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Queries regarding calmness in meditation

misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a HinduIndia Veteran
edited November 30 in Meditation

Hi All,
2 queries regarding calmness in meditation please:
1. How important is it to have calmness in meditation with the goal to have insights developed in meditation, which can then lead to awakening? In my meditation, there is no calmness, rather I try to just observe what is coming into my mind and when I get entangled in thoughts, then I try to become aware of my breath.
2. From zazen perspective, how important is calmness – because as per Fukanzazengi, after giving physical sitting posture details, Dogen just says to think not-thinking. So I think there is no reference of calmness there – so the zazen which Dogen is referring to does not need to have calmness in it – can it be just the sitting and observing what is going on? If this is the case, then where are we headed to or what will be get finally after many sittings – because in each sitting it will be just sit and just observe what is occurring – so where would that thing which we call enlightenment happen in zazen?
So please suggest your views on the above queries. Thanks.

Snakeskin

Comments

  • Good question. I am not sure but I would say if we produce some views on calmness and meditation nonetheless we shouldn't attach to views. I don't think meditation is an analysis space. But when you meditate regularly the mind from the beginning has a quality of knowing. Right now it is here like that. Right here apparent.

    Snakeskin
  • Do you suppose his students sometimes thought, "that Fukanzazengi!" about Fukanzazengi and his posture details?

    And, dude, maybe strive for calmness from overthinking the unthinkable (enlightenment, again...) and just let meditation be as random as it is. Instructions are just to get you started and in to a groove. Then go back and do it again. For years........

    Snakeskin
  • jwredeljwredel Albuquerque Explorer

    @Jeffrey @IronRabbit with excellent suggestions and I would just throw out (not up) one other thing for you to chew on ... Meditation is the practice of vigilance. Be vigilant and calmness will take care of itself.

    lobsterSnakeskinDavid
  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran

    My question from Fukanzazengi - is where we are heading towards with it? means it just says to sit and just observe what is happening and when caught up in thinking, then come back to body and breath - so every session it is just the same thing - is there something getting developed there or are we progressing somewhere? I know theoretically we say that meditation is for letting go of things and not to get anything, but you understand that practically we should feel there is some progress - but from Fukanzazengi's instructions, I am not understanding where the progress would happen or how the progress would happen? Or how many years of sitting in zazen as per Fukanzazengi's instructions is needed to see any progress?
    By the way even though I am using the word progress above, if there will be any progress, how will we know that progress is showing?
    Regarding insights, since I have read many teachings and heard many dharma talks, how will I know whether an insight genuinely develops within me or is it just remembering the words someone taught in a book or someone taught in a dharma talk?
    May be above are really stupid questions, but since I am not able to figure them out, so I am asking the above questions. So please suggest. Thanks.

    Snakeskin
  • So basically asking where are we progressing? And how do we know if we are going in the right direction? And how to know 'insight' from 'chatter'?

  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran

    @Jeffrey said:
    So basically asking where are we progressing? And how do we know if we are going in the right direction? And how to know 'insight' from 'chatter'?

    Yes, asking the above questions and specifically asking how is the method of 'zazen - which is just to sit and literally don't do anything, except for when entangled in thoughts, then come back to body and breath' - how is this method leading to any such progression. And how to distinguish if the understanding we have developed is an insight or just remembering of a teaching, which we have read/heard from some teacher.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @misecmisc1 said:

    Yes, asking the above questions and specifically asking how is the method of 'zazen - which is just to sit and literally don't do anything, except for when entangled in thoughts, then come back to body and breath' - how is this method leading to any such progression. And how to distinguish if the understanding we have developed is an insight or just remembering of a teaching, which we have read/heard from some teacher.

    It's possible that by doing so,one stops the mind from becoming charmed by its own thoughts That is, the method is simply training the Mind @misecmisc1 so one is no longer fooled by it ...

    More often than not, one can get dragged into the make-believe story world conjured up when the thoughts go astray...
    There's always a method to this madness @misecmisc1 ...

