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Showing posts from June, 2011

Life - this is what it's like

I'm a great fan of meditation and learning about mind states through the medium of the Buddhist dharma (the teachings of Buddhism). Of all the things I've learned about coping with illness, these dharma teachings provide something useful and positive to try, while at the same time respecting that being ill is an incredibly difficult process. There are lots of sites where you can listen to teachings and build up some knowledge and practices. Anyway, one message that comes up from time to time goes like this:

1. We are experiencing something difficult, like anxiety.

2. It's not very pleasant. We experience a lot of reactivity and difficulty with it.

3. It will not go away. We cast around for some other strategy to deal with it and we remember - it's like this. Anxiety (or whatever) is like this.

4. Now we have a perspective that is outside our difficult state. We are watching it. We observe - this is what anxiety is like. It's like this. When anyone gets anxious, th…

The Buddhist washing machine

This is my attempt to bring some clarity to a part of Buddhist psychology that caught my attention and opened a window into something I'd been pondering about for a while - namely, why do we become what we think? Also, why does a difficult thought lead to even more difficult thoughts? I've used the honeyball sutta as my basis and added a feedback loop.

So, I've been itching to do a diagram and here it is:

1. Imagine we start from a clean, neutral position (sometimes we wake up like this, or we can get there by using meditation techniques). Nothing is going on, there is stillness. 

2. We hear a sound (or other sense impression). In Buddhism this is called contact - there is the object (the form) and our corresponding consciousness that is generated by contact with the form. A sound is heard.

3. The sound is either pleasant, unpleasant or neither. We don't think about this - it's an instinctive reaction. This is called feeling tone.

4. Along with feeling tone comes perc…

Focus on the space in your head

This is a good exercise to do if your head is a bit foggy or contracted. It's also quite a good one for deepening meditation, especially when you get to the point where you want to switch from 'trying' to meditate to clarity and spaciousness. So, what is it?

1. Take a moment and then close your eyes.
2. Connect with your breath going in and out for a few moments. Be aware of your breathing.
3. Now focus your attention on your head; the muscles in the face, and the flow of energy inside your skull as your breathe.
4. Relax any tension in the head.
5. Notice any space there might be in the head and connect with the feeling of spaciousness. Space seems empty and refreshing. Connect with the feeling of clarity.
6. Do this clarity attention for a few minutes.
7. Now, focus on the space in the middle of your head. It might feel clogged up, and if this is the case just imagine the breath coming in and cleansing that space. Keep focusing on the space and cleaning out any fog that …

Connect with your psoas muscle

The psoas muscle is right at the core of your body running down from behind the belly button to the hips. It's quite an interesting muscle because it used by your body in stress response and while contracted it has a distorting effect on your posture and leads to subtle energy usage. For many years while under stress, I had trouble with front thigh numbness which I now believe to be caused by a constantl;y tight psoas muscle. The only unfortunate thing about the muscle is that it's not easy to sense because it's right in the middle of your body.

One easy way to stretch this muscle is to lie on the floor and bring both knees to the chest. Then allow one leg to straighten out on the floor. This stretches one side. Now repeat the exercise by bringing both knees to the chest and allowing the other leg to straighten out on the floor. Co-ordinate these movements with your breath and you will have quite a nice relaxation exercise.

Another way to relax this muscle is to imagine the …

More methods to deal with a contracted mind and compulsive thinking

There are many things I have tried over the years to stop myself going wrong. Here's a selection of ways that I like to try when I want to break the contracted mind state:

1. Stay with the breath for 10 breaths. This requires some effort and little bit of forcing, but it can break through habitual thinking.

2. Total mindfulness of the body, including the head. Observing the tension in the head and the clarity of the mind - are there blocked places?

3. Get the mind to hear sounds as a continuous flow at the bottom of the head - in one ear and out of the other. Useful once the mind is a little bit open, but listening to music in this way can be a good way to begin.

4. Remain still until the body shakes out the tension - this usually means keeping the mind out of its habitual mode of operation and focusing on the body as a mountain occupying space. There's a kind of reversal in the mode of thinking that goes on - like reversing the current. Things go the other way.

5. Find somewhere e…

Chronic fatigue - what is your relationship to your illness?

There are the symptoms and effects, and the way we relate to them. Ask yourself, what is my relationship?

The struggle, the fight, the hopelessness, the denial, the friend, the destroyer, the wake up call, the gift, the dance, the anger, the bringer of truth, the master, the king that crushes, the teacher, the enemy, the unwanted guest. We can be any of these things.