At a loss for words...

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Elizabeth P, modified 6 Years ago.

At a loss for words...

Posts: 75 Join Date: 5/10/14 Recent Posts
I’ve occasionally attempted practice logs but find it difficult to capture my experience in words. So I probably won’t write much about my meditations or what comes of them.

However sometimes I find passages with images that inspire my practice. Or ones in which someone has somehow found words to describe what I cannot. I thought I might share some of these here.

I found this today. The image draws me into the silence.

When you practice, rest in the experience of thoughts, sensations and feelings, using the breath or awareness itself as a place to rest. Whenever you are carried away, return and rest. During practice sessions regard thoughts, sensations and feelings as leaves swirling in the wind as you walk under the clear blue sky of an autumn day. When you do not engage them, you become aware of a silence — a silence that is always there, even in your darkest moments, a silence that includes everything and cannot be fathomed, a silence that allows you to listen to your heart, your body and your mind in a way you did not know was possible. In that silence awareness is clear and vivid. You just know, and a quiet confidence is born. How do you find your way? In silence.

McLeod, Ken I. (2014-04-21). Reflections on Silver River: Tokme Zongpo's Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva (pp. 39-40). Unfettered Mind. Kindle Edition.
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Elizabeth P, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: At a loss for words...

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Today I was at my Tai Chi teacher’s house. Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time watching him make dough.  What it’s for varies, jaozi (dumplings), baozi  (filled buns), green onion pancakes, shaobin (sesame pockets) and more.  It all starts with dumping a bunch of flour into a bowl. Sometimes adding a bit of something (yeast, oil …) then bit by bit adding water and working it through the flour by hand until it becomes a ball ready to be kneaded.
 
That experience really brings this description of jhana alive for me.
 
[FIRST JHANA]
 
"There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters and remains in the first jhana: rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal.
 
"Just as if a skilled bathman or bathman's apprentice would pour bath powder into a brass basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again and again with water, so that his ball of bath powder — saturated, moisture-laden, permeated within and without — would nevertheless not drip; even so, the monk permeates, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal…
 
— AN 5.28  from http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sacca/sacca4/samma-samadhi/jhana.html
 
I think it is an effective image for me because I have such a visceral sense of watching and making dough.
 
One thing I take from it is the attentive and patient approach. As I relax with my breath it can start to carry a sense of ease and pleasure. I am just patiently trying to spread my breath bit by bit throughout my whole body. There is a quiet joy in just working with it. Sometimes jhana happens sometimes it doesn’t. I try to have the same good humor about that as I do about my attempts to create bread and dumplings on my own.  
 
 
 
 
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Jenny, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: At a loss for words...

Posts: 566 Join Date: 7/28/13 Recent Posts
These are beautiful, Elizabeth. I do hope you'll keep it up. 
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Elizabeth P, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: At a loss for words...

Posts: 75 Join Date: 5/10/14 Recent Posts
Thanks Jenny,  Here is the next one.  I love both the evocation of the experience of reading a book and reminder that I participate even when I 'think' I am only observing or sensing. 


You are a participating observer of these words. Light from a window or lamp reflects off a line of printed text, generates an image on your retinas, which flashes along optic nerves to neurons in the brain to appear as an intelligible phrase or sentence. Whether the words intrigue, irritate, or bore you, this very experience is where the path to freedom begins. We tend not to see this. For “ordinary men are deluded,” remarked the twelfth-century Korean Zen teacher Chinul:

When donning clothes they only understand that they are donning clothes; when eating they only understand that they are eating; in all their activities they are deceived by appearances. Hence they use the sublime functioning of the mind every day but do not realize it; it is right before their eyes but they are not aware of it.

In taking the everyday details of life for granted, we fail to appreciate the extraordinary fact that we are conscious at all. Like a fish that spends its time swimming through the oceans in search of water, we assume the deepest truths to reside in some transcendent realm beyond the mundane clutter of daily existence. But for Chinul “the sublime essence of nirvana is complete in everyone.” In keeping with Zen tradition, he is not proclaiming an abstract truth. Here and now, he insists, Buddha’s pristine awareness quivers through the fingers that feel the texture of this book, the eyes that behold these words, the thoughts that puzzle over their meaning.

