An exchange on working the edge in one’s practice (from Releasing Emotional Reactions 4), questions on feeling tones that aries from practice, how does one find the edge in practice, how to remedy a lack of intention, working with the intention to be present.
A discussion on attention and intention from the Pointing Out Instructions retreat followed by questions on shamatha, whether a regular sitting practice is required, and resting in attention.
Meditating to experience life in a different way; meditating to be a better person; attention in speech; coming to terms with who you are; taking and sending; living in a world that ignores impermanence.
Prayers and rituals to evoke the emotions of devotion, loving-kindness, and compassion in order to be clear, present, and open during meditation, the importance of intention, concluding meditation by letting go of judgement and attachment
Religion/Spirituality as personal exploration; Practice and the importance of one’s own volition; Is nirvana the last delusion; the four things that are impossible to have: control, security, ground, and self; practice as a way to be present; how to find your way among the variety of practice choices
Meditation as a way to build abilities, distinguishing between thinking and thoughts, fundamentals of meditation practice, creating the right conditions for practice, resting in the experience of breathing
passage from article: What is freedom? It is the moment by moment experience of not being run by one’s own reactive mechanisms. Does that give you more choice? Usually not.
passage from text:
Through my awakened intention
May all who are quarrelsome and competitive
Stop their hostility and relax where they are.
As knowing finds its own place,
May they attain the pristine awareness of effective action.
Conduct and behavior as ways to both set conditions for practice and enhance / deepen practice; the story of Mrs. Foo; applying the principle of the middle way; tightening up your life and keeping your intention clear; two lists of metaphors for conduct and behavior; engaging in a chosen behavior so as to experience in yourself the related reactive emotions.
Importance of clear intention; when translation problems arise in source material for practice, problems often result in practice; practice is developing capacity to experience whatever arises; constraints due to limits on willingness, capacity or know-how.
passage from article:When I look back on my first years of Buddhist practice, let’s say the first ten to twelve years, my practice was essentially a reaction to suffering. Most of the time I didn’t know what I was reacting to. I put a great deal of effort into practice, into study, into serving my teacher. I learned a great deal. But it didn’t ease anything inside me.
The Four Noble Truths are about finding a way to live without struggling with what we experience; why “struggle” may be the more appropriate term in English to dukkha; the Eightfold Path as a description of a way of living, but usually interpreted as a prescription for practice; confusion of descriptions of results with means of practice and problems that arise; the fallacy of rational decision making and utility theory as a basis for economics, sociology, and spiritual practice; examination of the first four elements of the Eightfold Path from the perspective of practice; right view is practiced by bringing attention to how you view things; the result will be the traditional description of the characteristics of right view; right intention is to bring attention to intention, what am I doing right now and why?; right speech is to bring attention into the act of speaking, listening to the sound of your own voice when you speak; right action is to bring attention into the experience of action, leads to a relationship with power, makes action more effective.
Meditation on “What am I searching for?”; resting in the full experience of this question; meditation: “I practice in order to be at peace with the world.” ; samsara as the chaotic process of moving among different ways of experiencing different worlds; “I” as a narrative that is constructed in order to give a semblance of rational consistency to this chaotic process.
Sufi teaching story: “The Story of Fire”; examples of ways traditions move away from direct experience and straightforward application in life; what do we seek in practice?; guided meditation: primary practice; expanding to include the full field of experience, and resting; discussion of uses of such an experience; explanation of reasons that traditional texts were restricted.
Serving What is True. Difficulties in serving what is true when it doesn’t accord with expectations and understanding. Fairy tale: The Old Man with Red Eyes How fairy tales describe internal realms of experience vs. the world of shared experience. Attention vs. Intention vs. Will. Exercise: 4-person flocks. Obstacles as simply features in the landscape to be negotiated.
Opening to What Is. How familiar situations trigger old scripts, whose function is to dissipate attention. Exercise: Push hands, back-to-back. How triggered scripts corrupt intention. Power is the ability to implement intention, by staying present. Instead of focusing on what you want to do, include the entire situation. Fairy tale: The Old Witch and the White Bird
Question regarding translation of Dogen’s Genjokoan; If objects and experiences are empty and there is no self, why does it matter what I do?; the struggle between patterns and ethical/virtuous behavior; Buddhist ethics as a way to create the conditions for a quiet mind; what would life be like if you could experience fully whatever arises?; intention; meeting what is there; what is buddha nature?
