Blowing the mind with dangerous fire

I was once addicted to marijuana.  It started as a recreational activity which I did with friends.  It inspired me with visions that I could use in my art and ideas that I thought were very unique and astounding while I was high.  Sometimes these ideas helped me when I sobered up to have a new understanding of an aspect of my life.  Most of the time, however, the ideas that I wanted to apply after I had had them, were impractical.  Also, at this time, I was hardly in the state of applying what I learned to life.

As it happens, I started to crave the visions I saw.  I wanted to have more ideas. Consequently, I smoked more and I ended up having many thoughts about thoughts.  The way I’ve described it to friends of mine is that when you are high, you think you are smart.  You think you are coming up with some great thing that is ‘blowing your mind’ and then it usually comes back around to being amazing just because you’re high.  Or the idea looks novel, but it is thinking about thought, and paralyzes the thinker into a roller coaster that is not anywhere near truth or a Dhamma-like change.  It is a battle that you consistently lose, because it is based on craving and aversion.  It may seem like genuine inspiration, but it lacks substance.

This, of course, is my personal experience.  It has nothing to do with anyone else and what they’ve gotten or get from the use of cannabis or any other thing like it.  I used it for recreational use and got addicted.  I was addicted to the craving and aversion, and the plant was my gateway to get there quicker.  It lead me straight onto the chain of ignorance and of chasing sensations.  This was before I had practiced Vipassana, and naturally Vipassana is what began my observing of it and understanding that it was not beneficial to me anymore.  It was also my strength to leave it behind and overcome the ‘need’ for it.

For about a year, it took over my life.  I smoked daily.  I got depressed and anti-social, and generally unintelligent and unresponsive.  I simply wanted to hide away and smoke. It was really difficult to come to terms with the fact that I tortured myself like this.  It was a dead life.  I had to forgive my actions and find peace with which was, in one sense, a wasted year.  In the other sense, it’s a year that propelled me onto the path of Dhamma with determination and a ‘smack to the face’ that it was absolutely the right path for me.

Presently, I don’t do any and I don’t think they are needed at all.  I still sometimes have the idea come up that I would like to go smoke, but the moment the idea comes, it’s gone.  I see how destructive and useless it would be to do, and simply move on.  It’s not a ‘thing’ that sticks anymore.  I see it and that’s all.  These ‘drugs’ have a use, but when taken with an unclear mind, their use is easily misunderstood.  I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone who hasn’t done Vipassana.  And to anyone who has, I also wouldn’t.

A metaphor: The elephant (our mind) isn’t trained to jump through the hoop.  We sit to train it.  Taking a substance is like setting the hoop on fire and pushing the elephant through.  The trained mind will see the fire and be able to avoid it with a concentrated jump and the wisdom to see the danger.  I pushed through the fire, with no wisdom.  In hindsight, I see what I did and why it hurts.  That had a purpose in my life, but it isn’t the way I would suggest.

What Has Helped Me

Ryan Shelton, creator of this blog, wrote in a most recent post, “I want people to feel encouraged and supported in practicing however they can within the limitations of the rest of their lives. I don’t know exactly how to help…”

That struck me. I too, as a writer for this blog, feel the same way.  I don’t know what to say that can inspire anyone to practice more and learn the Art of Living, other than truthfully telling the story of how I’m maintaining my own daily practice and how it affects my day to day life.  I realized too, that many of us would have different difficulties, and perhaps more difficulties than I now have at maintaining daily sits.  I have integrated these daily sits into my life for the most part.  It is more of a joy and ease to practice them now.  I will impart what wisdom I have in my blog posts here.

For starters, what are some things that have helped me to get to this point of practice where the two day sits are manageable and something I make time for no matter what?

