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Jim Smith's Log Jim Smith 8/12/19 4:52 AM
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Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/12/19 4:52 AM
My practice is a little bit different from what I have read about in books on Buddhism. While I feel it is the best system for my own interests and expectations, I don't know if it would be right for anyone else here. I have developed it over many years trying different techniques and keeping what seems to work best for me. But I am sure I can learn from other people on the forum so I would like to set it out here in case anyone has any advice or constructive comments to make.

I would describe my practice as cultivating a state of relaxed happiness by various means in order to assist in letting go of attachments and aversion in order to avoid dukkha. I see the anapanasati sutta as justification for this as a legitimate Buddhist path, but I don't have a personal need for this to be a form of Buddhist practice.  I draw on relaxation techniques from different sources - anything that can activate the parasympathetic nervous system: counting the breath meditation, yoga poses, quigong (8 Brocades or Ba Duan Jin or Baduanjin), tai-chi, progressive muscular relaxation, hypnotic induction. Over time these exercises develop the parasympathetic nervous system and due to neuroplasticity it becomes easier and easier to turn off stress. I cultivate happiness through a technique I learned from reading Thich Nhat Hanh who wrote, "... practice breathing with a half-smile. You will feel great joy.". But too much great joy can become tedious (believe it or not) so I try to cultivate just a pleasant positive slightly happy feeling. Also, to cultivate happiness, I try to use information on how to increase serotonin levels in the brain that I might read about here and there. I say "relaxed happiness" above because in my experience they are two different antidotes to dukkha. Relaxation alone is not sufficient to eliminate dukkha, and happiness alone is not sufficient to eliminate dukkha (you can be relaxed and sad, or happy and stressed). However, taken together, it seems to me they come prety close.

I meditate by counting the breath, trying to notice a pleasant feeling of relaxation as I inhale and exhale and I notice the pleasant feelings released when I let myself half-smile. It produces the state I am seeking. It may start out as a very faint feeling barely noticeable, but it increases gradually during the meditation session so I take a patient attitude and trust the technique. Worrying "am I happy now?" just creates stress which is counterproductive.

As I meditate and practice mindfulness during the day I am not just cultivating bliss. I am observing what causes stress. This means I notice the activity of the mind and notice sensations in the body that accompany emotions. By learning how to to return to a pleasantly relaxed state, I learn to let go of attachments and aversions that cause dukkha. This is a form of insight meditation. In the sutras Buddha did not distinguish samatha and vipassana as a distinct forms of meditation.

Producing bliss in meditation does not end suffering. Suffering ends when the mind stops producing suffering. I use the pleasant state produced by meditation as a background upon which to make suffering noticeable. By observing itself as the source of suffering, the mind learns how to refrain from producing it.

This system does not require will power any more than taking an aspirin for a headache takes will power. When I experience dukkha, I know what to do. And I experience enough dukkah to motivate a daily practice.

Some amount of renunciation is a natural consequence of this practice. Over time, the more things I realize are making me unhappy and stressed, the more I renounce.  I don't believe the point of the practice is to make me invincible to life's catastrophes. The point of renunciation is if you give up your attachments, they no longer cause suffering. I can renounce as much as I do because I am a retired bachelor. I can "cultivate seculsion" I don't necessarily recommend this for anyone else. And I am willing to renounce only so much.

Which is okay for me because I am not looking for perfection, just a system to help a householder cope. 

I don't have the inclination to spend all day meditating, but I have an intellectual interest on what perfecting the "end of suffering" would mean, and how it is accomplished, and what is the relationship between western scientific concepts about the nervous system and eastern practices and theory. Because that kind of understanding can lead to changes in my own practice to make it more efficient.
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I tend to view the relationship between samatha and vipassana the way it is described in this quote:
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/onetool.html


One Tool Among Many
The Place of Vipassana in Buddhist Practice
by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu

...
But if you look directly at the Pali discourses — the earliest extant sources for our knowledge of the Buddha's teachings — you'll find that although they do use the word samatha to mean tranquillity, and vipassana to mean clear-seeing, they otherwise confirm none of the received wisdom about these terms. Only rarely do they make use of the word vipassana — a sharp contrast to their frequent use of the word jhana. When they depict the Buddha telling his disciples to go meditate, they never quote him as saying "go do vipassana," but always "go do jhana." And they never equate the word vipassana with any mindfulness techniques. In the few instances where they do mention vipassana, they almost always pair it with samatha — not as two alternative methods, but as two qualities of mind that a person may "gain" or "be endowed with," and that should be developed together. One simile, for instance (SN 35.204), compares samatha and vipassana to a swift pair of messengers who enter the citadel of the body via the noble eightfold path and present their accurate report — Unbinding, or nibbana — to the consciousness acting as the citadel's commander. Another passage (AN 10.71) recommends that anyone who wishes to put an end to mental defilement should — in addition to perfecting the principles of moral behavior and cultivating seclusion — be committed to samatha and endowed with vipassana. This last statement is unremarkable in itself, but the same discourse also gives the same advice to anyone who wants to master the jhanas: be committed to samatha and endowed with vipassana. This suggests that, in the eyes of those who assembled the Pali discourses, samatha, jhana, and vipassana were all part of a single path. Samatha and vipassana were used together to master jhana and then — based on jhana — were developed even further to give rise to the end of mental defilement and to bring release from suffering. This is a reading that finds support in other discourses as well.
...


This excerpt from Mahasaccaka Sutta  is also important in my opinion:
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.036.than.html
"I thought: 'I recall once, when my father the Sakyan was working, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful mental qualities — I entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Could that be the path to Awakening?' Then following on that memory came the realization: 'That is the path to Awakening.' I thought: 'So why am I afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities?' I thought: 'I am no longer afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities, but that pleasure is not easy to achieve with a body so extremely emaciated. Suppose I were to take some solid food: some rice & porridge.' So I took some solid food: some rice & porridge. Now five monks had been attending on me, thinking, 'If Gotama, our contemplative, achieves some higher state, he will tell us.' But when they saw me taking some solid food — some rice & porridge — they were disgusted and left me, thinking, 'Gotama the contemplative is living luxuriously. He has abandoned his exertion and is backsliding into abundance.'


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These updates are mostly from my replies below. After I integrated update 3 into the body of the post I don't know if these updates are really helpful here any more. I'll leave them for posterity but feel free to skip them if you want.

UPDATE 1 (This is from a reply I wrote below - should have been here in the first place):

I don't think you can totally separate insight from concentration.  You need some minimum concentration to do insight, and every wandering of the mind during concentration produces an iota of insight which adds up over time.

I didn't say much about it in the OP, but reading between the lines what I wrote about renuncination, insight is implicit.  You see what causes you stress and it changes how you think about things. Renunciation = letting go of attachments.

You can't rest in a pleasant state unless you have reached perfection. There is always something that disturbs your peace but since you prefer a pleasant state, you see what is disturbing your peace and you figure out how to let go of it (get back to a peaceful state) during the meditation session and during daily life. 

UPDATE 2 (from a reply I wrote below):

Practicing relaxation in mediation or with another technique strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system, it gives you the skill to stay relaxed during daily life. It is a skill that continues to develop as the parasympathetic nervous system gets stronger with 'exercise'.  When you can produce happiness through meditation you realize it is impermanent and illusory, and you lose your attachment to it and other emotions, at the same time you develop the skill of being happy if you want to (as an antidote to dukkha). The practice helps you to get better and better at being relaxed and happy during daily life. So from my experience, I would say it is a practical technique that is highly effective at reducing suffering.

UPDATE 3 (I integrated this into the body of the post):  I should have mentioned this in the op:  As I meditate and practice mindfulness during the day I am not just cultivating bliss. I am observing what causes stress. This means I notice the activity of the mind and notice sensations in the body that accompany emotions. This is a form of insight meditation. In the sutras Buddha did not distinguish samatha and vipassana as a distinct 
forms of meditation.

UPDATE 4: Rather than keep increasing the length of this post I will just put links to posts on my practice here.


https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/14374804#_19_message_14208950


https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/14374804#_19_message_14374804


https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/14564976?_19_delta=20&_19_keywords=&_19_advancedSearch=false&_19_andOperator=true&_19_resetCur=false&_19_cur=2#_19_message_14878977

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
6/18/18 12:06 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:
... But I am sure I can learn from other people on the forum so I would like to set it out here in case anyone has any advice or constructive comments to make.

...
I don't have the inclination to spend all day meditating, but I have an academic (intellectual) interest on what perfecting the "end of suffering" would mean, and how it is accomplished, and what is the relationship between western scientific concepts about the nervous system and eastern practices and theory. Because that kind of understanding can lead to changes in my own practice to make it more efficient.
You'll probably get a lot of answers here! emoticon

I got a lot of benefit, not the end of suffering but surely a lot less suffering, from a 10 day retreat and then an hour twice a day for a year, then another 10-day retreat and more daily meditation. It feels to me like it was totally worth it.

It sounds like you are doing what I understand as 'absorption' practice, you lead your brain to a pleasant state then give it permission to dwell there. It keeps you 'off the street' and it feels good, but no-one around here will say that it ends suffering.

The popular MCTB recipe is vipassana, insight meditation, intense style! Instead of resting in a pleasant state, you develop acute awareness of everything going in inside mind/body, you see/hear/feel/learn that the untrained mind is stupid and is wasting your time and eventually it stops doing that. OK, that's kinda tongue in cheek, but that's how I'm rolling right now. emoticon It's totally cook book, you need juuuuust enough theory to convince you to sit your ass off, any more theory than that might get counter productive.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
6/18/18 2:28 PM as a reply to Matt.
matthew sexton:

It sounds like you are doing what I understand as 'absorption' practice, you lead your brain to a pleasant state then give it permission to dwell there. It keeps you 'off the street' and it feels good, but no-one around here will say that it ends suffering.

According to Buddha, pleasure born from seclusion is the path to awakening. See below.

Personally, I've been meditated regularly for most of my life, I've been on retreats, and I got a lot more out of my practice (much less "suffering" during times when I am not meditating) since I started doing this type of meditation. Practicing relaxation in mediation or with another technique strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system, it gives you the skill to stay relaxed during dail life. It is a skill that continues to develop as the parasympathetic nervous system gets stronger with 'exercise'.  When you can produce happiness through meditation you realize it is impermanent and illusory, and you lose your attachment to it and other emotions, at the same time you develop the skill of being happy if you want to (as an antidote to dukkha). The practice helps you to get better and better at being relaxed and happy during daily life. So from my experience, I would say it is a practical technique that is highly effective at reducing suffering.


The popular MCTB recipe is vipassana, insight meditation, intense style! Instead of resting in a pleasant state, you develop acute awareness of everything going in inside mind/body, you see/hear/feel/learn that the untrained mind is stupid and is wasting your time and eventually it stops doing that. OK, that's kinda tongue in cheek, but that's how I'm rolling right now. emoticon It's totally cook book, you need juuuuust enough theory to convince you to sit your ass off, any more theory than that might get counter productive.

I don't think you can totally separate insight from concentration.  You need some minimum concentration to do insight, and every wandering of the mind during concentration produces an iota of insight which adds up over time.

I didn't say much about it in the OP, but reading between the lines what I wrote about renuncination, insight is implicit.  You see what causes you stress and it changes how you think about things. Renunciation = letting go of attachments.

You can't rest in a pleasant state unless you have reached perfection. There is always something that disturbs your peace but since you prefer a pleasant state, you see what is disturbing your peace and you figure out how to let go of it (get back to a peaceful state) during the meditation session and during daily life. 

I should have said more about this in the OP it was an oversight on my part.

I think it is relevant that buddha said:

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.036.than.html

"I thought: 'I recall once, when my father the Sakyan was working, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful mental qualities — I entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Could that be the path to Awakening?' Then following on that memory came the realization: 'That is the path to Awakening.' I thought: 'So why am I afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities?' I thought: 'I am no longer afraid of that pleasure that has nothing to do with sensuality, nothing to do with unskillful mental qualities, but that pleasure is not easy to achieve with a body so extremely emaciated. Suppose I were to take some solid food: some rice & porridge.' So I took some solid food: some rice & porridge.


According to Buddha, pleasure born from seclusion is the path to awakening. 

I suspect that some people will get more out of my style than other practices where you have to meditate for hours a day and go on retreats. Because my style eases suffering somewhat you don't need will power, it's like aspirin, so the average person who starts the practice is more likely to keep it up.

I am really interested in a system for the average Joe who right now isn't meditating, or can't sit for more than a few minutes (they should be doing yoga or qigong), or is struggling to figure out what he is supposed to be seeing within but doesn't feel like he is getting a lot out of it. Look on reddit/meditation and you'll see there are a lot of people like this. (I realize I'm sort of in the wrong place to talk about this.)

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
6/18/18 2:12 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:


I meditate by counting the breath, trying to notice a pleasant feeling of relaxation as I inhale and exhale and I notice the pleasant feelings released when I let myself half-smile. It produces the state I am seeking. It may start out as a very faint feeling barely noticeable, but it increases gradually during the meditation session so I take a patient attitude and trust the technique. Worrying "am I happy now?" just creates stress which is counterproductive.


I forgot to say in the OP, no one should think I am implying this a treatment for anxiety or depression. Those issues are outside the scope of my post. The technique might not even work in situations where brain chemistry or the nervous system cannot support the effects.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
6/18/18 7:28 AM as a reply to Matt.
matthew sexton:

The popular MCTB recipe is vipassana, insight meditation, intense style! Instead of resting in a pleasant state, you develop acute awareness of everything going in inside mind/body, you see/hear/feel/learn that the untrained mind is stupid and is wasting your time and eventually it stops doing that. OK, that's kinda tongue in cheek, but that's how I'm rolling right now. emoticon It's totally cook book, you need juuuuust enough theory to convince you to sit your ass off, any more theory than that might get counter productive.

I think there is legitimate room for different opinions on what is the best type of practice. Probably it depends on what works best for the individual.

I quoted Thich Nhat Hanh above, are you aware of Bhante Vimalaramsi? He started out studying the traditional methods in Asia, decided they weren't delivering what they were supposed to. He developed and now teaches a type of "smiling" meditation.

https://www.dhammasukha.org/ven-bhante-vimalaramsi.html

Bhante practiced Vipassana very intensely his first 20 years under an American teacher and in Burma, under U Pandita and U Janaka. Finally around 1990 he was told that he had achieved the endpoint of the practice, as it was taught by the Sayadaws, and now he should go teach. He didn't feel comfortable that he had really found the end of suffering. He felt he did not have the true personality change that awakening should bring, even after going through the 16 levels of Insight or knowledges, as outlined by Mahasi Sayadaw in Progress of Insight.

...

When Bhante began to do this, he discovered first hand, the interwoven nature of the Teachings. In each sutta he found the elements of the 4 Noble Truths, the 8-Fold Path, and the impersonal process of Dependent Origination. Dependent Origination or Paticcasamupada is the core of the Buddha's teachings. He realized that the word sutta literally meant "thread" and that the threads together, created a finely woven cloth, whereas, one single thread does not equal a cloth! Through his own objective first hand experience, the 8-Fold Path began to come alive. When he realized the secret of the teachings was on his doorstep he took the Majjhima Nikaya to a cave in Thailand and spent 3 months, living with a cobra as company, reading and then practicing just what the suttas said. In very little time, he said, he had gone deeper in his meditation, than ever before. What started as two weeks to study suttas turned into three months of deep practice. Out of this was born TWIM or Tranquil Wisdom Insight Meditation completely based on the suttas in the Majjhima Nikaya. He found the Jhanas had an entirely different explanation and experience. Nibbana was possible!




