Mapping the Territory, Not Monolithic

by magnus26

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.