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Why practice meditation?

QuandariusQuandarius Explorer Explorer
edited September 10 in Meditation

Because of its general content, I feel almost afraid to post this missive, and fear that I may regret it. Yet, being in a rather desperate state, I feel a need to have some feedback. To ask the question posed in the title of this posting may seem to be a stupid one to ask (on a Buddhist forum, at least), but I feel a need to ask it.

I am what is politely called an “elderly” man — i.e. I am old, and, though vigorous in mind and reasonably capable in body (in the home, anyway), I cannot be very far off the end of life. When I was a young man, I had struggled my way out of sectarian Christian beliefs, and eventually, I lost my faith that the “good book” was an inspired revelation from God (this took a very long time, and a great deal of work for my religiously-conditioned mind). By a course of much reading, searching and pondering, I had come into contact with Buddhists, who, for the first time in my life, seemed to know what they were talking about with regard to religion and the discussion of life as I had come to see it.

Gradually, I was introduced to a meditation class that the senior figure (the man with whom I discussed my problems) hosted. On one occasion, while sitting in this room, a mantle of deep peace seemed to fall upon me. Evidently, this man was an experienced meditator who, in some way unknown to me, could influence one’s being at a deep level. Despite my sceptical, intellectual nature, over several years, I had ample evidence that this person had extraordinary powers. One only needed to sit near to him, to feel his aura (as a fellow attendee once remarked to me).

Over the years that followed, under his guidance and with the support that his presence gave, I experienced many states and realisations that were far, far beyond my own development. I mean, even at that time, I would remark to myself that these states and realisations would arise, despite the fact that I was not religious or devout (which fact was a bit of a problem for me — I felt that I was a fraud). However, though I felt that I was the last person that anyone would think was following a “spiritual path”, my sceptical mind was won over entirely, and I believed —nay, I KNEW — that Buddhism was the way to go. This was after losing all the religious faith of my early years, and becoming an unhappy agnostic or even an atheist.

Many are the “things” that happened over the course of several years — events that were confirmed by others, when they were mentioned in the group. So, I knew that they could not have been private fantasies. Despite this, I was always keenly aware that there were things in my nature that were quite at variance with the concept of following a “holy path”. Though I felt ashamed of these personal traits, I could not eradicate them. In private, I counted myself as, in a real sense, a failed “Buddhist” and a fraud. Though this is to mention only a few of these problems, one of my perceived failures was that sexual activity continued within my marriage (a strong impression was created in me, by others, that this ought to cease). Another one was that I remained prone to showing impatience and anger. And, though I was always able to deal courteously with people in a general way, and though I was always willing to help someone in distress, in any way that was possible (even at my own cost), I never learned how to develop feelings of actual warmth of manner towards others – I remained distant, intellectual and not emotional in manner, and could not form close relationships. So, the wonderful happenings and realisations (which seemed to be almost accidental, and which were caused by my proximity to a very advanced teacher) did not change me in any thoroughgoing way. I remained the inhibited, distant and intellectualised being that I had always been.

Circumstances change, and, after several years, I ceased to associate with this teacher and with the group. I count this as being a piece of very unfortunate luck (or, perhaps, it was my karma). I resumed the life of a rather reclusive “home bird”. After all, in the limited free time after my work and my domestic duties had ended, where was there to go? To whom could one talk, in a meaningful way? I came to realise the truth of Emerson’s words, when he said that, for some individuals, there was nothing for it but to stay home, and to have oneself for companionship. I had no friends, and what family my wife and I had were a million miles from me in outlook (since they all belonged to the sects that I had left in my younger days; in leaving “the Truth”, I had committed the unforgivable sin). At my place of work, it was even worse, since the best enjoyment that my workmates could imagine was to go out and drink (or watch football matches).

All of the former realisations ceased, and life became as meaningless, and as lonely, as it had been before meeting the Buddhists. Years of unremitting work on the dilapidated house that we bought, followed. I despaired, and only the busy-ness saved me, I think, from going insane.

After a few years of this, I started, once again, to practice meditation. My practice was to sit as upright as possible and to observe the rise and fall of the abdomen in breathing, for about half an hour a day. Nothing ever happened; however, I realised that one ought not to look for any result, so the practice carried on. The only result that I could see was that, through “navel gazing”, there were some uncomfortable feelings within the region of the solar plexus (a feeling of “heartburn” and a feeling of blockage. Also, pains in the spine —where, I think, there must be a plexus of nerves). These pains were very unpleasant indeed, and made a fairly miserable life even worse.

