Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

A note on establishing a sitting practice

Expand Messages
  • Weasel Tracks
    Happy New Year, one and all! To Ralph, but in the hopes of a stimulating and valuable conversation from everyone. I don t know how it s going with you, so the
    Message 1 of 11 , Jan 9, 2014
    • 0 Attachment
      Happy New Year, one and all!

      To Ralph, but in the hopes of a stimulating and valuable conversation from everyone.

      I don't know how it's going with you, so the following may or may not apply.

      Developing a meditation discipline is a cornerstone of the Zen approach. It seems like modern American life was designed by Mara specifically to make it as difficult as possible to find time to examine this racing, unsettled mind. Actually, we're more fortunate than many fellow earthlings, who have to deal with immediately pressing matters like war, hunger, and disease. But American culture has plenty of ways to waste opportunities for quiet, and they are the more alluring because they feed into the self's reluctance to get its boat rocked.

      When I first tried to develop a sitting habit, I used the method of setting a time goal to sit motionless in the posture, mentally gritting my teeth. In Three Pillars of Zen it was said that forty minutes is a good time to shoot for. So I would try for that, and fail most of the time, and even when I succeeded it would be by spending long eons (which were actually just minutes) in hell. Eventually I could sit the whole period.

      This is not a very efficient way of training oneself. Although in time one can get used to the time period, sitting becomes associated with pain, boredom, and frustrated anticipation, so that one has to deal with the wandering thoughts these engender, on top of the wandering thoughts that would come anyway. And that's besides feeding a lurking aversion to practice and growing a sense of failure. At least, this is how it was/is for me.

      I now see it as more important to practice everyday for however long one can before discomfort or pain becomes an issue. One can always work on lengthening the time after establishing a solid daily habit. There's a place for heroic effort, but, later. Be kind to yourself. At the same time, don't coddle yourself. Find your own Middle Way.

      Tricycle magazine often prints little helpful hints, like, Don't quit sitting until at least the third time a strong urge to quit comes up. I'm sure, with the vast reservoir of practice experience in this list, that people can come up with all kinds of useful advice about the nuts and bolts of establishing a daily practice. What little thing have you folks found helpful?

         ---Weasel Tracks
    • Pat Stacy
      WT, this is a great topic to bring up at the beginning of a new year. Over the 30 years I’ve been meditating, lots has changed concerning the method. My
      Message 2 of 11 , Jan 9, 2014
      • 0 Attachment

        WT, this is a great topic to bring up at the beginning of a new year. Over the 30 years I’ve been meditating, lots has changed concerning the method. My understanding is that the importance of a meditation practice is not stressed in all Buddhist sects. However it seems to be the part of American Buddhist practice that most people identify as the main aspect of training and is the one thing everyone can do regardless of their access to a temple or a teacher.

        I remember many years of discussion on this list about the color of zafus, legs falling asleep, and length of sitting time. If it could be a meditation problem, we have argued and written about it.

        I know what I write next will look like heresy, but I have almost no formal meditation practice now. My kind of Buddhism has always been inquiry, not devotion or renunciation. In the beginning (twenty years) I sat regularly and needed to. This gradually changed to what the Tibetans call sky gazing. I found that less structured and more freeing. I also transitioned from lotus on the floor to a chair, and during this time I had continuous access to a teacher. Now I just mostly pay attention all the time with some pauses during the day for recollection. I do meditate for 30 minutes or so before I have a guidance session with a student. The reason is obvious.

        In my experience, where you are or what you do really depends on where you are on this continuum. That’s why having a teacher is so valuable. As far as what is needed for the practice of inquiry, it is willingness and capacity. I don’t know where willingness comes from, just that it’s necessary. The capacity to pay attention comes from training the mind through meditation techniques. Just like weight training, the mind/body develops the ability to pay attention to more and more subtle states for longer periods of time.

        As far as advice, find someone who has experience, who you will listen to, and follow that person’s guidance. For those of us who have been at this a long time, ask yourself this question. “Why do I need little tricks or resolutions to get myself to meditate?” Be willing to listen to the answer. Maybe your idea of meditation is not what you need. Meditation that is helpful produces results. The progress may be glacial and not what you had in mind, but just like weight training, the mind gets stronger in its ability to see. Of course what you see is your own mind, and the process does not lend itself to painting a bigger, better picture of yourself.

        As a teacher I never tell anyone they should meditate. We look into whatever the presenting difficulty is and students usually decide on their own that meditation will help. Most people are already meditating when they come to a guidance session for the first time. There is rarely a problem with meditation technique; it’s always with the ability to see or comprehend how they are creating suffering moment by moment.

        Regardless of life circumstances, experience, or gender, we always begin with suffering. That may take many months or years to untie. After that, some leave because that’s all they ever wanted. Once the pain is gone, some people stop meditating regularly. They find themselves right back in the original difficulty and realize on their own that meditation is essential for them to continue, in which case, doing it regularly is not a problem.

        If they continue, what comes up next is dealing with impermanence or change. And finally, no surprise, no self. Rarely does anyone come to my door for the first time with the ability to be present. When they do have that capacity their question is personal and precise and they can hear my response. This is always a person with an ongoing meditation practice of some kind, not necessarily Buddhist.