He teaches a form of meditation involving relaxation and smiling:
https://www.dhammasukha.org/the-6rs.html

The 6Rs are steps which evolve into one fluid motion becoming a new wholesome habitual tendency that relieves any dis-ease in mind and body. This cycle begins when mindfulness remembers the 6Rs which are:

1. Recognize

2. Release

3. Relax

4. Re-Smile

5. Return

6. Repeat


This is somewhat analogous to what I wrote above:
Jim Smith:


You can't rest in a pleasant state unless you have reached perfection. There is always something that disturbs your peace but since you prefer a pleasant state, you see what is disturbing your peace and you figure out how to let go of it (get back to a peaceful state) during the meditation session and during daily life. 


RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
6/20/18 2:23 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
When I sit down to meditate I don't do it with a purpose execpt to notice if I am feeling stress while knowing that if I follow the technique any stress I experience will diminish. I do not feel like I am forcing myself to concentrate or do anything that takes effort that could produce stress. Althought the technique involves concentration, I know from experience the purpose and effect of concentration is relaxation if done appropriately. So I experience the practice as something that reduces "suffering" if I am patient with it. It doesn't take will power, just a desire to get rid of stress (dukkha). Over time I develop increasing skill at letting go (getting rid of stress) that carries over into daily life.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
6/23/18 11:00 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Every day I notice subtler and subtler ways my mind produces dukkha.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
6/24/18 7:30 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
That's the path. Just noticing the extra indulgences and resistances and ignoring that produces dukkha. Very practical, very straightforward.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/5/18 4:25 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Mantra for meditation or mindfulness practice:

Right now

In the present moment

I am relaxing

[slow relaxing breath]

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/5/18 6:59 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:
Mantra for meditation or mindfulness practice:

Right now

In the present moment

I am relaxing

[slow relaxing breath]



You don't need anything from the future.
Whatever did or did not happen in the past is irrelevant.
You own the present moment.
Your power (over dukkha) comes from the present moment.
Freedom is in the present moment.

You can be relaxed (free from dukkha) in the present moment if your mind is aware of the present moment.

Moment after moment.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/6/18 3:35 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
I think the terms "enlightenment", "awakening", and "insight" can be misleading. They evoke the idea of an intellectual understanding. But isn't nibbana a feeling not an idea? Isn't nibbana the feeling of the absence of dukkha. Shouldn't practitioners know they are seeking, cultivating, a feeling? I understand different people have different ways of learning, but at least for my own part, seeking a feeling, relaxation, the absence of dukkha, has helped me more.

Feelings are very hard to communicate because you have to experience them to understand them. When someone tries to communicate (describe) a feeling they have to use words which can make it sound like an idea, even though it is really a feeling.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/18/18 3:49 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Part of my practice philosophy is that sitting meditation is a place to develop and practice skills to use in everyday life. So I am always looking for ways that make it easier to keep the happy relaxed mental state produced by the style of meditation I practice going after a sitting meditationi session is over.

One thing I've noticed is that if during daily life if I focus my awareness on sensations, sight, sound, touch, smell, warm, cold, emotions, it helps to renew, perserve, and or enhance that meditative state. 

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/18/18 3:49 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:
Part of my practice philosophy is that sitting meditation is a place to develop and practice skills to use in everyday life. So I am always looking for ways that make it easier to keep the happy relaxed mental state produced by the style of meditation I practice going after a sitting meditationi session is over.

One thing I've noticed is that if during daily life if I focus my awareness on sensations, sight, sound, touch, smell, warm, cold, emotions, it helps to renew, perserve, and or enhance that meditative state. 


It is like sensations can be used as fuel to maintain the state. And it is interesting that focusing on an unpleasant emotion can also act a fuel, like converting something unpleasant into something pleasant.  Like converting mud into a lotus flower.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/21/18 2:10 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Yes, thats the path. The practical from your wisdom, I cant find any disagreement. I see how your engineering mind brought you upon this point.
But dont stop here , it’s jusf the beginning, let’s take it further and deeper.

You can feel the pleasantness by using right concentration from your mind, now since you know the illusion of them, I got to ask you , what is feeling or emotion, can you remember the last time you really angry that you can tear the world apart? Did it come from your thought, how exactly your thought trigger your emotion? Can I say it is the feeling you create? If you able to create such a huge negative emotion then can you produce the happiness that makes you in tears, at the peak, happiest moment in life, with right concentration?
Hopefully you can get into sukha and ekagatta.

By staying at the pleasant feeling can also makes your frequency in tunes with your environment, try to get in touch with nature or maybe you can even spread the happiness, amazing things would happen. The nature itself isnt illusion, the way you view the nature that illusionary.

And on your technique , the first step : Recognize. Lets investigate deeper, everytime you experience suffering, what is this dukha? Where is it coming from, the source, the roots?
For me the roots always be one of those : identity, doubts, fear.

then the second step : Release. Where are these kinds of dukhas end usually? How you end these, if familiar kind of the dukhas arise would you still be suffering?

Hope it’ll be helping for you.

Metta

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/24/18 11:13 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/8496517#_19_message_8496517
Jim Smith:
a state of relaxed happiness


relaxed and alert

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/24/18 5:27 PM as a reply to Henry wijaya.
Henry wijaya:


then the second step : Release. Where are these kinds of dukhas end usually? How you end these, if familiar kind of the dukhas arise would you still be suffering?

Hope it’ll be helping for you.

Metta
I don't understand what you are trying to say here. Maybe if you would write it in a different language I could try to use google translate to translate it into English.

But it raises another question for me. Can someone become a stream enterer without experiencing cessation? If not, what is the point of asking me these question if cessation is necessary and sufficient to become a stream enterer? Shouldn't someone just meditate, concentrate and still the mind, until his mind completely stops (cessation)?

I am replying to Henry's post but anyone who would like to answer my questions please feel free to reply.

Update: I think the cessation thread is a better place to have this discussion:
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/8905418#_19_message_8905418

Metta

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/24/18 1:11 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
I like this short video of Shinzen Young sort of describing this in a specifically Zen context:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSv5ELuujjs

and this one of him describing Vajrayana methods:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_VizlDWcTA

and this other comparison:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WiM-w5qqmE

(he seems like he would be a good person to get into for this since he comes with an authentic Vajrayana, Zen, and via Bill Hamilton and others I thought Theravada background)

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/25/18 5:31 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:
Henry wijaya  :


then the second step : Release. Where are these kinds of dukhas end usually?  How you end these, if familiar kind of the dukhas arise would you still be suffering? 

Hope it’ll be helping for you.
 
Metta
I don't understand what you are trying to say here. Maybe if you would write it in a different language I could try to use google translate to translate it into English.

But it raises another question for me. Can someone become a stream enterer without experiencing cessation? If not, what is the point of asking me these question if cessation is necessary and sufficient to become a stream enterer? Shouldn't someone just meditate, concentrate and still the mind, until his mind completely stops (cessation)?

I am replying to Henry's post but anyone who would like to answer my questions please feel free to reply.

Update: I think the cessation thread is a better place to have this discussion:  
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/8905418#_19_message_8905418
  
Metta

Sorry, my bad english. Maybe we can replace the word dukha with unpleasant. See, before you can truly release, you need to investigate this unpleasantness form from inside, is this really the way to end the unpleasant? If in the future, similiar form of unpleasant occur, do you still feel this?
Ex. Someone is crushing your car, give you a finger and just run away. So many unpleasant would rise inside you, either your unpleasant for the car damage, for your pride, for the injustice, etc. Lets take a look at unpleasant for your car damage, recognize this feeling, where is the source coming? Why you hurt too if your car hurt, afterall its not a living thing? Why you identify this car as you in first place? Are you too attached to belongings? What identity is lost if you dont have this car? Is this illusion of belonging consuming you etc . 
 
Then you : Release. How would you let go this sense of belonging? This car will still be yours in the end after dead afterall? Why you feel the idea of not having a car is hurting? 
Then if it is really investigated to the root, next time, even someone stole your car, or similiar this unpleasant might not come out anymore. The root of belonging or attached to dead thing is uprooted. 

It is in fact the most important thing for SE experience cessation/fruitation. Thats how your path change, nothing ever more important in this world than nirvana, since you had the glimpse of it. 
For your ingeneering mind, you have experience the highest standard, it is real, your life automatically work towards the new standard. For now maybe a slight weight feeling of unpleasant in your chest is a normal thing, but since your cessation, you know now it isnt normal, then you work on it. Like my sensation of flying , so light, in my feet and hand,body is still there from that day, if it isnt, something must has happenned, I must work on it. 


Hope this explains a little bit for you

Metta

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/25/18 6:36 AM as a reply to Henry wijaya.
Henry wijaya:

Sorry, my bad english. Maybe we can replace the word dukha with unpleasant. See, before you can truly release, you need to investigate this unpleasantness form from inside, is this really the way to end the unpleasant? If in the future, similiar form of unpleasant occur, do you still feel this?
Ex. Someone is crushing your car, give you a finger and just run away. So many unpleasant would rise inside you, either your unpleasant for the car damage, for your pride, for the injustice, etc. Lets take a look at unpleasant for your car damage, recognize this feeling, where is the source coming? Why you hurt too if your car hurt, afterall its not a living thing? Why you identify this car as you in first place? Are you too attached to belongings? What identity is lost if you dont have this car? Is this illusion of belonging consuming you etc . 

Then you : Release. How would you let go this sense of belonging? This car will still be yours in the end after dead afterall? Why you feel the idea of not having a car is hurting? 
Then if it is really investigated to the root, next time, even someone stole your car, or similiar this unpleasant might not come out anymore. The root of belonging or attached to dead thing is uprooted. 

It is in fact the most important thing for SE experience cessation/fruitation. Thats how your path change, nothing ever more important in this world than nirvana, since you had the glimpse of it. 
For your ingeneering mind, you have experience the highest standard, it is real, your life automatically work towards the new standard. For now maybe a slight weight feeling of unpleasant in your chest is a normal thing, but since your cessation, you know now it isnt normal, then you work on it. Like my sensation of flying , so light, in my feet and hand , body is still there from that day, if it isnt, something must has happended, I must work on it.


Hope this explains a little bit for you

Metta

I don't have a car. 

You are saying: let go of unpleasant feelings because they are unpleasant? It is preferable not to have unpleasant feelings. Your car is wrecked and you feel bad: that's two bad things. It's better if your car is wrecked but you feel okay. If you don't feel bad about it, your wrecked car isn't a bad thing, so if you are non attached you have 0 bad things.

All this is true, but does knowledge of it really help someone who is attached to their car? Try telling it to someone who is upset and I think you will find out it is not very helpful. To learn to let go, you need a technique not a philosophy.

You want nirvana all the time.

I want to be relaxed all the time.

Dukkha = stress.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sacca/sacca1/index.html

Sariputta's elaboration
[Ven. Sariputta:] "Now what, friends, is the noble truth of stress? Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful; association with the unbeloved is stressful; separation from the loved is stressful; not getting what is wanted is stressful. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.


Relaxed = no stress = no dukkha.

If someone tells me: "let go, don't be attached, release". I don't know what they mean. If someone tells me "relax", I know what that means, I know what to do, I know how to do it. It is something I do with my mind and body. I can tell I'm doing it because I can feel if I have stress or not.  But it is the exact same thing as "release" "let go", "don't be attached", just a different word that makes sense to an engineer. "Relax" tells you how to end suffering in a very direct concrete measurable way. (You can measure it subjectively by how you feel, or you can measure it objectively by EEG machine, heart rate, respiration rate, galvanic skin response, muscle tension, etc.)

There are many ways from many traditions that you can practice and learn to relax. But when you get really good at it, you don't need a technique. Any time you might feel stress (dukkha) you just do it (relax). Eventually, instead of feeling dukkha, you stay relaxed. (Well I haven't perfected it and don't really expect to, but that is my philosophy).

Anybody can experience being relaxed, so they easily understand what the goal is. You don't need a glimpse of nirvana to know how nice it is to be relaxed. All you have to do is some type of relaxation exercise for 20 minutes and notice how you feel before and after. Maybe a beginner will be just a little relaxed but it is enough to point him in the right direction.

Anybody can do this practice. You don't have to meditate all day or go on a retreat, or study philosophy. You can practice during some daily activities just as well as when you are doing sitting meditation. You get as much out as you put in. Over time you feel more and more relaxed and you experience less and less suffering.



Metta

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/25/18 6:33 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:
Henry wijaya :

Sorry, my bad english. Maybe we can replace the word dukha with unpleasant. See, before you can truly release, you need to investigate this unpleasantness form from inside, is this really the way to end the unpleasant? If in the future, similiar form of unpleasant occur, do you still feel this?   
Ex. Someone is crushing your car, give you a finger and just run away. So many unpleasant would rise inside you, either your unpleasant for the car damage, for your pride, for the injustice, etc. Lets take a look at unpleasant for your car damage, recognize this feeling, where is the source coming? Why you hurt too if your car hurt, afterall its not a living thing? Why you identify this car as you in first place? Are you too attached to belongings? What identity is lost if you dont have this car? Is this illusion of belonging consuming you etc . 

Then you : Release. How would you let go this sense of belonging? This car will still be yours in the end after dead afterall? Why you feel the idea of not having a car is hurting? 
Then if it is really investigated to the root, next time, even someone stole your car, or similiar this unpleasant might not come out anymore. The root of belonging or attached to dead thing is uprooted.  

It is in fact the most important thing for SE experience cessation/fruitation. Thats how your path change, nothing ever more important in this world than nirvana, since you had the glimpse of it. 
For your ingeneering mind, you have experience the highest standard, it is real, your life automatically work towards the new standard. For now maybe a slight weight feeling of unpleasant in your chest is a normal thing, but since your cessation, you know now it isnt normal, then you work on it. Like my sensation of flying , so light, in my feet and hand , body is still there from that day, if it isnt, something must has happended, I must work on it.
 

Hope this explains a little bit for you
  
Metta

I don't have a car. 

You are saying: let go of unpleasant feelings because they are unpleasant? It is preferable not to have unpleasant feelings. Your car is wrecked and you feel bad: that's two bad things. It's better if your car is wrecked but you feel okay. If you don't feel bad about it, your wrecked car isn't a bad thing, so if you are non attached you have 0 bad things.
 
You want nirvana all the time.

I want to be relaxed all the time.

Dukkha = stress.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sacca/sacca1/index.html

Sariputta's elaboration
[Ven. Sariputta:] "Now what, friends, is the noble truth of stress? Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful; association with the unbeloved is stressful; separation from the loved is stressful; not getting what is wanted is stressful. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.


Relaxed = no stress = no dukkha.
 
