M.N. Saunders on vipassana

I admit I felt good  reading Saunder’s comments on A critique of Vipassana Meditation as taught by Goenka.

I haven’t write my thoughts to the critique yet – I have some things to say, from my own experience – but I will put here Sander’s comments, as he is also a part of the professionals who are backing up the technique with factual from medical research.

The fight or flight mechanism causes the body to contract due to stressors in our environment.

Over years these contractions remain as tension or tone in all the body muscles, which are not released.
When muscles are tense they send signals back to the brain and the greater the tone, the higher the frequency of the signals.
If the body has a great deal of tension, then the brain becomes overwhelmed with signals and starts having less stamina to deal with the day to day requirements of dealing with life.
The Goenka technique requires us to concentrate on these tensions and the brain then starts to release the tension. Over time we start to reprogramme all the muscles to remove the tension built up over many years. This has the affect of making the body more flexible, lighter and less painful. In addition, it removes a great deal of load off the brain and gives the brain extra stamina to deal with the needs of life.
The brain feels refreshed and at easy which enables sound judgments and clear thinking.
The technique is based on sound physiology of the body.
If you read the article “The physiology of boredom depression and senile dementia” by M.N. Saunders, you will find out the processes that occur in the brain which bring about the changes and results in a mind that is free of clutter and is sharp and clear.

I searched for the paper ““The physiology of boredom depression and senile dementia” by M.N. Saunders” he is referring, I guess it is written by himself, I only found the abstract as it is under research communities repositories.

Further information to that above.
You may ask why the brain does not release the muscle tension all the time.
The reason is that the tension or tone builds up gradually over years and is continuous. So the tension becomes latent or unconscious. It only becomes conscious in later years when the tension becomes chronic and the body develops back pain and rigidity.
So the brain does not realise the tension because it is not aware of the tension. The Goenka technique sharpens the mind using Anapana which then enables us to notice the tension. At first we notice the gross tensions and with practice we begin to notice the subtle tension.

You may ask why the brain releases the tension.
The body is very conservative and does not like to waste energy. So as soon as it notices tension it releases it. However after we stop focusing on the tension the muscles return to their preprogrammed state. Its only after repeated release over many months that we begin to reprogramme the muscles to stay relaxed.

You may ask how the brain knows that the tension is not caused by movement.
The brain concentrates on the tension. If it lasts for only a few seconds, say 10 to 20, then it assumes that it is part of the moving process and does not release the tension. However, if the tension continues after that time. the brain realises that its not part of the moving process and is wasted energy, and then it releases the tension. This is the technique used by progressive stretching exercises where we tense a muscle, wait 30 seconds and then the brain releases the tension and we can stretch a little more. We can do this several times and each time the brain releases more tension, thus enabling several stretches.

We may ask why the process does not reverse itself.
The reason is that the Goenka technique teaches us to notice the tension as soon as a stressor developes. So as soon as we notice that the body is becoming tense, we can go into the body and prevent the tension from building up by concentrating on it. Thus we can become conscious of the gradual build up of tension in the body which we have not been able to do before we practised the Goenka technique.

I hope this makes the technique a little more transparent.

and…

My final comments on the matter.

You remove a little tension from the body and you get a little peace.
You remove a lot of tension from the body and you get a lot of peace.
You remove ALL the tension from the body and you get TOTAL PEACE AND TRANQUILITY IN BOTH THE BODY AND MIND.

Isn’t that something worth striving for?

A critique of Vipassana Meditation as taught by Goenka

I just read this article and all the comments to it. It is an extended writing about the vipassana technique and thr 10-day course. I appreciate the effort of the author to gather these many aspects of it. I also wanted to write about it…

If one did not took a 10-day vipassana course in a Goenka center, this text might be irrelevant.

I have now a basis for my writing… there are things I want to say… of course, as I perceive them through my experience and lenses.

I can see the mechanistics of looking at vipassana here… also see some of my mind looking for answers for some of the questions and perceptions I had during my all 10-day sittings.

I am curious about how other vipassana practitioners who are practicing it for many years see this, through their own practice and life experience.

soon to be continued here…

[book] Why I Sit – Paul Fleischman (excerpt 6, last one)

This is the last excerpt from “Why I Sit” booklet by Paul Fleischman.

IX

Those ten days of nothing but focusing on the moment by moment reality of body and mind, with awareness and equanimity, gave me the opportunity ironically both to be more absolutely alone and isolated than I had ever been before […]

Everything I am springs from the universally human. I cause myself, I express myself, as the conditions of the world roll through me. I see this fact, as I sit, as clearly as I see the impact of history and the inspiration of vision. I sit in clear confrontation with everything that has impinged on me and caused me to react, and in reacting, I mould myself.

Life begins in a welter of conditions; mere reactions to these conditions forge limitations; awareness of and conscious response to conditions produces freedom. This clarity regarding my choices enables me to return from sitting to action as a more focused, concentrated vector of knowing, empathic life.

