Author Topic: Missing A Day of Mindfulness, Yoga And Other Forms of Meditation  (Read 15412 times)

Max

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Re: Missing A Day of Mindfulness, Yoga And Other Forms of Meditation
« Reply #25 on: February 28, 2015, 08:57:00 AM »
A few things come to mind:

Different practitioners bring different abilities and preconditions with them to the practice - for some, developing high concentration (even Jhana) is possible. For others, it is not. There are practitioners who will never develop Jhana. As a matter of fact, Jhana is no prerequisite for the path, not even for Stream Entry. Technically, while in Jhana, insight cannot arise as the mind cannot observe the three characteristics. It's the stability of mind generated by Jhana that is beneficial when coming out of Jhana. I heard that Sayadaw U Pandita compared the path with / without Jhana to swimming accross a lake / using a speedboat. However, as faculties differ for different people, for some it will take longer to build that Jhana speedboat (if they succeed at all) than to just swim.

Another thing that comes to mind is that we need to be careful in comparing individual experiences. I would be careful to judge somebody's observation of "wellbeing", "peace" and "concentration" as being sedated. These are qualities that are absolutely essential for the development of the path. They cannot be dismissed as fringe benefits of meditation. I would agree that they are not the goal of what the Buddha taught. But they are essential qualities.

Regarding insights and the development of the path I'd like to say a few things. First of all, the individual experiences among practitioners both differ to a significant degree and show similarities at the same time. But as it is difficult to describe with words what one's individual experience is, two practitioners would probably describe the exact same experience quite differently.
Anyway, the development of insight is certainly an indication that the practice is working. But, at the same time, I'd be careful to judge your practice thinking you are doing something wrong just because you are not sure that you had an insight. Jack Kornfield's description in "A Path with Heart" of the different opening/healing processes that happen along the path certainly point to this: The development of insight is not the only thing that happens. Ultimately, your answer to questions like "can I handle more (difficult) aspects in my life than in the past, am I developing into a nicer person with an open heart, has my life changed for the better?" is the ultimate yardstick to measure your progress.

As it is pointed out in the mentioned book, prerequisite for the development of insight is the development of Access Concentration, a form of samadhi (stability of mind) that allows a moment to moment observation of the experience. At least for the insights referred to in Jack's book (somewhat coded, but obvious to anybody who knows that particular map Jack describes). From there, the path unfolds for some in a rather predictable way for many meditators, but again: The experience differes significantly among meditators. Trying to figure out "where you are" or if you had an insight or a particular insight is a recipe for a lot of unnecessary suffering.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2015, 02:41:10 PM by Max »

Jeremy

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Re: Missing A Day of Mindfulness, Yoga And Other Forms of Meditation
« Reply #26 on: February 28, 2015, 06:27:34 PM »
I do not think it is OK to spend a year sitting everyday with the following result: "I feel calmer." I know for a lot of people that is all they achieve, and it doesn't really matter. But if you have higher hopes for the practice...

You sit for one reason. To enter jhana. You can choose to do this without the jhanas, but the Buddha is very clear on this matter: the rapture from the jhanas is a reward to keep you motivated on the path. As I was saying, the rapture is better than orgasm. If you can't enter jhana, that's not alright in the suttas. Everywhere in the suttas you see the jhanas being described again and again and again. If you can't, it means you have not resolved the five hindrances. It means you have more work to do: messy, ambiguous experimentation. You are not supposed to sit there everyday observing the breath and be fine with that. Observing the breath is merely the first stage of sitting practice. There are many stages, with specific instructions for each.

The Buddha has mapped out the milestones along the path. Periodically, check to see where you are. Are you now a sotapanna? Are you yet a sakadagami? How's the anger problem working out? What are the levels of conceit?

Just sitting there watching the breath, happy to be calmer, is wrong practice. It is woefully low ambition. The Buddha wants you to shoot for final liberation in this lifetime.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2015, 07:21:45 PM by Jeremy »

Alex

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Re: Missing A Day of Mindfulness, Yoga And Other Forms of Meditation
« Reply #27 on: March 01, 2015, 11:31:00 AM »
Hi Jeremy,

In my personal experience, I find that “the better than orgasm”-experiences serve as motivation, but many other aspects on the path are motivating as well, so maybe it’s not crucial? I’ve also experienced that such experiences improve stability of mind and the quality of the mindfulness, which is something you and Max seem to agree upon. For me these experiences come after vipassana and the  ‘letting go’ that is the result of this. I do not seek them. I feel good about my practice, about not reading too much, and on simply continuing to bring awareness to my experience.  It seems like everything just flows naturally from this. I’m aware of the importance of relaxation while sitting, but I’m also careful about not expecting or fabricating relaxation.

