Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/29/2018

Commitment

I took Ajahn Martin’s advice and went straight from the bed to the cushion this morning. Well, almost: I did have to pee first. And, although it was painful and difficult, I do have faith that it is a better way to practice. Rather than drinking three cups of coffee while reading garbage on the internet or answering work emails and then trying to calm the mind, it is more of an issue of rousing the mind to take interest in buddho and the breath.

One thing I do know for certain is that, after forty-five minutes of meditation first thing in the morning, I can feel a certain peace and contentment that is normally lacking.

Another practice point that the Venerable outlined is that we should be sitting for a minimum of 45 minutes to an hour. I find that when I allow other things to get in the way I sometimes only have time for a half an hour. And, although this is much better than nothing, it is not enough. I’ve chosen the lay life so I really can’t afford to go any easier on myself if I truly care about my long-term wellbeing. That said, my priority has always to be formal meditation.

As a result, here’s my new aditthana: one hour in the morning, one at night and at least two twenty minute sesssions throughout the day. That puts me pretty close to my former commitment of three hours per day which I was never quite able to reach. Wish me luck.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/28/2018

Worry, Kilesas & Beginning Again

I messed up and broke my brahmacariya commitment today. May I renew my efforts and overcome my kilesas once and for all.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/27/2018

Disenchantment

My marital problems have continued apace: this morning she texted me after I left telling me not to bother telling her to have a good day when I clearly don’t care about her. And, although it is untrue that I am apathetic to her welfare, I have to admit that my parting farewell to her was awkward and forced. I have been trying to treat her with the same consideration I give to everyone else so I made sure to save and prepare her a to go cup of coffee and not to forget to say goodbye to her as I left. Obviously it wasn’t received well.

Regardless, I am proud (if that’s the right word for it) of myself and will continue to work on treating her as well as I do my kids even if she tells me she’s still young and wants to find someone to love her and to love. My sentiments about that are simple: have at it. If you can’t forego base impulses and sense pleasures for the good of our children then so be it. I, for one, have no intention of ever entangling myself again in the mess of another romance again in this life (and I aspire to never do so again until Liberation).

All of which is to say that every time a relationship issue like this tears its ugly head, the desires and craving for sexual pleasures are immediately checked. You see the problem with sex and autoerotism even when they accord with the precepts is that they feed into the bottomless hunger of the beast of craving. Engaging in either only makes it easier to do so in the future and harder to resist. But, from my own experience, I find that the longer I am able to refrain, the better and more at peace I feel.

So, as difficult as all of this is and has been I am grateful to my wife for helping me to see the limits of marital happiness and what it really can mean to entangle oneself.

May she be learn to be truly happy and find release from all suffering.

May I never become involved romantically or sexually with anyone in this and in all future lives.

May we all practice ardently until we have secured a refuge for ourselves from sickness, aging and death.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/26/2018

Hypnogogia?

Maybe it was because I have been feeling a little more tired than usual but I began seeing a number of hypnagogic-style scenes play out during breath meditation.

It started off as seeing the wheels and deck of a skateboard carving and then proceeded to become a tube of water that cut through a larger body of water while oscillating between blue and orange. At this point there was a marked change in the overall emotional tone of the visions and they began to take on a more menacing tone.

Somehow I now began to see tubes that resembled a combination of ribbed, metal gas lines and drain pipes. The end had a stopper with a long, syringe like piece that was inserted into the tube itself around which was tangled coarse, black hairs.

The next thing I know I’m perceiving a being with the same coarse, black hairs sprouting from an unknown part of its flesh. The tone had turned even darker and , for some reason, my mind turned to the end of life stories I had heard about people who see hairy beings at death. And, to be honest, the presence did feel like an animalian melange of lust and aggression. So, I first began to repeat “Namo tassa” for a bit but changed to “Buddho, Dhammo, Sangho” when it wasn’t helping to dispel the negativity. Finally I began to do to glen and metta while visualizing a white nimitta at my heart center that would brighten as I breathed in and expand as I breathed out. This did the trick and shortly thereafter the presence and visions were gone.

I see now how easily these things can arise at the moment of death as they are probably arising ceaselessly while we are to heedless to do anything about them. Now that I think about it, I woke up feeling strangely and not quite “myself” whatever that may mean. It’s possible that an errant spirit may have attached itself to me during the night or maybe it was purely psychological in nature. Regardless, may this serve as a lesson to be constantly heedful and guard the mind.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/25/2018

Life as a Nimitta

I believe it was a talk by Ajahn Brahm where he was talking about what happens at death. Speaking about the usual experience of seeing a tunnel with a light at the end he explained they what people are really seeing is the nimitta of their luminous mind. The white disc in the field of darkness gives the appearance of being a tunnel and when people do go into it they enter a mind-made realm where they meet Jesus, Krishna or whoever their mind creates. But, I digress.

