am at my happiest when I am hard at work. And, in general, I think i often choose to do things in ways that don't feel like "hard work". But, those are generalizations and there are exceptions.

RE: hard work, determination, and following instructions
Answer
7/7/13 3:52 AM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
Your frustrations are common ones, shared by many.

Functionally, in terms of actually doing it, how do you define or think of the "hard work"?

Functionally, in terms of actually doing it, how do you define or think about what would be involved in "following the instructions"?

RE: hard work, determination, and following instructions
Answer
7/7/13 10:37 PM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
You should be noting intentions and the intention to meditate. You are obviously not doing that. You are creating a fake self that is analysing the practice. Since these fake selves and intentions are known by your consciousness they CAN'T be a self. These fake selves are just the same part of the brain (amygdala) feeling dissatisfaction with the practice much in the same way there is dissatisfaction with anything else in life. When you note properly you shouldn't feel like a self is noting. Your ego will not benefit from successful practice. If you feel it is then you are doing it wrong. This "self" that has beliefs and expectations of magical qualities based on "hard work" is still aversion. Aversion to the meditation practice means you aren't letting go of fixation enough. I like Shinzen Young's use of the term fixation. Stress is fixation on likes and dislikes and this includes the simple wish that the present moment should be different. When you meditate (or even in daily life) there should just be experiences happening (including your intentions) with continuity so that you have really no time to complain about progress. If I were you I would be looking at the 5 aggregates to see if any of it is a self:

1. Matter (Where I am)
2. Feeling tone (How I am)
3. Recognition/Perception (What I am perceiving)
4. Volitional formations (Why I am acting)
5. Consciousness (Whereby I am experiencing)

x 4

1. The aggregate is a self
2. The self possesses the aggregate
3. The aggregate is inside the self
4. The self is inside the aggregate


There is no permanent self anywhere. It's just more experiences. Dig deeper. Try and note without labels and just note all the subtle mind movements that affect your choices and moods (with 100% experience) knowing that consciousness knows them and therefore they are not self. Consciousness itself needs objects to be conscious of so it is also dependent and not permanent and not self. I also would recommend the Five Aggregates by Boisvert which has helped me so much. If you let go of mental fixation and wishes for things to be better (including your meditation practice) there should be less stress.

When you finally get more relief you should also be using this relief to take important actions in your life. The fact that it takes so much practice to rewire your brain for stress relief it also follows that you need to find the actions that will improve your conventional life and keep DOING them until they become stronger habits and change your life outwardly. That's why Shinzen Young still needed psychotherapy to give up drugs even though he got through stream entry. Meditation without positive action in life can just be another attachment.

I hope this helps

RE: hard work, determination, and following instructions
Answer
7/18/13 1:48 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
Your frustrations are common ones, shared by many.

Thanks for the comment, although my original intention wasn't so much to share frustrations as to explore the phenomena to better understand this thing.

Daniel M. Ingram:
Functionally, in terms of actually doing it, how do you define or think of the "hard work"?

Functionally, in terms of actually doing it, how do you define or think about what would be involved in "following the instructions"?


Good questions. Off the top of my head, I'd define hard work as the application of one's physical, mental, and emotional resources to a given task. Specifically with meditation, it seems that hard work would include the physical work to set aside time to practice, getting to a retreat center, dealing with physical discomforts, etc. the mental work of applying focus and attention to the task, and the work of applying practice instructions from moment to moment throughout the meditation period. The emotional work would be to navigate the emotional highs and lows which arise and pass throughout the practice.

Following instructions would be to apply "work" (as defined above) to a specific set of physical, mental, and emotional tasks (instructions) which have been described to you from someone else. The word "follow" implies that one must know clearly what the instructions are and that one must submit oneself to those instructions rather than do simply as one pleases.

Certainly, this does become confusing (for me, anyway) when given that the "task" of meditation is a sort of non-doing, in the sense that it is a bare awareness with nothing added. So, I can honestly say that I have no idea how this "non-doing" gets done. In this esoteric way, I don't know how anyone could possibly follow instructions when the instructions aren't something that can be done. Hence, the school of thought that there is nothing to teach, nothing to do, nothing to learn.