    DhammaDragon
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited December 1

    What kind of progress are you hoping for? Maybe reflect and be aware of what you hope for as progress?

    And you can contemplate that for a time. and then the sitting meditation is for stopping and seeing how that (stopping and just being) is.

    meditation isn't just the seated meditation. it also includes the rest of the day. and during that time you can contemplate what you are hoping for. what would progress be?

    you could wake up and think what progress you hope for

    DhammaDragonlobster
  • Just so you know @misecmisc1... o:)

    Your chances of enlightenment, without basic calmness, ability to listen, discern, make use of continual repeated advice etc. are aprox. zero. O.o

    A bit of calmness might be your best option. <3

    Have you ever tried answering your own questions, paying attention to what you are 'studying'? It honestly does not seem that way. What am I missing?

    DhammaDragon
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    @misecmisc1 said:

    @Jeffrey said:
    So basically asking where are we progressing? And how do we know if we are going in the right direction? And how to know 'insight' from 'chatter'?

    Yes, asking the above questions and specifically asking how is the method of 'zazen - which is just to sit and literally don't do anything, except for when entangled in thoughts, then come back to body and breath' - how is this method leading to any such progression. And how to distinguish if the understanding we have developed is an insight or just remembering of a teaching, which we have read/heard from some teacher.

    Some good responses.

    I guess you know when you're 'progressing' when your mind stfu's. :grin:

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Stop. Just, stop. Breathe in, breathe out, and relax.

    Sums it up.

  • This quotation doesn't directly comment on Zazen form of meditation. Nonetheless:

    The purpose of meditation is to see the peaceful, compassionate, pure, and already free nature of mind. But please remember that at the same time, meditation does not come with any hope or expectation.

    ~ Phakchok Rinpoche

    Shoshinlobster
  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran

    Is calmness a required prior condition for insight to arise? What is the difference between a calm mind and a mind with no thought in it? Please suggest. Thanks.

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited December 5

    A calm mind is calm. A mind with no thought in it has no thought in it (oops that's a thought to recognize there is no thought). I think calm is intuitive to understand what it means. It's just a word describing a feeling. Calm. And no thought means there isn't a thought. I think no thought doesn't last very long!

    Cool, harmonious, low key, mild, placid, serene, slow, smooth, tranquil.

    So then what is insight?

    I think if you follow a meditation method you just have to watch and the calm and insight will happen on it's own. Different people have different experiences. A teacher might help?

  • @misecmisc1 said:
    What is the difference between a calm mind and a mind with no thought in it?

    Not so different ...

    @Jeffrey said:
    A teacher might help?

    Yep.

  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem Recidivist Samsarist Veteran

    @misecmisc1 said:
    Is calmness a required prior condition for insight to arise? What is the difference between a calm mind and a mind with no thought in it? Please suggest. Thanks.

    They say mindfulness is "let it be" until you "let it go."

    A calm mind is a mind that is unruffled by whatever pops into it.

    Better to be accepting of the fact that thoughts stray into your mind, not engaging with them, and softly seeing them drop as easily as they arose, than opposing and striving against their presence.

    Being calm is being at peace with whatever is, not just if certain conditions happen.

    misecmisc1Shoshinsilverlobster
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited December 6

    Maybe more calmness comes from relaxing from looking for answers? So just sit and say can I just sit here? Can I do that without knowing answers?

    Which is not to say to just be a potato with no mind but just to relax and be present and see if you can do that?

    Or you can experiment with that like a muscle. Tense trying to find answers. What am I supposed to be doing? What did this mean? Etc..

    And then relax.

    Play with that like your longing for answers is like a game that you take up and then relax. And then come back to the contemplation. And then relax. It could be very much an experiment.

