Meditation Update 2017-05

It is time for another meditation update.

For a while I kind of fell off the wagon.

I was counting my breaths, but I realized my mind was wandering in between counts. My attention would go back to my breath at the end of the exhale, and I would count the next number, but sometimes in the middle my mind would wander off. Then I would end the exhale and tick off the next number. My mind was kind of in a sine wave pattern. Sometimes I did get really distracted and forget where I was. Maybe I never paid close enough attention to the instructions.

So I tried meditating without counting, and I did not last too long. But I am getting better.

Sometimes I meditate in a chair. I like that since my leg does not fall asleep. My leg falling asleep while meditating has been an issue for a long time. I think it is the rotation that causes it. I also sit on some cushions, and I arrange a few so my hips are higher than my shins, sort of like stadium seating.

One issue is that I do a lot of my meditating late at night. Sometimes I have to cut it short because I start falling asleep. I think I would make more progress if I did it earlier, or maybe when I wake up. And I should probably start waking up earlier. I am also starting to transition to a low-carb diet, and I plan on cutting out soda as soon as I get through the cases I have left.

I do mostly insight meditation and mantra meditation. I tried metta, and it was okay. I tried Mahasi-style noting, and it was exhausting. I might try that again later. I also do some Taoist meditation where I control the breath. A lot of people try to control the breath when they meditate, so why not just go with it?

Glenn Morris mentions Taoist meditation in “Path Notes of an American Ninja Master”. He wrote he attended an event with a bunch of Chinese people who practiced qigong. He said many of them were in their 60s and 70s, but none of the men looked older than 50 and none of the women looked older than 40. Women who never look older than 40 is very appealing. I first read that book in my 20s, and the point about eternally-40 Chinese women did not really register. I re-read the book a year ago, and it stuck.

I also started attending weekly sittings with Mariposa Sangha here in Austin. They meet in Trinity United Methodist Church, like CFI. They/we meet every Thursday at 7. There is 30 minutes of sitting meditation, 15 minutes of walking meditation, then 15 minutes of sitting. The walking is optional, which I like. I stay sitting the whole time.

When I was living in Chicago, I would sometimes attend the Chicago Weekly Sitting Meditation Group which usually met every Monday at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on Addison; sometimes they meet at Montrose Beach. They did 30 minutes of sitting, and then 10 minutes of walking. Everybody sat in a circle on the floor (there are chairs at Trinity), and the walking was around the circle. It would have been kind of awkward to not engage in walking meditation. Every time I do walking meditation, I either want to say something in a low, slooooow voice, act like a Tai Chi mime behind an invisble wall, or I hear the theme from “Chariots of Fire” in my head.

I have never liked walking meditation, and never really saw the point. If I am not developing concentration doing sitting meditation, what will walking meditation do for me? Besides, I walk around all the time anyway. If that was the path to enlightenment, why would anyone need a sangha?

At Mariposa, there is a “dharma talk” after the meditation for about 15 minutes, then 15 minutes of discussion. Sometimes the speaker will mention the Pali suttas, which I like. One thing that always seemed strange about Zen is that they claimed to be Buddhists, yet mostly ignored the Buddha. The Austin Zen Center had a guy giving lectures on the Pali suttas for a while. But most Zen groups talk about the Chinese and Japanese roots of Zen and ignore the Indian.

One change at Mariposa that I think I helped bring about is they ring a bell at the beginning of the meditation period. When I first went, at some undefined point people would start meditating on their own. At the Chicago Weekly Sitting Meditation Group, the organizer would formally start the group, and give basic instructions at the beginning. The first time I went to Mariposa, I started talking to the guy next to me, and after a few minutes I noticed everybody else had stopped talking and had started meditating.

Someone told me they did it that way because in monasteries the monks would go in and out of the meditation hall when they wanted. Which is fine because they live there. Plus, at the end of the dharma talk at Mariposa, everybody bows to the group. If you end the meeting, why not start it?

Also: I just realized that while  they use the word “sutta” and not “sutra” at Mariposa, they say “dharma” and not “dhamma”.

The Butterfly” by Childe Hassam (1859-1935), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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Post last modified on 2017-05-14_11:27:21

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