Meditation Journal 28 Feb 2013

Vipassana Meditation Feb 28

To what extent am I controlling the breath? To what extent is it natural? A long inquiry into the subtlety of breath. Am I with the breath? Where am ‘I’? Then the body starts to move. Am I moving it? Back off; observe. Am I observing with a motive for things to change? Observe. The arm shakes to a maximum intensity, then ceases. A pain in my right foot. How am I watching it? It’s pain, must be bad. It’s pain, must stay with it. It’s pain, it should change. It’s still there: what is it like, this pain thing? Is it static or shifting? It’s shifting. It’s more intense. It’s actually almost ticklish way inside the pain, not painful. I almost want to smile. Headline: pain isn’t painful! Then it’s over and there’s sensation elsewhere. Building through my neck. How am I aware of it? I want it gone! What’s it like? A deep ache. Terrible. Why say terrible? I don’t want to feel it. Run! Off into daydreams. There’s the pain again. Not pain, sensation. The deep ache spreads into a wider area, dissipates. Energy rushing through the spine into the neck, head. The head shakes wildly until all sensation is focussed on a tense area in the head; the ultimate headache. Shaking, head shaking, into that spot. Intensifying then just as there’s nothing else but the headache, it’s over and I’m still, breath is soft, the body strong and upright, and it’s just another morning.

Meditation Journal 27 Feb 2013

Vipassana Meditation Feb 27

Following the breath. While with the breath the craze of thought is readily apparent. Upper back and neck arching back. Hands tight, fingers rods. Jaw stiff, jutting. Lips contorting. Feet flexed. Breath steady. The sense of a continuous self is tenuous, a series of moments of attention bundled into a chain of me-ness. 

Mindfulness In Plain English – Henepola Gunaratana – What’s In It For You

Extracts from Chapter 16, the final chapter

There is no static self to be found; it is all process. You find thoughts but no thinker, you find emotions and desires, but nobody doing them. The house itself is empty. There is nobody home.

Those things that we called hindrances or defilements are more than just unpleasant mental habits. They are the primary manifestations of the ego process itself. The ego sense itself is essentially a feeling of separation — a perception of distance between that which we call me, and that which we call other. This perception is held in place only if it is constantly exercised, and the hindrances constitute that exercise.

Greed and lust are attempts to get ‘some of that’ for me; hatred and aversion are attempts to place greater distance between ‘me and that’.

Mindfulness perceives things deeply and with great clarity. It brings our attention to the root of the defilements and lays bare their mechanism. It sees their fruits and their effects upon us. It cannot be fooled.

Clear mindfulness inhibits the growth of hindrances; continuous mindfulness extinguishes them. Thus, as genuine mindfulness is built up, the walls of the ego itself are broken down, craving diminishes, defensiveness and rigidity lessen, you become more open, accepting and flexible. You learn to share your loving-kindness.

Once your mind is free from thought, it becomes clearly wakeful and at rest in an utterly simple awareness. This awareness cannot be described adequately. Words are not enough. It can only be experienced.

This is simplified, rudimentary awareness which is stripped of all extraneous detail. It is grounded in a living flow of the present, and it is marked by a pronounced sense of reality. You know absolutely that this is real, more real than anything you have ever experienced. Once you have gained this perception with absolute certainty, you have a fresh vantage point, a new criterion against which to gauge all of your experience.

In this state of perception, nothing remains the same for two consecutive moments. Everything is seen to be in constant transformation. All things are born, all things grow old and die. There are no exceptions.

Actions, thoughts, feelings, desires — you see all of them intimately linked together in a delicate fabric of cause and effect.

You begin to perceive dukkha at all levels of our human life, from the obvious down to the most subtle. You see the way suffering inevitably follows in the wake of clinging, as soon as you grasp anything, pain inevitably follows. Once you become fully acquainted with the whole dynamic of desire, you become sensitized to it. You see where it rises, when it rises and how it affects you.

