Author Topic: The stillness  (Read 305 times)

chazbc

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The stillness
« on: October 04, 2020, 07:19:25 AM »
In my meditation I have learned how to still my mind, so it is just me focused on my breath with a still mind.  What now?  Like the thought occurs to to use the stillness for contemplation of the cittas as described in Bhikkhu Bodhi's book "The Noble Eightfold Path".  Or is there something more beyond the stillness to master the skill of meditation?

Alex

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Re: The stillness
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2020, 09:09:08 AM »
Like the thought occurs to to use the stillness for contemplation of the cittas as described in Bhikkhu Bodhi's book "The Noble Eightfold Path".
Don't know the book, but seems like a good idea ;)
A calm, focused mind enables you to investigate your experience.

Or is there something more beyond the stillness to master the skill of meditation?
You answered your own question (see before).
Stilness is beautiful, it calms and purifies the mind, beautiful states, but it remains just that. Contemplating every object, whatever you experience, with this still and clear mind, will give rise to fruits as insight, compassion, etc. and ultimately lead to liberation.

milco

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Re: The stillness
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2020, 09:34:53 AM »
Stilness is beautiful, it calms and purifies the mind, beautiful states, but it remains just that. Contemplating every object, whatever you experience, with this still and clear mind, will give rise to fruits as insight, compassion, etc. and ultimately lead to liberation.

How do you hang on to the stillness once your meditation is complete? I find that my mind has a habit of bouncing back and 'making up for lost time' by resuming fretting away on its favourite topics (old friendships, work issues, relationships etc.).

stillpointdancer

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Re: The stillness
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2020, 10:30:28 AM »
The stillness is one of the aspects of meditation which is important, but, like the others, takes time to do its work. Over the months and years it will help bring about the changes which meditation brings.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Alex

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Re: The stillness
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2020, 10:33:23 AM »
How do you hang on to the stillness once your meditation is complete? I find that my mind has a habit of bouncing back and 'making up for lost time' by resuming fretting away on its favourite topics (old friendships, work issues, relationships etc.).

Hi Milco

When silence deepens beyond a certain point, its effect can last for several days, but… stillness is, like any other state of mind, impermanent or changing, and dependent on causes and conditions.
In other words… you don’t hang on to it, you create the conditions for stillness to visit more often, to deepen and to stick around for longer periods of time.

That your mind bounces back means that these habits are still strong and mindfulness not strong enough. With practice this momentum will reverse. In the meantime, you can return to this place of stillness, to your body or to another present moment experience every time your mind has wandered, both on and off the cushion, i.e. all of the time...

You might also want to contemplate life conditions and activities that you do and how favorable they are for the development of stillness (calm, concentration,…)
You might also want to investigate what drives the mind to go into these habitual topics… and work through that. Resolve a work issue for example, or see it from a different perspective, or let go of attachments (maybe perfectionism, ambitions or something) that contribute.

Kindly
Alex

milco

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Re: The stillness
« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2020, 08:24:35 AM »

That your mind bounces back means that these habits are still strong and mindfulness not strong enough. With practice this momentum will reverse. In the meantime, you can return to this place of stillness, to your body or to another present moment experience every time your mind has wandered, both on and off the cushion, i.e. all of the time...


This is the bit I struggle with. Even when I meditate it takes 5-10 minutes to dial down all the froth and chatter and to experience stillness. 'Off the cushion' (I like that expression!) I can't imagine how you could re-connect with that state of mind in the blink of an eye. For me the stillness is still an isolated period of 'respite' from the throb and hum and relentless, negative prattle of brain activity.

How do you achieve it?

Dharmic Tui

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Re: The stillness
« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2020, 11:15:45 AM »
I don't think you really do.

Ram Dass once said after years in India he got so high, so holy. It was as if he was walking on air with bliss of the presence. Then after returning home, his dad asked "well did you get a job yet?", and the whole visage just shattered.

