Message Boards Message Boards

Miscellaneous

Introduction - First Post

Toggle
Introduction - First Post
Answer
5/18/14 9:14 PM
I have been a lurker for a while.  I want to introduce myself and briefly describe my practice so if I post or comment it won't seem like I dropped out of the sky from nowhere.  For most of my life, I have lived in the southern U.S. in areas with no Buddhist or meditation centers.  Basically, there are no local resources whatsoever.  I grew up in north Alabama and currently live in Mississippi.  I have a DIY insight practice that I have developed by reading and visiting sites like the DhO.  Like many of you here, I learn from Shinzen Young and U. Culadasa.  My practice has been greatly influenced by the MCTB.  The fact that Daniel has lived in the south has been helpful- at least I imagine he can relate to my predicament.

I floundered around for years feeling the call to meditation but having no idea what to do.  In 2001, I located a very small zen group and practiced zazen for about 18 months. However, I never developed a daily practice and it went nowhere.  I moved to take a job and my practice withered further.  In 2012, I resolved to begin again and started using the Headspace App.  I knew I just needed to "make a habit" out of meditation like one does an exercise routine.  The app helped.  For 3 months I did 20 minutes of guided meditation a day.  Then I added a second, non-guided 20 minutes in the evenings.  After approximately 6 months, my concentration became stable enough that I accidentally fell into the first jhana.  I actually had no idea what the experience was - I thought I was having a seizure or a stroke - ha! (that is embarrassing). That is when I started a massive online search for answers and when I found the MCTB.   When I figured out what a "jhana" was I decided to "do" it again.  Of course I couldn't, and after a couple of weeks I gave up.  That was all it took.

Now I have a basic mindfulness practice with noting, etc. and have also continued with concentration practice.  I spend an hour or two on the cushion each day. However, my intention on a daily basis is to experience every moment.   I have recently found a retreat center about 150 miles away and participate in periodic weekend retreats.   I also participate in Shinzen's telephonic weekend retreats.   No time to do longer retreats right now.  Nevertheless, I know I'm making progress.  You all inspire me and remind me that I'm not crazy (or at least confirm that I'm not the only crazy one!).  

Kim

RE: Introduction - First Post
Answer
5/18/14 11:22 PM as a reply to Kim Lentz.
Welcome to the Dho
~D

RE: Introduction - First Post
Answer
5/19/14 11:48 PM as a reply to Kim Lentz.
Hi Kim,

Welcome to the DhO.

Kim Lentz:
I learn from Shinzen Young and U. Culadasa.  My practice has been greatly influenced by the MCTB.  The fact that Daniel has lived in the south has been helpful- at least I imagine he can relate to my predicament.

There are worse meditation instructors to learn from. These are among the best. Culadasa has written some of the best instruction that anyone can follow. Very accessable information. 

Kim Lentz:

I floundered around for years feeling the call to meditation but having no idea what to do.
 
That's a common experience for many. While the reasons for getting on with a practice can vary depending upon the individual, I personally didn't begin my practice until I met someone who could explain it to me and who knew more about it from personal practice. The literature that I had available to me at that time was a bit too vague and uncertain. Once I had someone of whom I could ask questions and receive clarification, things progressed much smoother. And establishing a practice was a natural occurrence.

Kim Lentz:

I knew I just needed to "make a habit" out of meditation like one does an exercise routine.

Good observation! Sometimes, easier said than done. Especially when you have to work though negative thoughts telling you to skip today's meditation session. The way to overcome this is to develop your own motivational reason for wanting to establish and maintain a practice as that will keep you from making too many exceptions. For me, early on, it was the thought that my instructor at the time mentioned: that meditation helps one to "burn up karma." Which I took at the time to mean negative karma. That was enough motiviation to keep me on the straight and narrow with regard to daily practice. You need to find something like that, if you haven't already done so.

One way to develop a motivational reason is to learn more about how this practice came into being and what it can be used for. If you have a philosophical mind, looking into the reasons that Gotama had for wanting to learn more about observing his life and its purpose and how he could eliminate dukkha from his experience may help. Understanding his description of the four noble truths and confirming this within your own personal understanding can become a motivational factor. Just one of many. Find something and become inspired by its practice.

One book that may help with this is Walpola Rahula's What The Buddha Taught. If you search for it, it can be found as a free download in PDF format.

Kim Lentz:

After approximately 6 months, my concentration became stable enough that I accidentally fell into the first jhana.  I actually had no idea what the experience was - I thought I was having a seizure or a stroke - ha! (that is embarrassing). That is when I started a massive online search for answers and when I found the MCTB.   When I figured out what a "jhana" was I decided to "do" it again.  Of course I couldn't, and after a couple of weeks I gave up.  That was all it took.

Dhyana meditation can be tricky to figure out. But not impossible. Once you realize what the trigger points are for sending your meditation into what is classically described as "jhana" meditation, then you are on your way to mastering the practice.

Dhyana meditation is designed to help one begin to develop their concentration using samatha techniques. Samatha just means "calm" or "calming meditation." What you discovered by accident was a way to calm the mind while at the same time experience a soothing sensation that helped the mind to go deeper into the calm. That's about as simply as this process can be explained. There are any number of methods for bringing on that calming sensation. You just have to find one that works for you!

Kim Lentz:

Now I have a basic mindfulness practice with noting, etc. and have also continued with concentration practice. I spend an hour or two on the cushion each day. However, my intention on a daily basis is to experience every moment.  

One to two hours a day is plenty of time to develop your practice. Combine that with regular sutta reading and contemplation from the translated discourses of the Pali Canon, and you should be on solid ground with your practice. Reading the discourses can help you to develop your own practice at a gradual rate as you begin to relate to what the discourses are teaching you. It can assist in giving direction to your practice. Also, it can help to have someone guiding you in this practice so that you can make steady progress. Yet, without having an actual guide, reading the suttas is a good replacement because you can always ask questions online when you don't fully comprehend the points a discourse is making. Have fun, and stay true.

In peace,
Ian

RE: Introduction - First Post
Answer
5/19/14 10:14 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Hello Ian And,

No need to answer; but are you a monk if not a pali scholar? When I read you and your advice bro, there is a flavour that comes forth in that manner. I'll have a look at that book you mentioned above, see if I can get motivated to read a bit again.

Kind Regards, from neem

RE: Introduction - First Post
Answer
5/20/14 12:03 AM as a reply to Zyndo Zyhion.
Neem Nyima:
Hello Ian And,

...but are you a monk if not a pali scholar? When I read you and your advice bro, there is a flavour that comes forth in that manner.

Hello Neem,

In a manner of speaking, I never stopped being a monastic once I left the religious order of which I had been a member. It's one of those "you can take the man out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the man" type things. I live a secluded lifestyle, if that's what you are asking. And, yes, I consider myself living under a monasitc discipline. 

Also, I have studied this material from a scholarly/practitioner point of view, similar to some of my favorite writers on the subject (like Analayo, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Nyanaponika Thera, K. Nanananda, Narada Thera, and Henepola Gunaratana to name a few). I have experienced the same insights that these writers have discovered and written about.

Take care and stay true,
Ian