2010.02.18 01:00 - Meditation and Retreats

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    The Guardian for this meeting was Zen Arado. The comments are by Zen Arado. Calvino and myself present. Most of the discussion was centred around meditation, about the how and why of doing it.

    About sleep......

        Zen Arado: Hi Calvino :)
        Zen Arado: how are you?
        Calvino Rabeni: Good morning, Zen
        Calvino Rabeni: Good Zen, if a little tired this night
        Zen Arado: what time is it with you?
        Calvino Rabeni: 1:08 AM
        Zen Arado: it is 9.08 am where I am
        Calvino Rabeni: I guessed earlier.
        Zen Arado: I am usually more tired in the mornings than at night
        Calvino Rabeni: I have a low spot at 10:30 pm, after which I become more alert
        Zen Arado: I find it hard to get to sleep sometimes
        Calvino Rabeni: I did when I was young - no more - and for a while I found it hard to sleep in but lately that is not a problem also
        Zen Arado: I need less sleep now I think
        Zen Arado: 7 hours per night maximum
        Calvino Rabeni: Sleep is interesting but all reports and studies seem pretty inconclusive

    About 'nothing to do'

    Zen Arado: I was just reading a snippet from a Zen site a friend sent me
        Zen Arado: "Caught in the self-centered dream, only suffering.    
        Holding to self-centered thoughts, exactly the dream.
        Each moment, life as it is, the only teacher.
        Being just this moment, compassion's way."

        Zen Arado: from here: http://sittingfrogsangha.org/
        Calvino Rabeni: I like the "only teacher" part
        Zen Arado: yes and 'being just this moment'
        Zen Arado: I think people expect some big enlightenment experience and then everything will be great
        Zen Arado: the more I learn it is just about accepting things the way they are
        Zen Arado: so ordinary
        Calvino Rabeni: No fireworks
        Zen Arado: like the lojong teaching about abandoning hope of fruition
        Calvino Rabeni: Doesn't zen have a dream of enlightenment?
        Zen Arado: non- it is the same thing as far as I can see
        Zen Arado: they talk about 'attaining non-attaining'
        Calvino Rabeni: nothing to do then, should not be too difficult :)
        Zen Arado: they emphasize this in zazen - 'just sit' without expecting anything
        Zen Arado: and yet it is!
        Zen Arado: it the most difficult thing for us meddlesome humans
        Zen Arado: we want to control and manipulate everything to suit ourselves
        Calvino Rabeni: terrible :)
        Zen Arado: why can't we just relax and enjoy the ride?
        Calvino Rabeni: why not just accept being meddlesome ?
        Calvino Rabeni: it's what we are made to do, why fight it?
        Zen Arado: I was thinking about zen retreats again
        Zen Arado: yes - ust relax with that too Cal :)
        Calvino Rabeni: I think it's possible to accept human nature in its entirety
        Zen Arado: zen retreats are designed to stop you doing anything
        Zen Arado: but just sit and be uncomfortable
        Calvino Rabeni: that sounds like meddling with meddling :)

    About distractions and 'coping' with them - 'are they the main show' after all? Liked Cal's 'accept everything with gusto.'

    Zen Arado: but it teaches you how to cope with being free from distractions
        Calvino Rabeni: coping sounds like you have a problem of being free from distractions from the practice of removing the distractions
        Calvino Rabeni: so if the distractions were accepted, there would be no need for coping with being free of them
        Zen Arado: I fill my life with distractions
        Calvino Rabeni: how do you know they aren't the main show, not the distractions?
        Calvino Rabeni: If your life was filled with something that weren't distractions, what would they be?
        Zen Arado: depends how you use the distractions I suppose
        Zen Arado: if you use them to avoid other things....
        Calvino Rabeni: What are the "non distractions"?
        Zen Arado: don't know
        Zen Arado: maybe just accepting what is going on without adding commentary like'it shouldn't be this way' ?
        Calvino Rabeni: What about accepting the commentary, and not saying " this commentary shouldn't be this way"
        Calvino Rabeni: it would I think simplify things somewhat
        Zen Arado: ok - just accept everything ?
        Calvino Rabeni: Less commentary
        Calvino Rabeni: Right, like, adding commentary doesn't help
        Calvino Rabeni: LIke, mind isn't simpler with labels that say "don't have this"
        Calvino Rabeni: Else it turns into commentary on commentary on commentary...
        Calvino Rabeni: Attitudes add complexity too I think
        Zen Arado: yes
        Calvino Rabeni: some of them seem worthwhile, some don't
        Zen Arado: but I fear becoming a passive zombie
        Calvino Rabeni: how might that happen?
        Zen Arado: well...if you just accept everything
        Calvino Rabeni: if you accept it "with gusto" how about that - still zombie?
        Calvino Rabeni: Zombies are unresponsive dullards, hardly alive

    Is Zen (or Buddhism generally) too passive?

