Author Topic: Question on the Next Step  (Read 1731 times)

mcgee55

  • Guest
Question on the Next Step
« on: August 11, 2009, 11:43:24 PM »
I have been practicing mindfulness or insight meditation for approximately 3 months.  Mostly, I have been focusing on my breathing and noting things that take my attention away from it.  My mind has learned to concentrate better, and I can now reach a state where I feel I am ready to expand my practice.  My question is - what exactly should I do?  I have read Mindfulness in Plain English, and its not entirely clear to me. (the book is obviously a wealth of information, but for one with no formal teaching its difficult sometimes to piece it all together). When I reach that level of concentration, and the mind is calm and focused, should I direct my attention to something else I want to focus on, such as sounds, sensations, etc.?  If this is the case, I get a lovely ringing in my ear that I could sit and concentrate for a while.  Or, should it be more of a "choiceless awareness" of whatever is predominant at any of the 6 sense doors?  Just a little confused.  Thanks.

Hazmatac

  • Member
Re: Question on the Next Step
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2009, 11:43:00 AM »
What do you mean by "expand your practice." The fact that you are able to concentrate better is good. The idea is to keep a prolonged concentration to the point of allowing repressed emotions and feelings to come up and allow them to get out of your system. So,
1. You don't need to change anything, just keep concentrating, and
2. You can concentrate on anything

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Staff
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Question on the Next Step
« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2009, 03:10:58 PM »
Dear mcgee

Welcome to the forums.

"The next step .." ... "expand my practice ..." .... these sound like ego-driven goals of desire.

My suggestion would be for you to re-read the chapters "Attitude" and "The Practice" in Gunaratana's book.

"Mindfulness practice is the practice of being 100 percent honest with ourselves" - when you have anchored your mind in breathing practice and developed a level of concentration and mindfulness the next step is to apply that, with subtle awareness, to feelings and other objects as they arise - in a very precise way. Become aware of, for example, the feeling - and the way it is altering your mind and perception. Delve more deeply into your own psychological clockwork and bodymind interactions by applying your mindfulness and awareness to these unfolding and ever changing processes. Don't stop anchoring your attention in the breath but when something arises pay close attention to every detail of it's arising. You will become increasingly skilful at deconstructing the habitual processes of your bodymind and work towards perceiving reality as it is, without the habitual filters created by perceptions, reactions and stories built up over your lifetime.

The other essential aspect is the recollection that practice is practice - off the cushion change is where the action is really at. Is your life in balance with your practice? Are you noting an increase in understanding of others and deeper compassion towards them? less judgement? More breathing space between events and your reactions?

If the answers are no then you are still lacking understanding of yourself and need to keep up the practice, maybe going back to first principles and examining the basics of your motivation and attitude.

Gunaratana's book is one of the best to learn Vipassana. Stripped of culture it does what it says on the can. Rereading sections will not hurt as you progress along the path - sometimes you read something your mind just can't take in at the deeper level of meaning - return to it three months later after some practice and it makes complete sense.

There is a need to read - to gain understanding or "faith" - meaning the confidence to try the experiment of meditation oneself.

There is then a need to put into practice what one has learned.

There is also the need to take the insights one gains into every day life.

Meditation is an iterative and interactive process - the more you do the more you change. Just be careful that the calm you have developed is a genuine calm and not a forced calm of self-hypnotism. The mind calms naturally if one is concentrating in an appropriately relaxed manner. And yes, I realize that sounds contradictory but it isn't. It is a question of getting the level of concentration right. Too loose - you gain nothing, your mind wanders. Too tight - you gain nothing, your mind is suppressed. Just right - you gain everything (at the same time as losing it all), your mind is able to follow phenomena with increasing  accuracy to their roots as you progress.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
« Last Edit: August 12, 2009, 03:11:45 PM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

mcgee55

  • Guest
Re: Question on the Next Step
« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2009, 08:10:50 PM »
Thank you for your responses.  When I said expand my practice, I guess I was under the impression that when one reaches a certain level of concentration, they are supposed to direct their attention to things other than the breath. I thought there was something else the author wanted me to do.  I agree the book is great (I just lent it to my father), and will re-read it a third time.  I do, however, sometimes find the terminology confusing.  As for actual life, and not practice, I have noticed some differences, but only in the observational respect.  I haven't stopped judging, but I am often observing myself judging, or getting angry, or anxious, etc.  There is somewhat less of an engagement in my thoughts/emotions, which is a start. As for compassion, I'm certainly trying.   

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Staff
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Question on the Next Step
« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2009, 11:33:15 PM »
mcgee

This is good progress. If you are more aware of phenomena occurring sooner in the process then the practice is working. Keep focussing on the breath and continue to develop that mindfulness to a greater extent. See this post on "The Watcher" - "the development of the observational aspect" as you phrase it.

Also:

"The meditation experience is not a competition. There is a definite goal. But there is no timetable. What you are doing is digging your way deeper and deeper through layers of illusion toward realization of the supreme truth of existence. The process itself is fascinating and fulfilling. It can be enjoyed for it's own sake. There is no need to rush". - Henepola Gunaratana.

Learning to follow the breath can take months or years of practice. Equally it can be done much quicker if you practice more. Meditation is boot-strapping yourself towards total mental health (i.e. absence of all delusion, confusion, desire, greed, hatred). It is a DIY project. Each step you take is a step forwards.

Developing wholesome qualities to bring to real world situations is the goal. These naturally emerge when you clear the mental clutter and see things *as they are*.

Compassion for others will only come in full force when you see through more of your own mind/conditioning/habits and develop it for yourself - then it is only natural to experience compassion in the full knowledge the other is not different to you.

Gunaratana's new book "Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English" is out next month. In that book he explains the Jhanna States (Bliss states) and their role in meditation. The Bliss states, though not essential to attaining full wakefulness, are a help and are reached by a continuation of breathing meditation to a relaxed but fully aware one pointed mind. I don't suggest you buy this book or any other as long as you are still not "getting" the first one. If you struggle still with some of the language let's get you through that hurdle before constructing another course to run!

Lastly - if you have any issues with language, here or in the book, please ask. I'm very pleased for you that you did not follow a path such as Tibetan Buddhism which would have thrown you completely off the track with it's language and allegorical stories.

In the Dhamma,

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

mcgee55

  • Guest
Re: Question on the Next Step
« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2009, 03:54:12 AM »
TIR,

Thank you for your words of encouragement.  I have found a .pdf version of Mindfulness in Plain English (as my father has the hard copy!), and am re-reading many of the passages.  Interestingly, I am finding that many of the conclusions I made about his instructions were probably the result of the lens I viewed them through.  By this, I mean that I had something in mind about what I wanted my meditation practice to be like, and carried that desire to his words.  I  feel somewhat more comfortable now, but there is still so much to learn in those pages. 

Like you, I am also glad that I chose the vipassana form of meditation.  To be honest, however, I didn't really know what mindfulness was when I picked up the book.  I thought (in true ignorance) that all meditation was basically the same, and I certainly was not thinking about the path to ultimate liberation and human compassion.  I was thinking more along the lines of breathing exercises and whatnot!  I do feel that is changing, and I am now interested in more fully engaging this spiritual journey beyond just meditation.  It is difficult not to be inspired, and I will be sure to post all questions.  Best of luck to everyone..