        After all these words, no advice except to look at the problem you have with yourself. How is that happening? What are you telling yourself about the problem? Are you answering? I’d love to hear your responses.

        Pat

         
        Sent: Thursday, January 09, 2014 6:01 AM
        Subject: [U-Zendo] A note on establishing a sitting practice
         
         

        Happy New Year, one and all!

        To Ralph, but in the hopes of a stimulating and valuable conversation from everyone.

        I don't know how it's going with you, so the following may or may not apply.

        Developing a meditation discipline is a cornerstone of the Zen approach. It seems like modern American life was designed by Mara specifically to make it as difficult as possible to find time to examine this racing, unsettled mind. Actually, we're more fortunate than many fellow earthlings, who have to deal with immediately pressing matters like war, hunger, and disease. But American culture has plenty of ways to waste opportunities for quiet, and they are the more alluring because they feed into the self's reluctance to get its boat rocked.

        When I first tried to develop a sitting habit, I used the method of setting a time goal to sit motionless in the posture, mentally gritting my teeth. In Three Pillars of Zen it was said that forty minutes is a good time to shoot for. So I would try for that, and fail most of the time, and even when I succeeded it would be by spending long eons (which were actually just minutes) in hell. Eventually I could sit the whole period.

        This is not a very efficient way of training oneself. Although in time one can get used to the time period, sitting becomes associated with pain, boredom, and frustrated anticipation, so that one has to deal with the wandering thoughts these engender, on top of the wandering thoughts that would come anyway. And that's besides feeding a lurking aversion to practice and growing a sense of failure. At least, this is how it was/is for me.

        I now see it as more important to practice everyday for however long one can before discomfort or pain becomes an issue. One can always work on lengthening the time after establishing a solid daily habit. There's a place for heroic effort, but, later. Be kind to yourself. At the same time, don't coddle yourself. Find your own Middle Way.

        Tricycle magazine often prints little helpful hints, like, Don't quit sitting until at least the third time a strong urge to quit comes up. I'm sure, with the vast reservoir of practice experience in this list, that people can come up with all kinds of useful advice about the nuts and bolts of establishing a daily practice. What little thing have you folks found helpful?

           ---Weasel Tracks

      • Weasel Tracks
        Hi, Pat! Glad you wrote this. A few points came up while I read it. On 01/09/2014 02:48 PM, Pat Stacy wrote: WT, this is a great topic to bring up at the
        Message 3 of 11 , Jan 13, 2014
        • 0 Attachment
          Hi, Pat! Glad you wrote this. A few points came up while I read it.

          On 01/09/2014 02:48 PM, Pat Stacy wrote:
          WT, this is a great topic to bring up at the beginning of a new year. Over the 30 years I’ve been meditating, lots has changed concerning the method. My understanding is that the importance of a meditation practice is not stressed in all Buddhist sects. However it seems to be the part of American Buddhist practice that most people identify as the main aspect of training and is the one thing everyone can do regardless of their access to a temple or a teacher.

          I remember many years of discussion on this list about the color of zafus, legs falling asleep, and length of sitting time. If it could be a meditation problem, we have argued and written about it.

          Oh, I bet there's a few things we left out. But it would be an interesting project to go back and cull out all the relevant talk.

          I know what I write next will look like heresy, but I have almost no formal meditation practice now. My kind of Buddhism has always been inquiry, not devotion or renunciation.

          I remember you saying, a long time ago, that the essence of Zen could be expressed as "allowing." How does that relate to what you just wrote?

          As far as what is needed for the practice of inquiry, it is willingness and capacity. I don’t know where willingness comes from, just that it’s necessary.

          Past karma, I would assume. Isn't willingness something one can cultivate as well?

          The capacity to pay attention comes from training the mind through meditation techniques. Just like weight training, the mind/body develops the ability to pay attention to more and more subtle states for longer periods of time.

          When I was in high school I went out for football, but I gave up because I got winded after three laps round the field. I didn't really know about conditioning. I thought it was innate. What's really innate is a capacity for conditioning. Muscles and ligaments, any bodily system, in fact, responds to use by increasing its capacity. You grow in the wisdom of the body by learning how much to push, through careful observation.

          Behavioral habits are just the same thing applied to behavior. The basic principle is, every time you do something, it becomes easier to do. Might be microscopic in increment, but it adds up.

          Bad habits are like this, too, only backwards --- every time you do something, it's that much harder not to do it again.

          Many more factors are involved, because beings with bodies in time are a complicated mess, but that's conditioning in a nutshell.

          And conditioning is a big part of cultivation. It was a big deal for me to realize that cultivation applies to more than just concentration. The Paramitas, Bodhicitta, Wisdom, Compassion, the 37 Limbs or Enlightenment, can each be cultivated.

          As far as advice, find someone who has experience, who you will listen to, and follow that person’s guidance.

          Wow, this one sentence is rich with receptors for comments and mysteries.

          Instead, I'd like to make a more general comment that, even with the best instruction, you're on your own once you enter the moment of practice. If your teacher or elder or friend gives you detailed instructions, you still have to figure out what that means in the inner landscape, the view from within. Some traditions carry this to extremes by making their trainees sit in the halls with hardly any explanation but maybe, Watch your mind.

          But rediscovering fire takes a lot of time, likely more than a human lifetime.

