How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

Posts: 507 Join Date: 3/11/13 Recent Posts
[indent][/indent]So I decided to start a practice log. A couple of reasons. One is that it gives me an excuse to be attention seeking and have an outlet for shitting and pissing. It also means I can have an answer to the "do you even meditate/have a practice log" question, which sometimes gets used against me when I piss people off enough. Another reason is that despite my best efforts I seem to like this place, despite complaining it about all the time. If you can't beat em', join em'. And I appreciate a good practice log. A recent inspiring one was Adam's, which was full of lots of neurotic stuff which I could relate to, which made me think, hey, I could do that!

A further reason is that I stopped working with a meditation teacher recently, and since then my practice has taken a nose dive. So I figure keeping a log may work to maintain motivation and momentum. Practice wise, I am in the "dark night" (so they say) pre-path and my daily practice has dropped off (in the last three weeks). But now due to the entire internet reading my practice log and the associated pressure and expectation, my practice will become super sold again. We shall see (and see how this log keeping goes). If you want to join in, please don't hesitate! It makes it all a lot more fun and interesting and you might help me to become enlightened quicker.

Note re title: I like to use the word "enlightenment" in scare quotes (like just then) and see it as a dirty word. Yet here I am.

Goals: These seem to change on a daily basis. Recently they were to reach equanimity (and one step up beyond), and build up concentration to allow return access to jhana land.

Recently (like, last few days, or longer?), my goal appears to live life more fully, whatever that means. So that means living in the face of fear and judgement. Perhaps what I am angling for what vajrayana and tantra is all about (cf David Chapman's argument that it is the ideal practice for the modern world). So this involves not just recognising my bombu nature more fully, but accepting it. So living more fully means living more boldly, being more open to failure. So not being ashamed of shame. To embrace embarrassment and the foolishness that is my nature. And as John Wilde suggested, "integrate the prick". Now one big pay off is how this makes me relate to others. The less strongly I judge myself, the less strongly I judge others, and the more I appreciate them. And in my experience, this works, and is a huge reward. But all this is hard, as a part of me is crying out not to put up a practice log, and I seeing all this as just narcissistic masturbation and a misuse of my energies. But then I also feel I should put my money where my mouth is. And it feels like confronting that aspect that of me which feels that this is stupid, I am stupid, and everyone on this forum is stupid, goes to the heart of what "practice" is all about, which is in (part) reducing some of kind of distance between "myself" and my experience.
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

Practice log

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A meditation report
- morning sit 30 minutes at home
- Normally I do 40 minutes and thinking about this again reminds me that longer periods would be more productive

First ten minutes was just settling down, relaxing, trying to induce some positive states of mind, but not in an disciplined or consistent way (in other times I might be more disciplined about this). Then ten minutes of breath counting, i.e. anapasanti, with a focus on anapasanti spot on nostrils, which is a practice that has worked well in the past. Right now (in the dark night) concentration is difficult, and often I lack the strength of will to keep the counting up, though today at least, there was a sense that given more time things could have "developed". Some dreaminess brought on by slightly fantastical mind wandering. Then 10 minutes of outloud noting (a la Kenneth Folk style). Started off mainly rupa, but more mind states later on, and more distraction later on. Some thought trains about "judging" relating to stuff discussed above. Throughout, there was a sense of latent energy in a disordered state, which I associate with "dark nightness", in that there was "wetness" (by that I meant the potential to access piti and sukha, AKA "energy") but in the face of disordered and fractured thinking which breaks up the possibility of riding anything very far. Still, it does give the sense of something round the corner. Often when this happens in real time I note "anticipation, anticipation", but right now that anticipation doesn't go anywhere.
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice log

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# 2014-3-16
- 30 minutes morning sit
- lacking sleep and hung over so didn't have too much expectations
- first settled into experience without too much willing, just trying to let things naturally settle down
- rather than breath counting I just tried to connect with pleasurable sensations of the breath passing nostrils. This went reasonably well, and at one point I had a bit of piti stirring but it dissipated as soon as I got attached to it. Eventually realised after a while that I was spinning wheels with cognitive thought trains and switched to aloud noting for rest of sit. Most commonly noted "sitting/touching", and at one point got into the flow with a degree of momentary concentration
- ended abruptly, making I think I should set timer for 40 minutes. Seems like a good sign though, in that speed of sit passing vs. resistance and wanting it to end is a good marker of where I am practice wise. Equanimity round the corner? A good motivator for longer/more sits.

# 2014-3-17
- 40 minutes morning sit
- had been reading a dzogchen book so tried to do instructions of just sitting and "letting go"
- difficult! Kept on wanted to introduce methods from my arsenal of techniques, and got stuck with the technique of no-technique. Still, experienced some periods of openness and expansion. At one felt a constriction and warmth around cheeks, and relatively strong sukkha
- in last ten minutes did quite consistent out noting to avoid preponderance of thinking, and distractions which were quite visual (e.g. visual fantasy). Early one was pleasant and some brief stirring of piti and noted "expansion", "pleasure". Some noting of "indecision". Later on discomfort at buttocks become more pronounced and noted "irritation" and "impatience".
- despite my attraction to dzogchen, reaffirms what I ready think which is that I am not quite ready for it as a formal sit, and something to explore more post-path. In the meantime, a more jhana approach orientated from a concentration practice is probably the best entry to some of these non-dual states. I suppose this is one what attracts me to pragmatic dharma, in that while I see something like zen or dzogchen as the goal, and am attracted to the philosophy and outlook (especially wrt to everyday life), pragmatic dharma probably is going to get me there quicker.
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice log

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# 2014-3-18 09:15
- 10 minutes sit! Went to bed late, so only time for a short time, was meant to be 20 minutes but got confused with a 10 minute bell thinking that was the end, so my sense of time had quite skewed
- Did Exercise 2 from "Roaring Silence: Discovering the Mind of Dzogchen" (same book as the working with emotions booked quoted above) - though they say to do it for 1-2 hours.
- Just sat and did nothing else than try to block the emergence of thoughts
- This blocking really consisted of obliterating, so whatever thoughts came up I crunched them down, split them into little shards and turned them inside out. This felt very "dark nighty". This whole state of mind feels very fractured. A buzzing confusion of "dark energy".
- Was pretty consistent with this (the instructions didn't get in the way)
- I didn't really find much space in the no-thinking, instead I did get a greater sense of presence and release of energy (that seemed to build), the sort of energy that feels unfathomable and unlimited.
- will try to get in a short sit later today
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice log

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# 2014-3-22 10:23
- 40 minutes morning sit
- did just anapasanti, no noting. Decided that I should try for a while to get concentration better. Typically I do half anapasanti half noting, yet I am not putting in the practice time to really get very far with concentration and mind calming as a base for noting. And I am aware that when I do anapasanti it effectively is an insight practice - as to get good at it in the past involved watching very carefully (as a gatekeeper) the process of emergence (and falling away) of thoughts in the mind.
- just tried to count the breath (I do in and out breaths as (in-breath-1,out-breath-1)
- most of the time stayed around 1! But this gives me a good starting point from which to improve
- started to remember my old tricks. Important thing to remember is "stay with the physical sensations of the breath"!
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice log

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# 2014-3-19
- 20 minutes, log not reported, just mainly resting in awareness

# 2014-3-20
- no meditation in morning, travelling
- later in day did some relaxation/ just resting in what "is" and had some headgasms - not quite jhana but close (lacking one pointedness). Lot of energy about.

# 2014-3-21 09:00
- 40 minute morning sit
- started off with a lot of discursive thought
- got caught up in what practice to do, again, which I think relates to lack of clear intentions and having too many simultaneous goals. Need to go back to clearly articulating intent at start of sit.
- after about 25 minutes switched to outloud noting, which petered out towards end. Had a few moments of "quickenings" - what I call momentary rapid switches or drops in awareness to a heighted sense relatively early on. There was a pattern for nicer states early on and distraction/irritation later, but always wary of reading too much into this

Note in response to John's comment about method - the primary problem is not a particular method (though I will try your suggestion, thanks!)- but a tendency to switch methods (like many times within a minute). As discussed in "Unlearning meditation" - often the instructions get in the way. Out loud noting is the best method I have found for instructions not getting in the way. For concentration I should probably just keep doing what was worked in the past - breath counting, working on developing the "continuous breath".
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice log

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# 2014-3-23 09:11
- 40 minutes morning sit
- just tried to do anapasanti. Time passed quickly, though buttocks starting to get annoying towards end. Got lots in quite a lot of thought trains especially later on. Made it to 10 at one point (a weak 10) and counted back down
- another old trick to remember: Need to make the breath the most interesting thing in the world. And making it as pleasurable as possible really helps with that.

# 2014-3-24 08:57
- 40 minute morning sit
- hard to stick with anapasanti. Did get a greater sense of stillness, deepening and relaxation as sit went on, but still a lot of conceptual thought trains. And need to be wary of tricks of the minds. Towards end decided that anapasanti wasn't really working and I should bathe in the nice sukkha filled state I was in and try deepening it through letting go, but my practice goal was breath counting with intent. Still feeling this tension in wanting to explore open awareness at the same time as thinking I need a more disciplined, stable and still mind (which is the point of breath counting).
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice log

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In the last week, 30-40 minute daily sits, trying some more formless sitting. I was getting the feeling with more formless sitting of how easy is it get into a reasonably calm and relaxed state, where it feels like you are "meditating", but layers of undercurrent of thinking and stances which means you aren't really getting anywhere.

Today sat with local soto zen group.
- First sit 30 mins getting struck with instructions and trying to do too many things at once
- Second and third sits of 20 minutes each. Decided to try and stick with proper soto zen instructions, and sat with eyes open and with focus on not getting involved in thoughts and to just sit (and return) to "embodied presence" - sitting, feeling the body, hearing my breathing, the birds, my awareness of the room and others. And for each sit, alternated between this presence and getting lost in thought and losing my awareness of presence, and returning to the presence, again and again. Reminded myself that this is what zazen is all about - just presence, and returning to presence. Falling down, and getting back up again.
- As I become mindful of when I had got lost, I started remembering that sensation of losing, or softening. When I have got good at concentration in the past it feels like I have been able to really hit this spot, the transition where I lose it. And I remembering talking about this before on another thread somewhere (couldn’t find it). But from what I can recall, we talked about how the transition was preceded by a moment of tension. And what I have found before is that there is a way of riding that tension and following it through to a release which can leads to something like mini-bliss. So I reminding myself to keep on the look out for this transition - e.g. setting up the mindfulness guardian.

