#4789 - Tuesday, December 18, 2012 - Editor: Jerry Katz
- #4789 - Tuesday, December 18, 2012 - Editor: Jerry KatzThe Nonduality Highlights http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NDhighlights/Jeff Warren, the unofficial journalist for nonduality, published the following article in the New York Times Opinion section online on December 17, 2012:
The Anxiety of the Long-Distance Meditator
By JEFF WARRENExcerpts from the article: To see how the retreat ended, read the full article with over 80 comments here:...The only way to know for sure was to see for myself. I knew that [Dan] Ingram had hosted a single meditator at his home the past couple of summers. I contacted him and he agreed. The retreat would be entirely self-policed, based on a rigorous Burmese monastic schedule: up at 4:30 a.m., to bed at 10:30 p.m. Alternately sit for an hour, and then walk for an hour. Thirty minutes for breakfast, an hour for lunch, no dinner. No writing, no reading, no leaving the house except for a lunchtime shower. Eighteen hours of practice a day. I would get out of it what I put into it....My schedule collapsed. I couldnt sit, and the prospect of walking around the room pretending to be a wonder-struck bionic ninja was agonizing and ridiculous. Instead, feeling guilty, I went for long walks in the 100-degree heat, accompanied by the sinister hum of cicadas. People went on retreats for months years even - yet the thought of being confined for three more weeks terrified me. There was a Greyhound station in Huntsville, a 20-mile hike. Filled with self-loathing, I decided to leave the next day at dawn... ....
More long days passed and I persevered. Eventually on about day twelve, a strong equilibrium overtook me. This too was on the map knowledge of equanimity. Everything was clean and undramatic. I could sit for hours now, my heartbeat slowed way down. Concentration was easy, almost unnecessary. There was only the world, the view from the window, my own breath so silky smooth and consoling in in its ordinariness. I stared at my face in the bathroom mirror, shining now like a newborns. Nothing needed to be any different than it was.Ingram was excited. Youre on the verge of stream entry, he said. The danger is youll get complacent. This is the equanimity trap. Keep noticing notice the way everything changes, the slight tension in things, the way each sensation is devoid of any thing called a self. Notice and let go.How do you notice and let go? A low-level anxiety returned. Occasionally I felt as though I were sliding into a kind of inversion, but as soon as I did my journalist mind seized on the moment with nerdy analytic curiosity. My equanimity ebbed....Days passed and I lost all sense of progress. I became stressed, obsessed; instead of meditating I dug out my meditation books and guiltily read them in the corner of the room, pouring over the maps, looking for clues, trying to organize my vacillating experience. At this point Ingram was checking in almost every day. I engaged him relentlessly in intellectual discussions, recording each talk. He indulged me, but it was clear he was losing faith in my abilities as a meditator. You think too much, he said, youre more interested in writing about your experiences than having them. If you dont stop strategizing youll blow this opportunity.But I couldnt let go. I wanted to problem-solve my own liberation and the more I did the further away it got. I cycled up and down more wildly than ever, one moment beatifically clear, the next confused....Before I went on retreat I asked another Buddhist teacher a friend of Ingrams named Hokai Sobol how he would describe the stages of contemplative development. He paused for a long time, because unlike Ingram, he didnt think that progress was quite so linear or predictable. When he finally answered he said he had noticed 3 flavors. The first flavor, he said, is bitter the bitterness of effort, of beginning to recognize the depth of the contraction and the alienation and the subsequent struggle to address it. If you are sincere, he said, then you are rewarded with a second flavor: a sweetness. The sweetness of surrender, of opening. A new tenderness. This is what most spiritual practitioners crave, and it is delicious when we find it.But ultimately, even this doesnt last. The final flavor, he said, is bittersweet. It is marked by a recognition that both effort and surrender are ways of re-tracing the basic illusion, the first that there is a self that need to get somewhere, the second that there is some other to surrender to. True devotion, he said, is not having faith in something or someone. It is a vehicle of questioning, and in that questioning our consolations are impossible to sustain.~ ~ ~I left out many entire paragraphs from this article, and I have short-changed Warren's description. I have only meant give a taste. Please read the full article with over 80 comments here:The comments are as significant as the article and they expand the article into a community. Here are a few:ejpiskoLakeland, FLThe whole concept of meditating to accomplish something is a bit flawed. From my perspective as a meditator for 15 years, I would say that you can use meditation to lessen anxiety but that induces a certain self hypnosis state in which you can shut down certain thoughts and feelings. Meditation ultimately is not about shutting down, but opening up. Eventually one lives in total awareness. Problems don't go away and we are who we are. But there is a delightful beauty to living in awareness.-------------BarryBoulder
Great article! The fact that it is right here in the New York Times and a point of disscussion for people with obvious insight and genuine experience is a very hopeful point in a world where little of the news is hopeful in any way. Thanks for your practice. Maybe there is a larger purpose and meaning.--------------Mike MarksOrleans
...The best path to enlightenment is to simply realize and accept that it's not all about you.--------------
LanceAustin,TexasI'm about to do a 10 day retreat. What a privilege. To sit for 12 hours a day and , well sit for 12 hours a day, and observe everything including my resistance. Very cool.---------------MushoNew York City
Dear Jeff. Thanks for the honesty and courage contained in this article. You did everything right, and discovered everything that needs to be discovered. The process is ongoing. The most wonderful and sublime quality of meditation is that it has no purpose. It takes a lot of meditation to discover this. It's a radical concept. We live in a unrelenting world of right and wrong, success and failure, causes and cures, and judgements of all kinds. During meditation we may see all this in our minds, or just be wondering about lunch, but we do nothing. Just sit there. Incredible! Doing nothing, and getting nothing out of it! It's wonderful. The question quickly arises, why would anyone sit for hours doing nothing while there is so much to be done it this world. Why meditate? If it doesn't help us to improve ourselves or to improve the world for others, why do it? This question is the dragon's gate of the infinite field of all Buddhas of the past present and future. It's a question that one can only answer from personal experience. You passed through that gate as a lion.Promoters of meditation may offer paths to enlightenment, bliss or at least an ease to anxiety, but these are only expedient means to get you try meditation. Beware if their offers are promises. When you meet a true zen master, they will probably promise nothing, smile and then ask you to do the dishes.