    Zen Arado: a friend accuses me of being too passive
        Calvino Rabeni: Just a body with no soul - I think that's the idea people have of zombies
        Calvino Rabeni: Well that's an unfair accusation, can't be much truth to it?
        Zen Arado: of just accepting thigs when I should try to change circumstances
        Zen Arado: or she suspects zen is about just accepting everything
        Calvino Rabeni: You might have to go along with the action
        Calvino Rabeni: if the thing is right to do, then doing the action has the simplest result
        Calvino Rabeni: accepting and not acting, when action is required, is a way to generate all kinds of extra stuff
        Zen Arado: I think when you fully accept a situation you also see more clearly the right action to take in the situation
        Calvino Rabeni: seems that way doesn't it?
        Zen Arado: just thought of that :)
        Calvino Rabeni: Your friend is not a fan of zen
        Zen Arado: nope :)
        Calvino Rabeni: the samurai warriors were zen archetypes too - men of action - nothing but action
        Zen Arado: true...and right action
        Calvino Rabeni: a zen practice discipline is to be constantly in motion, fluid, never freezing the mind for an instant
        Calvino Rabeni: it ends up not being so different from sitting
        Zen Arado: good description

    Sitting outdoors....

        Calvino Rabeni: Outdoor open-eye sits are one way to do that
        Zen Arado: why is this so hard for me to learn?
        Calvino Rabeni: and can be quite enjoyable
        Calvino Rabeni: you might have a more informed insight than me on that last question
        Zen Arado: what do you do at those?
        Calvino Rabeni: You mean, outdoor sits?
        Zen Arado: yes
        Zen Arado: open-eye?
        Calvino Rabeni: Yes
        Zen Arado: ah yes I usually keep my eyes partly open anyway
        Calvino Rabeni: partly is an interesting place to be
        Calvino Rabeni: funny that how open the eyes are, has such an effect
        Zen Arado: not sure about it - sometimes I keep them closed
        Calvino Rabeni: When I sit outdoors, the posture is important, but you'd know that from zazen
        Calvino Rabeni: the ideal posture is both as totally relaxed as possible, and as alert as possible
        Zen Arado: important indoors too
        Calvino Rabeni: whatever has that effect
        Zen Arado: at retreats your posture has to be correct or you will suffer
        Calvino Rabeni: I start with closed eyes, centering, relaxing, then slowly open eyes to gaze at environment
        Zen Arado: so many hours sitting will show you
        Calvino Rabeni: the idea is to be completely receptive and responsive to whatever is happening

    Sitting with 'control'

    Calvino Rabeni: and at first, have no "control"
        Zen Arado: yes - as we should be in the rest of our lives too
        Calvino Rabeni: control can be introduced later, as long as it doesn't take over and block seeing
        Zen Arado: and noticing the thoughts
        Calvino Rabeni: but the distinction is important
        Calvino Rabeni: thoughts are unimportant
        Zen Arado: control of what?
        Calvino Rabeni: of gaze and "attention"
        Zen Arado: I practice 'shikantaza'
        Zen Arado: no control there
        Calvino Rabeni: any thoughts then, originate from a direct response to what is seen
        Calvino Rabeni: and have no importance
        Calvino Rabeni: don't need to be watched or anything
        Calvino Rabeni: This mirror doesn't reflect itself at all
        Zen Arado: but you can get dragged into them
        Calvino Rabeni: and by not reflecting itself, it "becomes" itself
        Calvino Rabeni: all you have to do is notice what is going on in the place you are doing the sit
        Zen Arado: the mind is very crafty though
        Calvino Rabeni: and the pleasantness of it - a kind of bliss - naturally forgets about all those meddlesome thoughts
        Zen Arado: it can so easily get you to start thinking about what you are seeing
        Calvino Rabeni: not if you enjoy the seeing more than the thinking
        Calvino Rabeni: which is what happens if one really sees
        Zen Arado: you have to be careful about 'spacing out' too
        Calvino Rabeni: the perfect mirror does not make commentary, leave a trace, or go blank
        Calvino Rabeni: all it does is see, and the seeing is an appreciation
        Zen Arado: I agree with what you are saying Cal
        Calvino Rabeni: a deep seeing
        Calvino Rabeni: it must involve the whole body
        Calvino Rabeni: which is not something that must be forced, because the body likes to do it

    The tricks our minds play at long meditation sessions.