At no time has there been any sense of deep peace, or even great relaxation, as a result of the practice. Though (to the best of my ability and according my lights) I try to live as decently as possible, I certainly don’t feel that I would be a good example of a practicing Buddhist. Any attempts at developing “metta”, by visualising a greatly loved person, fail. I know of no person that stimulates such a feeling of warmth. Besides, I am not good at visualisation. Yet, there are rare occasions when, on the television (say), I see a programme about (say) a philanthropist, and my heart is moved in a way that seems altogether disproportionate. This is of brief duration, however, and my usual unfeeling self is resumed. I try to support what charities I can, but this does not change anything — it is merely a matter of working out, intellectually, whether it would be prudent (or even possible) to support such and such a charity, or to send a one-off donation to one.

So, the metta bhavana seems to have failed. What about insight? From what I have read, I understand that to follow the breath, as I have described above, can develop insight. This may be the case. (It is surprising how many times one can pick up on a phrase that is commonly-used by people, and see the absurdity of it. Sometimes, it is possible to trace the origin of the phrase, and to see how the passage of time has turned it into an absurdity. This is a form of insight, I am sure.) However, insight is a two-edged sword: one thing that this practice certainly seems to have done is to make me see the world with different eyes. I see the meaninglessness and unsatisfactoriness of things and interests that many people almost live to enjoy. And, seeing life with the tinsel and artificiality stripped away, with the suffering and unsatisfactoriness of it all too plain, I have come to feel that the writer of the Biblical Ecclesiastes was right, when he said that the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. (When I was young, I would not have thought it possible that I should come to this view of things.)

A few days ago, I asked myself, “Is there ANYTHING in life that would provide a huge burst of personal pleasure?” I thought of the remote possibility of winning the Lottery. No — though there certainly would be pleasure in disbursing chunks of money to people that I know who could use some, after that was done, life would be just the same. I don't want more money. What about a free holiday, in some exotic place? No, I do not want to be walking in the sun, anywhere on earth, and a fancy hotel would hold no attractions for me (free drinks, at the bar? — ugh!) There would be no energy for many holiday activities; also, I should hate even to lie in the sun.

The idea of unlimited sensual pleasure, of any kind, leaves me cold. So, I don’t think that there is anything that could provide a huge burst of pleasure of any kind.

Finally, there was the imagined prospect of going into a beautiful state of relaxation, leading to an absolutely beautiful sleep that would never end. Ah, that idea certainly has some attraction!

I wonder if all this is the result of meditation practice. I really do not know. Perhaps this is where meditation does lead one. After all, peace is peace, whatever the circumstances, and my earliest memory of meditation was that a mantle of peace descended upon me, in that meditation room, long ago. The trouble is, now, that meditation does not bring that peace. Yet, I feel that, if one could indeed reach the “ground of one’s being”, then life would be transformed in a positive way. Why have things turned out in the way that they have?

After all this, my question to forum readers is this: why do you meditate? And, by doing so have you found any positive benefit? Do things have to be as I have described them? I desperately need to hear what you may have to say.

Jeffrey

Comments

  • 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

    Meditation brings me home. I don't do it as often as I could. I am poorly disciplined that way; but when I sit, I centre, and when I centre, I am calm. I know this is all there is. Nothing I see, own, possess, witness or harbour, will ever last. It all comes, stays, and goes.
    The knowledge of Impermanence is a constant.
    The eventual arrival of Yama, inevitable.

    I enjoy it while it lasts ( what 'it' is, merely is, at that time...)

    Smile, relax. WE have all come the same way.
    We shall all leave the same way.
    In between, we should just witness and know that, whatsoever arises,

    This too shall pass.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Quandarius I found your missive very touching, there was much in it that I recognised. So in replying I will talk on various areas.

    Meditating with a real teacher

    I know what this feels like, being near someone whose presence takes you high in meditation. It’s an inspiration and uplifting at the same time. It’s a shame the association came to an end but sometimes these things leave traces below the surface. You may be grateful to have known him.

    Work and being lonely but not alone

    Sometimes there are people and things around us that don’t truly suit our spiritual selves. I have found the books and lectures of Thich Nhat Hanh to be a great support and help. He often teaches about mindfulness, about doing one thing and being total. He is a wonderful teacher of peace too.

    Pains and blockages in meditation

    Sometimes I have found it useful to try a variety of poses. I’m not really great at adhering to sitting in lotus posture, I’m not sure if it is necessary. You could also try an energy healer, there are a lot of people out there who can do good things with blockages.

    Your heart is sometimes moved

    I wouldn’t take it too seriously if the usual metta meditation didn’t work for you. You say that your heart is moved by seeing examples of philanthropy on TV, i’d focus on that in meditation, and see what feelings were stirring. It’s a good sign if emotion is coming out at signs of compassion.

    Developing insight

    Your meditation seems to have helped you develop insight, but it’s turned outwards rather than inwards. The uses of insight are many, but discovering your own inner functioning is one of the main ones.