    Edit: and I would add that for some people who just like to sit and do nothing for them it is pushing themselves to question something so not become too dulled out. For myself that can happen where I am just internalized thinking "ok I'm meditating... how much time left?" so that can be important for me to remember to notice things about my experience or thoughts or whatever and not just sit there.

    lobstermisecmisc1DhammaDragon
  • Straight_ManStraight_Man Gentle Man Punta Gorda, Florida, USA Veteran

    To me, calmness is part neutralness from getting upset by passing thoughts or the existence of passing thoughts.

    lobster
  • jwredeljwredel Albuquerque Explorer

    @misecmisc1 said:
    Is calmness a required prior condition for insight to arise?

    Certain insights are really a matter of putting calmness (tranquility) into proper perspective. To that end, yes, tranquility is required for most insight. But as we see from the Anupada Sutta, it is not quite accurate to say that insight arises out of tranquility ... for tranquility transcends both perception and inference.

    lobster
  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited December 6

    Is there a rule in Zen that we must always do zazen? I am not strictly Zen or anything else so not exactly sure if other styles are ever encouraged.

    I like to switch it up sometimes and there are some styles which are less labour intense like Metta meditation. Maybe if you try some styles that encourage a cultivation of certain types of thought over others you may find zazen easier to deal with in regards of control.

    Just thinking out loud.

  • jwredeljwredel Albuquerque Explorer

    @David said:
    Is there a rule in Zen that we must always do zazen? I am not strictly Zen or anything else so not exactly sure if other styles are ever encouraged.

    More important to a Zen practice than zazen is a teacher. (Zen is the direct transmission of Buddhist understanding from teacher to student.)

    Zazen then becomes the time where you can first nurture and experience tranquility and second reflect and reconcile your teacher's latest guidance. (I remember one sesshin and my jaw dropping when, during a teisho, we were all instructed to "Go back the the zendo and think about such and such." In the past, our most common admonition was "No thinking!")

    To that end, zazen is not required, but pretty darn convenient.

    Davidlobster
  • CarlitaCarlita Om Vajrasattva Hum United States Veteran

    @misecmisc1 said:
    Hi All,
    2 queries regarding calmness in meditation please:
    1. How important is it to have calmness in meditation with the goal to have insights developed in meditation, which can then lead to awakening? In my meditation, there is no calmness, rather I try to just observe what is coming into my mind and when I get entangled in thoughts, then I try to become aware of my breath.
    2. From zazen perspective, how important is calmness – because as per Fukanzazengi, after giving physical sitting posture details, Dogen just says to think not-thinking. So I think there is no reference of calmness there – so the zazen which Dogen is referring to does not need to have calmness in it – can it be just the sitting and observing what is going on? If this is the case, then where are we headed to or what will be get finally after many sittings – because in each sitting it will be just sit and just observe what is occurring – so where would that thing which we call enlightenment happen in zazen?
    So please suggest your views on the above queries. Thanks.

    I would say calmness is something I would do before meditations unless your focus is to calm the body and mind and not specifically address thoughts that come through the mind. I'd say calmness prevents some body agitation that may distract you. I relate calmness meditation to breathing. If you mean breathing, I think that's an all around basic meditation to most sects Zen included. That, and not being attached to one's thoughts, I don't know if Zen practitioners try not to attach to the breathe. It's a good idea, though in general.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @misecmisc1 said:
    Is calmness a required prior condition for insight to arise? What is the difference between a calm mind and a mind with no thought in it? Please suggest. Thanks.

    My experience is that insight arises when you ask yourself a question in calmness, when the mind is alert but not busy. This is a state that does not necessarily have to do with meditation, sometimes you can be out for a walk, relaxed, enjoying nature, and you ask yourself a question and you find the answer arising almost at the same time.

    With meditation I often find after a certain period of watching the breath that the mind becomes so restful that insight arises only very slowly. I usually try to follow the Anapanasati Sutra in meditation, the sixteen stages of breathing, although I often get stuck on making the mind happy.

  • @Straight_Man said:
    To me, calmness is part neutralness from getting upset by passing thoughts or the existence of passing thoughts.

    Tee Hee. Well said <3
    Very simple. Very direct. Very Middle Way.
    I like the word neutralness, it is indeed a part. A dakini once described it to me thus:

    ‘Hello thought .... Goodbye thought ...’