There is no static self to be found; it is all process. You find thoughts but no thinker, you find emotions and desires, but nobody doing them. The house itself is empty. There is nobody home.

The entity of self evaporates. All that is left is an infinity of interrelated non-personal phenomena which are conditioned and ever changing. Craving is extinguished and a great burden is lifted. There remains only an effortless flow, without a trace of resistance or tension. There remains only peace, and blessed Nibbana, the uncreated, is realized.

 

Mindfulness In Plain English – Henepola Gunaratana – Meditation in everyday life

Extracts from Chapter 15

Meditation that is not applied to daily living is sterile and limited.

The purpose of Vipassana meditation is nothing less than the radical and permanent transformation of your entire sensory and cognitive experience. It is meant to revolutionize the whole of your life experience. Those periods of seated practice are times set aside for instilling new mental habits. You learn new ways to receive and understand sensation. You develop new methods of dealing with conscious thought, and new modes of attending to the incessant rush of your own emotions. These new mental behaviors must be made to carry over into the rest of your life.

One of the most memorable events in your meditation career is the moment when you first realize that you are meditation in the midst of some perfectly ordinary activity. You are driving down the freeway or carrying out the trash and it just turns on by itself. This unplanned outpouring of the skills you have been so carefully fostering is a genuine joy. It gives you a tiny window on the future. You catch a spontaneous glimpse of what the practice really means. The possibility strikes you that this transformation of consciousness could actually become a permanent feature of your experience.

We specifically cultivate awareness through the seated posture in a quiet place because that’s the easiest situation in which to do so. Meditation in motion is harder. Meditation in the midst of fast-paced noisy activity is harder still. And meditation in the midst of intensely egoistic activities like romance or arguments is the ultimate challenge.

Carrying your meditation into the events of your daily life is not a simple process. Try it and you will see. That transition point between the end of your meditation session and the beginning of ‘real life’ is a long jump. It’s too long for most of us. We find our calm and concentration evaporating within minutes, leaving us apparently no better off than before. In order to bridge this gulf, Buddhists over the centuries have devised an array of exercises aimed at smoothing the transition.

Walking is especially good for those times when you are extremely restless. An hour of walking meditation will often get you through that restless energy and still yield considerable quantities of clarity.

We are learning here to escape into reality, rather than from it. Whatever insights we gain are directly applicable to the rest of our notion-filled lives.

Your body goes through all kinds of contortions in the course of a single day. You sit and you stand. You walk and lie down. You bend, run, crawl, and sprawl. Meditation teachers urge you to become aware of this constantly ongoing dance. As you go through your day, spend a few seconds every few minutes to check your posture.

Intentionally slowing down your thoughts, words and movements allows you to penetrate far more deeply into them than you otherwise could. What you find there is utterly astonishing. In the beginning, it is very difficult to keep this deliberately slow pace during most regular activities, but skill grows with time. Profound realizations occur during sitting meditation, but even more profound revelations can take place when we really examine our own inner workings in the midst of day-to-day activities.

You start to see the extent to which you are responsible for your own mental suffering. You see your own miseries, fears, and tensions as self-generated. You see the way you cause your own suffering, weakness, and limitations. And the more deeply you understand these mental processes, the less hold they have on you.

Ideally, meditation should be a 24 hour-a-day practice. This is a highly practical suggestion.

A state of mindfulness is a state of mental readiness. The mind is not burdened with preoccupations or bound in worries. Whatever comes up can be dealt with instantly. When you are truly mindful, your nervous system has a freshness and resiliency which fosters insight. A problem arises and you simply deal with it, quickly, efficiently, and with a minimum of fuss.

Every spare moment can be used for meditation. Sitting anxiously in the dentist’s office, meditate on your anxiety. Feeling irritated while standing in a line at the bank, meditate on irritation. Bored, twiddling you thumbs at the bus stop, meditate on boredom. Try to stay alert and aware throughout the day.

