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a "powers perspective" on practice

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a "powers perspective" on practice
Answer
11/12/13 6:10 AM
I write this mainly to remind myself and commit to what it seems I've learned from the recent discussions around the powers in the fairies thread and others. First I'd like to say that (in this post/thread) I don't care whether these things are 'real' in whatever sense of the word, how to define 'real' so that the powers do or do not fit into that concept and all the rest.

What I do care about is that looking at practice from a "powers perspective" opens up new possibilities of exploration for me, especially regarding daily life practice. Seen from this angle, meditation seems to entail the cultivation of a specific power: The power to actively shape experience.

Most likely this is old news for many, but somehow it never occurred to me that this was an actual possibility and a legitimate way to practice. Learning about the actual practices that relate to this perspective has changed that. Looking at the thing from a powers perspective does not seem to imply that one has to engage in any mystical-shmystical stuff (crystal-waving etc., unless one wants to). Instead, the material cited below indicates that powers-related practices very much resemble well-known insight and concentration practices, plus the added twist of learning to shape experience / fabrication.

There is already a lot of interesting material on how one can practice in this perspective. Much of what I have found so far has been written and/or shared by Daniel and Nik (thank you!). Here are some interesting threads:

Daniel's essay on magick: link

Fitter Stoke's post about resolutions and jhanas: link

triplethink's instructions on “opening up perception at the point of contact”: link

Nik's essay on “hacking vedana”:
link

TJ Broccoli's “hacking sense data”: link

Excerpt: “in addition to hacking vedana, we can also "hack" all kinds of interpretations of sense data--this would include knowledge, beliefs, assumptions, expectations, judgements, worldly one-dimensional logic—basically when patterns of sense data give too much priority to a limited default label, disposition and/or intention. how to de-condition all the compounded personal stuff, whether it's as gross as a heavy emotion or as subtle as a harmless but unnecessary mental habit: hack the sense data interpretations”


To be honest, after reading this material and playing around with it for a few days, I feel a bit like the karate kid when he learns that the fence-painting moves he has practiced have actual martial arts applications. Most of the practice I've done so far has resembled fence-painting. And I'm glad about it, because now my fence looks awesome! emoticon I've mainly practiced with the idea that I should try to experience whatever arises just as it is, with added clarity and precision, but without interfering. Over time, this is supposed to give me insight and remove the tendency to create dukkha. As far as I can see, there is a lot of truth in that and I will definitely keep that perspective as my main focus.

Now it seems that I've got another option, that I have the permission to use what I've practiced to actively shape my experience for the better. If unpleasant sensations arise, watching them equanimously is just one way to go. The other is to deconstruct the habitual feeling of unease and replace it with something less dukkha. I've been playing around with this, along the lines suggested in the linked material above, and it's been fun, engaging and very pleasant.

I'll post whatever further material I find and maybe some outcomes of my own experimentation.
Feel free to comment and add what you have found.

edited for spelling

RE: a "powers perspective" on practice
Answer
11/12/13 4:21 AM as a reply to Christian Calamus.
I've mainly practiced with the idea that I should try to experience whatever arises just as it is, with added clarity and precision, but without interfering. Over time, this is supposed to give me insight and remove the tendency to create dukkha. As far as I can see, there is a lot of truth in that and I will definitely keep that perspective as my main focus.


Good stuff! Just keep these words from MCTB in mind. This refers to manipulating insight stages, but it is equally valid for "what you're doing" as well.

MCTB:
From one
point of view, enlightened beings can master and manipulate the stages
of insight, though such practices can take on much more of a samatha
feel than an insight feel. From another point of view, perhaps a more
thoroughly insight-oriented point of view, even such a notion is
erroneous. Stages, cycles, and the empty intentions to manipulate them
occur in a causal fashion, and if there is a sense that there is an
independent self that is controlling them, then there is obviously more
work to do. Now, there’s a high standard, and worthy standard, indeed!
These cycles, as with everything else, simply belong to the nature of
things

RE: a "powers perspective" on practice
Answer
11/12/13 6:50 AM as a reply to Christian Calamus.
Christian B:
I've mainly practiced with the idea that I should try to experience whatever arises just as it is, with added clarity and precision, but without interfering.


Here is an excerpt of the "Strengthening Mindfulness" talk on the "five strengths" collection of Thanissaro Bhikkhu talks (around 7m30s):

Thanissaro Bhikkhu:
So the path to stop suffering is something you want to develop. That is why you're training the mind.

