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Different path
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6/21/14 1:24 PM
Hello, everyone.

This is my first post, and its a long one. I just found this site after someone recommended Daniels book after I recounted on reddit a profound realization I had after my morning meditation. For those interest, my post is here http://www.reddit.com/r/Buddhism/comments/28gq23/my_final_post/ .

Personally, I don't know where I am on the path. Nor do I much care. I've always known that I had a blessed life, one based on curiosity and an inner guide that never steered me wrong. I thought there is a chance that my path might be, if nothing else, interesting for some folks here.

I turned 60 this year. From an early age, when I was a pre-teen, I was always interested in spiritual matters. I read the bible at age 11 from cover to cover, even though my family did not attend church, learned TM in 11th grade (when it cost $20), and in 1972 went to the University of Colorado in Boulder, where spirtuality abound. At that time we had 13 year old masters, the Naropa Institue was just starting up, and there was a scientologist on every corner ready to give you a personality test.

Music and literature were part of my life from my earliest days. My mother never threw out a report card and after she died a few years ago, I read my nursery school evalutation. It said Bill will certainly be a musician, he sings all day.

soon after college started I was on my own. My father died when I was in my early 20's. I had dropped out of college (twice), eventually squeeking through college with a theater degree. During my college dropout years and throughout my 20's I became an itinerant musician, hitching hiking all around the country, eventually settling in Austin where I had been invited by the songwriter Townes Van Zandt, who I met when he crashed at my house in PA. I sang and played music with people like Townes (who borrowed my guitar for a month) and Lucinda Williams.

One day I saw a Robert Motherwell exhibit at a gallary in Austin and I decided that I wanted to be a painter, so I left for New York, and after arriving I had a job at the Whitney Museum, a studio on 14th street and within a few years had two one man exhibits in the east village. I met my wife and we had our first child on the way when in 1989, the art market failed and I went back to school for a few months to study 3D animation, which was just starting at the time. Within, a few months of being in the masters degree program, I dropped out when I got a job working for a 3D animation software company.

I began to write for the trade magazines on 3d and became a regular columnist for one of the major trade journals. I decided to create a computer game, and within a few months had a team together made up of some of hollywoods top production designers and art directors, a deal with Microsoft to distribute the game and with Digital domain to do the graphics. The deal fell apart when Dreamworks formed and they did an exclusive deal with Microsoft.

My experience though led me to become interested in 3d on the web. This was in 96 or 97 and I became one of the leading experts in web graphics. In 2000 at the age of 46 I started my first real company and have been an entrepreneur ever since. Today, on my 5th company, I work from home, make a nice living, live in a beautiful home over looking the hudson that is quiet and peaceful and have two grown children who are wonderful, kind, and extremely talented. I went through a divorce but now live with a wonderful woman who fills the house with plants.

Throughout my life I have had a strong sense that I was being watched out for, a feeling that manefested itself multiple times all my life which gave me the courage to do all the things I had done. A few examples:

As I recall in my post on reddit,  I was working in a record store in Boulder. a guy who was attending the newly opened Naropa institute came in to talk jazz with me. Months later I was listening to Miles Davis's In a Silent Way, and right then decided to move to Boston to attend Berklee School of Music as a jazz trumpet major. The fact that I hadn't played trumpet since 5th grade didn't seem to matter to me. I packed up my belongings the next day and drove to Boston. I arrived in Cambridge, not knowing anyone and down to my last few dollars. when the guy I met in boulder came walking by. He asked me if I had a place to stay, and he put me up at his place. That night he introduced me to Glenn Gould's version of the Bach Goldberg Variations which would have a profound effect on my life. Years later, the Goldberg Variations would be the subject of my second one man show in the east village.

I ended up dropping out of Berklee (more on this in a bit) and gave up playing trumpet to focus on guitar.

While in my 3rd and final school, I did a semester in London and met a guy named Les Paisly who was this giant long haired crazy man who was in his 50's who taught me sea shanties. I became a part of the london folk scene and on my last day, they rented out a club and all the musicians came to play and wish me a farewell and the entire evening was recorded. I stil have those tapes.

