Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
RatherSkeptic
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by RatherSkeptic » Wed May 30, 2012 9:52 pm

@LonesomeYogurt

I just read that text from Mahasi Sayadaw, and there's one sentence that illustrates my current doubt about meditation very well:
If you are thirsty while contemplating, notice the feeling, thirsty.
Now, we all know how important regular trinking is for our human body that consists to 70% of water. It is a common advice that you should drink regulary, even before you get really thirsty. Avoiding dehydration is very important for our health.

So, if I would get thirsty during meditation, I couldn't keep on meditating. Why? Well, I could concentrate on thirst and make a mental note like Sayadaw recommends, and yes, I maybe the feeling of thirst will cease in it's impermanence. But one thing still stands in the way: Reason. My rational mind knows I should abort the meditation RIGHT NOW, because if I would keep on doing this (especially when this happens everyday), I would put my health into danger. And that's a fact! It is reality! And as long as this real situation of ongoing dehydration still persists, my reason will remind me every second about that, making it impossible for me to focus on the actual meditation.

@mikenz66

I appreciate your help, but maybe it's time for me to admit that I have no interest in becoming Buddhist just for Meditation practise. To my knowledge, Vipassana and Samatha can be practised in an entirely secular way, and that's where I want to go if I keep on meditating...or I won't meditate at all. And these retreats you are offering me...they seem to be focused to much on Buddhism.
Alobha wrote: Just to clarify the situation:
If you say that an outer perception triggers disturbing and worrying thoughts, do you mean to say that you are of the view that the reason for suffering is not found within, but outside? Did i understand that correctly?
Yes.

Of course you could say that my personality, my character is a certain inner influence of how I deal with what I just perceived and whether I find an event rather good or bad. But then, I would say that charakter and personality are also just things that have been determined by previous influences from the outside, like education, upbringing by the parents, religion, etc...

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Goofaholix
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by Goofaholix » Wed May 30, 2012 10:10 pm

RatherSkeptic wrote: So, if I would get thirsty during meditation, I couldn't keep on meditating. Why? Well, I could concentrate on thirst and make a mental note like Sayadaw recommends, and yes, I maybe the feeling of thirst will cease in it's impermanence. But one thing still stands in the way: Reason. My rational mind knows I should abort the meditation RIGHT NOW, because if I would keep on doing this (especially when this happens everyday), I would put my health into danger. And that's a fact! It is reality! And as long as this real situation of ongoing dehydration still persists, my reason will remind me every second about that, making it impossible for me to focus on the actual meditation..
Nobody died from being thirsty for an hour, nobody put their health in danger by being thistry for an hour. When the meditation session is over get up and drink, why wouldn't you?

However during the meditation examine the physical sensations and thoughts that arise around thirst, break them down to the most detailed level and then you'll notice they are constantly changing. Thirst is a label we apply to a variety of sensations, thoughts, and feeoings, thirst is not direct experience. "I am thirsty" is just the story, if you look at it there are a variety of sensations, thoughts, and feelings arising and passing away around this theme. This doesn't stop you being thirsty, it's a natural survival instinct and you need it, it will however stop you experiencing Dukkha when you have to wait longer before your need is satisfied.

When you can do this with little things like thirst you can apply similar principles to the big things in life.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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LonesomeYogurt
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by LonesomeYogurt » Wed May 30, 2012 10:18 pm

RatherSkeptic wrote: So, if I would get thirsty during meditation, I couldn't keep on meditating. Why? Well, I could concentrate on thirst and make a mental note like Sayadaw recommends, and yes, I maybe the feeling of thirst will cease in it's impermanence. But one thing still stands in the way: Reason. My rational mind knows I should abort the meditation RIGHT NOW, because if I would keep on doing this (especially when this happens everyday), I would put my health into danger. And that's a fact! It is reality! And as long as this real situation of ongoing dehydration still persists, my reason will remind me every second about that, making it impossible for me to focus on the actual meditation.
But what if your need to immediately rush and fulfill every desire that arises is the root of your suffering? What if, instead of freaking out and saying "This desire must be met!" you learned to develop an inner joy that was not dependent on thirst being quenched or hunger being sated? Going thirty minutes without a glass of water won't hurt you, but does it even matter? What's the value of clinging to health? Will it stop you from dying?
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.