Regular life is very thick. Don't expect to have absolute stillness while navigating a freeway. You should however develop a calmness of mind that allows you to respond, rather than react, to life. This in turn should lead you towards more favourable outcomes and less suffering. A better foundation for your practice to develop stillness.

But always new challenges.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2020, 11:17:29 AM by Dharmic Tui »

raushan

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Re: The stillness
« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2020, 12:34:06 PM »
I don't think you really do.

Ram Dass once said after years in India he got so high, so holy. It was as if he was walking on air with bliss of the presence. Then after returning home, his dad asked "well did you get a job yet?", and the whole visage just shattered.

Ha ha. can totally relate with that sometimes. Meditation feels so peaceful that it boosts the ego sometimes but as soon as face real-world challenges the ego shatters.

Alex

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Re: The stillness
« Reply #8 on: October 06, 2020, 10:06:23 AM »
This is the bit I struggle with. Even when I meditate it takes 5-10 minutes to dial down all the froth and chatter and to experience stillness. 'Off the cushion' (I like that expression!) I can't imagine how you could re-connect with that state of mind in the blink of an eye. For me the stillness is still an isolated period of 'respite' from the throb and hum and relentless, negative prattle of brain activity.

How do you achieve it?

In meditation, is the stillness you experience always the same? Compared to a previous session? Comparing within the session? Why does it sometimes take more time for the body to relax and the mental chatter to settle down? What are the conditions enabling one or the other?
Why would this be any different off the cushion? I use a bench, by the way ;)

Also, do ‘you’ ‘achieve’ the settling down? Or do you create conditions and then experience what happens?

“Return to this place of stillness” is like a direction. Knowing where you can take refuge, within the whirlwind of life, taking a step back from the fabrication, and then receiving what’s possible within the specific (external and internal) conditions you find yourself in. Very concretely, this will not be as deep as on the cushion. The 'blink of an eye' is an interesting one, because the instant when you realize you are worked up (I'm thinking of a conversation this weekend), instantly this agitated energy falls to my feet. and then I can breathe again, I can listen again, I have choice. And things settle down more.

As I like asking questions, just a couple more ;) how much stilness does one need to make peace with what is present and to engage with it in a meaningful way (i.e. lead a good life)? And - relating maybe more to the opening post - how much stilness does one need to investigate one's experience?

Kindly
Alex

stillpointdancer

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Re: The stillness
« Reply #9 on: October 06, 2020, 10:10:09 AM »
There are different types of stillness in meditation. There's the 'blank everything out' type, the 'bliss bunny' type, the 'ignore everything and it will go away' type, and so on. The one I try for is a state of relaxed tenseness, where you are aware of everything happening around you, every sound and movement of the air, ready to rise and do something if necessary or sit in readiness if not. This is the one you can take with you into any situation away from the mat.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Thanisaro85

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Re: The stillness
« Reply #10 on: October 06, 2020, 12:32:54 PM »
instantly this agitated energy falls to my feet. and then I can breathe again, I can listen again, I have choice. And things settle down more.

I need to work very very hard on this... :(

A Mind Unshaken, when touches by worldy matter, sorrowless, secure and dustless, this is the ultimate great blessing~ Mangala Sutta

milco

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Re: The stillness
« Reply #11 on: October 06, 2020, 02:01:11 PM »

Regular life is very thick. Don't expect to have absolute stillness while navigating a freeway. You should however develop a calmness of mind that allows you to respond, rather than react, to life. This in turn should lead you towards more favourable outcomes and less suffering. A better foundation for your practice to develop stillness.


Agree. I think regular meditation has definitely raised my 'stress threshold'. It's not a 'silver bullet' when it comes to dealing with the slings and arrows of everyday life, but it has definitely improved my ability to process stress.