Couldn't find thread, but found some old notes about this:

"but at times where I got into jhana land what happened is that the transition from the end of the out breath to the in breath. When I try to catch those moments where I tend break into proliferation thought I feel a slipping away, a tension (lightly felt) and a drifting away - whereas that drifting away would normally slip into a new thought, if I catch the moment when that happens and float along with/into it then I then seem to slip into a fast track to access concentration/jhana. This I also associate with a release of tension in the eyes, a small feeling of relaxation or mini-bliss (at times), which when I analysed before seems to be due to eye blink muscle response (with eyelids shut)."

"- tried to find point where I got distracted. detected something of a movement. based on something I read on the DhO tried to shift my attention to the tension that preceded the movement, which had limited success with.
- also suggestion on DhO that proliferation was preceded by a movement in the belly, with a downward movement with slothfullness and upwards movement with agitation proliferations. Instead or succumbing to the release of the tension, try to stay with it. "

EDIT:

It was bugging me not be able to find it, so I found it:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5006564

Adam . .:
So funnily enough I was meditating earlier and I was trying to catch how distractions arose, and I what I perceived to be happening on several occasions was a gap where awareness faded, then there was this moment of decision, where the mind "decided" to move in a certain direction (which I supposed was an instance of grasping), so an instance of a fabrication of experience in a certain way, an imposition or ordering towards something.

Now Jake talks about seeing such things in real time, which I thought was the point (i.e. of vipassana) but you talk about locking down, tightening and shutting down such processes - I thought just seeing was enough? And I don't quite understand what you mean by such terms as "tightening".


I have been investigating similar phenomena, what I have found is that there is a moment of tension, felt as bodily affect, which can be described as an "upward movement" in the gut just before restless proliferation or "downward movement" in the gut just before sleepy proliferation. The movement grows in intensity and is relaxed when you enter into proliferation, and by tolerating/not being overwhelmed by the intensifying movement, and just being dispassionately aware of it, you can avoid entering into proliferation.

I would say that it is important not only to know about this, but to try and isolate it more and more via not accepting its invitation to enter into proliferation. What starts to happen is that the affective trigger for proliferation stabilizes due to repeated instances of not accepting its invitation, and then one can incline one's mind such that it relaxes entirely and suddenly it takes no effort to "stay present." The way I have found to relax it is to pay attention to the aspect of it that is already fading and also to shift attention down below the navel to the spot where it seems to fade into. When that trigger for proliferation fades then there is the experience of body moving on its own, if you look at your hands they don't seem to be "yours," there is just "in reference to the seen there is only the seen" with no sense of "I am".

Just seeing this and not trying to isolate and relax may be enough for certain attainments but in my view being a slave to this process is inherently dissatisfactory no matter how you observe it, as this is the process of becoming. No matter how clearly you can see it it still has an influence on your behavior. It seems to me that every time this process occurs while I am interacting with someone, they subconsciously sense it and it creates a subtle "power dynamic" between me and them. Also it is obnoxious to be constantly pulled into proliferation.
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice log

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Based on this thread I am reminded that the body is important in "Psycho-energetic Enlightenment"
http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5201846

So I am going to try doing some bodywork as part of integrated meditation practice

Yesterday, did some breathing/chest opening Lowen type exercises, and couldn't do for long. Felt like a shock to the system, and brought some negative emotional states, and had to engage parasympathetic nervous system to calm down. Brought back a lot of memories of A&P, but not in a good way.

- did a bit of "charging" and "grounding" before sit (these are Lowian terms). Have the theory that "unblocking" bodywork should encourage "energy" which should make jhana states more accessible. So for example, my A&P involved a radical amount of unblocking in short space of time, which was very destablishing, but it was associated with increased jhana ability ("flowing energy")
- 20 minutes today, again didn't go in with clear intentions and therefore had a muddled practice. Most consistent was the intention to experience (or non-verbally note) bodily sensations and figure which parts of the body were present and which were absent. Noticed a lack of feeling around shoulders, neck and jaw.
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice log

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- morning sit 0 minutes. Went on dharmaoverground and replied to several posts
- had insight that I should probably stop spending so much time on dharmaoverground

repeat after me:

GOING ON DHARMAOVERGROUND IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR PRACTICE
GOING ON DHARMAOVERGROUND IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR PRACTICE
GOING ON DHARMAOVERGROUND IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR PRACTICE
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Jake WM, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Practice log

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sawfoot _:
- morning sit 0 minutes. Went on dharmaoverground and replied to several posts
- had insight that I should probably stop spending so much time on dharmaoverground

repeat after me:

GOING ON DHARMAOVERGROUND IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR PRACTICE
GOING ON DHARMAOVERGROUND IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR PRACTICE
GOING ON DHARMAOVERGROUND IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR PRACTICE


LOL! Right there with you man. A good chunk of my free time is spent by lurking around this board and some other dharma websites and just filling my brain with mostly useless information. Then I wonder why I haven't made substantial progress with meditation emoticon
wtf, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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So hows practice going on sawfoot?
i was really looking forward to this journal. Gave up?
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

Posts: 507 Join Date: 3/11/13 Recent Posts
hi wtf,

Gave up practice? Or the journal?

I started working with a teacher from a different tradition to pragmatic dharma, but got thrown off course recently with some life events, but I am trying to get back on track, which I guess is part of the reason I have been posting here recently. 
wtf, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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I  really do hope you continue with practice and share whatever you experience with us. 
All the best!
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Zendo Calrissian, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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[NOT BEING SARCASTIC, IN FACT BEING COMPLETELY HONEST MODE ON]
This is the greatest thing ever.
[NOT BEING SARCASTIC, IN FACT BEING COMPLETELY HONEST MODE OFF]
B B, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

Posts: 69 Join Date: 9/14/12 Recent Posts
Wow, I'm actually delighted to hear this. I was sort of relating to your troll-like behaviour before as I've had experiences where I've socialized online in circles where I didn't quite fit in and ended up identifying as the outsider and sort of thrashing about and exacerbating my position. That doesn't end well. But with this forum and from my perspective it seemed especially tragic as it was almost like you were karmically drawn to awakening but lacked the qualities to exploit the wonderful opportunity that had arisen. So this turnaround is great news IMO, and starting a practice log sounds like a great idea.

My only advice would be to focus ruthlessly on what is really going to make a difference in the end, i.e. stream entry. No matter how tempting it might be to operate at the level of more superficial issues and pursuing multiple strands of self-improvement: I wrote a diary for years filled with detailed descriptions of that kind of stuff. E.g. "I managed to avoid wasting time on the internet for three days in a row, but unfortunately I started again today. I'm such an idiot, why I do these things to myself? Tomorrow I'm going to shoot for four days in a row. And start getting up earlier in the morning. And exercising more." Yada, yada, yada. It all amounted to next to nothing compared to awakening. Though having said this I realize there are multiple strands (of the 8-fold path) to be pursued to attain awakening and before you're getting jhana consistently there could be months if not years where your practice has basically yet to take off and progress could be characterized as embarrassingly slow. Even still always be wary of getting mired in superficial issues.

Good luck, practice seriously and well. And who knows, maybe MCTB stream entry really is the monumental achievement the Buddha describes and you're literally saving yourself from millenia of further wandering in samsara. From what I've read of experienced out-of-body travellers like Luis Minero and Jurgen Ziewe, their experiences would seem to lend credence to the basic form of Buddhist cosmology. Possibly something to read up on in your spare time.
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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Thanks Zendo for the LOL

And cheers BB. Good advice. As Daniel keeps on saying, this is the method, do the experiment. I have a pluralist inclination but I agree that focusing on a specific goal and using tried-and-tested techniques are most likely the best use of my time. And I will try to keep that in mind and focus on technical aspects of meditation rather than wallowing in the self-improvement crap and ego games. That said, I am kinda hoping that the superficial issues can work as a consistent wake up call, by trying to use that neurotic energy, both by doing something constructive with it and for awakening. For example, being inspired by Trek-chod practice -

http://aroencyclopaedia.org/shared/text/e/emotions_ar_eng.php

Here is a nice quote:

The practice of meditation in the context of embracing emotions as the path gives us another option. This option is one in which we neither repress, express nor dissipate our emotional energy. But one in which we let go of the conceptual scaffolding and wordlessly gaze into the physical sensation of the emotion. This is what we describe as ‘staring into the face of arising emotions in order to realise their empty nature’. This is where meditation becomes an essential aspect of our method of discovery. The form of meditation we will discuss here comes from the system known as Trek-chod, which means ‘exploding the horizon of conventional reality’. Trek-chod involves finding the presence of awareness in the dimension of the sensation of the emotion we are experiencing. Simply speaking we locate the physical location of the emotion within the body (it may be localised or pervasive). This is where we feel the emotion as a physical sensation. We then allow that sensation to expand and pervade us. We become the emotion. We cease to be observers of our emotions. We stare into the face of the arising emotion with such completeness that all sense of division between ‘experience’ and ‘experiencer’ dissolve. In this way we open ourselves to glimpses of what we actually are. We start to become transparent to ourselves. Through this staring, the distorted energy of our emotions liberates itself. In the language of trek-chod it is said: ‘of itself – it liberates itself’, and ‘it enters into its own condition’. In order to use meditation in this way, we need to have developed the experience of letting go of obsessive attachment to the intellectual/conceptual process as the crucial reference point on which our sense of being relies. In short, we need to be able to dwell in our own experiential space without manipulating whatever arises to referential ends. We need to experience mind, free conceptual activity – yet qualified by the effulgence of pure and total presence.
Through the practice of meditation, we discover that we can make direct contact with the unconditioned essence of our spectrum of liberated energy. We can embrace our emotions and realise the unending vividness of what we are.


Getting rid of my obsessive-compulsive attachment to the intellectual/conceptual process seems like a tricky one, particularly for this mind.
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Droll Dedekind, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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sawfoot _:

Getting rid of my obsessive-compulsive attachment to the intellectual/conceptual process seems like a tricky one, particularly for this mind.


Out of curiosity, do you know your MBTI and/or socionics and/or enneagram type?

In MBTI terms I'm an INTP, meaning I have a dominant Introverted Thinking function. I also have trouble with obsessive conceptualization. I suspect you either have dominant or auxiliary Ti or Te.
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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Droll Dedekind:
sawfoot _:

Getting rid of my obsessive-compulsive attachment to the intellectual/conceptual process seems like a tricky one, particularly for this mind.


Out of curiosity, do you know your MBTI and/or socionics and/or enneagram type?

In MBTI terms I'm an INTP, meaning I have a dominant Introverted Thinking function. I also have trouble with obsessive conceptualization. I suspect you either have dominant or auxiliary Ti or Te.