[…]

Sitting itself transforms my motives for sitting. I started in my own historical circumstances, but I was given a technique that has been useful in millions of circumstances over thousands of years. I started with personal issues, and I have been given timeless perspectives to broaden my viewpoint. My search is particular, but not unique. The transmission of this tool has made my work possible. Because others have launched the quest for a fully human life, because others will follow, my own frailty, or villainy, can become meaningful, because these are the soil which I must use to grow. And my own efforts, however great they feel to me, are in the shadow of the much greater efforts of others. I can flower as one shrub in a limitless forest of unending cycles of life. To flower, for a human being, is to work on the science of honest observation that enables a true picture of humanity to be born. […]

In response to the overwhelming sense of evil, fear, meaninglessness, and paranoid privatism of my times, and in response to the hope, idealism, and pregnant sense of eternity of my youth, I learned to sit, to better stand for what I found most true. This helps me live out
what had before been an unconscious faith. It helps me express something healing, useful (in both my personal and professional life), and meaningful to me despite apparently absurd conditions, because it is a link to the universal. It puts me in touch with the fundamentally human that is present in every gesture of mine, and every action of other people, in each immediacy. This in turn has enabled me to join with the generative dance of nature. I practice
knowing myself, and make that the workshop of the day. I refrain from measuring events by my own inchworm life. I frequently forget time, and so join history.

X

[…]

I sit in solitude to lose my isolation. What is least noble in me rises up to the surface of my mind, and this drives me on to be more than I was. When I am most shut into my dark self I find the real source of my belonging. […]

Sitting helps me overcome my deepest fears. I become freer to live from my heart, and to face the consequences, but also to reap the rewards of this authenticity. Much of what I called pain was really loneliness and fear. It passes, dissolves, with that observation. The vibrations of my body are humming the song that can be heard only when dawn and dusk are simultaneous, instantaneous, continuous. I feel a burst of stern effort is a small price to pay to hear this inner
music—fertile music from the heart of life itself.

XII

I sit to anchor my life in certain moods, organize my life around my heart and mind, and to radiate out to others what I find. Though I shake in strong winds, I return to this basic way of living. I can’t throw away my boy’s ideals and my old man’s smile. The easy, soothing comfort and deep relaxation that accompany intense awareness in stillness, peel my life like an onion to deeper layers of truth, which in turn are scoured and soothed until the next layer opens. I sit to discipline my life by what is clear, simple, self—fulfilling, and universal in my heart. There is no end to this job. I have failed to really live many days of my life, but I dive again and again into the plain guidance of self-containment and loving receipt. I sit to find and express simple human love and common decency.

[book] Why I sit – Paul Fleischman (excerpt 5)

VII

Sitting enabled me to see, and compelled me to acknowledge, the role that death had already played, and still continues to play, in my life. Every living creature knows that the sum total of its pulsations is limited. […]

Every day ends with darkness; things must get done today or they will not happen at all. And, funny, rather than sapping my appetite, producing “nausea” (which may be due to rich French sauces rather than real philosophy), the pressure of nightfall helps me to treasure life. Isn’t this the most universal human observation and counsel? I aim each swing of the maul more accurately at the cracks in the oak cordwood I am splitting. I choose each book I read with precision and reason. I hear the call to care for and love my child and the forest trails that I maintain as a pure ringing note of mandate. I sit at the dawn of day and day passes. Another dawn, but the series is limited, so I swear in my inner chamber I will not miss a day.

Sitting rivets me on the psychological fact that death is life’s door. No power can save me. Because I am aware of death, and afraid. I lean my shoulder into living not automatically and reactively, like an animal, nor passively and pleadingly, like a child pretending he has a father watching over him, but with conscious choice and decision of what will constitute each fleeting moment of my life. I know that my petals cup a volatile radiance.

But to keep this in mind in turn requires that an ordinary escapist constantly re- encounters the limit, the metronome of appreciation, death. I sit because knowing I will die enriches, and excoriates my life, so I have to go out of my way to seek discipline and the stability that is necessary for me to really face it. To embrace life I must shake hands with death. For this, I need practice. Each act of sitting is a dying to outward activity, a relinquishment of distraction, a cessation of anticipatory gratification. It is life now, as it is. Some day this austere focus will come in very, very handy. It already has.

VIII

I sit to be myself, independent of my own or others’ judgments. Many years of my life were spent being rated, primarily in school, but, as an extension of that, among friends and in social life. As much as I tried to fight off this form of addiction, I got hooked anyway. As often happens, out of their concern for me, my parents combed and brushed me with the rules of comparison: I was good at this, or not good, or as good, or better, or worse, or the best, or no good at all.
Today I find that sitting reveals the absurdity of comparative achievement. My life consists of what I actually live, not the evaluations that float above it. Sitting enables me to slip beyond that second, commenting, editor’s mind, and to burrow in deep towards immediate reality. I have made progress in becoming a mole, an empty knapsack, a boy on a day when school is canceled. What is there to gain or lose as I sit? Who can I beat, who can I scramble
after? Just this one concrete day, all this, and only this, comes to me on the tray of morning, flashes out now.
I am relieved to be more at home in myself, with myself. I complain less. I can lose discussions, hopes, or self-expectations, more easily and much less often, because the talking, hoping, and doing is victory enough already. Without props or toys or comfort, without control of the environment, I have sat and observed who I am when there was no one and nothing to give me clues. It has happened that I have sat, asked for nothing, needed nothing, and felt full. Now my spine and hands have a different turgor. When I am thrown off balance, I can fall somewhat more like a cat than like a two-by-four. When I sit, no one—beloved or enemy—can give me what I lack, or take away what I am.