The main point I wanted to get to was the “trick” that Ajahn Brahm gave for those of us who have lived less than pure lives and haven’t spent much time cultivating. He says that if you see a dirty or dim nimitta at death you can still get a favorable rebirth if you focus on those parts that are bright and clean. Sounds easy until you realize that this is our task all the time. Ajahn Thanissaro describes find a refuge in the breath as being analogous to staying in a house with a leaky roof and rotting floorboards. Naturally, to get comfortable, stay dry and avoid injuries you move away from the holes in the roof and floor.

On the same way, we don’t focus on the negative in life but cultivate what is useful. Sure, there’s lessons to be learned from the bad stuff (such as “I will do my best never to act like this person” or “May I never repeat this action again”) but it’s not the kind of obsession I usually slip into.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/24/2018

Happy Uposatha & the Coming Depression

Happy uposatha! Once more, the vicissitudes of life have returned to the focal point of my awareness as I happened upon an article last night on Reddit (despite having giving up most of my news and social media I still peruse Reddit) in which an economist talks about how the coming depression will be worse than the Great Depression and the 2008 Great Recession. I guess this is really where the rubber meets the road because I have found myself in a state of high anxiety about it — something which was worsened by my daughter who overheard my conversation with some friends and wanted reassurance that everything would be alright.

And of course it will and then won’t and then will again. This is samsara after all and it’s just maddening how the sting always seems to bury itself deeper or in a different part of the flesh of existence. It does help, though, to see the next, inevitable financial crisis in terms of the greater scheme of things and to realize that gain is filled with as much dukkha and impermanence as is its shadow.

As with physical death, financial ruin, poverty and its attendant sufferings will be painful but I hope to practice well enough to weather it without losing hold of the Dhamma and the Discipline.

May we all learn to be truly happy.

May we practice ardently, knowing the whole world to be aflame.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/20/2018

The Perils of Anger

Last night, after a long day at work I arrived home to an empty house. I texted my wife to find out if dinner needed to be made, made it, took out the garbage and changed the laundry. I was feeling pretty self-satisfied when she called me to come move the car she just parked in questionable spot near a hydrant.

I cannot tell you how parking in Manhattan gives me anxiety. Even after almost two decades of living here I have never gotten used to it. So, I run to get the car while she and the two year old literally stand in the space. To my horror I see a car has pulled up and put on their blinkers, attempting to take the spot she’s holding. I’m seeing red and mindfulness has evaporated like morning dew on the hood of a car in the desert sun. I pull up spitting like a cat (not cursing thankfully) and I’m afraid he’s going to do something crazy as I pull in, nose first to the spot. My wife runs in as he and I exchange barbs and I try to park the car better while trying to make sure he can’t wedge himself in.

So, I call the cops. The ask for a description so I get out to get a look at him. I see he’s a car service driver and they ask for a description. I saw he looks to be Muslim guy to which he accedes. The next part has left me feeling particularly ashamed although I’m not sure why. I said “How is it your deen to attack and threaten women and children?”

At some point my wife returns and starts talking to the guy, it is clarified that he wasn’t threatening her, they were simply arguing about the spot. Seeing all of this from afar I let my fear and anger get the better of me and create a situation that could have ended very badly.

In the end, I was able to send him on his way with the promise that I would let the cops know it was a misunderstanding and I apologized for my overreaction. Perhaps ironically, one of the people I was attempting to protect ended up attacking me for it and cited my reaction (perhaps rightly) as evidence of my anger issues.

This morning I discovered my wallet had been lost and, for whatever reason, my mind connected my transgression with the loss as a kammic result. Whatever the case, may I never again allow anger to cloud my perception again and if it does may I remain as immobile as a block of wood.

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/19/2018

Going Forward

It seems to me that fighting fire with fire just ends up burning the whole house down and certainly doesn’t accord with my own understanding of the Dhamma (as limited as that is). When I think about how the Lord Buddha handled insults (see this sutta: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn07/sn07.002.than.html) I realize that I simply don’t have to accept them. The problem lies in the fact that, when my wife insults me I believe her.

