How to proceed, and make progress

Darrell, modified 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 12:48 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 12:43 PM

How to proceed, and make progress

Posts: 143 Join Date: 2/22/15 Recent Posts
So I've been practicing sitting for about ten years, but with erratic and varying degrees of commitment and consistency. The only instruction or guidance I've had was a few months with the Soto Zen group where I then lived. I don't find Zen terribly helpful, it's a bit too DIY for me. Since last September, everything changed, and I've been driven. I'm able to keep the pursuit of this path in mind throughout the day (whatever this path is, Buddhist but without the Buddhism? The principles without all the accreted tradition, sectarianism, etc). I'm able to be conscious to practice, work on mindfulness, etc. I meditate 45 minutes in the morning and again at night. I'm planning for a ten day retreat at the Goenka Vipassana center in S. Georgia.

I'm not sure how to proceed. I buy and download (free from Buddhanet, etc) books to hopefully help guide me. I listen to talks online and in the car when I drive. But in spite of all of this I really don't know for sure what the right direction is. I have no real access to teachers. I can't find any teachers, centers and such near me and Atlanta is a bit of a drive, but the way my life is set up makes it hard to get there with any consistency. Never mind trying to choose a center (meaning some place for guidance and instruction). The few good places cost more than I can afford (Drepung Loseling). I've already followed a few dead ends (Eckhart Tolle, Adyashanti) and question my ability to really discern who's legit and reliable. Same with books. Bought what looks like a great examination of the Heart Sutra, only to find that Kelsang Gyatso and his organization are apparently associated with a murder. And there seems to be a number of people who believe books by the Dalai Lama are fluff (I've been reading and studying "How To See Yourself As You Really Are")

Anyway, I'm sure I sound like an idiot, but I have to ask because I don't want to leave this life without knowing the reality of things and myself. I want to cease creating suffering for myself, and especially for others. but I feel like I'm spinning my wheels and bouncing all over the place, never settling, in a search for direction and means I can trust. There's an ocean of opinions, and disagreement. Jhanna is what the Buddha taught, you have to practice and learn to access the Jhanas, or Stream Entry will never happen. Oh no! It's Vipassana that the Buddha taught, and if you want to see the truth, and be liberated, you must practice Vipassana.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Hopefully what I've written here isn't so ignorant that it is deserving of contempt. I just want to get pointed in the right direction and make the most of what I'm investing of myself.

Also, if anyone can give a recommendation for a teacher near Atlanta, particularly the areas west of Atlanta, I'd appreciate it.

Thanks
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tom moylan, modified 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 1:08 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 1:08 PM

RE: How to proceed, and make progress

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
howdy darrell and welcome!

your story will reverberate with many here.  i too can empathize with your frustration with zen.  i could extrapolate that to other traditions which turned out not to be my optimal practice.

i moved to the basic mahasi sayadaw methods encouraged on this website after reading daniels book, Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, and found them refreshing in their simplicity, clarity and minimal dogmatic speculations.

read that book.  start doing the practices.  sayadaw's books also explain the simple practice.  do your planned retreat!

there is a post here by tarin greco called 'a reformed slackers guide' which gives some excellent tips for doing a retreat.  i found it VERY helpful.
Darrell, modified 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 2:15 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 1:53 PM

RE: How to proceed, and make progress

Posts: 143 Join Date: 2/22/15 Recent Posts
Hi Tom,


Thanks for the input/help. I downloaded a book by Mahashi Sayadaw from Buddhanet. I've bought and downloaded *way* too much. Much of my confusion is self inflicted. Ha!

I'll have to re-read the "Reformed Slackers Guide". As to Daniel's book, I've been reading the 1st edition/version. Even that has a certain degree of doubt about it. While I believe Daniel to be sincere, earnest and honest, there is this debate elsewhere about whether or not some of the practices are actually what the Buddha taught, but actually came later, and that one shouldn't remain stuck in the cycles he describes.

I have *no desire* to debate this, because I don't know. I'm far too uninformed about the Suttas and other canonical texts to say one way or the other. All this was to simply say, I'm very skilled at doubting things (this is meant sarcastically, and is me making fun of myself) but being so poorly informed makes any measure of trust difficult.

Maybe I should trust my gut feelings on these matters. I feel it has guided me well when it comes to the Eckharts, Mooji's or L. Ron Gardners of the world.

