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Is this a Buddhist path? ...

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Is this a Buddhist path? ...
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6/2/18 4:03 AM
I've been meditating and doing other types of practices focusing on what feels to me like removing any trace of stress from my mind and body. Unpleasant emotions seem to evaporate when I am completely relaxed. I can go for hours without any unpleasant emotion taking up residence. If something disturbs my equanimity, I can get back to the state by meditating or doing some type of technique. I would characterize it as a state of tranquility. (I don't have a lot of big problems so I can't say how robust the effect is. For everyday stresses, it seems to work well. Although I used to make big problems out of small things and it has helped a lot with that.)

Does this sound like any type of Buddhist practice? Trying to stay relaxed? Developing skill at maintaining a relaxed state? Does any school of Buddhism recognize this as a path? Or is Buddhism only about insight into non-self or one's true nature? 

Over time I seem to be getting better at maintaining this state. It has been very beneficial and seems like a practical approach rather than a philosophical approach. I am wondering how far towards perfection it can be taken, so if there are any traditions that use this type of model I would be interested in learning about them.


Thanks in advance.

RE: Is this a Buddhist path? ...
Answer
6/2/18 6:59 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Yes. That's exactly it.

Basically buddhist texts are written in a kind of code that sounds philosophical or religious -- and of course they work on that level -- but the real essence of it is how they practically get applied to our actually lived life in our actual body. 

So "dukka" is basically "stress"

"absence of greed, aversion, and indifference" is basically "tranquility"

"meditation" means many things but it includes "cultivating equanimity"

etc.

Once you learn how to decode buddhism, it becomes very very practical. You might like this series of talks by John Peacock 

https://www.audiodharma.org/series/207/

Oh, very cool, someone also took notes on all these lectures and posted them in a file:

http://dmail.awakenetwork.com/forum/kfd-archive-wetpaint/13067-buddhism-before-the-theravada-notes

I would say that buddhist practices are about developing basic sanity and as an co-occurance there are deeper/subtler insights into the nature of self... but many times people put the cart before the horse and think that buddhism is about insights into the nature of self that "give you" basic sanity. emoticon 

In reality, practice is exactly as you describe: you become of where you are physically-emotionally-intellectually "knotted", you put awareness on that feeling of stress/ill will/resistance (which can be difficult, it can be "difficult to find" or "scary to investigate"), but then when that experience can rest in awareness, without us wanting to change it or push it away, then the body-mind figures out how to understand the experience and let it go. This last stage tends to "happen" rather than being something that we make happen or "do".

"Vipassina" is "clear seeing" -- in meditation we clearly see our stresses, how they are created and held in the body-mind, and this leads to "nibbana" which is the the "extinquishing" of the stresses.

Hope this helps! 

RE: Is this a Buddhist path? ...
Answer
6/2/18 7:15 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
Yes. That's exactly it.

Basically buddhist texts are written in a kind of code that sounds philosophical or religious -- and of course they work on that level -- but the real essence of it is how they practically get applied to our actually lived life in our actual body. 

So "dukka" is basically "stress"

"absence of greed, aversion, and indifference" is basically "tranquility"

"meditation" means many things but it includes "cultivating equanimity"

etc.

Once you learn how to decode buddhism, it becomes very very practical. You might like this series of talks by John Peacock 

https://www.audiodharma.org/series/207/

Oh, very cool, someone also took notes on all these lectures and posted them in a file:

http://dmail.awakenetwork.com/forum/kfd-archive-wetpaint/13067-buddhism-before-the-theravada-notes

I would say that buddhist practices are about developing basic sanity and as an co-occurance there are deeper/subtler insights into the nature of self... but many times people put the cart before the horse and think that buddhism is about insights into the nature of self that "give you" basic sanity. emoticon 

In reality, practice is exactly as you describe: you become of where you are physically-emotionally-intellectually "knotted", you put awareness on that feeling of stress/ill will/resistance (which can be difficult, it can be "difficult to find" or "scary to investigate"), but then when that experience can rest in awareness, without us wanting to change it or push it away, then the body-mind figures out how to understand the experience and let it go. This last stage tends to "happen" rather than being something that we make happen or "do".

"Vipassina" is "clear seeing" -- in meditation we clearly see our stresses, how they are created and held in the body-mind, and this leads to "nibbana" which is the the "extinquishing" of the stresses.

Hope this helps! 

Great post, Shargrol. It reminded me of Kenneth Folk's 'the tollbooth.' You can have peace in this moment so long as you are willing to pay the toll, i.e. to let go of whatever you're resisting, ruminating about, stressing over, etc.  

RE: Is this a Buddhist path? ...
Answer
6/2/18 11:40 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Sounds to me like what you are doing is exactly what the meaning of shamatha is, eg calm abiding/tranquility/concentration. It's the second of the "three trainings" that is usually emphasised in every school of Buddhism.

Rob Burbea, in his book "Seeing that Frees", on the benefits of shamatha: "deep rest and rejuvenation of the whole being, emotional (and at times physical) healing, vitality, openings of the intuition, emotional strength that is yet pliable, increase in the heart's capacity and in our availabilities to others, steadiness of energy [...] we will find that it nourishes us profoundly and widely

We might think that concentration is a type of intense laser type state but I think the point is that that type of focus arises out of a type of alive tranquil wellbeing.