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Travis
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by Travis » Wed May 30, 2012 10:22 pm

Hi RatherSkeptic,
RatherSkeptic wrote:... maybe it's time for me to admit that I have no interest in becoming Buddhist just for Meditation practise.

I would suggest Bhante G's 8 Mindful Steps. You seem to be confused about what practicing the Eightfold Path entails. Given what you have said I would also agree that a teacher or group may be the best option for you.

You are not going to hurt your body by being thirsty for 30 minutes. The next time before you sit you will remember to drink, and the time after that you will remember to go to the bathroom beforehand, too :shock:

With metta,
Travis

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kirk5a
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by kirk5a » Wed May 30, 2012 11:27 pm

RatherSkeptic wrote:
kirk5a wrote:In my experience, the more consistent the application of wakefulness in daily life, the more positive qualities result.
You talk about mindfulness in daily life. I already read about that, like in the books of Bhante Henepola and Joseph Goldstein, they also tell that meditation doesn't take place in a sitting posture, but also in everything we do. So far so good, but how does that stop troublesome thoughts and emotions from arising out of an unpleasant situation?

The situation in reality still exists.

And therefore, thoughts and worries connected to that real situation will come again and again as long as it persists.
"The situation in reality" - nice phrase!

Just find the quality of non-thinking wakefulness. Then you will begin to see the difference between your thoughts about the situation and the situation in reality.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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mikenz66
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by mikenz66 » Wed May 30, 2012 11:40 pm

Hi RatherSkeptic,
RatherSkeptic wrote: I appreciate your help, but maybe it's time for me to admit that I have no interest in becoming Buddhist just for Meditation practise. To my knowledge, Vipassana and Samatha can be practised in an entirely secular way, and that's where I want to go if I keep on meditating...or I won't meditate at all. And these retreats you are offering me...they seem to be focused to much on Buddhism.
Thank you for clarifying. Since this is a Forum on Theravada Buddhism, most here view meditation as just part of the (Eightfold) Buddhist path. Therefore, our advice is based on that world view and experience. And most of the people you mention in your first post (at least Gunaratana, Joseph Goldstein and Ajahn Brahm) don't teach meditation as a magic bullet divorced from other aspects of the path. They still emphasise the necessity of developing generosity, virtue and so on.

While it's possible to practice in a relatively "secular" way, by de-emphasising some of the cultural aspects of Buddhism, it may not be particularly effective if the other aspects of the path are ignored. Even a "secular" practice is likely to need a "package" that includes more than just meditation.

If you are interested in a more secular approach you might find some of the talks on the Buddhist Geeks website useful, such as:
http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2011/10/bg ... sion-meet/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

But, by all means, continue to ask questions here!

:anjali:
Mike

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manas
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by manas » Thu May 31, 2012 12:28 am

EDITED: In retrospect - although like others here, I only meant well - my post (that was here), would have been better left unsaid, in this instance.

metta.
Last edited by manas on Thu May 31, 2012 2:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
Knowing this body is like a clay jar,
securing this mind like a fort,
attack Mara with the spear of discernment,
then guard what's won without settling there,
without laying claim.

- Dhp 40

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Alobha
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by Alobha » Thu May 31, 2012 12:47 am

RatherSkeptic wrote:
Alobha wrote: Just to clarify the situation:
If you say that an outer perception triggers disturbing and worrying thoughts, do you mean to say that you are of the view that the reason for suffering is not found within, but outside? Did i understand that correctly?
Yes.

