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Wrote to all the staff to warn about someone’s email account being used by hackers, asking for £2000 for a kidney operation for a relative. It’s obviously a scam but I’m afraid some won’t see it as one because they want to help a friend in need. Coincidentally the email came from the account of RZ, who featured in the latest Brockwood ePost, having donated photos to the archives.

Copying a 3TB drive to another 3TB drive, wondering without solution why what fits on one drive is 4GB too much for the other supposedly identical drive. At the same time, filling another drive with video data from the LTO-4 tape machine which whizzes at such a high pitch we have to close the door on it. If one wants to be warm at this time of year, just go to the back room where it’s a balmy 26 degrees. While all that copying was copying, working on edited summaries of talks.

The centre team are back from their breaks and having a staff week and clean-up ahead of the reopening in a week’s time. More facilities staff cutting the overgrown laurel and feeding it to a chipping machine. Amazingly powerful! Crunching substantial branches in seconds, spitting out the chips we’re going to use to pave the paths over to the school. Meanwhile the air conditioning company were here replacing the compressor they replaced two weeks ago, it being too powerful for our needs in the archive vault. CC said there was so much going on, people working everywhere, including up in on of the flat. I said all we need now is the washing machine to be delivered. At that exact moment, along the path that curves through the trees came the washing machine delivery!

We decided not to go surfing. Too windy and the place at Croyde with the sauna and hot tub was booked up. So it’s postponed until March. CS came round at lunchtime and we had a snooze together before I went back to work and she for a walk with a friend. It was so sweet seeing them walk off, arms around shoulders. Women are like that, men not so much, except in India.

Meditation Journal 30 Jan 2013

Vipassana Meditation 31 Jan 2013

The mind naturally goes back over the day when it has the chance, while sitting, or when lying in bed before sleep. If there is no current concern, there is more space for the day to re-live or relieve itself and of some order to come. The no-current-concern state can come by simply being aware of the breath for a while. In meditation the approach and attitude seems to be far more important than the content. If the approach is right, the content changes on it’s own. If the focus is on content, without an equanimous approach, the content wins out and gets twisted up and gets to continue its reactionary and habitual pattern.

Meditation Journal 30 Jan 2013

Vipassana Meditation 30 Jan 2013

It’s very simple, listen to each part of the body. It’s not simple because of what the body has been through, what the mind has been through, and suddenly the body is being listened to and the mind is learning how to listen. It’s very simple, each sensation is happening right now. It’s not simple because the brain has ideas about each sensation and decides to like it or dislike it. We are encouraged in this response – like; dislike – so much so that it seems a natural response, healthy even. It’s very simple, you don’t have to do that, to respond in any form of judgement. It’s not simple because even though we don’t have to, the habit of doing, of judging, subtle or not, is ingrained. It’s very simple, habit can be seen within this quieter time, and has chance to understand itself and even to retire. I am a habit and I’ve been given permission to retire. It’s not simple because the brain and nervous system is the most complex structure in the known universe. It’s simple, it has its own intelligence.

Meditation Journal 28 Jan 2013

Vipassana Meditation 28 Jan 2013

am 1hr

Back to the cushion. Inner smile at doing so. Awake at 4.30, pre-dawn, quiet world. Somewhere there are others doing the same. Before sleeping on my 42nd Birthday I lay on my back for a long while. When lying, on my back is where things happen. On my side is dull, safe. Meditation is nearer when the spine is aligned. Thoughts playing catchup, undoing, getting up to date. Body playing catchup, face expressioning. Same this morning, yet somehow I’d forgotten about the arm shaking, quite what it was like for the body to be doing something without will or choice. Off it went again in grand style. The hour passed by fast. There was no obligtion to stay that long. There was no obligation to do anything, but I want to get back to the cushion. Back to bed now at nearly 6.

pm yoga class

Even though I’ve done no yoga except weekly class my back is the flattest the teacher has seen it. Way less tension throughout. Change your body by sitting still in awareness! Easy.

Meditation Journal – Day 60

Vipassana Meditation Day 60

Two months into home practice. Mind. Body. Sensations. Reactions.

