Monday, August 12, 2019

The Relationship of Serenity and Insight


The type of meditation I recommend can help you to be more relaxed and produce a pleasant, serene, contented mood. Developing this skill can improve the quality of your life. This type of meditation is sometimes called serenity meditation.

You can experience further improvement in your quality of life by taking your meditation practice one step further: by developing insight.

The pleasant state produced by meditation can be used to practice another type of meditation called insight meditation. One way to define insight meditation is that it is the process of observing the source of unpleasant emotions. Unpleasant emotions are often accompanied by physical sensations within the body. Noticing these sensations will help you to become aware of changes in your emotional state. When the mind is quiet and unpleasant emotions arise, the mind will also notice what caused the unpleasant emotions to arise. In many cases the mind will observe that the mind itself is the source of thoughts that caused the unpleasant emotions.

(Some unpleasant emotions might be caused by innate biochemical factors and not thoughts - I am not referring to those type of emotions here).

When you are in a relaxed, quiet, pleasant mood, any type of unpleasant mental state that arises and disturbs your pleasant mood will be very obvious to you. The pleasant state produced by meditation provides a background against which unpleasant emotions are readily noticeable. Being observant while meditating and throughout the day of what disturbs the pleasant mood produced by meditation will cause the mind to learn how it causes unpleasant emotions and it will learn to change the way it thinks in order to stop creating unpleasant emotions.

Related Reading


Copyright © 2019 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Self-Enquiry II


Someone asked about self-enquiry. I answered this:

When you meditate by asking "who am I", you will draw a blank. Ask the question intently and that blankness will drive out all illusions and you will see things as they really are. When the mind is still, it is not producing illusions. Illusions of liking and disliking. Illusions of wanting and not wanting. Notice that attachments and aversions depend on thought for their existence - they do not have any independent existence without thought - they are illusions.

When you ask "who am I", look intently into the emptiness of no answer, and experience reality without illusions. In that instant, are you suffering?

If there is no one home when you ask "who am I", then who wants? Who doesn't want? Who likes? Who dislikes? No one wants. No one doesn't want. No one likes. No one dislikes. Then why should anything ever upset you?

To make this second nature, you have to practice, practice, practice. Practice when you are sitting, lying down, standing up, walking (watch where you are going), washing the dishes doing laundry. Repetition will set you free.

When asked for clarification, I wrote:
You ask the question and then since you don't know the answer, notice the feeling of not knowing. Focus your attention on that, the quiet emptiness in your mind of not having an answer. Then repeat the question to refresh the experience.

Like if someone asked you how many monkeys you have in your upper left molar (or what is the sound of one hand clapping, or what is your face before your parents were born), you would be speechless. Your mind would be speechless, your mind would be empty because you are stumped. Look into that emptiness in your mind, focus your attention on the feeling of being stumped, of being struck speechless, of not having an answer. Practice having that clear (empty of illusions) mind.

It works best when the question is meaningful to you. If "who am I" doesn't grab you, you could try a different question. If you have a problem that is annoying you, you could ask "who is annoyed". You'll see there is no one there to be annoyed. If there is a situation that is troubling you, and if displacing the troubled state of mind with the clearness of not knowing would be a relief, use that situation. Who is angry? Who wants xyz? Who is worried? When you feel the relief of a clear mind in contrast to a troubled mind for that second of introspection, it will show you the power of this method and it will motivate you to prolong it, and become proficient at it.

I make it sound like it is an intense practice, but you have to do it in a relaxed way. You don't want to drive away thoughts and feelings in a way that would cause them to be suppressed or repressed. The way to avoid that is to only be relaxed as you do it. If you feel yourself getting tense or irritable, don't continue in that way try a relaxing form of meditation instead.

And if you really practice as much as I say, you might feel a little muddle headed or numb. If you don't like that, practice less.

If you are mindful, you can work with this technique anytime in daily life you experience an unpleasant emotion. For example, if something annoys you, ask yourself, "Who is annoyed?", then focus your attention on the feeling of not having an answer. Notice how you feel before and after. Does the technique displace annoyance with something neutral? If the annoyance comes back right away or at a later time, use the technique again.

If you do this in a relaxed way you can train yourself to respond to stress (unpleasant situations) by relaxing. What would it be like to have the ability to be relaxed in any situation? Working mindfully in daily life can help you to make progress much faster than if you just do sitting meditation alone.

The following quotation is from Dropping Ashes on the Buddha The teaching of Zen Master Seung Sahn.

Sitting is only a small part of practicing Zen. The true meaning of sitting Zen is to cut off all thinking and to keep not-moving mind. So I ask you: What are you? You don't know; there is only "I don't know." Always keep this don't-know mind. When this don't-know mind becomes clear, then you will understand. So if you keep don't-know mind when you are driving, this is driving Zen. If you keep it when you are talking, this is talking Zen. If you keep it when you are watching television, this is television Zen. You must keep don't-know mind always and everywhere. This is the true practice of Zen.