EDIT: I should add that I am reading MCTB regardless of the assorted debates over it.
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Dream Walker, modified 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 2:01 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 1:56 PM

RE: How to proceed, and make progress

Posts: 1430 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Darrell:
There's an ocean of opinions, and disagreement. Jhanna is what the Buddha taught, you have to practice and learn to access the Jhanas, or Stream Entry will never happen. Oh no! It's Vipassana that the Buddha taught, and if you want to see the truth, and be liberated, you must practice Vipassana.

I could go on, but you get the idea.
Well anyone who says its only one thing or another is missing the boat. I do believe that in Buddhism there is some mention of the eight fold path. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/waytoend.html
Notice - Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration are both mentioned. I would recommend learning a bit about both of them. Where on the continuum of these practices your attention will be drawn are variable for each person but most people choose to learn and practice both on average.
I also would recommend reading
Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, an Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book, by Daniel Ingram
The information in MCTB is good and as you are here and many people use the vocabulary and concepts within, it might behoove you to read it.
There are several other good books listed under the WIKI button near the top.
Good luck,
~D

Edit : ReformedSlackersGuide
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Dream Walker, modified 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 2:04 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 2:04 PM

RE: How to proceed, and make progress

Posts: 1430 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Darrell:
So I've been practicing sitting for about ten years,
I meditate 45 minutes in the morning and again at night.
So what is it you do and have done? What are the results so far? What is your goal?
Darrell, modified 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 2:23 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 2:23 PM

RE: How to proceed, and make progress

Posts: 143 Join Date: 2/22/15 Recent Posts
Initially, and for several years following, it was what I learned from Soto Zen. Put your attention between your eyes a few inches in front of you, and when thoughts emerge, redirect the attention to between the eyes. What I am doing now is the Sayadaw method per Daniel Ingram in MCTB. Right now it is strictly about being able to keep the attention on the breath.

The results have varied. It has been from nothing much, to profound stillness, and at times a sense of beginning to merge with something incredibly vast.

My goal? That seems to change as I learn and understand more. Right now it is to be as free of self as possible, to be able to understand impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and not-self intuitively. To have those three undermine and replace seeing the world and myself as solid, stable permanent and real.
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finding-oneself *, modified 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 3:04 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 3:04 PM

RE: How to proceed, and make progress

Posts: 252 Join Date: 1/7/14 Recent Posts
I'll have to re-read the "Reformed Slackers Guide". As to Daniel's book, I've been reading the 1st edition/version. Even that has a certain degree of doubt about it. While I believe Daniel to be sincere, earnest and honest, there is this debate elsewhere about whether or not some of the practices are actually what the Buddha taught, but actually came later, and that one shouldn't remain stuck in the cycles he describes.
I wouldn't worry about if the book is actually about what the Buddha taught. Is it? I couldn't tell ya, I havn't read many Buddhist texts. I would worry about pragmatism which seems to be what you're concerned with. I don't know about the stages either, I can't tell if they really exist or not but doing the experiement as if they do, but I can say they seem to exist anywhere from loosely to strongly correlating to my varried experiences.
The results have varied. It has been from nothing much, to profound stillness, and at times a sense of beginning to merge with something incredibly vast.
Then I wouldn't worry about the doubt either because you have made progress, in fact your varried results are part of the progess and path. it's a gross form of impermanance. If you're getting into Varried results are good it's just a gross form of impermanance. The very fact that you are searching and asking for help and meditating means you are in the right direction. You'd be surprised how fast you can make practice if you stick with it, and how fast the passage of time can be.
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Dream Walker, modified 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 3:07 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 3:05 PM

RE: How to proceed, and make progress

Posts: 1430 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Darrell:
Right now it is strictly about being able to keep the attention on the breath.