The key is to sit down before getting involved in other activities. If other activities begin, the habit of avoidance kicks in and the momentum is so strong. Of course, it is still possible to stop but I’m looking at the path of least effort and still maintain discipline. Discipline needs no effort. So I woke at seven, got up, brushed my teeth, splashed some water about then sat down. What could be simpler? Except: Terrified. The terror of yesterday that I kept at bay through occupation right there in my heart. Okay. It’s okay. Settling into my seat, I noticed my breath. Good old breath, always new. Moving awareness over the body I noticed the sensations and reactions in each part. After a careful down and up journey, the strongest sensation was still the terror, perhaps unsurprisingly, so I drew nearer, noticing any reactions to flee or try to force some kind of change. Nausea, and a hive of activity in there, energy buzzing in such conentration in the centre of the chest, heart, solar plexus, upper belly. Is this fear itself? What is it without the mind’s response of labelling and reacting and pretending it knows all about it? Whatever it is (if it is an ‘it’ at all) it’s been around for a long long time. I don’t recall life without it. I’ve learnt to manage it, keep it in it’s place, lock it down, or let it express within confined groves, but I have never understood it. This sensation is why I have been afraid to sit still without occupation, ever since I heard of such a thing. In my later twenties at the yoga ashram, the meditation sessions were largely avoided. In yoga, a brief spell of stillness only, and still ignoring it. In yoga nidra or other relaxation, staying in the head apart from superficial tours. Stay in the head at all costs. And now I am not; I’m in a practice that doesn’t allow it. Otherwise, I know it is perfectly possible to avoid sensation one’s whole life. I’ve done it all these years and I know how to continue to. This is about unknowing. And listening. And patience. And life itself.

Meditation Journal – Day 58

Vipassana Meditation Day 58

am 10 mins

Overslept. Then sitting in the rip tide of forward momentum, threatening to sink into the deep waters of sleep.

pm 1 hr

Following breath as the mind went through the day at work, thought softening it’s grip as the hour progressed. Unfolding of wrapped up incidents, perhaps purely symbolic, but valid in its raw expression. Exposed at last and undoing in a brief flash of emotion wrapped in mind-created scenario. The feeling of missing something, that I should be doing something else right now, vanishing as the breath became all there was.

Meditation Journal – Day 57

Vipassana Meditation Day 57

am 1hr

It’s about wholeness, it’s not about getting rid of. Through some terrible mistake I thought it was about ‘getting rid of’. It’s not. After recent stormy sessions and then yesterday’s stuckness, today was careful, complete, relaxed. Although feeling exhausted I was able to rest within the grounded strength of the body, gently tending each small area of it, feeling how it felt, including all thought, sensation, emotion and tension. No more running, no more dashing through activity, there’s no need.

pm – Iyengar yoga class. More tending to and caring for the body. It’s important.

 

Meditation Journal – Day 56

Vipassana Meditation Day 56

am 30 mins

Thought takes on a different action in the arena of equanimity and non-response. It’s like the old game is broken. If there’s nothing to bounce off, it cannot continue its chain of cause-effect-cause. I notice a biting criticism and instead of a response of flinching, rebuttal, justification, further criticism or self-depreciation, it’s as if the criticism is criticising its very self, because that’s all there is. And that hurts the criticiser rather than another party, like shooting yourself in the foot. The criticism and the pain of it is of the same nature, and the same process and of the same thing, so it is seen by the criticiser itself that it is pointless and ultimately powerless. This breaking of the setup that allows the continuance of thought allows thought to bubble, express, but ultimately wither. It needs two and the second isn’t playing ball. Where thought is valid is in planning and preparing, bringing necessary data and working out – in terms of practical, rational matters. But when it is dreaming or biting, it has no real value or place.

pm 30 minutes

Mind very hazy, unable to connect with body, daydreams coming and going. Peacefully. Felt like I could float off into sleep yet with an awakeness. Vaguely with the breath. Unanswered questions about work projects getting clear without deciding to think about anything in particular. Later, some more body connection but movement more and a few inches and I was off again.