Participant’s experience with meditation on succumbing to despair and rejecting others; aspects of the bodhisattva vow associated with Dharmakirti; moving from intention to will; benefits of taking the vow, disadvantages of losing and factors leading to the degeneration of the bodhisattva vow; vow renewal; bodhicitta as an ethic of compassion; meditation instruction for upcoming week: repeat bodhisattva vow daily, how do you respond to the ceremony and to forming this intention? The Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa, commentary on Chapter 9.
Participant’s experience with meditation on rejoicing in virtue; meeting the deficiency inside ourselves so that we may aspire to bodhicitta; planting virtuous roots; prayers used in class: Prayer to the Perfection of Wisdom, Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind, Refuge and Awakening Mind, Four Immeasurables, Dedication, Aspiration for Awakening Mind, Good Fortune; bodhisattva vow ceremony; celebration; meditation instruction for upcoming week on succumbing to despair with regard to helping others. The Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa, commentary on Chapter 9.
summary: Participant’s experience with meditation on attention, intention, and will; living life at the level of intention or will in order to help others wake up (bodhicitta); Is bodhicitta or desire to help others awaken a natural instinct?; the four geneses of bodhicitta; meditation instruction for upcoming week: when you doing something you know is wrong, what needs to happen to lay it to rest? The four stages in the development of awakening mind; two aspects of awakening mind: apparently true and ultimately true; translation points on these two terms; aspiration and engagement awakening mind; attention, intention and will. The Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa, commentary on Chapter 9.
summary: Participants’ experience with meditation exercise; the four stages in the development of awakening mind; two aspects of awakening mind: apparently true and ultimately true; translation points on these two terms; aspiration and engagement awakening mind; attention, intention and will; meditation assignment for upcoming week. The Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa, commentary on Chapter 9.
How to attend: gathering information (internal and external), check for balance; How to intend: get a symbol, generate possibilities; How to commit: take action (even a small action), keep cycling, watch signs, stay in touch with body and feelings, think evolution; participants’ comments; reminder to stay in your own experience
An exercise on understanding the distinction between what you actually want and what you’re asking for; particpants’ reaction to exercise; how relating directly to experience through awareness leads to being more awake and alive; What do I stand for?; attend, intend and commit
Identifying what you want to do and what prevents you from doing it; how attention causes one to focus and create results; lack of willingness, know-how, and capacity as a framework for understanding what prevents things from happening
Follow-up on free will and karma; ten non-virtuous acts; motivation/intention; the full ripening result; the results of a specific non-virtuous actions (taking life); the problem with purity; By not taking these mythic descriptions literally, are we somehow shutting the door to the mystery of life?; the three categories of non-virtuous acts; beliefs which prevent us from relating to what actually is; avoiding obsession; making the dharma relevant in western culture; Buddhism as “a” way or “the” way; karma and attachment to meditative states; description of janas; meditation for the upcoming week: the experience of lying. The Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa, commentary on Chapter 6.
Three analogies for karma: God’s will, gravity, and evolution; God’s will as explanation of mystery; gravity as absence of justice, etc.; evolution as contrast to cause and effect; karma’s function in spiritual life; karma is conditioning through intention and action; the three types of karma. The Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa, commentary on Chapter 6.
Practicing without reference points: Milarepa’s Song to Lady Paldarboom, verses 2-6, Doing nothing: Six Words of Advice from Tilopa, A question of teaching: keeping our intention clear
What is Mahamudra? It can be seen as another way of looking at what the Four Noble Truths are about. Or it may be approached by asking: to what questions might those practices provide answers? What are my questions?
Function of Buddhist ethics; descriptive v. prescriptive; importance of ethics; benefits of memorization. Commentary on mind training commitments including: the three basic principles, intention and behavior, giving up hope for results; not forming an identity around practice; working with reactive emotions; not hoping to profit from sorrow.
Participants’ experience with compassion meditation and related reading including experiences with heartbreak and movement of energy; being present in the suffering of others; are goals useful in practice; intention and results; compassion and boundaries; what is meant by ‘the open space of no response’; what is meant by ‘non-residing’; working with the line ‘May I experience the world wishing me freedom from pain’; the satisfaction of despising. Commentary on adolescence striving and parental mind; meditation instruction for compassion.