You're also training the mind because the path to cause suffering is something the mind is very adept at... You want to keep yourself from wondering off into that path. That's something you want to let go.

So there are duties to be done here, you're not just sitting here passively accepting experience as it comes along. You're actively shaping it. That's something you have to understand too. An important part of developing the steps to mindfulness of breathing is understanding the process of what the Buddha calls "fabrication"; of how the mind shapes things through its intentions.

There was once a monk who said he practiced mindfulness of breathing simply by letting go of the past, letting go of the future and just staying focused on the present. And the Buddha said "there is that kind of breath meditation, but it doesn't give the results... doesn't give the best results." And he set out 16 steps. And a repeated feature of those 16 steps is that you see the different ways in which you are fabricating your experience and then you learn how to do it more skillfully... as you're breathing in and as you're breathing out.


etc. It's a really good talk, as they generally are.

RE: a "powers perspective" on practice
Answer
11/12/13 12:14 PM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Tom, Bruno, thanks for your replies.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu:

So there are duties to be done here, you're not just sitting here passively accepting experience as it comes along. You're actively shaping it.


That's exaclty the point that I didn't quite get until recently. When I started out, I was influenced by zen, where "just sitting" is a major type of practice. In MCTB the practice of rapidly noting whatever arises ("shooting aliens") appealed most to me, as it seemed to be a more structured and doable version of "just sitting". So that is what I did for the most part.

Now I'm just amazed at this new perspective - motivation is strong and practice seems almost effortless, especially off the cushion. It's much easier to be mindful if you're allowed to play with the body sensations and make them more comfortable emoticon

RE: a "powers perspective" on practice
Answer
12/11/13 2:54 AM as a reply to Christian Calamus.
I'm still digesting what happened in the fairies thread. Here is something that's come to mind lately:

Orr's law applies to meditation: What the thinker thinks, the prover proves.
Or, as I'd like to rephrase: What the believer believes, the prover proves.

In this case, the “believer” function can be considered the sum total of one's thoughts and beliefs about meditation while the “prover” function consists of whatever is experienced during meditation.

One obvious example are the brahma viharas: Thinking nice thoughts encourages nice experiences, which reinforce nice thoughts, even off the cushion, which again reinforce nice experiences, even off the cushion, which makes thinking nice thoughts on the cushion easier & more plausible etc.

Another example is insight practice: Believing that reality consist of tiny super-fast arisings and vanishings makes reality appear to consist of tiny super-fast arisings and vanishings, which reinforces the belief, etc. Or in more detail: Accepting the premise that reality might consist of tiny super-fast arisings and vanishings and acting as if that might be true and might be verifiable through observation will lead to the belief that reality consists of tiny super-fast arisings and vanishings and that this is verifiable through observation.

The general formula could be stated as: Thinking something and acting as if it were true changes experience in ways that reinforce the thought, until it becomes a belief that does't need reinforcing.

In pragmatic terms, the question then becomes whether and how thoughts and beliefs can be controled / changed so that we dont believe in things we don't want to be true (i.e. "I'm a failure" etc.).

This applies to meditation practice, but it could be applied to many other things with interesting results. (I have tried some, and all were worth it. What is your experience?) It is also paralleled by the infamous "you get what you optimize for".

As far as I can see, there seems to be no exception to this rule, apart from what Alan Chapman calls the available “means of manifestation”, i.e. some things just don't seem to be possible due to the way this universe is set up. Also, Orr's law can be tricky: Convince yourself that it doesn't hold and see what happens. And: Convince yourself that it doesn't hold FOR YOU, while it does for others, and then see what happens. (This one shouldn't be so hard emoticon )

With regard to meditation, I propose the following experiment, in which two of the endlessly recurring concerns around practice are addressed:
(1) the value of meditation practice (whatever that means to you) and
(2) one's personal ability to practice correctly (i.e. to get the results one is supposed to get)

1. Convince yourself that meditation is very good for you and you are good at it. Go meditate and write a short report. Repeat once a day for one week.
2. Convince yourself that meditation is very good for you and you suck at it. Go meditate and write a short report. Repeat each day for one week.
3. Convince yourself that meditation is useless and you are good at it. Go meditate and write a short report. Repeat once a day for one week.
4. Convince yourself that meditation is useless and you suck at it. Go meditate and write a short report. Repeat.