          But everyone still on the list is well along, right? Perhaps a teaching, a phrase, a word, becomes a key to make some difficulty easy. Case 19 of the Mumonkan
          <http://www.angelfire.com/electronic/awakening101/mumonkan.html>
          is like this.

          For those of us who have been at this a long time, ask yourself this question. “Why do I need little tricks or resolutions to get myself to meditate?” Be willing to listen to the answer. Maybe your idea of meditation is not what you need. Meditation that is helpful produces results. The progress may be glacial and not what you had in mind, but just like weight training, the mind gets stronger in its ability to see. Of course what you see is your own mind, and the process does not lend itself to painting a bigger, better picture of yourself.

          These past months, there's been a buzz between some teachers I've heard, that the "secular" versions of Buddhist practices for the purposes of stress reduction and such, have been bringing up stuff in the clients of secular instructors, that such instructors don't know what to do with. The teachers around Dharma Drum all insist that Right View is important to develop alongside practice, to help a person know what's going on and how to deal with it. The Four Truths, Three Seals, and so forth, help make a framework of understanding how vexations arise, what karma is, and what emptiness has to do with all this. There's a lot of baby in the bathwater modernists want to throw out.

          In Buddhism, doctrine and dogma are not necessary to practice, but it can be helpful. Like, for one example, knowing that one is not unique in having deep crap in the bowels of the mind, and that delusion is nearly universal in human beings as their "natural" state.

          Regardless of life circumstances, experience, or gender, we always begin with suffering. That may take many months or years to untie. After that, some leave because that’s all they ever wanted. Once the pain is gone, some people stop meditating regularly. They find themselves right back in the original difficulty and realize on their own that meditation is essential for them to continue, in which case, doing it regularly is not a problem.

          If they continue, what comes up next is dealing with impermanence or change. And finally, no surprise, no self. Rarely does anyone come to my door for the first time with the ability to be present. When they do have that capacity their question is personal and precise and they can hear my response. This is always a person with an ongoing meditation practice of some kind, not necessarily Buddhist.

          After all these words, no advice except to look at the problem you have with yourself. How is that happening? What are you telling yourself about the problem? Are you answering? I’d love to hear your responses.

          Whenever I ask myself if I have committed to the Dharma completely, I'd have to say no. There's a little reservation based on a vague fear, which I suppose is just the ego being defensive. I've often heard that total commitment is necessary. Maybe so, but what I have will have to do until I can cultivate that final yielding, sacrificing one hindering attachment after another.

          I must say, being around Vinaya monks is inspiring. I don't know if their commitment is total, but it's more total than mine.

          Do you have any advice for that? I'm all ears.

             ---Weasel Tracks
        • Pat Stacy
          Wow, this response from Vic is so rich with content that I want to break it down into multiple topics. My next impulse is to wonder who is still left on the
          Message 4 of 11 , Jan 13, 2014
          • 0 Attachment
            Wow, this response from Vic is so rich with content that I want to break it down into multiple topics. My next impulse is to wonder who is still left on the list aside from Ralph and Lee, or how big (or public) our exchange will be. For now, I guess I will continue as a conversation between Vic and myself, but not with the intention of excluding anyone who would like to join in.
             
            More to follow...
             
            Pat
             
            Sent: Monday, January 13, 2014 6:35 AM
            Subject: Re: [U-Zendo] A note on establishing a sitting practice
             
             

            Hi, Pat! Glad you wrote this. A few points came up while I read it.

            On 01/09/2014 02:48 PM, Pat Stacy wrote:

            WT, this is a great topic to bring up at the beginning of a new year. Over the 30 years I’ve been meditating, lots has changed concerning the method. My understanding is that the importance of a meditation practice is not stressed in all Buddhist sects. However it seems to be the part of American Buddhist practice that most people identify as the main aspect of training and is the one thing everyone can do regardless of their access to a temple or a teacher.

            I remember many years of discussion on this list about the color of zafus, legs falling asleep, and length of sitting time. If it could be a meditation problem, we have argued and written about it.

            Oh, I bet there's a few things we left out. But it would be an interesting project to go back and cull out all the relevant talk.

            I know what I write next will look like heresy, but I have almost no formal meditation practice now. My kind of Buddhism has always been inquiry, not devotion or renunciation.

            I remember you saying, a long time ago, that the essence of Zen could be expressed as "allowing." How does that relate to what you just wrote?

            As far as what is needed for the practice of inquiry, it is willingness and capacity. I don’t know where willingness comes from, just that it’s necessary.

            Past karma, I would assume. Isn't willingness something one can cultivate as well?

            The capacity to pay attention comes from training the mind through meditation techniques. Just like weight training, the mind/body develops the ability to pay attention to more and more subtle states for longer periods of time.

            When I was in high school I went out for football, but I gave up because I got winded after three laps round the field. I didn't really know about conditioning. I thought it was innate. What's really innate is a capacity for conditioning. Muscles and ligaments, any bodily system, in fact, responds to use by increasing its capacity. You grow in the wisdom of the body by learning how much to push, through careful observation.

            Behavioral habits are just the same thing applied to behavior. The basic principle is, every time you do something, it becomes easier to do. Might be microscopic in increment, but it adds up.

            Bad habits are like this, too, only backwards --- every time you do something, it's that much harder not to do it again.