  1. I did some long term service at the center nearest where I live.  This was when I sat my second and third course.  I served and sat courses intermittently and it was of great value to instilling the practice within me and understanding the volunteering side of it, which is just as beneficial.  I say to many that it is more beneficial to sit one course and serve one, than it is to sit two.  Serve if you haven’t.  It will help you manage daily sits in your own life.
  2. Adding one hour timed gong and chanting (S. N. Goenka) ‘music files’ to my I pod to use for daily sittings and group sittings.  It’s helped me to switch between using an alarm clock and using chanting or gongs.  Keeps it ‘fresh.’
  3. Hosting potlucks and group sittings every weekend.  It is very casual when we host, but we get a good meditation in none the less.  It is nice to have the official places for group sits, but it is also nice to have a place for random friends to join and do Annapanna. Many of those who started to come and sit with us have now gone to a 10 day course.  The potluck atmosphere is also helpful for talking about Vipassana and encouraging others in their practice.  I would also mention that the right friends are important.  It is dangerous to hang around fools; who will step on your practice with or without knowing.
  4. Having a meditation space.  I haven’t scheduled my sits at the same time every day, which is recommended in books like ‘A Meditator’s Handbook by Bill Crecelius,’ but I have made a space that I often do my daily sits in.  It is a good anchor.  Mine’s in my closet.  When I’m having a really bad sit, which still happens; I make sure I stay in the closet and just don’t leave until the hour is up.  I may not be really meditating all that much, but I’m keeping a strong determination, and the closet doors help so I don’t get distracted and leave.
  5. Dhamma books and Dhamma talks.  I have not read that many from the centers, but the ones I have read have been a great inspiration.  I also have found other key things that I feel are inspirations to walking the same path.  Some of these things would be: Avatar: The Last Airbender (TV show), Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (movie and manga), Studio Ghibli films, Alan Watts, J. Krishnamurti, Mooji etc.
  6. Switching it up.  Doing 3 meditations for one week to solidify your practice a bit.  Go to the center for a short term service.  Meditate three times for just one day.  Do it first thing in the morning.  Wait half the day, then do both your sits.  Do a two hour sit.  All these changes have happened naturally as I’ve developed my practice.  It’s easy to be hard on ourselves, but it isn’t being equanimous.  Play with the practice.  Try different things.  The first step is the last step.  Walk in the direction and you will not fail.  I WILL mention that it is not generally easy to meditate last thing before bed, or ON your bed.  Sleep is a danger to meditation.  Doing it and succeeding against the temptation to sleep is good, but if it’s not working on a regular basis, sit somewhere else.Another ‘welcoming’ thought is that you will only NOT practice, until you realize you HAVE to practice.  The elastic can only stretch so far back before it springs forward.  Do what you can with the time you have.  Good luck strangers… into the unknown we go.

Be Quiet and Listen

This is a discussion that I have listened to multiple times and continue to get more out of it.  I’ve posted it on this blog before, because it is a truly marvelous and very Dhamma-like conversation.

http://www.jkrishnamurti.org/krishnamurti-teachings/view-video/knowledge-and-the-transformation-of-man-part-1-of-18.php

The discussion is about as close to ‘what is’ as you can get, aside from meditating.  It’s the nearest words can get to speaking about the Dhamma, without being overly poetic.  It is also why, most people who haven’t done a 10 day Vipassana course, would not understand this conversation.  It’s eighteen hours long, by the way.  That’s because it’s very thorough.  They go slow and ‘go into’ each question and the whole movement of life.  This is the stuff of life.  It’s the stuff that many people miss, because they’re in their heads.  Or better said, paraphrasing some words from this dialogue, ‘they’re mulling over the images that they’ve made about life, and not seeing the thing itself.’

This brings me to what I’ve been ‘dealing’ with in my day to day life most recently.  I’m at this seminar thing on weekdays and it’s very much like a high school type of deal.  It’s something I’m require to be at.  We sit around the room and mainly listen to a man speak about terms and define words that can be endlessly defined and analysed.  The ‘teacher’ is a man who is stuck in knowledge and thinks he is wise.  He is someone who does not understand meditation or what it means to see what is, without interpreting it.  This brings up a problem that Krishnamurti and Dr. Allan Anderson go into in their talk.  “How can a human being (oneself or another) bring about a person who is undisturbed enough to listen?”

This is listening in the total sense, meaning, meditation.  Listen with your whole body and your whole mind.  This is something that terms don’t touch and words, in the superficial way they are often used, cease to give meaning.  It may sound like I’m complaining, but this is more a matter of sensitivity and having to be in a situation, on a day to day basis, with a person who does not care enough to listen, in that sense, and what to do about it.

The way the question is put, “…undisturbed enough to listen,” is because of the fire that you are thrown in when you meditate.  It’s a fire of attention, and breath.  There is no escaping in words or conclusion.  As each of us meditate, we go into this fire more and more.  We are on an edge, so to speak, and there is no stopping it now.  When you sit a 10 day course, Vipassana is now with you, whether you sit daily or not.  There it is, creeping up through your sensations, all the time.  That is why it is disturbing, or can be.