Of course you could say that my personality, my character is a certain inner influence of how I deal with what I just perceived and whether I find an event rather good or bad. But then, I would say that charakter and personality are also just things that have been determined by previous influences from the outside, like education, upbringing by the parents, religion, etc...
Ok. So you are of the view that the reason for suffering is not found within, but outside. If that is the case, there needs to be an inherent qualitiy to external objects that determines whether it makes you suffer and worry or not. If such an inherent quality to external objects exists, all people would need to suffer over the same things, because the objects determine whether the person suffers and it doesn't depend on the person. This is not the case. An inherent quality of external objects that determines whether you suffer or not does not exist. Suppose, someone smashes a person's carlights with a baseball bat. The person owning the car, upon seeing that someone damaged his property, damaged what is his, may get very angry or very upset. If you, walking past this stranger's car, would you be equally angry and upset?

Probably not. Because the smashed car is not the problem. It's how you relate to it. It's your relationship to these external objects, the identification with them, or the craving for them that makes it tough, not the object itself! Carefully investigate this for yourself.
If you watch some horrible pictures of war on the news, do you start to cry and get really upset? Why not? Because you do not relate to some strangers from a foreign land very strongly. But if a loved one gets hurt, this is a whole different matter, because we relate to them entirely differently, with much more desire for their well-being, desire to be around them, desire not to be apart from them and so on.
That's one of the very first things you need to understand fully, because if you think that you can do nothing against suffering, there is no way out of suffering for the mind. If suffering is perceived as uncontrollable internally and predetermined externally, of course there will be disappointment.
But, could it be that I'm just too impatient? Is it just normal that you have to practise not 1, but at least 3 years before the very first results show up? Was it also your case that the first year of daily meditation didn't change anything in your mindset?
No, right practice brings gradual results, not just after 3 years. Of course it is a matter of intensity of practice and how one practices but one year of right practice brings noticable change.

What might be the problem?
"Puryfing fire". "End of suffering". "Living each moment to it's fullest". "Only peace remains". To me, it seems like the advocates of meditation (Gunaratana, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Joseph Goldstein and Ajahn Brahm, these four are those whose writings I've read the most) are labeling meditation as the universal solution itself, giving the meditator total immunity to all kinds of disturbing thoughts and feelings that will arise of course due to the events that occur in every human's life. Drug addiction, depression, anxiety, hopelessness, nothing meditation, especially mindfulness meditation (Vipassana) couldn't solve, right?
"Great", I thought. "This might be the key to overcome my countless worries caused by the problems in my life. In fact, meditation might be the key for every human being to overcome it's traumas and fears and concerns, (certainly worse than mine) no matter how many horrible things happened in their lifes". [/quote]