I haven't been properly tested, and haven't really bought into it, but yes, INTP would resonate the most, along with Ti.

Have you ever tried the Highly Sensitive Person test? I found it quite interesting when I looked at it ages back, as I scored pretty darned high. I think there is a strong correlation with HSP's and IN TP/INTJ's. And I expect there is a high correlation between these things and spiritual seekers i.e. DhOers.

I was sort of thinking about this earlier, while in a night club.There I was, dancing away, having lots fun, yet at the same time I was engaging in this line of reasoning above, quite disconnected from my bodily experience. And I was thinking, oh, the curse of being an INTP (or similar). And thinking that "enlightenment" is the cure - living in the now, in the present, being connected to the present rather than separate from it. And also thinking how difficult it would be to fix that lifetime of habitual disconnection. But then I also noticed how everyone else was drunk. And it seems that the point of getting drunk is to reduce that distance, so its probably not just a INTP curse. Of course, when I say curse, it is also what makes us uniquely human (in my understanding of the nature of animal consciousness). And do I really want to live in the present fully, like some kind of animal?!?!
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Droll Dedekind, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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If you fit this description then you probably match INTP most accurately ("are an INTP") http://www.wikisocion.org/en/index.php?title=LII

It's not necessary to "buy into" something in order to find it useful. I just consider MBTI/Socionics/Enneagram more models to learn from and discard as needed. They're pragmatic tools with dubious correspondence to reality (if you would like to posit such a thing). If you know of (or create) a useful, more rigorous model for classifying personality, behavior, and subjective experience I'm all ears. Now, one fun result of entertaining classifications of personality is statistics http://oddlydevelopedtypes.com/INTP

And, I've had similar thoughts along the lines of "I don't want to be foolishly stuck in the moment like an animal!" I've come to realize humans create a false dichotomy between the human world and the rest of nature. There are many unique parts of being human, surely, but still our existence is little more than that of a graduated animal. To humbly realize one's place in the universe as an aggregate of countless universally-interconnected processes occurring in the eternal moment allows one to live a more fulfilling human life.
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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sawfoot _:

Getting rid of my obsessive-compulsive attachment to the intellectual/conceptual process seems like a tricky one, particularly for this mind.


What's conceptual adroitness worth without a basic existential clarity?

Unless you think experiential clarity is inherently deluded or dependent on delusion, it makes sense to strive for that first, and then, if you're that way inclined, be as rigorous as hell in figuring out its nature and significance.

I share a lot of your doubts about so-called enlightenment. Some people derive experiential clarity from beliefs that are implausible and ridiculous; others are utterly and demonstrably deluded in their views but feel entirely clear in their being; so there's no direct correspondence between experiential clarity and truth. And, like you, I baulk at experiential clarity at the price of a locked-in delusory mode of consciousness and/or fantastical world view.

But the idea that experiential/existential clarity is inherently delusory is itself nuts. So thinking of practice in those terms doesn't require a sacrifice of critical thinking, but puts it to a better use than trying to suss everything out in advance from a position of basic existential confusion and dissatisfaction.

My way of rationalising having made the same choice ;-)
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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John Wilde:
sawfoot _:

Getting rid of my obsessive-compulsive attachment to the intellectual/conceptual process seems like a tricky one, particularly for this mind.


What's conceptual adroitness worth without a basic existential clarity?

Unless you think experiential clarity is inherently deluded or dependent on delusion, it makes sense to strive for that first, and then, if you're that way inclined, be as rigorous as hell in figuring out its nature and significance.

I share a lot of your doubts about so-called enlightenment. Some people derive experiential clarity from beliefs that are implausible and ridiculous; others are utterly and demonstrably deluded in their views but feel entirely clear in their being; so there's no direct correspondence between experiential clarity and truth. And, like you, I baulk at experiential clarity at the price of a locked-in delusory mode of consciousness and/or fantastical world view.

But the idea that experiential/existential clarity is inherently delusory is itself nuts. So thinking of practice in those terms doesn't require a sacrifice of critical thinking, but puts it to a better use than trying to suss everything out in advance from a position of basic existential confusion and dissatisfaction.

My way of rationalising having made the same choice ;-)


So in my quest for experiential clarity I have trampled over whole spheres of perspective space sufficiently that it has become inconceivable that certain kinds of "enlightenments" would be really be all that "enlightening" for me (e.g. altered/non-dual states of consciousness telling me something new about the universe and my place in it).

This is a case of trying to suss out everything in advance from a state of dissatisfaction. Yet it doesn't feel that I am working from a basic existential confusion (which is potentially what makes it arrogant), and there doesn't have to a correlation between dissatisfaction and confusion. And one man's existential confusion is another man's existential clarity. I am aware, though, that shifting this locked in belief might be the problem to be solved (or the problem to be "not-solved").

It also depends on what existential clarity is inherently delusional about (not that I fully understand what you mean by the term existential clarity). So in terms of being inherently delusional about the world out there, the noumena, then yes. It is a fabrication. But then its non-sensiscal to say that it is delusionary about states of the brain, since I see experience as direct phenomenal access to states of the brain, and as such, doesn't have a truth value.

Pragmatically, though, I suppose I am looking for a reduction in obsessive-compulsive behaviour, but reading it back, that sentence feels like my saying what I am supposed to think the goal is.

Practically speaking, awakening (whether linear or non-linear) could involve 3 things (see also Richard's comment, and likely to all be important) - a reduction in the amount of self-evaluative thinking, an increased ability (in both frequency and speed) in seeing that kind of thinking, and an increased ability to reduce the impact of that thinking on behaviour. That latter one feels like really what I want right now, but perhaps this is really just willpower - the ability to counteract our tendencies to engage in behaviours that privilege short term over long term reward/costs. And the happier and more stable we are, the better we are at engaging in more sane behaviours.

Thanks, as always, John, I super appreciate your comments even though they always get me stuck in fully in the intellectual/conceptual processing that I supposed to be ridding myself of. Arrghh! what an affliction.
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Nikolai ., modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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sawfoot _:

Getting rid of my obsessive-compulsive attachment to the intellectual/conceptual process seems like a tricky one, particularly for this mind.


Thanks, as always, John, I super appreciate your comments even though they always get me stuck in fully in the intellectual/conceptual processing that I supposed to be ridding myself of. Arrghh! what an affliction.


Perhaps rather than assigning the notion that such intellectual/conceptual processing is some thing to get rid of (which in my own experience leads to frustration and to quote you "arrggh"), you could approach such reoccurring phenomena with curiosity.
Get curious about the little gaps that occur in and of themselves when intellectual/conceptual processing drops of its own accord. There are gaps all the time. Get curious about them, not wanting them to occur (as the notion of 'getting rid of' may re-enforce), but simply be curious, gently curious. Replace the notion that there is something to get rid of with gentle curiosity and the 'aarggh' loses it's trigger/support.

It's like the practice of watching for the next thought like a cat at a mouse hole. But rather than the next thought, you just want to notice momentary gaps or rather the momentary cessation of such phenomena. Strip such phenomena of the mental weight of being some 'thing' to get rid of by being curious about such phenomena's (in and of itself) arising and passing. Paying attention like so can trigger lots of insight into the whys of such arisings and passings. And knowing the whys experientially in real time seems to lead more so to more cessation rather than arising in my own experience. Desiring cessation doesn't.

Rather than impose a desired outcome to any phenomena(which gives it more shape, name and status/weight in my experience), see in real time the whys via recognition, acceptance and curiosity.

My 2 cents

Nick
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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Richard zen: How about meditating as a way to watch the mental talk and watch how it makes you feel and how you feel makes you act in certain ways?

Are there mental habits that you would like to decondition? Are there mental habits you want to condition? When the mind is busy does it hurt? When it's less busy does it hurt less?


+ response to to Nikolai

So in meditation at least, I can get to the point of being equanimous of the emergence of thinking mind. Observing the gaps has been very instructive in formal sitting, though right now I am still in a distractible phase, but that should settle down.

The thing about gentle curiosity that while it is an awesome state of mind, my deliberate attempts to encourage it in everyday life didn't get very far. I have, for example, HAIETMOBA flashing up on monitor on a regular basis, and various other bells, alarms and whistles to encourage such states of mind, but I think what stops it being effective is underlying emotional currents that give rise to conditioned behaviours and associated avoidance strategies.

I think, in hindsight, the heart of the "intellectual problem" is trying to use the conceptual mind to figure it all out (obviously), which ultimately (so I have been told) is a dead end - and the addiction to thinking (as a conditioned habit) makes it almost avoidable to stop doing it (and to be writing posts like this, which I know is a substitute for "real" practice).

But underlying this is the problem of avoidance of life as it is, which is a result of my/our conditioned habits and strategies I/we adopt in managing emotions. And when I examine that avoidance closely enough, it always seems to be fear as the base, though it is often very hard to appreciate that fully (as a murky undercurrent of experience).

So that leads me to two quotes, from an aro book I have been reading and I resonating with me right now:

Spectrum of Ecstasy: Embracing the Five Wisdom Emotions of Vajrayana Buddhism by Khandro Dechen, Ngakpa Chogyam
(reading this and having also had a peek at some audio talks by Ngakpa Chogyam he has very quickly jumped up into my favourite buddhist teacher list. I am starting to see to really appreciate David Chapman's arguments that Tantra is the ideal vehicle for the modern world).

Regarding the practice of trek-chod:

So: first you familiarise yourself with the view. Then second, you internalise the view through experience. Third, you prepare to ‘catch yourself out’ in the act of conforming to pre-set emotional patterns. Fourth, you stare into the face of the arising emotion. In order to do this it is necessary to relinquish intellectual analysis. You have to abandon intellect as soon as you recognise the emotional pattern. It is enough to recognise the pattern; there is no need to dwell on intellectual analysis once that faculty has performed its useful task. The intellect is valuable within the sphere of intellect. But outside that, it becomes increasingly useless. Intellect is a valuable tool; but unless we learn when to use it and when not to use it, the view with which we have familiarised ourselves will just become another unhelpful addition to the giddying whirlpool of our conditioned responses. To relinquish analysis allows you to stare directly into the face of an emotion. You can accomplish this by focusing on the physical sensation of the emotion as the subject/object of meditation. Your whole field of attention needs to be immersed in the wordless sensation of the emotion as it manifests in the body. If the emotion you are trying to embrace is one of sorrow, you will tend to feel this as a very real and uncomfortable sensation just beneath the rib-cage. This is what is commonly known as ‘heartache’. But if you are able to surrender the words – the conceptual scaffolding – then the sensation ceases to manifest as pain. If you can then maintain the presence of your wordless gaze, the emotion becomes a free energy. At first, thoughts seem to be thrown up by the centrifugal force of the sensation; but, if these thoughts are allowed to fly past and disappear into space you will discover that it is the cyclic nature of thoughts rather than the sensation itself that is the cause of your ‘dis-ease’. When you can simply be with the sensation of your emotion and experience it fully at the non-conceptual level, you will notice a dynamic reversal taking place. The spinning energy that seemed to be generating rivulets of words and ideas has a vast still centre; like the eye of a hurricane. From that experience of stillness it is possible to perceive that the obsessive spinning is not caused by the emotional sensation, but that it is in fact the cause of it. When you realise the empty nature of the sensation of emotional pain, the pain dissolves into an ecstatic sensation of presence and awareness.