Weekend Walk 44 – Portchester & Portsdown – Allan King’s Way

The first stage of the Allan King’s Way, from Portchester Castle to Nelson’s Monument on Portsdown Hill. I then continued along the hill a way and back to Portchester at sunset. On the way: Portsmouth Harbour, Wicor, Foxbury Point, Cams Bay, Downend, Fort Nelson, DSTL Research Base, Portchester Common, Paulsgrove Lake, then the Roman Fort and castle right on the water’s edge.

One of my favourite walks so far, despite its proximity to urban areas.

Meditation Journal – Day 55

Vipassana Meditation Day 55

am 1hr

Avoided it all morning, finally sitting still at midday. Yet sitting still isn’t how it was: so much movement again! As soon as I closed my eyes, an intense pressure came between the eyebrows, centre of forehead, face scrunched up, tears. Every part of the body tensed, released, tensed in different ways, arms in different configurations, fingers pointing like steel rods, wrists at strange angles. Then the movement really started, head rolling round, shoulders folded, body moving in circles. Then head shaking side to side dribbling all over, across my face, dropping on the blanket, mat, beyond. Not that I opened my eyes to see. I must have looked quite mad, possessed, and yet the mind incredibly calm, thought going off a little, coming back; no thought during the most intense passages. Again, spent, afterwards, collapsed in bed. During most of the time, breathing very fast and shallow, often through the mouth. And like in the early days, such pain in the lips, spiked by a thousand needles.

pm 1hr

Far less movement this evening. Very still for the first half hour. Fears: if I continue this, where will it take me? Insanity? What if I can no longer function? Is there social security for meditation casualties? And a sense that it will all be OK. After this I felt myself ascending somehow, walking upwards, and another aspect of myself was waiting for me, caring and wise, and a kind of merger took place between us. In the second half hour, areas of tension made themselves more apparent. Around the mouth, not so much the lips but a deep ache around the fleshy parts and into the jaws. A point on the right foot near the arch. The inner eyes. So, like on the course with the knots in my back, I stayed with each, noticing the subtleties of sensation, and how sensation shifts under awareness, forever changing. Then another sensation would come along, even an itch, and attention naturally moved on, until an itch became a tickle and I could smile. Later, a certain contentedness and peace that despite having a free day I took time for this. It’s easy not to but very unsatisfactory.

Meditation Journal – Day 54

Vipassana Meditation Day 54

am 1hr

The move from daydreamy supposed freedom to the practise of the meditation showed the resistance and reluctance of the mind to look, listen, feel; preferring to continue in its own groove, feeling all right but only within its own protective boundaries. Conditional alrightness. The change of aspect into sensing the body offers change, a change demanded and yet feared. I felt fear in my chest, not fear of change in particular but fear of some potential future event, the event itself imaginary, vague, bundled together from past images, but enough to give the centre of the chest a fizzy bubbling. The beginning rounds of moving through the body were very steady, listening to each area, feeling how each feels, sliding from one area to the next. Later, the sliding got rockier, with perfect tension coming into all limbs, belly, upper back, neck, face, releasing as attention moved on. Upon reaching the very top of the head, some sort of dissipation of everything I’d felt before, then a direct line from the head to the base of the spine, light and white close by. By the end, my head was rotating, then the whole torso from the base, circling round and round until I thought I was going to puke. And that was enough for it all to cease for this morning.

pm 30 mins

Waiting at the train station, anapana, light shows, not from any internal fireworks but the passing cars dropping off and picking up. A simple, relaxed awareness of breath amidst the rush hour.