    You say that meditation does not bring peace. Well, the mind churns in many ways. Meditation is usually said to come in two types, calmness and insight, samatha and vipassana. Perhaps you should investigate the former?

    Namasté.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited September 10

    A few days ago, I asked myself, “Is there ANYTHING in life that would provide a huge burst of personal pleasure?” I thought of the remote possibility of winning the Lottery. No — though there certainly would be pleasure in disbursing chunks of money to people that I know who could use some, after that was done, life would be just the same. I don't want more money. What about a free holiday, in some exotic place? No, I do not want to be walking in the sun, anywhere on earth, and a fancy hotel would hold no attractions for me (free drinks, at the bar? — ugh!) There would be no energy for many holiday activities; also, I should hate even to lie in the sun.
    Why practice meditation?

    For me personally.....It beats sitting around doing nothing...

    However one really has to work this out/see for one self...

    It would seem that you still have a strong attachment to this sense of self....hence why Dukkha unsatisfactoriness ( The First Noble Truth) is occupying the mind...

    It would pay to look more closely at/revisit the Four Noble Truths...all the answers to your questions can be found in them...

    Then ask yourself ...Why practice meditation?

    May you find what it is you are looking for....
    ...and if you look within you won't go without ...

    Metta <3

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran
    edited September 11

    Maybe your initial encounter with meditation, while positive, limited the way you understand the goal of Buddhist meditation practice. I think what you describe are states of absorption, that can be very blissful but once they end haven't done much to truly transform our minds. Traditionally Buddhists say that these alone lead to the formless god realms rather than Nirvana. People can use these states of meditation to practice insight, which does lead to release.

    For me, meditation has been about observing my mind. Getting comfortable with the messiness and understanding its habitual patterns so I can let go of them and not get caught up in them. Over time the gradual process of peeling back layer after layer of the mental onion I've found the default state of my mind is happier and brighter.

    I too have struggled with metta, I've described as like trying to squeeze water from a rock, I can do the practices but nothing comes. I've found it helpful to experiment a lot with the phrases and the situations that give rise to the feeling. When you find something that is effective stick with it for a while, I find after a while the mind grows used to it and it loses its effectiveness. Say the phrase or the visualization until the feeling arises then do your best to concentrate on the feeling to allow it to soak in. Once the feeling fades go back to the practice and so on and so on...

    For me one reason I found for not connecting with metta meditation had to do with certain cultural notions of what compassion means. I think for different people in different cultures certain aspects are more pertinent than others. And the western Buddhist world self selects for certain type of people with certain conceptions of what it means to be compassionate. For example in feudal Japan challenging the authority of the leadership or disrupting the social order were considered an evil, a very different conception than most of the WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) world. So I imagine compassion for them would involve wanting people to fit in with the social order rather than express their uniqueness.

    For myself I found thinking of compassion as empowering people to help themselves or allowing them to experience the results of their decisions and giving support in learning lessons and picking themselves up after to have a greater impact on my mind than taking care of or protecting people from self imposed harm. Rather than wishing for people to be free from harm, I wish them the mental and emotional skills and resilience to deal with any harms that do befall them. But that isn't going to work for everyone so like I said it can be useful to experiment and find what works on your mind best.

    For example my sister recently had a bad accident and I stayed with her for a while helping her around the house where she wasn't able to do things, but I was making sure to make her do as much as she was able to help her recover. My instinct was to do many things for her because it was hard for her, but I knew that making things too easy on her would actually impede her recovery rather than help. And I felt I could help by keeping a positive attitude myself and encouraging one in her. Later when she was trying to cut some Rice Krispies treats, but was doing it improperly (something the physical therapists warn against), her daughter got on her about not doing it right saying, "If you don't do it right, don't do it", not because my niece is some stickler about rules or gets off on criticizing people, but because she cares about her mother.

    I think in your particular situation doing some gratitude practice would be helpful. Every day write down three things that you are grateful for, and make sure to change them up. Its been shown to be one of the best practices to increase our level of happiness.

    Keromelobster
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran Veteran
    edited September 10

    What do you think is the obstacle to not having the feeling of peace you described? Regarding sense pleasures I agree that to chase them they are endlessly non-ideal. But that doesn't mean you cannot enjoy physical pleasures and rest with them. Like blend food rest with that. Bought a whole container of caramel corn eat it and then rest with he hangover of what sugar does. So for me meditation is sitting with what feeling is there rather than thinking of getting particular feelings as the goal.

