Skip to content

Notes on Meditation practices….

[note: this is a developing article; upon completion this notice will be deleted.]

The basic or generic meditation practice throughout a variety of traditions initially entails concentrating one’s awareness on a single “object”, with seemingly the most often referenced object recommended to use being one’s own full breathing cycle.  

The point in doing that is for the cultivation of both a deep “calm abiding” and a lucid, clear-headed wakefulness that simply, non-reactively, and without “conceptual elaborations” observes the rising and passing of thoughts, perceptions, emotions, sensations, etc.

If finding oneself starting to be distracted from abiding or resting in this calm wakefulness, when becoming absorbed in, or entranced by, the stream of thoughts, etc (including thought chatter commenting in reaction to our sense perceptions), the practice is to simply return attention to the single object of attention.

If that is the breathing cycle, the most widely taught way seems to be to focus on feeling the breathing fully throughout the whole body rather than a focus on the sensation of air going in and out at the tip of the nostrils (which some teachers suggest).  Another method taught is counting the breath.  

On inhaling, simply feel and enjoy the sense of energy filling up and enlivening the whole body.  On exhaling, enjoy the sense of emptying or dissolving into all pervasive space.  In between, enjoy the thought free stillness and spaciousness.

It is traditionally rx’d that an initial position for sitting be one that is going to remain comfortable.  It is important to keep the back straight to assure alertness.

Teachers typically tell beginning meditators that they may be surprised and frustrated by the level of thought chatter initially experienced in practice.  Hence, the tool of single pointed concentration is basic to meditation practices.  

There are a wide variety of ways that people can practice a single pointed concentration.  The focus on breathing was a primary emphasis of the Buddha when teaching and this vehicle for concentration remains widely practiced and taught.  But, all meditation practice traditions include so much more in the tool box.  From “The Shambhala Guide to Yoga” by Georg Feuerstein, a work largely introducing the classic Yoga system as described in the primary 2000 year (estimated) old Yoga Sutra by Patanjali, page 85: 

“In Yoga the voluntary stoppage of the outgoing tendencies of the mind is called dharana, meaning “holding” or concentration.  Patanjali defines concentration as ‘the binding of consciousness to a [single] place’.  (Yoga Sutra, 3.1). It is clear from the commentaries on Patanjali’s aphorisms that by ‘place’ is meant any focal point inside the body-mind, notably the psychoenergetic  centers (or chakras) at the base of the spine, sexual organs, navel, heart, throat, forehead, and crown of the head.  But the yogin may also focus his attention on a specific thought or image, or on a single sound or sound pattern, whether heard externally or internally…..”

The wide usage of mantras as a concentrative tool has become, for some time now, something fully integrated into the awareness of western cultures.  Georg Feurstein in The Shambhala Guide to Yoga gives some background on the sacred and primal sound, OM or AUM, page 108-109:

“The Mandukya-Upanishad, consisting of only twelve verses, correlates the sacred syllable OM with the four states of consciousness taught in Vedanta.  This ancient text begins by stating that OM is the entire universe, past, present, and future.  It analyzes the sacred syllable in it’s four constituent parts: a + u + m + the soundless pause following the pronunciation of the other three constituents.  Then the text goes on to correlate the letter “a” with the waking state, “u” with the dream state, and “m” with deep sleep.  The fourth state, which is mere silence, is said to transcend the other three states.  It is identical with the universal consciousness of the Self, which is neither inwardly aware nor outwardly aware but pure consciousness, incomprehensible, without distinctive mark, and nondual [advaita].  This Fourth is declared to be the goal of yogins.”

Another concentrative tool uses our capacity to imagine.  Meditation practice systems in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism in particular have very elaborate meditation practices that use visualization, and the concentrative focusing involved in that, to gather, stabilize or harmonize, and awaken energy in order to provide the necessary supportive conditions for sustaining an awakened and nondual awareness.  

Closely tied to the condition or state of both our awareness and energy is breathing.  There are practice systems of breathing exercises, like the fourth limb of yoga practice called pranayama, designed to calm the body and mind and further awaken our feeling connection to the energetic underpinnings of existence.