You should try to maintain mindfulness of every activity and perception through the day, starting with the first perception when you awake, and ending with the last thought before you fall asleep. This is an incredibly tall goal to shoot for. Don’t expect to be able to achieve this work soon. Just take it slowly and let you abilities grow over time.

The practice of mindfulness is supposed to be a universal practice. You don’t do it sometimes and drop it the rest of the time. You do it all the time. Meditation that is successful only when you are withdrawn in some soundproof ivory tower is still undeveloped. Insight meditation is the practice of moment-to-moment mindfulness.

Meditating your way through the ups and downs of daily life is the whole point of Vipassana. This kind of practice is extremely rigorous and demanding, but it engenders a state of mental flexibility that is beyond comparison. A meditator keeps his mind open every second. He is constantly investigating life, inspecting his own experience, viewing existence in a detached and inquisitive way. Thus he is constantly open to truth in any form, from any source, and at any time. This is the state of mind you need for Liberation.

Meditation Journal 18 Feb 2013

Vipassana Meditation Feb 18

Coming back to the cushion after nine days I wonder where I’ve been. Awareness is more consistent during the days but its nothing like when sitting still. Back to the cushion, back to sensation after so much distraction. Delaying tactics. Delaying what I don’t and can’t know of, but think I do. Certainly sensation. Gross sensation as they say. And that means pain. And there’s a response to it that can be seen and understood and so pain isn’t what we think. And the pains themselves, forever subtly changing, even if in their intensity it will seemingly last forever. In listening there is shifting, movement, aliveness.

Such deep aches! I’ve been living with this, going about my days, weeks, months, years, carrying so much within the organism. It’s incredible really that the body and mind can do such a good storage job. Hold it and lock it down with thought. And yet there’s really no need. No one wants it, this task, heavy heavy task. It does a very good job but entirely unnecessarily. Just that we were taught this way, how it’s been done. In sitting still I am finding out simply and clearly what is needed and what is not.

Hampshire Architecture – Petersfield: High St, Square, Sheep St, The Spain

Petersfield is a market town 18 miles north of Portsmouth and about 20 miles east of Winchester. Today I explored the town centre: High Street, The Square, Sheep Street, The Spain, Swan Street, Hylton Road, Church Path and St Peters Street. Most of the listed buildings here are C17 and C18, with some as old as C16. Many have older sections behind the newer facades. Petersfield grew as a coach stop on the Portsmouth-London route and due to its sheep market in the square, to which Sheep Street leads. The pictures below are all of Grade II buildings, with the exception of the church and statue, both grade 1. Goodyers in The Spain is II*, it being a large C16 house, with an early C18 addition in brick. The Spain itself is almost like a village green, situated very close to the town centre. Here are two panoramas:

The Spain (East)

The Spain (West)

Chidden & Hambledon Walk

In warm sunshine and cool winter air, we walked from the hamlet of Chidden on the South Downs to Hambledon and back again in a loop.

Chidden Hambledon Walk Route

With larks calling high above (where are they?) we proceeded south from the village over open downland:

Chidden Hampshire

Near Chidden

Some winter flowers hinting at spring:

Open snowdrops Yellow flower

Into Park Wood:

Park Wood Hambledon Park Wood Hambledon Park Wood Hambledon Park Wood Hambledon

 

 

Bird of prey scarecrow:

Hawk scarecrow

Park House:

Park House Hambledon Park House Hambledon

Cricket has been played up on Windmill Down, Hambledon for more than 250 years:

Hambledon Cricket Club

Buds budding:

Spring bud

View north to Leydene Park:

Leydene Park, Hyden

Hampshire downland:

Hampshire downland

Horse and foal

Hambledon vineyards, producing English ‘champagne’:

English vineyards Hambledon vineyards

Into the village. Very nice. Very expensive. Sports cars in front of cottages:

Hambledon churchyard Hambledon church Hambledon church cross Hambledon peoples market Hambledon High Street Old letter box MG, cottage