            Many more factors are involved, because beings with bodies in time are a complicated mess, but that's conditioning in a nutshell.

            And conditioning is a big part of cultivation. It was a big deal for me to realize that cultivation applies to more than just concentration. The Paramitas, Bodhicitta, Wisdom, Compassion, the 37 Limbs or Enlightenment, can each be cultivated.

            As far as advice, find someone who has experience, who you will listen to, and follow that person’s guidance.

            Wow, this one sentence is rich with receptors for comments and mysteries.

            Instead, I'd like to make a more general comment that, even with the best instruction, you're on your own once you enter the moment of practice. If your teacher or elder or friend gives you detailed instructions, you still have to figure out what that means in the inner landscape, the view from within. Some traditions carry this to extremes by making their trainees sit in the halls with hardly any explanation but maybe, Watch your mind.

            But rediscovering fire takes a lot of time, likely more than a human lifetime.

            But everyone still on the list is well along, right? Perhaps a teaching, a phrase, a word, becomes a key to make some difficulty easy. Case 19 of the Mumonkan
            <http://www.angelfire.com/electronic/awakening101/mumonkan.html>
            is like this.

            For those of us who have been at this a long time, ask yourself this question. “Why do I need little tricks or resolutions to get myself to meditate?” Be willing to listen to the answer. Maybe your idea of meditation is not what you need. Meditation that is helpful produces results. The progress may be glacial and not what you had in mind, but just like weight training, the mind gets stronger in its ability to see. Of course what you see is your own mind, and the process does not lend itself to painting a bigger, better picture of yourself.

            These past months, there's been a buzz between some teachers I've heard, that the "secular" versions of Buddhist practices for the purposes of stress reduction and such, have been bringing up stuff in the clients of secular instructors, that such instructors don't know what to do with. The teachers around Dharma Drum all insist that Right View is important to develop alongside practice, to help a person know what's going on and how to deal with it. The Four Truths, Three Seals, and so forth, help make a framework of understanding how vexations arise, what karma is, and what emptiness has to do with all this. There's a lot of baby in the bathwater modernists want to throw out.

            In Buddhism, doctrine and dogma are not necessary to practice, but it can be helpful. Like, for one example, knowing that one is not unique in having deep crap in the bowels of the mind, and that delusion is nearly universal in human beings as their "natural" state.

            Regardless of life circumstances, experience, or gender, we always begin with suffering. That may take many months or years to untie. After that, some leave because that’s all they ever wanted. Once the pain is gone, some people stop meditating regularly. They find themselves right back in the original difficulty and realize on their own that meditation is essential for them to continue, in which case, doing it regularly is not a problem.

            If they continue, what comes up next is dealing with impermanence or change. And finally, no surprise, no self. Rarely does anyone come to my door for the first time with the ability to be present. When they do have that capacity their question is personal and precise and they can hear my response. This is always a person with an ongoing meditation practice of some kind, not necessarily Buddhist.

            After all these words, no advice except to look at the problem you have with yourself. How is that happening? What are you telling yourself about the problem? Are you answering? I’d love to hear your responses.

            Whenever I ask myself if I have committed to the Dharma completely, I'd have to say no. There's a little reservation based on a vague fear, which I suppose is just the ego being defensive. I've often heard that total commitment is necessary. Maybe so, but what I have will have to do until I can cultivate that final yielding, sacrificing one hindering attachment after another.

            I must say, being around Vinaya monks is inspiring. I don't know if their commitment is total, but it's more total than mine.

            Do you have any advice for that? I'm all ears.

               ---Weasel Tracks
          • Lee
            ... Just like Old Times! ;) -- Lee 李 Love in Longfellow,Minneapolis, MN USA Ta tIr na n-óg ar chul an tI—tIr dlainn trina chéile —that is, The land
            Message 5 of 11 , Jan 13, 2014
            • 0 Attachment
              On Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 1:42 PM, Pat Stacy <pstacy@...> wrote:


               aside from Ralph and Lee,

              Just like Old Times!   ;) 

              --
               Lee 李 Love in Longfellow,Minneapolis, MN USA

               "Ta tIr na n-óg ar chul an tI—tIr dlainn trina chéile"—that is, "The land of eternal youth is behind the house, a beautiful land fluent within itself." -- John O'Donohue
            • richard horvitz
              I am still on the list and very much appreciate all these posts. ... I am still on the list and very much appreciate all these posts. On Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at
              Message 6 of 11 , Jan 13, 2014
              • 0 Attachment
                I am still on the list and very much appreciate all these posts.


                On Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 2:42 PM, Pat Stacy <pstacy@...> wrote:
                 

                Wow, this response from Vic is so rich with content that I want to break it down into multiple topics. My next impulse is to wonder who is still left on the list aside from Ralph and Lee, or how big (or public) our exchange will be. For now, I guess I will continue as a conversation between Vic and myself, but not with the intention of excluding anyone who would like to join in.
                 
                More to follow...
                 
                Pat
                 
                Sent: Monday, January 13, 2014 6:35 AM
                Subject: Re: [U-Zendo] A note on establishing a sitting practice
                 
                 

                Hi, Pat! Glad you wrote this. A few points came up while I read it.