    I've also been reading up on social nervousness because I have it and it seems to be characterized by avoiding. In that case sometimes the monkey mind can help a little by putting words to what you are avoiding. (Example: I'll worry what that person thinks of me if I wave or smile) Removing the vagueness. But then don't go on endlessly putting more and more words rather sit with those words.

    person
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Quandarius said:
    I wonder if all this is the result of meditation practice. I really do not know. Perhaps this is where meditation does lead one. After all, peace is peace, whatever the circumstances, and my earliest memory of meditation was that a mantle of peace descended upon me, in that meditation room, long ago. The trouble is, now, that meditation does not bring that peace. Yet, I feel that, if one could indeed reach the “ground of one’s being”, then life would be transformed in a positive way. Why have things turned out in the way that they have?

    After all this, my question to forum readers is this: why do you meditate? And, by doing so have you found any positive benefit? Do things have to be as I have described them? I desperately need to hear what you may have to say.

    I just wanted to return to your original question. The impression I get is that you seem to meditate because you look for a state of mind to help you out of your original dukkha. This is ignoring the fact that there is a kind of transference, a kind of maturing of the mind that happens in tandem with a meditation practice. And I think that that is perhaps where you missed out.

    My experience is that when insight is turned within, and you absorb some of the Buddhist teachings such as impermanence, the teachings on not being the body, on death, on the three poisons, then there is a transformation of mind. It’s a kind of loosening of the ties in the mind.

    In the end what happens in your mind is the deciding factor in terms of how you experience the world. If you say you see meaninglessness and the tinsel of the world stripped away, you are also missing out on the heartfulness of parts of life. Your mind focusses on certain things, and that determines how you feel.

    What you seem to be looking for is not to be found in meditation, it’s to be found in understanding and maturing the mind.

    federicapersonJeffrey
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited September 11

    @Quandarius said:
    I wonder if all this is the result of meditation practice.

    Sounds more like a result of monkey mind going around in circles trampling everywhere,

    After a few years of this, I started, once again, to practice meditation. My practice was to sit as upright as possible and to observe the rise and fall of the abdomen in breathing, for about half an hour a day. Nothing ever happened; however, I realised that one ought not to look for any result, so the practice carried on. The only result that I could see was that, through “navel gazing”, there were some uncomfortable feelings within the region of the solar plexus (a feeling of “heartburn” and a feeling of blockage. Also, pains in the spine —where, I think, there must be a plexus of nerves). These pains were very unpleasant indeed, and made a fairly miserable life even worse.

    That kind of practice does not sound like a very correct practice. It sounds much too taught, and uptight. Not loose, not open, but restrictive and rigid. It also doesn't sound like you actually realized that one should not look for results as when you said that you immediately noted "only result that I could see was that". That indicates that you are still looking for a result, which is probably creating tension, which thereby prevents it from being peaceful. It's better to just let go of all that stuff and just sit comfortably and breathe.

    After all this, my question to forum readers is this: why do you meditate? And, by doing so have you found any positive benefit?

    To tame the monkey mind and be at peace. As monkey mind is the only thing that obscures it and yes that has had great benefits.

  • QuandariusQuandarius Explorer Explorer
    edited September 12

    To all those that took the trouble to think about what I had written, thank you! I'm not good at replying separately to a multitude of different posters, so I hope you will all take this as a thank you to you personally.

    I did watch the video that you posted, Shoshin, and I shall take the main point seriously, which was that we ought not to be expecting anything or looking for something, in our meditation practice.

    With regard to what you remarked, Seeker (That kind of practice does not sound like a very correct practice. It sounds much too taught, and uptight. Not loose, not open, but restrictive and rigid.), I do try to sit comfortably (in an armchair, but with a cushion punched down behind the small of my back, so as not to slump). I believe that it's important to keep the spine straight, even though one should be relaxed.

    This is all that it seems appropriate to say, in reply. Thanks again, to you all.
    Best, Q.

    Shoshin
  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    Big time sensuality and fish worship
    https://cundi.weebly.com/
    is fun ... you want fun right?

    However indulgence, fanaticism, reasons to be cheerful, back straightener etc are not for moi ...
    I prefer to meditate/be mindful/be wakeful/Buddha because ... No-Reason <3

    Jeffrey
  • BunksBunks Veteran Australia Veteran

    Perhaps exploring some other traditions may be worthwhile?

    I find chanting very therapeutic

    http://www.purelandbuddhism.org/

    lobsterShoshin
  • 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

    @Quandarius said:
    To all those that took the trouble to think about what I had written, thank you! I'm not good at replying separately to a multitude of different posters, so I hope you will all take this as a thank you to you personally.

    Never a problem. Thank you for approaching the subject. Much food for thought here...

    ... I do try to sit comfortably (in an armchair, but with a cushion punched down behind the small of my back, so as not to slump). I believe that it's important to keep the spine straight, even though one should be relaxed.