If someone tells me: "let go, don't be attached, release". I don't know what they mean. If someone tells me "relax", I know what that means, I know what to do, I know how to do it. It is something I do with my mind and body. I can tell I'm doing it because I can feel if I have stress or not.  But it is the exact same thing as "release" "let go", "don't be attached", just a different word that makes sense to an engineer. "Relax" tells you how to end suffering in a very direct con  crete measurable way. (You can measure it subjectively by how you feel, or you can measure it objectively with EEG machine, heart rate, respiration rate, galvanic skin response, muscle tension, etc.) 

There are many ways from many traditions that you can practice and learn to relax. But when you get really good at it, you don't need a technique. Any time you might feel stress (dukkha) you just do it (relax). Eventually, instead of feeling dukkha, you stay relaxed. (Well I haven't perfected it and don't really expect to, but that is my philosophy).

Anybody can experience being relaxed, so they easily understand what the goal is. You don't need a glimpse of nirvana to know how nice it is to be relaxed. All you have to do is some type of relaxation exercise for 20 minutes and notice how you feel before and after. Maybe a beginner will be just a little relaxed but it is enought to point him in the right direction.

Anybody can do this practice. You don't have to meditate all day or go on a retreat, or study philosophy. You can practice during some daily activities just as well as when you are doing sitting meditation. You get as much out as you put in. Over time you feel more and more relaxed and you experience less and less suffering.



Metta
Oh well .. I’d say samatha is better for you than vipassana, because vipassana goal is to see the real nature truth of life , then you want to be out of the rat race once you experience nirvana and seen the illusions of life.

Samatha means you want to be in control, inner peace, happiness, relaxation. Jhana ability, abhinna , etc. Samsara still looks promising to you. It’s fine too, nothing wrong with these. 

Metta

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/25/18 6:53 AM as a reply to Henry wijaya.
Henry wijaya:
Oh well .. I’d say samatha is better for you than vipassana, because vipassana goal is to see the real nature truth of life , then you want to be out of the rat race once you experience nirvana and seen the illusions of life.

Samatha means you want to be in control, inner peace, happiness, relaxation. Jhana ability, abhinna , etc. Samsara still looks promising to you. It’s fine too, nothing wrong with these. 

Metta


Not just for me, for 99% of humanity. You want to help the most people? Teach samatha.

If you want to be relaxed, you want to be out of the rat race.

When you notice what makes you stressed and you see how relaxing ends stress, you realize your mind was spinning illusions all your life. When you practice Jhana and you can be happy, or rapturous with a technique, you realize emotions are illusons. When joy becomes tedious you are beginning to see through illusion, you stop chasing happiness.

Samatha means you don't want control, it means you get rid of stress by renouncing control.


Metta

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/25/18 10:25 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
In some way, I agree with you. Maybe the only problem left is can you totally relax without trackng the source of stress, and end the stress without the glimpse of nirvana. 

Oh I just realize something, the way you mention it.. maybe you can try like what I did, after you feel joy and rapture, try to bring to max , then you move into become the watcher of the breath, since you know life is illusion, watching the breath will eventually bring you to cessation.

Maybe it’s like a new method to combine samatha and vipassana.

Metta

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/26/18 2:32 AM as a reply to Henry wijaya.
Henry wijaya:
In some way, I agree with you. Maybe the only problem left is can you totally relax without trackng the source of stress, and end the stress without the glimpse of nirvana. 
Okay, but I consider this a moot point because it is unlikely I (and the vast majority of meditators > 99%) will ever do enough meditation to glimpse nirvana. If you say my technique will never get me enlightenment, I don't care because your technique would never get me enlightenment either because I am not meditating all day or going on retreats.


Oh I just realize something, the way you mention it.. maybe you can try like what I did, after you feel joy and rapture, try to bring to max , then you move into become the watcher of the breath, since you know life is illusion, watching the breath will eventually bring you to cessation.

Maybe it’s like a new method to combine samatha and vipassana.

Metta


Maybe I will try this sometime if you think is would be helpful. I have not tried to push it to the max, I don't really like it when it gets too strong. I don't want to damage my brain. Some people meditate a lot and get enlightenment. Some people meditate a lot and go insane.


I don't think combining samatha and vipassana is a new method. I think it is the old method.


https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/onetool.html



One Tool Among Many
The Place of Vipassana in Buddhist Practice
by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu

...
But if you look directly at the Pali discourses — the earliest extant sources for our knowledge of the Buddha's teachings — you'll find that although they do use the word samatha to mean tranquillity, and vipassana to mean clear-seeing, they otherwise confirm none of the received wisdom about these terms. Only rarely do they make use of the word vipassana — a sharp contrast to their frequent use of the word jhana. When they depict the Buddha telling his disciples to go meditate, they never quote him as saying "go do vipassana," but always "go do jhana." And they never equate the word vipassana with any mindfulness techniques. In the few instances where they do mention vipassana, they almost always pair it with samatha — not as two alternative methods, but as two qualities of mind that a person may "gain" or "be endowed with," and that should be developed together. One simile, for instance (SN 35.204), compares samatha and vipassana to a swift pair of messengers who enter the citadel of the body via the noble eightfold path and present their accurate report — Unbinding, or nibbana — to the consciousness acting as the citadel's commander. Another passage (AN 10.71) recommends that anyone who wishes to put an end to mental defilement should — in addition to perfecting the principles of moral behavior and cultivating seclusion — be committed to samatha and endowed with vipassana. This last statement is unremarkable in itself, but the same discourse also gives the same advice to anyone who wants to master the jhanas: be committed to samatha and endowed with vipassana. This suggests that, in the eyes of those who assembled the Pali discourses, samatha, jhana, and vipassana were all part of a single path. Samatha and vipassana were used together to master jhana and then — based on jhana — were developed even further to give rise to the end of mental defilement and to bring release from suffering. This is a reading that finds support in other discourses as well.
...



There is samatha in vipassana and vipassana in samatha. It is just a question of proportion. Buddha taught both are necessary qualities of mind. And there is not just one type of vipassana meditation right? Just because I don't do intensive noting does not mean I am not doing any type of vipassana. I am observing what causes stress, what happens in the mind and body as stress arises and ends, and trying to learn how to encourage it to end. I am not just sitting in bliss, in a monastery, on retreat. I didn't write much about that in the op, I think I will add an update to it:
UPDATE 3:  I should have mentioned this in the op:  As I meditate and practice mindfulness during the day I am not just cultivating bliss. I am observing what causes stress. This means I notice the activity of the mind and notice sensations in the body that accompany emotions. This is a form of insight meditation. In the sutras Buddha did not distinguish samatha and vipassana as a distinct forms of meditation.

Metta

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/27/18 12:14 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:
Henry wijaya:
In some way, I agree with you. Maybe the only problem left is can you totally relax without trackng the source of stress, and  end the stress without the glimpse of nirvana.    
 Okay, but I consider this a moot point because it is unlikely I (and the   vast majority of meditators > 99%) will ever do enough meditation to  glimpse nirvana. If you say my technique will never get me enlightenment, I don't care because your technique would never get me enlightenment either because I am not meditating all day or going on retreats.


Oh I just realize something, the way you mention it.. maybe you can try like what I did, after you feel joy and rapture, try to bring to max , then you move into become the watcher of the breath, since you know life is illusion, watching the breath will eventually bring you to cessation.

Maybe it’s like a new method to combine samatha and vipassana.

Metta


Maybe I will try this sometime if you think is would be helpful. I have not tried to push it to the max, I don't really like it when it gets too strong. I don't want to damage my brain. Some people meditate a lot and get enlightenment. Some people meditate a lot and go insane.


I don't think combining samatha and vipassana is a new method. I think it is the old method.
 

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/onetool.html

 

One Tool Among Many
The Place of Vipassana in Buddhist Practice
by   
Thanissaro Bhikkhu

...  
But if you look directly at the Pali discourses — the earliest extant sources for  our knowledge of the Buddha's teachings — you'll find that although they do use the word samatha to mean tranquillity, and vipassana to mean clear-seeing, they otherwise confirm none of the received wisdom about these terms. Only rarely do they make use of the word vipassana — a sharp contrast to their frequent use of the word jhana. When they depict the Buddha telling his disciples to go meditate, they never quote him as saying "go do vipassana," but always "go do jhana." And they never equate the word vipassana with any mindfulness techniques. In the few instances where they do mention vipassana, they almost always pair it with samatha — not as two alternative methods, but as two qualities of mind that a person may "gain" or "be endowed  with," and that should be developed together. One simile, for instance (SN  35.204), compares samatha and vipassana to a swift pair of messengers who enter the citadel of the body via the noble eightfold path and present their accurate report — Unbinding, or nibbana — to the consciousness acting as the citadel's commander. Another passage (AN 10.71) recommends that anyone who wishes to put an end to mental defilement should — in addition to perfecting the principles of moral behavior and cultivating seclusion — be committed to samatha and endowed with vipassana. This last statement is unremarkable in itself, but the same discourse also gives the same advice to anyone who wants to master the jhanas: be committed to samatha and endowed with vipassana. This sug  gests that, in the eyes of those who as sembled the Pali discourses, samatha, jhana, and vipassana were all part of a  single path. Samatha and vipassana were  used together to master jhana and then — based on jhana — were developed even further to give rise to the end of mental de filement and to bring release from suffering. This is a reading that finds support in other discourses as well.
...

  

There is samatha in vipassana and vipassana in samatha. It is just a question of proportion. Buddha taught both are necessary qualities of mind. And there is not just one type of vipassana meditation right? Just because I don't do intensive noting does not mean I am not doing any type of vipassana. I am observing what causes stress, what happens in the mind and body as stress arises and ends, and trying to learn how to encourage it to end. I am not just sitting in bliss, in a monastery, on retreat. I didn't write much about that in the op, I think I will add an update to it:
UPDATE 3:  I should have mentioned this in the op:  As I meditate and practice mindfulness during the day I am not just cultivating bliss. I am observing what causes stress. This means I notice the activity of the mind and notice sensations in the body that accompany emotions. This is a form of insight meditation. In the sutras Buddha did not distinguish samatha and vipassana as a distinct forms of meditation.

Metta

Yes, for me its what I called practise wisdom, observing the cause, this is vipassana too. Its just the terms. 
No, push hard wont get you anywhere too. I dont do retreats and sit all day long, only when I got time. Monastic life only means better environment to practise, layfolk more challenging, so its all plus and minus. 
Yes I agree on your saying bout samatha and vipassana. 
Maybe the time will tell you when to move on next stages , since you have a strong observation, its just matter of time for enlightment. 


Metta

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/27/18 8:47 AM as a reply to Henry wijaya.
Henry wijaya:

Yes, for me its what I called practise wisdom, observing the cause, this is vipassana too. Its just the terms. 
...


Metta

Henry,

Why don't we talk about something else?

I live in the Eastern US. It's morning here. I went out for a walk early and saw two deer. I see them in my neighborhood occasionally but not very often. I first noticed deer tracks made by hooves wet from the dew on a driveway. I looked around  but I didn't see the deer so I kept on walking and a few yards further I saw the deer in a yard across the street. The second deer was about 50 feet further along the street in the back yard of another house.  There are also a lot of rabbits in my neghborhood. And I saw a kildeer which is a small bird, a kind of plover. This time of year when they are making noise on the ground like this one was it can be because their young are around and they are trying to distract any predators away from their young. They build nests on the ground so the young are vulnerable. I looked for chicks but I didn't have binoculars and they would be pretty small - I didn't see any. I also heard a young hawk calling. This time of year when the hawks are fledging you can sometimes hear the adult and the youngster calling to each other keeping in touch as they move around the area. It was a nice walk, the morning was cool and pleasant but cloudy.


How is your day going?


Metta


P.S. Any lurkers out there, feel free to contribute.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/27/18 8:54 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Hey, I saw two deer across the street from my house on Tuesday morning. I live about four blocks from a very wooded area that follows along a major river, the Des Plaines River, which runs from north to south through the western suburbs of Chicago. These were two bucks, both with pretty large racks that were covered in the fuzzy velvet of new antlers. We, too, have a lot of wildlife in our area - rabbits, racoons, opossums and skunks. It's a neighborhood full of older homes and we have a lot of deer-friendly trees and shrubs. These two particular deer were munching on my neighbor's hosta flowers.

I was walking the dog a few weeks ago and encountered a doe with her fawn among the houses a few blocks away. This was at about noon, not the usual time of day to see deer out and about. They weren't at all scared away by me or the dog, who was very quiet for some reason, but the doe made sure to stay between the dog and me and her fawn.

Fascinating stuff.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/27/18 9:54 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
I live in Nevada County, California. Nevada County crests the high country of the Sierra Nevada mountains and runs east to the stateline of Nevada, just outside Reno. My town of Nevada City sits in the foothills of the western slopes of the Sierra at the elevation where rolling golden hills of oak trees turn to alpine forests. The foothills here running north/south along the Central Valley are known as The Gold Country as this was the area of the 19th century gold rush. 

At this elevation, wildlife is plentiful. Deer and wild turkey are seen on the daily. Bobcats and foxes are also commonly seen. I enjoy walks along the irrigation ditches through thick forests watching squaking ravens play in the canopy.   

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/30/18 7:43 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Oh sounds lovely..I love wildlife too.. I lived in North Sumatra, Indonesia. Me and my wife just had second child, a lovely baby girl. Today is the first time she react smiling to my singing, I sang all the morning to her, as now Im heading home after work , thinking a new strategy to make my son do his homework in more playful method ( mostly fail). The night is more about his voice in my house. In the morning I’d bring my children to enjoy sunlight, singing,  play pretend as farmers with my son. Its a good day of everyday here. Hope you have good one everyday too.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
2/23/19 8:52 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
I found an interesting article on awakening:

"Didn’t your spiritual practices lead you to your awakening?"
https://www.engagednonduality.com/didnt-your-spiritual-practices-lead-you-to-your-awakening/


What I thought was most interesting was this bit:


Really, we should not try to be detached, try to be without fear, or try to accept. Trying is something the ego does and will fail (never permanently succeeding). It is not a matter of trying…it is a matter of deep understanding. Delving into the attachment, fear, or denial that you feel and questioning its very existence. Seeing through the illusion of that feeling. Seeing that it is our own mind (thoughts and/or beliefs) that are creating the attachment, fear, or denial. If the understanding is deep enough, they disappear on their own and you don’t have to try to be detached, fearless, and accepting. If attachment, fear, or denying what is comes back, then the understanding was just not deep enough…and/or you are paying too much attention to the mind and believing it instead of sticking with your understanding.


I think what he is saying in the article is that you should not try to control your feelings, you should not try to control your emotions. What you should do is notice the thoughts that produce feelings and emotions and try to see how those thoughts and your belief that they are real or that they represent reality is the source of the problem. 

"Seeing that it is our own mind (thoughts and/or beliefs) that are creating the attachment, fear, or denial."

I have read this idea before. But what seemed to make more sense to me in this article is to contrast it with practices that seem to be focused on trying to let go of attachments. The author is saying, don't try to let go, try to see that the thoughts which produce clinging are illusions and clinging/dukkha is an illusion.

Those thoughts that produce illusions of ego, fear, attachment, are real to the extent they produce feelings that you experience, but they are not objective reality, they do not exist as part of physical reality like a tree or a chair, they are produced by the mind.

