Welcome to Your Mind (Part III)

2012/07/31

(This is part three of three based upon a workshop I did. The first entry was on anapana. The second entry was on maitri meditation.)

So this meditation, Jung wa thim rim, has less of a clear background compared to the other ones discussed. It’s a Vajrayana technique though it may possibly be Bön in origin. The basis of this meditation is found in the terma text of Lama Karma Lingpa, the Bardo Thödol or commonly called ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead.’ According to the myths this text was left behind by Guru Padmasambhava, called by some the Second Buddha, a famous Tantric Buddhist master in the Tibetan tradition.

Now this is a bit more of a complex meditation, and many would argue you need to have a developed level of focus to be able to do this properly. I agree to an extent, I also know that some of us have better abilities in some areas over others, and to some who can’t hold the focus of anapana initially the complexity of this meditation may keep their mind engaged. It’s also a great meditation because it can be done very simply, and then you can “scale up” the complexity as you get better at it.

Jungwa thim rim is the Dissolution of the Elements. Our bodies; physical, mental, spiritual, whatever are made up of the five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Space. These elements permeate the entire body, but they are also localized in structures and functions. Earth is Bone, Water is Blood and Bile, Air is Breath, Fire is the Nervous system and digestion. The elements are also located in the five lower chakras. Now the Tibetan chakra system is slightly different from the Hindu tantric system that people are familiar with (at least a bastardized version of…), there is one less centre. So they are the Root, Navel, Heart, Throat, Third Eye, Crown. The Naval and Solar Plexus are considered one centre, though if it is above or below the navel is an argument. Really you can use whatever system you’re used to though.

The lowest centre is Earth, above that Water, above that Fire, above that Air, above that Space. This is the order of their density or solidity. These elements make us up, and they sustain us, but if they get out of balance, corrupted, or stagnant they can mess us up, energetically, physically, mentally, and emotionally. When we die these elements break down in three sets, dying, death, and decomposition, but they also dissolve to a lesser degree when we go to sleep, or astral project. By deconstructing the elements we break down these imbalances and corruptions, and can let a proper balance and flow re-establish itself.

Each element has a shape and colour associated with it. It also have physical sensations and mental images connected to it. To start with you only need to be clear on the shape and colour, use the 2D shape if you need to, but try to work up to the 3D shape.

Earth is a yellow square/cube. Water is a white circle/sphere. Fire is a red triangle/tetrahedron. Air is a green half-circle/half-sphere. Space is a blue dot. These are stacked up in the five lower centres. They will dissolve upwards into the element/centre above them. The more understanding and meaning you can invest in the process of dissolution the better. So if you start off with just thinking Earth/Yellow/Cube that’s fine, but if you can really understand everything that is Earth about you dissolving, that’s better. So here is the basic meditation.

The Earth Cube dissolves, like crumbling brick and blowing sand it moves up into the Water Sphere, and with it goes all the associations of Earth in the Self. The Water Sphere dissolves, it dries up and evaporates and moves up into the Fire Tetrahedron, and with it goes all the associations of Water in the Self. The Fire Tetrahedron dissolves, it burns itself up and the smoke rises up into the Air Half-sphere, and with it goes all the associations of Fire in the Self. The Air Half-sphere dissolves, it simply dissolves spreading out into infinite space until there is nothing, and with it goes all the associations of Air in the Self. Now rest in Space, relax in meditation and avoid mental chatter as long as possible.

Now, from here you can let the elements reform on their own, they’ll naturally re-establish themselves after a while, though you may feel a bit out of it for a while as they do. If you want more control, or need to do something afterwards without the woogity feeling, you just reverse the process to construct the elements. Air condenses, Fire springs up, Water condenses, Earth forms.

If you want to complicate it a bit when you’re better at it as I mentioned the elements are associated with physical sensations and inner sights, which you can include in your meditation in order to make the process more intense.