Meditation Journal – Day 53

Vipassana Meditation Day 53

am 1 hr

It felt so good to be back in touch with my body, to feel each area as it was, the close contact and a responding ‘thank you!’ for coming back. Some resistance to beginning but I realised that I was still afraid whether I sat down or not, so there really wasn’t anything else to do but stop still for an hour. Distraction doesn’t really cut it as a way to spend the day. So there I was, moving awareness over different parts of the body, feeling any sensations, listening to any responses, letting thoughts do whatever they wanted to do, go where they go, and feeling closer and closer to the actual experience of having a body and a brain, what that’s like and what it means. By the time I was at the legs, they stiffened as awareness passed over them, and into flexing feet, first time round. No particular pain, more of a tensing and release, naturally, without volition. On the way back up the back arched forward, sobbing came, my left hand turned claw-like and the arm went into an armlock behing my back. The arching forward continued some time as my face contorted and stretched, exaggerated expression not found in everyday life, unless I happened to be a mime artist or something, body operating not to my will but to its own needs. It’s a curious situation and entirely without concern, even when the positions are so spasticated or unusual. Sometimes even comical: right arm in the air, pointing stiffly, like I’ve just finished a 70s disco routine, face in some kind of manic grin, left arm still locked behind me, twisted and hard, yet relishing this configuration, the master out of the way, the body at play. Or release, or whatever is going on. Again, I am not willing it, I’m just sat on a cushion for an hour. It seems to need to happen. Glad to be back at it after the Xmas and New Year shortening to 20 minutes. Glad to be back to the full vipassana sensation-based practice.

pm 1 hr

A bumpier ride this evening, even more contortion, tension, spastication, and not much evidence of any kind of release, ending the session exhausted, still tight, body, face and head aching. I am no longer sure what exactly is going on in the depths of a session like this: no thought, intense thought, bliss and agony mixed indecipherably, energy rushes, timeless states and then an incredibly time-conscious, all within the steady minimal occupation of moving attention over the body.

Mindfulness In Plain English – Henepola Gunaratana – Mindfulness

Extracts from Chapter 13

Mindfulness sees the inherent selflessness of all phenomena. It sees the way that we have arbitrarily selected a certain bundle of perceptions, chopped them off from the rest of the surging flow of experience and then conceptualized them as separate, enduring, entities.

Mindfulness is pre-symbolic. It is not shackled to logic. Nevertheless, Mindfulness can be experienced — rather easily — and it can be described, as long as you keep in mind that the words are only fingers pointing at the moon. They are not the thing itself.

When you first become aware of something, there is a fleeting instant of pure awareness just before you conceptualize the thing, before you identify it. That is a stage of Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is mirror-thought. It reflects only what is presently happening and in exactly the way it is happening. There are no biases. Mindfulness is non-judgmental observation. It is that ability of the mind to observe without criticism. With this ability, one sees things without condemnation or judgment. One is surprised by nothing.

In order to observe our own fear, we must accept the fact that we are afraid. We can’t examine our own depression without accepting it fully. The same is true for irritation and agitation, frustration and all those other uncomfortable emotional states. You can’t examine something fully if you are busy reflecting its existence.

Mindfulness is an impartial watchfulness. It does not take sides. It does not get hung up in what is perceived. It just perceives. Mindfulness does not get infatuated with the good mental states. It does not try to sidestep the bad mental states. There is no clinging to the pleasant, no fleeing from the unpleasant. Mindfulness sees all experiences as equal, all thoughts as equal, all feelings as equal.

It stays forever in the present, surging perpetually on the crest of the ongoing wave of passing time.

Mindfulness stops one from adding anything to perception, or subtracting anything from it.

In Mindfulness, one is an unbiased observer whose sole job is to keep track of the constantly passing show of the universe within.

Mindfulness is not an intellectual awareness. It is just awareness.

Repeated practice in meditation establishes this function as a mental habit which then carries over into the rest of your life. A serious meditator pays bare attention to occurrences all the time, day in, day out, whether formally sitting in meditation or not.

Mindfulness is at one and the same time both bare attention itself and the function of reminding us to pay bare attention if we have ceased to do so.

Mindfulness creates its own distinct feeling in consciousness. It has a flavor–a light, clear, energetic flavor. Conscious thought is heavy by comparison, ponderous and picky.

Mindfulness and only Mindfulness can perceive the three prime characteristics that Buddhism teaches are the deepest truths of existence. In Pali these three are called Anicca (impermanence),Dukkha (unsatisfactoriness), and Anatta (selflessness–the absence of a permanent, unchanging, entity that we call Soul or Self).