One thing i cannot do, however, is recreate the feeling of stillness I get during mediation when 'off the cushion'. That just has to wait until my next session! Having two sessions per day (morning and early evening) definitely helps in this regard, however.

milco

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Re: The stillness
« Reply #12 on: October 09, 2020, 03:15:23 PM »
This is the bit I struggle with. Even when I meditate it takes 5-10 minutes to dial down all the froth and chatter and to experience stillness. 'Off the cushion' (I like that expression!) I can't imagine how you could re-connect with that state of mind in the blink of an eye. For me the stillness is still an isolated period of 'respite' from the throb and hum and relentless, negative prattle of brain activity.

How do you achieve it?

In meditation, is the stillness you experience always the same? Compared to a previous session? Comparing within the session? Why does it sometimes take more time for the body to relax and the mental chatter to settle down? What are the conditions enabling one or the other?
Why would this be any different off the cushion? I use a bench, by the way ;)

Also, do ‘you’ ‘achieve’ the settling down? Or do you create conditions and then experience what happens?

“Return to this place of stillness” is like a direction. Knowing where you can take refuge, within the whirlwind of life, taking a step back from the fabrication, and then receiving what’s possible within the specific (external and internal) conditions you find yourself in. Very concretely, this will not be as deep as on the cushion. The 'blink of an eye' is an interesting one, because the instant when you realize you are worked up (I'm thinking of a conversation this weekend), instantly this agitated energy falls to my feet. and then I can breathe again, I can listen again, I have choice. And things settle down more.

As I like asking questions, just a couple more ;) how much stilness does one need to make peace with what is present and to engage with it in a meaningful way (i.e. lead a good life)? And - relating maybe more to the opening post - how much stilness does one need to investigate one's experience?

Kindly
Alex

Wow! One or two questions to ponder!

I am rubbish at using selective quotes, so I will just answer these head-on...

Once I have reached a point of stillness during meditation the experience is largely the same. In a way, I try not to 'over-think' what it feels like. It is a velvet cushion, a warm, fuzzy cloud devoid of both small, nagging thoughts and the longer, more ponderous, trains of thought. It is a gentle, unassuming mental stillness. It doesn't feel profound or uplifting...quite the opposite. It is matter-of-fact, everyday. I like its very ordinariness and familiarity. It is non-judgmental and accepting. It just 'is'.

For me there are two major obstacles on the way to stillness and these affect how long it takes to reach that point during meditation. The first are the unwanted, intrusive thoughts referred to above. The second is a burdensome feeling of physical pressure in my head caused by nervous tension. This feels a bit like a tight band - often several bands - pressing down on my head. It affects the crown, the forehead, the temples, the bit between my forehead and crown, the back of the head....you name it! Meditation helps ease some of this pressure gradually and area by area, but as well as it being a vaguely unpleasant sensation it is also a distraction. I sort of need to get past it and through it before I can reach the 'stillness' part.

As for stillness being something you either achieve, or create the conditions for, it is probably the latter. It is an interesting point and one which I can only really answer with a gut feeling rather than something precise and scientifically thought through. I am also wondering if it is a slightly semantic distinction. It feels like letting go....mentally putting things down. I actually carry the metaphor in my head of placing an object down on a table while I am trying to let go of thoughts during the early stages of meditation.

...so, yes: let go of thoughts, try to ease some of the physical tension, focus on the breaths and carry out a body scan and you are 'creating the conditions', I suppose. I never thought of it like that.

The above process is somewhat laborious and takes time and patience. I wish the stillness was easier to achieve, but it takes me 10-15 minutes to get there, depending on my levels of underlying tension and pre-occupation. For that reason I couldn't imagine agitated energy 'falling to me feet', as you describe. I just don't see the resolution of tension and anxiety in those straightforward terms, unfortunately.