I'm not sure if this would help someone who hasn't spent time meditating and observing the activity of their mind. If you don't understand the problem, you might not be able to appreciate the solution. Trying to let go helps you to understand what the problem is so you can understand how the mind creates dukkha. And when the mind is quiet from meditation, you are not so likely to be caught up in your thoughts and emotions and you can look at them more objectively and crticially and see what they are doing to you.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/21/19 7:01 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
The kind of meditation I practice (see my first posts in my log) is like the soft jhanas. I have developed an understanding of where this fits into the greater scheme of things. It seems like it is a kind of platform from which to delve deeper into concentration. 

Over the years I've tried many different types of meditation and I've found some of them can be harmful. Too much concentation can make me irritable as if I was suppressing thoughts and emotions. And as Leigh Brasington says the jhanas involve a pleasure feedback loop in the brain, but if I meditate when I am in a bad mood, it seems like sometimes I create a feedback loop amplifying unpleasant emotions. 

So the kind of meditation I do puts me in a proper, safe (pleasant), frame of mind from which to do concentration meditation. 

I also started noticing that holding the palms of my hands upward helps bring on the pleasant feelings. I don't really know why. But it is interesting that the standard type of Buddist meditation mudra has both palms facing upward. If you hold your palms facing upward and imagine some kind of "energy" coming down into you, you might feel a kind of sensation in your hands and body. Focusing on that sensation can bring on the pleasant feelings. I also notice a sensation in my around my heart ("chakra") that can bring on the pleasant feeling too. I don't claim it means anything but I find it interesting that traditional beliefs seem to me to be based on real phenomena.

I think I mentioned elsewhere in these forums that in my opinion the trick to producing the pleasant feelings, if there is one, is to eat a diet that gives the brain the right nutrients to produce neurotransmitters. Everyone is different so I don't want to try to give specific advice here, (unless someone asks me), but if anyone is interested look up on the internet how carbohydrates, insulin, protein, and tryptophan interact to influence serotonin levels in the brain. I consider diet (and relaxation see below) to be an integral part of my practice.

I also noticed a new kind of feeling. When my mind is calm from meditation and my body relaxed, there are very few thoughts and emotions arising and very little tension in response to unpleasant thoughts and emotions. If I observe, waiting for the next thought or emotion to arise, I see there is very little activity. I have done this many times in the past but what is new is that I have begun to notice a feeling like something is missing, like there is a gap, a hole, like an emptiness, like no one is home. Like if another person would say something unpleasant, there wouldn't be anyone to be offended.  It is not like dissociation. In dissociation the observer is watching the actor. Here it feels like there is no actor.

I am not implying this is significant. I am just describing my experiences in case anyone is interested, or wants to try to reproduce the experience, or wants to discuss it.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/21/19 7:01 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:

...
I also noticed a new kind of feeling. When my mind is calm from meditation and my body relaxed, there are very few thoughts and emotions arising and very little tension in response to unpleasant thoughts and emotions. If I observe, waiting for the next thought or emotion to arise, I see there is very little activity. I have done this many times in the past but what is new is that I have begun to notice a feeling like something is missing, like there is a gap, a hole, like an emptiness, like no one is home. Like if another person would say something unpleasant, there wouldn't be anyone to be offended.  It is not like dissociation. In dissociation the observer is watching the actor. Here it feels like there is no actor.

I am not implying this is significant. I am just describing my experiences in case anyone is interested, or wants to try to reproduce the experience, or wants to discuss it.

I should have said in the previous post that because the mind is so quiet, it seems like the usual mental activity is "missing" and it's absence causes the feeling of emptiness etc.

Maybe it is a coincidence or maybe it is related but I am finding it much easier to let go of some deeply ingrained attachments and aversions that I was previously unable to let go of. It is hard to describe what is going on but I have read some authors who discuss "surrender" and that is what it feels like. Surrendering to the things that bother you. Giving up resistance. Not fighting. Obviously those are metphorical terms but I don't know how else to explain it. Just saying "Accepting that things are not how I want them to be." doesn't do it justice because that phrase is easy to say but almost impossible to do. It is like I am able to accept that things are not how I want them to be. Fighting is more unpleasant than acceptance of things I don't want. Somehow I can now see that wanting something different is unpleasant where I couldn't see before that that was what was causing the unpleasantness. Before I thougth the situation was causing the suffering, but now  see very clearly it is my own wanting that is causing the suffering and so I don't want the thing anymore.

Theoretically one would say that having a diminished sense of self should make it easier to let go. But I don't really feel like that cause and effect relationship is what is happening. I think there is some underlying thing going on and that is causing both experiences, a diminished sense of self and improved ability to let go that feels like surrender.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/6/19 9:40 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:

Maybe it is a coincidence or maybe it is related but I am finding it much easier to let go of some deeply ingrained attachments and aversions that I was previously unable to let go of.
...

Theoretically one would say that having a diminished sense of self should make it easier to let go. But I don't really feel like that cause and effect relationship is what is happening. I think there is some underlying thing going on and that is causing both experiences, a diminished sense of self and improved ability to let go that feels like surrender.
I think what is going on is that the things I am finally able to let go of are things that involve pride. Like there might be a situation where I was too proud to admit I was wrong. Or too proud to accept something or other. 

So I see how this relates to the new feeling I described in a previous post: "if someone said something uppleasant there would be no one there to be offended".

I am able to let go because there is no one there who is too proud.

That personality (self?) who was too proud came into existence by means of  the mental chatter. Take away the chatter and the personality is gone? Maybe something like that. My mind is not totally silent ... but something changed. I can see the personality was an illusion so even if the chatter is not totally gone, the illusion is broken and has lost its effect?

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/8/19 12:27 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
The human mind has a biochemical component and a mental component. They interact. The mental influences the biochemical and the biochemical influences the mental.

It seems to me that vipassana meditation addresses the problem from the mental aspect and jhana type meditation addresses the problem from the biochemical aspect.


https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/onetool.html
One Tool Among Many
The Place of Vipassana in Buddhist Practice
by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
...
in the eyes of those who assembled the Pali discourses, samatha, jhana, and vipassana were all part of a single path.
...

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
7/8/19 12:49 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
When you are focused in a relaxed way so that you have very few thoughts about liking and disliking, winning or losing, good and bad, you are not suffering. If you can experience this, you have a great way to practice. You get positive feedback (lack of "suffering") from doing the right thing (focusing the mind).

That is the ultimate reward from meditation: Seeing that it is the mind that creates suffering, and that by calming the mind, suffering ceases, then understanding that suffering was never anything but an illusion created by the mind. 

Quoting myself...

In the morning I was walking home with a heavy pack, the sun was up already and it was hot. I tried to meditate as I walked. I noticed that when I thought, "It's hot. or "My pack is heavy", or "How much further?" or "This sucks" I was suffering. But when I concentrated in meditation I thought "left" and "right" as I put my feet down, or "in" and "out" as I breathed, I didn't think, "It's hot, or "My pack is heavy", or "How much further?", or "This sucks." and I didn't suffer. Even though it was hot and my pack was heavy, and I had a long way to go, it didn't suck. I had a situation where I could really see the source of suffering is the mind and I had a system where I received positive feedback, less suffering, for doing the right thing with my mind. So I think that is a good principle for effective practice. When you can clearly see the purpose of the practice (keep the mind focused), the principle that it is based on (suffering is caused by the mind), and you get positive feedback (less suffering) for doing the right thing. And I can practice this way in daily life, as I have various thoughts I can see how they cause suffering and that keeping my mind focused on some type of mindfulness practice will prevent suffering.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/2/19 4:49 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
I had a dream during a nap this afternoon. In the dream I was exploring a flooded woodland and I got to a point where the water became so deep that the flow of the water prevented me from going where I wanted.

As the dream ended I became more wakeful and started meditating as I drowsed. I was barely awake just aware of my breathing and a feeling of relaxation and lightness like I wasn't controling anything - I was just a bit of consciousness observing, not controling my breath, just noticing it and the feeling of relaxation and lightness.

Later I got up and began sitting meditation. I didn't try to controlling anything, my breathing, my thoughts, etc, which reproduced that feeling of relaxation and lightness. My mind wandered and I remembered the dream and wondered if it meant anything and then I thought it was about that feeling I had during meditation where I wasn't in control.

It seems like an appropriate state in which to meditate. 

To experience non atachment you have to give up control, intention, desire, and just be.

Practice that during meditation, develop the skill so it will be with you after the session is over. A lot of trouble (dukkha) comes to me from things I don't like and then want to control, or try to control, or think I should control.

I once read a Zen poem that said someting like: be like a floating goard bobbing on the surface of a fast running stream. (It might have been a cork not a gourd my memory is fuzzy.)

If anyone knows the author and title of the poem and any book it might be published in, please let me know (I think the same book had the poem with the lines: stillness in motion, motion in stillness) - I would like to locate a copy of the book but I don't remember title, publisher, or translator. It would have been over 20 years ago and I think it might be out of print - but I would also be interested in any collection of poems in print today that includes it. Thanks

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/14/19 10:54 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
A small pond

A breezy day

Water moving in a circle

Floating leaves and sticks going slowly round and round.

Turtles riding a carousel

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/15/19 12:13 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
When I wrote this 
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/8496517?_19_delta=20&_19_keywords=&_19_advancedSearch=false&_19_andOperator=true&_19_resetCur=false&_19_cur=2#_19_message_14855489
Jim Smith:

...
As the dream ended I became more wakeful and started meditating as I drowsed. I was barely awake just aware of my breathing and a feeling of relaxation and lightness like I wasn't controling anything - I was just a bit of consciousness observing, not controling my breath, just noticing it and the feeling of relaxation and lightness.

Later I got up and began sitting meditation. I didn't try to controlling anything, my breathing, my thoughts, etc, which reproduced that feeling of relaxation and lightness. My mind wandered and I remembered the dream and wondered if it meant anything and then I thought it was about that feeling I had during meditation where I wasn't in control.

It seems like an appropriate state in which to meditate. 

...

I didn't mention that it involved a feeling of existing somewhere behind my eyes and looking into whatever it is you see when your eyes are closed. 

But then Stirling pointed me to this:

https://www.lionsroar.com/how-to-meditate-dzogchen-ponlop-rinpoche-on-mahamudra/

Next, bring awareness to the eyes and look directly into the space in front. Then simply relax at ease and rest in the present moment, in nowness. On one hand, there’s a sense of focusing on the space, but on the other, there’s no particular spot to focus on. The gaze is like space itself, wide and spacious.

Whatever comes up in the present, whether it’s a thought, emotion, or perception, try to meet it without judgment or comment. Rest the mind in that very experience, whether you regard it as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. There’s no need to change or improve it or look for a better place to rest. Rest the mind where it is and just as it is.


So I am mentioning it now in case anyone wants to try it. The link explains the significance of the practice.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/17/19 3:12 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
cross posting
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/15122447#_19_message_15122447
Jim Smith:
When I practice vipassana from within the jhanas, I watch the activity of the mind from within the jhanas.

I can watch the process of how an emotion arises and changes my mood from the pleasant jhana state to something unpleasant.

It seems analogous to how a train of thought can distract me and "take over" my mind when I am distracted during meditation.

In the same way an emotion can take over my mind.

But if I am mindful, and if I know how to practice the jhanas, then when I notice an emotion and feel it takinng over my mind, I can pervent the emotion from taking over my mind by reinstating the pleasant mood produced by the jhanas.

The pleasant state I am referring to is not intense bliss, just a quiet pleasant contented mood, produced by a half smile and a breath, like getting into a warm jacuzzi and saying ahhh.

In the past I would relax any tensions in my body that I felt accompanying the emotion. I still do that, but this is something additional.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/16/19 10:11 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
In another thread I mentioned the influence of diet on mood and entering the jhanas:
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/14333854#_19_message_14335399
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/14333854#_19_message_14336934
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/14333854#_19_message_14408411

I have an update. For the last couple of weeks  have been eating a diet of 50% calories from fat, 30% from carbs and 20% from protein. The types of carbs I eat do not produce food cravings (which I identified by trial and error - and they are not what you would think going by glycemic index alone) so I can go a long time without feeling a strong urge to eat. I am using walnuts to get the fat levels up. I've been losing weight on 1500 calories a day without feeling like I am starving or craving food. (I've tried a similar diet before and also am continuing to experiment now and I find getting the type of carbs correct is the key to feeling okay with such a low number of calories. On this diet I find my mood is less variable.

And I am finding it easier to enter the soft jhanas consistently.

I think this diet probably results in more stable blood sugar levels. I don't think it is necessary reduce total calories so low to experience this effect, but I am not making any claims as to whether it is healthful or not and different people might not get the same results. One point is that if it sounds like a lot of fat based on %, the total calories are low so the number of grams of fat are not as high as they would be if the total calories were higher.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/17/19 12:56 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
I have said it before, but I really like your nuanced and nondogmatic approach to diets. I have to keep a very strict diet because of allergies, possibly celiac disease, and histamine intolerance. I react very strongly to different types of food. Among the types of food that I can sometimes cheat with temporarily, some make me speeded and insomniac whereas some make me fall asleep. For me it seems to be unrelated to blood sugar levels; it’s something else (hormones?). My dedication to the practice makes it easier to stick with the diet, because the brain fog makes meditation impossible. I suspect that different foods affect people more than most are aware of, but differently depending on individual conditioning and bodily predisposition.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/17/19 1:09 AM as a reply to Henry wijaya.
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/14564976?_19_delta=20&_19_keywords=&_19_advancedSearch=false&_19_andOperator=true&_19_resetCur=false&_19_cur=3#_19_message_15108363
Jim Smith:

I think part of the purpose of samatha / jhana is to produce a serene state to counteract the more disturbing aspects of vipassana. That is, to help cope with or prevent dark nights.  I am trying some a different way of observing the mind and I am finding it useful to come back to jhana practice to "relax". When you begin to see that anything you can observe is not me or mine and you can't know about anything unless you observe it so there is nothing that can be me or mine, and therefore there can be no you and you see this in your own observation of your own mind - it can be a bit disturbing - so it's nice to have a samatha practice to come back to restore tranquility.

The new thing I was trying is this recommended by Sterling:
https://www.lionsroar.com/how-to-meditate-dzogchen-ponlop-rinpoche-on-mahamudra/

and that was pleasant enough, but the first few pages of "The Untethered Soul" also recommended by Sterling  ... uh ... surprised me. I don't know why it didn't have anything new to me just helped me see it is a bit of differnt way that made a lot of difference in how I practiced it.

There are samatha practices other than the jhana that can produce a relaxed tranquil state so, the difficulty of the jhanas should not be an obstacle.



Chapter 1 of the Untethered Soul was about watching the inner voice

Chapter 2 said you have to understand the source problems is how you react to external events not the external events themselves. And the solution to problems involves how you react. Watch your inner voice as if it was a separate person and you will see that the source of your problems is inside you not outside you.

I tried this and it didn't take very long before I saw myself in a differnt light. Like I would see another person with a problem rather than a person submerged in problem they couldn't see because they had suffered with it for so long they took it for granted. I could see more objectively what the problem is and that the source is me not the universe. (I'm talking about a specific persnoal problem, not a general problem like attachment to self-view)

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/17/19 3:21 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:
cross posting
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/15122447#_19_message_15122447
Jim Smith:
When I practice vipassana from within the jhanas, I watch the activity of the mind from within the jhanas.

