Saturday, November 13, 2010

What is Meditation?

I just started reading a book by Venerable Henepola Gunaratana called "Mindfulness in Plain English".  It's very insightful so far, as it talks about what Meditation is and isn't. 

I used to think meditation was only for monks, holy men, hippies, and acid trippers.   I was obviously I was wrong since I'm neither of those, and most of the people I know aren't either.   Meditation has gotten general concepts about it that aren't necessarily true as a whole.  There are many different types of meditation which are 'flavored' by the spiritual / religious institution that it is practiced in.

Vipassana (insight meditation) is not a means to grow calmer (although it is a by-product sometimes).   As the teacher I've been attending that last month points out,  'Meditation is not a time to go into trance, or feel good.  Vipassana meditation (as taught by the Buddha)  is a practice in being more aware.'   Awareness leads to better control over our lives.   It shows us the real nature of reality rather than the one given to us through society and our own ignorance.

As I've learned in the past, results don't come if I just choose to meditate every now and then.  For me (since I do want to change my behavior and see reality as it is),  I have to discipline myself to do it daily.  
I've been happy to note that my results are very unpredictable after meditating.  Sometimes I'm calmer afterwards, or sometimes I'm agitated,  or sometimes just drowsy.   I've learned that results aren't supposed to be predictable for each session.  The point of meditation for me is to see the impermanence of everything, and to loosen my grip on cravings (for pleasures), aversions(to pain), and to neutrality(things that are unimportant to me or bring no feeling whatsoever).
 Not that I can't enjoy things, feel pain, or be bored;  but not to cling or run from these.   Unfortunately from an addict this is very difficult.  Because I've ran from pain all my life, sought pleasures in many different ways(mostly unhealthy), and strayed away from things that had no concern for me.  To change this whole way of life is definitely a slow process as it should be.
But the most important thing in my life is meditation daily.  I've noticed thus far that my attitude has shifted a little bit, I'm noticing more of my defects of character, and actually being more disciplined in my daily activities.    

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Waking Negativity

I'd love to say I wake up grateful, bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  Unfortunately it's not like that for me.   My scattered mind seems to love to wake up thinking it'd be better to stay in bed and live from there.  But I guess that's the reason for mind training and living a little bit healthier.  Based on my experience with others in recovery, (or maybe it's just human nature in general), this is a common working of the brain.   We learn to not take our wonderful ideas so seriously.  

 So awake I am for another day.  What can I add?  Don't know yet.  But maybe I don't need to know.  Off I go for morning meditation,  and off to my commitment for the week.  

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Another Phase or Real Belief?

The past 5 years has been a struggle with what is right for John or what is acceptable and right for others.   Buddhism isn't very popular in the 'bible belt'.   I've noticed that many people (even myself to some extent) have judged it okay to be Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, if you come from countries where those religions are predominant.  But in the United States (in the West in general)  Christianity is predominant, and it's easy to pass off those who stray from that path as just being rebels.  So I've questioned myself quite a bit and have often tried to conform to the faith of my peers and my family.  All that has done was open my mind up to the beauty of their faiths, but still left me feeling empty. 

The only thing I know is that deep down I feel the Dhamma is the truth.  I've made more changes in my heart and mind through Buddhism in 5 years than I have in 30 years of being exposed to Christian theology. 

I'm so grateful for the this country where I can choose to believe in what I will to believe.   It had taken all my life from bouncing around from many faiths to find the Dhamma which immediately made me go AH!   Christianity or the 'god' concept never made me feel complete or whole.  (And of course it was probally due to my lack of effort and my ingrained defiance against blind faith.) 

I'm so grateful for the 12 step programs out there that told me to find a concept that rings true with me.  If it wasn't for that I know I would have been dead years ago.  When I came into the program in 1996 I was downright anti-religion.  And it lasted for several years afterwards also.  But inside I was searching for something to explain and change the way I felt about life in all its aspects.  Although I've struggled with sobriety in the past, that concept of choosing my own higher power has kept me from giving up and getting my ass back into the rooms.   I owe a lot to AA / NA in general for giving that gift to me.

My family is supportive as long as I'm happy and it changes me from the self-destructive son they had over the years.  They've loved me all through that, but it's got to be a relief to have a son who's not in jail, not trying to kill himself, and not full of hate.   Today I still struggle with what others may think about my convictions and spirituality, but I'm slowly coming out of that.   As Buddhists we dedicate all positive things we do towards the benefit of all sentient beings, and that takes any insecurity out of what I'm doing in my life.   

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dhamma Night.

Off to meditation night at the Buddhist Temple. Awesome Theravaden meditation center. Been going for about a month now. Started back into my meditation practices almost 2 months now. I like it. Theravaden Buddhism has a strong emphasis on ethical living which is important for a 'selfish' rebel such as myself. As a recovering addict it adds much to my recovery and sense of well being. I began in Buddhism about 4 years ago and spent some time at a monestary. But I was not doing it to improve my life, I was there to escape. I'm planning on going to a Vipassana meditation retreat in January. It stretches mindfulness to extreme limits and greatly throws the person involved into indepth meditation. 10 hours of silent / sitting meditation a day for 10 days.
So right now I'm putting that method into practice (although nowhere near 10 hours a day) so I can get used to the discipline of sitting. Right now I've been sitting daily for two sessions of 25 minutes each. And my attitude has gotten a little better since I've been doing it daily. Such a powerful method that I've actually quit smoking for about a week now, and have cleaned my house. Not a big deal for 90 % of people, but for a lazy, undiciplined person as myself it's huge. I've been wanting to do both for 3 years now.
So off to the Dhamma to sit for an hour and a half. And the beauty of it is, is some members from my local recovery group have shown up. It makes me feel not so 'strange' since I know there are others in recovery in Nashville who have felt the benefits of the Buddhist teachings.
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A Journey into Truth

This is not only an experiment into truth about reality and my ' wonderful ' insights about it, but also a look into the mind of a "regular" human being dealing with life on life's terms and according to the Ultimate Reality shown by the historic Buddha.

This has been an idea born out of a conversation with a friend. Since I hate to write (not so much the act of writing, but because I'm by nature lazy), I've decided to try this blog thang. Hopefully to look back and see growth, and more importantly to laugh my ass off at my humanity. Because I will be going for complete honesty (from my perspective) in my adventures into the Dhamma and recovery from alcoholism, I will not be using real names while referring to people I encounter. I believe the internet is about freedom of speech, but not a place to character assassinate others. (Not that I wouldn't love to sometimes, but because it's not right and I don't want to deal with those consequences today.)

So the journey will begin.....................