After school I decided I wanted to be Henry Miller. My college roomate was teaching in France and I wrote him saying I was coming.  It was months later before I left and I wasn't even sure he was still living at the same address. I got to Paris and on a train to Normandy where my roomate was teaching. A woman passed me on the train car and asked me something in French, I told here I didn't speak French and she sat down and we chatted in English. I told her I was off to see my friend Peter. Not only did she know Peter, she was going to a party with him later that night. She took me to this stone chateau where I opened the door to see my roommate a long wooden table filled with wine bottles, and a roaring fire and a party of 14 people. That was my arrival in France.

And when I went to Austin and arrived in the town with $20 and my guitar case, I had been told I would have a place to stay with a friend of a friend. I called the friend and she let me know she had just had a baby and I couldn't stay there. I remembered I once knew a guy who went to Austin for grad school, I made my way to the student barracks and wandered around because I couldn't rememember my friends name. By chance I saw his name on a door , knocked and there was the wife of my friend. who offered to put me up. She had just put their name on the door that day.

In school, my music teacher introduced me to the music and philosophy of John Cage which was my introduction to zen. Cage came to lecture and I was in the orchestra that performed one of his pieces based on Therou's drawings. That night I got drunk with Cage, and his philosophy would be monumental to me. I began listening to everything as if it where music being played, not differentiating between the sounds or what was making them.

Once in London, I was walking down the street in this state of listening to everythiing as music, when I turned the corner to see a taxi cab smashed into a light post, steam billowing from the hood. No one was around, not people, no driver, no police. Just this scene that I thought was there just for me.

In my 30's I began studying and sitting zen seriously. I did all day sits and would spend hours in the cushion. I also became interested in the early christian meditators and had some incredibly profound experiences that I could not explain other than they were mystical to say the least. I never joined a sangha, went on a retreat, or felt the need to seek out a teacher. I have always been incredibly sceptical of all teachers and have always found everything out by my own research and a total trust in my gut. In every aspect of my life I have been self taught: writing, art, music, and meditation.

Eventually I became disenchanted with zen and in my late 40's stopped meditating completely. I focused on my children who I now played music with, and my growing businesses.

I wrote a piece of music in honor of John Cage and was going to perform it in a week. My mother in law, who was a musician herself, said, why don't you invite Cage? I said, I would never dream of it and I wouldn't even know where to find him. She said, I bet he is in the musicians union directory. And he was! He was living a few blocks from where i was perfoming the piece. I wrote him a letter, slipped it under the lobby door and started heading up the street. Coming down the street was John Cage! I invited him to come, and he did. A month later he was dead.

I continued to play music and took some lessons with Dave Van Ronk, who the recent Coen Brothers film was loosely based on. $35 got you an hour lesson and an hour of stories about Bob Dylan and Ramblin' Jack Elliot (an early hero).

Then in my 50's I started playing trumpet again, something I was always sorry I gave up. In a few years, I had advanced to the point where I was asked to perform jazz with a group in Manhattan and I got to fullfill a life long dream of playing jazz in a manhattan night club. Right after that, I was able to give up the trumpet completely, and I stopped.

Turning 60, I revivied my practice and started sititng again, after finding Theravada Buddhism, which felt like coming home to me, in a big way. As I recount in my post on reddit, after my regular meditation session I was sitting, drinking coffee on my front porch looking at the serene beauty of everything around me and I was suddenly hit with a incredibly powerful realization: I had been here before. Vague memories of past lives where apparent to me and I suddenly knew with out doubt that everything the Buddha had said was true. I saw it clearly and I saw that I had done something right, call it merit or what have you, in a past life that had allowed me to live this incredible life, free of striving but full of adventure and experiences.

I just knew it.

As always I'm incredibly sceptical of teachers and teachings, perfering to find out for myself.  I've added a few tricks to my bag, courtesy of Daniel's book, especially Noting which I knew nothing about, but has already had profound effects on my meditation.

I don't know what stage I'm at. I don't care what stage I'm at. I know I have lived a full blessful life where everything unfolded for me, guardian angels (that is the only way I can describe them) have always appeared just when I needed them, and I have a profound sense of wonder and gratitude for my life and the people in it.