Right from the start, it seems that your intention to start meditate was driven by desire and gaining. Better health, self improvement, nice mindstates, more mindfulness, more peace, immunity from feelings and thoughts.
I know that Kabat-Zinn advocates the many benefits of meditation in his books about MBSR, but he also tells people at the start of training courses, that, while they may have decided to meditate with their own set of expectations, these expectations should be put aside during the course. To me, it looks like your expectations and desires block the practice entirely and that you mistake mindfulness for concentration. That's what Ajahn Brahm speaks about when he tells to "let go.".
Yes, I focused on samadhi too, as I first counted my breaths up to 100 and then back to 1, until I didn't miss just one breath. Then counting up to 5 for every single in- and outbreath until that was a bit stable. But then - what? Reality isn't altered just because I can count to 100..
How do you feel after meditation? Relaxed? Stressed? Tired?
All those desires and expectations give rise to stress and disappointment. It is great that you have been determined to try meditating for the last whole year, but it's important to note how you did it. Did you do it by willpower? Did you force yourself to sit down and "get through" with it because of the great results you hoped for?
If good morals would be the only condition for a controlled and blissful mind, we'd be in a much better world allready. In short: I don't get your point.
Moral misconduct is another reason for a lack of mindfulness because it feeds desires. This is not just about behavior in body, but also in speech and mind.
Let's say, for example, I was once very anxious before a job interview. That interview was reality. Also, it was a definite reality that there was much at stake, and it was a reality that I could terribly disgrace myself. And no matter whether I was five or just one day or just five minutes away from that situation, it's reality still persisted, permanent, not changing. "So", my voice of reason would tell me during the attempt to gaze into it during meditation, "why do you ever think that the worries about this interview might be impermanent and changing if the situation they are based on remains very permanent and unchanging?" And it owns me.
It's a good example for "the meditation does note end when you get up from your cushion". Even if there is a certain predictability to external matters, this has nothing to do with how you relate to them. An interview has no internal quality of stress. Very briefly speaking, If you just apply "counting numbers" concentration and focus on the worry, it may just make you more worried. If you apply mindfulness, you just watch without judging. If you watch your mind, you are aware that you watch your mind and that it is feeling restless or worried. If you watch your thoughts, you are aware that you are watching your thoughts, e.g. thoughts about failing, about disgracing yourself, about coming to late, about forgetting something during the interview, about your future. and you can watch what these thoughts lead to, a pleasant or unpleasant or neutral feeling, and what your mind wants to do with it. Get away from these troublesome things, indulge in more pleasant things perhaps fleeing to meditation on other objects.
Three things you should note here: 1.) These worries will not make anything easier, if you're tired and mentally exhausted, that's not the best condition to do an interview or spend your days before the interview. 2.) The interview is not the problem, the problem is what you make out of this interview. "A big, live changing fuzz that will determine your whole life and your life is senseless if you mess it up and you have to do it perfectly" ? - the problem is not the interview, but how you relate to it.
3.) Changing how you relate to these things is not done by willpower, not by forcing the mind, but by thoroughly, consistently and mindfully observing the matter. If you wonder why mindfulness should be able to change how you relate to things, how it could change that you get angry or sad about this or that, well, this is simply the power of wisdom. Mindfulness helps to make peace with things and to let go these phenomenas by observing, not by acting on desires blindly. That said, your daily meditation should also have impact on your daily life and vice versa.
I appreciate your help, but maybe it's time for me to admit that I have no interest in becoming Buddhist just for Meditation practise. To my knowledge, Vipassana and Samatha can be practised in an entirely secular way, and that's where I want to go if I keep on meditating...or I won't meditate at all. And these retreats you are offering me...they seem to be focused to much on Buddhism.
You don't need to be a buddhist, to listen to the Buddha or dhamma talks from monks like Ajahn Brahm. I would suggest to get informed about the 4 noble truths and the noble eightfold path, because if you want to do something about suffering and happiness, that is the place to start. Gather more knowledge as your fundament, before you just plunge into some sort of meditation. Your perception of where suffering comes from suggests that you could benefit from giving the basic buddhist teachings some more consideration - there may be some more useful stuff after all ;)
The talks of Ajahn Brahmali called "The Noble Eightfold Path" and "Dependent Origination" may be of interest to you. The talk about Dependent origination may give you a more precise idea how mindfulness can be applied on a daily basis.

Best wishes,
Alobha

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Dan74
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by Dan74 » Thu May 31, 2012 3:34 am

There are many angles on meditation, RS, but one is that it is not apart from reality, it is rather very much to do with reality because in meditation we find out how we deal with reality, how we filter it, skew it to fit our preconceived notions and twist it according to our conditioning. So but letting all of this go we in fact get much closer to reality - we learn to see things how they are.

And that starts with ourselves. learning about our minds, restless, wanting, persistent, impatient, etc etc. Observe the mind gently, learn about it, learn to work with it, rather than being led about blindly. I think this is very much about reality.

I recall my first retreat, thinking what good could all this pain do? Why continue with it? My teacher, as if reading my mind, said at that moment, that the pain is mostly mental, it is what we add to the sensation, that can make it unbearable, turn it into suffering.

