Change or persevere?

Hugh Fox, modified 9 Years ago at 7/27/14 1:36 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 7/27/14 1:36 PM

Change or persevere?

Posts: 44 Join Date: 7/3/13 Recent Posts

A frustratingly newbie question to ask, but I may as well acknowledge my confusion and ask for some advice...

Short potted history; 7-8 years practice of various kinds, most recently with Eknath Easwaran's passage meditation, (done daily for past 18 months).  This practice involves silent repetition of spiritual passages - a form of concentration practice heavily influenced by Christian mysticism, although the founder was a hindu.

Recently, I've been drawn to noting style practice, but am loathed to abandon something I have been consistently doing with some 'progress'.

I am able to hold my attention on the subject matter for fairly prolonged periods, though not always, and enjoy various 'deep' blissed out states during the process in which light-based images can be seen behind the eyes.  Dunno if this is relevant to anything, nor have I given it much thought.

Other things that may be relevant; I am motivated to adopt the noting practice because it is rooted in a language and culture more in line with how I choose to explain things.  I am also aware that the current practice, while effective at numbing many worldly pains, (anxiety decreased for instance) is a kind of artificial 'retreat' from reality.  Philosophically speaking, I'd rather like to explore reality as it is and get used to it than hide behind a holy veil, so to speak.  Probably some JD Krishnamurti influence to thank for that outlook,

So a question - which I feel will probably be answered, 'do what you want!'; is continuing on this path likely to produce more fruits or should I consider this a mere base to establish myself in insight style practices?  Would I be jumping ship too soon?
If it needed clarifying, the goal would of course be happiness independent of conditions or however you want to phrase it. 
tom moylan, modified 9 Years ago at 7/27/14 3:13 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 7/27/14 3:13 PM

RE: Change or persevere?

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
welcome hugh,
i spent a few years digging the shit out of vajrasaatva meditation.  i got lots of bliss and lots of promises of FAST progress with the tradition that used that.  it was cool.

the reason i refocused my practice here was EXACTLY the reason you mentioned.  i don't regret that decision, nor do i feel the need to limit my practice to vipassana, or jhana or whatever.  every once in a while i do my hundred syllable mantra and the visualizations and lurve it.  so you don't have to "give it up" , you can move on and add things to your bag-o-trix.

you should also not look upon your previous practices as 'wasted time' or 'a dead end'.  they have helped you and you owe noone an explanation for having explored that territory.

i like it here.  the no (or very little) BS, the straight talk, the focus on the real and the lack of 'attainment taboos'  are its greatest strength. 


Andreas Thef, modified 9 Years ago at 7/28/14 2:42 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 7/28/14 2:42 AM

RE: Change or persevere?

Posts: 152 Join Date: 2/11/13 Recent Posts
I couldn't agree more with Tom's answer. I think practice itself underlies some kind of evolutionary process. And if you feel the urge to change or adjust your practice it may be worth a try.

You don't sound like you have a lack of patience or stamina, Hugh. It would be otherwise if you were changing your meditation for the fifth time in a row within a year. And you seem to think it through and try to see it from different angles (as your question here suggests). I think that are good signs. Another good sign for me would be if you're wish to change something comes with a great increase in motivation and after you've given the old techniqe a fair amount of time to keep up with that. Plus the method you think about changing to has a very good reputation and will probably help you to make progress and measure it accordingly (Daniel's book is great for that). And as Tom rightly said, your experience and your old method won't get lost. You can always get back to it or add something to the mix.

In the last 10 years I fundamentally changed my method twice, but after arriving at breath meditation it were mostly changes of my inner outlook that seemed to need some adjustments. Sometimes I needed a kick in the butt (which at the time came from this Ayya Khema video) and another time I needed to let go of the force I applied to my meditation. So my advice would be to let yourself inspire from different teachings but also investigate what exactly the blockages you experience are all about. Do you try to get away from negative feelings all the time and are a pleasure seeker (my problem sometimes) or does your wish to change happen after some deep thinking and investigation on how to tackle these blockages? Your statement that your current practice "is a kind of artificial 'retreat' from reality" may be an indication for the latter. You seem to look for something that not only gives you bliss in meditation but makes you more content even when in touch with the rest of reality, or as you put it 'happiness independent of conditions'. That would be a good sign, IMO.