The Great Way is not difficult
if you do not make distinctions.
Only throw away likes and dislikes,
and everything will be perfectly clear.

So throw away all opinions, all likes and dislikes, and only keep the mind that doesn't know. This is very important. Don't-know mind is the mind that cuts off all thinking. When all thinking has been cut off, you become empty mind.

I wrote about this quotation on another forum:
My understanding of this view is that thinking causes suffering. When the mind is quiet, it does not react with unpleasant emotions. When I feel an emotion begin to arise, if I remember that thinking causes suffering, the emotion does not come into being. At first it is possible to experience this for a brief time but it can be developed as a skill.

Try it yourself, it is extremely powerful. It is a bit tricky to get this right, it is not suppressing (refusing to look at) thoughts and feelings by forcing yourself to ignore them or by focusing intently on something else (which it is possible to do by mistake and results in feeling tense and irritable). The way to do it is to (practice samatha and insight together). Quiet the mind with meditation and then notice when an unpleasant emotions arises it is first noticeable as faint tensions arising in the body. Relax those tensions when you notice them. Also notice the thought that caused the emotion (sometimes thoughts that produce unpleasant emotions are very faint) and move the mind to a neutral thought and a neutral feeling such as the thought "What am I?" and the feeling of "I don't know.", or awareness of breathing and the feeling of relaxation. With practice, over time you begin rewire your nervous system not to react so strongly.


Copyright © 2019 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.


Monday, July 8, 2019

What Enlightenment is Not


Many people have a misunderstanding of what Buddhist awakening is. They think an awakened person is always nice, is always ethical, is always moral, is always happy, is always perfect, is never afraid or angry or jealous, loves everyone unconditionally, etc. etc. Actually, awakening does not necessarily make a person any of those things.

On a discussion forum I tried to point out that Buddhist awakening does not necessarily make someone a nice person and I expanded on that point:

A lot of personality is deeply ingrained in the brain: word selection, tone of voice, personal habits, sensitivity to others etc etc. Noticing something about how the mind works can change your perception of your "self", but it doesn't completely rewire the brain you have been training all your life to the extent that it erases your personality. If you were hard to get along with before awakening, you will be hard to get along with after awakening.

I would go further and say Buddhist awakening doesn't make you a nice person and it is not about happiness.

It is about eliminating a certain subset of unpleasant emotions.

Some emotions are caused by purely physiological factors for example some forms of anxiety and depression. Buddhist awakening does not address those emotions in cases where they are caused by purely biochemical factors.

Some emotions are caused by thinking. These are what Buddhist awakening addresses. Unpleasant emotions caused by thoughts disappear when the thoughts disappear. They are illusions produced by the mind. By quieting the mind with meditation and observing the activity of the mind one learns the truth of this and learns to see through the illusions. This is really the main point. There is another side issue which gets a lot of attention because it sounds mystical. That is when the mind is quiet, one may notice that in the absence of much of the usual mental activity, the feeling of self may disappear too. (The feeling of self is actually produced by mental chatter.) This experience has the advantage of making it easier to let go of some types of emotions that are based on ego like pride or status or selfishness. If you don't feel like you have a self it is easier to let go of egotistical attachments and aversions.

But the patterns of thinking one engages in over a long period of time become habitual and ingrained, probably wired into the brain. It takes a lot of work to unlearn long practiced modes of thinking. So Buddhist awakening is divided into stages. That is why you often hear that after an enlightenment experience, a person has to learn to integrate the insight into daily life. It means they recognized how their thinking is causing a problem but they can't just think differently, they have to learn to think differently and undo all the damage a lifetime's worth of delusions have done to their thought patterns.

So Buddhist awakening doesn't even rid you of unpleasant emotions it only helps understand how your thinking is causing them which allows you to begin to change your thinking - still a long and laborious process.

Many people have a misunderstanding of what Buddhist awakening is, They think an awakened person is always nice, is always ethical, is always moral, is always happy, is always perfect, is never afraid or angry or jealous etc. etc. Actually, awakening does not make a person any of those things. Unfortunately almost no one has any interest in addressing this misunderstanding and it leads people to trust spiritual teachers in ways they should not be trusted.


Copyright © 2019 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.


The Ultimate Reward from Meditation


When the mind is focused in a relaxed way so that you have very few thoughts about liking and disliking, winning or losing, good and bad, you are not suffering. If you can experience this, you have a great way to practice. You get positive feedback (lack of "suffering") from doing the right thing (focusing the mind).

Quoting myself...

