2010.01.21 01:00 - Awareness and Meditation

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    The Guardian for this meeting was Zen Arado. The comments are by Zen Arado. Present were Pema, Liza, Calvino. Tarmel and her friend Dorothy visited briefly. A newcomer called Basam arrived but did not stay long.

    Introductory remarks and comments about retreats and their activities:

        Zen Arado: Hi Pema :)
        Pema Pera: hi there, Zen!
        Zen Arado: how are you?
        Pema Pera: fine! Back in New York briefly
        Pema Pera: hi Liza!
        Liza Deischer: hi guys
        Zen Arado: Hi Liza:)
        Liza Deischer: I can only stay for a short while
        Pema Pera: It's 4 am in New York, but with my Japanese jetlag I had a chance to come in anyway
        Zen Arado: I was waitng for beel there
        Pema Pera: glad to see you, Liza!
        Pema Pera: beel?
        Zen Arado: bell :)
        Pema Pera: :-)
        Liza Deischer: Yes, it is in the middle of the night in the states
        Zen Arado: yes jet lag is horrible
        Pema Pera: oh, I don't mind
        Pema Pera: it can be horrible if you have to work the next day at a fixed time
        Zen Arado: yes
        Liza Deischer: you've gotten used to it :-)
        Pema Pera: but in my case, I'm my own boss, so I sleep and work when I like
        Zen Arado: I hasd to do shift work for years
        Zen Arado: never liked it
        Pema Pera: it's actually quite nice, to have dream life and normal life mixed up a bit, for a while at least
        Liza Deischer: that certainly makes it easier Pema
        Pema Pera: (again, if you can adjust your own hours)
        Zen Arado: yes rigid shift times are the worst
        Pema Pera: and it's an interesting exploration, to hang around a city at 4 am
        Liza Deischer: yep
        Pema Pera: such a different energy
        Pema Pera: people are more friendly too!
        Liza Deischer: yes
        Zen Arado: yes but New York never sleeps they say
        Pema Pera: strangers greeting in New York City just doesn't happen during the day
        Pema Pera: but does at the wee hours at night
        Liza Deischer: :-)
        Pema Pera: tomorrow I'll fly on to Malta
        Zen Arado: it would be a great place to see
        Pema Pera: looking forward to the PaB retreat there
        Zen Arado: ah yes
        Zen Arado: I am going to a short zen retreat next weekend
        Liza Deischer: I'm ehhhh.....staying here :-)
        Pema Pera: how nice! Who is leading it?
        Zen Arado: a guy from the San Francisco zen center
        Zen Arado: Ingen Breen
        Zen Arado: he originally came from Ireland
        Pema Pera: it's always inspiring to take some time out, with a group, dropping it all, sharing the energy
        Zen Arado: and is here leading retreats for a few months
        Zen Arado: I love the silence
        Pema Pera: will the place have the proper access for you, Zen?
        Liza Deischer: yes it is filling up a certain energy
        Zen Arado: yes it is in a local retreat center
        Zen Arado: I go there every week for a meditation group anyway
        Liza Deischer: filling up is not the right word here I guess
        Pema Pera: I know what you mean, Liza :)
        Zen Arado: more of a letting go I think
        Pema Pera: both
        Pema Pera: energizing by letting go of the brakes :)
        Zen Arado: O do find retreats difficult physically
        Liza Deischer: letting go means you're making room for something different
        Zen Arado: letting go of my usual thought stream
        Pema Pera: yes, and for what is more natural (-> Liza)
        Liza Deischer: yes
        Zen Arado: I must admit I enjoy the chanting too
        Zen Arado: I do chant leader sometimes
        Pema Pera: it all supports each other: sitting, walking, chanting, bowing, eathing, coming, going
        Liza Deischer: Chanting is also a more physical experience
        Pema Pera: hi Calvino!
        Zen Arado: Hi Cal :)
        Liza Deischer: hi Cal
        Liza Deischer: new looks Cal?
        Zen Arado: something about voices in unison
        Calvino Rabeni: Hello all!
        Zen Arado: new perm ?
        Zen Arado: :)
        Calvino Rabeni: New hair at least :) Maybe I will change it occasionally
        Liza Deischer: and love is in the air I see :-)
        Zen Arado: it is?
        Calvino Rabeni: Now that the ice is gone, I don't need the jacket either
        Liza Deischer: unison with your body and others
        Pema Pera: :)
        Liza Deischer: I understand

    I introduce a topic concerning the practice taught by a spiritual organisation I discovered on the web a few days ago. This led to a discussion about integration of short periods of awareness with longer meditation periods.