    @Quandarius, in meditation, posture is the very least important aspect to think about.
    Frankly, you could be meditating while swinging through trees. Posture is unimportant. It's not how your body sits.
    It's how your MIND sits.

    Some people meditate lying down. Others practise walking meditation.
    I know a woman living in London who tells me the best meditation she ever experiences is while jogging round Regent's Park.
    TNH* advocates that washing up can be a wonderful occasion to experience Mindful Presence.

    So don't 'Do'.
    Be.

    • (Thich Nhat Hahn. Vietnamese Zen Monk whose entire existence is one of primary not.)
    lobster
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited September 13

    @Quandarius said:
    With regard to what you remarked, Seeker (That kind of practice does not sound like a very correct practice. It sounds much too taught, and uptight. Not loose, not open, but restrictive and rigid.), I do try to sit comfortably (in an armchair, but with a cushion punched down behind the small of my back, so as not to slump). I believe that it's important to keep the spine straight, even though one should be relaxed.

    I would agree, correct posture is important! Good posture it what allows or facilitates relaxation to occur physically. However, I was thinking more in terms of mentally rather than physically. =)

  • 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
    edited September 13

    @seeker242 said:

    @Quandarius said:
    With regard to what you remarked, Seeker (That kind of practice does not sound like a very correct practice. It sounds much too taught, and uptight. Not loose, not open, but restrictive and rigid.), I do try to sit comfortably (in an armchair, but with a cushion punched down behind the small of my back, so as not to slump). I believe that it's important to keep the spine straight, even though one should be relaxed.

    **
    I would agree, correct posture is important! Good posture it what allows or facilitates relaxation to occur physically. However, I was thinking more in terms of mentally rather than physically.

    I would be more inclined to say Mindful [physical] Posture' rather than 'Good'. Because there are types of Meditation that do not require the person to sit, or even be still.

    With regard to the Mind-state, I would entirely agree.

  • QuandariusQuandarius Explorer Explorer

    Federica, I note what you say (I would be more inclined to say Mindful [physical] Posture' rather than 'Good'. Because there are types of Meditation that do not require the person to sit, or even be still.), and, many years ago, I did know a very advanced meditation teacher, who told me that, when he was a very small child, he used to practice meditation while lying in bed. This would seem to be at variance with those that take a “hard line” over correct posture. And of course, mindfulness while (say) washing dishes is a form of meditation, I suppose.

    However, I have read fairly widely in the Buddhist field, and something that I read a long time ago (in a book by Kennett Roshi, called “Selling Water By the River) made a strong impression. I have no wish to be argumentative, but I am pasting it in so that you will be able to consider it. It certainly seems that the teacher, in the text below, was very particular indeed about how one ought to sit (in a Zen setting, anyway). Here is the extract:—

    ‘One of the three seniors in this house is always trying to give information on how to sit properly. He is old and very small, but seems to be greatly respected as a lecturer, representing the temple on important occasions. This morning, he came to my room, together with Rev B. Rev B introduced him as Rev A. He immediately wanted to know how I was doing with regard to my meditation. As always, we conversed on paper.

    “I am getting a great amount of pain in my legs,” I wrote, “and there seems no means by which I can alleviate it.”

    He asked to see my cushion, and studied and studied it, carefully. Then, he said, “This cushion is the wrong size for you. Most people think that the larger they are, the larger the cushion they require, but this is not so. A small cushion, never more than about eight inches across, is all you need. However, it must be high. You are getting the pain because you are sitting fully on a large cushion, instead of sitting with just the tip of your spine on it. If you sit fully upon it, your circulation will be impaired and you will have pain. if you only sit on the edge of it, so that your thigh muscles are touching nothing whatsoever, your body balance will be correct, your circulation will not be damaged, and you will be able to keep your spine tucked in. By these means, not only will you learn how to sit properly, but will also find your meditation greatly improved.”

    “I thought you had to keep your spine straight,’ I said.

    “You do,” he replied, “but, at the waist, the spine must curve inwards or you will slump, and become ill. We call this type of sitting ‘having a straight back’, but it is not straight. Many people put their spines partially in this position but, for meditation, they must be held as if you were standing at attention, and not sitting on the floor; yet, without strain. After a little, this becomes quite natural, and the improvement in health is so great that you will wonder why you ever sat in any other way. After getting used to this type of sitting, you will not find sitting in an easy chair at all comfortable.”

    “I sat down in the meditation position just now, and have tried to hold my spine as you say, but to hold it in as much as you have just pushed it really hurts.”