Could you describe what exactly draws you to the noting style practice? What have you read or heard about it, that makes you think it's suitable for you?
Richard Zen, modified 9 Years ago at 7/28/14 12:25 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 7/28/14 12:15 PM

RE: Change or persevere?

Posts: 1665 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
It sounds like you have a good concentration practice.  I would continue it since concentration is a part of the insight path.  To be able to concentrate on more objects to gain insight into how stress works requires seeing things in detail.  So I would do a noting practice most of the time and then continue your concentration practice on the side to not lose the skill.  All concentration practices are conditioned so if you don't keep them up they will atrophy.  Insight is all about the 3 characteristics and dependent arising.  

You're trying to develop an equanimity and happiness that doesn't require external circumstances to be optimal (including relying on concentration states).  The concentration practice will be something you can do without clinging to it and you can use it the rest of your life if you want.  Some who develop enough insight drop the concentration practices completely and are okay with losing the skill.  They just feel they don't need it.  I personally like concentration practices because I find them fun and have a different relationship to it and in certain circumstances it's a good tool to use (7 factors of awakening).

Here's a site for discerning the types of absorption states you're achieving now.

"The importance of the jhanas"

The Jhanas are a very useful tool for those who can do them. They lead to a state of mind that is well suited to investigation of things as they are, since it is quite impossible to do them with the ego running rampant. However, if insight practice is not done immediately after leaving the Jhanic state(s), then the Jhanas are a waste of time as far as the spiritual life is concerned.

Good luck!
Hugh Fox, modified 9 Years ago at 7/28/14 3:15 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 7/28/14 3:15 PM

RE: Change or persevere?

Posts: 44 Join Date: 7/3/13 Recent Posts
thanks very much for taking the time to reply - much appreciated.

With regards what draws me to noting; I learned of it many years ago but dismissed it.  At the time I wanted something less 'worldly' - I was basically after an escapist spirituality and a cosy aesthetic to view life through.  Over the years I think my outlook has matured a little.  I re-acquainted myself with noting when I was helping my wife on a presentation about mindfulness, (she's a psychologist) and the practice was mentioned by one of the guys who uses this in a clinical setting.  The way it was described pointed towards an area that my current practice lacked and made me question my overall approach and outlook.  The teachings of PM are that the mind becomes what it dwells on, so you spend time reciting these passages to work on your 'character' and the contents of your thoughts.  I like the effects, but have a stronger draw towards properly seeing and understanding what is already there as opposed to effortful control of thoughts.  This rediscovery also coincided with me becoming a bit highly strung for a time, (a period of 2 weeks in which I had weird bouts of anger and paranoia - totally unlike me!) and I thought the noting may be therapeutic.  

I have since dabbled with the odd session and read a little more, but the only thing holding me back from adopting it as my main practice is the pride I have in my passage meditation practice.  From what you have said, I will go ahead though, and maybe just keep the PM as a shorter nightly meditation to 'keep my hand in'.

Thanks again for all the replies, they really have helped!
Jeff Grove, modified 9 Years ago at 7/29/14 2:44 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 7/29/14 2:44 AM

RE: Change or persevere?

Posts: 310 Join Date: 8/24/09 Recent Posts
What seems to be missing which will limit your progress is investigation, without investigating/contemplating there will be no progress in insight
Read some of the Buddha's sutras, get to know what they are pointing to
Contemplation of impermanence, suffering, non self, fading away, cessation, compactness, mind and matter, dependent origination and so on. A lot of techniques are great at settling the monkey mind but there must also be investigation to progress
Hugh Fox, modified 9 Years ago at 7/29/14 4:16 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 7/29/14 4:16 AM

RE: Change or persevere?

Posts: 44 Join Date: 7/3/13 Recent Posts
Hi Jeff - thanks for your input and good point.  Have hopefully got my bases covered there though.  Reading/listening to the teachings and assocated ones has been an almost daily thing for some years, although I am not professing any expertise in them!