5. Review & compare the reports of all four weeks, choose the belief set that gives the results you like best and stay with that, discarding everything else.

If you keep a meditation log, you may not need to perform (all parts of) the experiment because you have very likely already gone through & reported about (most of) the iterations of belief listed above.

Have fun emoticon
Christian

RE: a "powers perspective" on practice
Answer
12/11/13 4:04 AM as a reply to Christian Calamus.
"I'm still digesting what happened in the fairies thread. Here is something that's come to mind lately:

Orr's law applies to meditation: What the thinker thinks, the prover proves.
Or, as I'd like to rephrase: What the believer believes, the prover proves."

In other words, we are subject to confirmation bias. If I had to point to one factor in explaining why paranormal beliefs manifest and persist, then this would be it.

"In pragmatic terms, the question then becomes whether and how thoughts and beliefs can be controled / changed so that we dont believe in things we don't want to be true (i.e. "I'm a failure" etc.)"

Sounds like Cogntive Behavioural Therapy - though with CBT you want to demonstrate that such beliefs are false (and if you don't want to believe them to be true, maybe this is easier)

With your experiment, do you (or anyone else) think that you wouldn't get the best results with option 1?

RE: a "powers perspective" on practice
Answer
12/11/13 4:54 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:

With your experiment, do you (or anyone else) think that you wouldn't get the best results with option 1?


Whatever one thinks about it, doing the experiment - and actually convincing oneself of the various beliefs listed - might still be a good idea, for several reasons[1], mainly because it can bring out all the experiences that can be used to "prove" the four belief sets in a structured way.

I find it useful to know what these are for me. This is because I've wasted considerable amounts of time and generated needless amounts of worry by looking for the "best" approach and technique and philosophy for meditation and pondering & debating the value of this or that practice, and meditation in general, for me and for others. It has become clear to me that I get inconclusive results from meditation mainly because I don't have a clear idea of what I want out of it. Muddled beliefs lead to muddled experiences. When I look around the Dho, it seems I'm not alone in this. Knowing which parts of the mediatative experience support which belief (and vice versa) seems to cure that, at least at the moment & for me.

Another thing: The idea that meditation is best and easiest if you don't expect it to change your life in positive ways is quite common. It's recommended in MCTB for example, and I think it could be considered as an instance of belief 3 or 4 from the above list.


[1]Also, it can be interesting to try to "convince oneself", i.e. change beliefs deliberatly.

RE: a "powers perspective" on practice
Answer
12/11/13 6:57 AM as a reply to Christian Calamus.
Meditation as Ritual – a Model

Usually, life is about doing something that – according to our beliefs/knowledge/thoughts – will help us get what we want.
So for this model, human behavior can be broken down into three functions:
1. wanting
2. thinking/believing/knowing
3. doing

This is obviously straightforward, as in wanting pizza and going into an Italian restaurant etc. But it seems that there have always been cases where people wanted things which – as far as they knew/believed - could not be manifested that easily. Here is where ritual comes in.

Ritual can be defined as an activity that is done in order to manifest a given result, and which, according to common sense (i.e. general knowledge/belief), is incapable of manifesting that result.

Countless things that come to mind in relation to magic and religious practices can be understood as ritual in this way. Offerings fruit to the gods so that they bring rain; predicting the future according to the flight of birds; curing diseases by speaking certain words in the magic language; talking to the dead with the aid of an ouija board.

I think for some people, it could be a good idea to regard meditation as a ritual in this way: I.e as an activity that aims at getting a specific result while being clearly inadequate to generate that result if viewed through the lens of common sense.
I mean, look at it: How is sitting on ones ass while counting breaths or staring at colored discs for hours going to change the stuff it is supposed to change (e.g. the things listed in the ten fetter model)? Given everything that common sense knows, its simply implausible that meditation will do what it's supposed to do.

But still, we do it, and we keep doing it, even if nirvana is nowhere near. Just as our ancestors kept leaving food to rot, even if the weather didn't change, and kept looking at birds' entrails for hints of the future. I suppose that one reason for this is that rituals can support emancipation from unhelpful/unwanted beliefs and activation of helpful/wanted alternatives.

Sure, if the prover proves whatever the thinker thinks, it would be easiest to believe that one's life is wonderful and wait for the prover to arrange experience accordingly. But most of the time, that doesn't seem to be possible; conditioning is strong, and common sense is conservative. I for example often fail to convince myself that working hard on this project now ill be good for me in the future, although I understand that such a belief would make my work so much easier.

