Sunday, August 29
Suffering = Pain x Resistance
Shinzen Young's "A Pain Processing Algorithm" offers some very detailed instruction for using pain as a meditation object.
In order to work meditatively with pain, it is absolutely essential to be clear about two things: the ultimate goal of such work and the specific sensory categories involved. The goal is twofold:
Reducing the perception of suffering due to pain.
Discovering the “taste of purification” within pain.
This goal can be achieved by bringing a critical mass of mindfulness and equanimity to pain and pain-related phenomena.
Saturday, August 28
Why Do They Have To Sing When They Can't Sing
By some circuitous route which needn't be limned, I came to site to listen to some audio clips of an old, defunct band called The Soft Boys. Listening away, nice clangy guitars, everything good so far: hey, this might be a new band for me to like... and then the singer comes in, and his voice sounds like a goat's being strangled.
Why do they have to sing when they can't sing? Ruin a perfectly good rock buzz, they do.
Other clips weren't so bad. So.
I'm just sayin'.
Addendum: no, I was right the first time, it really is that bad.
The Actual Quote
"When we have a toothache, we know that not having a toothache is happiness. But later, when we don't have a toothache, we don't treasure our non-toothache."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh in "The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching"
It has been discomfiting, this past week or two, to note the presence of bouts of depression. It scared and discouraged me, because I had thought that the new regimen of all metta, all the time meant that I would never get depressed again. Uh uh. Nope. Sorry. But now I see that I had been holding an incorrect belief: that the metta didn't mean that depression would never arise, but that when it did arise, I would befriend it rather than try to get rid of it. Befriending everything that arises in the present moment doesn't mean just befriending the happy, fun things. It's everything: including the biochemical weirdness that this body produces on a daily basis, whenever its blood sugar is low, or it's dehydrated, or whatever happens to be out of balance. All these things must be befriended -- including those periods of depression when they arise.
The Pleasure of Not Having a Backache
A quote attributed to Thich Nhat Hanh is that enlightenment is knowing the pleasure of not having a toothache.
Since last Wednesday, my back was getting progressively worse, until after a week had passed and the following Wednesday or Thursday night it had reached a crescendo of misery. But then something happened. I noticed that when I was lying on my side in bed, by back would start to hurt, but when I rolled over onto my back, it felt better. So I've been trying to keep off my side as much as possible (not easy; it's an old sleeping habit.) And as a result, my back has been much better. Still the usual level of soreness, but a great deal better than the misery it had become.
Friday, August 27
Another Spontaneous Karuna Day
Today was another one of those days when the metta mysteriously shifted to karuna, using the phrase, "May you be free from suffering (and its causes)."
It feels rich and warm, steadfast & strong.
Saturday, August 21
The Importance of Maintenance
Yesterday I received an object lesson (like a loving clop upside the head) on the utmost importance of maintaining metta at all times throughout the day. Yesterday my recollection was slack; for one thing, the interrupted and extended nature of the "endorphin therapy"* meant that I spent most of the day in forgetfulness, & didn't have my "morning sitting" until late afternoon. And man, was there ever a price to be paid. Really dreadful emotional storms last night, terrible depression...
Today, I started the metta as soon as I woke up, & stayed in bed for a while keeping it going. Then got up, keeping it going... Then formal sitting... And it's a 180 degree difference in my mental/emotional state.
The importance of constantly maintaining the recollection of metta cannot be over-emphasized. It's truly vital to my well-being.
Word of the Day (For Yesterday)
anchorite n. [F. anachor[`e]te, L. anachoreta, fr. Gr. ?, fr. ? to go back, retire; ? + ? to give place, retire, ? place; perh. akin to Skr. h[=a] to leave. Cf. Anchor a hermit.] One who renounces the world and secludes himself, usually for religious reasons; a hermit; a recluse.
Friday, August 20
If things haven't yet gone crazy, they soon will. If everything still seems calm and ordered, enjoy the peace while it lasts. A cat is about to be set among the pigeons. A carefully balanced applecart is about to be upset. Is this a terribly bad thing? Not really. Those pigeons were actually getting rather lazy. They will be able to get some essential exercise as they fly out of reach of that cat. Hiding under that applecart was a pile of rotten fruit. It needed to be exposed. What's happening now is cathartic. It is intense - but it is part of a very healthy process.
--Courtesy of Jonathan Cainer
Metta For The Mommy
On Wednesday night, we got the news that Gini's mom had fallen down and hit her head. She got a serious concussion & big goose egg on the back of her head. She's still in the hospital; apparently she's VERY confused & emotionally volatile.
Sending lots of metta & karuna her way...
Tuesday, August 17
Monday, August 16
Today's sitting meditation consisted of a very satisfying expansion of metta through the various categories: benefactor, dear ones, neutral, difficult, all beings. It's been a while since I've done the whole series, and it led to a very pleasant state.
Sunday, August 15
Yesterday we watched the movie, "The Whole Wide World," concerning Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan. H.P. Lovecraft was mentioned in passing, and tonight I found a site of Lovecraft's stories. I read "The Call of Cthulhu" and kinda sorta really enjoyed it -- despite the prose. I was saying to Gini how interesting it was, to see how Lovecraft's ideas of Elder Gods & Demons preceding Humanity has been so influential across the years, clearly influencing Joss Whedon and the writers of "Buffy" and "Angel."
Thursday, August 12
Loving-Kindness Meditation - Sunshine
A guided meditation by Ven. Ayya Khema
Please put the attention on the breath for just a few moments.