But, in a down to earth way, if the instruction is to "note everything that arises"... then hard work means application of one's mental resources to that given task, and following instructions means performing this given task without adding or taking away anything from it.

Hopefully that clarifies it a little, but that is just off the top of my head. How would you define hard work and following instructions?

RE: hard work, determination, and following instructions
Answer
7/18/13 2:37 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Thanks for your comments, Richard...
Richard Zen:
You are obviously not doing that.

What evidence suggested to you that I am not noting intentions? How is this obvious to you? What makes it obvious?

Richard Zen:
When you note properly you shouldn't feel like a self is noting.

Is this true? Do other people agree with this statement? I'm not sure how anyone would ever learn to note properly, then, because the feeling of a self is such a deeply habitual and ingrained feeling.

As you said, I am creating a fake self, over and over and over and over all day long, when meditating, and when not meditating. How would I stop this feeling of a self so that "I" can begin to note properly? Because my understanding was that the purpose of the noting was to aid in the process of dismantling this feeling of a self. If I was living life without feeling like a self was doing what was being done, I'm not sure how my experience would be different, but I wonder if I'd have reason to meditate at all?

My understanding of the instructions was that proper noting isn't dependent on the feelings which arise, and that no matter what feelings arise, to continue noting whatever arises, and if one accomplishes this aim, then the noting has been done "properly."

The comment is made somewhat even more esoteric when I ponder "who" is it that shouldn't feel like a self is noting?

Richard Zen:
When you meditate (or even in daily life) there should just be experiences happening (including your intentions) with continuity so that you have really no time to complain about progress.


So, it should just be experiences happening as long as those experiences aren't complaints about progress?
If it is just experiences happening, how is it that there is no time for certain experiences to happen?
What is taking up that time so that time is available for certain mental functions, but becomes no longer available for others?
Intentions will happen, but complaints wont?

Personally, my experience of complaints is that they arise and pass, are impermanent, not-me, and full of suffering, similar to how everything else seems to be in this somewhat seemingly endless world of arising and passing phenomenon.

If I were you I would be looking at the 5 aggregates to see if any of it is a self:

Isn't that the essence of the practice? When I talk about hard work, determination, and following instructions, I am talking about looking at the 5 aggregates and investigating the three characteristics.

I guess your emphasis is on noting volitional formations, which leads me back to my original question which is what evidence made you think that I am not noting volitions.

Richard Zen:
There is no permanent self anywhere. It's just more experiences. Dig deeper.


Yes, this seems to be the essence of my practice for the last year or two. Dig deeper, include more. More inclusive, more detailed, more breadth, more resolution, deeper, deeper, deeper. And (smile) - it just seems to keep going and going and going. Certainly, volitions are subtle in nature, and the deeper exploration uncovers the more subtle qualities of experience (volition being one of them). There are many subtle movements of the mind which continue to surprise me as they are discovered.

Richard Zen:
Try and note without labels and just note all the subtle mind movements that affect your choices and moods (with 100% experience) knowing that consciousness knows them and therefore they are not self.


This is often what my practice looks like.

Richard Zen:
That's why Shinzen Young still needed psychotherapy to give up drugs even though he got through stream entry.


I didn't know that. Sort of off-topic to this thread, but do you know what type of therapy he used?

RE: hard work, determination, and following instructions
Answer
7/18/13 3:07 AM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
To clarify my original post, my intention was not to complain. My intention was to contribute to the ongoing discussion of this practice and our communal understanding of it. My contribution was specifically to add to our group data pool with my personal experience.

As I look at it now, I don't think it is anything radically new to add to the discussion. Certainly, when I hear people talk, there is the occasional disclaimer: "results may vary based on the individual." ... but then, that disclaimer seems to sometimes be ignored in more casual discussion.

The impetus for my original post was a comment made at the dharma meetup NYC, in which someone said roughly: "you should be able to get it done in a month or less... given all the success you've had in your life and your work ethic." That is paraphrased, of course, but I don't think it is an uncommon thing to hear in this community. When, in reality, the speaker should have added an asterisk and a disclaimer stating: "results may vary on the individual, and some people who work hard and follow instructions do not get the same results as advertised."