So this. Using the intellect up to a point, and then letting it go. And the practice of looking at bodily responses to emotions is a pretty standard one in various forms of buddhism. It seems to make sense. And I suppose there is a good reason why "Feel the fear and do it anyway" is one of best selling self help books ever.

And another quote, about strategies we adopt in response to our perception of our enlightened state:

Q    You said that duality wants to watch itself becoming enlightened, that it wants to get as close to the enlightened state as possible without surrendering its dualistic position. Why is this?

Ngak’chang Rinpoche    Because the enlightened state is terminally seductive.

Khandro Déchen    Because we are beginninglessly enlightened, so our enlightened nature will continually sparkle through our neurotic condition

NR    That is unavoidable. Absolutely unavoidable . . . even though we may be hell bent on maintaining duality. When our enlightened nature sparkles through, there are three possible responses: attraction, aversion, or indifference. It’s the attraction aspect of our neurotic state that wants to get close to the enlightened state, because we have the idea that it just might be the most fabulous reference point7 in the universe. But it’s also the enlightened state itself, the fact that we could be continually teetering on the edge of self-liberation, that actually provides the pull or draw. The aversion aspect of our neurotic state also wants to get close to enlightenment, but it wants to get close in terms of its inherent suicidal tendency. With indifference either option seems fraught, so we retract and hope that we will not remember the possibility that presented itself. It’s very tricky stuff. It’s incredibly sneaky – duality is alarmingly clever. Aversion wants to stay alive – which is also why it wants to commit suicide in enlightenment. Enlightenment beckons like some tremendous height from which we might fall. There’s a sense of vertigo. We’re hypnotised by the interplay of mortality and immortality – of existence and non-existence. Attraction wants to dissolve into a subtle objectification of the enlightened state, in order to achieve immortality. Unfortunately, as soon as you start to engage with a dualistic approach to non-duality, the discussion becomes a trifle psychotic. KD    There’s no way out of this paradoxical language problem, apart from abandoning the approach of obsessive form-orientated intellect. Silent sitting meditation is actually the only answer


So part of the reason I am conflicted in beliefs about before/after notion of "enlightenment" is my experience of the sparkling through. Particularly in my experience of the A&P, what I found was very intense and simultaneous experience of the attraction (great desire) and aversion (great fear) and their culmination. And in everyday life, particularly when practice is going "well" (i.e. pleasurable and/or spacious sits), I feel that bubbling undercurrent of the enlightened state. And that bubbling undercurrent has an emotional dimension, which leads to the conflicted sense of desire and aversion which leads to semi-deliberate indifference.

So I have been trying to experience that more directly recently by relaxing into it and attempting to experience the non-conceptual texture of the desire and fear and manifested in my bodily felt sense, and that underlying sense of potential for an ecstatic sensation of presence and awareness grows. There is vibrancy and alertness.

It also made me realise, having been down these roads before and where I am in relation to recent experiences, that equanimity is probably about right now (or rather, peeks into it), though I seem to have got there through engaging in content rather than good concentration/insight (despite all Daniel's advice in MCTemoticon. Whether that is true or not, dwelling on it and over thinking it (as I am want to do) is probably best avoided, as it becomes just another avoidance strategy.
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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sawfoot _:

The thing about gentle curiosity that while it is an awesome state of mind, my deliberate attempts to encourage it in everyday life didn't get very far. (...) but I think what stops it being effective is underlying emotional currents that give rise to conditioned behaviours and associated avoidance strategies.


I can't overstate how difficult it's been for me to learn this, but it's a game changer in some way.

Just to step back from that a sec...

When those underlying emotional currents (and the cognitive ripples downstream) fall still for a while, what's it like? Does the universe seem uninteresting or unintelligible? Do you have the intellect of a cow? Are you unable to think about past or future? Are you unresponsive to people and situations? Or is it more like, ahhh, that's better... now I can [whatever]?

What I meant by a basic existential clarity, experiential clarity, is something perfectly ordinary but quite wonderful: a way of being right here in this world with all faculties working without obstruction, and without any basic existential confusion or distress. For me, the goal of all this practice is not about gaining any particular knowledge, but about having a better basis for knowing and experiencing, a better state or condition to operate out of. Not specific knowledge, but a better kind of knowingness. And if the universe remains a fascinating mystery (good chance of that), that's fine by me. I certainly won't be in a worse position to learn about it.

No amount of thinking has ever brought me to that basic existential clarity and non-conditional satisfaction. But it's always there in the background, and there's nothing preventing it being manifest, apart from what I'm adding to the situation.

So that's what practice is ultimately about for me. Seeing how and why that's happening. From that perspective, there's no better thing to be gently curious about than "underlying emotional currents that give rise to conditioned behaviours and associated avoidance strategies", which prevent you from being gently curious ;-)

That said, I might be projecting too much of my own aims onto you. The basic existential clarity above is my goal, and the "E" word is basically a placeholder for that. I understand that for other people it means something quite different.

*

I'm only a beginner when it comes to sitting, so take this with a pinch of salt.

You wrote in your practice log...

sawfoot _:

- had been reading a dzogchen book so tried to do instructions of just sitting and "letting go"
- difficult! Kept on wanted to introduce methods from my arsenal of techniques, and got stuck with the technique of no-technique.


If "letting go" doesn't do it for you as an instruction, how about "don't get involved"? It probably amounts to the same thing, but it has a different feel, and I find it easier to apply. Albeit from limited experience, I find it builds the ability to just be present for long periods without either pushing anything away or getting entangled.
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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Whatever "this" is, I don't want to "not" be it.

With the analogy used in "Roaring Silence", not being "this" is like free falling without a parachute.

Feeling the slipping of the sense of self is scary and disorientating.

Now, I am often perplexed by people on this forum and in Buddhism talking about a solid core sense of self, as it doesn't chime with my experience, and I always thought it was related to The Buddha's reaction to prevailing religious/spiritual beliefs of the day (atman). For me, the solid sense seems most linked to bodily sense (Damasio's core self) and my experience of being a centre of a visual field. So that is seeing myself as temporally ill-defined (in the midst of time and timelessness) but spatially defined (through body and vision). And as a practice, working to realise that I am not spatially defined (consciousness is beyond space) and spending more times in those states (e.g. such as higher jhanas that I don't have access to) is one of things I am striving for (though quite what I hope to gain from this I will return to in another post, i.e. the goal of the big "E").

But seems pretty fucking weird being an energy field. And to echo some of my comments about fear above, I have a better appreciation now of how much fear blocks the understanding of not-self. I realise I don't want to be not-self. It is terrifying. I am aware of all the talk of its liberating properties, but still, it is such a fundamentally different reference point for life living that it would be massively disorientating. I guess the point about paths that it doesn't come all at once (and even without paths), so you get time to integrate this into your life.

But yeah, fear as an obstacle. Both in the sense in not wanting to enter the void and the sparkling through (of being "enlightenment"), and in the avoidance strategies that block the seeing of it.

But wherever kindness is, fear struggles to co-exist.

edit:
This is over-dramatising. I probably am not going to get sucked into some black hole of nothingness and go insane.

(from Spectrum of Ectasy) "The discovery of intrinsic space enables us to let go of anxieties [...] This realisation is the dawn of the clear knowledge that [anxiety] , and the vicious cycle of intellect, are just ways of trying to prevent ourselves from vanishing. When we gain some degree of clarity through the practice of shi-ne ("calm abiding"), we start to view vanishing as an occupational hazard of being. We continually vanish and continually reappear. We are continually leaping out of sheer emptiness into the present instant"
.

I am starting to get a better understanding (intellectually, and experientially?) of what people like Nikolai are always going on about, but I should work on getting sufficient insight to put into my own words.
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Zendo Calrissian, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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Fear is a very real obstacle. I was somewhat surprised that I didn't really have to sit with it much in the DN. Went by in minutes. Well, that was the first time through the DN as I'm back and fear has been a very real part of this one. The stress of facing things as they are have driven my blood pressure to dangerously high levels. Woke up Sunday morning with a BP of 160/100 and a broken blood vessel in my eye. The ride gets crazier and crazier.
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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Zendo Calrissian:
Fear is a very real obstacle. I was somewhat surprised that I didn't really have to sit with it much in the DN. Went by in minutes. Well, that was the first time through the DN as I'm back and fear has been a very real part of this one. The stress of facing things as they are have driven my blood pressure to dangerously high levels. Woke up Sunday morning with a BP of 160/100 and a broken blood vessel in my eye. The ride gets crazier and crazier.


I am not sure how these experiences of DN at different temporal scales (e.g. nanas in a sit, across days of heavy practice/immediately after A&P, or across months or more...) are related to each other. Quite possibly not, in my view, but I am still figuring it out (being inherently skeptical of everything as I am).

But I can empathise. I remember getting day long tension headaches for the first time in my life (energy blockages anyone?!) which freaked me out (is this permanent?!). They went away as my sleep got back to normal. The fall out of A&P can potentially be very emotionally, physically and psychologically destablishing. Of course, it doesn't have to be that way, but it was for me. And my way of dealing of it in the end (if it is getting too crazy) was to take the foot of the accelerator (by stopping meditating) and just trying (with difficulty!) to indulge as best as possible in everyday life. Lots of exercise, talking to friends, eating ice cream. Of course, some might say this the worst thing to do and you should power through with even more meditation. But hey, who doesn't like ice cream.
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

Yanas

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So a couple of thoughts (which partly address John's comments about goals above, and partly me talking aloud). I have been reading more David Chapman, and he has been articulating a lot my issues I have had in my experience with Buddhism (much better than I could).

