Friday, May 05, 2006

A post by Edalleyn

Apologies for this being 'off-topic', but I don't think I'm registered yet to post a new topic...

I've got a question about meditation. To put it simply, I've got quite an active imagination. I dwell a hell of a lot on 'existential' issues. I've been meditating every day for about five months, and it seems to be affecting my life quite a lot, but not always in a good way. I find myself able to concentrate on things more, and, as I work in the media, a lot of the ideas I'm coming up with are pretty awesome. My writing is more flowing. Now I'm certainly not saying that I meditate in order to get some effect - although I might do this subconsciously - but, with my mind slowly clearing of 'banalities' such as what I'm going to eat tonight, why did I do that thing yesterday, I find myself focussing more on these kind of 'existential' issues. Being so focussed on them, and not distracted as much as I might used to have been, very often contributes to making me quite depressed. After meditating I may feel quite calm, but later in the day, my mind is racing. I focus a lot on buddhist philosophy - Dogen talked about flowers and weeds, and life and death, and how, although we are 'against' death, and kind of take sides, there is nothing we can do to 'overcome' death. But I was alerted a while ago to some scientists talking about stopping the ageing process completely - and thus giving humans an immortal existence. Even this idea makes me incredibly 'jittery', and sets my mind racing. But I want to understand why the idea frightens me so much. Is it because I can no longer attach myself to the 'ideas' of 'life' and 'death' as constituent elements of my existence? I know its to do with ideas, basically, but without the 'idea' of an end to my life, I feel like I would be holding my breath, attaching myself to my own life, and therefore losing the very meaning of 'life'. But it makes me think whether, at the moment, I keep the 'idea' of death in my mind, and 'attach' myself to that idea.

So, I wonder if, either way, both imagining myself ageing, and myself dying, as well as myself never ageing and never dying, are all ideas. Golly, it all swells my head a bit. I'm not sure if I can 'blame' meditation. Maybe meditation just forces me to cope with these thoughts. I know that, one take on this whole thing might be just to say - 'these are all thoughts. In meditation we let go of thoughts.' But I dispute this. Philosophy is part of Buddhism. It is not the heart of Buddhism, but it is a part. Any thoughts would be really appreciated, even if it is 'off topic'.


At May 05, 2006, Blogger fritz said...

I get the distinct impression that you really don't know what meditation is all about. First of all if it doesn't last at least 40 minutes or so you're wasting your time.

Have you ever experienced the "channel" that opens up and allows you to see things much more clearly? The whole premise of meditating is very simple. Sit down someplace and be quiet. No talking, no smoking, no reading, no radio, no TV - nothing, just absolute quiet.

It takes at least 25 to 30 excruciating minutes to get into the state of meditating and from then on that "channel" opens up and you are in your own personal "zone" in which you can solve problems much more easily then at any other time.

You do NOT try to control your thoughts. You just mentally lean back and let the flow of thoughts go where they want to.

To continue this discussion, leave you e-mail address after reading the article "Religious Slaves".

At May 05, 2006, Blogger cromanyak said...

I don't think you need 40 minutes. Everyone is different. It takes me about 10 to settle down, and 20 or 25 mins total is good for me. If 40 feels right for you then more power to you.

I think the only way to find out what Zazen is, is to just do it. My understanding of Zazen now is completely different from what it was 5 years ago, and I'm sure it will continue to change.

At May 06, 2006, Blogger ryunin said...

yes, you don't have to practice zazen in order to A... or in order to B and even 5 minutes is good - only when you find some rhythm to it, when it becomes a part of your ordinary life, i would recommend 30 minutes in the morning and in the evening

just zazen is good enough

But you are right that without philosophy your innate intelligence will make up all kinds of concepts and your head will be full of them. Now that you practice zazen without a purpose, your mind opens up and you are more creative, etc. But as a huge room opened in your mind, now your past karma brought some issues into this new room that were for yours sleeping under a huge pile of materialistic "files" - you began to worry about existential issues, idealistic issues. This is quite natural. It means you are standing in the doorway of the truth, ready to figure out who you really are. The question just showed up. And here is where you start to study Buddhist philosophy that will help you guide you through all kinds of issues in a way that will leave your mind refreshed and happy - most of the time, at least.
Instead of working on your own philosophical concepts, you will study Buddhist philosophy and you will see how it is connected to your real experience. This is a wonderful opportunity. You might be interested in Dogen sangha Bristol and lectures on the main Buddhist questions at their website.

At May 06, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

There are no 'rules' with meditation. Different people require different amounts of time to settle in. After years of practice this can be seconds.

There is no min and max time that you must meditate and there is no fixed time or place where you must meditate.

It is not necessary for the place to be quiet or noisy or anything else. External circumstances are irrelevent.