                On 01/09/2014 02:48 PM, Pat Stacy wrote:

                WT, this is a great topic to bring up at the beginning of a new year. Over the 30 years I’ve been meditating, lots has changed concerning the method. My understanding is that the importance of a meditation practice is not stressed in all Buddhist sects. However it seems to be the part of American Buddhist practice that most people identify as the main aspect of training and is the one thing everyone can do regardless of their access to a temple or a teacher.

                I remember many years of discussion on this list about the color of zafus, legs falling asleep, and length of sitting time. If it could be a meditation problem, we have argued and written about it.

                Oh, I bet there's a few things we left out. But it would be an interesting project to go back and cull out all the relevant talk.

                I know what I write next will look like heresy, but I have almost no formal meditation practice now. My kind of Buddhism has always been inquiry, not devotion or renunciation.

                I remember you saying, a long time ago, that the essence of Zen could be expressed as "allowing." How does that relate to what you just wrote?

                As far as what is needed for the practice of inquiry, it is willingness and capacity. I don’t know where willingness comes from, just that it’s necessary.

                Past karma, I would assume. Isn't willingness something one can cultivate as well?

                The capacity to pay attention comes from training the mind through meditation techniques. Just like weight training, the mind/body develops the ability to pay attention to more and more subtle states for longer periods of time.

                When I was in high school I went out for football, but I gave up because I got winded after three laps round the field. I didn't really know about conditioning. I thought it was innate. What's really innate is a capacity for conditioning. Muscles and ligaments, any bodily system, in fact, responds to use by increasing its capacity. You grow in the wisdom of the body by learning how much to push, through careful observation.

                Behavioral habits are just the same thing applied to behavior. The basic principle is, every time you do something, it becomes easier to do. Might be microscopic in increment, but it adds up.

                Bad habits are like this, too, only backwards --- every time you do something, it's that much harder not to do it again.

                Many more factors are involved, because beings with bodies in time are a complicated mess, but that's conditioning in a nutshell.

                And conditioning is a big part of cultivation. It was a big deal for me to realize that cultivation applies to more than just concentration. The Paramitas, Bodhicitta, Wisdom, Compassion, the 37 Limbs or Enlightenment, can each be cultivated.

                As far as advice, find someone who has experience, who you will listen to, and follow that person’s guidance.

                Wow, this one sentence is rich with receptors for comments and mysteries.

                Instead, I'd like to make a more general comment that, even with the best instruction, you're on your own once you enter the moment of practice. If your teacher or elder or friend gives you detailed instructions, you still have to figure out what that means in the inner landscape, the view from within. Some traditions carry this to extremes by making their trainees sit in the halls with hardly any explanation but maybe, Watch your mind.

                But rediscovering fire takes a lot of time, likely more than a human lifetime.

                But everyone still on the list is well along, right? Perhaps a teaching, a phrase, a word, becomes a key to make some difficulty easy. Case 19 of the Mumonkan
                <http://www.angelfire.com/electronic/awakening101/mumonkan.html>
                is like this.

                For those of us who have been at this a long time, ask yourself this question. “Why do I need little tricks or resolutions to get myself to meditate?” Be willing to listen to the answer. Maybe your idea of meditation is not what you need. Meditation that is helpful produces results. The progress may be glacial and not what you had in mind, but just like weight training, the mind gets stronger in its ability to see. Of course what you see is your own mind, and the process does not lend itself to painting a bigger, better picture of yourself.

                These past months, there's been a buzz between some teachers I've heard, that the "secular" versions of Buddhist practices for the purposes of stress reduction and such, have been bringing up stuff in the clients of secular instructors, that such instructors don't know what to do with. The teachers around Dharma Drum all insist that Right View is important to develop alongside practice, to help a person know what's going on and how to deal with it. The Four Truths, Three Seals, and so forth, help make a framework of understanding how vexations arise, what karma is, and what emptiness has to do with all this. There's a lot of baby in the bathwater modernists want to throw out.

                In Buddhism, doctrine and dogma are not necessary to practice, but it can be helpful. Like, for one example, knowing that one is not unique in having deep crap in the bowels of the mind, and that delusion is nearly universal in human beings as their "natural" state.

                Regardless of life circumstances, experience, or gender, we always begin with suffering. That may take many months or years to untie. After that, some leave because that’s all they ever wanted. Once the pain is gone, some people stop meditating regularly. They find themselves right back in the original difficulty and realize on their own that meditation is essential for them to continue, in which case, doing it regularly is not a problem.

                If they continue, what comes up next is dealing with impermanence or change. And finally, no surprise, no self. Rarely does anyone come to my door for the first time with the ability to be present. When they do have that capacity their question is personal and precise and they can hear my response. This is always a person with an ongoing meditation practice of some kind, not necessarily Buddhist.

                After all these words, no advice except to look at the problem you have with yourself. How is that happening? What are you telling yourself about the problem? Are you answering? I’d love to hear your responses.

                Whenever I ask myself if I have committed to the Dharma completely, I'd have to say no. There's a little reservation based on a vague fear, which I suppose is just the ego being defensive. I've often heard that total commitment is necessary. Maybe so, but what I have will have to do until I can cultivate that final yielding, sacrificing one hindering attachment after another.

                I must say, being around Vinaya monks is inspiring. I don't know if their commitment is total, but it's more total than mine.