If it’s the case that I believe her then surely that calls for reflection and introspection. One of the common criticisms I hear is that I’m not acting very Buddhist by being uncaring, unkind or downright mean. This seems to strike a chord in me (and she clearly knows this) as I often fear that I am not handling a situation skillfully. So, what to do?

It seems to me that I first need to remove the barb of pride and admit to my real and imagined failings. Yes, I may not be handling this situation as well as is possible and I apologize for any hurt I have caused. But, I am doing the best I can in the moment. In short, acknowledge, apologize and advance.

What about the myriad cases where I feel I’ve done nothing wrong despite wracking my brains and checking my conscience? The excerpt from the sutta linked above will be my standard in all other cases:

When this was said, the Blessed One said to him: “What do you think, brahman: Do friends & colleagues, relatives & kinsmen come to you as guests?”

“Yes, Master Gotama, sometimes friends & colleagues, relatives & kinsmen come to me as guests.”

“And what do you think: Do you serve them with staple & non-staple foods & delicacies?”

“Yes, sometimes I serve them with staple & non-staple foods & delicacies.”

“And if they don’t accept them, to whom do those foods belong?”

“If they don’t accept them, Master Gotama, those foods are all mine.”

“In the same way, brahman, that with which you have insulted me, who is not insulting; that with which you have taunted me, who is not taunting; that with which you have berated me, who is not berating: that I don’t accept from you. It’s all yours, brahman. It’s all yours.

“Whoever returns insult to one who is insulting, returns taunts to one who is taunting, returns a berating to one who is berating, is said to be eating together, sharing company, with that person. But I am neither eating together nor sharing your company, brahman. It’s all yours. It’s all yours.”

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/17/2018

Happy Uposatha — Purity of Heart

Unfortunately, these qualities of the heart are conditional, for they depend on a tender web of beliefs and feelings — belief in justice and the basic goodness of human nature, feelings of trust and affection. When that web breaks, as it so easily can, the heart can turn vicious. We see this in divorce, broken families, and society at large. When the security of our food source — the basis of our mental and material well-being — gets threatened, the finer qualities of the mind can vanish. People who believe in kindness can suddenly seek revenge. Those who espouse non-violence can suddenly call for war. And those who rule by divisiveness — by making a mockery of compassion, prudence, and our common humanity — find a willing following for their law-of-the-jungle agenda.

This is why compassion based only on belief or feeling is not enough to guarantee our behavior — and why the practice of training the mind to reach an unconditioned happiness is not a selfish thing. If you value compassion and trust, it’s an imperative, for only an unconditioned happiness can guarantee the purity of your behavior. Independent of space and time, it’s beyond alteration. No one can threaten its food source, for it has no need to feed. When you’ve had even just a glimpse of this happiness, your belief in goodness becomes unshakable. That way other people can totally trust you, and you can genuinely trust yourself. You lack for nothing.

Purity of heart is to know this one thing.

https://www.dhammatalks.org/books/PurityOfHeart/Section0004.html

Posted by: Upāsaka | 09/16/2018

Resolved

Yesterday I told my wife that, as far as I was concerned, our marriage is over although I would stick it out for the next sixteen years until our youngest turns eighteen.

Initially she retorted that she had come to the same place years before but all day long today she has been alternating between belittling me and throwing my practice in my face. How can I be a Buddhist when I’m so unkind she asks. Or she’ll tell me how much work I’ve got to do. Well, on the first count she’s wrong but on the second she’s quite clearly right.

It’s interesting trying to negotiate this new arrangement but I’m done pretending I’m in a loving relationship. It’s abusive and I now have to formulate some healthy boundaries. As bad and contrary to popular wisdom this may sound I think a big part of this is refusing to talk as nauseam about this fiction called “us?” And why is that? Because even after years of counseling nothing has changed. What would need to change is anterior to speaking and that just doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

In real life, what this will look like from the outside won’t be drastically different from what it is now. I won’t be sleeping in the same room (which is something that I’ve been doing for months anyway) and I intend to swear off any attempts at physical intimacy with her or any other woman ever again. I think a big sticking point for her will be when I refuse to go on family vacations but we shall see.

Maybe she’ll decide that divorce is the best course; I can’t stop her but there’s not much else to lose. I can live anywhere and don’t care about travel but she does and the kids’ standard of living certainly stands to suffer. I feel as if I’m being selfish but I need a way to psychologically disconnect from the constant criticism and invective. Maybe I am failing as a father. Maybe I am a hopeless Buddhist but I certainly don’t need someone’s contempt to help me see the light.

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