Batchelor, Stephen (2005-06-07). Living with the Devil (pp. 103-104). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
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Jenny, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: At a loss for words...

Posts: 566 Join Date: 7/28/13 Recent Posts
Nice! I'm curious about your practice, although I have seen a bit from your posts about kasina. If and when you are inclined, I'd love to hear when you started practicng, how you practice, influences, goals/results so far. Feel free to PM me if, too, if that works better for you.
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Elizabeth P, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: At a loss for words...

Posts: 75 Join Date: 5/10/14 Recent Posts
Jenny:
Nice! I'm curious about your practice, although I have seen a bit from your posts about kasina. If and when you are inclined, I'd love to hear when you started practicng, how you practice, influences, goals/results so far. Feel free to PM me if, too, if that works better for you.

I started exploring practical dharma a couple of years ago. I was looking for something to add to my 30+ years of practice in metaphysical and magickal traditions and 8+ years practice of TaiChi & QiGong because there was a sense of ‘almost but not quite done’ and an inability to truly ‘surrender the illusion of separation’ and I wanted to find a way across that threshold.

I found MCTB and spent far too many months of trying to understand it and figure out how my experience fit against the maps. Finally I gave up and took Daniel’s advice to just do the experiment for myself. What I did was a combination of concentration – breath as an object switching to nimitta if one happened and insight - mostly without noting because verbalization was just too annoying. Off cushion, I focused on staying with whatever was happening at that moment without pushing it away or trying to hold on. Influences: MCTB, DhO, PIM, Thanissaro, Analayo, Joko Beck, Ajahn Brahm, and others.

I was surprised when something happened that seemed to fit Daniel’s description of a cessation and a shift in perception. It was good but also unexpectedly odd. For a time I backed off, focused on other parts of my practice, read or reread a lot ( adding Awake Network and KFD archives into the mix). After recovering a bit of equilibrium, I came back around for another dose. Doing pretty much the same experiment as before, plus adding in some noting (a bit on my own plus some ping pong style via Buddha Pong) and also trying to “see” what the Dzogzen folks (Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and Sam Harris) were pointing to.

Again, there was a specific ‘blip’ followed by an even bigger and more persistent shift in perception. Moment to moment experience was wonderful, marvelously strange, sometimes bewildering and even occasionally quite disconcerting. That was the point when I reached out for help. (Kenneth Folk and Adyashanti). I have managed to get through the “can I function?” phase and am now in more of a just be with whatever is and sometimes go exploring phase. Current goal: just explore and discover what it is to live whatever this is.....

More specifically, I am currently trying to really appreciate each of the jhanas and ñanas and get a better feel for the ways they relate to each other. Hence, using both the breath and fire kasina as objects for concentration and taking that into insight - trying to detail what I am experiencing and how the jhanas are both similar and different with the different objects. Or hanging out in a ñana and really trying to sense even more details of what I am experiencing and the sensations that are there. I’m also doing Adya’s current 4 month course and the exercises / meditations associated with that.
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Elizabeth P, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: At a loss for words...

Posts: 75 Join Date: 5/10/14 Recent Posts
Inspired by Mathias’ thread
and Psi's three thinking modes


Psi:

Anyway, yes there are different mind modes, the silent running mode, the directed thinking mode, and the discursive thinking mode.



THE SILENCE
Though the air is full of singing
my head is loud
with the labor of words.

Though the season is rich
with fruit, my tongue
hungers for the sweet of speech.

Though the beech is golden
I cannot stand beside it mute,
but must say

“It is golden,” while the leaves
stir and fall with a sound
that is not a name.

It is in the silence
that my hope is, and my aim.
A song whose lines

I cannot make or sing
sounds men’s silence
like a root. Let my say

and not mourn: the world
lives in the death of speech
and sings there.