                Do you have any advice for that? I'm all ears.

                   ---Weasel Tracks


              • LouAnne Jaeger
                I m still here, and this conversation is extremely relevant to my practice right now, so THANKS! On Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 3:59 PM, richard horvitz ... I m still
                Message 7 of 11 , Jan 13, 2014
                • 0 Attachment
                  I'm still here, and this conversation is extremely relevant to my practice right now, so THANKS!


                  On Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 3:59 PM, richard horvitz <richard.horvitz@...> wrote:
                   

                  I am still on the list and very much appreciate all these posts.


                  On Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 2:42 PM, Pat Stacy <pstacy@...> wrote:
                   

                  Wow, this response from Vic is so rich with content that I want to break it down into multiple topics. My next impulse is to wonder who is still left on the list aside from Ralph and Lee, or how big (or public) our exchange will be. For now, I guess I will continue as a conversation between Vic and myself, but not with the intention of excluding anyone who would like to join in.
                   
                  More to follow...
                   
                  Pat
                   
                  Sent: Monday, January 13, 2014 6:35 AM
                  Subject: Re: [U-Zendo] A note on establishing a sitting practice
                   
                   

                  Hi, Pat! Glad you wrote this. A few points came up while I read it.

                  On 01/09/2014 02:48 PM, Pat Stacy wrote:

                  WT, this is a great topic to bring up at the beginning of a new year. Over the 30 years I’ve been meditating, lots has changed concerning the method. My understanding is that the importance of a meditation practice is not stressed in all Buddhist sects. However it seems to be the part of American Buddhist practice that most people identify as the main aspect of training and is the one thing everyone can do regardless of their access to a temple or a teacher.

                  I remember many years of discussion on this list about the color of zafus, legs falling asleep, and length of sitting time. If it could be a meditation problem, we have argued and written about it.

                  Oh, I bet there's a few things we left out. But it would be an interesting project to go back and cull out all the relevant talk.

                  I know what I write next will look like heresy, but I have almost no formal meditation practice now. My kind of Buddhism has always been inquiry, not devotion or renunciation.

                  I remember you saying, a long time ago, that the essence of Zen could be expressed as "allowing." How does that relate to what you just wrote?

                  As far as what is needed for the practice of inquiry, it is willingness and capacity. I don’t know where willingness comes from, just that it’s necessary.

                  Past karma, I would assume. Isn't willingness something one can cultivate as well?

                  The capacity to pay attention comes from training the mind through meditation techniques. Just like weight training, the mind/body develops the ability to pay attention to more and more subtle states for longer periods of time.

                  When I was in high school I went out for football, but I gave up because I got winded after three laps round the field. I didn't really know about conditioning. I thought it was innate. What's really innate is a capacity for conditioning. Muscles and ligaments, any bodily system, in fact, responds to use by increasing its capacity. You grow in the wisdom of the body by learning how much to push, through careful observation.

                  Behavioral habits are just the same thing applied to behavior. The basic principle is, every time you do something, it becomes easier to do. Might be microscopic in increment, but it adds up.

                  Bad habits are like this, too, only backwards --- every time you do something, it's that much harder not to do it again.

                  Many more factors are involved, because beings with bodies in time are a complicated mess, but that's conditioning in a nutshell.

                  And conditioning is a big part of cultivation. It was a big deal for me to realize that cultivation applies to more than just concentration. The Paramitas, Bodhicitta, Wisdom, Compassion, the 37 Limbs or Enlightenment, can each be cultivated.

                  As far as advice, find someone who has experience, who you will listen to, and follow that person’s guidance.

                  Wow, this one sentence is rich with receptors for comments and mysteries.

                  Instead, I'd like to make a more general comment that, even with the best instruction, you're on your own once you enter the moment of practice. If your teacher or elder or friend gives you detailed instructions, you still have to figure out what that means in the inner landscape, the view from within. Some traditions carry this to extremes by making their trainees sit in the halls with hardly any explanation but maybe, Watch your mind.

                  But rediscovering fire takes a lot of time, likely more than a human lifetime.

                  But everyone still on the list is well along, right? Perhaps a teaching, a phrase, a word, becomes a key to make some difficulty easy. Case 19 of the Mumonkan
                  <http://www.angelfire.com/electronic/awakening101/mumonkan.html>
                  is like this.

                  For those of us who have been at this a long time, ask yourself this question. “Why do I need little tricks or resolutions to get myself to meditate?” Be willing to listen to the answer. Maybe your idea of meditation is not what you need. Meditation that is helpful produces results. The progress may be glacial and not what you had in mind, but just like weight training, the mind gets stronger in its ability to see. Of course what you see is your own mind, and the process does not lend itself to painting a bigger, better picture of yourself.

                  These past months, there's been a buzz between some teachers I've heard, that the "secular" versions of Buddhist practices for the purposes of stress reduction and such, have been bringing up stuff in the clients of secular instructors, that such instructors don't know what to do with. The teachers around Dharma Drum all insist that Right View is important to develop alongside practice, to help a person know what's going on and how to deal with it. The Four Truths, Three Seals, and so forth, help make a framework of understanding how vexations arise, what karma is, and what emptiness has to do with all this. There's a lot of baby in the bathwater modernists want to throw out.

