Meditation Los Angeles

Month: December, 2012

Stumbled Upon By Chance

I am not superstitious, fatalistic (in the sense of things being fated), or overly enamored of coincidence, but I must admit to a certain wry pleasure at finding a copy of Dharma Punx by Noah Levine in the free community library* a few blocks from my house, just a few hours before the final MBSR class. You see, Levine founded a meditation center that’s also not so far from my house, and it’s the clearest alternative to pay classes at the moment. Pay as you can sort of stuff.

Not only was it a book that I’d considered buying idly, but it had originally been purchased at Vroman’s — a likely point of purchase, even. The cover, tattoo’d hands in prayer, always turned off my middle-class sensibilities a little. And though I can’t say I expected to like the book much, I’m 60 pages in and finding it engaging, though I can’t say I like the guy much. Was surprised to find that his dad wrote a baker’s dozen of fairly respected meditation books. In a week or so, I’ll plop the book back in that library.

The class ended on a good note. Again, I was touched by the honesty and forthrightness of the class members. There was some silly stuff, but a really nice bunch of people. So, despite a lukewarm reception for the MBSR, I will pursue meditation. To be continued.

Blog not dead yet!

*these libraries are more like postal boxes — but delightful — see the link

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Stream Entry at the New York Times

Wow, right there in the New York Times! A piece about a real (failed, oh well) attempt at stream entry! You just don’t see this very often. The piece, entitled “The Anxiety of the Long-Distance Meditator” just completely caught the attention of this longish-distance runner, and features Daniel Ingram and an appearance by Hokai Sobol, even. The real stuff, in my opinion. From what I know…

Here’s a brief quote from the article:

Ingram was encouraging but also somewhat ambivalent. He seemed to have some reservations. I soon found out why: the next day everything fell apart. My mind jangled like a live wire — old fears and insecurities, the heartbreak of an unhappy love affair — images and judgments tortured me for hours and then for days on end. I dreaded the meditation now — it was like sticking my attention into an electrical socket.

My schedule collapsed. I couldn’t sit, and the prospect of walking around the room pretending to be a wonder-struck bionic ninja was agonizing and ridiculous. Instead, feeling guilty, I went for long walks in the 100-degree heat, accompanied by the sinister hum of cicadas. People went on retreats for months — years even —- yet the thought of being confined for three more weeks terrified me. There was a Greyhound station in Huntsville, a 20-mile hike. Filled with self-loathing, I decided to leave the next day at dawn, before Ingram could convince me otherwise.

I plugged in the guesthouse phone and called a friend, looking for comfort. Ingram happened to make his visit then; as he entered I quickly put down the phone. He arched an eyebrow. “If you’re gonna blow the retreat, we have free long distance up at the house.”

I continue to do my body scans, yoga, and sitting meditation — the grab bag that Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) offers for combatting stress, anxiety, etc. I’ve skipped a couple days, maybe. Tonight is the last class.

Something Else

In his inimitable style, Gary Weber has an information dense, extensively linked post about different spiritual paths. I check his blog about once a month, and the name Daniel Ingram caught my eye, because Daniel has written some interesting stuff about meditation, chiefly his MCTB book (Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha) — a very practical, hands on guide to meditation.

If you find Buddhism too complicated, you might find something of interest there. He also touches upon a point that I’m curious about — that much of contemporary American Buddhism ignores, neglects or outright denies the possibility of enlightenment. Many reasons for this, not the least of which is probably not wanting to scare people off, I suppose. But perhaps also something is getting lost?

What I enjoy about Gary’s posts, is he’s so matter-of-fact and down-to-earth.

Here’s a little quote from the post:

MCTB’s/KFD’s open sharing of experiences about enlightenment was important for many traditional Buddhists.  In the US, the teaching in traditional Buddhist centers was that enlightenment was so unlikely/impossible for lay folk, that it was not worth talking about.  Daniel gave a talk on this @ Brown.  This is, i am told, still true at major centers like the Insight Meditation Society, Spirit Rock and Naropa.

That was not the case in Zen, as they do enlightenment “for a living”, which is what drew me there.  Direct Path and the Zen folk w/whom i worked, discouraged any focus on, or attachment to, experiences, states or levels as they feed the “ego/I”, the principal obstacle to be dealt with in achieving “no self” or “nonduality”.  Attachment creates suffering here just as the Buddha said it would.

Daylong Retreat

Tomorrow doing the MBSR retreat. I’ll probably go to the early pre-session at the beach. Why not? Might as well get some negative ions. I’ve cooked up a barley soup that should carry me through the day. Looking forward to it.