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I study, and try to practice, Vajrayana Buddhism. My main areas of interest are Chod, Kagyu and Nyingma traditions as well as Buddhisms interactions with the West, pop-culture and engaged Buddhism.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Feel with it

Every single Buddhist practice has as it's purpose to end grasping. Grasping, clinging or attachment, it's all the same in terms of the result. Suffering.

When we try to sit and simply watch our minds, all manner of discursive thinking arises in the forms of mental imagery, emotions, feels. From a Sutric perspective, these arise on the basis of a consciousness, such as visual consciousness, seeing something, generating attraction or aversion and the show is on the road again.

For those of us who are beginners, it can seem discouraging to see all this busy racing mental activity. We shouldn't be discouraged as it's actually a sign of progress. It might just be the progress of for the first time in our lives we are sitting and not trying to "do" anything. So rather than generating all this activity, we are simply being exposed to it for the first time ever. Over time as we become more stable and experienced in our practice, discursive thinking and so on naturally lessens and our minds become more flexible, relaxed and at ease both on, and more crucially, off the meditation cushion.

"At first a yogi feels his mind
Is tumbling like a waterfall;
In mid-course, like the Ganges
It flows on slow and gentle;
In the end, it is a great
Vast ocean, where the Lights
Of Son and Mother merge in one." The Song of Mahamudra Tilopa

Similarly, when people practice meditation involving visualisation of deities of varying complexity, not having clarity of the object of meditation, not getting the full picture as well as the same discursive thoughts as above, can be discouraging. Two pieces of advice I found very helpful in dealing with this are as follows:

Bokar Rinpoche describes deity meditation as a child sitting in a pile of toys. The child pics up one or two toys at a time and doesn't play with them all at the same time.

Jamgon Kongtrul talks about murkiness of visualisation in Creation and completion. He reminds us that whether clear or murky, the basis of the meditation is the same in both cases.

So if we have the confidence, something which comes with time and experience, we relax more, and the deity, mandala or whatever becomes clearer with more of the details on show. Conversely, if we become uptight and neurotic about "doing it wrong" or not getting the whole picture, we will just make things harder for ourselves.

We have to be honest in relation to our capacity whilst not becoming despondent or demotivated. Consistent, yet relaxed, effort might be one way of doing this.

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