        Zen Arado: I wonder if you noticed this website I talked about at one of the sessions Pema?
        Zen Arado: http://greatfreedom.org/
        Zen Arado: it seems so like what we do here
        Pema Pera: let me have a look . . .
        Zen Arado: just coming back to awareness for short moments during the day
        Zen Arado: it was started by a woman called Candice O'Denver
        Pema Pera: is it dzogchen related?
        Zen Arado: no not Buddhist related
        Pema Pera: Hi Tarmel!
        Pema Pera: it talks about "natural perfection", that's why I wondered :)
        Zen Arado: but ppl told her it is very like Dzogchen
        Pema Pera: Hi Dorothy!
        Zen Arado: Hi Dorothy
        Liza Deischer: Hi Tarmel, Dorothy
        Tarmel Udimo: hI folks
        Tarmel Udimo: this is a friend of mine
        Tarmel Udimo: Dorothy is the creator of an amazing sim
        Pema Pera: nice to meet you, Dorothy!
        Zen Arado: fine does Dorothy need an introduction?
        Tarmel Udimo: We are not stopped I am just showing her around
        Liza Deischer: maybe it is easier if you shut down your voice
        Zen Arado: ok
        Tarmel Udimo: how that
        Zen Arado: great
        Tarmel Udimo: what's the name of your sim again?
        Dorothy Porta: Macbeth
        Liza Deischer: thanks
        Tarmel Udimo: yeah check ot out
        Tarmel Udimo: anyway we will leave you to it!
        Zen Arado: nice to see you
        Dorothy Porta: goodbye
        Tarmel Udimo: bfn
        Liza Deischer: bye
        Pema Pera: take care!
        Zen Arado: drop in anytime !
        Zen Arado: bye
        Pema Pera: short & sweet :-)
        Zen Arado: when I read stuff on that site I started wondering about my meditation practice
        Pema Pera: how so, Zen?
        Zen Arado: whether I should drop it and just do short moments of awareness through the day
        Zen Arado: she says they eventually coalesce into an awareness that is always present
        Pema Pera: oh, I think you can do both
        Pema Pera: no need to choose
        Liza Deischer: actually, I think both are needed
        Zen Arado: but I think I will keep my meditation and add the short moments
        Zen Arado: yes
        Liza Deischer: one is giving you warereness, the other one is giving you deeper insight
        Pema Pera: yes, they reinforce each other
        Liza Deischer: needed is a big word,btw
        Pema Pera: :)
        Pema Pera: nothing is needed, but many things can be helpful :-)
        Pema Pera: supportive
        Liza Deischer: yes, thaths what I mean :-)
        Zen Arado: meditation should spill into your life they say
        Calvino Rabeni: Meditation is a very broad category - I think as broad as "what you do for your body" - like, I wouldn't give up exercise for vitamins
        Zen Arado: I like meditation
        Zen Arado: I know others who find it a chore
        Zen Arado: then I wonder if it is an escapes from life
        Pema Pera: nice analogy, Calvino!
        Pema Pera: btw, I am wondering whether I will be able to come into PaB eight times today, starting with this meeting, and adding also the happy (half) hours right in between the sessions, in the Village Cafe
        Liza Deischer: sorry, but before the bell goes
        Liza Deischer: I need to go
        Pema Pera: bye Liza!
        Zen Arado: bye Liza
        Calvino Rabeni: Bye Liza
        Liza Deischer: bye all
        Zen Arado: thanks for coming!