I can watch the process of how an emotion arises and changes my mood from the pleasant jhana state to something unpleasant.

It seems analogous to how a train of thought can distract me and "take over" my mind when I am distracted during meditation.

In the same way an emotion can take over my mind.


But if I am mindful, and if I know how to practice the jhanas, then when I notice an emotion and feel it takinng over my mind, I can pervent the emotion from taking over my mind by reinstating the pleasant mood produced by the jhanas.

The pleasant state I am referring to is not intense bliss, just a quiet pleasant contented mood, produced by a half smile and a breath, like getting into a warm jacuzzi and saying ahhh.

In the past I would relax any tensions in my body that I felt accompanying the emotion. I still do that, but this is something additional.


I have been reading more of "The Untethered Soul" and the autor points out that this is the fundamental way we get drawn into forgetting what we really are. We are only awareness watching thoughts and feelings inside and watching the events going on outside us. But our attention gets drawn into thoughts and emotions and events like when you watch a movie and are so drawn into it and you forget your surroundings. We forget what we are and think we are in the movie, that the movie is real, we forget that we are only watching it.

He goes on to discuss how we mismanage emotions, how we push away unpleasant emotions and cling to pleasant emotions. How we feel emotinal pain because we get drawn in and forget we are just watchers. He says part of liberation is to always be open, to let go, (to relax when you feel yourself reacting to something unpleasant), and not push away or cling to anything. But because we get drawn into emotions and forget that we are just awareness watching, we have a hard time letting go (relaxing and just watching). But if you remember what  you are (only awareness watching) and don't get drawn in, and always allow yourself to experience the pain rather than protect yourself, the benefit (liberation) is worth it. He says always keep your heart open (don't push away or cling) and love will flow through your life and you will enjoy life moment to moment having fun whatever comes next.

The next part of the book is "Part III Freeing Yourself"

My library has internet access to ebooks through hoopladigital.com which is where I borrowed the book from. It is also available to borrow on overdrive but there was a waiting list when I checked.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/18/19 12:16 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:

I have been reading more of "The Untethered Soul" and the autor points out that this is the fundamental way we get drawn into forgetting what we really are. We are only awareness watching thoughts and feelings inside and watching the events going on outside us. But our attention gets drawn into thoughts and emotions and events like when you watch a movie and are so drawn into it and you forget your surroundings. We forget what we are and think we are in the movie, that the movie is real, we forget that we are only watching it.

He goes on to discuss how we mismanage emotions, how we push away unpleasant emotions and cling to pleasant emotions. How we feel emotinal pain because we get drawn in and forget we are just watchers. He says part of liberation is to always be open, to let go, (to relax when you feel yourself reacting to something unpleasant), and not push away or cling to anything. But because we get drawn into emotions and forget that we are just awareness watching, we have a hard time letting go (relaxing and just watching). But if you remember what  you are (only awareness watching) and don't get drawn in, and always allow yourself to experience the pain rather than protect yourself, the benefit (liberation) is worth it. He says always keep your heart open (don't push away or cling) and love will flow through your life and you will enjoy life moment to moment having fun whatever comes next.

The next part of the book is "Part III Freeing Yourself"

My library has internet access to ebooks through hoopladigital.com which is where I borrowed the book from. It is also available to borrow on overdrive but there was a waiting list when I checked.


The author of "The Unthered Soul", Michael Singer, practiced yoga and I am noticing a difference in his approach compared to Buddhism (at least what I think I know of Theravada and Zen - Dzogchen seems to be a more like yoga but I know very little about Dzogchen).  Buddhist mindfulness and yoga witnessing (I think that is the term they use in yoga) are similar practices. They both try to get you to be aware of thoughts, emotions and external events rather than being drawn into your own thinking. But if you understand normal consciousness as being drawn into thoughts, emotions, and external events like when you watch a movie and forget your surroundings, then with mindfulness I was still partly drawn into events where in witnessing at least as instructed by Singer I am much less drawn in and I see myself as awareness watching a person and external events rather than a person watching himself and external events. With mindfulness I was still a person, with witnessing I am my "true self", awareness watching, even if not fully realized. It feels very different when I am washing the dishes, cooking pasta,  and posting to discussion forums.

I like the yoga approach where they say explicitly what you are: just awareness watching thoughts emotions and external events. In Buddhism, the linguistic gymnastics of self-view, identity-view, and not-, non-, and no-self I think get in the way of understanding. It seemes to me that the exposure to Buddhism I have had (reading books and going to the local Zen center) the student has to figure everything out for himself. Maybe that works for monks who have experienced teachers to guide them but for a lay person learning from books I think Singer's style is better. 

I haven't yet seen in Singer's book any detailed forms of meditation but he does say to relax in order to let go and that is something I do in my own practice that I have not seen anywhere else until this book.  He also says you have to feel the pain to let go of emotions, don't push them away, feel the pain then relax to let go. In my own practice I notice various tensions in my body accompany emotions produced by thoughts and when I can relax the tensions, often the emotions go away.

Overall Singer does a good job of explaining things in a way I can understand. A while back I had a look at the Swamij.com, a yoga site. I  read a few articles and watched a few videos but it didn't seem as useful to me as Singer's book. Although it might be that I am just ready for Singer, I can't say how I would have reacted to his book a few years ago.

As far as I can tell, stream entry is stream entry, all the versions of Buddhism (I assume) have it and I am learning yoga has it too. How you interpret it - dual or non-dual, personal or impersonal, and subsequent stages may vary but the fundamental effect of correcting your view of what you are in a way that produces huge irreversable changes that reduces suffering dramatically seems to be a constant.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/18/19 10:45 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/8496517?_19_delta=20&_19_keywords=&_19_advancedSearch=false&_19_andOperator=true&_19_resetCur=false&_19_cur=3#_19_message_15127188
Jim Smith:
Chapter 2 said you have to understand the source problems is how you react to external events not the external events themselves. And the solution to problems involves how you react. Watch your inner voice as if it was a separate person and you will see that the source of your problems is inside you not outside you.

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/8496517?_19_delta=20&_19_keywords=&_19_advancedSearch=false&_19_andOperator=true&_19_resetCur=false&_19_cur=3#_19_message_15145379
Jim Smith:
I haven't yet seen in Singer's book any detailed forms of meditation but he does say to relax in order to let go and that is something I do in my own practice that I have not seen anywhere else until this book. At first I thought Singer was a bit contradictory in his advice, but after considering the matter I think he is not. He says you have to feel the pain to let go of emotions, don't push them away. But he also says to relax to let go. In my own practice I notice various tensions in my body accompany emotions and when I can relax them usually the emotions go away.  But is that pushing them away? I think the explanation is that with strong emotions that don't disappear when you relax in response to them (that you can't let go of) it is still better to try to relax and feel the pain than it is to hold them in, but if you are able to let go of them they will disappear when you relax.

Chapter 9 in The Untethered Soul is about how to deal with long standing emotional pain.

He says you should let yourself feel emotional pain because the only alternative is to organize your life around avoiding it which is worse than the pain itself. As in chapter 2 he says to notice who is experinecing the emotional pain, and observe that as a separate person. Learn to be just awareness that is observing a person and do not get drawn into the experience of the pain and forget you are just awareness.

Considering the one who feels the pain as a separate person is key. I had been trying to let myself feel pain from past unpleasant experineces and I was wondering, "When is it going to stop? I tried this so many times before and concluded letting it out didn't make it go away. Okay I'll try again ...."

I thought I was watching it without being immersed in it, watching the movie without forgetting my surroundings.

But then I got to the end of chapter 9 where Singer reiterated the technique of being awareness watching a person and that seemed to make a difference. The pain didn't go away, but it changed the context so it is a different thing. It's a movie I'm watching not something that is affecting me.

The physical sensation of emotional pain is not really the problem, it is bearable. The problem is the menal anguish over having to feel something you don't like. If you put then pain on someone else (the person you are watching), you feel like it's not happening to you it's happening to someone else, then there is no cause to have mental anguish over a sensation that is bearable.

At this point I can't say if being only awareness is an objective reality, or a psychological trick, a change of opinion, but either way if it works why not use it?

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/18/19 2:47 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
In Chapter 10 of The Untethered Soul, Singer says that when something upsets you and your mind becomes turbulent, just relax and watch your mind be turbulent. Watch it go round and round trying to figure out what to do, but don't get drawn into it like in a movie where you forget your surroundings, be awareness watching thoughts and emotions.

Chapter 11 is another chapter on emotional pain. (I realized why Singer is spending so much time on emotinal pain, when he writes about emotional pain, he is writing about Dukkha.) In this chapter he says you have to learn not to be afraid of emotional pain. Decide it is not a problem. When you experience it relax. Think of feeling emotional pain as a good thing, it means you are letting go of something that will poison your existence if you held it in. When you feel emotional pain that is part of the process of letting go, when you let go you are getting rid of poison that will harm you if you hold it in. Singer says that all the daily sources of emotional pain we experience should be looked upon and things that help us purify ourselves. We should look forward to them and consider them beneficial because they teach us how to let go. 

When you change your opinion from thinking emotional pain is bad to thinking that emotional pain is good, it makes emotinal pain more tolerable, it makes it easier to meet and not avoid. I may willingly endure something unpleasant and experience much less mental anguish if I know it is for a good purpose. 

I mentioned in a previous post that today I have been trying to let out emotional pain from my past. It eventually went away. It felt like my nervous system just got fatigued and gave up. It didn't feel like a resolution. It felt like whatever I was doing to let it rise to awareness just got fatigued and it sunk back into obscurity rather than being dissolved. I don't know if it will be back or not. If I had to guess I would say it will be back.

In Chapter 12 Singer discusses enlightenment. He says our mental framework about ourselves, our world, our "reality" is like a wall that separates from the true reality of enlightenment. (I am paraphrasing, most of what I have written (and may write in the future) about this book is pharaphrasing in my own words according to how I understand the book. Occassionally I may quote without quotation marks since this is an informal discussion.). To get beyond our self constructed walls we have to stop defending them. Stop defending our self concept, stop rationalizing to fix cracks in our walls. I think what he is saying is that we should not do anything in response to emotional pain just observe it and let it go. When you learn to let go eventually the walls will come down. We won't feel the need to hold them up because we won't need them to feel safe and secure. When you are not afraid of emotional pain and you don't resist it, you can let it go. When you are not afraid of emotional pain you don't need to uphold your concept of reality to protect you from emotional pain. 

I'm not really sure I understand how to reconcile being only awareness watching emotions, or watching a person who has emotions vs. feeling the pain, relaxing, and letting go. It seems to me that to feel the pain, relax, and let go you have to own it which seems to be inconsistent with the idea of just watching and putting distance between yourself and the pain.

If changing frames for practical purpoes is effective then I have no objection. But if I misunderstand something I would like to know what it is.

If anyone reading this can reconcile these two approaces please feel free to comment here.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/19/19 1:09 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:
...

When you change your opinion from thinking emotional pain is bad to thinking that emotional pain is good, it makes emotinal pain more tolerable, it makes it easier to meet and not avoid. I may willingly endure something unpleasant and experience much less mental anguish if I know it is for a good purpose. 

I mentioned in a previous post that today I have been trying to let out emotional pain from my past. It eventually went away. It felt like my nervous system just got fatigued and gave up. It didn't feel like a resolution. It felt like whatever I was doing to let it rise to awareness just got fatigued and it sunk back into obscurity rather than being dissolved. I don't know if it will be back or not. If I had to guess I would say it will be back.

...

This seems to be more significant than I thought. I am working with other past issues and whatever comes up during life, and I have already experienced myself being freed from self imposed limits. It is like I have figured out that emotional pain won't kill me, that the pain I have to deal with from the past and from ordinary situations in daily life, can't get worse than I have already experienced and I know I can take it, I can look at it as something that if endured will have a positive impact so I don't mind it, and if I remain an observer of it and don't let it take over my mind, then it is not much of an inconvenience. 

This approach is somewhat different from what I  had expected from Buddhism. In Buddhism you get enlightenment and that ends suffering. But with what Singer is saying, it seems like you get rid of suffering and that causes enlightenment. In theory I like Singer's approach becasue it puts me in control I don't have to hope for a miracle some day in the future. I can get benefits today inproportion to the effort I put in today. Theoretically if I can end suffering like this, I don't care about my true nature, non-duality, and all that mystical stuff. 

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/19/19 7:15 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Chapter 13 in The Unfettered Soul seems a lot like chapter 12, He uses the analogy of a cage instead of walls.

In Chapter 14 he reiterates you need to work through the emotional pain but he says more about what it is like on the other side: living moment to moment filled with light. He makes working through emotional pain sound like a dark night but to me it is exhilirating, liberating, compelling. Not a bad thing at all. But I have been looking at my emotions for a long time so I understand them and am not so afraid of them. I think other people with less experience might have a hard time of it.

The part I like best is when he writes:  There is an aspect of your being that is always there and never changes. This is your sense of awareness, your consciousness.

It is interesting that people can describe the same thing using different words. Why go to war over it? What is the point? If someone is so attached to words that he refuses to recognize the plain meaning intented in their use, he has a big problem.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/19/19 6:03 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
I have summarized what I have read so far of "The Untethered Soul" on my blog:
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2019/08/the-untethered-soul-by-michael-singer.html

Here is an excerpt  ....


You are just awareness. Thoughts and emotions and events around you are things you observe.

Singer uses the analogy of a lucid dream to explain how to experience yourself as just awareness.

In a lucid dream you know you are dreaming. In a regular dream you are immersed in the dream, you think it is real.

When you meditate or practice mindfulness, you know you are observing, you are mindful, you are lucid. But if you get distracted by thoughts and get carried away by them, you become immersed in them, you might notice after a while that you are thinking about something and not meditating, you are not lucid. The thoughts have taken over your mind.

By practicing meditation and mindfulness you can learn to be mindful (lucid) all the time. You can be what you are, awareness observing.

If you allow yourself to experience emotional pain (Buddhists say "suffering") you will learn to let go of it and that leads to awakening: the end of suffering. But you have to confront your emotions from a lucid state of mind or you will not be able to let go. When you experience emotions and you are not lucid, you are immersed in the emotions, they will take over your mind, like distracting thoughts during meditation. You will see the event that caused the emotion as a problem needing a solution and you be focused on that. But when you experience emotions while you are lucid, you are not immersed in it, you see the emotion as something you are observing, not necessarily as a problem that has to be solved. Because you are detached, because the emotion has not taken over your mind, you can just relax and allow it to exist until it naturally ends which is the way to let go of emotions - relax and allow them to exist until they cease naturally. When you are lucid, if there is a problem that needs to be dealt with, you will be able to do so without emotions clouding your judgement.

Allowing yourself to feel emotional pain can be difficult, but understanding that the process is beneficial can change your attitude and motivate you to embrace it so you can reap the benefits of letting go. You also quickly learn that most daily upsets are not too bad and that you can endure them quite easily. And if you observe the emotional pain from a lucid state you see emotions as something you are observing rather than a problem.