So as I live all day, I can orient myself into becoming the person I will have to live with when I next sit. No one else’s commentary of praise or blame can mediate my own confrontation with the observed facts of who I am. I’m not as bad as I thought I was—and worse. But I’m definitely sprouting and real. It’s a pleasure to relinquish yearning and fighting back, and to permit ripples. And I sit to share companionship with other spring bulbs. I feel like one leaf in a deciduous forest: specific, small, fragile, all alone with my fate, yet shaking in a vast and murmuring company.

[book] Why I sit – Paul Fleischman (excerpt 4)

V

I sit to grow up, to be a better person, to see trivial angers rise up and pass away, arguments on which I put great weight on Thursday morning fade by Thursday noon; and to be compelled to re-order, re-structure, re-think my life, so that, living well, my petty anger is
orchestrated ahead of time into flexibility, co-operation, or the capacity to see other viewpoints.
Sitting helps me to transcend the irritable, petulant infant in me.
But that only solves the periphery of the problem. I am no longer angry about my diapers. I am angry that my votes and taxes have been turned to oppressing other nations; I am angry that I will be judged for the rest of my life by multiple choice exams; I am angry that research is ignored and dogma is used to coerce one religion’s point of view: I am angry that mountains are scoured for energy to manufacture throw-away soda cans. I sit also, then, to express my anger, and the form of expression is determination. I sit with force, will, and, when the pain mounts, something that feels fierce. Sitting helps me harness authentic anger.

I have been sitting at least fifteen hours a week for nine years, and when, as often happens, I am asked how I find the time, I know that part of the certainty in my aim is an anger that will not allow the rolling woodlands and hilltop pastures of my psyche to be bulldozed by T.V., non-nutritional food, fabricated news, tweed socialization, pedantic file-cabinets of knowledge, or loyalty rallies to leaders, states, gods, and licensures. The voices of the herd will not so easily drive me from my forest cabin of deeply considered autonomy and honest talk, because I have had practice in this sort of firmness.

VI

As I understand it, the lifelong disciplined practice of sitting is not exactly religion, but is not not a religion either. For myself, I am not bound to scriptures, dogma, hierarchies; I have taken no proscriptions on my intelligence, or on my political autonomy; nor have I hidden from unpleasant realities by concretizing myth. But I have become increasingly aware of the inextricable role of faith in my practice. The faith I have been discovering in myself is not blind, irrational, unsubstantiated, or wishful ideas. Following the definitive clarification of these English terms by Paul Tillich, I would call those former “beliefs.” I hope sitting has helped me to free myself from my beliefs even further than my scientific education did. Nor does faith mean what I live for—goals,personal preferences, commitments, and loves. These are ideals, visions, tastes—very important — but not faith. Faith is what I live by, what empowers my life. The battery, the heart-pump, of my being. It is not the other shore, but the boat. It is not what I know, but how I know. It is present, rather than past or future, and is my most authentic, total reaction, a gut reaction
deeper than my guts. Tillich defined faith as a person’s ultimate concern—the bedrock of what we in fact take seriously. I would like to describe faith, as I have found it, to be the hunger of my existence.

Hunger springs up from my body. It antedates my mental and psychological life, and can even run havoc over them. I do not eat because of what I believe or hope or wish for, or because of what an authority prescribes or what I read. I eat because I am hungry. My body is a dynamic, metabolizing system, an energy exchanger, constantly incorporating, re-working, re-moulding—this is the vitality intrinsic to the life of any oak, deer, or human. This being I am consumes, re-works, then creates more emotional, spiritual life. Not what I digest, but the ordered process in me that gives coherence and direction to this continuous organism, constitutes faith.
Faith is not something I have (e. g. “I believe!”); it is something that I realize has already been given to me, on which the sense of “me” is predicated. I find it or receive it, not once, but intermittently and continuously. It is not a set of thoughts, and it provides no concrete,
reducible answers. Who am I? What is this life? Where does it come from? Where is it headed? I don’t know. On these important questions, I have no beliefs. Yet no day has shaken this strange bird from his perch!
I sit with impassioned neutrality. Why? This activity is not in order to get answers with which to live my life. It is my life. Bones are not in order to hang skin and muscle on. (In scientific thought, too, teleology—goal-directed thinking—leads nowhere. Who knows the goal of the universe? Then what is the goal of any part of it?) I eat, I read, I work, I play, I sit. If I have no big intellectual belief by which I can justify my day, myself, my life, my supper time, I eat anyway! Usually with pleasure.

I am neither an existentialist, a Marxist, nor an anorectic. Hunger is a spontaneous action of life in me. The hunger of my existence also demands sustenance daily. The nourishment I take becomes my body; the sustenance I take becomes my being. To be alive, to be alert, to be observant, to be at peace with myself and all others—vibrating in ceaseless change—unmoving: I find this is my sustaining passage through the incandescent world doing the same.

[…]

The faith that underlies my practice is not in my mind, but is the psychological correlate of animation. I experience faith not as a thought, but as the overwhelming mood which drives this thrust upward of emerging. By sitting I can know, assume, become, this direct hum of energy. Retrospectively, verbally, I call this “faith.” When I am bored, pained, lazy, distracted,worried, I find myself sitting anyway, not because I believe it is good, or will get me into
heaven, nor because I have particular will power. My life is expressing its trajectory. All mass is energy, Einstein showed. My life is glowing, and I sit in the light.