Then, in every day life, you find yourself with others who don’t feel this fire.  They don’t know how to meet it.  Sometimes you can’t get away from them, like my current situation. What I’ve found then, is to be selfish with my practice, when I’m there with someone who will not listen.  With some people, there’s no convincing them and no use trying.  When that’s the case, it’s time to meditate.  Go in and sit there with the fire.  It’s the salvation for oneself to do this, and the only way that awareness and attention can permeate towards them.  At some point, they may feel it.  In the meantime, be quiet and keep practicing.

~

Writing for this site helps me with my practice, but I’d also like it to help you (readers) as much as possible.  If there’s a topic you want me to write about or anything else you’d like to share, comment on this post or email me at: flexanimousart@gmail.com

Visit flexanimousart.blogspot.ca for other writings and things I explore.

 

Ways to See Equanimity

There are many different ways to speak of equanimity and awareness.  Most of the spiritual speakers and writers of the world will point to these two principles in some way.  They may only point to things that point to these things, but still, they are on the same track to seeing it.  They may also not know what they are pointing at, but say it in a way that you can translate it back to something that works for you and aligns with your understanding and experience of what it means to be equanimous.

For example, Stephen Silver, a character designer does what he calls Art Talks on Youtube. In one of the talks he says something like this, “You’re never going to get everything you desire.  When you fulfill one desire, you’ll have another one that you want to get.  So at some point, you realize you just have to appreciate the moment and where you’re at now.”

Another artist, Jeff Watts, quoted in one of his videos, “Be a master at where you’re at.”

There are many ways of saying the same things.  Be aware.  Be equanimous.  Another example is Abraham Hicks, who says many things along the lines of, “You think that this or that thing makes this other person happy.  And you think, when I get those things, I’ll be happy like they seem to be, but it doesn’t work that way.  We say, be happy first, and those things will come, and if they don’t it won’t matter because you’ll be happy regardless.”

Another person who channels energy known as Bashar has said that the definition of abundance (or awareness and equanimity) is “having the ability to do what you need to do when you need to do it.”  When you’re in the zone, or with the moment, or better said, not chasing something special elsewhere, you’ll be abundant.  That awareness and realization that there’s nowhere else you need to be brings peace.  Any direction is an attachment and a form of escape or a dissipation of energy, but were all on different paths, and equanimity is a sliding scale.

Your completeness or incompleteness will change.  Don’t try to find one or the other.  That implies you lack equanimity.  Just be and come back to breath.  Activate anicca, as U Ba Khin says.  Be aware of the change, and equanimity will follow naturally.

 

Writing for this site helps me with my practice, but I’d also like it to help you (readers) as much as possible.  If there’s a topic you want me to write about or anything else you’d like to share, comment on this post or email me at: flexanimousart@gmail.com

Visit flexanimousart.blogspot.ca for other writings and things I explore.

Simplicity

What amazes me again and again about Vipassana is its simplicity. I’ve started to get my daily sits in without having to think about TRYING to do so. They are a natural part of my life now. I think this is ideal with any form of art. For it to really be something you’re involved in, you have to do it on a consistent basis.

Vipassana is one of the few things in my life that really hits at the core. Everything connects to everything, but this practice is the deepest art form. It’s a way of living that runs through the whole body at all times. There is not much that we can compare it to in terms of other daily activities, because it itself is an activity all the time. Therefore, there is no time that we can really put aside to do it, in a sense. Even those of us who haven’t sat a ten day course have some level of body awareness. It’s happening. The way to ‘get with it’ is to sit.

There’s a poem in ‘The Moon Appears When the Water Is Still,’ that goes like this:

Sitting does not create truth,
Meditation does not produce insight,
Just as smelling a flower
Does not make it fragrant

The perfume of the rose is there.
We slow down to attend the unfolding.

There’s immense simplicity in that. There’s no ‘doing’ or ‘making it happen.’ It is. Awareness and attention of it is what we cultivate, and that is the truth we carry in all areas of our life. Everything is included in the Dhamma, but not everything includes the Dhamma. Always come back to your practice of Vipassana. Even if you stop practicing, it doesn’t leave you. Another ‘poem’ comes to mind. It speaks of the difference between liking something and loving it. When you like a flower, you pick it. When you love a flower, you water it every day.