Footpath north through the vineyards:

Vineyard footpath

Panorama north to Chidden Down:

Chidden Down Chidden Down

And back to Chidden:

Chidden Hampshire

Meditation Journal 9 Feb 2013

Vipassana Meditation Feb 9

The pain takes me to the edge of what I can stand, the edge of myself even. I suspect this is what karma really is: the actions of the past are right here, embedded within us, locked in as stuckness, as ache, stiffness, tension. What goes around comes around, or maybe never left. We cannot get away with anything. But give it space and dare to feel and pay attention, in an atmosphere of awareness and equanimity and it starts to change, unfold, disperse. This is a right action, a karma undoer. You can’t will a pain to disperse, that’s furthering the same action that got you in this situation in the first place, but you can listen, feel, see, and the purity of that attention determines the rate of change. I just made that rate bit up; it’s not clear to me, but it does seem more instant in more complete awareness and slower in partial attention. Take a simple pain in my jaw. If I’m off somewhere else, thinking about last or this evening. In daily life I might not even notice it. In sitting, the experience is of pain, a bother, nothing much. Hone in on it, and allow it to have an expression, reveal itself and it grows and grows in severity. Keeping calm, watching, it gets so strong, overwhelming almost and then *!* it’s over. No pain. I suspect without the watcher experiencing it’s over in a flash, but in this dualistic game this is how it’s playing out.

East Meon Walk

In bright winter sunshine in a crisp breeze we walked a loop of a few km from East Meon church:

East Meon Walk Route Map

From the graveyard the path rapidly ascends 100m up into Park Hill giving great views over the village. Very soon we were higher than the steeple:

Over East Meon church

 

Even higher above some red kites effortlessly circled over a corn field. A local said they had been recently introduced:

Red kite

On the top of the hill looking east to the south downs stretching away in the haze beyond Butser Hill:

View to the downs

The rolling grassland of Park Hill near to Vineyard Hole. (Now there are some vines nearer the village at the Court House.)

From Park Hill-2 From Park Hill

On the Bereleigh Estate, Park Farm. The ice on the pond would be soon to melt:

Park Farm

 

Hey you forgot the hay!

Hey you forgot the hay!

 

Over open country, down through Rookham Copse, over the road to Pidham Lane. These sunken lanes with trees on the bank always remind me of The Fellowship of the Ring:

Tree roots

 

Old lanes eaten up by motorbikes and sodden led us to the gravel of the Greenway Track:

Greenway Track

No cars. Look how dated the sign design is, some kind of 1960s car:

No cars signpost UK

 

Frogmore lies to the east of East Meon. Only 2km from its source, the Meon turns west here into the Meon Valley proper. Old cottages and a bridge here:

Frogmore cottages The Meon at Frogmore

 

Taking the lane instead of more mud in the fields, we were soon in the village, with it’s thatched cottages and Georgian houses and pub:

Thatch East Meon East Meon-2 Ye Olde George Inn, East Meon East Meon-3

 

Then back to the church in it’s downland situation:

East Meon Church and Park Hill East Meon Church

The old Court House c14 onwards:

Old Court House

 

Ventilation tile:

Handmade ventilation tile

 

Scarecrow at the village allotments:

Scarecrow at East Meon Allotments

Meditation Journal 7 Feb 2013

Vipassana Meditation Feb 7

Needing less sleep. For so long, I have demanded more sleep. ‘If only I had enough sleep, things would be so much better.’ Now it seems I don’t need so much but this puts me up against the old demand for more. The irrational demand for more sleep is basically terrified, escapism, wanting comfort, more comfort. If I’m not sleeping, what shall I do? 

