Monday, December 22, 2008

Meditation/Contemplation


Very


This very
morning
as I sat
in meditation
I heard the very
first tiptoe
of the rain
drops as they
fell, a very
lovely sound


Sangha, yesterday. Always a joy, to sit in the company of our band of meditators on a Sunday morning. It's a different feel from the lone weekday sits, a common energy generated in that hour of delicious silence.

Afterwards, in our discussion, I picked up a useful piece of guidance, relayed on to us by one of our number from a conversation with our teacher. There are times when the contemplation of an issue becomes an important part of a meditation sit; it's not always just a matter of training the mind to steady its attention on the breath, because we each have hindrances that stand between us and that desired goal. Sometimes it becomes necessary to examine what it is that distracts the mind and prevents us from achieving the serenity and the equanimity we strive for.

At such moments, a focused, thought-ful contemplation is what's needed to help sort things out, to come to an understanding that can release us from the grip of unhelpful patterns of mind activity. Now, I have made a practice of starting right in on that process after my few minutes of metta--sending out goodwill. Not the best way to go about it, says Than Geoff (that's Thanissaro Bhikkhu). Better to prepare the matter for examination before the sit and have it in mind as one goes about the meditation in the normal way, excluding thought where possible and, when the matter at hand comes up, postponing it gently with a simple "Not now," as one redirects the mind's attention to the breath. Then, later, toward the end of meditation only, one can allow the thoughts to surface and explore the associated thoughts and insights them at will.

A fine clarification. What is likely to happen, of course, in following this process, is that the unconscious mind will get to work while the consciousness is observing each movement of the breath. Much of the work, then, will have been done by the time I get around to that contemplation I have determined in advance to be needed, and insights are more likely to follow effortlessly when the moment comes. The hard part of course, as always, is the "Not now," because the mind is a stubborn faculty that delights in going its own way, no matter what I ask of it.

4 comments:

khengsiong said...

"Not now" is definitely not easy. Which is why it is good to let go before you sit down to meditate. If you do not let go, your cravings will come back to haunt you when you sit.

But of course, in order to let go, one needs wisdom. For many of us, wisdom comes from meditation.

So meditation and letting go work in tandem.

carly said...

There is rest only when movement has come to its normal end.

There can be no rest when it is time to go forward, only when movement has come to its natural end.

True quiet means keeping still when the time has come to keep still, and going forward when the time has come to go forward. In this way rest and movement are in agreement with the demands of the time, and thus there is light in life (wisdom).

It is very difficult to bring quiet to the heart. While Buddhism strives for rest through an ebbing away of all movement in nirvana, the Book of Changes holds that rest is merely a state of polarity that always posits movement as its complement.

These words embody directions for the practice of yoga. In the back are located all the nerve fibers that mediate movement. If, at the end of movement, these spinal nerves are brought to a standstill, the ego, with its restlessness subsides. When a man has thus become calm, he may turn to the outside world. He no longer sees in it the struggle and tumult, and therefore he has that true peace of mind which is needed for understanding the great laws of the universe and for acting in harmony with them. Whoever acts from these deep levels makes no mistakes.

I find that activity is more meditatively beneficial than sitting. But not an activity like painting, where one is deeply exercising his intuitions. I use tai chi forms. I also use weight lifting, light weights, in a very quiet environment, eyes closed. By easily concentrating on the muscles and feeling in the movement of my nature's yin and yang in the repititions, my mind is quite free of any other thoughts and emeshed only in the awareness of my existence, physically and mentally. The end of a repititive cycle is a very deep moment, true rest. Fatiqued, my body is renewed as well. There is no need for mind control when one is emersed in the moment thus.

This mini-cycle is my model for life in general, all movement, mental or physical, followed by rest. Without movement, I think the mind can find no rest.

PeterAtLarge said...

Good thought, Khengsiong. AND it's just as hard to let go before sitting!

Good to hear your voice again, Carly. We differ, I think, in our understanding of the Buddhist teachings--though not in the substance of what you say. Buddhism, for me, is precisely about that "middle way"--between movement and stasis as well as in other regards. "Nirvana" really doesn't preoccupy me at all, even as an end goal; it's the path that's important, and one would be foolish in pursuing it to ignore the wisdom that you cite from the Tao. Physical movement, for me, is the healthy complement to sitting--and this does not in any way detract from the value of the latter. A good meditation walk requires precisely the observation of the skeletal and muscular structure you describe in your work-outs.

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