Imagine that your heart is filled with sunshine. Feel the warmth of it. The brightness. The satisfaction that it brings. The contentment. Let that sun in your heart fill you with joy and embrace you.
Now let the sun in your heart shine on the person nearest you in this room. Bringing with it the love and joy that your heart contains, filling him or her with these feelings as your gift.
And now let the sun from your heart expand so that it can shine on everyone here, bringing with it the best that your heart has to offer. Warmth. Love. Peace. Joy.
Let the sun in your heart shine on your parents, bringing them the warmth, the fulfillment, the joy and the peace that your heart contains.
Let the sun in your heart shine on those people who are nearest and dearest to you, giving them the best that your heart has to offer. Brightness. Warmth. Love. Fill them with those feeling. Embrace them with the sunshine from your heart.
Think of your friends. Let the sun from your heart shine on each one of them, filling their hearts with the warmth of sunshine, the feeling of joy, being embraced by the rays of the sun. Feeling loved and protected.
Think of other people you know, whoever they might be. Let the sun from your heart expand so that the rays can warm these people, bringing them joy and love.
Think of anyone whom you might difficulties with. The sun shines indiscriminately on everyone. Let the sun from your heart shine on that person with the warmth and the joy and the love that the sun entails, because it makes everything grow.
Open your heart as wide as you can. Let the sun in your heart shine on as many people that you can imagine, bringing the warmth and the care from your heart to them. Filling them with joy, surrounding them with love.
Put your attention back on yourself. Feel the warmth of the sun in your heart. Feel the joy of sharing and the peacefulness of a loving heart. Fill yourself with that joy. Embrace yourself and surround yourself with peace, feeling safe and protected in that embrace.
May there be sunshine in everyone's heart.
Puggala Sutta (excerpt)
Anguttara Nikaya IV.125, Puggala Sutta
"Here, bhikkhus, a certain person abides with his heart imbued with loving-kindness extending over one quarter, likewise the second quarter, likewise the third quarter, likewise the fourth quarter, and so above, below, around, and everywhere, and to all as to himself; he abides with his heart abundant, exalted, measureless in loving-kindness, without hostility or ill-will, extending over the all-encompassing world.
"He finds gratification in that, finds it desirable and looks to it for his well-being; steady and resolute thereon, he abides much in it, and if he dies without losing it, he reappears among the gods of a High Divinity's retinue.
"Now the gods of a High Divinity's retinue have a life-span of one aeon. An ordinary person [who has not attained the Noble Eightfold Path] stays there for his life-span; but after he has used up the whole life-span enjoyed by those gods, he leaves it all, and [according to what his past deeds may have been] he may go down even to hell, or to an animal womb, or to the ghost realm. But one who has given ear to the Perfect One stays there [in that heaven] for his life-span, and after that he has used up the whole life span enjoyed by those gods, he eventually attains complete extinction of lust, hate and delusion in that same kind of heavenly existence.
Wednesday, August 11
From the Isn't It Ironic Department (Don'tcha Think):
Today I'm getting experiential insight into the dukkha-ful nature of even the most sublime mindstates. I've been continuing to do "all metta - all the time" practice, but yesterday and today, it's become clear that even those heavenly, blissful states have the nature of dukkha because... they don't last. They can't last. Because they are willed and conditioned, they are therefore impermanent. And because they're impermanent, they're dukkha, ultimately unsatisfactory. Even a heavenly rebirth is still part of the round, and the cycle of dukkha continues.
So only the complete cessation of dukkha will suffice.
So I'll keep doing all metta, all the time, but with a clear mind, knowing that all compounded things are impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not self.
Saturday, August 7
How To Be Idle
Very amusing extract from a forthcoming book by Tom Hodgkinson called "How To Be Idle."
The lie-in - by which I mean lying in bed awake - is not a selfish indulgence but an essential tool for any student of the art of living. As Sherlock Holmes knew. Lolling around in his smoking jacket, puffing his pipe, Holmes would sit and ponder for hours on a tricky case. In one superb story, the opium-drenched The Man With The Twisted Lip, Holmes solves yet another case with ease. An incredulous Mr Plod character muses: "I wish I knew how you reach your results," to which Holmes replies: "I reached this one by sitting upon five pillows and consuming an ounce of shag."
Monday, August 2
Another Lesson In Impermanence
I just assembled a really nice, funny post on a bit of unintentional irony over at CNN.com, but somehow the post got lost between previewing and posting. Gone, irretrievable. An excellent lesson in impermanence.
Sunday, August 1
Really Great Stuff from the Dept. of Graphic Novels
Highly recommended (if you like this sort of thing; if not, not):
McSweeney's Quarterly Concern. Guest editor Chris Ware has assembled a truly state-of-the-art sampler.
Summer Blonde, by Adrian Tomine. I had no idea he was this good. I especially loved the one starring Hillary Chan, "Hawaiian Getaway." It nailed the rhythms of loneliness and disconnection -- and misguided longing for connection --perfectly.
[image not readily available]
Blankets, by Craig Thompson. Really good stuff about his fundamentalist Christian upbringing.
Well, Gini's mom went home on Friday, and now we're into our recovery period. It was a good visit, but taxing, and I think Gini in particular was depleted. And injured.
I continue the program of "all metta, all the time," not just in formal sitting. And wow, what a difference it's making. This is definitely a mode of practice well-suited to my temperament.
Low energy this weekend -- quite fitting for recovery time. But even then, I'm not struggling against the low energy, just acknowledging it. See below, "Can I befriend this?"