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Going a bit deeper

Not wishing to leave you with half a story, this follows on from my other post 'go deep' - I felt myself shying away from continuing, but, you never know. Hang on to your hats, as it becomes a more of a story as we delve into the mind - the language and words become a little more fantastic.

So then, we have let go of our regular concerns and we are gathered in our body and mind, just a creature resting within ourselves, quiet and still. This allows the background workings of the mind to become available to our awareness. We may notice sprinklings of light, a flux of sensations, sparkles coming and going. We may recognise light in the mind and see it like a flock of starlings whooshing in sweeping waves in response to the bodily sensations of breathing. We may experience a flush of pleasure in the body and see it tingle through the mind's eye. We feel an invitation to go deeper and the mind seemingly becomes brighter - we may feel like we are sitting under floodlights. Perhaps our body disappears, and we feel vast, open and spacious. We feel refined, delicate. Thinking feels like concrete in the mind. We may notice a profound stillness deep within, like a dense, personal black hole so we let go into that. Perhaps our mind unwraps into a crazily fast panoply of lights coming and going - we have no thoughts, just presence. We feel light and flowing. We might recognise that to conceptualise these moments is to destroy them so we just relax with them. Then we may get a glimpse of something beyond these phenomena, a kind of awareness of the fabric of reality that underlies the existence of our minds, an immutable sense of 'what is underneath us'. And perhaps, if we let go into this, we have finally unravelled the centre of our onion-like minds. Or perhaps, we feel our minds move again and all that was within our grasp flutters away, ephemeral and tantalising, shy and beautiful. Leaving us contemplating for another day.

Then a deeper change begins once the meditation has finished. A coolness sets into our natural sense of ourselves; an abiding calmness. We realise that these transient experiences come and go, and that all things come and go. We see everyday life from a cooler perspective, we become less bothered by things. There is something better happening. Then, as if from nowhere, we are drawn into old habits and the coolness departs. The world demands something from us and we answer to it, dutifully. It goes like this. An oscillation, a massaging of reality. A battle between responsibility and freedom. We hang in the balance.


Pali said…
Thank you. Always great to read your postings. What perceives all the sensations we feel?
lightmanmumu said…
Thanks dude. Good question. People say that, once you get down to it, nothing perceives sensations - it's all a magic trick. However that's not very helpful. This is an interesting exploration: establish that there is stuff happening in the mind and that there is a knower that knows stuff is happening - they appear separate and distinct. The knower is the one that feels like it's been there all our lives watching what we do. Then, notice that the knower comes and goes, and that it is in fact stitching together a version of events that is not even necessarily true. This helps us see through the mystery a little bit, like finding out who father christmas is. However, there is still awareness going on - the lights of consciousness. This is where it all goes a bit voodoo (if it hasn't done already) - you can merge awareness with the object and the knower so there is just one mind moment that is indefinably your entire mind experiencing stuff, but you are not there.

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A standard view of the Jhana states (what happens when we meditate)

Here is a diagram of the Jhana states as they are generally explained. The first row consists of the Jhanic factors (I have compressed the first two, applied and sustained thought, into one called "Settled mind" to make the diagram more consistent). The second row are the first four Jhanas, and the bottom row are the formless states of mind. (If you click the image, it gets bigger).

So then, how do we use this kind of information as we meditate. Well, I spent many years wondering about various experiences that occurred during meditation and only when I discovered this information was I able to get a sense of the whole map. This was helpful.

Generally, I like to use these states not as a list of achievable things but as a conceptual map of what is possible with the mind. As you meditate, it can be useful to incline the mind towards contentment and wide open space rather than simply counting 10 breaths. Even though the depth of the actualized Jhana states is tremendously profo…

A nice exercise in whole body awareness

It all starts with the body. Your body is your greatest asset.

Take a seat somewhere. Go inside your body and take a relaxing breath. Become aware of your body. Start at the feet and then expand from there. Sense your awareness of the body growing - become aware of the feet and legs; then feet, legs and torso; then feet, legs, torso, arms and hands. Have a sense of energy growing through the body.

Finally, as you breathe, hold your entire body in awareness - feet, legs, torso, arms, hands and head. Feel into a sense of openness and clarity. Notice any blockages in the flow of openness. Then enjoy three or more clear breaths. Nothing outside the present moment, you and your body.

During the day: try it standing up, or in everyday situations. Notice what undermines your attempts to do the practice.

Quick fix: attempt one full body breath before you begin your next task. Do it as often as you can.

How do I fix myself with mindfulness

This appears to be a common pattern. We do our mindfulness course expecting to be transformed, we feel a bit better on the course, a week after the course we find that nothing has changed. There's also the case of people who have been doing meditation for ages and yet they still feel as depressed and angry as they did when they started.

So then, what is going on?

The mind is a tricky beast. It is used to taking action and seeing immediate results. Mindfulness is more subtle than this. It is about seeing the relationship between body, feelings, mind and thoughts and how they come and go. There is no explicit result to be found, just an on going relationship with the thing that is us. However, the longer we observe ourselves the more likely we are to see wisdom arising. That is to say, we begin to see what is beneficial and what is harmful to us. We begin to take responsibility for ourselves and our own happiness - we are no longer simply victims of circumstance. We know what we nee…

Bare attention and clear comprehension

Here are two key cconcepts that you might like to immerse yourself in once you've been meditating for a while. It's a way of breaking down mindfulness a little bit and is onward leading.

Firstly, we might ask ourselves: what is mindfulness?

There are lots of mindfulness experts out there nowadays who could help with this but generally speaking it is: paying attention to something without effort. You could call this bare attention or choiceless awareness or open awareness. We hear a sound, a sound is heard - it takes no effort. It arises and passes away.

Bare attention is a skill that requires practice. The more we practice, the easier it becomes to stay with bare attention. If we do lots of body scans the mind will relax and this will happen naturally: we fall into a state of: in one ear and out of the other.

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I like to have a crack at this every now and again because my appreciation of it seems to change as the years go by. This time I'll do it through a series of questions.

How do I know I'm being mindful?
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Is that it?
That's the beginning. Once you know what is going on you can begin to explore experience and what your mind is doing. This gives you some space around experience and this gap is where the freedom happens. This space separates out the details of your life from what you really are.
Why does it come and go?
The mind is a complex instrument that is rapidly switching between different modes of operation (for want of a better phrase). Mindfulness is not a mission critical thi…