    He examined my back, vertebra by vertebra, tracing his fingers down them where they poked their shape against my robe. Suddenly, he yelped happily, grabbed me around the neck, put his knee in my back, and gave a shove against my spine. There was a resounding click, and I found that I could move my spine much more freely. He continued to feel down the vertebral ‘knobs’, and did the same thing in two more places; the third one went off so loudly that I was quite startled. Then, he motioned for me to sit down again and, at the waist, pushed my spine right in once more, as far as it would go; I was sitting on the edge of my cushion, and the pushing on my spine resulted in my seeming to slide forward and to sit only on the very edge of the cushion. Immediately, I felt a great difference in the ease with which I could sit; also, a great loss of weight in my back and head.

    “The pain in your legs will soon disappear now,” he wrote for Rev B to translate, “now, we must see about your mind.” END OF EXTRACT.

    Because, for years and years, I have experienced a great deal of physical pain through meditation practice, I took the teacher’s remark about one ‘becoming ill’, as a result of incorrect posture, quite to heart. I certainly did not want to add to my troubles by poor posture! Note that, in my daily sitting, I sit in an armchair (and not on the tip of my spine, but fully into the chair) and propped with a cushion, to keep my 86-year-old back as erect as possible. I have to cross my fingers and, in my ignorance, hope for the best.

    Another Buddhist practitioner (Daniel M. Ingram, who, rightly or wrongly, declares that he is an arahat, and who advocates the Theravada way), wrote a very exhaustive meditation guide, called “Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha”. The book was written from his own experience of enlightenment. He says that, as long as one is comfortable, and sits in a way that is sustainable, it doesn’t matter very much how one sits. Well, that’s the other side of the argument. So, who am I, that I should think that one side or the other is correct?

    Jeffrey
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    @federica said:
    I would be more inclined to say Mindful [physical] Posture' rather than 'Good'. Because there are types of Meditation that do not require the person to sit, or even be still.

    With regard to the Mind-state, I would entirely agree.

    In reference to sitting meditation, I prefer “good” myself as a bad posture will make your back hurt, your knees hurt, your shoulders or neck hurt. Cause excessive and unnecessary muscle tension, pinch nerves, perhaps even put you to sleep, etc.. A “good” posture doesn’t do those things!

  • 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

    (One person's 'good' might be someone else's 'uncomfortable'. I think personally, the term is objective, but each must decide for themselves what is 'good' or 'skilful. Perhaps it's semantics....)

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran Veteran
    edited September 14

    From The Tricycle Community e-mailing:

    As we cultivate the ability to see clearly, to understand one another, all beings benefit in ways we comprehend and ways that are still beyond our grasp.

    —Nina Wise, “The Psychedelic Journey to the Zafu”

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    have experienced a great deal of physical pain through meditation practice

    Masochism is quite a common substitute for practice. Just as wide reading includes outside of dharma boxing.
    https://www.verywellmind.com/tips-to-reduce-stress-3145195

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited September 15

    @federica said:
    (One person's 'good' might be someone else's 'uncomfortable'. I think personally, the term is objective, but each must decide for themselves what is 'good' or 'skilful. Perhaps it's semantics....)

    Yes, but if it's uncomfortable, then by default, it's not good regardless of who it is or how the body is positioned. A "good" posture is always inherently comfortable. That is one reason why it's called good to begin with.

    For example, it is impossible for me to attain a good full lotus posture. My hips and knees simply are not flexible enough. Meanwhile, the asian monk at the temple can sit comfortably in full lotus, with a perfect posture, straight on the floor with no sitting cushion but simply a flat mat, for hours! If I tried doing that, that would be bad, even if I put my body exactly the way he does. In perfect full lotus posture, it would still be bad posture because it would be painful, etc.

    lobster
  • QuandariusQuandarius Explorer Explorer

    Jeffrey (Sept 11) asked: What do you think is the obstacle to not having the feeling of peace you described?

    Jeffrey, I have given your question some thought, and I think that a short answer would be that I am too intense. I think that this is an attitude that was programmed into me many, many years ago, in my childhood. My parents were desperately poor, and my father had been wounded by shellfire, in the first World War, so he suffered a great deal from emotional problems because of what is called, now, "post-traumatic stress disorder". At the time, he was declared by doctors to be "neuraesthenic". It would surely be natural for him to seize a belief, peddled by door-to-door "missionaries" that offered an endless life in a paradise earth. At that time, the Jehovah's Witness sect were always declaring the date for the end of the world, and this was always very, very soon. I never grew up with any ambition to be an engine driver, as many kids would, because the world was not going to last very long! Nor did I prepare for adult life. It's a very long story, but it is an illustration of how one's social background can create serious problems for someone, in later life. Some Witnesses lived lonely lives by not marrying, for the same reason, and I have heard of people that gave up a hard-won business, and went to live in poverty a caravan, because of this silly belief (fed into their minds by others). This scenario was imbibed into my system as mother's milk was, and, on reflection, I think that this was the cause of my being so intense, and probably too serious, about things. I look around me at relatives, and, despite having various problems, they seem to be fairly relaxed about life. My wife practices meditation, but she is able to be placid, and even enjoys some aspects of life. My free time has always been taken up with reading serious literature, always looking for "truth" etc., and I know that this is because of the way I was brought up.