Berry, Wendell (2012-04-01). New Collected Poems (p. 181). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.


"Silent running mode" is incredibly delightful. When I am there even the most ordinary thing can be wondrous. Sensations can take on incredible depth and complexity. There is an incredible focus when interacting with others.

Extended periods of silent running mode have made a walk of a couple of blocks to go get breakfast into an hours long adventure of almost magical exploration and delight. It has also made a simple drive home from work into a wonderful extended detour via back roads I didn’t know were there. That can be amazingly fun when time is flexible. It has not been quite as wonderful, at least not in retrospect, when it isn’t, for example when I’ve trying to make flights and connections in airports... emoticon

I definitely would prefer not to be in discursive thinking mode 100% of the time. But, I am not certain I want to be in silent running mode 100% of the time instead. There are times when each of the modes is useful. For example, discursive thinking mode can actually make a long drive seem much shorter. Knowing the stories are just stories I can relax and enjoy just them. Using both silent running mode and directed thinking together seems helpful with problem solving.

Also, in my experience, reifying any state, no matter how wonderful, has been counterproductive. Getting to a different state, is in part dependent on my being willing to just be ok with whatever is. Craving silent running mode and being averse to thinking hasn’t helped me avoid discursive thinking. I have limited ability to decide which state I will be in, so most of the time I have to just deal with whatever is and let that be ok. That said, focusing on what is happening in the moment and on the senses while letting the thoughts that are present just be thoughts and not problems has helped to access silent running mode. Concentration and insight meditations have definitely been incredibly useful as well. The most extended and stretches of time I have had in silent running mode have been during what was probably review after a path. 
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Elizabeth P, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: At a loss for words...

Posts: 75 Join Date: 5/10/14 Recent Posts
This is just a short bit of Milarepa's Song to Lady Paldarboom translated by Ken McLeod.

He sang this song with four examples and five points about meditation and mind practice:

Take the sky as an example,
Practice without any sense of limit or position.

To bring out mind,
Practice without any doubt or hesitation.

Ah, Treasured Lord,
Perfect expression of awakened form,

I was happy practicing with the sky,
But a little uneasy about bringing clouds into the practice.
Please give me instruction on practicing with clouds.

I was happy to practice with mind,
But a little uneasy about bringing thoughts into the practice.
Please give me instruction on practicing with thoughts.

Milarepa thought that her practice was productive and was delighted.
In response to her request, he sang this song about removing
impediments and enhancing practice:

Ah, Lady Paldarboom,
Listen, fortunate and devoted student,
...
If you are happy practicing with the sky,
Clouds are the sky’s magical creations.
Be the sky itself.

If you are happy practicing with mind,
Thoughts are the mind’s magical creations.
Be mind itself.


I have been sitting with this poem this week and watching the sky and clouds and listening to the rain. I can appreciate both a clear sky and the wonder of clouds.

I am finding it harder with the mind and thoughts. Often thoughts are just thoughts I can appreciated their presence or absence. But there are still times when their presence brings frustration and even more perplexing times when their absence gives rise to a deep sadness. So I will sit some more and listen to the rain and meander toward acceptance of what is.

edit x1 typo
Stuie Charles Law, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: At a loss for words...

Posts: 94 Join Date: 3/19/15 Recent Posts
Light years ahead of me but your contributions give me ease and peace.  Thank you so much.
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Elizabeth P, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: At a loss for words...

Posts: 75 Join Date: 5/10/14 Recent Posts
Stuie Charles Law:
Light years ahead of me but your contributions give me ease and peace.  Thank you so much.


Thanks. I am glad you enjoy them. But I hope I am not so very far ahead and separate.

Stubborn and persistant in a seeking beyond all reason, perhaps. And out of that, over time, some things have happened but even they are just more experiences to note and let go - there is just ordinary life after all.