 

Writing for this site helps me with my practice, but I’d also like it to help you (readers) as much as possible.  If there’s a topic you want me to write about or anything else you’d like to share, comment on this post or email me at: flexanimousart@gmail.com

Visit flexanimousart.blogspot.ca for other writings and things I explore.

Complete Surrender

I don’t understand what it means to completely surrender to Dhamma and the technique of Vipassana. The first step to surrendering is to let go of control and have faith in the practice to guide me, but am I also relinquishing responsibility and ownership of my life and actions? Once I accept that someone else is at the steering wheel how do I avoid deferring responsibility for where I’m going?

It seems like the very definition of the words “control” and “responsibility” are artificial. Do I every truly have control of anything? And if not, how can I be responsible for the outcome of events? With Dhamma, it feels more like a river current. I can feel the difference between when I’m following the tongues of the rapids down the fastest flow, and when I’m caught in the vortex of an eddy, being driven into the river bank or back up river. I don’t know what the river looks like in the miles to come, but based on my experience on the river so far, and what people who have travelled further on this river in the past, heading down the river is best. The only control I have is whether tread water closer to the center or closer to the edge of the river.

I carry, along with many others, the illusion that I can have complete control of my life and the situations I arrive in, but these are just branches in the river I clasp to for fear of the unknown down river. When I cling to a branch, I can see the river banks and become used to, and comfortable with my surroundings. This familiarity feels safe, but over time, the river will change, and my time in this life will end. While allowing myself to rush down the center of the river is scary, having faith in the path, and finding comfort in the rolling rapids is how I define complete surrender. Time to meditate.

S. N. Goenka: Notes – Day 1 Discourse

S. N. Goenka: Notes – Day 1 Discourse

You will get the best results of your stay here, the better you work. You must work.

The art of living is missing. This will teach you the art of living.

Someone goes to the other bank of the river and comes back and says, it’s so nice.

One sits crying, craving, calling, “Other bank of the river, come to me. I want to see you.” Whole life spent crying, and it doesn’t work. One has to swim across the river to reach the other bank. So simple.

The breath is a bridge that will bring you to the other bank of the river.

A wonderful tool… Bare breath, nothing but breath.

Like someone is used to riding a black horse. Another comes with a nice white horse, and says, “Try this horse.” He says, “Okay, I will, but I will keep one foot on my black horse and one foot on the white horse.” Similarly, more dangerous, is putting one foot in one boat and another in another boat. More dangerous is mixing the techniques.

Counting, repeating a word, helps the mind get concentrated, but don’t miss breath. Breath was a very helpful tool to go to the depths.

Know thyself, not only at the intellectual level.

They became saintly people because they knew themselves. Know thyself, not only at the intellectual level.

And not because Buddha says so, or another says so.

Their truth is not your truth.

You must walk on the path. Each moment, with your reality.

What does one know about the body?

One may have read books on anatomy, but you don’t know it experientially.

Oh, so there are things on my body that I am not aware of…

Ignorance. You don’t know what is happening deep inside. Knotted from the habit patterns of the mind.

You start reaction.

The body starts reacting. I don’t like it.

The mind starts reacting. I don’t like it.

This I. Who is this I? This corporeal, physical structure? This flickering, fleeting mind? The combination of the two? So much attachment to this I. When there is attachment, there is bound to be misery.

Involuntary action and voluntary action.

Can you say to your heart, stop beating, or slow down, or speed up? No.

Your breath, you can stop it for a short amount of time. You can take a deep breath intentionally, or a soft breath intentionally. When you don’t give it any orders, it continues to come in and go out.

The mind can only go to two places.

The past and the future.

Oh, so that is why I am so miserable. I do not want to live in the present. So tangled, deep inside.

And it has only two qualities. Pleasant or unpleasant. Oh, this happened, and it feels wonderful. This should happen again and again. Craving. Clinging.

Unpleasant. Something happened and I don’t like it. Aversion, hatred.

The whole technique is just be aware. Just be aware. Do nothing. Just be aware.

As it is.

If you are tired, lie down for 5 minutes, aware of breath. No more. You are here to remain awake, every moment. Every moment is so precious.

When someone says something that is wholesome – good for oneself and good for others, you can say, “Sadhu.”

Well said, I agree.”

Each one of you will realize how mad you are.

You have no sequence of thought. What else is madness?