How much can we learn by observing our pain? We can learn discipline and compassion, patience and perseverance. And we can take all that into every aspect of our lives.

But it doesn't happen overnight. Look around - we are no arahats here. But just like with anything else, if you work on it, you see results.
_/|\_

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hanzze_
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by hanzze_ » Thu May 31, 2012 3:41 am

RatherSkeptic wrote:@hanzze

I'm really sorry, but I still don't get it. I can only repeat that IMO, morality is not the problem that keeps me away from any experience of progression.
RatherSkeptic,

no need to feel sorry better to give it no rise (and that is the point). Your doubt as mentioned is twofold. One is, that it has beneficial effects on others and one is that it has beneficial effects on other. The this is that you say, that there is no moral problem for you but that there is still no moral outside which is pulling you down.

As this is something that goes hand. If something is going on outside, and you have no share on it, it would not touch you. If something goes on outside and you are touched, you have a share. That is conscience and feeling pulled down is ripen of karma. It might happen unaware, not seeing the relation.

If one, not an arahant yet, even not reached sainthood, tells, he has no problem with moral yet and does not follow the higher moral codes, his self honesty is very small and he tends to ignore much parts. Sila is a training, a training that does not soon grow to a kind of perfection.

Mindfulness and Ethik is a pair and pushes each other to a better level. That is for instance the reason, why one keeps a very high livelihood while being on a vipassana retreat. To gain further insight we need to accomplish the whole eightfold path.

Therefor the right effort is very important. If the effort goes just in the direction of attaining more insight, it misses its forerunner.

Right effort on the level of establishing the eightfold path looks like that:
"One tries to abandon wrong view & to enter into right view: This is one's right effort...

"One tries to abandon wrong resolve & to enter into right resolve: This is one's right effort...

"One tries to abandon wrong speech & to enter into right speech: This is one's right effort...

"One tries to abandon wrong action & to enter into right action: This is one's right effort...

"One tries to abandon wrong livelihood & to enter into right livelihood: This is one's right effort."

— MN 117
Even many use Buddhist practice to gain some personal benefits for the moment, the meditation would have just the effect to compensate the additional defilement from daily life but would not grow on a level of real insight. That is why we need to reduce the continuing of unwholesome actions when we like to step deeper.

One word that describes this tool very good is appamada

And maybe the best advice to practice mindfulness on attention in daily life (if it is a life with the aim to peace for one self as well as for others) is the: Instructions to Rahula. It reflects right effort very well and gives the tool to improve it while headfullness must be something that is not one present when it is time for a meditative session or when it feel well.

Yana
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by Yana » Thu May 31, 2012 6:57 am

hi,

I think that we don't practice meditation to replace reality with something else.I think when we meditate we practice seeing reality as it IS.When you encounter something that makes you feel sad.That's reality..When you encounter something that makes you happy ..That's Reality..When it changes..That's Reality.When you dig deeper and see the cause of why your happy or sad or changing..and see that it is just cause and effect reaction..you will become detached from these experiences.Causing you to not be affected by them.So when you meditate with a midset that you are going to experience this and that results in 1 year or three years or ten years,i think it isn't very skilfull.

You Not Experiencing Anything At All IS reality.Even boredom is reality.We practice meditation to see life as it is..Life Right now..in all it's boredom and occasional hapiness and sadness and more boredom.

We practice meditation to see life as it is In ANY condition/state Right Now.Being able to see it clearly will detach us from it.And when we are detached from something we won't be affected by it.

I hope this helps. :namaste:
Life is preparing for Death

pegembara
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by pegembara » Thu May 31, 2012 7:53 am

Let's say, for example, I was once very anxious before a job interview. That interview was reality. Also, it was a definite reality that there was much at stake, and it was a reality that I could terribly disgrace myself. And no matter whether I was five or just one day or just five minutes away from that situation, it's reality still persisted, permanent, not changing. "So", my voice of reason would tell me during the attempt to gaze into it during meditation, "why do you ever think that the worries about this interview might be impermanent and changing if the situation they are based on remains very permanent and unchanging?" And it owns me.

