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Practice update: continued development of mindfulness

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Over the past 4 months (since I last wrote about my practice) I have had fairly minimal intention in life outside of increasing the amount of time spent in bare attention to the present and decreasing the amount of time wandering in beliefs/emotions/self-referential thoughts.

At times I have been interested at things like rock climbing, with which I integrated this practice and it was/is fun but I have been doing it less over the past few weeks partly because I hurt my shoulder and partly because I haven't been as interested. It reminds me of an experience with psilocybin where half-way into doing something with a great deal of focus and effort I suddenly realized that I didn't really have to do it and chose to instead just hang out and do nothing. I haven't been too concerned about this and haven't really made much of a story out of it or analyzed it. It is just interesting the way intentions and hobbies outside of developing meditation can never stick around for more than a couple months in me.

In my life the most clear 'gains' have been in my relationships with people. It has been such a relief relax and be natural and no longer to (attempt to) have such a vice-like grip on what they think of me. This has apparently been motivated both by realizing that relationships work way better when I control less and by realizing that lasting peace can't depend on praise and status and people liking me as these things are unstable. In general I am observing that things work better when you can be more in the moment and less worrying about making "life" work for you.

My relationship with my little brother has improved the most, by being in the moment i am less irritated by his antics. Additionally I am genuinely caring for his wellbeing which is quite liberating. I am also way more patient with my mother who I often judge to be very "unenlightened"... (which is of course quite absurd because judging other people is the opposite of being enlightened). This is a big "dharma battle" right now, learning not not judge her and genuinely be kind to her. With my Dad things are also better, never had much of a issue with him though, just now being a little more open. With my close friends I am also more open and honest.

I expect to have issues in this realm when I go back to school in 2 weeks. "Dealing" with my classmates was a big source of suffering last year. They are somewhat unlike me in many ways (though in more fundamental ways they are the same, something which is often hard to see) which last year caused me to assume they were always judging me which is of course straining, and prevents me from caring about them or being close to them.

In terms of depression based on doubting that I am practicing correctly (my other big problem) there has only been one day where everything really went to shit in the way it has in the past 4 months. I found myself wandering around the city I was in doing some hardcore ruminating "life analysis." That was about 2 months ago and more than ever I saw the serious danger in indulging in such speculation. When such thoughts come up nowadays (which they still do pretty regularly) I am generally capable of not giving them much attention/belief. What is really important is to just move into goalless direct observation, recognize the peacefulness in that, and directly notice the suffering in doubt.

When this goalless observation is more continuous life is more joyful and peaceful. I care about other people and whatever I am trying to do is usually done better. When it is absent things are simply nuts, I am really getting sick of the judgment and seeking and distraction and aversion. Though there are still time when it is quite difficult to pull myself away. Sometimes anger just feels so righteous that it would be absurd not to fall into rumination about it, sometimes doubts seem so valid and logically supported that it feels dangerous to leave them be, sometimes objects of desire seem so sweet that it is almost impossible not to drift into fantasies about them.

I suppose the remedy for this fundamental belief that my emotions are worth getting absorbed into and my beliefs are worth believing in is simply persistence in stepping back and being aware of these things and letting them be. Fortunately there is also a great deal of joy in addition to sitting (or walking or doing the dishes) with painful resistance. If thoughts about speeding things up arise then they are registered and the attention that drives this process is reinstated.

A Joko Beck metaphor seems to fit this practice. Basically she says that normally we are (normally) like ice cubes trying to freeze ourselves so cold that when we slam into other ice cubes they shatter before we do. Practice is about melting ourselves into puddles of water through the fire of attention. We become formless, thus unharmable and we can start melting those around us. So as always what I really have to do is just practice, which is sometimes alot harder than talking about just practicing but infinitely more rewarding.

Comments welcome... thanks for reading.

RE: Practice update: continued development of mindfulness
Answer
8/18/13 3:30 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
In my life the most clear 'gains' have been in my relationships with people.

(...)

Additionally I am genuinely caring for his wellbeing which is quite liberating. I am also way more patient with my mother (...)

(...)

When this goalless observation is more continuous life is more joyful and peaceful. I care about other people and whatever I am trying to do is usually done better. When it is absent things are simply nuts, I am really getting sick of the judgment and seeking and distraction and aversion.

(...)

A Joko Beck metaphor seems to fit this practice. Basically she says that normally we are (normally) like ice cubes trying to freeze ourselves so cold that when we slam into other ice cubes they shatter before we do. Practice is about melting ourselves into puddles of water through the fire of attention. We become formless, thus unharmable and we can start melting those around us. So as always what I really have to do is just practice, which is sometimes alot harder than talking about just practicing but infinitely more rewarding.


Comments welcome... thanks for reading.


Thanks for writing.

In the factors of enlightenment, I think metta is a huge precursor to passaddhi (relaxation or tranquility), and viriya (energy) and (piti) joy. These, in turn, help the mind turn well to concentration practices.

So, for me, I could not have a calm mind until I started having a friendly mind. That meant I needed friendly regard for myself and then I could have it for others, even those I would judge harshly before. So one "trick" I use to use when listening to someone speak if I can see judgement or superior regard coming up was to hear their speech as if it were exactly my own. It really changed how I heard what they said. How I hear sometimes effects what is said as we give rise to "contingent identities" when we interact; this is the interpersonal phrasing for "dependent origination".

So I think this metta (etymology: mitto: friend; so "friendliness" [1]) practice can grow greatly as you re-enter school and will in time also help the mind concentrate. For one, if will not have all those antagonisms we experience when judging/feeling judged.

Personal aside, C. Joko Beck was a great help to me in college emoticon

Best wishes and nice to see your experience again.
Katy


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[1] By this method, Ananda it may be understood how the entire holy life is good friendship, good companionship, good comradeship." Samyutta Nikaya ,p. 1524

RE: Practice update: continued development of mindfulness
Answer
8/18/13 3:38 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Thanks katy. Yes caring and friendliness are proving vital and indeed are apparently precursors to any sort of calm or personal liberation. I am really excited to deal with this and see how open and friendly and caring I can be with people.

RE: Practice update: continued development of mindfulness
Answer
9/3/13 4:38 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
It is interesting how emotional pain always seems to project itself into the past. Whenever I have a period of depression and doubt there is the thought "ughhhh it has always been like this" when really if i look back just to about 3 days ago there was a period of pretty strong joy and 'certainty'.

That joy and certainty seems to project itself to the future "ooh it will always be like this... just a matter of time before i am enlightened."

This morning, yesterday, and sunday morning were all periods of depression and doubt. "Is this practice really working?" "maybe I am practicing wrong?" "Maybe (insert practice here) is the right way to go about it." Today I started thinking about what it is I really want out of practice. Somehow when I asked that, it was like I couldn't find anything (despite the fact that moments ago there was a ruminating stream which suggested that I wanted *something* out of practice really badly).

It seemed and seems at this moment that what I am can't really be hurt by anything. No intense rumination will really hurt me. No relationship difficulties will hurt me. No lack of status or success can hurt me... No feelings of enlightenment can hurt me. No feelings that I know how to practice can hurt me...

Not only can these things not really hurt me ultimately, they can't really change me either. They just pass right by. I know this because a week ago I was ecstatic, this morning I was depressed, this moment I am peaceful and without any plans or doubts for the future.

Has there ever been any change? So often this is my doubt in practice. Have I really made myself better or is that just all illusion? I'm starting to think I really haven't. But nothing else will really make me better or worse either. It's like I am just totally safe from any experience that could ever occur. No matter how much I resist or believe in delusion or anything.