Monday, March 29
Sat for about 45 minutes. Hard to get the flow of metta started at first. Usually that delightful warm glow is just right there, right away, but today there was a blank spot in the heart center, even a little pain. First tried me, then Sakula, then Daeja. Blank, blank, blank. Then when I directed metta to Gini, there was an upwelling feeling: tears filled my eyes behind closed lids. Bingo. There was a band of tightness constricting the heart, and gently chipping away at it with metta for Gini, the blockage began to dissipate somewhat. Some warmth, some loosening.
It's not all gone, though. The stress of this past weekend left marks. I fear for her safety, for her health. I worry.
Sunday, March 28
Saturday, March 27
On Thursday morning, Gini was complaining of severe abdominal pain, lower right quadrant. Fearing appendicitis, we took an ambulance to the hospital, and the ER doc (Dr. Christopher Case) said that she didn't have appendicitis, she had a hernia, and sent us home. The next morning, G saw Dr. Okosky, our family doctor, and he sent us over to the hospital to consult a surgeon about her hernia. They did the CT scan that they should have done Thursday but wouldn't, and lo and behold, she did have appendicitis after all. They did the appendectomy yesterday afternoon, and G is recovering nicely -- in a private room, to boot.
I've gotta get myself in gear and get to the hospital. She might be discharged as early as today, or possibly tomorrow.
Life's funny. And it's amazing, all the things that can go wrong with a body.
Tuesday, March 23
Soap and Water
Daddy’s a dark riddle
Mama’s a headful of bees
--Suzanne Vega, "Soap and Water"
For a long time -- since DaeJa's Brahmaviharas & Insight retreat -- I've been following DaeJa's instruction to key the metta phrases to the breath. But I defaulted to keying them to the beginning of the in-breath. Turns out, it's much more effective to key them to the beginning of the out-breath, almost as if one were speaking them but no sound comes out.
Monday, March 22
Well, That Was Interesting
Not a long meditation, but an enjoyable one. Very quick access; no messing around. I emerged refreshed. Zesty. :-) It's quite a breakthrough to realize that I don't have to stick with the metta cultivation for very long; according to Ayya Khema, just long enough to generate that very pleasant heart glow, and then the right thing to do is to drop the method and put all the attention on that pleasant feeling. And wow. Zoom.
"...he lives inside of his own heart. That's an awful big place to live in."
--Sling Blade (1996)
Eleven Benefits of Metta
"One sleeps easily, wakes easily, dreams no evil dreams. One is dear to human beings, dear to non-human beings. The devas protect one. Neither fire, poison, nor weapons can touch one. One's mind gains concentration quickly. One's complexion is bright. One dies unconfused and -- if penetrating no higher -- is headed for the Brahma worlds."
What I Learned On This Retreat
Referring to "The Noble Path of the Householder," March 14th to March 21st, 2004, at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. Written in my notebook on Friday, March 19th (I think).
1. That ordaining as a monk would not be a good idea for me. Ever. The hypoglycemia causes more than just unpleasant feeling, but is actually dangerous. So remaining in the lay life, where I can eat the proper food (protein) at the right times is of VITAL importance. For liberating knowledge of things as they are to arise, the mind must be clear, calm, and unified; so I will take food as medicine, to assist on traveling the path to freedom.
2. #1 is okay.
3. AN 6:44 -- Even for one prone to anger & pride, & from time to time states of greed arise, but he has heard the teachings and acquired much learning, he has a keen understanding... with the breakup of the body after death, he is set for progress, not for decline. He will rise higher & not deteriorate.
4. Gini is my monastery.
5. Andy [Olendzki] says he is impressed with my knowledge of the Dhamma.
6. One of the biggest areas that still needs work is refraining from idle chatter, frivolous talk. I used to think I was doing well with this -- after all, I'm generally regarded to be a quiet guy -- but now I remember how much I love talking about movies, and about "Survivor," etc.
7. I'd like to get a copy of "The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha." [Addendum: It may only be excerpts from the Anguttara, but it's probably a better read than the PTS translation of the Gradual Sayings.]
8. My social ineptitude arises from fear.
Friday, March 12
The Music's Getting Louder
The date of departure nears. On Sunday, a Greyhound bus will bear me to Worcester, and from there a taxi to Barre for my retreat, "The Noble Path of the Householder." My mood is an admixture of excitement & worry, eagerness and anxiety. I hope and pray that Gini will be OK on her own.