Sunset

Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.
You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you
one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth.

leaving you, not really belonging to either,
not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent,
not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing
that turns to a star each night and climbs-

leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)
your own life, timid and standing high and growing,
so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,
one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star.

Rainer Maria Rilke
via PoemHunter
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Elizabeth P, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: At a loss for words...

Posts: 75 Join Date: 5/10/14 Recent Posts
This is from MCTB2 

“All-Pervasive Suffering as the Illusion of a Self

There is more to this truth, and it relates to the third characteristic, no-self. We are caught up in this bizarre habit of assuming that there is an “I.” Yet the definition of this seemingly permanent thing has to constantly keep changing to maintain the illusion in an impermanent world. This self-maintenance takes up a lot of mental time and is continually frustrating to the mind, requiring constant, if habitual, effort. This process is called ignorance—the illusion of an “I” and thus that everything else is “not I.”

This division is the illusion of duality, and the illusion of duality is inherently painful. There is just something disconcerting about the way that the mind must hold itself and the information it must work to ignore in order to maintain the sense that there is a permanent, continuous self. Maintaining it is painful, and its consequences for reactive mind states are also painful. It is a subtle, chronic pain, like a vague nausea, like a mild headache. It is a distortion of perspective that we have grown so used to that we hardly notice it most of the time. The suffering caused by continually trying to prop up the illusion of duality is fundamental, all-pervasive suffering. This definition of suffering is the one that is most useful for insight practices.

To actually feel, moment to moment, this quality of reality can be hard to do, not because suffering is so hard to find—it has been said to be the easiest of the Three Characteristics to tune in to—but because doing so takes bravery. Nevertheless, it is so well worth doing. If we finally wake up to this quality of suffering, then we will effortlessly let it go, drop it like a hot coal that we have finally realized we have been holding. It really works: Letting go in this way means being free.” (MCTB2- Daniel Ingram, p31)


I have been investigating thinking. When thinking it there, when it isn’t, how that changes my perception. A couple of weeks ago I was re-reading this and something just clicked.  I saw that it was much more about the function of those thoughts than their presence or absence. Some thoughts were propping up the story duality and of a continuous and separate me.

The sentence: “This self-maintenance takes up a lot of mental time and is continually frustrating to the mind, requiring constant, if habitual, effort.”

This really encapsulates the sense of relief I have felt but hadn’t been able to make sense out of. Why would I feel such a sense of relief at times when there is no or less thinking? Maybe it is that I am not constantly making up a story about me. It really is a lot of work. I was so used to that I didn’t even notice until I wasn’t doing it. So I have been trying to notice when I lapse into ‘story telling’ and then see if I can just let it go.
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Elizabeth P, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: At a loss for words...

Posts: 75 Join Date: 5/10/14 Recent Posts
"This is not the stillness of death,
That absense of life
When you look upon what is so familiar
And know she is there no more.

Nor is this the stillness of absence,
Emptied of movement,
Where dust quietly suffocates furniture
And nothing stirs the dust.

No, this is the stillness of presence,
A peace beyond thought
Where you know you've been asleep
And are free now
From your restless dreams."

An Arrow to the Heart. A Commentary on the Heart Sutra. Ken McLeod p.128


Just returned from an three week meditative semi-retreat / vacation. The last stop was the Wisdom Path on Lantau Island, HongKong.   I am relaxing in the afterglow that could be the stillness of presence - or perhaps it is just jetlag. emoticon.





The Big Buddha as seen from the walk back from the Wisdom Path

C P M, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: At a loss for words...

Posts: 219 Join Date: 5/23/13 Recent Posts
Elizabeth P:
"This is not the stillness of death,
That absense of life
When you look upon what is so familiar
And know she is there no more.

Nor is this the stillness of absence,
Emptied of movement,
Where dust quietly suffocates furniture
And nothing stirs the dust.

No, this is the stillness of presence,
A peace beyond thought
Where you know you've been asleep
And are free now
From your restless dreams."