One who attends constantly to what is really going on in one’s mind achieves the state of ultimate sanity.

Fully developed Mindfulness is a state of total non-attachment and utter absence of clinging to anything in the world.

This pure and unstained investigative awareness not only holds mental hindrances at bay, it lays bare their very mechanism and destroys them. Mindfulness neutralizes defilements in the mind. The result is a mind which remains unstained and invulnerable, completely unaffected by the ups and downs of life.

Meditation Journal – Days 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52

Days 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52 – at staff retreat

Once the door is opened one forgets how to close it. This means ordinary situations become situations of great learning and authenticity. One feels how one is feeling, and there’s not much else to can do. The game is over, in a way. Not entirely; there are still tricks available such as technological escapism, using the infinite supply of media, but even then there’s a presence and genuine sensation isn’t far away. The things that haven’t felt fully have been offered a welcome and begin to arrive through the open door.

Experiences almost like injections of fear, direct into the area just below the heart or above the solar plexus. So many times during the week I felt this squirting sensation of fear, or adrenaline, or excitement, something injected on a thought of the near future. This when sat still or doing. Much outward doing ceased during the week, replaced by meals all provided, discussions (supposedly dialogues), video and audio recordings of Krishnamurti talking of a total education. For us as well as the students. In discussion, I spoke more as the week went on, despite this door being open, to fear or whatever else. The important thing is the reaction has changed to it. I’m not fleeing but seeing, feeling, with a sense of ‘it’s okay’. Not acceptance exactly. Acceptance seems rather bland, but something like acceptance-awareness.

Quiet sitting sessions twice a day, at seven thirty and at three. Log fire burning in the foggy dawns and again just before dusk, a few more of us but still less than half the group. And in the last discussion: why is it uncomfortable to cease activity? Can we have more leisure? Why this filling up of space and time? I feel very lucky to work at a place where we are given a week off to spend going into the fundamental issues and questions of life.

I’m looking forward, with some trepidation, to continue the solo hour sitting sessions, starting tomorrow.

Meditation Journal – Day 45

Vipassana Meditation Day 45

am 20 mins

Thought slips away and the mind is left as a sensation receiver. So what’s going on? A fizzing in the heart area, sugary nervous sensation at the solar plexus, tightening of the belly. This is feary. In the receiving is there any reaction, subtle or gross? What am I doing with these sensations? Can I allow full expression and can there be a total listening to it?

Very short evening sit while vegetables roasted.

It’s our staff week from tomorrow for one week. I will make some notes, but am going computer free until next Wednesday. Included in the programme are two half hour sits per day and the whole week will be centred on inquiry, questioning, listening. Thanks for reading so far, and happy sitting!

Meditation Journal – Day 44

Vipassana Meditation Day 44

Shortening to 20 minutes has allowed a steadiness to return, and an integration of the wilds of the first 30 days. Now I’m itching for more. At 20 mins, it’s just getting going, settled into position, mind quietening. Stretched beforehand today, some early morning wake up stretches. It’s been a while and I was reminded of the luxury of a good stretch.

pm 20 mins

Thinking about all sorts. Or should I say: all sorts of thinking – as I don’t seem to be doing it. Perhaps it has a nature of its own and can’t help but do it’s thing – bubbling away with concerns and fantasies and familiar grooves. Then something happens. I become aware that I was elsewhere, then I think a little about thought and while doing so another energy comes so that by the time I am done with the few thoughts about thinking, there’s a vast space and energy. Later, as a matter of course, thought in its nature has filled this space. The space wasn’t mine, so no loss.

 

Some practical things I’m going to start or continue in 2013

Sit quietly twice a day.

Walk thirty minutes each day.

No internet or TV after 2100 or before 0800.

Stand barefoot.

More audio, less visual media. Rest eyes.

Juice.

Books rather than internet.

Stretch daily.

Limit violent sources of entertainment and news.

Take a break every hour at work.

Chew thoroughly. Eat well.

Call my grandparents.