Sun-Sun (7 Days)
Andrew Olendzki & Annie Nugent
Bhavana Program: The Noble Path of the Householder
From earliest times the Buddhist community or sangha has consisted of not only monks and nuns, but also lay women and lay men. Throughout his forty-five years of teaching dhamma, the Buddha exhorted householders to practice generosity, virtue, meditation and wisdom. In this Bhavana program, built around extensive periods of silent meditation, we examine some of the Buddha’s teaching that particularly speak to the challenges of practicing in the midst of social relationships and responsibilities. Please see description of the Bhavana format. Some retreat experience required.
Wednesday, March 10
Fundamentally Safe and Sound
Sitting from 9:30am to 11:22am -- nearly 2 hours, felt like less. Kinda low energy & spacey in spots, but a nice period in the middle with good samadhi, piti & sukha. It would probably be beneficial to break up low-energy long sits with a period of walking & quigong to bring the energy level up.
Tuesday, March 9
Ayya Khema says...
"One method may suit one person better than another. For instance, it may be very helpful to use the loving-kindness meditation as a way of getting concentrated. In this meditation, if we do it well, a strong feeling arises, usually in the center of the chest. This is commonly a very pleasant physical feeling of warmth. Sometimes it is a feeling of both warmth and joy. As soon as it arises, rather than continuing with the loving-kindness meditation we should put our full attention on the feeling itself. The stronger sensation will be the physical one, so that is where our attention should go first."
--from p. 46 of "Who Is My Self?" by Ven. Ayya Khema
All Hail Gini
First session went from about 8:30 to about 10. Felt like about 45 minutes; I was stunned to find that 1h30m had passed! Then bathroom, walking, quigong, and another sitting. Keying on just the word "love." Samadhi better but still a bit wobbly. Some mild but continous piti & sukha. Really, really nice.
Gini's persistence is awe-inspiring. By sticking to her guns and not giving up, she was able to persuade Fred Jr. to make an exception to the new policy and allow her meals to be delivered while I'm away on retreat next week. All hail Gini, much honor and respect to her. She's utterly amazing.
Monday, March 8
Spalding Gray Confirmed Dead
Actor Spalding Gray confirmed dead
Mon 8 March, 2004 22:16
By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Actor and storyteller Spalding Gray, best known for writing and starring in the autobiographical film monologue, "Swimming to Cambodia", has been confirmed dead after going missing for nearly two months.
The body of the 62-year-old Gray was pulled out of the East River off Brooklyn on Sunday.
"We made a positive identification of Spalding Gray by dental and other X-rays," said Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the city medical examiner's office, on Monday.
No official finding had yet been made for cause of death, said Borakove, who added his family had been notified.
Saturday, March 6
During this morning's first sitting, at about 11am, just as the citta was starting to converge... phone rang, the front desk calling to see if we were ok, because I had forgotten to open the front door & trip the arrow. Oh well, that'll learn me.
Friday, March 5
If an example of a living lay person becoming a stream enterer is needed, see MN 74, for Aggivessana (Dighanakha), the nephew of the venerable Sariputta.
Of course, it's likely that now that I've done all this homework, the subject won't even come up. *laugh*
Oh, phooey: Aggivessana was a wandering ascetic. He's referred to as a lay disciple, but he was living the life of a samana... but still...
Found It, 2
With thanks to Jane on UpasikaTalk, another sutta stating the attainments of monastics & laypeople is MN 73, Mahavacchagotta Sutta, the Greater Discourse to Vacchagotta. This one is even better, as it doesn't mention anything to do with the attainment occuring at the time of death. So this is the one to use, I think.
"Apart from Master Gotama and the bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, is there any one man lay follower, Master Gotama's disciple, clothed in white leading a life of celibacy who, with the destruction of the five lower fetters, will reappear spontaneously [in the Pure Abodes] and there attain final Nibbana without ever returning from that world?"
"There are not only one hundred... or five hundred, but far more men [and women] lay followers, my disciples, clothed in white leading lives of celibacy who, with the destruction of the five lower fetters, will reappear spontaneously [in the Pure Abodes] and there attain final Nibbana without ever returning from that world."