Your final question is a good one and it goes back to my 'stress threshold' analogy. You don't need 'total' stillness to achieve things in life and to operate with manageable, even beneficial, levels of stress. Meditation lowers my stress threshold and enables me to function reasonably well 95% of the time. So, I am happy for the absolute 'stillness' to exist during times of mediation only, and I appreciate any knock-on benefits which this has off-the-cushion with pleasure and gratitude.


milco

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Re: The stillness
« Reply #13 on: October 09, 2020, 03:25:25 PM »
There are different types of stillness in meditation. There's the 'blank everything out' type, the 'bliss bunny' type, the 'ignore everything and it will go away' type, and so on. The one I try for is a state of relaxed tenseness, where you are aware of everything happening around you, every sound and movement of the air, ready to rise and do something if necessary or sit in readiness if not. This is the one you can take with you into any situation away from the mat.

I think my version of stillness is broadly similar to what you describe. I don't feel like I am trying to blank everything out, but just let go of unwanted and unhelpful things. I am not really looking for bliss -- I actually want my experience to be calmer and more centred. Ignoring things so that they go away feels a bit like burying stuff rather than acknowledging and accepting it and letting it go.

I agree with you: a relaxed, clear, open awareness free from negativity and distraction feels like the best mental state to take with you back into the hurly-burly!  ;)

Alex

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Re: The stillness
« Reply #14 on: October 09, 2020, 07:21:29 PM »
Wow! One or two questions to ponder!

I am rubbish at using selective quotes, so I will just answer these head-on...

Once I have reached a point of stillness during meditation the experience is largely the same. In a way, I try not to 'over-think' what it feels like. It is a velvet cushion, a warm, fuzzy cloud devoid of both small, nagging thoughts and the longer, more ponderous, trains of thought. It is a gentle, unassuming mental stillness. It doesn't feel profound or uplifting...quite the opposite. It is matter-of-fact, everyday. I like its very ordinariness and familiarity. It is non-judgmental and accepting. It just 'is'.

For me there are two major obstacles on the way to stillness and these affect how long it takes to reach that point during meditation. The first are the unwanted, intrusive thoughts referred to above. The second is a burdensome feeling of physical pressure in my head caused by nervous tension. This feels a bit like a tight band - often several bands - pressing down on my head. It affects the crown, the forehead, the temples, the bit between my forehead and crown, the back of the head....you name it! Meditation helps ease some of this pressure gradually and area by area, but as well as it being a vaguely unpleasant sensation it is also a distraction. I sort of need to get past it and through it before I can reach the 'stillness' part.

As for stillness being something you either achieve, or create the conditions for, it is probably the latter. It is an interesting point and one which I can only really answer with a gut feeling rather than something precise and scientifically thought through. I am also wondering if it is a slightly semantic distinction. It feels like letting go....mentally putting things down. I actually carry the metaphor in my head of placing an object down on a table while I am trying to let go of thoughts during the early stages of meditation.

...so, yes: let go of thoughts, try to ease some of the physical tension, focus on the breaths and carry out a body scan and you are 'creating the conditions', I suppose. I never thought of it like that.

The above process is somewhat laborious and takes time and patience. I wish the stillness was easier to achieve, but it takes me 10-15 minutes to get there, depending on my levels of underlying tension and pre-occupation. For that reason I couldn't imagine agitated energy 'falling to me feet', as you describe. I just don't see the resolution of tension and anxiety in those straightforward terms, unfortunately.

Your final question is a good one and it goes back to my 'stress threshold' analogy. You don't need 'total' stillness to achieve things in life and to operate with manageable, even beneficial, levels of stress. Meditation lowers my stress threshold and enables me to function reasonably well 95% of the time. So, I am happy for the absolute 'stillness' to exist during times of mediation only, and I appreciate any knock-on benefits which this has off-the-cushion with pleasure and gratitude.

Whatever science has to say (and I do care for that as well), let’s do our own research and choose our own words to describe our experience! ;)

Choosing to set something down for the duration of one’s meditation, yes, that’s a nice image… and it seems there’s quite some tension and preoccupation to set down…

There’s one thing you wrote (about the stillness not feeling uplifting) that makes me wonder… does the stilness have a pleasant/enjoyable quality to it?

