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So much free time...
Answer
5/25/14 4:30 PM
Hi folks, I will have so much free time in the next couple of years and I'm very weary of spending it wisely. I'm interested to know how others would spend this time, particularly in relation to concentration practice. Any input is welcome and appreciated.

Current Goal: AC + access to the Jhanas as a precursor to insight practice. I'm hoping for a very strong foundation in concentration as opposed to getting 1st jhana and diving over to vipassana.

Availability: Apart from Mon+Tue mornings I have the entire week free. Usually I have at least 8 Hours free each day and since I've spent several years inconsistently meditating I'm concerned about not spending the time effectively. I've never been on a retreat but will be going to the Gaia House in Oct for 8 nights.

Object: After seeing a post by Ian And about Sadhu Mouni and his book on concentration I have taken to using the second hand of a clock as my focus or sometimes just the ticking of the clock. I've never been akin with focusing on the breath at all, sadly, and I'm hoping this isn't too much of a problem.

So 3 possibly silly questions:
1. I have two conflicting ideas in my mind before meditating. I have this idea of single pointed focus to the exclusion of thoughts, ie push the thoughts away/ ignore the thoughts / pay no attention to them and just keep focusing on the object or as daniel says stick to your object like a rabid dog until AC. And then on the other hand theres this idea of allowing the mind to relax to its natural state, very effortlessly, very much like your doing nothing. I prefer the former, if the two are actually exclusive. o.O

2. Bearing in mind the concept of quality over quantity, how would you guys spend 8 to 12 hours a day on the road to jhana? Would you sit for most of those hours and allow the mind to settle or have, say, 15 minutes per hour dedicated to quality practice and then continue the day as normal? Maybe something else.

3. My only bad habit, that may not be conducive to the practice, is playing a couple of hours gaming with friends some nights or if not watching an hour of TV.  If it means quicker progress I am willing to give up such things as I've done before. Is that advisable?

Not the most advanced questions, but some stuff I wanted ironing out that didn't seem clear from books I've read. I have a great opportunity to get started on the path at the young age of 22 and I'm really grateful, just need to do it right emoticon

Thanks for anything.
Ellis

RE: So much free time...
Answer
5/25/14 11:32 PM as a reply to Calm Abider.
Hey there,

I have two conflicting ideas in my mind before meditating. I have this idea of single pointed focus to the exclusion of thoughts, ie push the thoughts away/ ignore the thoughts / pay no attention to them and just keep focusing on the object or as daniel says stick to your object like a rabid dog until AC. And then on the other hand theres this idea of allowing the mind to relax to its natural state, very effortlessly, very much like your doing nothing. I prefer the former, if the two are actually exclusive. o.O


I've got some good tips for you on this specifically! First of all, if you're pushing thoughts away, that means you're focusing on them and not the object of meditation. The best thing you can do is simply not worry about thoughts at all. They will come and go quite a lot, and if you're trying to push them away, you're never going to spend any time observing the object of meditation. Think of it like this, how much "concentration" do you need to watch television? Have you ever had someone get mad at you because you were so engrossed in a TV show you didn't even realize they were talking to you? This is essentially what you're trying to do with jhana. You don't have to struggle with thoughts while watching TV, you just do it and you get drawn in. Later on you might say to yourself, "wow, I was really zoned out there..." lol.

In terms of sticking to the object, I have a weird analogy that might give you a good picture of how to do it. Imagine you're a train robber and you have this little cart you're sitting on. The cart is perfectly still and the train is going by you very quickly. This train is the object of your meditation, and you somehow have to get your little cart up to the speed of the train to stay with it. It'd probably be a bad idea to try jumping onto the train because it would just run you over - this is what happens if you just bear down and CONCENTRATE. Instead, you're going to shoot grapples at the train and let it slowly bring you up to speed. The first grapple you shoot will break pretty quickly, but hey, now you're moving the tiniest little bit. So you shoot another one, and it breaks right away again, but you're moving a little more. Now, a common thing to do is to scold yourself. "Why can't I just concentrate? It shouldn't be this hard!" But you ARE concentrating with each little moment you're on the object. Trying to stop your thoughts or getting frustrated with your efforts is a bit like trying to figure out why the grapple broke. If you start investigating the broken grapples, you'll lose the little bit of speed you already got and have to start over. So the best thing you can do is just allow distractions to happen and, whenever you can, shoot a grapple out to the meditation object and let your awareness speed up a little bit. Nothing with get you into jhana faster than being relaxed and accepting of distractions. The less you're worried about being distracted, the less distracting those distractions will be. This includes being excited as well, excitement isn't a distraction - trying not to be excited IS a distraction.

