27 June, 2012

In Silence, Do We Really Exist?

After about 4 days in a silent retreat with 10-11 hours of meditation per day the mind really does not stop thinking, it just gets a little less interesting to involve yourself in your many thoughts.  If you are lucky to develop the body-mind to realize that the bad feelings and anger don’t feel so good, you stop going there. Not that you can really control what you spin on, but that is what we work on. Then, in time, everything that composes your “real” life slowly becomes foggy and less substantial. You have no net, phone, or speech and immersed in silence and darkness of the cells or even a quiet hall of other long-term meditators with eyes closed…..what confirms your existence? There is, of course, no eye contact in breaks, and everyone there knows nothing of your life or of you. It is not really disturbing, and it is actually sublime living without all connections to your past. It is all stories anyway, and when we die those particulars of your life disappear with you. No matter how close people are to you they will never be able together all the pieces that are your life and idiosyncrasies, no matter how significant they feel at this time. And what does it mean? Why should we put so much importance on the small stuff or even the hard stuff we encounter in life? No one else does it for us. When I talked to Jac O’Keeffe in April, she told me what I went through has no significance at all and to drop it. “It was your body, and not you that it happened to, anyway.” It may sound callous, but it was said with clarity and love.

By day 7, everything I hold dear, like my partner(sorry, Tee Rak) and my family become only ideas that I can pull up and experience solely based on feelings or perceived needs. They seem to be like the same feelings one tries to let go of. Ah, which to keep and discard? The juggling act we think we can do so well. This judgmental mind has often lead us astray. So, I would try to feel them to feel like I exist. It was never done in a panic because existence is always really foggy, only while in silence it is more pronounced absence of ties to what we think is reality. My mind had let go of the stranglehold I had on people and things while meditating, but then my dreams at night spoke of the fears of non-existence. I would try to solve things and conjure importance for being. A few dreams I would wake up with I thought was an epiphany as a clear idea of how to solve my problems or others. Fat chance, as they were usually based out of the ego, that was struggling to exist in the face of close observation of it's weak soapbox. There is no reason why we are here, so perhaps I made this all up to prove I do exist. 

13 June, 2012

Oh, What a Feeling!

In observation, I find myself directing thoughts to get a feeling. Subtly, it may be done to establish the fact I am alive, because without a feeling we are living unaffected. Living in awareness and not in experience can feel like a withdrawal, but only when you hooked on feelings. We don’t realize it when we will create an averse reaction to something in the world just to sample a bad feeling and then quickly jump to solving a problem, grabbing some food, or if we are lucky a run in the park. I look at my old habits of trying to fix, straighten or get something completed just for a good feeling. It leaves one running from thought to thought without realizing it is never all done. Thoughts give birth to more thoughts. Self-created anxiety for me was most likely developed as a kid in the chaos of alcoholism in my family. I do find most people are hooked on a feeling, regardless of the cause, hence why obesity and alcoholism is so prevalent. It is really not the food or the drink, but the feeling they desire. And when one knows deep down that to feel good can’t be found in things outside your self, they are much likely to spiral into depression, as bad feelings have so much more of a long lasting kick. Good feelings need to have bigger and grander objects of source to get overcome the bad feelings. Bad feelings can be a simple as “Not knowing” what is next in life. I often reflect on what has come so far, and it is not over yet. I have tried to learn better ways to handle myself, often inspired when exhaustion sets in after repeated unskillful actions. Wisdom for me, enters in the back door, more as the last thing left!

What to do? Well, meditation brought those realities to the foreground. When I am resting in awareness while meditating and not labeling as good or bad, a natural peace flows from within. It is not ‘peace’ as another feel good object to grasp, but really relaxation into what is going on right at this minute and being ok with it.  Now to carry this relaxation in being into daily life, because it is me on that cushion at 5am, and it’s me... always, just a little bit scrambled. 

“....Without knowing yourself,
 there is no peace.
— J. Krishnamurti

That is why I am going to an 8-day Meditation with a focus on the Satipatthana Sutta teachings.