When Earth dissolves it is accompanied by a lack of strength and a sinking sensation. The inner vision is that of a heat mirage, vision becomes wavy like over hot cement in the summer. As Water dissolves it becomes harder to hear, the mouth goes dry, and your emotions become still. The inner vision becomes cloudy like it is filled with smoke. When Fire dissolves your breathing becomes slow, and a bit difficult, smells fade, and thoughts become harder to focus on. With it comes the inner vision of sparks, like looking over the top of a bonfire as sparks of light just from the fire. Lastly as Air dissolves breathing becomes slow and still, and your body is unable to move. The inner vision is like light from a candle, gentle, warm, and wavering. When you reach the point of resting in Space it is accompanied by a physical and mental stillness, but also a vastness that your mind and body aren’t limited in themselves, but are far larger spreading out into infinite space. The inner vision here is clear brilliant light dawning on and through all things.

So you can see how this meditation can be done on a more basic level, but with work and focus it can become a more intense and complete experience. It’s great for a lot of general maintenance and wellness, but for occultists who do practices requiring inner clarity, such as Traditional Japanese Reiki, channelling/mediumship, skrying, and the like, it’s a great way to clear things out so that you’re not interfering.

Hoping this works on WordPress, but my final cliffnotes.

Element Colour Shape Sign Vision
Space Blue Point/Flame Mental and physical stillness and vastness Clear dawning
Air Green Half-circle/sphere Slow/still breath, unable to move Candle light
.Fire Red Triangle/Tetrahedron Slow/difficult breathing, lack of mental clarity, smells fade Sparks
Water White Circle/Sphere Emotional stillness, hard to hear, dry mouth Smoke
Earth Yellow Square/Cube Lack of strength, sinking sensation Heat mirage
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Welcome to Your Mind (Part II)

2012/07/10

(This is part two of a series based upon a workshop I recently presented with a friend of mine. The first entry which is an introduction to meditation and how to perform anapana)

Now we’ll be focusing on a form of meditation called Maitri. Maitri is Sanskrit, though the Pali form of the name, Metta, is also very common, the name roughly means loving-kindness, which isn’t quite right, but it is in the ballpark. Not surprisingly it exists with many subtle variations between schools, sects, and vehicles, but the basic concept is the same. Maitri first appears on the scene in some texts that are dated to around the BCE/CE crossover, and that text claims to the meditation is older, but as a historian I can’t trust that without anything to support that claim.

Taken from Sinfest with loving-kindness http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=3409

Maitri is basically the meditation of sending out loving-kindness to various people, and the world. There are two schools of thought regarding this; there is the mystical school, and the psychological school. The mystical school believes that this meditation is actually helping people, there is some benefit through the actions of sending out loving-kindness, you are actually doing something external. The psychological school believes it’s all a mental/emotional exercise, but that it trains you to be a better person. I can’t find the quotation, but the Dalai Lama once said something to the effect of “I perform maitri every morning. I don’t know if it helps others, but it helps me become a better person.”

By offering without attachment you loosen your attachments, establish mental stability, and develop compassion. With anapana we mentioned that learning to observe and be non-attached allows you to act on situations, rather than react. By overcoming habitual patterns (such as who we do and more importantly don’t offer good will to) we free ourselves to be able to choose how we respond in a situation, rather than acting the way we’ve been programmed by society, our upbringing, family, and experiences.

This meditation can be performed as a seated meditation or a walking meditation, but it can also be easily stream-lined to perform in public. So when someone shoves against you on the bus, rather than react in annoyance, anger, and shanking, you can take a moment to offer this person maitri, loving-kindness. As you offer more and more maitri you become more compassionate, but also more emotionally and mentally stable, even empathic. It surprises a lot of people who know me that I do maitri as part of my daily practice, considering I hate pretty much everyone, but trust me things are a lot better now that I do (my shanking is at an all time low).

Traditionally in maitri you start by offering loving-kindness to yourself. Unfortunately if you have low self-esteem or self-worth this can make the first offering feel hollow, and really you have to start off this meditation as sincere as possible, the effectiveness and sincere generosity of the beginning of the meditation is crucial for the later stages. So if you don’t think you’re worth this meditation and what it offers, just put your name lower on the list.

The meditation itself is simple, essentially you “summon” various people to you and offer them what are called “the four immeasurables” and you repeat this several times with different people. The four immeasurable are loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. There are four common phrases associated with this meditation, one for each immeasurable.

