I'm Ronny's partner in the Skillful Living Network project. Good to see you all here. It is very important to have Dharma friendship with skillful people. Namaste.
We'd like to share some of our work with all Buddhist meditators, especially Theravidins. Here's our YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/BuddhaDave108
We're just getting started, and there will be lots more videos soon! Please subscribe to our channel so you get the latest updates.
My background is that I was a child prodigy in music and physics. I won a scholarship to MIT but wound up going to conservatory instead. Spiritual life was never far from my thoughts though, and after a couple of years in the NYC music scene I split for the West Coast. I searched for a teacher for some time until I settled on an Indian guru. I came to the conclusion that most religion is simply palliative entertainment supporting unskillful views like eternal existence of the false self. Even Buddhist teachers in the west carefully avoid mention of Buddhism's highest truth: that there is no permanent existence of a self. They do this because if they were truthful, fewer people would come to their lectures and workshops, or buy their books. They compromise Buddhism for the sake of making a living or supporting their monastic orders.
When I was a foolish young man searching for a spiritual path, I also encountered these unskillful Buddhists. But even then, I rejected them because their teachings seemed one-sided, compromised and self-contradictory. Unfortunately, I got a wrong impression of Buddhism from them that turned me away from the Dharma onto the path of eternalism.
I wasted many years in the fruitless pursuit of eternal spiritual existence. Finally, I noticed the fact that even being a monk and guru for many years had not reduced my anxiety nor eliminated my suffering. Something was very wrong: my practice was not giving the results it was supposed to. I began to research being and ontology, which gradually led to the truths of Buddhism from a scientific approach. I traveled to Thailand to have better access to the Buddhist teachings.
As soon as I began to study and practice the authentic Theravada Suttas, I noticed a marked decrease in my suffering. Even though I was not very expert, simply relaxing the constant effort to create a false self was liberating and refreshing. As I gained a little skill in meditation, I began to experience jhānas. Now it seems to me that creating any state of being whatsoever is unskillful. I can clearly see how being and creating a self in any way at all simply leads to suffering. And I came to these realizations after only a few weeks of studying and practicing Buddhism.
I'm very glad that at present I have no fame, followers or large audience. I survive on a small pension and the grace of my good karma. Nor do I belong to any Buddhist monastic order or lay organization. Thus I have absolutely no incentive whatsoever to alter, compromise or cheapen the Buddhist teachings. My opinions expressed here are solely the result of personal practice and self-observation.
My experience is that I have come almost to the final threshold of those teachings in just a few weeks of practice. This indicates to me that the original, unchanged Buddhist methods are very powerful indeed.
"You, too, monks, should relentlessly exert yourselves, [thinking,] 'Gladly would we let the flesh & blood in our bodies dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, but if we have not attained what can be reached through human firmness, human persistence, human striving, there will be no relaxing our persistence.' You, too, in no long time will reach & remain in the supreme goal of the holy life for which clansmen rightly go forth from home into homelessness, knowing & realizing it for yourselves in the here & now." — Appativana Sutta [Anguttara Nikaya 2.5]
Speaking of retreats Waimengwan, back in 2001 I spent 6 months alone meditating in the forest on the island of Kaua'i. It was one of the best things I ever did for myself.