  • paulysopaulyso usa Veteran

    the space between,as suggested by many...perhaps equinamity?i know spelling wrong.

  • @misecmisc1 said:
    Hi All,
    2 queries regarding calmness in meditation please:
    1. How important is it to have calmness in meditation with the goal to have insights developed in meditation, which can then lead to awakening? In my meditation, there is no calmness, rather I try to just observe what is coming into my mind and when I get entangled in thoughts, then I try to become aware of my breath.

    Calmness is the goal. You lose calmness when you get entangled in thoughts and feelings.
    The insights into the true nature of CONDITIONED PHENOMENA leads to dispassion and a letting go. Calmness is the result.

    "This, monks is craving the ensnarer that has flowed along, spread out, and caught hold, with which this world is smothered & enveloped like a tangled skein, a knotted ball of string, like matted rushes and reeds, and does not go beyond transmigration, beyond the planes of deprivation, woe, & bad destinations."
    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.199.than.html

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/bps-essay_43.html

    The most important fact to understand about sankharas, as conditioned formations, is that they are all impermanent: "Impermanent, alas, are formations." They are impermanent not only in the sense that in their gross manifestations they will eventually come to an end, but even more pointedly because at the subtle, subliminal level they are constantly undergoing rise and fall, forever coming into being and then, in a split second, breaking up and perishing: "Their very nature is to arise and vanish." For this reason the Buddha declares that all sankharas are suffering (sabbe sankhara dukkha) — suffering, however, not because they are all actually painful and stressful, but because they are stamped with the mark of transience. "Having arisen they then cease," and because they all cease they cannot provide stable happiness and security.

    To win complete release from suffering — not only from experiencing suffering, but from the unsatisfactoriness intrinsic to all conditioned existence — we must gain release from sankharas. And what lies beyond the sankharas is that which is not constructed, not put together, not compounded. This is Nibbana, accordingly called the Unconditioned — asankhata — the opposite of what is sankhata, a word which is the passive participle corresponding to sankhara. Nibbana is called the Unconditioned precisely because it's a state that is neither itself a sankhara nor constructed by sankharas; a state described as visankhara, "devoid of formations," and as sabbasankhara-samatha, "the stilling of all formations."

    misecmisc1lobsterDhammaDragon
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    I heard a teaching this morning about how a calm mind helps to better see our habits and conditioning.

    As an analogy take the example of a lake, when the water is choppy and full of waves subtle ripples are essentially unnoticeable. While if the water is calm small ripples are observable.

    The conditioning of self and other habits of mind are such subtle ripples that aren't really noticeable unless we have a calm mind.

    paulysoShoshinmisecmisc1lobster
  • paulysopaulyso usa Veteran

    @person said:
    I heard a teaching this morning about how a calm mind helps to better see our habits and conditioning.

    As an analogy take the example of a lake, when the water is choppy and full of waves subtle ripples are essentially unnoticeable. While if the water is calm small ripples are observable.

    The conditioning of self and other habits of mind are such subtle ripples that aren't really noticeable unless we have a calm mind.

    it's accurate .from experience,a calm mind does lead to better awareness.then there is the subtle tranquility if i continue the calm abiding .the mind sorta slows down for me .but things do change when circumstances changes,and how we respond to the ebb and flow of life.also reaquanting myself with spontinaeity.

    lobsterDhammaDragon
  • @misecmisc1 said:
    In my meditation, there is no calmness

    :(
    No calmness, no meditation.

    Agitation, dukkha, ignorance. That is what we notice/experience.

    However ... as so many have mentioned in a variety of ways we can:

    • center on the breath
    • calm or pacify the mind (available in Buddhism)
    • relax

    "Speech is blasphemy, silence a lie. Above speech and silence there is a way out."
    I-tuan
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/zen/sayings.htm

    Ay caramba!

  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem Recidivist Samsarist Veteran

    A mind unruffled by excessive overpondering sheds calmness.

    The next best thing to emptying our cup, must be an unruffled tea cup.

    lobster
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