                  In Buddhism, doctrine and dogma are not necessary to practice, but it can be helpful. Like, for one example, knowing that one is not unique in having deep crap in the bowels of the mind, and that delusion is nearly universal in human beings as their "natural" state.

                  Regardless of life circumstances, experience, or gender, we always begin with suffering. That may take many months or years to untie. After that, some leave because that’s all they ever wanted. Once the pain is gone, some people stop meditating regularly. They find themselves right back in the original difficulty and realize on their own that meditation is essential for them to continue, in which case, doing it regularly is not a problem.

                  If they continue, what comes up next is dealing with impermanence or change. And finally, no surprise, no self. Rarely does anyone come to my door for the first time with the ability to be present. When they do have that capacity their question is personal and precise and they can hear my response. This is always a person with an ongoing meditation practice of some kind, not necessarily Buddhist.

                  After all these words, no advice except to look at the problem you have with yourself. How is that happening? What are you telling yourself about the problem? Are you answering? I’d love to hear your responses.

                  Whenever I ask myself if I have committed to the Dharma completely, I'd have to say no. There's a little reservation based on a vague fear, which I suppose is just the ego being defensive. I've often heard that total commitment is necessary. Maybe so, but what I have will have to do until I can cultivate that final yielding, sacrificing one hindering attachment after another.

                  I must say, being around Vinaya monks is inspiring. I don't know if their commitment is total, but it's more total than mine.

                  Do you have any advice for that? I'm all ears.

                     ---Weasel Tracks



                • Pat Stacy
                  Pat: After all these words, no advice except to look at the problem you have with yourself. How is that happening? What are you telling yourself about the
                  Message 8 of 11 , Jan 13, 2014
                  • 0 Attachment

                    Pat:  After all these words, no advice except to look at the problem you have with yourself. How is that happening? What are you telling yourself about the problem? Are you answering? I’d love to hear your responses.

                    WT:  Whenever I ask myself if I have committed to the Dharma completely, I'd have to say no. There's a little reservation based on a vague fear, which I suppose is just the ego being defensive. I've often heard that total commitment is necessary. Maybe so, but what I have will have to do until I can cultivate that final yielding, sacrificing one hindering attachment after another.

                    Pat:  When I read this I recognized the difficulty. The clue is the “vague fear”. You have some idea in your mind about what total commitment is and when that idea presents itself, there is a vague fear. You say you have heard that this commitment is necessary, the one you imagine or entertain as an idea. It’s too easy to pass it off as ego defense, although that might be accurate. It’s more likely a way you have had of taking care of yourself your whole life, and to abandon it now seems ungrateful and dangerous. But if you look into it, you might see it as something that can come with you into each moment, but just not so dominantly, not so real. It might make slipping into a moment of total commitment easier and less intimidating. It isn’t what you think it is, so if you can open totally to whatever is present, you are through the gate.

                    WT:  I must say, being around Vinaya monks is inspiring. I don't know if their commitment is total, but it's more total than mine.

                    Pat:  Unfortunately inspiration is rarely there when we need it. You don’t have to be a monk to do this.

                    -- Peter Clothier (Peter Clothier is a widely published writer who writes perceptively about the issues of the day, particularly in the areas of art and books)(He’s reviewing Ken McLeod’s new book, Reflections on Silver River)

                     

                    The Boat

                    Right now, you have a good boat, fully equipped and available -- hard to find.
                    To free others and you from the sea of samsara,
                    Day and night, fully alert and present,
                    Study, reflect, and meditate -- this is the practice of a bodhisattva.

                    I am standing at the end of a pier, looking out over the dark ocean.  A well-provisioned boat  is tied up at my feet, ready to carry me out on the great adventure into the unknown, the realm of total freedom and, perhaps, eventually, enlightenment.  Behind me lie all the enticements of the life I have built for myself, all the things I like to think I own, all the experiences I treasure, the identities by which I have made myself known, my pleasures, my relationships, my addictions...

                    What will it take to step into the boat and cast off, on a voyage with no return?

                    (Is this, I wonder, Rimbaud's
                    Drunken Boat?)

                    I think I'm honest in saying that there's not much I could not give up at this stage of my life.  I have come to understand that the "possessions" are all temporary anyway, not truly "mine."  I am fortunate indeed in having acquired so much in the way of material comforts along the way and they are not unappreciated.  But I think it's true to say that it is not these that prevent me from stepping into the boat.  I could let them all go.

                    The same with pleasures.  In meditating on this challenge, I could think of nothing in the way of all the wordily pleasures that I would not be ready to sacrifice for the adventure of complete, unfettered freedom.  I pondered long and hard about my most valued identity, the one I cling to most obstinately, the writer, and concluded that I have reached a point where even this is something that I'm able to release.

                    What, then, would it take to step into that boat?  What's the attachment that still holds me back?  It was clear to me, as I reflected on the image of the boat and the great ocean out ahead, that the one thing I am not yet ready or able to surrender is the attachment to family and friends, those closest to me.  It's the love I have for them, and the sense of obligation that I feel I owe them still that I can't let go.