    Discussion ensued about the function of meditation and my worries about the dilution and 'psychologizing' of Buddhist traditions:

        Calvino Rabeni: I have friends who overdo meditation
        Calvino Rabeni: It's not like meditation is good or bad in itself
        Zen Arado: how do you overdo it Cal?
        Calvino Rabeni: but important to look at what function it serves in a person's life
        Zen Arado: yes - if it is escapism?
        Calvino Rabeni: I look at what it does for them, and what it might be "instead of"
        Calvino Rabeni: yes
        Calvino Rabeni: I know someone who uses it to manage anxiety
        Zen Arado: but in Zen they get away from any functional idea
        Calvino Rabeni: also takes a drug for that
        Calvino Rabeni: Because they are committed to Zen, ideologically
        Calvino Rabeni: but there are many stories of Zen practitioners branching out
        Calvino Rabeni: to compensate for the limitations of Zen practice
        Zen Arado: perhaps the MBSR idea promotes the idea of functionality
        Calvino Rabeni: instead of maintaining that it "fixes everything and is ALL you need"
        Calvino Rabeni: They keep the zen, if they want it, but add other things to their life practices
        Calvino Rabeni: So the become less one-sided
        Pema Pera: zen can be all you need, if seen and practice sufficiently broadly . . . but just taking "just sit" too narrowly won't do it
        Calvino Rabeni: Any tradition has people who over-do the practice in a one-sided way, maybe for the wrong reasons
        Zen Arado: I wonder if I am into too many side branches though
        Calvino Rabeni: their teachers have to encourage them to do other things
        Pema Pera: perhaps it is under-doing that is the problem, taking it too narrowly . . . . it is not that they spend too much time on it, I think
        Zen Arado: you can become a kind of 'spiritual gypsy 'perhaps
        Calvino Rabeni: I think American Zen is changing the envelope somewhat
        Calvino Rabeni: Zen is not meant to be a rigid fixed thing
        Calvino Rabeni: so some do more things for emotional development, for example
        Calvino Rabeni: The basic insights remain
        Zen Arado: no - but don't you see a danger in flitting from one thing to another?
        Calvino Rabeni: Yes, but they don't "flit".
        Calvino Rabeni: They continue for years, and gradually add things until they become more fully practiced
        Zen Arado: I tend to though
        Calvino Rabeni: It is not flighty
        Zen Arado: it is so easy to find spiritua teachings on the web
        Calvino Rabeni: I'm talking about people who achieve a respectable depth with things, not the butterfly types
        Zen Arado: you really need a teacher to keep you on track I think
        Calvino Rabeni: Beware of the web, my son :)
        Zen Arado: I know:)
        Zen Arado: we have an embarrassment of choice
        Calvino Rabeni: Yes, that can be a problem,not just an opportunity
        Zen Arado: but it might be better to have a basic tradition to adhere to?
        Calvino Rabeni: Freedom without discrimination - hmmmm
        Pema Pera: it all depends on the individual, Zen
        Pema Pera: it is easier to stick to one tradition, for sure
        Calvino Rabeni: On the individual's character, and also their experience
        Pema Pera: and their motivation, the strength of their motivation, more than anything else
        Zen Arado: I think many come to Buddhism to solve personal problems initially
        Zen Arado: that is their motivation
        Calvino Rabeni: It's like learning anything in depth, perhaps - in the beginning you explore a bit, later follow some teacher or system that you have reason to respect, maybe later branch out independently
        Pema Pera: yes, to get back to "normal" and then they may discover something much better than "normal", the real normal (-> Zen)
        Calvino Rabeni: Yes, that's a common legitimate motivation at first
        Zen Arado: but then that changes as their practice deepens
        Zen Arado: yes Pema
        Zen Arado: yes Cal
        Zen Arado: I japan Zen can be very tough
        Zen Arado: in Japan

    Discussion about Zen retreat experiences and whether their strictness is warranted:

        Pema Pera: bye Zen and Calvino!
        Calvino Rabeni: so can japan brush painting or flower arranging be tough - with ranks like the martial arts sometimes :)
        Pema Pera: perhaps see you later again today
        Zen Arado: bye Pema
        Calvino Rabeni: Bye Pema
        Zen Arado: thanks for coming
        Pema Pera: you both too!
        Calvino Rabeni: :)
        Zen Arado: I was reading about Eiheji (sp) monastery
        Zen Arado: about how much abuse the monks get
        Calvino Rabeni: What kind of abuse?
        Zen Arado: verbal I think
        Zen Arado: and beating with sticks as well as sleep deprivation
        Calvino Rabeni: Well, it's hard to say - that might be an exaggeration of a legitimate practice
        Zen Arado: I have a friend who did a rettreat at the San Francisco zen center lately
        Calvino Rabeni: Maybe out of hand
        Zen Arado: and that was pretty tough too
        Zen Arado: you wonder if the strictness is necessary
        Zen Arado: what purpose it serves
        Calvino Rabeni: There is a difference between abuse and hard training
        Calvino Rabeni: Have you done the sits in the traditional setting?
        Zen Arado: yes - Japanese zen masters thought Westerners very weak
        Zen Arado: I have only done retreats here in Ireland
        Calvino Rabeni: How much did they sleep during the retreat?
        Zen Arado: they can be long days starting at around 6am to 9pm
        Calvino Rabeni: But no sitting at night?
        Zen Arado: no
        Calvino Rabeni: Did they use the keisaku stick?
        Zen Arado: they do an hours Samu (work practice)
        Zen Arado: and an hour of Yoga
        Zen Arado: no
        Zen Arado: I only saw that once
        Zen Arado: and you had to request it
        Zen Arado: it is good when you are sleepy
        Calvino Rabeni: yeah, it helps
        Zen Arado: it doesn't really hurt
        Zen Arado: I am a bad sleeper at retreats so I am usually half asleep
        Calvino Rabeni: Same here, when away with a group
        Calvino Rabeni: Earplugs help
        Zen Arado: I find the physical problems of being in a wheelchair greater than the actual meditation
        Zen Arado: earplugs?
        Calvino Rabeni: To block noise at night while sleeping - I am a light sleeper
        Zen Arado: ah noises don't disturb me ; just my mind racing
        Calvino Rabeni: In dormitory or zendo sleeping there are always lots of people around maybe, snoring and such :)
        Zen Arado: retreat centers are rarely very disabled accessible
        Zen Arado: so that gives me greatest problems
        Calvino Rabeni: When you sit zaze, can you get out of the chair?
        Calvino Rabeni: Hello Basam
        Zen Arado: Hi Basam
        basam Bruun: hi
        Zen Arado: you been here before?
        basam Bruun: what is this plase
        basam Bruun: no
        basam Bruun: this is first time
        basam Bruun: :)
        Zen Arado: I will give you an intro on a notecard
        basam Bruun: ok
        basam Bruun: but whit are you doiang
        Zen Arado: we sit and have discussions mostly
        Zen Arado: and talks are recorded
        Zen Arado: so you can have your comments deleted if you wish?

    Sitting posture and over-intellectualizing of Buddhism:

        Zen Arado: oh and we meet 4 times per day 1,7am and 1,7 pm SLT
        Zen Arado: we were talking about meditation retreats
        basam Bruun: aha
        Zen Arado: I was saying I have difficulties because I am in a wheelchair
        Zen Arado: and I can't get up from it now
        Zen Arado: but this boring to others?
        Zen Arado: I become a bit dependent on others at retreats
        Calvino Rabeni: When you do zen "sit", how is it different than traditional, in terms of posture etc. for you Zen?
        Zen Arado: it is easy - I just slide forward to the edge of the wheelchair and sit upright
        Calvino Rabeni: I see. Sometimes I use that position
        Zen Arado: yes - older ppl often have to use chairs
        Zen Arado: so long as I don't fall asleep and fall off the chair!
        Zen Arado: for walking meditation I just push chair around slowly
        Zen Arado: you practice Zen Cal?
        Calvino Rabeni: I have in the past, but now I do other sitting meditations
        Zen Arado: from other traditions?
        Calvino Rabeni: Yes, but I can't designate them
        Zen Arado: I read a lot from other traditions
        Zen Arado: I just ordered a book on the Bodicaryavata (sp)
        Zen Arado: by Pema Chodron
        Calvino Rabeni: I don't read any more - what I have has worked for a long time so I don't need new information
        Calvino Rabeni: Although occasionally an old teacher comes out with a new book or something, then I will read it
        Calvino Rabeni: Or for a class, such as the TSK book
        Zen Arado: I have that book but couldn't seem to get into it
        Zen Arado: maybe I'm not so keen on visualizations
        Calvino Rabeni: I have trouble getting into it also, but it's worth a try for the Time workshop
        Zen Arado: if I can't get into the book there isn't much point going to the workshop though
        Calvino Rabeni: I did pick up a tantra book a while back, but found it to be variations on what I already knew - and I didn't want to learn the "tradition"

