Meditation Los Angeles

Month: September, 2012

Jack Does It Again

I continue to meditate daily, which continues to astound me, on some level. Perhaps it does because I am basically a lazy person. For that reason, I am impressed by meditators that adhere to a somewhat dogmatic, pragmatic, goal driven ethos. I continue to admire many such practitioners. And I tend to shy away from those with a more “Let It Be” approach.

We are so often attracted to our polar opposite, our opposite charge. It’s helpful for me to approach meditation with discipline, but let’s face it it would also be beneficial for me to do many hours of Lovingkindness meditation, which I naturally avoid (though do do from time to time).

I found a passage in Kornfield’s Living Dharma that articulates some of these thoughts, for instance:

Choosing an approach is a much a matter of one’s personal style and karma. For some, a strict teacher, rigorous discipline, and goal-oriented practice are right. Often this approach balances with their own internal lack of discipline. For others, particularly goal-oriented individuals whose predominant expression is attainment in the world, the practices of letting go, just sitting, just watching, are a balance for their habitual striving.

Bringing the mind into balance is the essence of meditation. Striving, not striving: Both can bring balance. Eventually, whatever practice one follows must be let go of, even the practice of letting go.

I have only lazily dipped into this book, put off in parts by some of the very traditional views of the meditation teachers profiled (karma is a sticking point for me), but again I am struck by the wisdom and eloquence of Jack Kornfield. Though I’ve not really read it yet, recommended!

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The Somewhat Taboo World of Attainments

I was either going to write a really long post about the state of entry-level mindfulness technique, and the vagueness that surrounds such practice, or just a short little post with some links. Short version is these folks aren’t afraid to talk about attainments. Meaning, simply, they meditate more efficiently. And, they might have a map of how to do that — and what it might mean. I know it makes many people uncomfortable to talk about one meditator having reached certain states — or even to be somewhat confused about what that even might mean. It scares people off. It’s like believing that some kung fu masters can fly. Anyway, that was a funny little hybrid of my long post and some short links.

Check out Aloha Dharma. And in his links you’ll find Kenneth Folk Dharma. And if you really want to get immersed, click over to Dharma Underground. All, interesting, non-flaky approaches to meditation that include maps of where you might want to go. When you need more than just “relax into the breath”.

Confused About All Those Different Mindfulness Practices?

If you’re like me and occasionally confused by all the different meditation practices and how they fit together, I’ve got a book for you. It’s limited to the Buddhist practices, though, so if you’re into Vedic meditation or TM or Sufi dancing then you’re out of luck, I’m afraid.

Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha by Daniel Ingram does a nice job of parsing out the different practices and how they fit together, support one another. Full disclosure, I haven’t actually finished reading the book, but it seems pretty solid to me. It also includes a warning, which I found somewhat amusing, but I suppose the tone is not for everyone.

You can see customer reviews of the book and product information at Amazon, here. The kindle version of the book is quite a bit more cheaper than the paperback (about $13 v. $30), but if you’re not ready to spring for this the book is on the web in wiki format, here, completely free of charge, which is how I’m reading it.

Check it out.

 

Last Day for 99 Cent Mindfulness Gems

Just a note to say these books all appear to be delightful. I’m well into Journey to Mindfulness, which is written with heartbreaking simplicity. It also happens to be a very honest and straightforward account of a Sri Lankan monk’s life, and includes some real surprises. I have not reached the point yet where he comes to the United States.

And I also started the Beyond Mindfulness mostly on the strength of the author’s name, as the title didn’t exactly thrill me, seemed just like a cash in on the earlier title. But it is so much more than that. Again, so beautiful in its simple style — here is a book that focuses on concentration practices and how they complement and strengthen mindfulness (Vipassana) practices.

I’ve hardly touched the Eight title, but would be surprised if it isn’t very good.

I mention all this since I picked these three titles as e-books — each for 99 cents — and today is the last day, if I understand it correctly, that they can be had at that bargain price. These books would be worth it for $15 a pop — at this price they are just gold.

Grab one, or all of them, at your favorite e-book emporium. Here’s the promo info.

Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana

Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness by Bhante Gunaratana

Journey to Mindfulness by Bhante Gunaratana

Mindfulness Day

Did you know today it’s (the second annual) Mindfulness Day, as promoted by Wisdom Publications, to commemorate the anniversary of the first publication of Mindfulness in Plain English? While Bhante Gunaratana’s title happens to be an excellent book, I’m not too excited about a day dedicated to “mindfulness” — whatever that means. If you take a look at the website, you’ll find that the word has become nearly meaningless.

You will also, however, find a good deal. Several of Wisdom Books’ titles, including several of Gunaratana’s are on sale as e-books for 99 cents until September 15. That’s a pretty good deal.

Mapping the Territory, Not Monolithic

Have hardly touched the newer books, but continue to incorporate the Alan Wallace meditations in my sitting practice, though about half of them I’m doing in corpse pose. I thought I might fall asleep, lying down at 5 a.m., but it hasn’t happened yet. Dr. Wallace’s voice is quite alert, and his mind is vigorous. I am inspired by the number of meditative practices that are out there.

I have been fortunate to find a very good book that maps out much of the meditative territory, explaining the different meditative practices and how they relate to one another, support one another, which I shall share in a future post. The most basic example of this is simple “concentration” practices, as a prelude and support to “mindfulness” practices such as Vipasssana. Wallace is filling in some of the blanks. He focusses on the mindfulness of breathing meditation. Then he contrasts and supports by “settling the mind in its natural state,” or meditations on one of what some Buddhists have called the four immeasurables — meditations on qualities such as lovingkindness, compassion, empathetic joy — and so forth (sorry, I don’t know my immeasurables!)

I am struck by how alert and precise these practices are in their focus. There is no room for spacing out or becoming groggy, though of course, this happens from time to time — but within the practices there are precautions against slipping into the mush.

It reminds me of a passing crack the Dalai Lama’s brother made about zen meditators in the Pico Iyer book (short review: can’t really recommend, but interesting) — he called them “those vegetables in Japan!” Of course, this is probably not fair, but it illuminates that neither the practices, nor the communities are monolithic.

Corpse Pose for Insomnia?

 

These are the latest from the library. Excited about both of them.

Continuing to drink in several of the guided meditations from the previous post, from the B. Alan Wallace spring 2012 retreat. Amazing, that for free, one can get well over 40 hours of high quality instruction and meditations. Truly phenomenal. Wallace asks that one at least try savassana (corpse pose) for some of these shamatha (or concentration) meditations. I did. And was pleasantly surprised that I did not drift off to sleep. I find that the techniques Wallace follows lead to a rather subtle meditation. Very nice. Quite likely this is just where I am right now.

It is remarkable to me, though, that given a scarcity of work and with depression apparently in the offing on several occasions, I have not succumbed. I attribute this to both my meditation and the running. A good regimen.

As an additional bonus, having sampled from a somewhat evil bottle of aromatic liqueur, Creme de Violette (or whatever it was called) and then found that I woke up at 2:30 a.m. wide awake, and the bonus being I found that the Mindfulness of Breathing meditation, done in corpse pose, was pleasantly refreshing. It certainly beats thrashing around in frustration at not being able to sleep.

Mindfulness of Breathing Meditation, with Commentary

 

In my click clicking I somehow got on the trail of Alan Wallace, a meditation teacher you’ve probably come across at some point. This meditation, which I just now tried, worked really well for me. It’s done lying down. It’s just a basic introduction to the Shamatha practice, a basic concentration practice that is very useful as a precursor to Vipassana practice, as far as my rudimentary understanding of the useful sequence of practices goes.

It’s interesting how the knowledge and even just the turn of phrase of one meditation instructor can make such a difference in the felt experience of the meditation. I think I’ll be following along with a lot of these. Recommended.

You can find the site here. It’s also on iTunes. There, within the Spring 2012 Shamatha Retreat it’s track #92, but is named “3 Mindfulness of Breathing.” The meditation proper starts at 9:05, and lasts a little over 20 minutes.

It remains amazing to me the wealth of what you can find on the internet!