"Apart from Master Gotama, the bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, and the men lay followers clothed in white leading lives of celibacy, is there any one man lay follower, Master Gotama's disciple, clothed in white enjoying sensual pleasures, who carries out his instruction, repsond to his advice, has gone beyond doubt, become free from perplexity, gained intrepidity, and become independent of others in the teachers dispensation?" [note: refers to stream-enterers and once-returners]
"There are not only one hundred ... or five hundred, but far more men [and women] lay followers, my disciples, clothed in white enjoying sensual pleasures, who carry out my instruction, respond to my advice, have gone beyond doubt, become free from perplexity, gained intrepidity, and beome independent of others in the Teacher's Dispensation."
The sutta I've been looking for, in which it is stated that monks & nuns reach all 4 noble paths & fruits while laymen & laywomen reach the first 3 of the 4, turns out to be MN 68, Nalakapana Sutta, the Discourse at Nalakapana.
Doesn't it just figure that I would find it right after I post the query to UpasikaTalk and Dhammasukha, asking for help finding the reference? *laugh*
Sitting from about 10:08 to 11:39, then a little walking, bathroom, quigong [swinging arms back and forth to get the energy up and circulating], then another sit for 45-50 minutes. First sitting was a bit low-energy, turned spacy. Second sitting, very interesting indeed. Metta directed toward DaeJa Napier. Became powerfully absorbed in that warm glow; silence. Strong rapture & pleasure. Wow. I repeat: wow. Intense. Then, with that unified, steady mind, attention turned to arising and passing away: of consciousness, of feeling, of perception. The sense of it was like a line of dominoes toppling.
Thursday, March 4
Pali Word of the Day
Kolankola: "If a man, after the disappearance of the 3 fetters [has entered the stream (to Nibbána), he is no more subject to rebirth in lower worlds, is firmly established,] is destined to full enlightenment, he, after having passed among noble families two or three times through the round of rebirths, puts an end to suffering. Such a man is called 'one passing from one noble family to another' (kolankola).
Wednesday, March 3
Whilst browsing through the Middle Length Discourses [looking for a sutta I recall in which the Buddha stated that monks & nuns may be stream enterers, once-returners, non-returners, and arahants, while laymen and laywomen may be stream enterers, once-returners and non-returners. Still haven't found the sutta. I had wanted to have the citation ready in case it comes up during the Bhavana Program at BCBS], this passage from MN 14, The Shorter Discourse on the Mass of Suffering, caught my attention:
4. "Even though a noble disciple has clearly seen as it actually is with proper wisdom how sensual pleasures provide little gratification, much suffering, and much despair, and how great is the danger in them, as long as he still does not attain to the rapture and pleasure that are apart from sensual pleasures, apart from unwholesome states, or to something more peaceful than that, he may still be attracted to sensual pleasures. But when a noble disciple has seen clearly as it actually is with proper wisdom how sensual pleasures provide little gratification, much suffering, and much despari, and how great is the danger in them, and he attains to the rapture and pleasure that are apart from sensual pleasures, apart from unwholesome states, or to something more peaceful than that, then he is no longer attracted to sensual pleasures.
A tremendously encouraging excerpt; makes me feel a lot better. :-)
Resistance Is Futile
One hour sitting, metta, unfocused but pleasant. Early on there was a terribly difficult all-over ill-at-ease feeling throughout the body. This is what Shinzen Young referred to in this article, the feeling of resistance itself. Usually it localizes in my chest & arms, but this time it was throughout my trunk, legs, even my head. Ugh. At times I felt like I wouldn't be able to stand it another moment, an internal shout of "No!" welled up again and again... But then it passed. When I determined to direct the attention to cultivation of metta, all the resistance dispersed, and pleasant feelings arose.
Tuesday, March 2
Sitting (about :50), then a little detour into the silliness over on the dhamma-list, then some walking with Calio twining figure-eights around my legs, then another sitting (about :50). In both sittings, strong metta, warmth in chest. Delightful sensations, quietened mind, continuity of presence.
Metta still flowing, I feel like having still another sitting, and there's no reason not to.
Addendum: I did sit again, but had some lunch first.
Monday, March 1
Why I Adore Virginia Woolf
"For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh; but the veriest frumps, the most dejected of miseries sitting on doorsteps (drink their downfall) do the same; cant be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that very reason: they love life. In people's eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June."