"I could disgrace myself" was not reality just thoughts. What is at stake is also not reality but depends on the individual. The reality is what is in front of you in the present moment. Not the past or the future. The interview came and went. How is it that you were anxious before, during and after the interview?
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

RatherSkeptic
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by RatherSkeptic » Thu May 31, 2012 8:50 am

Yana wrote:hi,

I think that we don't practice meditation to replace reality with something else.I think when we meditate we practice seeing reality as it IS.When you encounter something that makes you feel sad.That's reality..When you encounter something that makes you happy ..That's Reality..When it changes..That's Reality.When you dig deeper and see the cause of why your happy or sad or changing..and see that it is just cause and effect reaction..you will become detached from these experiences.Causing you to not be affected by them.So when you meditate with a midset that you are going to experience this and that results in 1 year or three years or ten years,i think it isn't very skilfull.

You Not Experiencing Anything At All IS reality.Even boredom is reality.We practice meditation to see life as it is..Life Right now..in all it's boredom and occasional hapiness and sadness and more boredom.

We practice meditation to see life as it is In ANY condition/state Right Now.Being able to see it clearly will detach us from it.And when we are detached from something we won't be affected by it.
Detachment = Indifference ? Or Ignorance ? Is it that what's meditation about?

You talk about cause and effect reaction. I thought the purpose of meditation is to make a cut between these two things, so that the cause won't trigger a reaction anymore. But I found out that these two are processes that can't be divided, and a same cause will always result in a same reaction. Pretending to be detached from that - to be indifferent to that - doesn't sound like very useful either.
Yana wrote:I hope this helps. :namaste:
No.

@Alobha
Right from the start, it seems that your intention to start meditate was driven by desire and gaining. Better health, self improvement, nice mindstates, more mindfulness, more peace, immunity from feelings and thoughts.
Of course! How else are we supposed to achive anything in this world without desire and trying hard? Did you started meditation just for fun? Or out of curiosity?

I should tell you that I practised a martial art when I started with meditation. (not anymore, my countless concentration problems and inner distractions made it impossible to proceed, and meditation, as I allready told, didn't help a bit) It was an eastern martial art, budo, thus very connected to meditation and buddhist traditions. In that martial art, it was taught to have an absolute control over your body and movements, but also over your mind. But I realised I was bad at that, and so I wanted to approach sth. that focuses much more on the mental component - so I began dealing with meditation, with a clear task to gain more and more control over the mind, the thoughts, feelings, etc.

So yes, I have a clear desire and a clear motivation of gaining control! And I will not take that away!

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hanzze_
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by hanzze_ » Thu May 31, 2012 8:53 am

Dear RatherSkeptic,

What propose does the martial art have? What do you like to control and for what propose?
How does martial arts fits with right intention?

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mikenz66
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Re: Can Meditation stand against the forces of reality?

Post by mikenz66 » Thu May 31, 2012 9:11 am

Hello again RatherSkeptic,
RatherSkeptic wrote: So yes, I have a clear desire and a clear motivation of gaining control! And I will not take that away!
Well, this is the problem, I think. The meditation techniques you are using were developed as part of an approach to liberation/awakening where seeking to control is considered to be the problem, not the solution. [Second Noble Truth: Suffering is caused by clinging.]

Of course, since none of us here (as far as I can tell) are actually liberated/awakened, we could be wrong. But if your world-view is that liberation will come via control it may be that you are practising the wrong sort of meditation.

Please understand that I'm not saying this to be argumentative. I'm simply trying to help you understand the point of view from which most people here are coming. Understanding that may help you make a better decision about what is the best approach for your circumstances.

Be Well!
:anjali:
Mike

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