Also, It's quite possible to do jhana with a stream of thoughts running through your head. It's usually called "soft" jhana, and it's a good stepping stone to "hard" jhana because you can use the jhana factors as your object of concentration. Don't worry too much about the levels of concentration and whatever, I can tell you I've never had the same jhana meditation twice. Your concentration and relaxation will always be at different levels, so if you go in with the mindset, each time, of allowing the process to unfold how it will, you'll be much better off.

As to the object to use, my personal recommendation would be full body awareness. I've always used this and I think it makes the most sense because the first two jhanas are very physical. I usually spend some time "breathing into" different body parts until I have the whole whole body buzzing with awareness, then I just relax and let the buzzing turn into bliss. This method is also more active - shifting body parts each breath - so you're less likely to get bored with it.

If you are just starting out, counting can be helpful. see if you can get to 100 (or even 10) without forgetting which number you're on.

2. Bearing in mind the concept of quality over quantity, how would you guys spend 8 to 12 hours a day on the road to jhana? Would you sit for most of those hours and allow the mind to settle or have, say, 15 minutes per hour dedicated to quality practice and then continue the day as normal? Maybe something else.


You'll probably want to get up pretty frequently if you haven't sat a lot before. It's not exactly healthy to sit for 8 hours anyway, haha. Up to you though. I generally find that I need to sit completely still, so that's a skill you may need to learn and it can be hard to do. As with everything, work your way up to it.

When I started meditating, I only did about 10 minutes a day and worked my way up to about 30. Did that for about 5 months and the jhanas started appearing. It may be a good idea to work your way up over time. If you want to do lots of meditation right away, why not try walking or doing something physical and simply try to "stay present". This is a concentration exercise, but it doesn't require quite so much dedication as you can do it while enjoying some activity. It'll also lead into insight practice later since you'll need to work on that throughout the day to get good results.

Anyway, this is a novel so I'll shut up now, haha. I hope it helps. emoticon

RE: So much free time...
Answer
5/26/14 5:10 PM as a reply to Calm Abider.
  1. Why not try both personally and see what benifits you? I'd give each one a week and see what happens...or you may wish to split an hour of meditation up and do the rabid dog for 50 minutes and 10 minutes of doing nothing (very skillfully of course) or whatever split you think of. Play with it a bit and make notes and tell us what happens.
  2. If you have time for a stay at home retreat do so. Search the threads for home retreat ideas.Maybe go on as many retreats as possible. Don't burn out...watch yourself and find a ballance.
  3. Again...balance....do a week retreat and then try taking a week of say just twice a day meditations....I think the content of what you are doing is more important than the medium...are you watching a nice nova program or a slasher flick? Does going on a killing spree in a game affect your practice? Or are you playing settlers of catan? See what happens. Find the balance that works for you.
Good luck,
~D

RE: So much free time...
Answer
5/26/14 10:00 PM as a reply to Calm Abider.
How is it possible that you managed to have so much free time in life?

RE: So much free time...
Answer
5/27/14 3:06 PM as a reply to Calm Abider.
Calm Abider:

3. My only bad habit, that may not be conducive to the practice, is playing a couple of hours gaming with friends some nights or if not watching an hour of TV.  If it means quicker progress I am willing to give up such things as I've done before. Is that advisable?