"Realistically, in future, most people will approach Western Vajrayana with a Consensus Buddhist background. After a few years of vipassana, they realize that it’s pointing in the wrong direction for them, and they want a path of vivid, full-blooded, creative engagement. Yet, the vipassana they’ve done will be excellent preparation—because emptiness is the base for tantra. The only difficulty is in deprogramming all their Consensus ideology."
http://meaningness.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/pure-land/


One of the issues I have been dealing with (though in a pretty rapid timescale, from programming to deprogramming), which started in a big way since A&P, has been working on my deprogramming. And at times the emotional fall out of that has ended up on these shores.

A compounded issue is yana confusion (which has also has caused me confusion/problems here). Chapman suggests that yanas are primarily about goals rather than methods. I have historically been more drawn to Mahayana approaches (happiness for all beings) than Hinayana (happiness for yourself), but theoretically rather than emotionally. Emotionally (and sun-consciously) there is a "removal of suffering" draw, and could never fully rationally get behind Mahayana, despite trying hard. And the more I learn about Vajrayana, or at least about what a naturalised Vajrayana might look like, then the more it articulates what I think I am looking for as a goal, and explains why I have been so dissatisfied with other forms (e.g. Zen, Theravada).

And with regard to methods?

Daniel m Ingram (from another thread:
"I would seriously consider starting Theravada, getting stream entry and perhaps second path from the Mahasi kids first and then a good sense of what really strong concentration is from the Pau Auk kids, and then take that into the Vajrayana, and you will already have what you need to visualize really well as well as having established a direct understanding of ultimate bodhichitta, which is essential to that path, and be able to see that the endless fascination with ritual and the rest of the hyper-abundant trappings and politics and personality stuff may, at best, be skillful means, as Attachment to Rites and Rituals will be profoundly lessened if not eliminated, and so you will be able to have the wide, vibrant acceptance that the Vajrayana offers without its obvious initial traps that so confuse most people who get into it before they were really ready for it. Dzogchen and its related perspectives really help with 3rd path territory. "


(note for a former giant alien space monster, he can be quite wise). I already do have this perspective, roughly speaking, but posting about it is just a way of reminding myself and articulating more clearly.

My enthusiasm for "enlightenment" waxes and wanes, partly because I don't believe in "it". And to get "stream entry" for the goal of self-benefit seems lame in the grand scheme of things, and self-defeating in setting up the system of belief that there is something wrong that I need to fix (from a Mahayana/Zen perspective, e.g. I am perfect as I am etc…).

But my conscious rationalising is that it is a stepping stone. John mentioned the
Mahamudra Meditation Center guide which he is working with. I found it ages ago, and it looks super cool. I can't wait to get the easy access to jhanas and increased concentration that is supposed to come with SE to use as a platform to explore that territory.

Often the idea of stream entry seems nice, but then I think, everything is just fine as it, if it happens then great, no big deal (I guess this is an equanimity trap). I almost have the expectation that it will just happen naturally without trying. And this is where MCTB and the Theravada comes in saying, get your arse in gear, and do the work! Discipline, perseverance, determination etc..

So, I am reminded myself that no matter how nice the bright lights of dzogchen and its ilk, I need to put in the cushion time and get that concentration strong. It is not an earth shattering realisation but I do need to be hit over the head with it regularly (which is part of the reason I am here).

p.s.
I have trying to figure out how "actual freedom" fits into yanas, and I don't think it fits well, but it feels like in methods and goals Vajrayana would be the best match.
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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John Wilde:
What I meant by a basic existential clarity, experiential clarity, is something perfectly ordinary but quite wonderful: a way of being right here in this world with all faculties working without obstruction, and without any basic existential confusion or distress.


So I was talking above about that dual sense of attraction and revulsion, bliss and fear.

And in recent days, what I have been experiencing when trying to experience the here and now is that dual sense. So it a mix of a feeling that is probably best described as anxiety, but an anxiety that is full of potentiality and possibility. Alternatively, you could call it "awe" in existence.

And partially influenced by some stuff by David Chapman, I feel a better sense of what feels like a realistic sense of what I want from practice, which is to fully embrace the awe, and the prospects for what a greater embrace could hold.

Life is a terrible thing. One day I will grow old, sick and die. As will everyone else. I can't fathom the possibility of a state of mind in which that terror would be significantly diminished. But I don't really want to find a basic sense of existence which is free from distress. For me, to be existentially clear entails distress, and lacking distress is to be existentially confused, where desires to reduce distress and distort our emotional landscapes ultimately lead to escape from the conditions and facts of our existence. And yet life is a wonderful thing. It is an opportunity, a precious gift. This is Buddhism 101. And in everyday life, what I am trying to do (and reminding myself to do in writing this) is to not turn away in escape from that but towards it as a gift embedded in embodied presence in experience.


The student of Tantra should be in a constant state of panic. That panic is electric and should be regarded as worthwhile . . . . Panic is the source of open heart and open ground. Sudden panic creates an enormous sense of fresh air, and that quality of openness is exactly what Tantra should create. —Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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sawfoot _:
(...) I don't really want to find a basic sense of existence which is free from distress. For me, to be existentially clear entails distress, and lacking distress is to be existentially confused, where desires to reduce distress and distort our emotional landscapes ultimately lead to escape from the conditions and facts of our existence. And yet life is a wonderful thing. It is an opportunity, a precious gift. This is Buddhism 101. And in everyday life, what I am trying to do (and reminding myself to do in writing this) is to not turn away in escape from that but towards it as a gift embedded in embodied presence in experience.


Yes, I get that. Being a thinking and feeling mortal being means there's going to be poignancy, sadness, beauty and terror in life, so it's a question of whether to embrace it fully with courage, compassion and humour, or renounce it one way or another and seek an alternative.

There can be existential clarity either way; but I'd rather find it within this human domain, as well as beyond it. I haven't given up on the intuition that they're not necessarily mutually exclusive: the flawed, fragile, beautiful and doomed, all suffered and celebrated within an overarching framework of perfection and freedom and ultimate okayness. (In fact, isn't that already the case somehow?)
Adam . ., modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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I haven't given up on the intuition that they're not necessarily mutually exclusive: the flawed, fragile, beautiful and doomed, all suffered and celebrated within an overarching framework of perfection and freedom and ultimate okayness.


If you see it that way, then how would the poignancy, sadness, beauty and terror be real? If you saw that utterly and fully in that way then how would they be there at all?
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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Adam . .:
I haven't given up on the intuition that they're not necessarily mutually exclusive: the flawed, fragile, beautiful and doomed, all suffered and celebrated within an overarching framework of perfection and freedom and ultimate okayness.


If you see it that way, then how would the poignancy, sadness, beauty and terror be real? If you saw that utterly and fully in that way then how would they be there at all?


Right, if I saw things utterly and fully one way, I wouldn't see them both ways. But I do see life both those ways, not wholly one way or the other.

Part of me lives in a world of human identities and feelings. In that world, me and the people I have relationships with are real, the joys and the sorrows we experience are real... but not actual. And I don't want to dispel those real-but-not-actual aspects of my life, or cease to recognise them in other people's lives. But I also know that it's all taking place within something that's utterly untouched by any of this, and that what I ultimately am isn't excluded from that in any fundamental sense.

This being okay with the notion that everything is fucked and everything is fine at the same time might in part be a temperamental thing. I know some people can't relate to it at all, but others can relate perfectly well. I remember when I first started perusing the DhO I really couldn't relate well to the goal of ending all suffering that was in vogue at the time; it seemed so morbid and bloodless and anti-life to me. Even actualism, which is even more extreme, was not really about ending all suffering for me; it was about the ultimate happiness, the ultimate freedom. I guess I just can't relate to life or the universe being inherently fucked for sentient beings, without it also being, at the same time, inherently wonderful. Both at once, and much more besides... depending on how it's seen, by whom, with what conditioning factors, and to what end.
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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John Wilde:
Adam . .:
I haven't given up on the intuition that they're not necessarily mutually exclusive: the flawed, fragile, beautiful and doomed, all suffered and celebrated within an overarching framework of perfection and freedom and ultimate okayness.


If you see it that way, then how would the poignancy, sadness, beauty and terror be real? If you saw that utterly and fully in that way then how would they be there at all?


Right, if I saw things utterly and fully one way, I wouldn't see them both ways. But I do see life both those ways, not wholly one way or the other.

Part of me lives in a world of human identities and feelings. In that world, me and the people I have relationships with are real, the joys and the sorrows we experience are real... but not actual. And I don't want to dispel those real-but-not-actual aspects of my life, or cease to recognise them in other people's lives. But I also know that it's all taking place within something that's utterly untouched by any of this, and that what I ultimately am isn't excluded from that in any fundamental sense.

This being okay with the notion that everything is fucked and everything is fine at the same time might in part be a temperamental thing. I know some people can't relate to it at all, but others can relate perfectly well. I remember when I first started perusing the DhO I really couldn't relate well to the goal of ending all suffering that was in vogue at the time; it seemed so morbid and bloodless and anti-life to me. Even actualism, which is even more extreme, was not really about ending all suffering for me; it was about the ultimate happiness, the ultimate freedom. I guess I just can't relate to life or the universe being inherently fucked for sentient beings, without it also being, at the same time, inherently wonderful. Both at once, and much more besides... depending on how it's seen, by whom, with what conditioning factors, and to what end.


David has two nice complementary posts relevant here. Life is shit (a charnel ground). Life is amazing (a pure land).

http://meaningness.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/charnel-ground/
http://meaningness.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/pure-land/

My way of relating to it (currently) is just back to Buddhism 101, non-duality, emptiness and form (actual is emptiness, real is form?) And emotionally, emotions can contain contradictory elements each other, e.g. awe, or the same emotion (in its physical manifestation) can be interpreted in different ways, with different results.

One thing that has been on my mind is this assumption, well expressed in vajrayana but really the cornerstone of all spiritual traditions is that our experience of "emptiness" or aliveness (or God or whatever), if we strip away what obscures it, is intrinsically good and amazing. That our enlightened state is our natural state. I struggle to accept all this talk of naturalness (when it can take a lifetime of meditation practice to fully experience this "naturalness"). And then, so what? We can engineer a state of being through messing around with our self-referencing circuitry and disrupting our spatial perception and release lots of nice neurotransmitters. I don't think it tells that the "universe is love" and so on. But the promise is that this is a suitable ground for living an excellent life, a means to an end.
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(D Z) Dhru Val, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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sawfoot _:

One thing that has been on my mind is this assumption, well expressed in vajrayana but really the cornerstone of all spiritual traditions is that our experience of "emptiness" or aliveness (or God or whatever), if we strip away what obscures it, is intrinsically good and amazing. That our enlightened state is our natural state. I struggle to accept all this talk of naturalness (when it can take a lifetime of meditation practice to fully experience this "naturalness"). And then, so what? We can engineer a state of being through messing around with our self-referencing circuitry and disrupting our spatial perception and release lots of nice neurotransmitters. I don't think it tells that the "universe is love" and so on. But the promise is that this is a suitable ground for living an excellent life, a means to an end.