[book] Why I sit – Paul Fleischman (excerpt 3)

III

Sitting is, among other things, the practice of self-control. While sitting one does not get up, or move, or make that dollar, or pass that test, or receive reassurance from that phone call.
But military training, or violin lessons, or medical school, are also routes to self-control in this ordering and restrictive sense. Sitting is self-control around specific values. Observation replaces all action.

[..]

I need a constantly usable, constantly renewable lens to see through
my yearnings into my loves, to see through my anxieties into my faith. What is a bedrock feeling, the core of my identity, and what is a titillation that will ultimately be discarded? What characters walk in front of the mirror of my soul day after day, year after year, and who are the clowns that steal the stage for a scene?

[…]

I sit because I know I need a self-control that does not lecture or stomp on my tendencies, but reorganizes desire into love, and pain and fear into faith.

IV

Sitting pushes me to the limit of my self-directed effort; it mobilizes my willed, committed direction, yet it also shatters my  self-protective, self-defining maneuvers and my simple self-definition. It both builds and dismantles “me.” Every memory, every hope, every
yearning, every fear floods in. I no longer can pretend to be one selected set of my memories or traits.

If observed, but not reacted upon, all these psychic contents become acceptable, obviously part of myself (for there they are in my own mind, right in front of me): yet also impersonal, causally—linked, objective phenomena-in-the-world, that move ceaselessly,
relentlessly, across the screen of my existence, without my effort, without my control, without me. I can see more, tolerate more, in my inner life, at the same time that I am less driven by these forces. Like storms and doves, they are the personae of nature, crossing one inner sky. Psychic complexity swirls up from the dust of cosmetic self-definition. At the same time, the determination and endurance I have to muster to just observe, grow like muscles with exercise.
Naturally the repetition of this mixture of tolerance and firmness extrapolates beyond its source in sitting, out to relationships.

I have known my wife for twelve years. We have dated and swam, married and fought, travelled, built cabins, bought houses, delivered and diapered together; in short, we have attained the ordinary and ubiquitous. In a world of three billion people, this achievement ranks
with literacy, and would have no bearing on why I sit, except that it does. Even the inevitable is fragile. I, we, am, and are, buffered by unshy thanks. We are sharpened by life with an edge.
I sit and life moves through me, my married life too. This sphere also takes its turn before my solitary, impeachable witness to my own existence and its eternal entanglements. As a married man, I sit as if in a harbour from my selfish pettiness, where the winds of my annoy-
ance or anger have time to pass; I sit as a recipient of a generous outpouring of warmth that I have time to savour; I sit as a squash or pumpkin with his own slightly fibrous and only moderately sweet but nonetheless ample life to lay on someone else’s table; I sit as one oxen in a team pulling a cart filled with rocking horses, cars, and porches that need paint; I sit knowing myself as a sick old man of the future awaiting the one person who can really attend, or as the future one whose voice alone can wave death back behind someone else’s hospital curtain for another hour; I sit as a common man of common desire, and as a dreamer who with the bricks of shared fate is building a common dream; and I sit alone in my own life anyway.

How fortunate to have this cave, this sanctuary, this frying pan, this rock, and this mirror of sitting, in which to forge, drop, haul, touch, release my love, and not get lost. To sit is the compass by which I navigate the seas of married love.

[…]

I sit to better love my wife, and those friends and companions with whom I share even a day’s journey on my flight from the unknown to the unknown. It is difficult to love the one with whom my fate is most closely entangled during those moments when I would like to batter down the corridors of that fate. But it is easy to love her when we sweeten each other’s tea. It is easy to feel affection for friends I encounter on weekends devoted to family life and outdoor play; it is difficult to let our lives, our health and finances, entangle. Such an embrace threatens private safety.

[…]

Shall I keep all my money, or risk it on a charitable principle? Shall I study the text sanctioned by the authorities, or sing out from my heart? When I sit, money does me little good; approval evaporates; but the tone of the strings of my heart, for better or worse, is inescapable. I sit to tie myself to the mast, to hear more of the song of elusive and unavoidable love.

V

I sit to grow up, to be a better person, to see trivial angers rise up and pass away, arguments on which I put great weight on Thursday morning fade by Thursday noon; and to be compelled to re-order, re-structure, re-think my life, so that, living well, my petty anger is
orchestrated ahead of time into flexibility, co-operation, or the capacity to see other viewpoints.
Sitting helps me to transcend the irritable, petulant infant in me.
But that only solves the periphery of the problem. I am no longer angry about my diapers. I am angry that my votes and taxes have been turned to oppressing other nations; I am angry that I will be judged for the rest of my life by multiple choice exams; I am angry that research is ignored and dogma is used to coerce one religion’s point of view: I am angry that mountains are scoured for energy to manufacture throw-away soda cans. I sit also, then, to express my anger, and the form of expression is determination. I sit with force, will, and, when the pain mounts, something that feels fierce. Sitting helps me harness authentic anger.

I have been sitting at least fifteen hours a week for nine years, and when, as often happens, I am asked how I find the time, I know that part of the certainty in my aim is an anger that will not allow the rolling woodlands and hilltop pastures of my psyche to be bulldozed by T.V., non-nutritional food, fabricated news, tweed socialization, pedantic file-cabinets of knowledge, or loyalty rallies to leaders, states, gods, and licensures. The voices of the herd will not so easily drive me from my forest cabin of deeply considered autonomy and honest talk, because I have had practice in this sort of firmness.