Being lucid all the time is necessary because we are bombarded with stresses that can cause emotional upsets all day long. In order to be able to let go of unpleasant emotions as you encounter them, you have to be lucid all the time.

But even when we are lucid and are being just awareness observing, we still do not understand our true nature. Over a lifetime we have built up a "reality" in our mind with thoughts about who we are, what we are, how we relate to the world, how other people should act, what is right, what is wrong, what is good, what is bad etc. etc. But this is not reality. It is just thought. To see beyond our self constructed reality we have to disassemble it. Allowing ourselves to experience emotional pain can help us disassemble this illusory reality. When things in our experience don't match our expectations, we feel threatened, we feel emotional pain. We protect our mental model of reality by pushing away pain or by clinging to our ideas, Every time we feel emotional pain it is telling us about a flaw in our model of reality. Emotional pain can help us to deconstruct the illusion of reality if we allow ourselves to experience the pain and let go of it because by doing that we are accepting that our mental model of reality is flawed and in time it will be so weakened by so many accumulated flaws that we will be able to see through it. That is awakening.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/19/19 8:19 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/14564976?_19_cur=2&_19_keywords=&_19_advancedSearch=false&_19_delta=20&_19_resetCur=false&_19_andOperator=true#_19_message_15082112

Jim Smith:
Jim Smith:
There is a phenomenon I keep observing, maybe it could be called a trick to enter the jhanas, when I am meditating and I don't feel the bliss arising and I am wondering what is wrong, I stop wondering about it and just relax, not expecting anything or trying to do anything except relax in the meditation - and quite often the bliss arises immediately.




And if I concentrate too hard I don't enter the soft jhanas either. That doesn't mean the mind does not become quiet. It's like putting the brakes on a car. You can put the brakes on forcefully and stop quickly, or  you can put on the brakes lightly and take longer to stop. For me, to go through the jhanas I have to use just the right amount of force, not too much not too little. It feels like relaxing the mind rather than stopping the mind.

This idea of using just the right amount of force, not too much not too little is what you have to do to observe thoughts: don't ignore them or push them away and at the same time don't let them distract you off onto a train of thought.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/19/19 8:48 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
In this interview in Yoga Journal, Michael Singer explains a little bit about how he would meditate, it involved deep relaxation:


https://www.yogajournal.com/meditation/surrender-experiment


YJ: How did meditation quiet the voice for you?

Singer: When I first started to meditate, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I just wanted to shut up that incessant chatter in my head. So I took the time each day to sit by myself in a meditation posture and use my will to either push away the thoughts or struggle to turn my attention onto something else -- like a mantra or visualization. That created some quiet, but it didn’t last, and it was a struggle to get into a really quiet state.

As I matured in my spiritual practices, I began to surrender inside, just like I was doing in my outer life. I just allowed whatever thoughts needed to arise, to arise, and simply tried to relax instead of engaging with them. No struggle, just deep relaxation -- regardless of what the voice was saying. Over time, like magic, my awareness lost interest in the thoughts and ceased to become distracted by them. If I walk into a room with a television on, I can notice it is there, but I don’t have to actually watch it. Likewise, I can notice that the voice is saying something, but I don’t have to actually listen to it. That became my meditation: deeply relaxing and not engaging in anything the voice of the mind was saying. Over time, as I let go of the chattering mind, I began to fall into beautiful states within, like deep peace or waves of joy and love. This began happening both during meditation and during daily activities. Interestingly, when the inner state becomes beautiful, the voice of the mind has much less to say. It’s as though the vast majority of its talking was about how to be OK. If you are already OK, both the heart and the mind become still and melt into the beauty of the moment. That is the gift of yoga.

...

Though I have consistently maintained daily practices, my true practice of yoga is done inside at all times. It is this internal practice of constantly letting go of whatever disturbance arises within that has allowed me to stay centered through these amazing situations life has presented to me. Yoga is like a fine wine that becomes better over time. You start by letting go of the little things that irritate you for no reason, like the weather, or someone else’s attitude. Of what purpose is it to get disturbed by things that are just passing by and are pretty much out of your control? So you begin the practice of allowing the shifts in your inner energy to just pass through internally. You do this by deeply relaxing and giving them the space they need to pass. It is very much like relaxing into an asana. The more you relax, the easier it becomes, until at some point it becomes an enjoyable experience. It can be the same inside if you begin relaxing and releasing early enough in the process. Then something bigger happens in life that challenges your willingness to relax and let the reactionary disturbance pass by within. Your tendency is to resist the uncomfortable feeling and control your environment so that you don’t have to deal with the inner disturbance. But your commitment to yoga demands that you let go and use each situation life puts you in to go beyond your comfort zone. This is the true practice of yoga, and it becomes your way of life.


I think one of the things that attracts me to Singer's system is that there are very many similarities between how I have been practicing and what he is advocating - so the fact that he has clear model of the mind and a path to awakening is very appealing to me. It validates what I have been doing and gives me a map of where to go based on where I am now, and it avoids some aspects to Buddhism that do not make sense to me.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/20/19 5:21 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
I finished reading The Unfettered Soul. The last chapters are on subjects that are not as interesting to me as the earlier sections in the book so I did not take as many notes. I'm posting brief descriptions in case anyone might see something that interests them and may want to look at the book for more information.

Chapter 15 in The Unfettered Soul is about the path of unconditional happiness. Singer tells us it is possible to decide to be happy all the time and the way to do this is to keep your heart (chakra) open all the time. It takes mindfuleness and commitment but he says it is possible. Be mindful and when you feel your heart closing open it. He says this is a very direct route to enlightenment.

Singer is a good writer in his way and he makes it sound possible.

When he writes about the heart closing, I assume he is referring to the feeling one gets when one feels an unpleasant emotion arising and feels anger, resentment or something that puts an emotional barrier between the person and something or someone else. I think it is possible to be mindful and notice when you are putting up emotional barriers and in some cases you can decide not to do it. 

From introspection I find in there something within me that feels like it remains calm and at peace when everything else may be upset, or worried, or sad. I realized it feels like it is in the region of my heart.  It is something I may meditate on and see what comes of it.

Chapter 16 is about the spiritual path of non-resistance. He says stress only comes when we resist life's events. Resistance limits us. When you surrender, stop resisting, you can go beyond those limits.

Chapter 17 is about contemplating death. By contemplating death we can appreciate life more and live it the way we ought to.

Chapter 18 is about the Tao - don't waste energy going from one extreme to the other, find the middle way.

Chapter 19 is about God. Singer says when you leave negative emotions behind you begin to move into your spiritual self. You feel unconditional love. At this point it seems that for the first time he is not writing from his own experience. He writes about what other people have experienced. He says that people have gone so far into their spirit selves that they experienced uniting with with God. He gives examples from diffrent cultures and philosophies that have knowledge of this experience.  I have an article on the subject on my blog.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/20/19 5:28 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
I really like using the term "lucid" to mean "observing thoughts, emotions, impulses, and events around you". In a lucid dream you know you are dreaming, but in a regular dream you think it's real. When you are awake and lucid, observing your thoughts, emotions, and impulses, they don't take over your mind as they may do when you are not lucid. Thoughts can take over your mind - like when you are meditating and the next thing you know you are distracted and thinking about something.  Emotions can take over your mind - like when someone says the wrong thing and you snap at them. Impulse can take over your mind - like when you find youself going to get a drink of water but you don't remember deciding to, you just got up automatically.

When I am in a stresssful situation I am finding it helps to remind my self to stay lucid, to observe my thoughts, emotions, and impulses, because that keeps them from taking control. When thoughts, emotions, and impulses have control of your mind they can escalate things, and feed on themselves and make you upset and unhappy and generally cause a lot of suffering.

Staying lucid is also helpful because, as Michael Singer in The Untethered Soul explained, we create an artificial reality with our thoughts and opinions about how things should be. Things upset us when they are not in accord with how we think they should be. But if we learn to accept situations when things are not the way we want, then we start to deconstruct that artificial reality and begin to see things as they really are. Staying luicd can help you to get through stressful sitations without becoming upset and if you do that enough, if you experience the flaws in your artificial reality without clinging to your ideas, becoming immmersed in your thoughts and emotions letting them take over you mind, you can begin to accept that your artificial reality is flawed and you begin to see things as they really are. 

This ability to get through stressful situations by staying lucid  can also help you let go of past emotional pain and do new things that take you out of your comfort zone.  

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/20/19 10:45 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:

Being lucid all the time is necessary because we are bombarded with stresses that can cause emotional upsets all day long. In order to be able to let go of unpleasant emotions as you encounter them, you have to be lucid all the time.



Oops.

There are lots of times when it is appropriate to let thoughts flow freely in a stream.  I won't try to enumerate them all but it is relevant to this subject to point out that near the top of the list would be working through personal problems to understand yourself better, to do self-analysis, to bring unconscious emotional pain into conscious awareness so that you can let go of it.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/25/19 6:49 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
crossposting here so I can find it more easily in the future (I remembered writing this and wanted to look at it but it was hard to find.)

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/15040934#_19_message_15063152
Jim Smith:
Stirling Campbell:
One day, however, "rohan" "awakens" in a strange singular "moment" and sees that what "he" has always really been is the quiet awareness that he has encountered so many times in meditation... the awarenss that lies underneath his thoughts and feelings, and is present when techniques drop away and there is pervasive stillness. This "awakening" changes the way he understands "self", "other", "space", and "time" forever.


Is that how noting works? It causes you to consider everything that comes into awareness (thoughts, emotions, perceptions, impulses) as separate - helping you to recognize that bit of awareness as what you really are?

Because that is what I find myself doing - trying to experience being just that bit of awareness - by identifying everything that awareness is aware of (and therefore all the things which that bit of awareness is not). That is the essence of noting right?

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/21/19 7:15 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:
Jim Smith:

Being lucid all the time is necessary because we are bombarded with stresses that can cause emotional upsets all day long. In order to be able to let go of unpleasant emotions as you encounter them, you have to be lucid all the time.



Oops.

There are lots of times when it is appropriate to let thoughts flow freely in a stream.  I won't try to enumerate them all but it is relevant to this subject to point out that near the top of the list would be working through personal problems to understand yourself better, to do self-analysis, to bring unconscious emotional pain into conscious awareness so that you can let go of it.

Double oops. Singer did not suppress thoughts he remained lucid by observing thoughts not suppressing them.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/21/19 8:06 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:
I really like using the term "lucid" to mean "observing thoughts, emotions, impulses, and events around you". In a lucid dream you know you are dreaming, but in a regular dream you think it's real. When you are awake and lucid, observing your thoughts, emotions, and impulses, they don't take over your mind as they may do when you are not lucid. Thoughts can take over your mind - like when you are meditating and the next thing you know you are distracted and thinking about something.  Emotions can take over your mind - like when someone says the wrong thing and you snap at them. Impulse can take over your mind - like when you find youself going to get a drink of water but you don't remember deciding to, you just got up automatically.

When I am in a stresssful situation I am finding it helps to remind my self to stay lucid, to observe my thoughts, emotions, and impulses, because that keeps them from taking control. When thoughts, emotions, and impulses have control of your mind they can escalate things, and feed on themselves and make you upset and unhappy and generally cause a lot of suffering.

Staying lucid is also helpful because, as Michael Singer in The Untethered Soul explained, we create an artificial reality with our thoughts and opinions about how things should be. Things upset us when they are not in accord with how we think they should be. But if we learn to accept situations when things are not the way we want, then we start to deconstruct that artificial reality and begin to see things as they really are. Staying luicd can help you to get through stressful sitations without becoming upset and if you do that enough, if you experience the flaws in your artificial reality without clinging to your ideas, becoming immmersed in your thoughts and emotions letting them take over you mind, you can begin to accept that your artificial reality is flawed and you begin to see things as they really are. 

This ability to get through stressful situations by staying lucid  can also help you let go of past emotional pain and do new things that take you out of your comfort zone.  


The term does have a more specific ring to it than mindfulness does nowadays. I’m thinking that this is mindfulness, but people use the term mindfulness for so many different things that I certainly understand the need for another term in order to pinpoint exactly this.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/21/19 8:59 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:


Chapter 16 is about the spiritual path of non-resistance. He says stress only comes when we resist life's events. Resistance limits us. When you surrender, stop resisting, you can go beyond those limits.





What singer means by "surrender" can be best understood by reading another book by Singer, The Surrender Experiment. What Singer means by surrender is that you should not resist what life brings you. The Surrender Experiment is an autobiography of Singer's life in which he decided early on to always take the path that life presented to him without regard to his personal likes or dislikes. The result was that he started out meditating in the woods and step by step, trying to help people who came to him, he ended up the CEO of a billion dollar company and the director of a spiritual temple where yoga and meditation were practiced and taught.

Singer had bought a parcel of land in the woods in which he planned to mediate in seclusion. After he built a house for himself on his property, someone in his community asked him to do some construction work. That led to more requests from others and Singer eventually formed a construction company. Singer funneled the proceeds into building a temple on his property where people from the community met to practice yoga and meditate.

When Singer bought one of the first models of personal computer on the market, he wrote programs for himself until the owner of the store where he bought it asked if he could refer clients to Singer. That eventually led Singer to form a software company. The software company grew and grew and merged and merged until Singer was CEO of a billion dollar company

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/22/19 7:07 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
In "The Surrender Experiment" Singer describes his early experiences meditating. Before he started just watching thoughts and emotions, he did very intense concentration meditation and from what he described in the book he exerienced cessation and stream entry. So the kind of practice he advocates in "The Untethered Soul" is not how he himself attained stream entry.  

https://untetheredsoul.com/surrender-experiment

I immediately took a deep breath in and with great intention slowly exhaled through my nostrils. It was as though the outgoing breath pushing against the magnetic force fields created upward lift. That upward and inward propulsion began to drive me to an even deeper place, beyond any sense of self-awareness. One more breath in and out, and I was completely gone.

Perhaps you would like to ask where I went. That’s reasonable, but I’m unable to answer that question. I only know that each time I came back, I was in a more elevated state than when I left. When I came back from nowhere the next time, everything was very different.

...

The first thing I noticed as I became aware of my surroundings was that the external energy flows I experienced earlier had drawn inward. I now felt a very beautiful flow of energy up my spine to the middle of my forehead. I had never experienced this before, and almost all my awareness was drawn to that point. Meanwhile, there was still great pain in my legs, but that wasn’t a problem. It was just the quiet experience of pain. No complaints, no mental dialogue about what to do about it. There was simply awareness, completely at peace with what it was aware of.
...
The amazing part is that this state lasted for weeks. When I rejoined my friends that day, the state didn’t change. I felt no need to explain or describe what had happened to me during the two to three hours I was gone. I could hardly talk. Everything was so beautiful and tranquil. The silence, the absolute silence, even sounds outside did not disturb that stillness. The sounds were out there, but they seemed so far away from where I was seated inside. A moat of thick peace allowed nothing to reach the citadel of my elevated state.
...
I had changed completely in a matter of hours. My normal inner state had been transformed into a state of absolute clarity. Neither desire nor fear could touch me in those early days. Even thoughts faded away before reaching my seat of awareness. All I remember experiencing at that time was a powerful, unwavering sense of one pointed intention—I will never leave this state. No matter what, I will never allow anything to take me from this place. No voice of my mind had to say that to me; it was who I was. I was no longer Mickey Singer. I was the one who would never betray that peace or allow anything to disturb that transcendent stillness.