I am however intrigued by your perspective, for example about the milestones that have been mapped out (can you add an accessible reference?). But I am also critical and I find knowledge about what was the early teaching of the Buddha and what was added or was misunderstood is better proclaimed in a tentative way, which is more nurturing of understanding the dhamma and understanding each other as this prevents us from falling in the trap of judging and having to think in terms of absolute right and wrong.

I don’t share this sense of urgency, necessity or importance that emanates from your posts. For me it’s okay that people have their own goals and strategies or practices to go about them. I imagine the Buddha as someone who is inviting (“ehipassiko… come and see and try for yourself”) instead of someone who wants or expects others to attain liberation.
I also wonder if your choice of words “final” liberation, is referring to escape from the cycle of rebirth. In my understanding this is part of the Old-Indian soteriological worldview that had been around for a long time before the Buddha and that - again in my understanding - the Buddha didn’t go into that sort of debates. I do this practice because it helps in this lifetime, not for any other reason.
I also dream of a better world, but what else can we do than be a luminous example for others? The grass doesn't grow by pulling it...

Finally, by bringing all this up in this thread I feel like onederful’s experience and progress is maybe being invalidated in some way. It is not explicit, but I don’t think he is receiving the credit he deserves. Insight, which comes in all shapes and sizes, is life-changing, yes, but not necessarily instantly, as shown by the zen-shopping practice required after the insight of judge-shopping was produced. Also, sometimes the fruits of this practice are described in such an exotic or cryptic manner that people are not sure if this refers to their own experience.

May all beings be well and attain full liberation at their own pace if that is their aspiration!  ;)

Marc

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Re: Missing A Day of Mindfulness, Yoga And Other Forms of Meditation
« Reply #28 on: March 01, 2015, 12:08:30 PM »
 :)Alex you are so kind.

I don't even know what jahna is, or stream entry and all that stuff. And I'm not sure I've had any of this eureka moments. Definetely no orgasms for me  ;D.

But I'm content with my practice and I'm happy about how it is growing. I agree that meditation is supposed to have more than mere sedative effects. But I don't think it's necessary that they come in this evident and sudden manner. Maybe I'm doing it wrong as Jeremy says, but for now I'm happy with my mediocre achievements

Matthew

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Re: Missing A Day of Mindfulness, Yoga And Other Forms of Meditation
« Reply #29 on: March 02, 2015, 12:48:04 AM »
The Buddha never said "go do vipassana (insight)"

He always taught "Go do Jhana".

Jhana is possible for all.
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Middleway

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Re: Missing A Day of Mindfulness, Yoga And Other Forms of Meditation
« Reply #30 on: March 02, 2015, 03:52:46 AM »
Jhana is same as dhyana (sanskrit) which means meditation. When Buddha said "Go do Jhana", he meant "go do meditation". Buddha did not mean "go do meditation and enter jhana (samadhi)". Hindus do meditation with a primary goal to enter samadhi (super-conscious state as they call it). They do not emphasize the importance of insight (vipassana).
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Max

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Re: Missing A Day of Mindfulness, Yoga And Other Forms of Meditation
« Reply #31 on: March 02, 2015, 08:45:41 AM »
Hi Matthew

While I'd have to say a lot about your vipassana / jhana statement, I am more interested to know how your view "Jhana is possible for all" fits with a real life experience where people sit a very intense four month concentration retreat with one of the best known concentration masters, Pa Auk Sayadaw, and cannot get into Jhana.

Are they not doing it right? Not trying hard enough? Teacher not skilful? Wrong method / wrong kasina?

I don't mean to be offensive, I really am curious how you would explain that.

@Middleway: I think if one takes the suttas available today as the Buddha's words and teachings, the statement that he meant "meditation" when using the term jhana cannot be true. In dozens of suttas he mentioned specific jhanas together with its quality "...he enters and dwells in the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied thought and sustained thought with rapture and happiness born of seclusion".
« Last Edit: March 03, 2015, 07:25:51 AM by Max »

onederful

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Re: Missing A Day of Mindfulness, Yoga And Other Forms of Meditation
« Reply #32 on: March 03, 2015, 06:26:27 PM »
Thank you all for the replies, both the critiques and the support. I value both types of replies for different reasons. As a whole this thread has been very motivating. I see that I was meditating with the goal of attaining much less than is possible. However I am unsure what it is I am doing wrong that is preventing me from attaining vipassana and reaching the higher djanas. Maybe additional years of practice? It's hard to tell with my knowledge on the subject. I will not however give up on my quest.