    Zen Arado: sounds ideal Cal but my experience is different
        Zen Arado: my mind plays so many tricks on me especially at long sittings
        Zen Arado: I start to see pictures on the wall infront of me
        Zen Arado: or kind of visions or dreams
        Zen Arado: especially if I am sleepy to begin with
        Calvino Rabeni: a mind can't withdraw from itself - or rather the attempt just creates more complexity
        Zen Arado: the seeing is more interesting outside I guess
        Calvino Rabeni: controlling things is easiest by stepping inside them
        Zen Arado: the mind gets bored and looks for distractions I think
        Calvino Rabeni: Distractions from what?
        Zen Arado: from just sitting looking at a bit of blank wall
        Calvino Rabeni: then you give full attention to the pictures on the wall
        Calvino Rabeni: the outdoor sits are nice because you can let nature "drive"
        Zen Arado: hmmm....I would get carried away by them
        Zen Arado: I just bring my mind back to my body and breath
        Calvino Rabeni: I know, that's the methodology
        Calvino Rabeni: and in the outdoor sits I bring mind back to whatever is around me
        Zen Arado: must admit I have never heard of outdoor sits in zen
        Zen Arado: even at Tassajara way up in the mountains I think they always sit indoors
        Zen Arado: in California
        Calvino Rabeni: It is not conventional zen - it is a more general but similar awareness practice
        Calvino Rabeni: I've been to tassajara, but only for a day

    Types of retreats.

    Zen Arado: in Soto zen they want to take away all our props and toys
        Zen Arado: there was a Japanese zen teacher called Uchiyama
        Zen Arado: invented 'sesshins without toys'
        Zen Arado: nothing but 50 mins sitting then 10 mins walking meditation from morning to night
        Calvino Rabeni: and does it work better?
        Zen Arado: I would love to go to Tassajara but it is very disabled inaccessible
        Zen Arado: don't know - he thought it did
        Calvino Rabeni: I don't believe there's any way to tell, without trying it - I think meditators should try a variety of techniques and find out for themselves
        Zen Arado: there is something good about persevering with that discomfort
        Calvino Rabeni: Yes, ?
        Zen Arado: it teaches you to be able to stay with whatever is happening in RL I guess
        Calvino Rabeni: Assuming RL is uncomfortable I guess?
        Calvino Rabeni: And suppose RL were bliss?
        Calvino Rabeni: Then the ability to stay with bliss would be adaptive
        Zen Arado: hmm....usually not for long :)
        Calvino Rabeni: A belief, maybe an experience, but not intrinsic to reality
        Calvino Rabeni: How do you avoid having a practice turn into a kind of puritan attitude that discomfort well eventually result in an imagined heavenly state?
        Zen Arado: ha yes...it is a bit puritan
        Zen Arado: or Opus Dei and hairshirts
        Calvino Rabeni: And, if RL is a mixed bag, won't it be good to be able to persist through any variety of experience, whether blissful, uncomfortable, or something neutral?
        Zen Arado: good points
        Zen Arado: though even sitting at a retreat is still a mixed bag
        Zen Arado: very day is still so different
        Calvino Rabeni: I've seen the pictures on the blank wall
        Zen Arado: some days it seems easy
        Zen Arado: yes it is common I think
        Zen Arado: or if there is a pattern in a carpet we see faces
        Calvino Rabeni: Basically, when the vista is complex, I don't see much of it, and when it is a blank wall, I see things that arent't there

    What is reality? A familiar theme.

     Calvino Rabeni: it apears that the "amount" of what I see is completely independent of what is actually there
        Calvino Rabeni: or so it seemed at times
        Zen Arado: makes you realize the way the mind constructs reality
        Calvino Rabeni: No, actually I don't believe it does
        Calvino Rabeni: it takes perspectives, tells stories about what is presented by reality
        Calvino Rabeni: and that is a kind of construction I suppose, but it is guided by reality
        Zen Arado: well that is what I meant by 'construct'
        Zen Arado: yes
        Calvino Rabeni: ok, a kind of overlay then
        Calvino Rabeni: Somehow I think, "Reality" would rather like being appreciated and flavored like that :)
        Calvino Rabeni: If reality is a gift, our appreciation ties the bow on it
        Zen Arado: if each person's reality is different is there a 'real' reality?
        Calvino Rabeni: well each person's reality is not different
        Zen Arado: I think it is
        Calvino Rabeni: just viewpoints on the same event
        Zen Arado: it is colored by their experiences and physical apparatus
        Calvino Rabeni: yes, that is how it shows up to them
        Calvino Rabeni: in a unique perspective
        Calvino Rabeni: so it is not identical, not different
        Calvino Rabeni: like the eye of an insect, with all the facets
        Calvino Rabeni: each person gets a very slightly different version
        Zen Arado: how could you tell what is the 'authoritative' version of reality then?
        Calvino Rabeni: there isn't one
        Calvino Rabeni: unless you think "god" has it :)
        Calvino Rabeni: the more eyes you see through, the better the view
        Zen Arado: I think most of us have an idea of some underlying 'real' reality inherited from Plato and Descartes etc
        Calvino Rabeni: have there been any empirical studies, I wonder?
        Zen Arado: and Buddhism teaches that there is only impermanence
        Calvino Rabeni: it would be hard to demonstrate
        Zen Arado: as soon as you define it it would have changed