I was like a child having to learn everything all over again. I had to learn to eat in a way that was consistent with that peace. I used to smoke pot; I stopped completely. My state was crystal clear, and I didn’t want to dull it one iota.





RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/22/19 7:16 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:


Chapter 15 in The Unfettered Soul is about the path of unconditional happiness. Singer tells us it is possible to decide to be happy all the time and the way to do this is to keep your heart (chakra) open all the time. It takes mindfuleness and commitment but he says it is possible. Be mindful and when you feel your heart closing open it. He says this is a very direct route to enlightenment.

Singer is a good writer in his way and he makes it sound possible.

When he writes about the heart closing, I assume he is referring to the feeling one gets when one feels an unpleasant emotion arising and feels anger, resentment or something that puts an emotional barrier between the person and something or someone else. I think it is possible to be mindful and notice when you are putting up emotional barriers and in some cases you can decide not to do it. 



I think what Singer is getting at when he says to always keep your heart open is that you should always allow emotions to flow freely. Don't try to stop them or distract yourself so you don't feel them. Alway just let emotions flow in meditation and in daily life. This way emotions arise and pass away and you don't bottle them up or put up defense mechanisms. This is a central theme in the book, it is not just related to the path of unconditional happiness. The frequency with which Singer discusses the subject, I think, shows how important he feels it is.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/26/19 4:39 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
I was trying to convince myself that my concept of self is an illusion caused by the mistaken idea that my body, thoughts, emotions, and impulses were me.

The only part of that that I'm not sure of is thoughts. I don't believe I am my body - don't believe consciousness can be produced by any physical process (ie the brain). Emotions are something that seem to me are produced by the body: by neurons and biochemistry. Impulses seem to come from from the unconscious (the brain).

But thoghts are smewhat different. I seem to deliberately try to think things through, to solve problems, to understand things.

I was thinking: '"My concept of self is produced by the mistaken belief my thoughts are me or mine".

I was trying convince myself that my thoughts are not me or mine by thinking "they are not me or mind". 

I am trying to prove that I am not doing x by ... doing x.

That is absurd.

So the mystery is: Who is thinking?

I have tried self-enquiry before but I never had a question that really meant someting to me.

Now I have one so will try it.

Who is thinking?

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/26/19 5:11 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:
I was trying to convince myself that my concept of self is an illusion caused by the mistaken idea that my body, thoughts, emotions, and impulses were me.

The only part of that that I'm not sure of is thoughts. I don't believe I am my body - don't believe consciousness can be produced by any physical process (ie the brain). Emotions are something that seem to me are produced by the body: by neurons and biochemistry. Impulses seem to come from from the unconscious (the brain).

But thoghts are smewhat different. I seem to deliberately try to think things through, to solve problems, to understand things.

I was thinking: '"My concept of self is produced by the mistaken belief my thoughts are me or mine".

I was trying convince myself that my thoughts are not me or mine by thinking "they are not me or mind". 

I am trying to prove that I am not doing x by ... doing x.

That is absurd.

So the mystery is: Who is thinking?

I have tried self-enquiry before but I never had a question that really meant someting to me.

Now I have one so will try it.

Who is thinking?
The illusion of self is produced when you are immersed in thoughts emotions and impulses. When you observe them you see they are not you. So if I observe myself (rather than being immersed in thoughts) trying to figure out something then I don't feel like I am thinking, it is the unconscious mind controling it.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/26/19 6:01 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Are you the observer? What knows the observer?



(Remember that inquiry isn't about verbal answers, it's about gently and intimately going deep into the subtly of experience. If it makes you manic and desparate... that's not on the path. If it makes you curious about the mystery, that's on the path.)

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/26/19 6:29 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
Are you the observer? What knows the observer?


I don't know. I read somewhere I am just awareness observing. Is that wrong? So many people who have experienced stream entry have different ways of explaining it I can't find words that everyone will agree on. 

I can observe my self observing, and observe myself observing myself observing ... etc. 

But I see the point of your question, thank you, I will look into it.

(Remember that inquiry isn't about verbal answers, it's about gently and intimately going deep into the subtly of experience. If it makes you manic and desparate... that's not on the path. If it makes you curious about the mystery, that's on the path.)


I was not looking for a logical verbal answer. I was looking into the process of thinking, "Who is thinking" 

I saw a bit of intention, then the thought, "Who is thinking?" arose and passed away, and then there was silence, then I would repeat.

I was getting interested in that bit of intention when my neighbor slammed his door and I was immersed in emotions and impulses ... just for a second ;). And I had practice allowing myself to feel emotional pain and letting go of emotions.

That is what made me realize when I was thinking trying to solve a problem I am immersed in the thinking and that is what creates the illusion.  When I stand back and observe the mind rather than being immersed in it, the thoughts just arise from the unconscious and are not me or mine.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/26/19 10:24 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:

I can observe my self observing, and observe myself observing myself observing ... etc. 



It made me think of this 

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.095.than.html
"""Now suppose that a magician or magician's apprentice were to display a magic trick at a major intersection, and a man with good eyesight were to see it, observe it, & appropriately examine it. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in a magic trick? In the same way, a monk sees, observes, & appropriately examines any consciousness that is past, future, or present; internal or external; blatant or subtle; common or sublime; far or near. To him — seeing it, observing it, & appropriately examining it — it would appear empty, void, without substance: for what substance would there be in consciousness?


RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/27/19 5:16 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:
I can observe my self observing, and observe myself observing myself observing ... etc.



Yeah, the reason I mentioned this inquiry question is that's the direction this process tends to go. We start off by assuming that "I am what I feel and what I think" and then gets to the point "I am the observer that is aware of feelings and thoughts"... but the next stage --- and really the domain of meditation, not many other practice keep going --- is noticing how even aspects of "being the observer" can be observed... and this is what leads to a deep understanding of the non-dual nature of experience, so to speak.

Meditation is mostly 1) discovering how needless dukka arises through unskillful reactivity, and 2) seeing through the experiential felt-sense of being an observer.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/27/19 5:58 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
Jim Smith:
I can observe my self observing, and observe myself observing myself observing ... etc.



Yeah, the reason I mentioned this inquiry question is that's the direction this process tends to go. We start off by assuming that "I am what I feel and what I think" and then gets to the point "I am the observer that is aware of feelings and thoughts"... but the next stage --- and really the domain of meditation, not many other practice keep going --- is noticing how even aspects of "being the observer" can be observed... and this is what leads to a deep understanding of the non-dual nature of experience, so to speak.

Meditation is mostly 1) discovering how needless dukka arises through unskillful reactivity, and 2) seeing through the experiential felt-sense of being an observer.

I am puzzling over what is the difference between not reacting in an unskillful way and what is suppressing emotions?

Or what is allowing yourself to feel emotional pain vs reacting in an unskillful way?

I can tell when I am suppressing emotions because I feel tense and irritalble and may eventually explode. But I would like to find an easier way.

I don't understand what this means: "seeing through the experiential felt-sense of being an observer."


Thanks

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/27/19 6:20 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
Jim Smith:
I can observe my self observing, and observe myself observing myself observing ... etc.



Yeah, the reason I mentioned this inquiry question is that's the direction this process tends to go. We start off by assuming that "I am what I feel and what I think" and then gets to the point "I am the observer that is aware of feelings and thoughts"... but the next stage --- and really the domain of meditation, not many other practice keep going --- is noticing how even aspects of "being the observer" can be observed... and this is what leads to a deep understanding of the non-dual nature of experience, so to speak.

Meditation is mostly 1) discovering how needless dukka arises through unskillful reactivity, and 2) seeing through the experiential felt-sense of being an observer.

"noticing how even aspects of "being the observer" can be observed... and this is what leads to a deep understanding of the non-dual nature of experience"


The observer and the observed are the same thing? This impersonal process of mind is actually observing itself thinking it is a separate observer? So there is really not even a self that is just awareness?

What am I?

I think now is a good time to get some ice cream.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/27/19 8:26 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Ice cream is good medicine for sure! 

The difference between unskillful and suppresion is basically the degree of awareness and the ability to change. For example, anger can be a healthy emotion, but it can also be the most destructive emotion. So when someone shoves you on the streets of Chicago, good anger can clear your mind and put our body into ready mode ---- but the important thing comes next: is your mind truly clear? are you already bought into a lot of assumptions about truly being in danger, needing to attack, etc.? Are you equally able to respond with a duck if a punch is coming and respond with a laugh if it turns out it's your friend playing around? All our human wiring is useful --- to the extent we don't believe it 100% and stay open to new information.

Probably the only way to not feel tense is to allow yourself to have the emotion but make a study out of it: is it really helpful? Does it make life better? Is it true? Is it reliable? Eventually you'll discover what everyone has discovered: that most blind/reactive emotions are simplistic ways the body/mind tries to protect itself, but the degree to which they aren't 100% fully experienced means we have, to some degree, gone unconscious and are in an non-thinking trance. That unthinkingness is what gets us.

For example, my wife was on a packed subway and some guy kept moving his foot against her foot. (The subway was packed and she wasn't facing him.) She would move a little, and the man's food would creep toward hers again, until she was feeling the press of the side of his foot against the side of hers.... eventually the car clears of enough people that she is able to turn around... and the guy has leg braces and is having trouble standing. there is no place for the poor guy to sit. So of course my wife was happy to let him help brace himself against his foot.  But can you see how all sorts of assumed ideas about the situtation could lead to all kinds of suffering until she is able to turn around. So emotions are great for pointing you toward the appropriate information to investigate, but they aren't dependable as a complete source of truth.

Anyway the point is that it is entirely possible to have fear, anger, lust, misery, etc. arise and not have the mind get locked into trance. Over time, you can, for example learn to have all the clarity of anger without the lashing out or seething hatred of anger. This is basically the idea of tantra. That a full experience of greed/territorialism leads to generosity, a full experience of aggression leads to clarity, a full experience of obsession leads to compassion. that a full experience of paranoia leads to appropriate action, and a full experience of confusion/depression leads to intelligence. --- this is basic 5 element practice.

Hope this helps!

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/27/19 2:58 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:

I am puzzling over what is the difference between not reacting in an unskillful way and what is suppressing emotions?

Or what is allowing yourself to feel emotional pain vs reacting in an unskillful way?

I can tell when I am suppressing emotions because I feel tense and irritalble and may eventually explode. But I would like to find an easier way.






I think relaxation a useful guidepost. If you are realxing while trying to observe emotional pain you are probably not overreacting to it or suppressing it.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
8/28/19 5:55 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Yes, relaxing is necessary at first. You can't let yourself get overwhelmed. In time however, the meditator does become more resilient and can handle more intensity without overreacting/suppressing.

The problem is that some people under estimate their skills and then get overwhelmed... and some people underestimate their skills and stagnate, so it's a process of continuously testing this stuff both on and off cushion and learning as you go....

When I was on retreat at IMS one teacher said "it's true that eventually you could meditate on a battlefield, but you can't start learning how to practice there."

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
9/25/19 5:45 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
I have been doing a lot of work on letting go of emotions.

What I have found to be helpful is first getting into a pleasant relaxed mood. I do this by doing relaxation exercises to get deeply relaxed which removes stress and creates a neutral mood, then I shift into a pleasant mood.

I relax, lying down or sitting (it is easier to do lying down) by using three relaxation exercises:

1) A type or progressive muscular relaxation where I move each part of the body five or ten times.
https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/relaxation#relaxation_pmr

2) A hypnotic induction where I mentally relax each part of the body making it "relaxed and heavy":
https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/relaxation#relaxation_induction

3) Then I visualize each color of the spectrum (visualization produces theta brainwaves) I can feel myself becoming more relaxed as I do the visualizations.
https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/relaxation#relaxation_visualize

l do these exercises in order. Sometimes I skip #1. After #3 I count ten breaths and repeat from #2.

When I am deeply relaxed and feel like I am floating or am in the hypnogoic state (experiencing vivid imagery and it is hard to concentrate for more than a few secnds)  I shift into a pleasant mood - unpleasant emotions disappear.

Sometimes this happens automaticlly - I hear a tone and feel my body change, or I feel a floating sensation, or a wave of relaxation flowing through me. Other times I open my eyes and rise somewhat out of the deeply relaxed state and look around me, noticing the pleasant feeling of relaxation as I breathe in a relaxing way, and I half-smile. Focusing on the pleasant feeling shifts me into a pleasant relaxed mood.

I spend a few minutes letting the pleasant relaxed mood stabilize.

I try to maintain this state during the day, and do the relaxation exercises etc again when necessary.
(This by itself, without any work on emotions, produces a huge improvement in well-being.)

Letting go of emotions is much much easier when I am in this state. Letting go doesn't necessarily mean I stop feeling the emotion in similar situations, sometimes it means that when it arises, if I am able to let go, I don't experience the emotion as a problem or as something "bad" or as something unpleasant. It's not so much like making emotions go away as it is developing a skill where I chang my experience of them from something unpleasant to something neutral.

When I am in this state, if an unpleasant emotion arises, I try to relax and observe the emotion including how it feels in my body, rather than letting myself become immersed in it - so that it doesn't take over my mind.

I have noticed several things that can occur:
  • It may feel like the emotion flows right through me. It comes and then it is gone.
  • I can relax stress as fast as it occurs so it does not build up or accumulate. I don't get tense or irritable because my stress levels don't increase even though I may be in a stressful situation.
  • I feel the emotion, but it doesn't seem like a problem.
  • It feels somewhat like forgiveness - I just don't care anymore. It's no big deal.
  • It feels like I relax "into" the emotion.
  • I may begin to notice that I feel an initial resistance when an unpleasant emotion arises and I notice I can stop resisting and let the emotion flow. It feels less uncomfortable if I let the emotion flow, the unpleasantness comes from resisting.
  • It may feel like surrender, like there is no point in resisting.
  • It feels like it's not worth getting upset over. Getting upset is too much work, it takes too much energy. Why get upset when it is so much more pleasant to stay relaxed?
  • I realize it isn't about me.
  • The emotion feels like it's just a physical phenomenon in my body like burping or sneezing.
I am not anywhere near close to perfecting this, but I find it to be very helpful and I am making progress on some long term issues. I am describing this in case anyone wants to try it.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
9/12/19 7:17 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:
shargrol:
Jim Smith:
I can observe my self observing, and observe myself observing myself observing ... etc.



Yeah, the reason I mentioned this inquiry question is that's the direction this process tends to go. We start off by assuming that "I am what I feel and what I think" and then gets to the point "I am the observer that is aware of feelings and thoughts"... but the next stage --- and really the domain of meditation, not many other practice keep going --- is noticing how even aspects of "being the observer" can be observed... and this is what leads to a deep understanding of the non-dual nature of experience, so to speak.

Meditation is mostly 1) discovering how needless dukka arises through unskillful reactivity, and 2) seeing through the experiential felt-sense of being an observer.

"noticing how even aspects of "being the observer" can be observed... and this is what leads to a deep understanding of the non-dual nature of experience"


The observer and the observed are the same thing? This impersonal process of mind is actually observing itself thinking it is a separate observer? So there is really not even a self that is just awareness?