The focusing of awareness in a single pointed way is not in itself a “state of meditation”.  In the classic Yoga system, with its 8 limbs, concentration is limb number 6 and meditation limb number 7.  As framed in the language of the classic Yoga system, meditation begins when the sense of seperation and self conscious effort involved initially in a “subject” focusing single pointedly on an object significantly dissolves and relaxes.  

Some systems have a more dissociative, inward, world denying, and dualistic orientation due to philosophical frameworks presenting the picture of Liberation as the ascent of our essence and spirit from the bondage of matter.  But, the deepest and fullest enlightening realizations entail the primary awareness of “not two”.  And, in fact, conceptualizing, compartmentalizing, objectifying, and characterizing 
profoundly ease up in meditation and so do notions of reality as being either “spiritual” or “materialistic”.  The capacity to conceptualize, etc. is not of course incapacitated by meditation and remains important in creative expression, problem solving, and more.  Instead, we loosen our entanglement with the thought stream.  We break the nearly chronic spell of entrancement with seemingly solid internalized pictures of what is.  And, thus it is important to note that meditation is not an escape route to go somewhere else better.  In fact, it has no “goals” and doesn’t involve reaching one!

Over the last several decades we have seen an incredible infusion of information regarding the deepest “secrets” related to formerly esoteric meditation practices.  I found a footnote in Buddhism, A Concise Introduction by Huston Smith and Philip Novak that refers to practices (and accompanying realizations) that today are being taught with many preparatory and preliminary traditional practices no longer required for such teachings, page 216, note 5:

“Dzogchen, or “great perfection”, is one of the Vajrayana’s many practice regimes.  It refers both to a comprehensive path of training and to a specific form of meditation on that path.  Traditionally regarded as a culminating effort that follows years of preparation, it has in recent years been taught sooner by a number of Tibetan teachers.  Because Dzogchen meditation teaches that the practitioner in some sense already is the great perfection she is working to achieve, it has been likened to the Zen doctrine of the oneness of practice and enlightenment and to shikantaza or ‘just sitting’, form of meditation associated with that doctrine.  Dzogchen and shikantaza appear to be potent combinations of (1) a great effort to sustain sharp awareness and (2) a non-effort, a letting go of everything one becomes aware OF……[A] similiar strategy appears to lie at the heart of vipassana practice.  Sustained awareness coupled with non reactivity seems to be the holy discovery of Buddhist psychologists, the double-edged blade that is thought to slice through every sclerosis of conditioning that lies between bondage and freedom…”

To be continued….

First Quarter wrap up…..

It is almost tax day, and here we are on some fronts:

Last month (March), stunning heat waves saw high temperature records being broken all throughout the United States…..

Mitt Romney is now the “inevitable” nominee of the Republicans. Because Rick Santorum drove the discussion to things like contraception, pushing Mitt to promoting culturally conservative stuff not his usual “thing”, Obama has a double digit lead among women (18%), is leading (according to three polls now) anywhere from 7 to 9 percent among independents in 12 swing states, has a double digit lead nationally, and right now seems on track for a landslide….

They juiced it up at CERN’s Hadron Particle Collider a few days ago and we may see confirmation of the Higgs Boson this year. Late last year, suggestive signs already had manifested…..

No signs of the Bolon Yokte yet. -:) They had more on all this last night on the History Channel’s Ancient Alien series. The Ancient Alien guys (Philip, David, Giorgio, etc) seem quite confident that the nine gods (i.e. extraterrestrials) are likely on their way. Also possibly on our way are either life changing or life ending events…..

Space X, a private space company, has a contract to deliver cargo to the space station and will be doing their first mission soon……

The Kepler satellite has discovered planets recently in the “habitable zone” around some stars……

Photo Album…..

POLL: Congressional candidates, California’s district 2

The Occupy Movement….

An Occupy Ukiah strategy, etc. regular meeting on a January Saturday morning, located downtown at the plaza.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, often casually represented as a left wing version of the Tea Party Movement, began six months ago and spread through the intervening months to locations all over the country, including the little county seat city of Ukiah in Mendocino.

I am not clear on what is happening now in many locations, as the agendas in each place varies, but it seems many Occupy activists are focusing on misdeeds by banks in foreclosing on homes.