I don't know why I was given this life, but I was. And I'm extemely thankful. Today I meditate, I read the Pali canon, and I have a deep and abiding sense of happiness, which I've always basically had. I don't think I've been depressed a day in my life. Not that  I haven't had my days of extreme stress.

And I'm happy to be here.

Sorry for the length.

RE: Different path
Answer
6/21/14 1:55 PM as a reply to deleted deleted.
Hi Bill,
Welcome to the DhO.
What is your practice these days. What do you do when you say you 'meditate'? If you wish to explore maps and stages, phenomenological descriptions of practice usually are the way to go around here. As interesting as your life has seemingly been, what exactly happens in your practice when you practice? 

Nick

RE: Different path
Answer
6/21/14 6:25 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Hi Nick,

I follow the breath. I have a fairly high degree of concentration, I have no problem staying with the breath. Eventually my breath settles down and almost seems to stop completely, at that point, I bring my focus to what Zen calls the hara.  And I stay there. The way I describe it is that I feel like a rock must feel. Pure awareness, no sense of self. I've had experiences where the hara area seems almost like a button I can press. Once when I was meditating in a hotel room in Montreal, I decided to press the button. It was like a bolt of lightning shoot up my spine to my brain. The effect was very much like LSD, and I ended up walking around Montreal experiencing very hightened sense of colors, my hands were sweating and I ended up going back to the hotel and drinking beer until I settled down .

But mostly it is the feeling like I'm a rock and it feels like pure awareness.

I recently started Noting as outlined in Daniels book and that was pretty powerful experience. I had no difficulty doing it and it was really an interesting experience. Most of my experiences of insight seem to happen off the cushion, where I'll be over taken with a feeling or idea, often coming to me full blown. I've actually developed companies that just appeared to me, fully formed, after one of these experiences. I call them my visions and they happen to me every few years. Usually when I'm doing something else like sitting on the deck looking at the Hudson roll by. I'll get a fully formed vision of something, that comes out of no where and, as I say, is fully formed and quite detailed.

Once when I was driving down the west side highway, I had a fully formed vision of a service, like facebook, that would document forever a persons life, like a memorial page, but tied to all sorts of things. I had a name and a business model and it came to me in an instant. That night I came home and received a phone call that my best friend had just died of heart attack at age 50. I explored that idea for a number of years, but eventually abandoned it because I didn't think I could compete with facebook. But that was the experience.

So that has been my practice so far.

I usually sit about 40 minutes a couple of times a day but I'm just starting back up. When I was heavily into zen I would sit for hours at a time, sometimes all day, and I ran a little meditation group that met once a week where we do zazen for 3 30 minute sessions interspersed with 10 minutes of walking meditation.

RE: Different path
Answer
6/21/14 6:21 PM as a reply to deleted deleted.
Bill, I saw your thread on Reddit and it was really inspiring. It's great to see you posting here and I enjoyed your autobiographical self-intro. Keep up the noting and let us know what happens! 

RE: Different path
Answer
6/21/14 6:30 PM as a reply to Matthew.
Thanks Matthew. Is it just me or is this site particularly slow. My browser hangs a lot trying to access it or post.

RE: Different path
Answer
6/21/14 6:43 PM as a reply to deleted deleted.
Bill McCloskey:
Hi Nick,

I follow the breath. I have a fairly high degree of concentration, I have no problem staying with the breath. Eventually my breath settles down and almost seems to stop completely, at that point, I bring my focus to what Zen calls the hara.  And I stay there. The way I describe it is that I feel like a rock must feel. Pure awareness, no sense of self. I've had experiences where the hara area seems almost like a button I can press. Once when I was meditating in a hotel room in Montreal, I decided to press the button. It was like a bolt of lightning shoot up my spine to my brain. The effect was very much like LSD, and I ended up walking around Montreal experiencing very hightened sense of colors, my hands were sweating and I ended up going back to the hotel and drinking beer until I settled down .

Sounds like hitting the 4th nana, the Arising and Passing Away, using hard jhana as a staging point. That's with the maps of the Theravada, anyway. 

RE: Different path
Answer
6/21/14 6:51 PM as a reply to Eric M W.
Thank you Eric. Now, I'm going to have to look all that up. emoticon