Right now I think a good thing for me to do would be to lower the amount of shows I watch. I spend 1-2 hours a day watching TV shows. The rest I spend exercising (minimum 30min), doing guided yoga (minimum 30min), guided meditation or I believe its called formless yoga (minimum 30min) and the rest (many hours) studying or reading for fun. From what I understand watching TV shows is the worst. For reading I wouldn't know, but I'm guessing it might be good for consolidating or at least preventing deterioration of a mindful state, if of course I'm focused on what I read. I'll return to this forum and let you all know, if lowering TV shows helped me reach vipassana.

Middleway

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Re: Missing A Day of Mindfulness, Yoga And Other Forms of Meditation
« Reply #33 on: March 04, 2015, 01:13:04 AM »

@Middleway: I think if one takes the suttas available today as the Buddha's words and teachings, the statement that he meant "meditation" when using the term jhana cannot be true. In dozens of suttas he mentioned specific jhanas together with its quality "...he enters and dwells in the first jhana, which is accompanied by applied thought and sustained thought with rapture and happiness born of seclusion".

Thanks Max. I am not a sutta literate. I did not read any suttas that talk about jhanas although I have read about jhanas as described by Ajahn Brahm.  I do know the Sanskrit equivalent to pali word jhana is dhyana which means meditation or contemplation.
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Alex

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« Reply #34 on: March 09, 2015, 01:24:47 PM »
This mentioning of jhana has somehow struck a chord with me. My meditation intention has shifted towards more actively allowing the mind-body to relax, which has been interesting. I have started reading an e-book called ‘The Jhanas’ by Ajahn Brahmavamso. It seems that what I described earlier refers to pitisukha arinsing from letting go, what Brahmavamso calls Beautiful Breath. Not much further in th book did I feel that the words were beyond me and had no relevance to my practice today. But it’s good to know or have heard of these things as one proceeds. So thanks for the tip!

I don’t understand why I’ve never heard teachers talking about jhana on retreat. On the contrary, my experiences have been designated by different teachers as ‘marginal phenomena’, instead of maybe a stage in meditation, maybe a step closer to jhana.

I also don’t understand how a thread talking about jhana, being a controversial subject maybe, a misunderstood subject maybe, indispensible to some can just come to a stop, with some of the questions asked left unanswered. We all know silence can be noble, wise, golden, but can it also be a weapon, maybe the ultimate weapon on a forum? Are people sometimes afraid to express themselves, to take a stance, to be vulnerable? Are people unable to find a way to express themselves kindly and respectfully? I mean, it’s possible there is just a lack of interest in this subject, or is there more to it? A lot of questions… I also contributed. Even though I tried to say what I wanted as kindly as I could, I can see I was still offensive, not very welcoming and trying to show how good/right I am.  ::)

I would be interested to hear what others have to say about jhana. Is the subject relevant to practice or not? Why so/why not? Personal experiences with regard to development of jhana? Whatever you wish to share, thanks...

Quote from: Joseph Goldstein
All the teachings, all the words, all the sutras, are skillful means for liberating the mind, rather than statements of absolute truth. When we take words to be statements of ultimate truth, then differences of opinion will inevitably result in conflict.

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Missing A Day of Mindfulness, Yoga And Other Forms of Meditation
« Reply #35 on: March 09, 2015, 04:57:35 PM »
Talking about Jhanas becomes a little controversial because making it an object can make it harder to achieve.

Matthew

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Re: Missing A Day of Mindfulness, Yoga And Other Forms of Meditation
« Reply #36 on: March 09, 2015, 07:07:21 PM »
Hi Matthew

While I'd have to say a lot about your vipassana / jhana statement, I am more interested to know how your view "Jhana is possible for all" fits with a real life experience where people sit a very intense four month concentration retreat with one of the best known concentration masters, Pa Auk Sayadaw, and cannot get into Jhana.

Are they not doing it right? Not trying hard enough? Teacher not skilful? Wrong method / wrong kasina?

Hi Max, no offence. Yes one of the above - it depends on the person. Kindly, Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

onederful

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Re: Missing A Day of Mindfulness, Yoga And Other Forms of Meditation
« Reply #37 on: March 09, 2015, 08:21:58 PM »
Hi Matthew

While I'd have to say a lot about your vipassana / jhana statement, I am more interested to know how your view "Jhana is possible for all" fits with a real life experience where people sit a very intense four month concentration retreat with one of the best known concentration masters, Pa Auk Sayadaw, and cannot get into Jhana.

Are they not doing it right? Not trying hard enough? Teacher not skilful? Wrong method / wrong kasina?