09 June, 2012

Wisdom comes Quicker without Liquor

The fifth precept:
I undertake the training rule
 to abstain from fermented drink that causes heedlessness.
Wak Saket Prep for New Year's 2555
The abbot who I had so much respect for when I did I short term ordination in Thailand, said when I disrobed that the fifth precept is the most important to keep in lay life. I agreed but came home to enjoy my occasional wine with dinner, I felt I had it all under control, but this stuck with me. He also stated that it isn’t the alcohol that is so bad, but drinking makes you more apt to break other precepts about lying, false speech and maybe even sexual misconduct. One as a human becomes weaker.
I continued requesting precepts at temple with the Nuns at home, which is done after prayers and meditation, so I finally listened to myself. If I request the precepts then I must want to live by them. Don't I? I love red wine, and feel it was such an important part of who I am. I keep wanting some positive, I thought, a remainder of my life pre-brain injury. I realized that I was clinging still to my old self.
My kuti at Thai Temple Nov, 2554
But is it really who I am? Not on my wisdom seeking missile path, I am more and more leaning towards the natural compassion that lives within everyone. How can I let this shine more? Like when I went up to a participant at my weekend retreat with Bentinho, at the fire pit in the evening while rubbing his back, said to a gentleman, “Thank you for being you.” He was touched. Or when talking to another woman feeling her dis-ease with her life, kneeled next to her, with positive ideas of how to ask for what she may need from her husband instead of venturing in search of a spiritual experience. One cannot feel in these situations if you have even one half a glass of wine. You are more into the experience of the wine to care deeply about others. Although the wine will give you the illusion of being more in touch with your feelings.

I feel I can now write about why I quick drinking on 1/1/11(2554). First let me say, that I am pretty aware of the dangers of alcoholism, but in my twenties I still partied and drank socially. This lead me to wine with dinner, and as a way of opening conversation with friends. Thinking more, it actually lead me to an elitist idea of myself as my taste in wine got more and more refined.  I dawned on me, more ego …more suffering and less wisdom. I had to quit, not to prove anything but that it was just an organic leaning to greater wisdom.
You know it is actually liberating to walk past the wine in stores, knowing that is one less thing to look towards for any source of happiness. Just having a half-open bottle of nice red-wine that you can't throw out, means you are obligated to have it the following evening, and thus making it more difficult to do an evening meditation. When you are out shopping, it also becomes a focus of what next to buy. It all became very transparent that all the wine desires pushed me to wanting a new experience each time. I could not rest in awareness or taste the peace of just being. That is a huge relief not to be bothered with in thought and desire, and I now feel the peace that I was actually looking for by drinking. 
 Relaxing at the beautiful Shwedagon Paya, Jan. 2555
My partner rarely drinks, and when I last saw him I bought him some really good Russian vodka that he wanted, last year. A full liter, it remained in the fridge for his occasional use. He would have a shot or two after a hard day at work with dinner. When I took off for Myanmar, he found himself feeling lonely, and drinking more that he should, woke up feeling not very well. We talked about this, in both cases and he realized he was not really interested in drinking. He realized that a nice run, was more what he needed. I had to let his natural wisdom shine through his experience.
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04 June, 2012

Unique... We Are Not!

After spending a weekend retreat with Bentinho Massaro, where he tried groups for the first time … I feel I have some insights. Whenever, I heard someone vocalize a breakthrough from their old thinking, and experienced a relaxation, I got teary. Not because it was sad but it was so lovely to witness and the joy they felt, I felt. To let go of an old way of thinking to not being involved in experience was liberating. It did not matter how they got there nor the subject that prompted it, but I realized that the human body has only a handful of reactions which we all experience. This happened time and time again in groups, and it did not matter who it was. Sorry to break it to you, but we are not as unique as we think. And without our ego involved with a group with no other intentions we can honestly feel the other, which leads us over and over again to the inseparability of all. Bentinho once said, “It is like two ends of a tablecloth talking to one another.” One gentleman’s release, even though it could be perceived as subtle by the thinking mind, was so profound for him that I felt a huge wave of emotion that he was obviously feeling as well. by relaxing into source before thoughts and experience. This leads to me to the natural compassion every human has that comes when all thoughts and ego are let go of. This compassion is not a new state, and is natural when all else is cleared away.

A little update, I received an email from the young man I met in Bagan thanking me for the money I gave his family for a motorcycle in January. “ You have 'infected' my family and they want to see you again. The rose plant you gave my mom is blooming. I will offer them to Buddha and pray for you.”
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Imagine if for the next twenty-four hours you had to wear a cap that amplified your thoughts so that everyone within a hundred yards of you could hear every thought that passed through your head. Imagine if the mind were broadcast so that all about you could overhear “your” thoughts and fantasies, “your” dreams and fears. How embarrassed or fearful would you be to go outside? How long would you let your fear of the mind continue to isolate you from the hearts of others? And though this experiment sounds like one which few might care to participate in, imagine how freeing it would be at last to have nothing to hide. And how miraculous it would be to see that all others’ minds too were filled with the same confusion and fantasies, the same insecurity and doubt. How long would it take the judgemental mind to begin to release its grasp, to see through the illusion of separateness, to recognize with some humor the craziness of all beings’ minds, the craziness of mind itself?
Stephen and Ondrea Levine
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