Participants share what each has learned on how to proceed with their practice. Included in this discussion are questions regarding how to know you are working the edge of practice as opposed to falling off the edge, how transmission between teacher and student works, and how to recognize patterns.
The session begins by explaining there are different levels of understanding found in the first two spiritual paths (traditional path and path of cutting through conditioning). These paths have a vertical dimension. A person can become aware of new levels in two ways: through interaction with a teacher or through interaction with fellow students who have more experience. Practice only grows if one works at the edge of one’s practice. Working the edge can be difficult: it is often experienced in the body as panic or nausea and in the mind as uncertainty, or confusion. Finding the edge often requires interaction with a teacher, especially if the student experiences a feeling of not getting anywhere, staleness, or coasting in practice. Physical signs of being over the edge include a sense of being out of balance, engulfed, isolated, failing, or bewildered.The discussion then turned to different levels of practice, this time from the perspective of ‘doing what you know needs to be done’ as opposed to ‘being good.’
The second approach discussed is to cut through four types of conditioning: sociological, psychological, perceptual, and cultural. To cut through sociological conditioning one contemplates on death and impermanence. Contemplating on karma cuts through psychological conditioning. Breaking through the I-other framework cuts through perceptual conditioning. And development of compassion cuts through cultural conditioning. The third approach is based on personal experience: study and practice everything you can, make the path your own based on what works for you, and stand in your own knowing. Discrepancies between your intention and experienced results are reliable indicators that you are not standing in your own knowing. A flat or stale practice may indicate you’ve exhausted your intention and signal the need for redefining your intention in practice. Keep an eye out for chronic imbalances, as they indicate something is not working.The session ends with a group discussion on whether or not compassion or forgiveness towards oneself is important, especially if there is no self, and how to detect imbalance.
Reflection Questions: What does it mean to be ‘completely free of irritation or resentment’? (verse 27), What does it mean to ‘pour your energy into practice’? (verse 28), [Note: Due to technical difficulties, there is gap at this point in the recording.] What do insight, stillness, and stability refer to? (verse 29), What does it mean to be “free of the three domains”? (verse 30). Comments on the Bodhisattva Vow including the vow as intention, the vow as will, commitments at the level of intention and commitments at the level of will. Translated text available on the website.
Intention and working the edge of practice, the three difficult points as described in The Great Path of Awakening, being specific in one’s effort, faith as the willingness to open to whatever arises, finding clarity through relaxing and resting in what arises, clarity as the nature of mind, meditation instruction on complete experiencing
The need for ruthlessness with patterns; using mortality as motivation; attention, intention, and will; the four steps to undoing reactive patterns; ways of working with patterns
Antidotes to mind killing; middle way vs compromise; summary of warrior’s solution: perceive imbalance, intention, sacrifice, dying, rest; participant’s questions.
summary: Intention: the ability to direct attention; process of awakening; guided meditation practice for working with intention.
summary: Introduction; how to live in power without being controlled by it; the three illusions — survival, control, being somebody; how they inhibit the exercise of power; five mysteries: power, balance presence, truth & freedom; primary practice; attention, intention and will.
Proficiency: knowing what you want from your practice, achieve a sense of balance, joy as a consequence of no separation; commitments: be clear about your intentions, appropriate action, relate to the totality of your experience; behave naturally; don’t talk about others’ shortcomings; don’t dwell on others’ problems. The audio for this series of podcasts was originally recorded on audio cassette. As such you may find the sound to be of a lower quality.
Five forces in life Intention: being clear about your intention in every aspect of your life; familiarization: clearing away obstacles to presence; seeds of virtue: taking care of the interior environment; repudiation: dying to the past; aspiration: using faith to reinforce intention. Five forces in death: generating virtue, aspiration, repudiation, intention and familiarization.The audio for this series of podcasts was originally recorded on audio cassette. As such you may find the sound to be of a lower quality.
summary: Transformation; make adversity the path of awakening; attention, intention, will; drive all blame into one. The audio for this series of podcasts was originally recorded on audio cassette. As such you may find the sound to be of a lower quality.