    Buddhism and Science.

        Calvino Rabeni: buddhist philosophy can be pretty reductionisitic, just like western science
        Zen Arado: quantum physics demonstrates this too I think
        Zen Arado: what do you reduce impermanence to?
        Calvino Rabeni: "there is only X" - fill in the blank for X with "impermanence", "quarks" or whatever.
        Zen Arado: somebody gave me a link to some videos on the relation of science to Buddhism yesterday
        Zen Arado: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qj_i7YqDwJA
        Calvino Rabeni: So the game of reductionism - what does it benefit?
        Calvino Rabeni: Yeah, the universe-as-hologram idea is making the rounds too, I noticed
        Zen Arado: it is just a way of understanding things by dissection into their smallest parts
        Calvino Rabeni: Theres a buzz about it
        Calvino Rabeni: And yet, that's no longer understanding
        Zen Arado: I only watched a bit of the first one
        Zen Arado: no because there was a 'buzz' about how we have to understand things holistically a while back
        Calvino Rabeni: quite a while back - but this is stimulated by some new theory I guessed
        Zen Arado: quantum physics seems to have opened the way to more uncertainty about everything

    Living with uncertainty.

    Zen Arado: and Buddhism is largely about how to live with uncertainty I guess
        Calvino Rabeni: That is interesting. How many different possible ways could there be to live with uncertainty?
        Calvino Rabeni: Different types of ways?
        Zen Arado: I'm not certain :)
        Zen Arado: it's just to live in the present moment and deal with things as they arise
        Calvino Rabeni: It's not well defined as a question, but does yield to imagination
        Zen Arado: developing flexibility and imagination and creativity
        Calvino Rabeni: There are other possibilities besides
        Zen Arado: rather than relying on fixed notions
        Calvino Rabeni: Yes, all those seem pretty helpful
        Calvino Rabeni: Well fixed notions are good when you need discipline
        Calvino Rabeni: for a while :)
        Calvino Rabeni: The idea of fixed notions - more a fantasy than a reality
        Zen Arado: maybe in some situations where you can control things
        Zen Arado: but life is pretty uncontrollable usually
        Calvino Rabeni: which is always some intermediate between "hardly at all" and "almost completely"

    Showing my pessimistic attitude here I think! But life is perfect the way it is, isn't it?

    Calvino Rabeni: quite a range of controllability
        Zen Arado: we try to freeze it into formulas and labels but it doesn't work
        Calvino Rabeni: although an individual does not get the credit for being the cause
        Calvino Rabeni: I mean more like "predictability" I suppose
        Zen Arado: I'm not sure we control anything
        Calvino Rabeni: And if they are predictable, then there's less need for control
        Zen Arado: you need all the factors to go the right way for you
        Calvino Rabeni: And they usually do :)
        Zen Arado: you are very lucky then :)
        Calvino Rabeni: it is 99.99 % already set up to go just the way we need it to go
        Zen Arado: maybe if we go with life it goes with us
        Calvino Rabeni: then we focus on the exception and blow it out of porportion
        Zen Arado: ah - 'need' is the right word
        Calvino Rabeni: what of wants then :)
        Zen Arado: it is the wants that give us the problems
        Calvino Rabeni: I thought you might say that :)
        Zen Arado: negative emotions - greed, anger and ignorance
        Zen Arado: cause our suffering
        Zen Arado: 2nd Noble truth
        Zen Arado: clinging ,attachment cause me so much suffering
        Zen Arado: I would say more if this wasn't recorded
        Zen Arado: anyway I will have to go Cal
        Calvino Rabeni: I enjoyed the sit and chat Zen :)
        Zen Arado: nice talking to you:)
        Calvino Rabeni: Take care, have a good day too.
        Zen Arado: you too :)
        Zen Arado: bye
        Calvino Rabeni: bye

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