In the morning I was walking home with a heavy pack, the sun was up already and it was hot. I tried to meditate as I walked. I noticed that when I thought, "It's hot", or "My pack is heavy", or "How much further?" or "This sucks" I was suffering. But when I concentrated in meditation, as I tried to relax my whole body with each inhalation and exhalation, as I observed with a pleasant open attitude the pleasant feeling of relaxation in my body as I inhaled and exhaled, my mind was occupied with all of this so I didn't think, "It's hot, or "My pack is heavy", or "How much further?", or "This sucks." and I didn't suffer. Even though it was hot and my pack was heavy, and I had a long way to go, it didn't suck. I had a situation where I could really see the source of suffering is the mind and I had a system where I received positive feedback, less suffering, for doing the right thing with my mind. So I think that is a good principle for effective practice. When you can clearly see the purpose of the practice (keep the mind focused), the principle that it is based on (suffering is caused by the mind), and you get positive feedback (less suffering) for doing the right thing. And I can practice this way in daily life, as I have various thoughts I can see how they cause suffering and that keeping my mind focused on some type of mindfulness practice will prevent suffering.

That is the ultimate reward from meditation: Seeing that it is the mind that creates suffering, and that by calming the mind, suffering ceases, then understanding that suffering was never anything but an illusion created by the mind.


Copyright © 2019 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.


Friday, June 28, 2019

No One to be Offended


When the mind is made quiet by meditation and the internal dialog is greatly diminished, thoughts of "I want this ..." or "I don't like that ..." are greatly diminished too.

And when the body is very relaxed, there is very little tension or tensing in response to unpleasant thoughts or to the emotions they produce.

And when you sit watching the mind, waiting for the next thought or emotion to arise, you see there are hardly any thoughts or emotions arising.

You feel the absence of these thoughts and emotions, something is missing, it feels like an emptiness. At first it might be just a faint glimmer of a feeling, but in time, with attention and repetition, you become more aware of the feeling. It's like someone is away. If another person said something unpleasant, there would be no one in that emptiness to take offense.

At first this feeling might be uncomfortable because it is strange. But in time, through repetition, as you become more and more aware of this feeling, it becomes stronger as it fills your sense of existence more and more. It becomes familiar and you notice it is associated with the absence of unpleasant thoughts and emotions so you see that it is pleasant and you meditate to deepen and enhance this new state of consciousness.

When people try to explain this feeling, they can only do it with words. Using words makes it sound like they are using logic to explain an objective fact. But it is not a logical proposition that is true or false. It is just a feeling.


Copyright © 2019 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.


Thursday, May 2, 2019

Books, TV, Movies, News Media and Social Media Could be Making You Depressed


A constant barrage of unpleasant emotions such as anger, disappointment, and fear produced by entertainment, news, and social media can make you depressed.

When you read a novel where the characters experience adversity, you feel emotions such as anger, disappointment, and fear. A little bit of this can spoil a good mood, and a lot of it can cause depression.

But it is not just novels. Other types of books, TV programs, movies, the news media, and social media that manipulate your emotions can do it to you too. What they all have in common is that the more they manipulate your emotions, the more you become addicted to their products, and the more money they make.

If you read a little, watch a bit of TV, see a movie, follow the news, and use social media, you might not be getting a large dose from any one source, but in combination, you might be getting a large enough dose to have a harmful effect on your psychological well-being.

The effect can be subtle, people might not realize the harm they are experiencing. This harm has become obvious to me because I use meditation to generate a very pleasant, happy mood in myself and I have made a habit of trying to notice what disrupts this good mood. From making those observations in myself, I have become concerned about what is happening in the rest of society where people don't realize they could be exposed to multiple factors in their environment that might combine to cause psychological harm.

Not all media are harmful. Subjects such as nature, travel, spirituality, and others can be relaxing rather than depressing and can be beneficial. Try to notice how media make you feel. Do you notice them producing unpleasant emotions like anger, outrage, fear, hate, disappointment? Or do they make you feel content and relaxed?


Copyright © 2019 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.


Monday, February 25, 2019

The goal of meditation is not to stop the mind, it is to see that experience is an illusion produced by the mind.


WARNING this article is for advanced meditators. Please read The Dangers of Meditation before you read this article. The meditation practice in this article can cause mental illness and can be harmful to those who are suffering from mental illness or other psychological difficulties. If you are a beginner it would be better to meditate according to the technique explained in Serenity Meditation.

The purpose of some forms of meditation is to help the practitioner learn to see that much of his mental experience is an illusion. When the mind is in a pleasant quiet state during meditation and you notice a thought arise and produce an emotion, you may also notice that after the thought passes the emotion passes and you return to the pleasant quiet state. If you observe this enough times and are paying attention, you begin to see that thoughts and emotions and other kinds of feelings, sensations, and perceptions are just illusions produced by the mind. (You see they are elusive, uninvited, and sometimes unpleasant.) The point is not to control (stop, let go of) these emotions and feelings, the point is to see they are illusions (which naturally leads to letting go).