VI

As I understand it, the lifelong disciplined practice of sitting is not exactly religion, but is not not a religion either. For myself, I am not bound to scriptures, dogma, hierarchies; I have taken no proscriptions on my intelligence, or on my political autonomy; nor have I hidden from unpleasant realities by concretizing myth. But I have become increasingly aware of the inextricable role of faith in my practice. The faith I have been discovering in myself is not blind, irrational, unsubstantiated, or wishful ideas. Following the definitive clarification of these English terms by Paul Tillich, I would call those former “beliefs.” I hope sitting has helped me to free myself from my beliefs even further than my scientific education did. Nor does faith mean what I live for—goals,personal preferences, commitments, and loves. These are ideals, visions, tastes—very important — but not faith. Faith is what I live by, what empowers my life. The battery, the heart-pump, of my being. It is not the other shore, but the boat. It is not what I know, but how I know. It is present, rather than past or future, and is my most authentic, total reaction, a gut reaction
deeper than my guts. Tillich defined faith as a person’s ultimate concern—the bedrock of what we in fact take seriously. I would like to describe faith, as I have found it, to be the hunger of my existence.

Hunger springs up from my body. It antedates my mental and psychological life, and can even run havoc over them. I do not eat because of what I believe or hope or wish for, or because of what an authority prescribes or what I read. I eat because I am hungry. My body is a dynamic, metabolizing system, an energy exchanger, constantly incorporating, re-working, re-moulding—this is the vitality intrinsic to the life of any oak, deer, or human. This being I am consumes, re-works, then creates more emotional, spiritual life. Not what I digest, but the ordered process in me that gives coherence and direction to this continuous organism, constitutes faith.
Faith is not something I have (e. g. “I believe!”); it is something that I realize has already been given to me, on which the sense of “me” is predicated. I find it or receive it, not once, but intermittently and continuously. It is not a set of thoughts, and it provides no concrete,
reducible answers. Who am I? What is this life? Where does it come from? Where is it headed? I don’t know. On these important questions, I have no beliefs. Yet no day has shaken this strange bird from his perch!
I sit with impassioned neutrality. Why? This activity is not in order to get answers with which to live my life. It is my life. Bones are not in order to hang skin and muscle on. (In scientific thought, too, teleology—goal-directed thinking—leads nowhere. Who knows the goal of the universe? Then what is the goal of any part of it?) I eat, I read, I work, I play, I sit. If I have no big intellectual belief by which I can justify my day, myself, my life, my supper time, I eat anyway! Usually with pleasure.

I am neither an existentialist, a Marxist, nor an anorectic. Hunger is a spontaneous action of life in me. The hunger of my existence also demands sustenance daily. The nourishment I take becomes my body; the sustenance I take becomes my being. To be alive, to be alert, to be observant, to be at peace with myself and all others—vibrating in ceaseless change—unmoving: I find this is my sustaining passage through the incandescent world doing the same.

[…]

The faith that underlies my practice is not in my mind, but is the psychological correlate of animation. I experience faith not as a thought, but as the overwhelming mood which drives this thrust upward of emerging. By sitting I can know, assume, become, this direct hum of energy. Retrospectively, verbally, I call this “faith.” When I am bored, pained, lazy, distracted,worried, I find myself sitting anyway, not because I believe it is good, or will get me into
heaven, nor because I have particular will power. My life is expressing its trajectory. All mass is energy, Einstein showed. My life is glowing, and I sit in the light.

VII

Sitting enabled me to see, and compelled me to acknowledge, the role that death had already played, and still continues to play, in my life. Every living creature knows that the sum total of its pulsations is limited. […]

Every day ends with darkness; things must get done today or they will not happen at all. And, funny, rather than sapping my appetite, producing “nausea” (which may be due to rich French sauces rather than real philosophy), the pressure of nightfall helps me to treasure life. Isn’t this the most universal human observation and counsel? I aim each swing of the maul more accurately at the cracks in the oak cordwood I am splitting. I choose each book I read with precision and reason. I hear the call to care for and love my child and the forest trails that I maintain as a pure ringing note of mandate. I sit at the dawn of day and day passes. Another dawn, but the series is limited, so I swear in my inner chamber I will not miss a day.

Sitting rivets me on the psychological fact that death is life’s door. No power can save me. Because I am aware of death, and afraid. I lean my shoulder into living not automatically and reactively, like an animal, nor passively and pleadingly, like a child pretending he has a father watching over him, but with conscious choice and decision of what will constitute each fleeting moment of my life. I know that my petals cup a volatile radiance.

But to keep this in mind in turn requires that an ordinary escapist constantly re- encounters the limit, the metronome of appreciation, death. I sit because knowing I will die enriches, and excoriates my life, so I have to go out of my way to seek discipline and the stability that is necessary for me to really face it. To embrace life I must shake hands with death. For this, I need practice. Each act of sitting is a dying to outward activity, a relinquishment of distraction, a cessation of anticipatory gratification. It is life now, as it is. Some day this austere focus will come in very, very handy. It already has.