RE: Is this a Buddhist path? ...
Answer
6/2/18 4:22 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Okay, but if people understood that they should be trying to relax they could take advantage of more appropriate techniques. When you come home from a busy stressful day at school or work, sitting down to meditate is not really the best technique. At that point when the mind is very turbulent it is much more effective to do something like yoga, qigong, or progressive muscular relaxation.  That's why on Buddhist retreats they may do bowing practice or chanting before sitting meditation. But many people think when they are at home they can start right away with meditation.

And it's very easy to assess the quality and progress of your practice if you understand that the goal is to get relaxed and stay relaxed. If meditation is not helping you relax, you know there is a problem or a limitation and you can try other techniques.

It's also easy to understand how attachments cause stress if you start noticing how relaxed or stressed you are at different times.

It seems to me that everything is very easy to understand and easy to do if you look at it from the standpoint of relaxing. Particularly for modern people who like to know how things work before they will have faith in a practice. If you explain that meditation and other relaxation techniques strengthen the parasympathitic nervous system which counteracts the stress response, you have a very simple scientific and philosophical basis for the practice.

Why do modern teachers and authors make it complicated and difficult when it could be clear and simple? 

RE: Is this a Buddhist path? ...
Answer
6/2/18 5:19 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Different teachings work for different people. "Just relax" is a great teaching for people who have a sharp mind but too much energy... but for some people that teaching just leads  to a bunch of "meditators" who just wallow in dullness. emoticon 

RE: Is this a Buddhist path? ...
Answer
6/2/18 5:34 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
From my experience the main thing that is commonly associated with the two terms meditation and buddhism is relaxation. If anything I'd say the opposite problem is true: people think meditation is just a glorified relaxation technique and have little appreciation for its transformative and liberative potential

As to whether meditation is better or worse for relaxing after a stressful day, thats different for anyone, but if you find a meditation technique that you know how to work with and suits you then just 15 minutes of relaxation after a stressful day can be "maximally" or "optimally" relaxing and rejuvenating. One could just as well argue that Qigong or Yoga or sitting on the sofa or playing with the dog or whatever else one wants to do isn't as deeply relaxing as meditating, at the end of the day it would depend upon the activity that is going on internally, regardless of whatever external form its called (meditation/qigong).

Personally the deepest relaxation and bliss I've ever felt has been meditating, its shown me a depth of rest and joy I didn't know was possible.

RE: Is this a Buddhist path? ...
Answer
6/3/18 6:35 AM as a reply to Andrew S.
Yes, the problem with the "just relax" teaching is some/many people, after they have reduced their tension somewhat, do not look for and notice subtle greed, aversion, and indifference. It's basically a continuation of letting go of bigger tensions, but the benefits are much more profound. 

RE: Is this a Buddhist path? ...
Answer
6/3/18 2:42 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Do you think that the mind must be actively investigating for it to see through the self? I see how relaxtion only paths - which I think is esstially what devotional paths are - can lead to the mind stopping to fabricate reality and the experience of nirvana or the Godhead, but would that experience or any experiences on the way to it reveal the true emptiness of all the drama and the self ? I dont know. 

RE: Is this a Buddhist path? ...
Answer
6/3/18 5:05 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
There are very many people who will never go on a retreat or live in a monastery but who are trying to practice Buddhism because they are attracted by the promise of the end of suffering and they would benefit hugely in a practical and in a philosophical sense (as I explained above) if they understood Buddhism in terms of relaxation. With the relaxation approach it is easy to understand how the process works which helps the practitioner do the practice correctly, they understand their goals and get immediate feedback on progress. If they see it working they get encouragement from that. If they see it is not working they can try to make some change to get it to work. This makes the system very effective for them.

Many people are never going to reach the advanced stages no matter how Buddhism is taught to them, but they can still benefit immensely from a daily practice particularly if they understand the basis for how the practice works. It seems to me they are being neglected. 

My question for the teachers is: what is your job? Giving people what they want? Or giving people what you want them to have? The stressed out commuter listening to her audio book on Buddhism while stuck in traffic on the way home after being yelled at by her boss at work doesn't want to eventually understand dependent origination, non-self, emptiness, or her true nature at sometime in the future. She wants to feel better today.

RE: Is this a Buddhist path? ...
Answer
6/3/18 5:32 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
And I am not saying Buddhist meditation should be taught as just another relaxation technique. Secular forms of meditation do not teach that attachments, which are the cause of suffering, feel like stress and the way to end suffering is to let go of attachments by realxing the stress by which attachments manifest themselves. The truth that letting go of attachments leads to the end of suffering is what distinguishes Buddism from secular meditation.

RE: Is this a Buddhist path? ...
Answer
6/3/18 8:00 PM as a reply to seth tapper.
I dont get it, sorry.  Are you suggesting you arent interested in the question or that it is inappropriate for the thread? 

RE: Is this a Buddhist path? ...
Answer
6/4/18 8:24 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
My question for the teachers is: what is your job? Giving people what they want? Or giving people what you want them to have? The stressed out commuter listening to her audio book on Buddhism while stuck in traffic on the way home after being yelled at by her boss at work doesn't want to eventually understand dependent origination, non-self, emptiness, or her true nature at sometime in the future. She wants to feel better today.

This is a discussion every teacher should have with students - what is your objective for this practice? Then the teacher needs to lay out the possibilities and potential outcomes so the student can make an informed choice. And, it's perfectly okay for a teacher of the path to awakening to redirect a student to another teacher who teaches MBSR, and vice versa.