Showing posts with label Mindfulness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mindfulness. Show all posts

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Establishing and maintaining a spiritual practice

Sitting Meditation
With regards to sitting meditation, one of the best things I have done is buy an hourglass that runs for almost 50 minutes. I bought it a couple of years back, but it has taken till now to be patient enough to maintain the meditation position for that period of time.

I know that when I sit in meditation, I am learning something great. If you asked what exactly it is, I really could not say. It defies analysis or rationalization. Nothing much happens on the conscious level - no experiences or visions or anything of the kind. Every so often I will notice a real sense of quietude - but that is all. But afterwards, during the day, things happen. Currently, it usually manifests as a sense of joy, which seemingly bubbles up out of nowhere, for no reason. Also many of the things I read and reflect about in the Buddhist teachings become more clear. I understand the meaning of the word 'realization': you begin to understand things about the nature of life that the ordinary thinking mind doesn't see, because it is pre-occupied with its own affairs. This is quite simple but nevertheless very important. Some things are indeed 'hidden in plain sight', as that lovely saying has it.

This is the purpose the study of the philosophy behind meditation. Even though the realization itself concerns something unknown and unknowable, the task of philosophy is to take you to that point - to drop you at the border, as it were. It does this by making you really clear about the nature and the limitations of knowledge. This is especially so with Madhyamika philosophy.

I still have to push myself to get up every morning and sit - self-discipline has never been my strong suit -  but overall, I am feeling a much greater sense of connection to the Buddhist teachings now than ever before, and I know if I stay with the practice this will only continue to grow. So this will form the theme of this blog from now on.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Commitment and Regularity

For a long time now I have been telling myself to commit to sitting in meditation twice every day. But I often don't. I guess I could say 'well obviously this path is not for me, I better do something else'. But I feel I have to persist with it.

There is something at work in Buddhist meditation, other than simply one's ability to discipline oneself, or lack thereof. I think it is a mistake to think that the results come from effort. All you're doing, when you sit, is allowing mindfulness to do its work. By sitting, you are basically getting out of the road. You are not doing anything, in fact you are not-doing. That is the whole point. But not-doing is very difficult. Self likes to be busy, always doing its things, whatever they are. They may not be anything unwholesome, but one doesn't want to get taken away from them.

This is why I notice, from time to time, that if I really do make an effort to sit, I discover things, and things happen. It is not like action-and-result. It is like creating a space for these things to happen. And it is really important to maintain the practise, and make yourself observe it, if this is the path you have chosen. You will find a lot of reasons not to do it, but then days, months, years will pass, and at the end, you won't have applied the antidote, and you will still be wandering around in samsara.

Buddhism is a path of effort. The effort is not superhuman, and the result is not caused by your own willpower. There is something else that does the work. But you need to put the effort in to allow the work to be done. Otherwise, it won't be.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Meditation in the Mainstream

Meditation -  and Buddhist meditation in particular - is becoming scientificially respectable and part of the mainstream. Coming out of the work of people like B Allan Wallace, Daniel Goleman, and others, there will be the 'scientific validation' of 'meditative states as ways to focus attention'. This is already happening.  And it sidesteps and bypasses the whole Cultural Wars story, because 'spirituality' in this sense, is neither religious, nor scientific. It will be, and already is, quite 'fashionable' in the elite circles of the humanities, arts and sciences. This will create a big change in cultural outlook. See this current title for an example. (I would buy it, but have yet to finish the big pile of Buddhist books I have recently acquired from Amazon and elsewhere. See also this interview for more about the author of that text.)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Being persistent

I have had a couple of days of severe doubt. Doubt is amazingly convincing - it comes right up to you, and then it is you, it becomes so convincing and real that it just seems like the natural choice.

The doubt says - forget about this practise, this idea of trying to persist in meditation, you are not any good at it, you are very inconsistent and not really committed. Besides, it belongs to another age, another type of person, it won't work for you...

And so on. But then Faith re-asserted itself again ('faith' in the Buddhist sense, which is not faith in miracles or in truths that can't be demonstrated.) And it said: you need to persist, you keep talking yourself out of this before you have really done it. You know that if you do the work, you will see the result. But it is a struggle, has always been a struggle.

Back to restlessness - really what this is, is the non-purity of your own mind. It is the constant, low-level hankering and non-satisfaction, the inability to simply rest easy and be still. Very simple principle but hard to realise. This is the discipline of daily practise - to learn to be still, without expectation, without wanting to get something, without going anywhere. Because then it is just sublimated desire and more illusion.
And another thing - the practise has to be guided by compassion first and foremost. I do notice from a lot of the reading I do, that it is very easy to form romantic or misleading ideas or to become intellectual about it. The whole point is to be open to compassion. There is no other point or purpose.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Neither objective nor subjective

Most empirically-focused individuals will criticize the meditation practitioner for 'subjectivity'. Their concern is, after all, the world of objects and substances and things to be measured, discovered and analysed. So they are inclined to say, anything you can discover through meditation is personal, subjective, it only relates to you.

This would be true if, in fact, meditation were not a way of overcoming subjectivity. In analysing the sensations, perceptions, etc, which give rise to the sense of self, the practitioner is going beyond subjectivity. As one's reflexive selfishness loosens its grip through the awakening of insight, one is obviously less subjective, because one is not as dominated by 'me and mine'. 

But nor is he or she dealing with objective facts, per se. All this shows up is the limitation of the idea of 'objective versus subjective'. At the end of the day, all knowledge and experience is both objective and subjective. The object is what is known, the subject as the knower possesses the cognitive faculties which synthesises all the information and knows about the object. In self-knowledge, the knower and the known are one, but this does not mean that it is subjective.  

Maybe this is what the traditions mean by 'disinterestedness' or 'detachment' - namely, insight into the workings of the self, without self-interest. And here you have something that answers to the term 'wisdom'.