                    I returned, in meditation this morning, to the understanding that death will come along to resolve this issue for me--and that, in view of the accumulation of years to date, it will not be overlong in coming!  Still, in the meantime, while not yet ready to step into that boat, I am happy to have been challenged to find the clarity in this, and I take it that the point of the exercise was to work toward that clarity rather than step headlong into the boat.  The more I am clear about the attachments that keep me on the shore, the more I'll be ready for the inevitable voyage when it's no longer an invitation, but an imperative.    `

                    I think we are all in this place but nothing has to change except the attachment. With observation, that changes by itself.

                    Pat

                  • Weasel Tracks
                    ... There s the gem. You are skillful, Pat. ... That s useful, too. Thank you, Pat. ... On Jan 14, 2014, at 2:23 AM, Pat Stacy wrote:
                    Message 9 of 11 , Jan 14, 2014
                    • 0 Attachment
                      On Jan 14, 2014, at 2:23 AM, "Pat Stacy" <pstacy@...> wrote:

                      It’s too easy to pass it off as ego defense, although that might be accurate. It’s more likely a way you have had of taking care of yourself your whole life, and to abandon it now seems ungrateful and dangerous. But if you look into it, you might see it as something that can come with you into each moment, but just not so dominantly, not so real. It might make slipping into a moment of total commitment easier and less intimidating. It isn’t what you think it is, so if you can open totally to whatever is present, you are through the gate.

                      There's the gem. You are skillful, Pat.

                      The Boat


                      That's useful, too.

                      Thank you, Pat.

                         ---WT
                    • Lee
                      Here is a video of 6 healing sounds Chi Kung meditation, similar to what I studied with Master Gin Foon Mark the months before I left for Japan. Master Mark
                      Message 10 of 11 , Jan 14, 2014
                      • 0 Attachment

                        Here is a video of 6 healing sounds Chi Kung meditation, similar to what I studied with Master Gin Foon Mark the months before I left for Japan.   Master Mark says you can do 3 Chi Kung breaths silently anywhere, any time throughout the day.   When my apprenticeship was difficult, I started 3 breaths mediation every morning,  the first sit at my wheel every day.   I'll see if I can find a video of it too.

                        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yMHHhxwlt4
                        --
                         Lee 李 Love in Longfellow,Minneapolis, MN USA

                         "Ta tIr na n-óg ar chul an tI—tIr dlainn trina chéile"—that is, "The land of eternal youth is behind the house, a beautiful land fluent within itself." -- John O'Donohue
                      • Pat Stacy
                        WT: These past months, there s been a buzz between some teachers I ve heard, that the secular versions of Buddhist practices for the purposes of stress
                        Message 11 of 11 , Jan 18, 2014
                        • 0 Attachment
                          WT:
                          These past months, there's been a buzz between some teachers I've heard, that the "secular" versions of Buddhist practices for the purposes of stress reduction and such, have been bringing up stuff in the clients of secular instructors, that such instructors don't know what to do with. The teachers around Dharma Drum all insist that Right View is important to develop alongside practice, to help a person know what's going on and how to deal with it. The Four Truths, Three Seals, and so forth, help make a framework of understanding how vexations arise, what karma is, and what emptiness has to do with all this. There's a lot of baby in the bathwater modernists want to throw out.

                          In Buddhism, doctrine and dogma are not necessary to practice, but it can be helpful. Like, for one example, knowing that one is not unique in having deep crap in the bowels of the mind, and that delusion is nearly universal in human beings as their "natural" state.
                          __________
                          This is from an introduction to koan study written by Ruth Fuller Sazaki that speaks to this. This is maybe 50 years ago and still accurate.

                          “"To the degree the continuation of a teaching can be seen giving rise to repeated forms, it may be said also to depend upon these forms, which become part of the tradition. Looking in this way, one sees how the tradition may lose its significance unless those forms are large enough, flexible enough, to allow the essential content to exist and prevail throughout the generations. The design of such a sympathetic form requires the highest wisdom and an im­mense expenditure of energy and time. Once the form exists, the wisdom, energy and time required for its formation are then, at least partially, freed for the continual rediscovery of effective content.

                          Although the ultimate aim of any teaching would be the same, rediscovery of content is the ever recurring exigency of a teaching if it would remain alive. This is so because the congregation and the times are ever changing. The teaching needs continually to look outward upon con­temporary life to see what is there, what may be coining in, and to determine how the path­ways to the teaching need to be altered or relocated.

                          Not every occidental student of Zen litera­ture, and certainly not every American reader, is properly prepared to accept the need for tradition at all. Within the bits of hearsay about Zen he senses a newness, a possible relief from what he has heard about ecclesiastical argument and monastic tradition, and the freshness at­tracts him. He begins to read the Haiku poems and Zen Koans, tries to imitate and “use “ them, and those attempts degenerate into a parlor game. Soon, however, as the subject is unfolded in this simple and truly scholarly book, he will sense that, to become effective, the use of the Koan requires the discipline of a teaching and a tradition, within which his efforts could bear fruit. Speaking from within such a tradition and discipline, for the American author is an abbess of the Zen Temple at Ryosen-an, Daitoku-ji,Kyoto, she further befriends the reader by her unpretentiousness: she makes no emphatic claims, no urgent solicitations. What she does is to describe systematically the study of a form of Zen Buddhism known as Rinzai Zen, distin­guish it from other forms, and trace its history, in the course of which are given the original uses of the Koan and its revitalized use in the Rinzaiform.”

                          Pat

                        Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.