I have a great opportunity to get started on the path at the young age of 22 and I'm really grateful, just need to do it right emoticon

Thanks for anything.
Ellis
Dude, you think hanging out with your friends and having fun is a bad habit? WTF! Spending 12 hours a day meditating and not socialising and not having a outlet for stress relief sounds like a recipe for mental illness to me.

You are 22 and have a great opportunity to do a lot of things...There is a big world out there. Though apparently Goran on this forum has refuted its existence, so who knows...

RE: So much free time...
Answer
6/6/14 10:54 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:

Dude, you think hanging out with your friends and having fun is a bad habit? WTF! Spending 12 hours a day meditating and not socialising and not having a outlet for stress relief sounds like a recipe for mental illness to me.


In general this is true. However there appears a stage on the path, like I currently am where my appetite for social interaction is limited because of my path.

Invariably all social interaction veers to human drama, and all drama begins with human frailty. Because of the path I am acutely aware of the ways in which the drama in any conversation is contributed to by the world view of the speaker.

Even when I stay silent and let the speaker vent; eventually I am asked to contribute my views. Bland comments like "I understand", or "it'll get better soon" don't work well for me or the listener. So I need to either explain reality as I see it, or give them a recipe for getting out of the situation. I either sound like an uncaring person for pointing their flaws or a Guru, and I seem to have turned a lot of my friends clingy or needy or they don't talk to me as much. They want to bring me their problems to solve, and I am not exactly sure how to react.

It is said that if you click the first link on any random Wikipedia page and continue to click the first link thereon, you will end up on the page for Philosophy. It's the same with my conversations, I can't seem to hold too many conversations where Philosophy doesn't make a sneak appearance.

I don't have too many simple conversations anymore. 

Keeping to myself isn't a problem, again because of my path, I am never lonely or needy. So that's what happens. The path drives me to social seclusion lest I drive my people nuts with pointing out their flaws.

RE: So much free time...
Answer
6/7/14 12:00 PM as a reply to Che.
Chee Ni:
sawfoot _:

Dude, you think hanging out with your friends and having fun is a bad habit? WTF! Spending 12 hours a day meditating and not socialising and not having a outlet for stress relief sounds like a recipe for mental illness to me.


In general this is true. However there appears a stage on the path, like I currently am where my appetite for social interaction is limited because of my path.

Invariably all social interaction veers to human drama, and all drama begins with human frailty. Because of the path I am acutely aware of the ways in which the drama in any conversation is contributed to by the world view of the speaker.

Even when I stay silent and let the speaker vent; eventually I am asked to contribute my views. Bland comments like "I understand", or "it'll get better soon" don't work well for me or the listener. So I need to either explain reality as I see it, or give them a recipe for getting out of the situation. I either sound like an uncaring person for pointing their flaws or a Guru, and I seem to have turned a lot of my friends clingy or needy or they don't talk to me as much. They want to bring me their problems to solve, and I am not exactly sure how to react.

It is said that if you click the first link on any random Wikipedia page and continue to click the first link thereon, you will end up on the page for Philosophy. It's the same with my conversations, I can't seem to hold too many conversations where Philosophy doesn't make a sneak appearance.

I don't have too many simple conversations anymore. 

Keeping to myself isn't a problem, again because of my path, I am never lonely or needy. So that's what happens. The path drives me to social seclusion lest I drive my people nuts with pointing out their flaws.

I can sort of understand what you are talking about, in that heightened awareness of motivations and world views, but my response is: isn't this a rather one sided view of human interactions? And a negative one?

Maybe I am not as wise and guru like as you, so i don't get so many people coming to me looking fo advice, but instead, a significant proportion of the social interactions I have (at least with friends) are conditioned on shared pleasure in each others's company. You know, trying to make each other laugh, sharing enjoyable experiences together, that sort of thing. So social interactions can be difficult, but they can also be pretty amazing! And so often desire for social inclusion seems to be driven by excessive focus on the negative aspects of social interactions, and insufficient appreciation for the positive aspects (or ability to harnass those positive aspects). And is it the path (can't help but notice you have used that word 4 times), or is it just your personality (right now, whatever personality is, given personality is a fluxing thing)?