That is an OK way of looking at it. Just some thoughts...

The truth that we talking about in meditation / spirituality is more closely related to philosophical truth than to the empirical truths of science and technology.

Scientific knowledge is a posteriori. It is made possible by experience and reasoning.

The bar for ultimate truth in spirituality is higher. From this perspective reasoning is just an experience. And the nature of conscious experience itself has to be considered. We don't experience the neurotransmitters in our brains. We experience bliss. We experience despair.

Neuroscience is cool, but isn't directly relevant to spiritual practice.

Ideas about the natural state don't refer to a sort of default evolutionary state of mind. But rather the most uncontrived mental state possible.

The natural state doesn't have any characteristics of its own. The positive characteristics are associated with the discernment of the 'natural state'.

Attachment and craving are possible because we associate our experience of reality as having some inherently existing characteristics. Discerning that all experience is ultimately void of essence means that craving and aversion are dropped. At least to the extent that you can maintain discernment.

Doesn't mean that you wont have preferences on how to live life, or how much sugar you want in your coffee. Or that science will somehow stop working.
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

Posts: 507 Join Date: 3/11/13 Recent Posts
(D Z) Dhru Val:
sawfoot _:

One thing that has been on my mind is this assumption, well expressed in vajrayana but really the cornerstone of all spiritual traditions is that our experience of "emptiness" or aliveness (or God or whatever), if we strip away what obscures it, is intrinsically good and amazing. That our enlightened state is our natural state. I struggle to accept all this talk of naturalness (when it can take a lifetime of meditation practice to fully experience this "naturalness"). And then, so what? We can engineer a state of being through messing around with our self-referencing circuitry and disrupting our spatial perception and release lots of nice neurotransmitters. I don't think it tells that the "universe is love" and so on. But the promise is that this is a suitable ground for living an excellent life, a means to an end.


That is an OK way of looking at it. Just some thoughts...

The truth that we talking about in meditation / spirituality is more closely related to philosophical truth than to the empirical truths of science and technology.

Scientific knowledge is a posteriori. It is made possible by experience and reasoning.

The bar for ultimate truth in spirituality is higher. From this perspective reasoning is just an experience. And the nature of conscious experience itself has to be considered. We don't experience the neurotransmitters in our brains. We experience bliss. We experience despair.

Neuroscience is cool, but isn't directly relevant to spiritual practice.

Ideas about the natural state don't refer to a sort of default evolutionary state of mind. But rather the most uncontrived mental state possible.

The natural state doesn't have any characteristics of its own. The positive characteristics are associated with the discernment of the 'natural state'.

Attachment and craving are possible because we associate our experience of reality as having some inherently existing characteristics. Discerning that all experience is ultimately void of essence means that craving and aversion are dropped. At least to the extent that you can maintain discernment.

Doesn't mean that you wont have preferences on how to live life, or how much sugar you want in your coffee. Or that science will somehow stop working.


Thanks for offering your thoughts D Z. I think I disagree in a number of ways, but it is useful to have a different way of seeing things.
I agree that scientific truth and experience-dependent "truth" are different, but I see experience as beyond notions of truth and false (which partly why I hate that term "ultimate truth"). And I agree that we should see science and spirituality as different kinds of enterprises, with spirituality akin to the old school notion of philosophy as addressing the question of "ought" rather that "is".

My point about the naturalness of the "natural state" still applies to an "uncontrived mental state", as if you have to spend 10 years on a retreat in a cave in the Himalayas to achieve it, then it seems pretty contrived to me! And I disagree about the relevance of neuroscience to spiritual practice (though it might depend on how far you would push "directly relevant"), as if neuroscience isn't relevant, then would count as being relevant?

We don't experience bliss in the mind, we experience an experience, which in our conceptual-socio-linguistic matrix we label as "bliss". It is a word that is part of our shared conceptual apparatus, an apparatus has an important role in shaping experience. In another conceptual framework we might call it experience of divine union. In another, we might describe it as set of neurotransmitters for firing. In that framework, we can see the experience of craving as a consequence of reward circuitry of the brain, and certain states of mind are possible which disrupt that. Buddhist psychology gives another way of framing it. In a pragmatic sense, these different frameworks have different utilities, and I happen to think the neuroscience perspective is a pretty good one. A perspective that I am probably too attached to, and one that is possibly more of a hindrance than a help on a spiritual path. But really exploring the relevance of that framework to spirituality is of great interest to me.
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. Jake ., modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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sawfoot _:

. In a pragmatic sense, these different frameworks have different utilities, and I happen to think the neuroscience perspective is a pretty good one. A perspective that I am probably too attached to, and one that is possibly more of a hindrance than a help on a spiritual path. But really exploring the relevance of that framework to spirituality is of great interest to me.


I think it's potentially really useful too, but in very early stages. The advantage of being able to take on pragmatically a more traditional framework is that it's an operating system for those experiences that's out of the beta-testing stage so to speak. Or maybe more precisely, the traditional frameworks are comprehensive in that they are likely to cover a broad spectrum of experiences and the cause-and-effect within experience of how these various states tend to arise and the side effects, etc that may or may not come with them. The neuroscience perspective is as yet pretty rough and incomplete from what I can tell, but still is full of fascinating and pragmatically relevant nuggets.
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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. Jake .:
sawfoot _:

. In a pragmatic sense, these different frameworks have different utilities, and I happen to think the neuroscience perspective is a pretty good one. A perspective that I am probably too attached to, and one that is possibly more of a hindrance than a help on a spiritual path. But really exploring the relevance of that framework to spirituality is of great interest to me.


I think it's potentially really useful too, but in very early stages. The advantage of being able to take on pragmatically a more traditional framework is that it's an operating system for those experiences that's out of the beta-testing stage so to speak. Or maybe more precisely, the traditional frameworks are comprehensive in that they are likely to cover a broad spectrum of experiences and the cause-and-effect within experience of how these various states tend to arise and the side effects, etc that may or may not come with them. The neuroscience perspective is as yet pretty rough and incomplete from what I can tell, but still is full of fascinating and pragmatically relevant nuggets.


Yeah, all true. I am just curious to see how far those nuggets can go.

So an important point (for me) is to remember that Buddhism is a practice (and probably the "Buddha" would agree), and not a belief system. So I don't have to believe in anything to practice as a Buddhist (or pragmatic dharmist/whatever), other than faith that the practice will have positive effects for me and the world.

btw, sent you a message. And you too, Zendo, if you are reading this.
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. Jake ., modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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Cool, that makes a ton of sense. Personally I've always been a bad 'believer' in life in general-- too skeptical-- except that when i was younger and (even more) hot headed I believed pretty strongly in my skepticism ;) However I've always been a good pragmatist and enjoyed 'make believe' ever since childhood so...

Hey have you ever read James Austin's "Zen and the Brain"? If not I think you might like it. He's a pretty good neuroscientist from what I can tell and has an interesting method in the book. basically he takes some interesting experiences-- both of the concentrative and awakening variety if I recall correctly-- and then does informed speculation about brain mechanisms that could be implicated in the various experiences. Pretty fascinating stuff.

A lot of the newer brain/meditation crossover stuff I am familiar with looks more at neuroplasticity and possible long term results in brain structure and function from regular practice.

For some reason my gmail doesn't work at work anymore as of the past few days so i will get back to you this evening when I return home, thanks for the note emoticon
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

Posts: 507 Join Date: 3/11/13 Recent Posts
. Jake .:
Cool, that makes a ton of sense. Personally I've always been a bad 'believer' in life in general-- too skeptical-- except that when i was younger and (even more) hot headed I believed pretty strongly in my skepticism ;) However I've always been a good pragmatist and enjoyed 'make believe' ever since childhood so...

Hey have you ever read James Austin's "Zen and the Brain"? If not I think you might like it. He's a pretty good neuroscientist from what I can tell and has an interesting method in the book. basically he takes some interesting experiences-- both of the concentrative and awakening variety if I recall correctly-- and then does informed speculation about brain mechanisms that could be implicated in the various experiences. Pretty fascinating stuff.

A lot of the newer brain/meditation crossover stuff I am familiar with looks more at neuroplasticity and possible long term results in brain structure and function from regular practice.

For some reason my gmail doesn't work at work anymore as of the past few days so i will get back to you this evening when I return home, thanks for the note emoticon


Yep, I know Zen and the brain (and the other two). There isn't much else like it, which makes me appreciate them, but also find them pretty frustrating, being hard to read and taken anything from, for me. Lots of nuggets, but perhaps he needed a better editor.

The neuroplasticity angle is important and interesting, but not really what excites me, which if I had a put a finger on is to consider what Buddhism (as a set of practices embedded in a religion) might look like if it was invented now.

John Wilde:
sawfoot _:

One thing that has been on my mind is this assumption, well expressed in vajrayana but really the cornerstone of all spiritual traditions is that our experience of "emptiness" or aliveness (or God or whatever), if we strip away what obscures it, is intrinsically good and amazing. That our enlightened state is our natural state. I struggle to accept all this talk of naturalness (when it can take a lifetime of meditation practice to fully experience this "naturalness"). And then, so what? We can engineer a state of being through messing around with our self-referencing circuitry and disrupting our spatial perception and release lots of nice neurotransmitters. I don't think it tells that the "universe is love" and so on. But the promise is that this is a suitable ground for living an excellent life, a means to an end.


That there's something intrinsically good and amazing underneath all the suffering and strife that exists in minds and hearts is something that makes complete sense to me. I know it. It was the initial inspiration for all this [whatever].... and it's the reason why true cynicism will never be an option here.

And although I get your point about the paradox of calling something a "natural state" when nobody's in it and people work years to attain it, it still seems spot on to me.... because it's what's left when all the crap is gone, and it's clear that the crap is not intrinsic.

What exactly this is, in anyone's language, or in any tradition, I've given up caring. There are aspects of so many teachings that point in that general direction but also veer off into stuff that doesn't fit my experiences or aims at all, and the same goes for actual freedom. So be it. Nowadays, I'm looking at practice not as a means to a specific end but as a way of making all the
crap increasingly transparent.