    It's fortunate, no doubt, that my earnest search for truth led me to Buddhism and Buddhists, because I found what I felt I would never find — absolute certainty about the reality of the spiritual path as taught by Buddhists. I mean, the experiences that have happened "to me" (as a result of being with more developed people) have removed all doubt from my mind. Unfortunately, when all those experiences happened, I was too stupid to realise that, as a "person", I was almost totally unsuited to spirituality. Consequently, in a sense, the experiences were similar to giving pearls to a pig. So, there is an element of guilt about having wasted a great opportunity.

    However, despite the faults in my personality (and they are many) and my "sins", even in quite recent years, there has been an experience (not sought, but one that came spontaneously, after reading a book about non-duality) that told me that God, Buddha — whatever term one uses — can intrude, in an unmistakeable way, into the life of even someone that does not deserve it and that has failed in spirituality. This has made me even more aware that what is left of my life must not be wasted. However, it also has tended to make the intensity of my makeup worse. I cannot understand why a mystical experience should happen to me, but it did. The trouble is, it has not changed my mental makeup. I have heard of people that have had a "near-death experience" (that is not what happened to me), and, after it, their whole life and their whole attitude had changed. They no longer feel fear or anxiety. If only that were the case with me!

    Anyway, I feel that it would be helpful if I could learn to "lighten up". I don't know, at my age, whether that is possible. If this happened, it would be a major sea-change, as the saying goes. I suppose that the awareness that this is the case, is the first step.

    Please accept my apologies for this rant.
    Best, Q.

    Jeffrey
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Quandarius said:
    Unfortunately, when all those experiences happened, I was too stupid to realise that, as a "person", I was almost totally unsuited to spirituality. Consequently, in a sense, the experiences were similar to giving pearls to a pig. So, there is an element of guilt about having wasted a great opportunity.

    I’m not sure if that is possible. My experience is that it is often about finding the right teaching. Even if all you do is learn about the dharma and become convinced of the truth of it, you’ve already set your feet on a new path... add a little meditation and mindfulness, and you have made significant progress.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    Anyway, I feel that it would be helpful if I could learn to "lighten up". I don't know, at my age, whether that is possible.

    Anything is possible ... to a degree. For example I am very fond of yoga nidra (yoga sleep) which is a form of trance induction ... Even more possible change is created through actual hypnosis. My favourite inducer being Micheal Sealy
    https://m.youtube.com/user/MichaelSealey

    It may seem strange to those determined to wake up that going to sleep may facilitate change ... but there it is ... <3

  • 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
    edited September 15

    @Quandarius, in reading your post - and thank you for your brave and bare, naked honesty in revealing your past, and that of your family; always a privilege to be given insight of this kind - a couple of things jumped out at me, because I am familiar with having gone through similar thought processes myself...I can relate to your experience. There were certain aspects of my upbringing I had to let go of...

    @Quandarius said:
    Jeffrey, I have given your question some thought, and I think that a short answer would be that I am too intense. I think that this is an attitude that was programmed into me many, many years ago, in my childhood.

    If it was 'programmed' into you, it can be un-programmed. It's not who you naturally are. Therefore, this is something you can face, and discard, because it is burdensome and of no use to you.

    My parents were desperately poor, and my father had been wounded by shellfire, in the first World War, so he suffered a great deal from emotional problems because of what is called, now, "post-traumatic stress disorder". At the time, he was declared by doctors to be "neuraesthenic".

    I'm really sorry to hear this. Attitudes to Soldiers suffering in this way was vastly different to the understanding we have today. I'm genuinely sorry both he and you had to endure that.

    It would surely be natural for him to seize a belief, peddled by door-to-door "missionaries" that offered an endless life in a paradise earth. At that time, the Jehovah's Witness sect were always declaring the date for the end of the world, and this was always very, very soon. I never grew up with any ambition to be an engine driver, as many kids would, because the world was not going to last very long! Nor did I prepare for adult life. It's a very long story, but it is an illustration of how one's social background can create serious problems for someone, in later life.

    I completely get this. It took me some while to shed the adopted millstones, and was no easy task, either...

    Some Witnesses lived lonely lives by not marrying, for the same reason, and I have heard of people that gave up a hard-won business, and went to live in poverty a caravan, because of this silly belief (fed into their minds by others). This scenario was imbibed into my system as mother's milk was, and, on reflection, I think that this was the cause of my being so intense, and probably too serious, about things.