    Intellectual versus emotional and unconscious ways of knowing and back to the purity of Zen and how it is changing in the West:

        Calvino Rabeni: Nothing spiritual happens for me any more through the intellect
        Zen Arado: I haven't been practicing Buddhism very long abot 5 1/2 years
        Calvino Rabeni: So I don't study that way
        Zen Arado: but I can also see the same things coming up just in a slightly different way
        Calvino Rabeni: 5 years can be long, if the practice is intensive
        Zen Arado: yes - I can see I am coming to the end of thinking too much about it
        Zen Arado: there is a trap there too
        Calvino Rabeni: I basically just study on emotional and unconscious levels
        Calvino Rabeni: But I read a great deal in the past, I'm not anti-intellectual
        Calvino Rabeni: maybe post- though
        Zen Arado: you see - I came to Buddhism through philosophy
        Zen Arado: from a study on personal identity
        Calvino Rabeni: I see. I came to it through martial arts
        Calvino Rabeni: that would make a difference :)
        Zen Arado: :)
        Zen Arado: so I find it harder to slough off the rationality
        Calvino Rabeni: I took training in budshist-flavored psychotherapy at one time
        Calvino Rabeni: but decided not to practice it as a profession
        Calvino Rabeni: I liked the combination though, it made sense to me
        Zen Arado: yes - Buddhist ideas are gaining ground in that discipline
        Calvino Rabeni: Since the late '80's more or less
        Zen Arado: CBT sounds very Buddhist to me
        Calvino Rabeni: In a way, but they are going even more in the mindfulness direction lately
        Zen Arado: it is happening here in Ireland too
        Calvino Rabeni: With the help of some science
        Zen Arado: my Zen teacher also lectures on Mindfulness Meditation when he comes over here - to doctors and psychiatristrists etc
        Calvino Rabeni: mindfulness methods compare favorably with CBT in studies of drug rehabilitation
        Zen Arado: woder if it might dilute Zen practice though
        Calvino Rabeni: no big surprise, but the people in those areas want some proof
        Zen Arado: he sees it as a kind of outreach too though
        Calvino Rabeni: Do you have a personal concern with purity and/or "going astray"? Or are you thinking of a kind of public relations issue?
        Zen Arado: and some come to the Zen center here after starting with mindfulness
        Calvino Rabeni: Could go either way
        Zen Arado: not sure - but if you water it down too much...
        Zen Arado: on the other hand zen has always changed as it moved to different cultures
        Calvino Rabeni: it must be a living thing
        Calvino Rabeni: not an ideology
        Zen Arado: we now are starting to have an Irish Zen
        Zen Arado: :)
        Zen Arado: people who are practicing Catholica but also practice Zen

    Catholic/Zen mixture and bookishness:

        Calvino Rabeni: These things are much less compartmentalized than they were 30 years ago
        Zen Arado: a Jesuit priest who is also a Zen teacher comes here to lead retreats
        Zen Arado: he performs a Catholic mass during the retreat
        Zen Arado: some of the Protestants here don't like that:)
        Calvino Rabeni: I would imagine not :)
        Zen Arado: I don't see how he reconciles ideas about God with Zen but he does somehow
        Calvino Rabeni: I would recommend a zen-like discipline to you for reading - but not if you feel it might dilute your focus.
        Zen Arado: yes - I can be too much of a dilettante
        Calvino Rabeni: because it fits with zen and identity, which you mentioned
        Zen Arado: should re-read old books
        Calvino Rabeni: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1556438575
        Zen Arado: insted of always buying new ones
        Zen Arado: thanks
        Zen Arado: hungry ghost for books :)
        Zen Arado: looks interesting
        Zen Arado: a bit like Seung Sahn - 'don't know mind'
        Zen Arado: my teacher put 'only don't know' on my rakusu
        Calvino Rabeni: It might be appropriate for a "Ways of NOT Knowing" workshop :)
        Zen Arado: yes :)
        Zen Arado: anyway - I'm afraid I will have to go now Cal
        Zen Arado: nice talking to you
        Calvino Rabeni: Same here - see you later, Zen
        Zen Arado: ok bye :)
        Calvino Rabeni: bye for now

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