Hi Max, no offence. Yes one of the above - it depends on the person. Kindly, Matthew

I've mostly been doing Jon Kabat Zinn for the past year, so I'm pretty sure his methods are not unskillful. I'm likely doing his yoga, body scan and sitting meditations right, since they're pretty straightforward. As far as not trying hard enough maybe, but I think my thoughts wander much less often than they did when I started. It might be that I was just very uncentered when I began, so I might have a longer time to reach a Jhana. Of course to be honest I'm not 100% sure I fully know and understand what the Jhana's are from a wikipedia article  :D. When time affords I will educate myself about them. Might have experience a lower one before, but wasn't aware of what it was?

Maybe I have been wasting time. I know we as humans can deceive ourselves very easily as far as gains go, in my case maybe because I didn't want to feel like I wasted time, but I believe there were changes that have improved my wellbeing. Hopefully I am walking close to the path or im in the right direction towards it and not lost in the forest or some analogy that applies to the path.  ;D  :-[

Max

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Re: Missing A Day of Mindfulness, Yoga And Other Forms of Meditation
« Reply #38 on: March 10, 2015, 07:13:42 AM »
I'm getting VERY concerned that this Jhana topic will cause a lot of suffering for people (whose practice seems to be skilful and beneficial) as some statements suggest that they have to change what they are doing because concentration practice is the real thing.

Matthew

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Re: Missing A Day of Mindfulness, Yoga And Other Forms of Meditation
« Reply #39 on: March 11, 2015, 05:40:09 AM »
Max,

Mindfulness practice is the real thing.

Concentration - Insight - Calm - Kindness - Equanimity ... All the other stuff is the fruit of practice, not a practice itself.

Kindly,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Alex

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Re: Missing A Day of Mindfulness, Yoga And Other Forms of Meditation
« Reply #40 on: March 13, 2015, 09:17:12 AM »
Talking about Jhanas becomes a little controversial because making it an object can make it harder to achieve.

Is this controversy based on a kind of (supersticious) fear: don't talk about it or you'll jinks it?  ;)
I looked into it a little bit and it seems as though the practice of jhana comes with very clear and precise instructions...

Alex

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Re: Missing A Day of Mindfulness, Yoga And Other Forms of Meditation
« Reply #41 on: March 13, 2015, 09:29:45 AM »
I'm getting VERY concerned that this Jhana topic will cause a lot of suffering for people (whose practice seems to be skilful and beneficial) as some statements suggest that they have to change what they are doing because concentration practice is the real thing.

I hear your concerns and questions. I hope you find some clarity and are able to orient your practice accordingly.

For myself, I'm still unsure what the practical relevance is for me at this moment. I hope/trust to find the right information of teacher at the right moment.
Meanwhile I think that if my practice is beneficial and if there is progress, I am doing something very worthwhile and real.

Middleway

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Re: Missing A Day of Mindfulness, Yoga And Other Forms of Meditation
« Reply #42 on: March 15, 2015, 08:11:11 PM »
Talking about Jhanas becomes a little controversial because making it an object can make it harder to achieve.

Is this controversy based on a kind of (supersticious) fear: don't talk about it or you'll jinks it?  ;)
I looked into it a little bit and it seems as though the practice of jhana comes with very clear and precise instructions...

Here is an excerpt from Meditations by J. Krishnamurti. Hope this helps.

Quote
Is there a new experience in meditation? The desire for experience, the higher experience which is beyond and above the daily or the commonplace, is what keeps the well-spring empty. The craving for more experience, for visions, for higher perception, for some realization or other, makes the mind look outward, which is no different from its dependence on environment and people. The curious part of meditation is that an event is not made into an experience. It is there, like a new star in the heavens, without memory taking it over and holding it, without the habitual process of recognition and response in terms of like and dislike. Our search is always outgoing; the mind seeking any experience is outgoing. Inward-going is not a search at all; it is perceiving. Response is always repetitive, for it comes always from the same bank of memory.
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Missing A Day of Mindfulness, Yoga And Other Forms of Meditation
« Reply #43 on: March 16, 2015, 09:39:55 AM »
Quote from: Alex
Is this controversy based on a kind of (supersticious) fear: don't talk about it or you'll jinks it?  ;)
I looked into it a little bit and it seems as though the practice of jhana comes with very clear and precise instructions...
Sounds almost too easy.

Alex

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Re: Missing A Day of Mindfulness, Yoga And Other Forms of Meditation
« Reply #44 on: March 16, 2015, 01:08:04 PM »
Sounds almost too easy.

My point being that teachers talk about jhana with very clear and precise instructions, despite the risk that you mention (talking about jhana => objectifying jhana => harder to achieve).

Yet here nobody seems prepared to talk about it...

Somehow I feel like a child stumbling on a family secret...

::)