May _____ find happiness, and the source of happiness. (Loving-kindness)
May _____ find release from suffering, and release from the source of suffering. (Compassion)
May _____ never be separate from happiness free of suffering. (Joy)
May _____ abide in equanimity free from attachment, passion, and aggression. (Equanimity)

Now when you offer this to people you can offer it as something concrete. If you know what would make them happy you can visualize them receiving that, if you know what would release their suffering you can visualize them receiving that. If you don’t know you can offer them something like the Wish Fulfilling Jewel, a magick object that will become whatever they need. Or maybe you give them a box, knowing that whatever is inside will be what it needs to be.

My personal visualizations when I don’t have something concrete to offer is for loving-kindness I give them a wish fulfilling jewel. For compassion I see cords of slow-draining-stagnant junk being cut from their bodies leaving them free. For joy I see them holding the wish fulfilling jewel and its light is keeping those stagnant cords of suffering at bay. Lastly for equanimity I see them standing waist deep in a pool of water that has no waves.

So the last piece of the puzzle is who’re you gonna call? (Sorry, had to)

To start off with maitri you call upon yourself. See yourself, and offer the four immeasurables as mentioned above, using those phrases.

After you’ve offered to yourself (or skipped yourself because you don’t feel worth it) call upon someone you truly love. Usually the texts say your mother, or your children, but family, lovers, and the best of friends work here. Offer this person the four immeasurables.

Now offer it to someone you like, friends, family you’re not as close to, co-workers, or good neighbours. Give them the four immeasurable.

Next you offer it to someone neutral. That cashier that helped you this morning, the bus driver, that jogger you passed on the way to work. Someone that has no emotional impact to you. Offer them, as sincerely as you can the blessing of the four immeasurables.

This is perhaps the hardest part. Pick someone you dislike, the more you hate them the better. If you think of someone and suddenly think “Oh no, not them!” Yes! Offer it to them, get over your aversion and give them the gifts of this meditation. Getting over the habit of aversion is part of the goal of this meditation. If you honestly can’t think of someone in your life, pick a “bigger” person, a politician or criminal that you know of that’s doing things you really can’t agree with. Offer them, again, as sincerely as you can, the blessing of the four immeasurables.

The final step of maitri is to offer it to everyone you can. Some people visualize the world here, some the galaxy, or a super-cluster, whatever the biggest image of reality you can conjure in your mind is fine, if you can only manage your country, or continent, that’s fine, if you’re hitting solar systems and galaxies and other realms of the Cosmos, all the better. Now offer everyone, everything, everywhere the four immeasurables.

When you’re done take a moment to just rest in that feeling of generousity and kindness. And you’re done.

Cliffnotes:
May _____ find happiness, and the source of happiness. (Loving-kindness)
May _____ find release from suffering, and release from the source of suffering. (Compassion)
May _____ never be separate from happiness free of suffering. (Joy)
May _____ abide in equanimity free from attachment, passion, and aggression. (Equanimity)

Yourself
Someone you truly love
Someone you like
A neutral person
Someone you dislike
Everyone

Taken from Sinfest with loving-kindness http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=3409

Stay tuned, next time we’re jumping forward a thousand years and seeing what Padmasambhava can teach us about meditation.


Welcome to Your Mind (Part I)

2012/06/24

(This entry is based on a recent workshop I presented with a friend of mine. It is partially written from my notes, and partially transcribed. While my friend’s section of the workshop on Zen was fascinating I’ve left out his section as it is his intellectual property and I am not a Zen Buddhist so would feel ill-equipped to discuss it)

It seems no matter where you are in the spiritual/occult community one piece of advice always comes up: meditate. “I don’t know what to do about this.” Meditate. “I can’t see or hear the angels clearly.” Meditate. “My energy is unfocused.” Meditate. “Who is my spirit guide?” Meditate. “I keep getting distracted from my practice.” Meditate. Meditate, meditate, meditate. This is the piece of advice I see over and over and over and over again. Pretty much whatever the problem is, someone will suggest meditation. Don’t know how to meditate and you ask them? Their response? Meditate!