VIII

I sit to be myself, independent of my own or others’ judgments. Many years of my life were spent being rated, primarily in school, but, as an extension of that, among friends and in social life. As much as I tried to fight off this form of addiction, I got hooked anyway. As often happens, out of their concern for me, my parents combed and brushed me with the rules of comparison: I was good at this, or not good, or as good, or better, or worse, or the best, or no good at all.
Today I find that sitting reveals the absurdity of comparative achievement. My life consists of what I actually live, not the evaluations that float above it. Sitting enables me to slip beyond that second, commenting, editor’s mind, and to burrow in deep towards immediate reality. I have made progress in becoming a mole, an empty knapsack, a boy on a day when school is canceled. What is there to gain or lose as I sit? Who can I beat, who can I scramble
after? Just this one concrete day, all this, and only this, comes to me on the tray of morning, flashes out now.
I am relieved to be more at home in myself, with myself. I complain less. I can lose discussions, hopes, or self-expectations, more easily and much less often, because the talking, hoping, and doing is victory enough already. Without props or toys or comfort, without control of the environment, I have sat and observed who I am when there was no one and nothing to give me clues. It has happened that I have sat, asked for nothing, needed nothing, and felt full. Now my spine and hands have a different turgor. When I am thrown off balance, I can fall somewhat more like a cat than like a two-by-four. When I sit, no one—beloved or enemy—can give me what I lack, or take away what I am.

So as I live all day, I can orient myself into becoming the person I will have to live with when I next sit. No one else’s commentary of praise or blame can mediate my own confrontation with the observed facts of who I am. I’m not as bad as I thought I was—and worse. But I’m definitely sprouting and real. It’s a pleasure to relinquish yearning and fighting back, and to permit ripples. And I sit to share companionship with other spring bulbs. I feel like one leaf in a deciduous forest: specific, small, fragile, all alone with my fate, yet shaking in a vast and murmuring company.

IX

Those ten days of nothing but focusing on the moment by moment reality of body and mind, with awareness and equanimity, gave me the opportunity ironically both to be more absolutely alone and isolated than I had ever been before […]

Everything I am springs from the universally human. I cause myself, I express myself, as the conditions of the world roll through me. I see this fact, as I sit, as clearly as I see the impact of history and the inspiration of vision. I sit in clear confrontation with everything that has impinged on me and caused me to react, and in reacting, I mould myself.

Life begins in a welter of conditions; mere reactions to these conditions forge limitations; awareness of and conscious response to conditions produces freedom. This clarity regarding my choices enables me to return from sitting to action as a more focused, concentrated vector of knowing, empathic life.

[…]

Sitting itself transforms my motives for sitting. I started in my own historical circumstances, but I was given a technique that has been useful in millions of circumstances over thousands of years. I started with personal issues, and I have been given timeless perspectives to broaden my viewpoint. My search is particular, but not unique. The transmission of this tool has made my work possible. Because others have launched the quest for a fully human life, because others will follow, my own frailty, or villainy, can become meaningful, because these are the soil which I must use to grow. And my own efforts, however great they feel to me, are in the shadow of the much greater efforts of others. I can flower as one shrub in a limitless forest of unending cycles of life. To flower, for a human being, is to work on the science of honest observation that enables a true picture of humanity to be born. […]

In response to the overwhelming sense of evil, fear, meaninglessness, and paranoid privatism of my times, and in response to the hope, idealism, and pregnant sense of eternity of my youth, I learned to sit, to better stand for what I found most true. This helps me live out
what had before been an unconscious faith. It helps me express something healing, useful (in both my personal and professional life), and meaningful to me despite apparently absurd conditions, because it is a link to the universal. It puts me in touch with the fundamentally human that is present in every gesture of mine, and every action of other people, in each immediacy. This in turn has enabled me to join with the generative dance of nature. I practice
knowing myself, and make that the workshop of the day. I refrain from measuring events by my own inchworm life. I frequently forget time, and so join history.

X

[…]

I sit in solitude to lose my isolation. What is least noble in me rises up to the surface of my mind, and this drives me on to be more than I was. When I am most shut into my dark self I find the real source of my belonging. […]

Sitting helps me overcome my deepest fears. I become freer to live from my heart, and to face the consequences, but also to reap the rewards of this authenticity. Much of what I called pain was really loneliness and fear. It passes, dissolves, with that observation. The vibrations of my body are humming the song that can be heard only when dawn and dusk are simultaneous, instantaneous, continuous. I feel a burst of stern effort is a small price to pay to hear this inner
music—fertile music from the heart of life itself.

XII

I sit to anchor my life in certain moods, organize my life around my heart and mind, and to radiate out to others what I find. Though I shake in strong winds, I return to this basic way of living. I can’t throw away my boy’s ideals and my old man’s smile. The easy, soothing comfort and deep relaxation that accompany intense awareness in stillness, peel my life like an onion to deeper layers of truth, which in turn are scoured and soothed until the next layer opens. I sit to discipline my life by what is clear, simple, self—fulfilling, and universal in my heart. There is no end to this job. I have failed to really live many days of my life, but I dive again and again into the plain guidance of self-containment and loving receipt. I sit to find and express simple human love and common decency.