Good that the questions spark some reflection!

Alex

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Re: The stillness
« Reply #15 on: October 09, 2020, 07:30:20 PM »
For that reason I couldn't imagine agitated energy 'falling to me feet', as you describe. I just don't see the resolution of tension and anxiety in those straightforward terms, unfortunately.

instantly this agitated energy falls to my feet. and then I can breathe again, I can listen again, I have choice. And things settle down more.
I need to work very very hard on this... :(

So, this happens%u2026 it%u2019s not something I %u2018do%u2019 or %u2018can do%u2019%u2026 it's much more interesting than it is special...
Trying to put some words onto it%u2026 it feels like it%u2019s the result of knowing/insight... at the moment that there is recognition/mindfulness of what is happening, the energy instantly dropped.
This recognition is the result of knowing that grew from meditation/investigation as well as having encountered this specific type of argument with this person quite a few times before  ::)
And to be clear, the agitated energy drops, but there is still residual agitation (hormones?) that takes a little longer to subside...
« Last Edit: October 09, 2020, 07:32:15 PM by Alex »

Alex

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Re: The stillness
« Reply #16 on: October 09, 2020, 07:49:11 PM »
There are different types of stillness in meditation. There's the 'blank everything out' type, the 'bliss bunny' type, the 'ignore everything and it will go away' type, and so on. The one I try for is a state of relaxed tenseness, where you are aware of everything happening around you, every sound and movement of the air, ready to rise and do something if necessary or sit in readiness if not. This is the one you can take with you into any situation away from the mat.

I agree deep stilness is not necessary, and not very helpful in daily life. It's also trap to use deep samadhi as an escape or if you're practicing it just for the sake of it.

But... I think there is value in such deep stillness/concentration in which eventually the mind’s interest in sensory experience falls away. My first teachers disregarded states of deep samadhi as something not te be given much attention to. I’m glad to see there is much more interest in the jhana practice these days!

milco

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Re: The stillness
« Reply #17 on: October 09, 2020, 08:50:47 PM »
Wow! One or two questions to ponder!

I am rubbish at using selective quotes, so I will just answer these head-on...

Once I have reached a point of stillness during meditation the experience is largely the same. In a way, I try not to 'over-think' what it feels like. It is a velvet cushion, a warm, fuzzy cloud devoid of both small, nagging thoughts and the longer, more ponderous, trains of thought. It is a gentle, unassuming mental stillness. It doesn't feel profound or uplifting...quite the opposite. It is matter-of-fact, everyday. I like its very ordinariness and familiarity. It is non-judgmental and accepting. It just 'is'.

For me there are two major obstacles on the way to stillness and these affect how long it takes to reach that point during meditation. The first are the unwanted, intrusive thoughts referred to above. The second is a burdensome feeling of physical pressure in my head caused by nervous tension. This feels a bit like a tight band - often several bands - pressing down on my head. It affects the crown, the forehead, the temples, the bit between my forehead and crown, the back of the head....you name it! Meditation helps ease some of this pressure gradually and area by area, but as well as it being a vaguely unpleasant sensation it is also a distraction. I sort of need to get past it and through it before I can reach the 'stillness' part.

As for stillness being something you either achieve, or create the conditions for, it is probably the latter. It is an interesting point and one which I can only really answer with a gut feeling rather than something precise and scientifically thought through. I am also wondering if it is a slightly semantic distinction. It feels like letting go....mentally putting things down. I actually carry the metaphor in my head of placing an object down on a table while I am trying to let go of thoughts during the early stages of meditation.

...so, yes: let go of thoughts, try to ease some of the physical tension, focus on the breaths and carry out a body scan and you are 'creating the conditions', I suppose. I never thought of it like that.