Probably this is what religious faith really comes down to. Just faith in this, And probably a key "issue" for me, is my lack of faith in it. My skeptical angle on it is that being awareness is just pretty awesome, though I can't really go as far as saying anything is intrinsically anything. Not a very grand vision though, I admit, but intuitively I am being pulled in this direction (I guess you could call this "awakening").

If you take the naturalist perspective (which I do!) then I think you do get an answer to what "exactly this is". It might not satisfy everyone as an explanation, but the direction it leads you to is inexorable - the experience of being a brain that evolved in a meaningless universe. This makes this all both utterly mysterious yet at the same time unmysterious. Still doesn't really solve any problems about being alive though.
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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sawfoot _:

One thing that has been on my mind is this assumption, well expressed in vajrayana but really the cornerstone of all spiritual traditions is that our experience of "emptiness" or aliveness (or God or whatever), if we strip away what obscures it, is intrinsically good and amazing. That our enlightened state is our natural state. I struggle to accept all this talk of naturalness (when it can take a lifetime of meditation practice to fully experience this "naturalness"). And then, so what? We can engineer a state of being through messing around with our self-referencing circuitry and disrupting our spatial perception and release lots of nice neurotransmitters. I don't think it tells that the "universe is love" and so on. But the promise is that this is a suitable ground for living an excellent life, a means to an end.


That there's something intrinsically good and amazing underneath all the suffering and strife that exists in minds and hearts is something that makes complete sense to me. I know it. It was the initial inspiration for all this [whatever].... and it's the reason why true cynicism will never be an option here.

And although I get your point about the paradox of calling something a "natural state" when nobody's in it and people work years to attain it, it still seems spot on to me.... because it's what's left when all the crap is gone, and it's clear that the crap is not intrinsic.

What exactly this is, in anyone's language, or in any tradition, I've given up caring. There are aspects of so many teachings that point in that general direction but also veer off into stuff that doesn't fit my experiences or aims at all, and the same goes for actual freedom. So be it. Nowadays, I'm looking at practice not as a means to a specific end but as a way of making all the crap increasingly transparent.
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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sawfoot _:

And emotionally, emotions can contain contradictory elements each other, e.g. awe, or the same emotion (in its physical manifestation) can be interpreted in different ways, with different results.


Have you ever closely contemplated the difference between afflictive emotions and transcendent ones?

Some emotions just hurt. Feelings of anger, hurt arising from rejection, grief, etc... they just hurt. But feelings like love, beauty, compassion and bitter-sweet melancholy feelings.... they hurt too... but they don't, at the same time. They hurt, but they're not afflictive emotions; they're transcendent ones.

Some people don't get this; I can only assume they don't have these feelings. But if you do, it can be really interesting to contemplate what exactly is that afflictive element.... in and of itself...
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

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John Wilde:
sawfoot _:

And emotionally, emotions can contain contradictory elements each other, e.g. awe, or the same emotion (in its physical manifestation) can be interpreted in different ways, with different results.


Have you ever closely contemplated the difference between afflictive emotions and transcendent ones?

Some emotions just hurt. Feelings of anger, hurt arising from rejection, grief, etc... they just hurt. But feelings like love, beauty, compassion and bitter-sweet melancholy feelings.... they hurt too... but they don't, at the same time. They hurt, but they're not afflictive emotions; they're transcendent ones.

Some people don't get this; I can only assume they don't have these feelings. But if you do, it can be really interesting to contemplate what exactly is that afflictive element.... in and of itself...


No, not closely, or recently. Just speculating based on memory, it feels like the non-transcendental ones involve a retraction of the self from the world, whereas the transcendent ones involve a movement outward to the world, but then a flip-flopping where the self and world meet. But that doesn't say anything about raw feel. I will try having a look out for this. Difficult, actually, because my emotional life is often one where such emotions get shunted from view, and its almost like I don't have enough raw materials to work from. I know in some Tibetan practices they deliberately induce negative emotions in controlled settings as a way to work with them.
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

Throwing out the maps

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"thoughts for the day"

I am increasingly coming round to the view that I should throw the pragmatic dharma maps out the window, for two main reasons. One is that I always have been sceptical about them, and that manifest in resistance rather than acceptance, which probably does more harm than good. I lack experience to be much of an expert, but I have plenty of experiences which have fitted the maps. Yet much of these I could probably explain away confirmation bias and other cognitive distortions. Overall, I think the maps are capturing something useful and potentially important, yet I see a tendency in pragmatic dharma circles to look for explanations where the maps are no longer just descriptions but linked to causal explanations. So for just one example, the idea that you reach a "cutting edge" in meditation for a stage of insight which then permeates your life outside meditation. For a lot of phenomena I have been mystified on what kind of explanation could account for such experiences (e.g. stream entry and resulting shifts). And a lot of that confusion would be allayed if reasserted my primary scepticism, i.e. if it sounds like its nonsensical, it probably is, roughly speaking, approximately nonsense (with some interesting nugget of truth).

The other reason why I get bothered by the stages of insight, in particular the big "E", is the promise of the right condition for happiness without conditions. Conditionality of happiness is deeply entrenched culturally. If only I got a girlfriend, that job, that promotion, the retirement, then, finally, I would be happy. And the pragmatic dharma positioning of "E" can turn out to be a particularly insidious manifestation of that (IMHO). And despite being aware of this, I have still found myself getting sucked up into the snare, and that bothers me in the same way that knowing that a better job etc.. isn't going to deliver my happiness, and yet I can't help shake my conditioning that it will.

Anyhows, I should stop worrying about it. The point is that I should look for motivation not in promise of future reward but from recognition that increasing awareness of "non-duality" has a positive impact on my life.
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Throwing out the maps

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There is some kind of weird forum voodoo going on.

I checked the other day and read John's post in reply to this thread, and yet when I go back now it has vanished, though it says on the main page that the last poster was John.

I sort of remember what it said. You talked about your version of the 4 noble truths. I prefer the translation as "4 truths for noble ones" that David Brazier uses. But yeah, put like that, it all seems pretty...simple. and pretty, mundane, really. But no great newsflash, but I becoming solidified in my view that spirituality, like religion, is a bit of con. I think it "works", but these days the myths of eternal salvation, discovering the "Ulimate Truths" or an end to endless rebirths don't really cut it. And it comes down to that choice to be happy. Sometimes, when I have moments of clarity or "happiness", I think, actually, this is quite easy and straightforward - why don't I do this all the time? But then I forget. And so a religious/spiritual practice is really a way of remembering - remembering there is a choice, a choice in the present for present conditions and a choice in the present for future conditions.
John Wilde, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Throwing out the maps

Posts: 501 Join Date: 10/26/10 Recent Posts
sawfoot _:
There is some kind of weird forum voodoo going on.

I checked the other day and read John's post in reply to this thread, and yet when I go back now it has vanished, though it says on the main page that the last poster was John.

I sort of remember what it said. You talked about your version of the 4 noble truths. I prefer the translation as "4 truths for noble ones" that David Brazier uses. But yeah, put like that, it all seems pretty...simple. and pretty, mundane, really. But no great newsflash, but I becoming solidified in my view that spirituality, like religion, is a bit of con. I think it "works", but these days the myths of eternal salvation, discovering the "Ulimate Truths" or an end to endless rebirths don't really cut it. And it comes down to that choice to be happy. Sometimes, when I have moments of clarity or "happiness", I think, actually, this is quite easy and straightforward - why don't I do this all the time? But then I forget. And so a religious/spiritual practice is really a way of remembering - remembering there is a choice, a choice in the present for present conditions and a choice in the present for future conditions.


Sorry, not forum voodoo, just me. I posted a message (reproduced below from email archive), and a short while later decided to delete it because I thought it might come across as frivolous or insulting -- which wasn't the intent, but could be the effect for someone who doesn't know me well.

There is one element of forum voodoo in that, even when you delete a recent post, you're still listed as the most recent poster in the thread until someone else contributes.

Anyway, here it is again, for referential integrity, so to speak:

*************************

sawfoot _:

The other reason why I get bothered by the stages of insight, in particular the big "E", is the promise of the right condition for happiness without conditions. Conditionality of happiness is deeply entrenched culturally. If only I got a girlfriend, that job, that promotion, the retirement, then, finally, I would be happy. And the pragmatic dharma positioning of "E" can turn out to be a particularly insidious manifestation of that (IMHO). And despite being aware of this, I have still found myself getting sucked up into the snare, and that bothers me in the same way that knowing that a better job etc.. isn't going to deliver my happiness, and yet I can't help shake my conditioning that it will.


It's not an easy one to shake, cos it might not be just conditioning. The fantasy of a radical life-redeeming transformation somewhere in the future can be a neurotic's refuge -- a "fictional final goal" in Adler's terms -- and it has a very powerful and enduring appeal.

sawfoot _:

Anyhows, I should stop worrying about it.


You sure? ;-)

sawfoot _:

The point is that I should look for motivation not in promise of future reward but from recognition that increasing awareness of "non-duality" has a positive impact on my life.


Speaking of which, I like the possibility of taking a really pragmatic approach to "right view", i.e., approaching all aspects of practice in terms of the four noble truths -- which aren't really true, and therefore need to be customised.

Take your pick. Mine's as follows:

1) By default, there is psychological and emotional affliction.
2) There are ways of being and behaving that perpetuate and exacerbate these afflictions.
3) They can come to an end -- preferably without having to do away with "birth", "aging", "death" and the whole universe.
4) There are ways of being and behaving that don't perpetuate or exacerbate affliction. Choose them.
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: Throwing out the maps

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oh, right, I thought that might be the explanation...though I didn't recall anything contentious!

Yes, "The Problem"...

"It is the task of the therapist to show the patient other ways than that of his psychological dead end, and to show him that, even if he would reach his goal, at that moment he would see that it is a miscalculated goal." (From a translation of "The Dream as the Key of Character" (Der Traum als Schlüssel des Characters), a lecture by Dr. Franz Plewa, presented February 27th 1939.)

Barry Magid has a nice discussion of a version of this, which he calls our "secret practice", in "Ending the Pursuit of Happiness". A pretty good book title I think.
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Richard Zen, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

Posts: 1624 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
sawfoot _:
Getting rid of my obsessive-compulsive attachment to the intellectual/conceptual process seems like a tricky one, particularly for this mind.


That's normal. I have an intellectual bent and it can be difficult sometimes. Note "strategizing", "analyzing", "rehearsing" etc. It's the thinking pretending to control what's happening. Some of this is perfectly okay when you are doing complex work but it's the habit of self-evaluation that needs to be deconditioned.