On March 12th in Ukiah about thirty Occupy activists demonstrated outside the Recorders office on Low Gap Rd. In Ukiah, not targeting the friendly and helpful folks in that office but the banks that fraudulently produced notarized statements with fake signatures, etc.

I learned this last night by watching a new show called Occupy Ukiah on the local public access channel. Host Charlie Vaughan reported on other actions being taken by the local Occupy contingent (for updates, see http://www.occupyukiah.org):

There is the campaign to oppose the expansion of the local WalMart
with the addition of what amounts to a grocery supermarket, and the hours going to 24/7, was encouraged by the Planning Commission saying no to that. The city council has the final word.

Vaughan also discussed the Move to Amend petition effort attempting to end the granting of corporate personhood and to reverse the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling allowing these so called “persons” unlimited ability to exercise their free speech by injecting tons of money into the political process through SuperPACs. This allows them to profoundly affect the upcoming political battles.

The local group is also focusing on shutting down the two remaining nuclear power plants in California. They have a petition circulating on that also, which basicly urges that we “stop using nuclear reactors to boil water” and instead invest further in clean energy production based on renewable sources.

Flower Power (and Daffodil Explosion), Point Arena 2012

This is the third year of a new Point Arena springtime festival. Yesterday, the City and many residents set up various activities in town…..it was somewhat drizzly then but more daffodil bulbs are flowering with each passing year and thus lighting up the sides of the roads and other places.

The Berkeley Kite Wranglers lofted many large kites the first year and last year they lofted none at all due to heavy rains for the last day, Sunday, events of this festival centered at the Lighthouse. Up until 11:30 am today, they had eight kites up for awhile, all of the smaller ones due to the light winds not allowing for lofting the heavier, and larger, kites. As I write this now, 2pm, I have not seen any pickup in winds since then (in the general area). When I was with 16 out of towners on a free tour up to the top of the Lighthouse, from 11:30 to noon, there was no wind and the kites were again laid out on the ground.

To see one of the articles I wrote at Third Eye on Reno, reporting on the first Flower Power and Daffodil Explosion festival in Point Arena in 2010, go here:

http://renothirdeye.wordpress.com/2010/03/page/3/

You can find related articles in the vicinity of that one.

Breaking away…..

A vocal contingent of Ecotopians in Mendocino County are completely convinced that the top leadership of the United States engineered the 9/11 attacks in order to justify a restriction of our liberties (through the Patriot Act) and to set the stage for attacks on Near East nations presumably with an agenda related to the oil flowing from that region.  Even though they represent a minority point of view here, they unreservedly give voice to this notion almost with the same fervor that old Israeli prophets exhibited.  (One of the primary stages where this is given voice is a county email discussion listserv.)

The growing prevalence of paranoiac and deluded conspiracy theories is something being seen across this continent, as fear grows over destabilizing events worldwide and profound economic uncertainty.  In this and other regions of the continent there are unusually strong signs of a desire to breakaway from the current political order.  As observed in the first dispatch from Ecotopia, there is a growing impulse to de centralize the sources of economic and political power.  

The best chronicling of happenings in Ecotopia occurs in the pages of
the weekly Anderson Valley Advertiser and in today’s edition I noticed a much more positive break away sign emerging.  From editor Bruce Anderson’s Off the Record news column:

“Dave Smith, owner of Mulligan Books in Ukiah writes, ‘We need a zillion new family farms and gardens in this country, and we need to fill the Ukiah Valley with them to come through the challenging times ahead.  It all starts with seeds.  Sadly, one of the dirty little secrets of the organic seed trade, and the seed trade in general, is that many organic seeds now being offered to gardeners are grown by
giant transnational corporations in China and India.  Mulligan Books and Seeds in Ukiah is partnering with Sustainable Seed Company in Covelo, Laughing Frog Farm in Laytonville and other seed growers to
localize seed breeding, growing, saving, and trading in Mendocino County with seeds adapted to our particular soils and climate, saving you money and providing a more secure local food program……As one of the very few counties in the US [okay, Ecotopia is till formally a part of US] that has banned GMO plants, our seeds will be cleaner, safer, and cheaper as we localize their production….'”

Community blog hosted by Dave Smith:

http://ukiahcommunityblog.wordpress.com

Bruce Anderson and the Anderson Valley Advertiser:

http://theava.com