 

[book] Why I Sit – Paul Fleischman (excerpt 2)

I

I would like to know myself. It is remarkable that while ordinarily we spend most of our lives studying, contemplating, observing, and manipulating the world around us, the structured gaze of the thoughtful mind is so rarely turned inwards. This avoidance must measure some anxiety, reluctance, or fear. That makes me still more curious. Most of our lives are spent in externally oriented function, that distract from self-observation. This relentless, obsessive drive
persists independently of survival needs such as food and warmth, and even of pleasure. Second for second, we couple ourselves to sights, tastes, words, motions, or electric stimuli, until we fall dead. It is striking how many ordinary activities, from smoking a pipe to watching sunsets, veer towards, but ultimately avoid, sustained attention to the reality of our own life.
So it is not an intellectual intrigue with the platonic dictum that leads me to sit, but an experience of myself and my fellow humans as stimulus-bound, fundamentally out of control, alive only in reaction. I want to know, to simply observe, this living person as he is, not just as he appears while careening from event to event. Of course, this will undoubtedly be helpful to me as a psychiatrist, but my motives are more fundamental, personal, and existential.

I am interested in my mind, and in my body. Previous to my having cultivated the habit of sitting, I had thought about myself, and had used my body as a tool in the world, to grip a pen or to chop firewood, but I had never systematically, rigorously, observed my body—what it feels like, not just with a shy, fleeting glance, but moment after moment for hours and days at a time; nor had I committed myself to observe the reciprocal influence of mind and body in states of exhaustion and rest, hunger, pain, relaxation, arousal, lethargy, or concentration. My quest for knowing is not merely objective and scientific. This mind-and-body is the vessel of my life. I want to drink its nectar, and if necessary, its sludge, but I want to know it with the same organic immersion that sets a snow goose flying ten thousand miles every winter and spring.

It seems to me that the forces of creation, the laws of nature, out of which this mind and body arose, must be operative in me, now, continuously, and whenever I make an effort to observe them. The activity of creation must be the original and continuing cause of my life. I would like to know these laws, these forces, my maker, and observe, even participate, in the ongoing creation.

[…]

Even if I am frequently incapable of actually observing the most basic levels of reality, at least the mental and physical phenomena that bombard me are predicated on nature’s laws, and must be my laboratory to study them. I want to sing like a bird, like a human. I want to grow and rot like a tree, like a man. I want to sit with my mind and body as they cast up and swirl before me and inside me the human stuff which is made of and ordered by the matter and
laws governing galaxies and wrens.

Because the harmony in me is at once so awesome and sweet and overwhelming that I love its taste yet can barely compel myself to glimpse it, I want to sit with the great determination that I need to brush aside the fuzz of distraction, the lint of petty concerns. To sit is to know myself as an unfolding manifestation of the universals of life. A gripping, unending project. Hopefully one I can pursue even when I look into death’s funnel.

II

I sit because of, for, and with, an appreciation of daily life.

I sit to open my pores, skin and mind both, to the life that surrounds me, inside and outside, at least more often if not all the time, as it arrives at my doorstep. I sit to exercise the appreciative, receptive, peaceful mode of being filled up by the ordinary and inevitable. For example,

the cracking floorboards in the bedroom where I am a partner, the sound of the fire in the rocket stove or my partner, patiently and lovingly reminding me of my rashness, helping me get back “on track”.

Excerpt from book “Therapeutic Action of Vipassana, Why I Sit”, by Dr. Paul Fleischman

[book] Why I sit – Paul Fleischman (excerpt I)

I heard about Paul Fleischman for some time now… again just before the 10-day retreat in Dhamma Dvara, then after I come out of noble silence I found his books on the library shelves in the center’s Lobby.

I took and start reading this small booklet curious about his writings… cause it came to my attention many times and never went into explore it. I noticed my mind reacting to the title (“hmm, “therapeutic  action of vipassana..””).. let got of this thought and moved on opening the book.

Here are some excerpts from the booklet… in different posts… I could just post here the whole second part of the book (the “Why I Sit” section)… I relate, resonate…

And now, as I took the adhiṭṭhāna (Pali for strong determination, decision, self determination) an effort, intentionally correct and sincere, his writings are somehow validating (don’t know if this is the correct word for what I feel and mean to say here) my efforts.

So, here it is…

II

Although the practice of Vipassana is not a religion in the sense of buying into or swallowing dogma, ritual, or blind faith, I think it is critical to practice “religiously”: that is, with devoted centrality of commitment. Meditation as a desultory practice, an amusement, an occasional hobby in a cluttered life, has little effect, and may stir up more confusion than it relieves. Unfortunately I have seen intermittent, self-directed meditation used to hide from reality, to devalue painful dilemmas, and, in one instance, to aggrandize the self to the point of madness and suicide.

Vipassana references itself to universal human wisdom rather than to particular culture forms. It is non-sectarian in thought. Its framework is mirrored whenever people ponder the art of living. For example, Thoreau wrote, in Massachusetts, in the nineteenth century: “Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, forever again… To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest art… no method or discipline can supersede the necessity of being forever on the alert …”

The potential therapeutic actions of Vipassana include increased self-knowledge, deepened human trust and participation, integration with and acceptance of one’s past, deepened activation of one’s will, increased sense of responsibility for one’s own fate; greater concentration, deepened ethical commitments, firm yet flexible life structures and disciplines, fluid access to deeper streams of feeling and imagery, expanded historical and contemporary community; prepared confrontation with core realities such as time, change,
death, loss, pain, leading to an eventual diminution of dread, anxiety, and delusion; fuller body-mind integration, decreased narcissism, and a fuller panorama of character strengths such as generosity, compassion, and human love. Each student starts at a different place, and progresses individually; there is no magic and no guarantees.