Based on the replies, it seems there are other data points expressing a similar trend, so I think it is worth recognizing and exploring more.

RE: hard work, determination, and following instructions
Answer
7/18/13 8:42 AM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
Daniel Johnson:
Thanks for your comments, Richard...
Richard Zen:
You are obviously not doing that.

What evidence suggested to you that I am not noting intentions? How is this obvious to you? What makes it obvious?

Richard Zen:
When you note properly you shouldn't feel like a self is noting.

Is this true? Do other people agree with this statement? I'm not sure how anyone would ever learn to note properly, then, because the feeling of a self is such a deeply habitual and ingrained feeling.

As you said, I am creating a fake self, over and over and over and over all day long, when meditating, and when not meditating. How would I stop this feeling of a self so that "I" can begin to note properly? Because my understanding was that the purpose of the noting was to aid in the process of dismantling this feeling of a self. If I was living life without feeling like a self was doing what was being done, I'm not sure how my experience would be different, but I wonder if I'd have reason to meditate at all?

My understanding of the instructions was that proper noting isn't dependent on the feelings which arise, and that no matter what feelings arise, to continue noting whatever arises, and if one accomplishes this aim, then the noting has been done "properly."

The comment is made somewhat even more esoteric when I ponder "who" is it that shouldn't feel like a self is noting?

Richard Zen:
When you meditate (or even in daily life) there should just be experiences happening (including your intentions) with continuity so that you have really no time to complain about progress.


So, it should just be experiences happening as long as those experiences aren't complaints about progress?
If it is just experiences happening, how is it that there is no time for certain experiences to happen?
What is taking up that time so that time is available for certain mental functions, but becomes no longer available for others?
Intentions will happen, but complaints wont?

Personally, my experience of complaints is that they arise and pass, are impermanent, not-me, and full of suffering, similar to how everything else seems to be in this somewhat seemingly endless world of arising and passing phenomenon.

If I were you I would be looking at the 5 aggregates to see if any of it is a self:

Isn't that the essence of the practice? When I talk about hard work, determination, and following instructions, I am talking about looking at the 5 aggregates and investigating the three characteristics.

I guess your emphasis is on noting volitional formations, which leads me back to my original question which is what evidence made you think that I am not noting volitions.

Richard Zen:
There is no permanent self anywhere. It's just more experiences. Dig deeper.


Yes, this seems to be the essence of my practice for the last year or two. Dig deeper, include more. More inclusive, more detailed, more breadth, more resolution, deeper, deeper, deeper. And (smile) - it just seems to keep going and going and going. Certainly, volitions are subtle in nature, and the deeper exploration uncovers the more subtle qualities of experience (volition being one of them). There are many subtle movements of the mind which continue to surprise me as they are discovered.

Richard Zen:
Try and note without labels and just note all the subtle mind movements that affect your choices and moods (with 100% experience) knowing that consciousness knows them and therefore they are not self.


This is often what my practice looks like.

Richard Zen:
That's why Shinzen Young still needed psychotherapy to give up drugs even though he got through stream entry.


I didn't know that. Sort of off-topic to this thread, but do you know what type of therapy he used?


Intentions: If you were noting intentions you would not get to the point of aversion to progress on the practice. Here's a quote from Daniel's Sticky I like reminding people to look at.

8) To be able to do #7 very well and then add core processes such as the sensations that seem to make up attention itself, intention itself, memory itself, questioning, effort, surrender, subtle fear, space, consciousness, and everything that seems to be Subject or Observer or Self all the way through the skull, neck, chest, abdomen and all of space such that nothing is excluded from this comprehensive, cutting, piercing, instantly comprehending clarity that is synchronized with all phenomena or just about to be.

9) Able to do #8 naturally, effortlessly and clearly due to one's diligent efforts to write that wiring on the mind as one's new baseline default mode of perception.