What am I?

I think now is a good time to get some ice cream.
If I can observe myself observing and therefore the observer is no different from any other thought or feeling that might arise in the mind, then...

What is the difference between mindfulness (observing something in the present moment and not being lost in thought)  vs. ordinary consciousness where I am immersed in thoughts emotions and impulses and they have control of my mind? 

What is the difference between meditation and ordinary consciousness?

Mindfulness and meditation are the same impersonal process of the mind producing thoughts emotions and impulses.

What am I? 

This situation calls for two scoops of ice cream.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
9/12/19 9:01 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:


What is the difference between meditation and ordinary consciousness?

Mindfulness and meditation are the same impersonal process of the mind producing thoughts emotions and impulses.

What am I? 

This situation calls for two scoops of ice cream.



... and probably merits hot fudge and whipped cream on top.  emoticon

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
9/13/19 2:42 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
When I am observing the activity of the mind I can see that thoughts emotions and impulses arise from the unconscious, exist for a time, and fade away. It doesn't seem like I am in control of them.

But when I am lost in thought trying to figure something out, trying to solve a problem, it seems like I am in control.


But I can observe myself tyring to figure something out and then I no longer feel like I am in control anymore. The intention to solve the problem, the intention to think of something - those intentions spring up from the unconscious just like any other thought, emotion or impulse I might observe.

Doing this makes it very clear that the feeling of a self that is in control of the mind is really an illusion that arises when I am lost in thought and disappears when I am mindful.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
9/15/19 12:21 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Summarizing some previous posts:
When I observe the activity of the mind in meditation, thoughts emotions and impulses seem to arise from the unconscius unasked for, uninvited. They aren't mine. They exist for a time and fade away. They have no substantial existence they aren't "real" they "aren't reality" they are illusions.

It might seem like I am just awareness observing.

But when I observe myself oberving myself, I see that this observer is no different from any other thought, emotion, or impulse. Not me, not real.

When immersed in thought, trying to figure something out, using my mind, it seems like I am in conrtol.

But when I observe myself trying to figure something out,I see that the intentions to "figure it out" are no different from any other thought, emotion, or impulse. It isn't "me" it comes from the unconscious.
To that I add:

When I am immersed in experience: emotional pain or other discomfort seem real.

But when I observe emotional pain, stress, discomfort, or observe "myself" experiencing it, the "me" that experiences it, and the emotional pain, seem to be illusions like any thought, emotion, impulse, "oberver" or "controling self" that I might observe.

The previous posts I summarized were bewildering, but this addition seems like it might be useful.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
10/30/19 2:37 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
This morning I read this in "The Science of Enlightenment" by Shinzen Young:

You have to go to a cistern filled with half-frozen water, break the ice on top, fill a huge wooden bucket, and then squat and dump the bone-chilling liquid over your naked body.
...
For me, this cold-water purification was a horrific ordeal.
...
I did notice, however, that if I stayed in a state of high concentration while I did it, my distress was noticeably lessened. On the other hand, as soon as my attention wandered, the suffering became unberable. I could see that this whole training situation was a giant biofeedback device designed to keep a person in some degree of samadhi at all times.


This reminded me of something I wrote last July:

Jim Smith:
When you are focused in a relaxed way so that you have very few thoughts about liking and disliking, winning or losing, good and bad, you are not suffering. If you can experience this, you have a great way to practice. You get positive feedback (lack of "suffering") from doing the right thing (focusing the mind).

That is the ultimate reward from meditation: Seeing that it is the mind that creates suffering, and that by calming the mind, suffering ceases, then understanding that suffering was never anything but an illusion created by the mind. 

Quoting myself...

In the morning I was walking home with a heavy pack, the sun was up already and it was hot. I tried to meditate as I walked. I noticed that when I thought, "It's hot. or "My pack is heavy", or "How much further?" or "This sucks" I was suffering. But when I concentrated in meditation I thought "left" and "right" as I put my feet down, or "in" and "out" as I breathed, I didn't think, "It's hot, or "My pack is heavy", or "How much further?", or "This sucks." and I didn't suffer. Even though it was hot and my pack was heavy, and I had a long way to go, it didn't suck. I had a situation where I could really see the source of suffering is the mind and I had a system where I received positive feedback, less suffering, for doing the right thing with my mind. So I think that is a good principle for effective practice. When you can clearly see the purpose of the practice (keep the mind focused), the principle that it is based on (suffering is caused by the mind), and you get positive feedback (less suffering) for doing the right thing. And I can practice this way in daily life, as I have various thoughts I can see how they cause suffering and that keeping my mind focused on some type of mindfulness practice will prevent suffering.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
9/19/19 10:24 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
From "The Science of Enlightenmnet" by Shinzen Young

...you can think of enlightenment as a kind of permanent shift in perspective that comes about through direct realization that there is no thing called "self" inside you.
...
"Notice that I'm not saying that there is no self, but rather no thing called a self. Of course, there is certainly an activity inside you called personality, an activity of the self. But that is different from a thing called the self. Meditation changes your relationship to sensory experience, including your thoughts and body sensations. It allows you to experience thoughts and body sensations in a clear and unblocked way. When the sensory experience of the mind-body becomes sufficiently clear and uninhibited, it ceases to be a rigid thing that imprisons your identity. The sensory self becomes a comfortable home, not a jail cell. That's why enlightenment is somethimes referred to a liberation. You realize that the thingness of self is an artifact caused by habitual nebulosity and viscosity around your mind-body experience."

Confusingly, the experience of no self can also be described as the experience of true self ...

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
9/19/19 12:45 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
I am not an advocate of meditating while sitting on the floor and remaining still when you feel a lot of pain. I have some issues with my spine and I know of others who have injured their knees and spine. 

But I think there is some benefit in to looking into discomfort, there are lessons that can be generalized and used in other situations, so sometimes I will resist scratching itches, or try to remaining still when sitting safely in a chair becomes uncomfortable.

I was doing this tonight when I recognized a "persona" in my mind that I had not distinguished before. It seems to be at the root of some other issues besides physical discomfort so I am looking forward to getting to know him better and maybe see what the problem is and if we can fix things up.

It seemed to be useful to try to endure discomfort but not in the way I was expecting.

But it does seem like a raw deal when you sit down to have a good wallow in bliss and end up ... er ... uh ... unblissful.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
9/22/19 1:03 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:


Below is an excerpt about gradual awakening from a file on the Shinheads facebook site

...

https://www.facebook.com/groups/Shinheads/
Files -> Shinzen Enlightenment Interview.pdf

https://lookaside.fbsbx.com/file/Shinzen%20Enlightenment%20Interview%20.pdf?token=AWy04hPB37Lr5PhiD64J3M9WX7IPtaDYspnZgh-8T7smrTXO0VI4uH3knPIcVbco8jtFtdKKOlt-DWwj3gXg4sBW990DMLD02gUqQDS8Y7jusJf0JK5r-zMysbnVc_fdc7CBMvjXxUGNGnc-Gg4c6ZMJ


However,for most people who’ve studied with me it doesn’t happen that way. Not suddenly. What does happen is that the person gradually works through the things that get in the way of enlightenment, but so gradually that they might not notice.

You remember that I said in traditional Buddhism it’s very significant that it’s formulated that something passes away and it’s not something that you get? So what typically happens is that over a period of years, and indeed decades, within that person the craving, aversion and unconsciousness -­‐the mula kleshas (the fundamental “impurities”), get worked through. Because it’s gradual, they may not realize how much they’ve changed. As the mula kleshas get worked through they suffer less and the fundamental alienation between inside and outsidediminishes. But because all this is happening gradually they’re acclimatizing as it’s occurring.

In acclimatizingthey may not realize how far they’ve come. However, they often do notice it when “the doo doo hits the fan”.Like a major bereavement, a major illness like cancer, a serious injury, or their life is somehow threatened. Then they notice how everyone around them is freaking out and how much less they’re freaking out. Then the contrast becomes suddenly very evident. That’s when they would tend to notice it. That’s why I like telling the story about the samurai.

“This samurai went to the Zen temple on the mountain and lived there for many years. He didn’t seem to be getting anything out of thepractice. So he said to theMaster, ‘I think I need to leave. Nothing’s happening as a result of this practice’. So the master said ‘Okay. Go.’

As he was coming down the hill one of his former comrades, a fellow samurai, saw him in the tattered robes of a Buddhist monk –which is equivalent to a glorified beggar from a samurai’s point of view –and he said ‘how could you be so undignified to join the counter-­‐culture of Buddhist beggars?’ and he spit on him. Now in the old days thesamurais were extremely proud. Any insult to their personal dignity meant a fight to the death. So the monk who had formerly been a samurai just walked on and after he’d walked a certain distance, it occurred to him that not only did he not need to kill this guy, he wasn’t even angry.

As the story goes he turned around and bowed towards the mountain three times where he had practiced. He bowed in his recognition of all that he had worked through. He recognized he no longer needed to kill someone that had offended his dignity. He noticed how fundamentally he had changed as a human being.”

Of course, it’s not just samurai in 16th century Japan. The same things apply to 21st century North Americans. Maybe they’ve been practicing for 10, 20, or 30 years and it doesn’t seem that much has changed. And then something big happens and then they realize how different they’ve become compared to ordinary people. I’ll give you anexample that happened just a few weeks ago. Someone who has been coming to retreats for quite a while went to have a biopsy to determinewhether they had a serious cancer or not. While waiting for the results this person noticed they weren’t worried. Anyway, it turned out thatthe biopsy was negative. So all theunnecessary suffering that would’ve happenedbutdidn’t, that was the effect of that person’s years and years of practice. It’s my impression that many more people have that gradual unfolding than have the sudden,




What Shinzen is describing seems to be that the effects of meditating over a long period of time produce the changes in a person that constitute enlightenment, whether you know it or not, whether or not you have the insight reported by people who experience sudden enlightenment. Evidently, being released from the fetter of "Identity view" is not necessarily something that has to be conscious - it does not necessarily require an insight. 

If this is the case, then one can simply meditate and not worry about having any particular insight or crossing any particular milestone.

You can judge your progress and the effectiveness of your practice by your own observation as to how it helps you to live with increasing equanimity and compassion. If you find your equanimity and compassion are increasing over time, then you are probably doing it right.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
9/25/19 5:49 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Summarizing the current state of my meditation practice I would describe it as combining four main elements:

  • Relaxation - I try to relax to a point where I feel like I am floating. I might start a meditation session by doing relaxation exercises (sometimes lying down) or I might just breathe in a relaxing way while meditating. Often I feel unpleasant emotions disappear when I experience a floating sensation, or a wave of relaxation flowing through me. If this happens it is a good time to move on to the next steps and the half-smile (below) is particularly effective.

  • Concentration - I count the breath on inhalation and exhalation up to four (two complete breaths) and start over. The right level of concentration is important. Too much interferes with relaxation, too little and the wandering mind will prevent relaxation and everthing else about meditation. When my mind is very quiet I might stop counting and just notice the breath. Concentration helps me stay lucid.

  • Half-smile -  Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, "... practice breathing with a half-smile. You will feel great joy.". If you don't understand this, try it and see what happens. Too much joy is tedious, I adjust it to what I would call "pleasant". It is not a forced smile, the feeling of relaxation is pleasant and makes me want to smile - like resting in a hammock on a warm summer's day, or slipping into a warm jacuzzi. Smiling releases pleasant feelings, observing them produces a feedback loop in the brain generating more pleasant feelings.

  • Surrender - This relates to letting go of unpleasant emotions. It is hard to describe. If equanimity was a verb I would use that word. It is the feeling you get when you realize you are trying to ignore or suppress an unpleasant emotion and you relax and stop resisting it. You stop fighting it. You let yourself feel it. You let it express itself in your body without letting it take over your mind. You observe the sensations in the body that comprise it. Surrender often changes the emotion from an unpleasant experience to a neutral sensation in the body.

This practice produces a relaxed and pleasant mental state. Under normal circumstances it removes any unpleasant emotions - but life is rarely "normal" for long and I do not claim to have perfected it.

This practice is a combination of samatha and vipassana. The samatha part I think is obvious, the vipassana part includes: observing the breath, surrender, noticing what disturbes this state, noticing distracting thoughts and returning to concentration.

After a session of meditation I try to continue doing this mindfully during daily activities. If I find life's stresses disturb the pleasant relaxed mood I will try to meditate to get back in as soon a it is practical.

One thing I Iike about this practice is you get benefits (relaxation, elevated mood) from the first time you try it and over time you get benefits (increased equanimity and compassion) in proportion to the effort you put in. I believe it can produce gradual enlightenment. And you can have a spiritual experience as often as you want by cranking up the smile feedback loop.


(I also like to try different practices so at any given time I might be trying/doing additional techniques.)

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
9/24/19 4:00 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:


  • Surrender - This relates to letting go of unpleasant emotions. It is hard to describe. If equanimity was a verb I would use that word. It is the feeling you get when you realize you are trying to ignore or suppress an unpleasant emotion and you relax and stop resisting it. You stop fighting it. You let yourself feel it. You let it express itself in your body without letting it take over your mind. You observe the sensations in the body that comprise it. Surrender often changes the emotion from an unpleasant experience to a neutral sensation in the body.




Surrender is not just a thing to do, it is an attitude for daily life. By surrendering to unpleasant emotions that may arise, you can also learn to keep the surrender attitude even if you are not feeling anything unpleasant. The attitude of surrender seems to be like letting go of identity view - surrender means you relinquish the need to defend your ego (your self), if you practice keeping that attitude during and after meditation sessions, you get better and better at it. It feels very nice to have the heavy responsibility of defending your ego lifted off your shoulders.

RE: Jim Smith's Log
Answer
11/16/19 6:01 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
When I was meditating today, I noticed that the quality of consciousness varied depending on what I was focusing on. Sometimes I count the breath and am focused on thinking the numbers. Other times I just notice the breath going in and out. Other times I look into the space in front of my closed eyes. Each type of concentration produces a different feeling, a different quality of consciousness.

This made me think of the six sense bases which are the consciousness aggregate of the five aggregates of clinging. The six sense bases are sight, sound, smell, taste, body sensations, and mind. Each of these also has a different quality of conscoiusness. Body and mind have many different phenomenon each with its own quality. Each sight, sound, smell, and taste also has its own individual quality of consciousness. Everything you do and every place you go has its own quality of consciousness.

I think these different qualities of consciousness to some extent explains the terms like "eye consciousness", "ear consciousness", "nose consciousness", etc. They refer to the quality of consciousness produced by the sense bases.

And noticing the quality of consciousness at any given moment adds a whole new dimension to understanding concsiousness. It's like seeing in color compared to black and white.

To understand the impermanent nature of consciousness, the impermanent natue of the self, you can be aware of more than just the moment to moment change of perceptions, thoughts, emotions, and impulses. You can also be aware of the moment to moment change in the quality of consciousness that is produced by sight, sound, smell, taste, body sensations, and mental phenomenon.

Recognizing these constantly changing qualities of consciousness help one to better understand the moment to moment recreation, the moment to moment arising and passing away, the moment to moment birth and death of consciosness which leads to the realization that there is no permanent self.