An Arrow to the Heart. A Commentary on the Heart Sutra. Ken McLeod p.128



Nice, thanks.
Small Steps, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: At a loss for words...

Posts: 247 Join Date: 2/12/14 Recent Posts
Thanks for sharing these pictures. I very much enjoyed Lantau Island when I visited a couple years ago. A magical place.
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Elizabeth P, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: At a loss for words...

Posts: 75 Join Date: 5/10/14 Recent Posts
A different take on perception from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time - which just won 5 Tony Awards.

"But most people are lazy. They never look at everything. They do what is called glancing, which is the same word for bumping off something and carrying on in almost the same direction, e.g., when a snooker ball glances off another
snooker ball. And the information in their head is really simple. For example, if they are in the countryside, it might be
1. I am standing in a field that is full of grass.
2. There are some cows in the fields.
3. It is sunny with a few clouds.
4. There are some flowers in the grass.
5. There is a village in the distance.
6. There is a fence at the edge of the field and it has a gate in it.

And then they would stop noticing anything because they would be thinking something else like, “Oh, it is very beautiful here,” or “I’m worried that I might have left the gas cooker on,” or “I wonder if Julie has given birth yet.”

But if I am standing in a field in the countryside I notice everything. For example, I remember standing in a field on
Wednesday, 15 June 1994,… and I went into a field with cows in it and after I’d had a wee I stopped and looked at the field and I noticed these things

1. There are 19 cows in the field, 15 of which are black and white and 4 of which are brown and white.
2. There is a village in the distance which has 31 visible houses and a church with a square tower and not a spire.
3. There are ridges in the field, which means that in medieval times it was what is called a ridge and furrow field and people who lived in the village would have a ridge each to do farming on.
4. There is an old plastic bag from Asda in the hedge, and a squashed Coca-Cola can with a snail on it, and a long piece of orange string.
5. The northeast corner of the field is highest and the southwest corner is lowest (I had a compass because we were going on holiday and I wanted to know where Swindon was when we were in France) and the field is folded downward slightly along the line between these two corners so that the northwest and southeast corners are slightly lower than they would be if the field was an inclined plane.
6. I can see three different types of grass and two colors of flowers in the grass.
7. The cows are mostly facing uphill.

And there were 31 more things in this list of things I noticed but Siobhan said I didn’t need to write them all down. And it means that it is very tiring if I am in a new place because I see all these things,..."

Haddon, Mark (2004-05-18). The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries) (pp. 174-176). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition
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Elizabeth P, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: At a loss for words...

Posts: 75 Join Date: 5/10/14 Recent Posts
It's a dangerous business,
Breaking enchantments.

When you wake up
From the dream you've been living in,
There's no telling what you will do.
No telling at all.

Mind you,
There's no telling what you will do
In your next dream,
Elther


Ken McLeod An Arrow to the Heart. A Commentary on the Heart Sutra. p 108
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Elizabeth P, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: At a loss for words...

Posts: 75 Join Date: 5/10/14 Recent Posts
You darkness from which I come,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence out the world,
for the fire makes a circle
for everyone
so that no one sees you anymore.
But darkness holds it all:
the shape and the flame,
the animal and
myself,
how it holds them,
all powers, all sight —

and it is possible: its great strength
is breaking into my body.
I have faith in the night.

Rainer Marie Wilke tranlation David Whyte

I love sitting by a fire and watching the dance of the flames. Even a candle will do. It so easily captures and holds my attention. Much the way persistent thoughts and stories do. I am finding it more and more possible to just turn my attention away my stories as I might turn away from the fire toward the night. To meander there in the mystery of not knowing. Without attention the fire burns low, perhaps one day it will die entirely. In my wandering, I may not even know.
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Elizabeth, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: At a loss for words...

Posts: 75 Join Date: 5/10/14 Recent Posts
Yes

It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could you know. That's why we wake
and look out--no guarantees
in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.

Poem: "Yes" by William Stafford, from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems © Graywolf Press, 1998.

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