Now Shinzen uses a word I think is even more helpful than clinging, FIXATION. If you fixate over why you like or dislike your meditation progress you are still hitting the same button that has aversion to anything else leaving you stuck. As Kenneth Folk's website states. You need to surrender to what is. The ego cannot benefit from the practice. It can't go "YAY I DID IT". It's the same button again of craving and aversion. All these things like paying attention and the intention to pay attention is known to your consciousness (knowing part of the mind that only does one thing, to know something is occurring), therefore let go of fixation to all these subtle processes along with what you've let go of that's obvious like body sensations. I think Shaila Catherine stated it well and it helped me a lot when she said that wanting any kind of progress in your life is dukkha. It's not that you don't progress in life it's that actions matter more with progress in daily life but ruminating about how you want a better situation is still tanha. It's still that feeling that you are not accepting what the moment has to offer. The intention process is hard to see because it asserts it's presence with everything you do so you have to see that pain of imagining a better situation and using that as a motivation. How about letting go of both fixations of why you like or dislike something and let the mind quiet down and notice sensing just as it is and THEN ACT. It's such a relief to let go of mental commentary over practice. That mental commentary is just more aversion showing up as a disassociated self that is now the meditator.

In regards to Shinzen Young I have no idea what form of psychotherapy he used since it was a brief mention in his videos but I think Tarver is a student of his so I'm not sure if he has more details. I personally use cognitive therapy along with my meditation practice to remind me that all actions and emotions have beliefs behind them (including small beliefs like my house hasn't burned down when I'm coming home from work so I'm calm). If a belief is silly then just noticing it makes it harder to act on it.

Hopefully this helps. See all the mental commentary and how the thought formations constantly try and cover your experience and a feeling of separation occurs. Then let go of that thought fixation over and over again and try to enjoy the full experience. Treat your thoughts like sensations and notice more how they feel as opposed to the content. At some point you should notice thoughts feeling more integrated with your experience as opposed to being a separate self.

Remember I'm doing a direct path practice which is a gradual disenchantment. If you're fading your senses to expose consciousness as not self then maybe some quotes I took from Rob Burbea might help with your concentration and letting go practice.

As we cling less perceptions fade. When there is less delusion and identification the experiences begin to fade. Disidentify the intention to pay attention and with consciousness. Disidentify with awareness. Use Samadhi and metta to soften the fear. We need to see the fading of self, thing, time collapse over and over again. The understanding feeds the experience and the experience feeds the understanding. Consciousness = knowing. Consciousness has to fade. When there is no clinging there is nothing for consciousness to lean on. When we have no concepts of self, object, and time the trinity dissolves.


This is hard stuff.

Okay off to work for me.

emoticon

RE: hard work, determination, and following instructions
Answer
7/18/13 2:25 PM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
i also know what you're talking about friend



Goenka paraphrasing the buddha: "when we get what we don't want we suffer, when we don't get what we want we suffer"

Daniel Johnson:
I thought it would bring me these great results: X Y Z. I haven't gotten any of the things I thought I would get. [...] this gave me such utter frustration and agony.


exactly!





Daniel Johnson:
I do get great benefit from the practice


sounds like the practice is working then!
it's benefitting you, it's not being neutral or causing harm. so this is something you can cultivate super nice feelings of gratefulness for. you're benefitting, hell yeah! imagine if it were having the opposite effect, damn.




Daniel Johnson:
Now I don't think of it so much, mostly because when I think in this way I suffer, and I don't really like to suffer.


this sounds like good practice and the way forward to me







our expectation to get "enlightened" within a certain time frame can cause a lot of suffering and its kinda hilarious and nonsensical if you think about it

and we ESPECIALLY shouldn't get annoyed that we're not enlightened yet if we haven't been meditating for AT LEAST as long as the buddha. this guy meditated for years and years before it clicked for him. how many of us think we're so badass we're gonna get enlightened faster than he did? emoticon emoticon emoticon

man, if you get enlightened in less time than it took the buddha then that's some crazy gangsta shit you just pulled on the no-self right there. emoticon

and if you take longer than he did, then that's fine too, cos its not a race emoticon

RE: hard work, determination, and following instructions
Answer
7/18/13 10:35 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Just another test. Try and listen to your favourite music and notice any parts you really mentally sink in and really enjoy, like an awesome guitar solo you like. Try and notice any tension in the head related to imagining the detail of what you like and notice how you step out of the present moment. There should be some tension with just that. It's like the mind is trying to suck the quality of the music like a drug.