What is meditation? People toss around that word, and they don’t explain what this is, how to meditate, and it gets really frustrating to watch as it’s repeated like a mindless mantra. It’s counterproductive to toss out this advice repeatedly. So while there are many reasons to meditate, one of the reasons I wanted to teach this workshop was to actually share how to meditate in some different forms. Not all meditations do the same thing, or appeal in the same way, that’s why I’m presenting a variety of forms.

Taken from http://www.children.dhamma.org/en/teens/what-is-anapana.shtmlTo start off with I’ll be discussing anapana meditation, which is the earliest documented form of meditation within Buddhism. Mythically according to Theravadan sects it is considered the form of meditation that Siddhartha Gautama used to achieve enlightenment and become the Buddha. The name just means breathing, as that is the focus of the meditation, and it is sometimes called anapanasati meaning awareness of breathing.

The basic theory behind anapana meditation is that we’re a bundle of corrupted karma and sankara, in modern terms you could roughly say neurosis and conditioning, which isn’t to remove the spiritual aspect of karma/sankara but more explain how they affect our life. They interfere with our emotional and mental well being, and when we let them interfere we actually reinforce them and increase them. By becoming aware of them we can let them occur without feeding them. It is as if they are fuel to a fire, every time we act on this karma/sankara we toss more fuel into the fire, but if we just observe them at let it occur then the fire consumes the fuel rather than being fed more. Anapana is a very grounded meditation, it works off the idea that we can’t meditate on abstract ideas, so we meditate on the body and sensations because those are relatively concrete. Instead of meditating on our emotions, we focus on where and how the emotions interface with our body. Karma/sankara act as conditioned responses, and the majority of our actions are based in them, but by releasing them we develop a greater ability to choose how to act, rather than reacting.

To perform anapana sit comfortably. Any seated posture will do as long as it can be maintained and is comfortable. Picture a triangle starting at the top of your nose between your brows, going down to the corners of your mouth, this is the arena that we use for anapana. Breathe normally, don’t try to breathe deeply, or slowly, let breath happen. Now observe physical sensations within that triangle, what do you feel? The subtle shift in temperature as you breathe in and out? The soft rush against your nostrils? An itch on the top of your nose? At first you may not feel anything, that isn’t because there is no sensation there, only that your mind is too unfocused to feel something so subtle. Don’t count the breaths, or think “In-Out,” just let them happen. This entire meditation is about observing and letting happen. If your nose itches don’t scratch it, don’t get annoyed, just “watch” the itch with your awareness. Any sensation you have, don’t reject it, don’t accept it, don’t react, only observe it until it fades away. As you gain greater focus change the arena, only do from the nostrils down, or eventual just observing the nostrils.

Now rather quickly you’ll realize you stopped paying attention to your breath and that’s okay, simply note that you are distracted and resume the focus on your breathing. To keep the mind focused on the breath for a while is a challenge, you may not even make it ten seconds, and that’s fine, as long as you realize you got distracted and bring your attention back. Like physical sensations don’t judge these distracting thoughts, or the act of distraction, don’t get upset you’re failing, because you’re not, simply bring your focus back to the breath. A teacher once told me “true meditation isn’t the ability to control focus, but the moment you realize you’ve lost focus and regain it.” You will get distracted, a lot, but when it happens bring your focus back to your breath, and you’ll find after a while you’ll get distracted less, and catch your wandering mind sooner, it just takes practice.

There is an advanced “sibling” of anapana called vipassana, but you can’t perform vipassana without having a really good handle on anapana. Vipassana means clear-seeing, and if you’re proficient at anapana, you can move onto it. Much like you focused on just your nostrils in anapana, in vipassana you pick a general area of the body (scalp, face, neck) and observe the bodily sensations there. Then as you become more proficient you shrink the area of focus until you’re watching your body in segments as small as a finger nail, and seeing what sensations arise there. To give a sense of how proficient one should be to begin vipassana, if you attend a retreat at a Vipassana Centre run by S.N. Goenka, for three days straight, over twelve hours a day, you practice anapana, only after that intensive (and it is intense) can you even struggle to begin vipassana. So don’t think you can jump into vipassana right away, and if you think you can and have, you’re deceiving yourself about the level of focus and awareness you have developed.

Next entry we jump ahead a few centuries and start spreading the love.


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