The result of observing this is not nihilism, the result is compassion and good will which arise naturally as your own attachments and selfishness diminish. It doesn't mean you no longer enjoy pleasant feelings, it means you are not attached to pleasant feelings.

While you are meditating, you may consider certain thoughts and feelings and inwardly remind yourself they are illusions produced by the mind. As you think of a feeling, notice the feeling arise and pass as the thought arises and passes. This observation is necessary to deeply understand from your own experience the illusory nature of these feelings. You must observe that these feelings are illusions because they arise and pass away and have no permanent existence. During daily life, when you feel emotions you can also remind yourself they are illusions produced by the mind.

While noticing the feelings that are produced by thoughts, also notice how the thoughts arise. They arise seemingly by themselves, unasked for, uninvited. Where do they come from? Why do we feel like they are ours when they appear without our seeking them, and without our feeling like we are intentionally constructing them?

Notice that the pleasant quiet state produced by meditation acts like a background, like a movie screen that is constant, while different thoughts and feelings appear and disappear like a movie, which is not real, which is just pictures of things not real things themselves.

Some strong emotions might not pass away quickly. In that case, work with lesser emotions. Also meditating more can help to weaken strong emotions by putting you in a pleasant quiet state of mind. Also, some emotions are produced by biochemical factors rather than thoughts. For example sometimes anxiety or depression is not caused by thoughts but by biochemistry. In these cases, the feelings will not pass when a thought passes because they are not produced by a thought. In this situation, one should just be aware that the feeling of dislike for depression or anxiety is an illusion produced by the mind.

Try not to become attached to doing this perfectly, or to always maintaining a pleasant quiet state in meditation, or to always completely letting go of feelings. These attachments themselves are feelings you should notice just like any other feeling.

Here are some feelings (and also sensations, which are treated as feelings) you may want to consider:

  • The feeling, "I like this thing," is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling, "I don't like this thing," is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling, "I want this thing," is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling, "I don't want this thing," is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • A feeling, if it unpleasant or painful, is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • A feeling, if it pleasant, is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of anguish is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of happiness is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of anger is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of hate is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of envy is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of jealousy is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of winning is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of losing is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of being a winner is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of being a loser is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of being inferior in status is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of being superior in status is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of being better at something or in some way is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of being worse at something or in some way is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of pride is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of guilt is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The quality of color, which cannot be explained to someone who is color blind, is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • Sound, which cannot be explained to someone who is deaf is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • Seeing, which cannot be explained to someone who is blind is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • Hearing, which cannot be explained to someone who is deaf is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of warmth or heat is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of coolness or cold is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The sensation of taste is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The sensation of smell is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • Sensations perceived through the senses are illusions produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of being smart is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of being stupid is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of being right is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of being wrong is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling, "my body is me" is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling, "my body is mine" is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling, "my thoughts are me" is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling, "my thoughts are mine" is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling, "my emotions are me" is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling, "my emotions are mine" is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of self is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of not wanting to have unpleasant feelings is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of wanting to be perfect is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of wanting to maintain perfect equanimity is an illusion produce by the mind.
  • The feeling of wanting to get enlightenment is an illusion produced by the mind.
  • The feeling of wanting to be enlightened is an illusion produced by the mind.

The word "feeling" is used repeatedly for a distinct purpose. It is to help you keep in mind that you should be considering feelings. For example, anger can be thought of as a feeling, but it can also be thought of as a behavior. The feeling of anger is the aspect one should notice in this practice.

As you practice this way, you may begin to see that all feelings are produced by the mind and thus illusions. For example, the feelings of warmth and coolness do not exist as part of the physical universe. Those feelings only exist in the mind of a conscious being. Those feelings are produced by the mind, they are illusions like a movie on a screen. This is true of everything you can perceive. Colors, sounds, textures, everything. Even the feeling of self is also an illusion.

Perceptions such as vision are illusions. With vision, the images produced are generated by the mind (the brain). What we see is not an objective representation of the physical world around us. It is only a representation produced by reflected, emitted or transmitted light. The limits of our eyes to detect certain wavelengths of light, to focus light, to perceive small amounts of light, and to function under excessive light, all constrain what we perceive. What we see is no more real than a photograph. Analogous situations exist for all the senses. All of the reality we perceive inside and outside us is an illusion produced by the mind.

As I wrote above, the result of observing this is not nihilism, the result is compassion and good will which arise naturally as your own attachments and selfishness (attachment to self) diminish. It doesn't mean you no longer enjoy pleasant feelings, it means you are not attached to pleasant feelings. Also, learning to notice and be aware of your feelings and to consciously name them can help you improve your understanding of our own psychology and can help you let go of previously suppressed emotions.


Copyright © 2019 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.