I like to empty my mind of all thoughts and wait long enough for relief. To do this and enjoy the relief will help the brain see the benefit of a clear mind. It'll start inclining towards a relaxed mind. There will always be some thoughts in it but the clinging (complaining about why you dislike something) makes the body react and act on the craving/aversion. When you empty the mind of as many thoughts as possible and feel relief it's easier to put in thoughts you always wanted to develop in it's place to start developing new mental habits of your choosing.
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katy steger, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

Posts: 1745 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi SF,

Nice!

I haven't thought of your comments here ever as "trolling". Sometimes I have seen them as "testy", but "testy" can be related to "testing", as in "how these people react to my provocations may tell me if their so-called practice is worth boo".

.e. anapasanti,

Yes.

Personally, I relate to some of what I call your testiness and a) I'm glad you're practicing on your own now (sans teacher, but don't take this comment as against teachers absolutely or even a little; there's just a ton of reasons to practice on one's own at some points) and b) I hope you give anapanasati your sincere interest, and self-gentleness in developing attention in the breath.

And yes, I'm going to link Daniel Goleman's breathing buddies link here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scqFHGI_nZE.

Anapanasati. This is very simple. Just attend the breath (and the pali "sabbakhaya" can mean the breath is followed at the nostril area, or it can be translated as Ven. Bodhi does, body-wide) Chris G's new log, new last line about actually thanking the mind that's trying is, to me, very sound and useful practice..

Good luck.
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

Posts: 507 Join Date: 3/11/13 Recent Posts
katy steger:
Hi SF,

Nice!

I haven't thought of your comments here ever as "trolling". Sometimes I have seen them as "testy", but "testy" can be related to "testing", as in "how these people react to my provocations may tell me if their so-called practice is worth boo".

.e. anapasanti,

Yes.

Personally, I relate to some of what I call your testiness and a) I'm glad you're practicing on your own now (sans teacher, but don't take this comment as against teachers absolutely or even a little; there's just a ton of reasons to practice on one's own at some points) and b) I hope you give anapanasati your sincere interest, and self-gentleness in developing attention in the breath.

And yes, I'm going to link Daniel Goleman's breathing buddies link here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scqFHGI_nZE.

Anapanasati. This is very simple. Just attend the breath (and the pali "sabbakhaya" can mean the breath is followed at the nostril area, or it can be translated as Ven. Bodhi does, body-wide) Chris G's new log, new last line about actually thanking the mind that's trying is, to me, very sound and useful practice..

Good luck.


Hi Katy,

Just to say, I appreciated your comment on the past lives thread. As a student of the DhO, I had previously come across that thread where you displayed some "testy" behaviour.

When I got some recent "troll" accusations, I actually looked up what trolling means. And it can mean a lot of things, but I had the impression that it can often be used (i.e. against me) as a sort of catch-all for forum behaviour that is not liked in some way. I thought antagonistic was a better description in most cases, but perhaps testiness instead. It's complicated in that motivation for testiness can be complicated and multi-faceted, which in means some cases the term trolling does become a complementary description. But yes, I like testiness...

Re: practicing on own vs. teacher. There is a lot I could say here, with lots of pros and cons, but one big pro is that motivation aspect. Which I guess is what a sangha can help supplant (e.g. this thread).

I know you are a big fan of anapanasati. And I suppose I am too, as in I have been persuaded interpretations of the sutra as a complete path to liberation, and all that jazz.

But here is the thing, in terms of "technical meditation". It doesn't seem to make much difference in what I do technique wise. Instead, depending on where I am in the stages of insight (and other external) factors, it seems like I am "on" or "off". This may be a misconception or an exaggeration, but it does like a lot of progress seems out of control. I have the sense that if I went on retreat it wouldn't take that long to become "on" again, but techniques (e.g. self kindness and so on) probably wouldn't affect how long it took me for that off switch to flick.
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katy steger, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

Posts: 1745 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hiya,
This may be a misconception or an exaggeration, but it does like a lot of progress seems out of control. I have the sense that if I went on retreat it wouldn't take that long to become "on" again, but techniques (e.g. self kindness and so on) probably wouldn't affect how long it took me for that off switch to flick.
I used to think this, and in some ways I still do. However, I'd have to admit that what I do that works is I just show up for the practice and do it gently, no conceit, no expectation but to train on attention and the probably of dealing with torpor if I'm distracted or have just eaten.

I tend to loath hearing advice, "Try to practice at the same time every day", but that can help me organize my life around the practice similar to how I am dedicated to making time for eating. When I can't show up at the same time every day, then some time every day. This is the control I do have in the practice.

Otherwise, I feel the "out of control" part of meditation is like any repetitive hobby: some "gains" just come out of blue. I used to play piano a lot. I can remember how some days it just impressed me what the body seemed to play best surprisingly and without my deliberation. I think this state came to be called "flow". So I think anapanasati (and other techniques) has this too: we/I show up and repeat an effort, we/I actively develop a skill through effort and rest, effort and rest, then let one day, one moment, it does itself something insightful-flowy happens, pause, take break, then resume hobby, effort and rest, effort and rest. Anyway.

I like what you said about teacher and personal motivation.


Okay, sow what you want to see grow.
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sawfoot _, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

Posts: 507 Join Date: 3/11/13 Recent Posts
Katy,

Yeah, as Woody Allen said, 80% of the success in life is just showing up. So useful reminders, thanks.

And when we disconnect the technique from the religious context (which Daniel and Kenneth, even more so, have done), and you are disavowed of the idea that meditation can give us insights into "Ultimate Reality", then what you are left with is a self-improvement hobby. And taking this perspective is often useful, as it is at least humbling, reminding us that practice is just a practice.

Droll,

"Not buy into" could mean not using embracing and using for myself, but you are picking up on my scientific-sceptical hat meaning, and you are right to say this is missing the point, in that the point is that these systems is their pragmatic component. On googling I stumbled on a whole world of forums of people discussing these systems and their application to life (e.g. if I am an X displaying behaviour Y, and Z is an P, displaying behavour T, then how do I resolve conflict...). Still, just to add, I think the reason that I personally have never not got into it is partly based on the assumption that computational problem of managing social relations is incredibly hard (which is why we won't have AI any time soon) And most of our knowledge that we employ is developed over a lifetime of social interaction is probably not the kind of knowledge that can be conceptualised, and discussed. And humans do have a strong need to fit into social identities and find a sense of belonging that comes with that, though I often fight against that.

And yep, I agree that seeing our smallness and unspecialness in the vastness of the cosmos is humbling and oh so important, and really the point of spirituality, seeing and managing the relationship between the finite and the infinite that we find ourselves in.

Richard

I have this instinctive reaction against the notion of non-thinking (despite how nice this sometimes sounds), because I can see all sorts of arguments as to why such thinking is useful, even those self-evaluative thoughts. I suppose I see the (more proximal) goal as reducing the power that self-evaluative thoughts have in motivating behaviour (and their "stickiness"?), rather than getting rid of them. But then I can also have some appreciation for the clever tricks of the ego in fighting its relinquishment.

"thinking pretending to control what's happening" is interesting, and not at all straightforward, as it links to all sort of things about free will, consciousness and the mind. I have an inkling that a better experiential understanding of that gets to the heart of what all this is about.
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Richard Zen, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

Posts: 1624 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
sawfoot _:
I have an inkling that a better experiential understanding of that gets to the heart of what all this is about.


How about meditating as a way to watch the mental talk and watch how it makes you feel and how you feel makes you act in certain ways?

Are there mental habits that you would like to decondition? Are there mental habits you want to condition? When the mind is busy does it hurt? When it's less busy does it hurt less? What about reading and studying? If the mind wanders is it harder to remember the material? When the mind is completely focused on the material does it absorb it better?

When self-referencing decreased markedly for me it wasn't with a bang but with a whimper. The thought habit was useless and in fact impeded motivation. I was angry that it ate up so much of my life. Self-referencing for most people is mostly negative, and that extra cortisol does not make one more functional. Negative self-evaluation doesn't seem to help because it's so concerned with status and self-worth that it becomes overly negative and too much pride and puffed up behaviour in the opposite extreme is conceited.

For most people who are intellectual they will find the 7 factors of awakening just what they need. The new Analayo book describes it in better detail than I read before. Instead of being a thoughtless zombie you'll be more choosy of the thought habits you want to create and notice how much happiness is actually missed when unnecessary distraction takes over.

The more diligent with mindfulness of mind-states I'm getting the more examples of useless affect is appearing. The actual useful and purposeful thought I experience is probably 5% of the total thoughts I experience. Many of the thoughts are deep and interesting but lack purpose and value. For example my father got into a huge argument with a guy at work over how airports should be run. It may have been an interesting debate but ultimately was a waste of time. The stress was useless and none of them run airports or have any major influence so what's the point?

I feel this way about a lot of politics now. I have opinions but the identification with views and attachments is useless stress. With politics I want to vote and then just see what actually happens as opposed to following every media scrap and tete-a-tete, and then attaching to arguments and getting stressed when I have so little influence. So little of these views are a major part of my life and I want to reclaim that mental real-estate. It's valuable.
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katy steger, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: How Sawfoot Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enlightenment

Posts: 1745 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
And when we disconnect the technique from the religious context (which Daniel and Kenneth, even more so, have done), and you are disavowed of the idea that meditation can give us insights into "Ultimate Reality", then what you are left with is a self-improvement hobby. And taking this perspective is often useful, as it is at least humbling, reminding us that practice is just a practice.
It a practice. It is simple. It is for me, leveling, humbling. I would say for myself, not we or you, that what happens in this hobby is insight into what is this massive "I am" via its own observation, investigation and awareness capacities. Over time, it has become often pleasant, like laying in the grass as a kid looking at the sky, and then the jolt after thinking, "What is all of this here/me anyway?" And is also helpful with developing, yes, more skillful habits. But if the only goal was self-improvement as you say (and here I can't be sure we understand the same idea, but I visualize a section in the book store labeled that), then I was way better at that a few years back: athletic, fair to high income, progressively technical learning for specific sectors--- all of which also are insightful into themselves. With the hobby of ananpanasati, breathing meditation ~ the "What is this 'I am' anyways?" being lulled into a very slow, quiet expression of awareness, then there is also insight into itself, like the other hobbies. What is this "I am", how does it begin; how does it arise subtly; does it understand its cessation; what does it affect, what affects it; learning about itself, does "I am" vantage change; how?

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Edit:
You:
and got stuck with the technique of no-technique. Still, experienced some periods of openness and expansion.
Me: I like this. Just sitting, breathing, mind at the breath in the body or at the upper-lip nose, whatever. Simmmmmple. friendly.

Repeat, voila: "concentration" develops.

Okay, best wishes =]

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