    Again, you were fed this. You were nurtured with an unskilful and erroneous diet of misinformation. It's not yours, and as such, not part of you...

    I look around me at relatives, and, despite having various problems, they seem to be fairly relaxed about life. My wife practices meditation, but she is able to be placid, and even enjoys some aspects of life. My free time has always been taken up with reading serious literature, always looking for "truth" etc., and I know that this is because of the way I was brought up.

    That's the third time you have inferred that your entire attitude to Life, others and personal Peace, is down to something outside of yourself. Do you see the pattern here...?

    It's fortunate, no doubt, that my earnest search for truth led me to Buddhism and Buddhists, because I found what I felt I would never find — absolute certainty about the reality of the spiritual path as taught by Buddhists. I mean, the experiences that have happened "to me" (as a result of being with more developed people) have removed all doubt from my mind. >Unfortunately, when all those experiences happened, I was too stupid to realise that, as a "person", I was almost totally unsuited to spirituality.

    This is entirely inaccurate. Incorrect. And you're being very harsh and judgemental on yourself. It's not true. By very virtue of the fact that something within you connected with, and found something profoundly beneficial in Buddhism, is as clear an indication as you could want, of an inner desire for a mature and objective spirituality...

    Consequently, in a sense, the experiences were similar to giving pearls to a pig. So, there is an element of guilt about having wasted a great opportunity.

    Every experience is fruitful and adds to your life's richness. You have wasted nothing. You have thrown away, nothing. There is no pig. Stop putting yourself down. The man who does not think much of himself, is far greater than he believes himself to be.

    However, despite the faults in my personality (and they are many)

    Join the club...

    and my "sins", even in quite recent years, there has been an experience (not sought, but one that came spontaneously, after reading a book about non-duality) that told me that God, Buddha — whatever term one uses — can intrude, in an unmistakable way, into the life of even someone that does not deserve it and that has failed in spirituality.

    Where did you learn that you are not worthy? Who planted in you the thought that you are incapable, non-deserving?
    You do realise that's just a thought?
    The wonderful thing about a thought, is that it's only a thought. And a thought can be changed.

    This has made me even more aware that what is left of my life must not be wasted. However, it also has tended to make the intensity of my makeup worse. I cannot understand why a mystical experience should happen to me, but it did. The trouble is, it has not changed my mental makeup.

    You can't expect it to. You control your thoughts. Only you can let it change your mental makeup. If it's not changing it., it's you that is stopping that process. You are blocking it.

    Remember what I said at the beginning of this response. I can equate. Via different experiences, I have been there...

    I have heard of people that have had a "near-death experience" (that is not what happened to me), and, after it, their whole life and their whole attitude had changed. They no longer feel fear or anxiety. If only that were the case with me!

    What's stopping you?

    Anyway, I feel that it would be helpful if I could learn to "lighten up".

    Relax. It's not a race or a competition. The intensity and urgency you have, to attain something before it's too late, is all in your mind. There is no better place than here, no better time than now. If you can't find what you seek, exactly where you are now, then where else do you expect to find it?

    I don't know, at my age, whether that is possible.

    EVERYTHING is possible, if you merely allow it to be in your mind-set, that it is possible. Why shouldn't it be? Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can't, you're right.

    If this happened, it would be a major sea-change, as the saying goes. I suppose that the awareness that this is the case, is the first step.

    Keep rowing, we're all in the same boat.
    On the same path, walking the same walk.

    Isn't this great?

    (All text in italics are quotes. Not my personal words. But they resonate.)

    Jeffreylobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    Outstanding advice @federica

    Wish I was wise ... wait 'I think, therefore I jam' ;)

    Kerome
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @lobster said:
    Wish I was wise ... wait 'I think, therefore I jam' ;)

    I reckon that’s very wise advice, @Lobster... so could meditation be described as not-jamming on the cushion? After all we try to give the brain a break from thinking when meditating... it’s about waiting for the mind to settle, and thoughts become few...

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    @Lobster... so could meditation be described as not-jamming on the cushion?

    That is a good way to put it. <3

    Some forms of meditation for example chanting and right concentration techniques could be described as jamming the monkey minded jabber.

    An experienced teacher or if a rhino sutra follower oneself, can decide what is appropriate.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    why do you meditate? And, by doing so have you found any positive benefit? Do things have to be as I have described them?

    It would be fairer to ask some of us why we are meditative because sometimes we are mindful, sometimes formal, sometimes ... well all sorts here ...
    Things for you are the way you describe them.

    I meditate because it induces and enhances positivity. If not, I do what does. I am a crypto-mahayanist, therefore I meditate for the sake of others.

    The answer to your question is something like this:

    My meditation and I suggest for most people here is beneficial. That benefit may be subtle. For me it is fundamental, obvious and without question positive.

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