The breath, as in the in/out mentally or the actual sensations of it? Are you noticing each and every sensation of the breath as it's own thing, length of, temperature, top, bottom, pause, etc? Or are you just following it mentally as a repetitive motion?
Darrell:
The results have varied. It has been from nothing much, to profound stillness, and at times a sense of beginning to merge with something incredibly vast.
Sounds like you are getting concentrated to some extent. Nice job.
Darrell:
My goal? That seems to change as I learn and understand more. Right now it is to be as free of self as possible, to be able to understand impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and not-self intuitively. To have those three undermine and replace seeing the world and myself as solid, stable permanent and real.
Awesome goal. Lemme recommend that you first focus on Permanence. This you can find and experience. Impermanence happens later on it's own so you don't need to find that. Feel into any sensation and at some point you you will get a discernment of something additional to the actual sensation, a solidity or something similar. I personally call that a selfing process, it's like an overlay on top of the actual sensation, an identification of the sensation as "yours"....when you can sense this permanent thingy, take that as the object of your attention and stay with it for as long as you can. If you loose it move back to the sensation and feel into it again and again til you can lock onto it and dissolve it with sustained concentration.
This is how I learned to understand impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and not-self intuitively. When the overlay/selfing process is deleted then I finally understood what the three characteristics were talking about...until the deletion the overlay is permanent, self and stressful, but we are so used to seeing this that only by negation do we clearly see all three characteristics.
Clearer?
~D
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Sadalsuud Beta Aquarii, modified 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 5:07 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 5:07 PM

RE: How to proceed, and make progress

Posts: 118 Join Date: 7/21/13 Recent Posts
Darrell I also really resonate with your story.

Everyone here will give you good advice about practice.
MCTB is a solid book and path for realising non-duality. This forum is full of people who have done it.

I just want to say from the bottom of my heart that your main obstable is going to faith and confidence. You have read this, read that, tried this, tried that, doubted this, doubted that. Until you look sincerely and bravely at the thing which constantly doubting, this forum/method is just going to be another thing that you try a bit, and then doubt.

How are you with diving fearlessly into something, with aggression and passion? This fearless animal passion is what is missing from your game. And if that seems difficult, then that is exactly what needs looking at.


I hope these words aren't offensive to you. Just trying to save you a lot of time. I could also be totally wrong though. Peace.
Darrell, modified 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 6:18 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 6:18 PM

RE: How to proceed, and make progress

Posts: 143 Join Date: 2/22/15 Recent Posts
"The breath, as in the in/out mentally or the actual sensations of it? Are you noticing each and every sensation of the breath as it's own thing, length of, temperature, top, bottom, pause, etc? Or are you just following it mentally as a repetitive motion?"
Those first two sentences. That's what I'm working on doing, it frequently slips back into mentally  as a repetitive motion. Even more frequently, it it reverts to being entranced by my thoughts. That's probably 70% of my time on the cushion, currently.

"Sounds like you are getting concentrated to some extent. Nice job."
It's early days yet. These experiences are a very rare occurence. But they do help act as the carrot on the stick, so to speak.
Darrell, modified 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 9:23 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 9:23 PM

RE: How to proceed, and make progress

Posts: 143 Join Date: 2/22/15 Recent Posts
Sadasuud,

No, those words aren't offensive, and I appreciate your honesty. While I have no problem taking a closer look at matter of faith and confidence, I can tell you this - it's not the path or process I have any lack of confidence or faith in. I have a real trust in that, although I know it's possible to get lost in dead ends, derailed indefinitely. It's the teachers and method books that pose issues. But I think I've been getting an ability to discern somewhat. People like Culadasa, Ayya Khema and Shaila Catherine inspire confidence. Whereas folks like Shinzen Young, I can't really tell. but it just now occurs to me that it's as simple if there's doubt, just pass them by. Duh. The doubt isn't some sort of cynical skepticism (at least I thought so, now I wonder...) but simply wanting to avoid getting lost in the aforementioned dead ends. Not wanting to waste precious time. That's fear, not a lack of faith.

Otherwise, while I feel deeply that I can make my way through the nanas, on to stream entry, I have concern about doing it alone. I'll be interested to see what changes might occur after the ten day retreat at the Vipassana Center.

I don't know if it's passion, but I do feel profoundly driven. I had something happen last September that affected me so intensely, that I've reached a place of having no choice. There's not any other option but to enlarge my spiritual life, and pursue this as far as I'm able. Whereas I once listened to music in the car, I now only listen to dharma talks. I read almost nothing for pure pleasure now, it's only non dual material. Meditating twice a day, even in spite of the pain I experience due to some muscle trauma.

This probably sounds like a defensive explanation, but I just wanted to make it known that I am not just trying things out and dropping them. It took me ten years to catch fire, but even before these last few months, I never stopped, even if I wasn't in 100%.

Your mention of the issue of doubt, faith and confidence isn't lost on me. I'll be thinking about this, and examining it for days and weeks to come, I assure you.

Thank you

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