III

Meditation is most therapeutic when it is not looked upon for therapeutic effect, but is put into practice as an end in itself, an expression of an aspect of human nature. That aspect is not a single attribute, like one slice of a pie, but a sustaining, synthesizing, creative force in all other aspects, like the heat that baked the pie. It is more like the bony skeleton than like one limb. So meditation expresses something about the integrated process of a person,
rather than being merely a means to ends in other spheres of life.
Meditation expresses that aspect of us which can receive: the non-selective embracing receptor. We can know ourselves as member cells of an integrated whole.
Occasionally a person will feel this way during special hours of special days: watching a sunset from the rim-rocks of a sandstone canyon in a wilderness of pinyon pine and ancient ruins. These moments are inspirational, serendipitous interludes. Meditation entails the systematic cultivation of this formative human potential as a lifelong centering enterprise. While some activation of this receptive, inter-penetrative, non-judgmental mode is the foundation of any art or science, any significant engagement of the world, it has been most exquisitely expressed by certain writers, like Tagore, Whitman, Thoreau, the Socratic dialogues, Chinese and Japanese Zen poets, and the nameless authors of many classical Pali and Sanskrit texts from ancient India.
This equanimous, aware, unfiltered, receptivity is the sine qua non of religious experience (as opposed to mere religious membership or affiliation). Opening it up makes us feel whole and alive just as eating does. There is no need to rationalize supper as being therapeutic; it is an essential expression of life itself. Similarly, to open up and know with our being is not health-giving, but life-giving. […]

But when we open to receive the whole, a great darkness floods in too. Our previously selective, circumscribed flashlight cannot illumine it alone. We can no longer exclude the devouring mouths of time, the Hitlerian epochs cauterizing living limbs of whole centuries, civilizations, peoples; our fears for ourselves and all we love seem like ephemeral flecks of spray foaming up and vanishing endlessly on a boundless endless ocean. Human culture itself, with its religious and artistic and scientific geniuses, has provided candles, torches, even suns for us, that reveal miraculously the dry land between the seas. Vipassana is one of these. It is a technique that enables us to hear the wisdom of life itself, contained in our organism just like the wisdom of hunger, revealing the deepening shaft of vision, determination, more indomitable skill and gentleness in service of the life in which we live. Inside us and around us is the maker for whom we care. Vipassana meditation is one way to activate an enduring, sustaining love in the web of all contacts.

Students who undertake training in this discipline will find themselves walking into a large, dark hall at 4:00 AM. Around them will be one hundred silent, seated, erect friends along the way, men and women, professors and unemployed travelers, lawyers and mothers, who have been there, morning after morning, day after day, for ten days. Darkness will fade, there will be fewer stars, the crescent moon will glow alone, birds will unroll a curtain of life before the new day, and then depart. The hall will be light, yet still, motionless, silent; a chant will begin, whose twenty-five hundred year-old words simply point us towards the best in us; and even slightly bleary and dry, the students may motionlessly reach up and pluck an invisible jewel of immeasurable worth.

Excerpt from book “Therapeutic Action of Vipassana, Why I Sit”, by Dr. Paul Fleischman

This lines reminds me of the many talks we had with Ronen about Yoga,  about a personal practice, the fashionable Yoga, what’s happening now in the world with people in search for a path, a true teaching, a true teacher, a true – non-illusory mean of coming back to center, a mean of finding the teacher inside…

correct effort, patience and perseverance

after the sitting in Dhamma Dvara (I am still writing about that only in my mind for now, soon here), I made a decision… to make a true effort: one year of dedicated vipassana practice, twice a day, one hour sitting each.

even if only anapana is going to be sometimes, if mind is agitated, or attention to the sensations on the small area, I am going to sit… anyway, most of the part of the practice is calming the mind (anapana).

I know my enemies 🙂 I will make them my friends… and tools for work.

started 12.12.2016… ending 11.12.2017 🙂

today as I post this, it’s already with ups & downs, as always, as everything is anicca (Pali for impermanence). my mind thinks it’s not possible. I let this thought be and go… keeps coming back, seams so… permanent :)).

besides the daily sitting, I will go at leasts twice a month to the group sitting in Cluj (Friday evenings from 18:30).

daily also, I am keeping in contact with Dhamma work (talks, texts, books, movies etc.).

I want to further and in detail examine my sīla (Pali / Sanskrit for morality, virtue, right conduct) , as it expresses in daily life, in what I do, how I do things… and take actions in keeping it. I already felt divergences on this subject in some aspects of my life.

I made a list of dāna (Pali/Sanskrit for charity, generosity, giving) that I want to continue and pursue.

in the last more then half an year I wanted to go into chanting… now I have a sense of some first small steps to personally explore this. see how it’s going.

I’ll keep myself posted :))

with patience and perseverance

Buddham saranam gacchami*
Dhammam saranam gacchami
Sangham saranam gacchami

I am making a true and correct effort.

this is… today resolution :))… for the next 360 days

amen

I bow to all Dhamma workers, servers, practitioners, walkers of the path (whatever names they might have: Yogis, meditators, monks etc.)

<3

*I’m not Buddhist 😉