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Showing posts from March, 2012

Letting go of struggle

I have a great deal of struggle in my life and it's intensely annoying when I get stuck in a cycle of difficulties (as I touched upon here onset, struggle, etc). It is quite demanding when I get caught but when I do manage to let go of struggle it is like being released from a set of chains; quite a pleasant experience but not one that is easy to achieve. There is, unfortunately, a process to be lived through.

When we struggle with our experience, we have a tendency to make it worse. We are trying to use our will power to overcome what is going on and, in some small way, we are trying to exert control. Perhaps this has been an effective strategy in the past, but ultimately it is energy sapping and unpleasant. Let's not beat ourselves up about it - there is something instinctual about struggle - if we fall into quicksand our gut reaction is to struggle to get out but this only makes things worse. We have to learn patience and perserverence to get through - some might call it wi…

The Satipatthana sutta - my desert island text

Buddhism is quite a big bowl of noodles to get your teeth into - I've spent a while skirting round the lists and trying to figure it out. After a time, I came across the Satipatthana sutta - the discourse of the establishment of mindfulness - and discovered that a huge amount of it is basically contained within this text. There's not many collections of words that cover as much as these words do - the experience of the body, of moments of feeling, the mind and different ways we can look at mental experience. I suspect you could spend a long time on a desert island with these words and have a profoundly interesting time.

Experiencing happiness and contentment

It turns out there is a difference between knowing happiness and experiencing happiness. Let's say we are going to go on a nice holiday somewhere - we read about it in a brochure, we book it, we have a sense of happiness knowing that we are going to go on a nice holiday. There is happiness in this.

Then we go on holiday. If we are lucky, we arrive and it is better than we expected - the pool is nice, the hotel comfortable, the food is delicious and everything is generally good. Our plans have reached fruition and now we are deeply happy and contented. We might experience a sense of relaxation in this.

So then, we might break down everyday events into two categories - I know this is good, I feel this is good. It is interesting to compare the two experiences.

Using visualisation as a transition object in meditation

I wanted to write about visualisation since I have had an on/off relationship with it over the years. Initially, I used to think it was a bit gimmicky and lightweight - if you really wanted to meditate you'd sit in silence staring at a wall or something. However, over the last few years I see visualisation as a useful aid in getting the mind to settle down.

How does this work? Say we want to get the mind to move in a certain direction (in this case, towards calmness) but the object of intention is too far way - let's say we feel stressed out and scattered - then it seems an impossible task to get from A to B. So, we can use a calming transition object to get us from where we are to where we want to be - in this case, a guided visualisation. Then, once we are in the proximity of the destination and the calmness starts doing its business, we can become absorbed into some aspect of the visualisation and generate a concentrated state of mind.

Here's a short example:

1. Imagin…

Where sea and sky meet

I love pictures where the edge between sea and sky is somewhat blurred and you can't tell where one ends and the other begins. You could just enjoy it when you see it happening but there is also a reminder here that the boundary between objects is not quite what it seems - where does one thing end and another begin?

You could go a bit deeper and ask yourself, where do my body and mind meet? (This is a direct method of introspection as opposed to the more labour intensive method of watching the breath). So, we sit there looking, looking, looking for the boundary between body and mind. We might get nowhere, or we might see something and we feel our head turning inside out and going all 'I'm going to pop' on us. There's a truth here but we can't think it. We want to hold it and know it but it eludes us and after a while we realise that it is perhaps time to return to the normal world and have a nice cup of tea.

Using gestures to unlock different mind states

If you tried my experiment,raise your hands to the sky, then you may have discovered that this posture has an effect on your mind. If you accept this, then you may start experimenting with different postures - what happens if I squat with my shoulder touching my ear, that sort of thing - and have an interesting time doing so. Well, it also turns out that different gestures also influence how we feel:

- clench your fists
- open your palms
- hold your hands up (man in an invisible box)

Did anything feel different?

You could try mixing gestures and postures, and have a go with that. I am going somewhere with this gestures/postures thing but that's enough for now. Put your hands on your head and see where that leads you ...