Most people find a quiet place helpful certainly initially. Most people find that a fixed time and a regular duration are helpful.

I am not one of those people. I used to (and still) do various types of meditation wherever I happen to findmyself with moments free during the day - waiting for a bus, at the checkout, in the car wherever. Obviously, these were eyes open meditations and I maintained awareness of my surroundings. I can do this because I can transition into meditation very quickly.

There is a danger in Buddhism in particular to get too caught up on philosophy. It is not really necessary. [There is irony here since I have a blog].

Think of it this way: If something in Buddhism points to a fundamental truth then you will be able to discover it through direct experience and through meditation and introspection. If something has no inherrent truht or merit then it is not possible to discover it in this way and it requires belief. It is therefore not necessary.

I did things a little backwards. I discovered that the Buddhist philosophy matched my experiences. One confirmed the other. I only started studying seriously and attending a Sangha after years of solo meditation. That was my way, it is not what I would suggest for anyone else.


At May 08, 2006, Blogger Garros said...

Hi, I lurk here a lot but I've never commented before. I'm also a complete know-nothing so please don't take anything I have to say too seriously!

I think it's really interesting that you discuss scientists stopping the ageing process, and how this makes you jittery. It sort of makes me jittery too... No scratch that, to be honest it scares the hell out of me! Considering mortalitly/immortality always makes me scared in two different ways, because essentially I find myself scared of dying, but at the same time scared of living (or at least dissatisfied with it)! And that just leaves me in a complete pickle. Maybe if people weren't so scared of dying they wouldn't be trying to make themselves immortal, and maybe if I wasn't so scared of living I wouldn't find the idea of immortality so unsettling? I don't know.

For me, I think meditation can provide a means to 'see' or 'cope' with these things better. Certainly during meditation, when observing these thoughts they seem to drift away, or not seem to matter so much or something. And in time maybe that'll spread to the rest of my day too. I'm not really qualified to get any more philosophical than that.

Not sure if any of that really helps - I've just re-read and it looks like I've not said much other than "I'm scared, but meditation seems to help"... In any case, my best wishes go out to you.

At May 08, 2006, Blogger edalleyn said...

Thanks for all your comments people. Mad roger - yes, I agree; I hope that meditation will allow me to 'cope' with these thoughts. But it's funny how they affect me so much. I link this, pretty much, as I said, to my imagination. Once I have a thought, I will, quite literally run - or maybe 'spin' - with it.
I mentioned that, imagining myself as an immortal being feels like holding my breath. I've noticed recently that my breathing is really not very deep, which affects my body a lot.
But I wondered what you all thought about my suggestion that I - or indeed we all - 'attach' ourselves to ideas of life and death, just as Christians would attach themselves to the idea of God, or eternal life. The 'idea' of my death, in, say, fifty years, is another buttress that I use to support myself, to give my life meaning. Doesn't buddhism teach that the 'I' doesn't exist?
hmmm, but yes - thanks again everybody and opinions would be welcomed.

At May 08, 2006, Blogger grisom said...

But I wondered what you all thought about my suggestion that I - or indeed we all - 'attach' ourselves to ideas of life and death, just as Christians would attach themselves to the idea of God, or eternal life.

Random thought: A while ago I read a Christian thing about how you should be thinking about God and the afterlife and not about this world. What struck me was that although on the surface it seemed to be saying almost the exact opposite of Zen teaching (which says: pay attention to what you're doing right now, don't get caught up in ideas about the future), the practical advice that arose out of it was actually pretty much the same: Don't concern yourself about how important you are/how much stuff you have/etc., be more concerned about how you treat people. Opposite approaches, same result. I thought that was cool.

The 'idea' of my death, in, say, fifty years, is another buttress that I use to support myself, to give my life meaning. Doesn't buddhism teach that the 'I' doesn't exist?

Yeah. I've always thought that was a description of a viewpoint that arises naturally if you meditate long enough. So I wouldn't worry too much about what attachments you may or may not have. It's enough to be aware of them, I think. (insert some Zen thing about there being nothing to achieve)

At May 10, 2006, Blogger Jinzang said...

If you find you can't focus on the practice when you sit down to meditate, it's best to switch to counting the breath, Try being simple minded and heavy handed about it, at least at first -- ONE, TWO, THREE. After a while you can lighten up and even dispense with counting the breath. I know this isn't a Brad approved (tm) method, but it's what worked for me and I'm not the only one to recommend this practice.

If you find unwelcome thoughts occur outside of meditation, the first thing you should know is that no thought can hurt you, ony the actions you take as a result of thoughts. Be still and let the thought be. Don't pursue it or chase it away. Everyday Zen is a good book to read for advice if you haven't read it yet.


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