The above process is somewhat laborious and takes time and patience. I wish the stillness was easier to achieve, but it takes me 10-15 minutes to get there, depending on my levels of underlying tension and pre-occupation. For that reason I couldn't imagine agitated energy 'falling to me feet', as you describe. I just don't see the resolution of tension and anxiety in those straightforward terms, unfortunately.

Your final question is a good one and it goes back to my 'stress threshold' analogy. You don't need 'total' stillness to achieve things in life and to operate with manageable, even beneficial, levels of stress. Meditation lowers my stress threshold and enables me to function reasonably well 95% of the time. So, I am happy for the absolute 'stillness' to exist during times of mediation only, and I appreciate any knock-on benefits which this has off-the-cushion with pleasure and gratitude.

Whatever science has to say (and I do care for that as well), let’s do our own research and choose our own words to describe our experience! ;)

There’s one thing you wrote (about the stillness not feeling uplifting) that makes me wonder… does the stilness have a pleasant/enjoyable quality to it?

Good that the questions spark some reflection!

I don't understand your response, Alex. I thought 'choosing my words and describing my own experience' was exactly what I did in my last post. I dug deep to write that and try to provide something personal and heartfelt. I used the word 'science' in a purely illustrative way.

Of course I enjoy meditation and stillness and I hope my post made clear that I find it profoundly useful.

Ah, well....maybe these things are just too introspective and esoteric to write about.


milco

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Re: The stillness
« Reply #18 on: October 10, 2020, 08:30:33 AM »
Sorry, Alex. I re-read you post from last night and I over-reacted. The end of a long, long week! My apologies.

Returning to your last point, I do enjoy it. i actually had a similar conversation with my counsellor last year. She also meditates and reminded me, 'Don't forget to enjoy it!'



Alex

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Re: The stillness
« Reply #19 on: October 10, 2020, 04:11:36 PM »
It's all good, milco, it's all good  8)  I'm not immune to foolishness... (thought I'd clarify by saying that this means the possibility exist that I say, do or write foolish things)  :D
I guess I wanted to confirm or positively reïnforce what you did... to go with gut feeling and use own words to describe the subjective experience and understanding. It seemed like there was maybe insecurity that this would be less valid or okay (as compared to precision or science). And maybe it's me projecting that feeling, because it's a feeling I know. Maybe it's both  ;)

Yes, exactly, "don't forget to enjoy it!" Usually this means to be less goal-oriented and more in the flow of things, which is kind of the point of meditation, right? What I learned is to also give attention to the pleasurable quality arising when there is relaxation or stilness. Noticing this quality, exploring it... Is it physical, mental? How does it feel like? Etc... Resting attention there for a while.
Maybe this quality serves a function too. Maybe it refreshes attention, enabling us to want to be more with the breath. Maybe it allows us to let go more...
« Last Edit: October 10, 2020, 04:13:30 PM by Alex »

stillpointdancer

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Re: The stillness
« Reply #20 on: October 11, 2020, 11:04:07 AM »
There are different types of stillness in meditation. There's the 'blank everything out' type, the 'bliss bunny' type, the 'ignore everything and it will go away' type, and so on. The one I try for is a state of relaxed tenseness, where you are aware of everything happening around you, every sound and movement of the air, ready to rise and do something if necessary or sit in readiness if not. This is the one you can take with you into any situation away from the mat.

I agree deep stilness is not necessary, and not very helpful in daily life. It's also trap to use deep samadhi as an escape or if you're practicing it just for the sake of it.

But... I think there is value in such deep stillness/concentration in which eventually the mind’s interest in sensory experience falls away. My first teachers disregarded states of deep samadhi as something not te be given much attention to. I’m glad to see there is much more interest in the jhana practice these days!
Hi Alex
Yes, the deep stillness you talk about is useful too. Jhana practice brings a different dimension to your practice and is well worth staying with for a while.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

 

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