While shifting beliefs at will does not seem to be possible most of the time, but one can deliberately buy into new beliefs by acting on them. This is what brings beliefs to life: Acting as if they were true. Rituals offer opportunities for doing so. They are like laboratories where we can act on the beliefs we want to adopt while being somewhat protected from the constrains of everyday living and the censorship of common sense.

So if I want to be a more decent person, and if I don't see some more practical way of fulfilling that wish, I could try sitting in silence and thinking nice thoughts for an hour each day (e.g. metta), which will help me establish the belief that I'm kind of a good guy after all, which in turn will give my “prover” function (confirmation bias) some model according to which it can arrange my experience, which in turn will support the belief etc.

But note that this result is not tied to the activity performed in the ritual in any straightforward way. People have used various other methods for becoming nicer, ranging from charity and service to self-deprecation and asceticism, and the results of these practices seem to be just as mixed as in meditation. I suppose that, in principle, one could devise any kind of ritual as an alternative for meditation and get comparable results.

If you look around the Dho, it seems that one single practice, e.g. noting, can get me enlightened, change my brain chemistry, teach me something about my psyche, make good karma, make me a better person, deconstruct my reality, make me less reactive, make me experience beauty in everything I see, make me perceive ultimate truth, help me become more compassionate and many other things.

According to the ritual model, I would suggest that those same goals could in principle be pursued through any ritual activity whatsoever, with comparable results, as long you can convince yourself that the activity is tied to the goal in way that is meaningful for you.

Best wishes ;)
Christian

RE: a "powers perspective" on practice
Answer
12/12/13 4:58 AM as a reply to Christian Calamus.
Christian B:

. It has become clear to me that I get inconclusive results from meditation mainly because I don't have a clear idea of what I want out of it.


Should you look to meditation for clear results and gaining something?

RE: a "powers perspective" on practice
Answer
12/12/13 11:30 AM as a reply to Christian Calamus.
concentration is everything.

if you are noting then you are on default mode. When you note loud then you are under performing, lower than default mode.
Now if you figure out how to power the default mode.

to increase, power up the default mode, its done by doing non-concentration(doing concentration without clinging to it), while just concentration is precision tool.

Thinking good thoughts is like noting, its on default mode or worse. To increase, you need to concentrate on the desire / the cause of the thought.
It seems that the object and thought are secondary and the desire is primary.

Thought, 4th jhana, or onepointed concentration doesn't made any effect on me(dunno even if i ever have been on jhana, haha), i use different methods(that i can use immediately, without waiting or struggle for jhanas). I also have ideas why jhanas does not work. I think jhanas are states of clinging to concentration/object. While non-concentration is immediately doable and more effort i put the stronger/deeper it is.

basically i use the same thing(described on basically all my posts here in different ways) i have always used, even as a kid, did used it to finish the paths too(my own path, it happens to be correlating with the traditional ones). Its powerful then i think.

to have more power, eat only if your stomach is pain empty and eat till you don't feel pain anymore, not full stomach. Sleep less. Don't move much, stay at one place as much as possible, quit work, don't party, don't chat with anybody- if only then if its needed, no sexual activity/full celibacy, serve others, always put your needs behind other people needs, only do what is your goal- put your maximum effort/energy there.

4th path- free of suffering is fallacy. But freedom from suffering is real. Can test it out- just stay aware and clear straight couple/many hours, then will discover that even the slightest change or movement is suffering that its almost impossible to continue. Then will discover that even the slightest thought(absorption) in mind will ease(hide) the suffering. Then will discover by concentrating on the desire/idea of what its to be without suffering and when you get the idea do non-concentration on it, you should experience something what you never have been experienced yet.

lately have find out that everything is energy(substance without hold, handle, quality) mind is its product and we don't have to know how things work before we can do these things. Mind thinks in absolutes, it holds on something always, its impossible to exist otherwise, so i think changing or transforming the brain is a dream. Also the greatest things mind won't extract into brain language, fact is its not needed to extract things to understand them or get ideas.

RE: a "powers perspective" on practice
Answer
12/12/13 8:35 PM as a reply to Christian Calamus.
@Christian: if you haven't already discovered it, the Chaos Magick perspective is right up your alley

Check out the book Condensed Chaos

d