Awake at 0430 as if it was 0830, I sat for an hour, body still unwinding all sorts of tensions and aches. Now into the shoulders. Deep tinges and holdings there, into the neck. This is where I stopped before xmas, and haven’t really got back to it in the depth of the muscles there. And my face is still contorting, jaws, cheeks, lips, even the gums have an ache in them. It seems we dont want to carry this around, and previously I was only vaguley aware that I was doing so: ‘Oh, that old ache in the upper back, it’s nothing, it’s normal, I’ll live with it.’ You can’t get away with it with a meditation practice. But practice is not real life, they say. Yes it is. You are not different in practice than elsewhere. It’s certainly not an escape; quite the opposite.

Meditation Journal 6 Feb 2013

Vipassana Meditation 6 Feb

Equisite agony, pleasure riddled with pain, bursts of ecstasy, the poor body wracked with aches, the face stiff from society. Staying with the breath, staying with the breath, and in the staying, the one staying getting cleansed, observing more truly. All the while appreciating the realness of it, the simplicity of sitting still and listening, breathing, watching, feeling. I really appreciate this in a world of incessant action with such value and emphasis on doing. It’s so very overrated.

Incredibly centred and energetic throughout the day, completing work tasks with ease, mind clear. And for the first time I was looking forward to returning to the cushion this evening, to resume this ‘work’, despite the agonies of this morning. The feelings are real and I want more of this genuine experience. To come out of suffering, what more is there to do? A rather peaceful session this eveing, drowsy in the middle of it, body not moving very much. Some facial changes, into the mouth and lips where there’s often a deep soreness. Otherwise, staying close to sensation and breath, explosions in stillness.

Meditation Journal 5 Feb 2013

Vipassana Meditation 5 Feb

It’s easy to think that the watcher is the ‘real me’, my ‘true self’, pure, and that feelings and thoughts are ‘not me’. What gives the game away is the conflict in this situation, the friction between me and what’s going on. How could there be a friction if it was pure watching? No, the watcher, full of ‘should’, likes and dislikes and is subtly distancing itself from sensation and preferring something else, or approving. Today’s agitation turned out to be resistance and dislike to a feeling of nausea  Previously I would spend the day fleeing from something, not really sure what, resorting to agitated escape, muddled. Now that I am not who I thought I was, not the pure and true self, even if there is such a thing, and seeing that I am the same as sensation neutralises it.

Meditation Journal 4 Feb 2013

Vipassana Meditation 4 Feb

It seems it’s more about the body than the mind at the moment. I really did not expect such strong bodywork in this practice. Not bodywork in that I am manipulating the body or energy in some way but bodywork as in the body is working something out. Left alone in an hour of silence, not doing anything outwardly, no movement, it seems to take the opportunity to unwind. This is taking the form or shaking, rotation, juddering, tensing and releasing, swinging, clenching, expressions. Bringing awareness into the head and face set the right arm off immediately, a deep ache at the wrist, arm shaking faster than I can shake it. The lower jaw jutted out. The head shook, mouth slackjaw, the torso rotated in circles until I thought I was going to be sick, the head rotated, the shoulders arched forward, the legs, buttocks tensed, the feet flexed and released. Not all of these simultaneously, but sometimes so. All the while maintaining some kind of equanimity, and sometimes thoughts remembering or planning. Nothing too unusual in the mind and very cathartic in the body.

Gundleton and Bighton Walk

It’s rained a lot recently so we stuck to lanes this morning. Paths are crazy muddy right now. Starting out just north of Gundleton, Hampshire’s best named village, an hour’s loop:

Guntleton & Bighton

The order of the photos has got muddled and so shall the order of the descriptions. Here are some geese at a small farm in Gundleton:

Gundleton Geese

Snowdrops on Goscombs Lane:

Snowdrops on Goscombs Lane

Two bulls at the farm. The lighter one dominated and soon walked in front of the other, blocking his view of us.

Two bulls

Pigs in the barn and a curious goose:

Goose and pigs

The cows were eating what looks like watercress:

Eat your greens

A wet and muddy horse:

Muddy horse

Many plants were pushing through for spring, the green so bright. Here’s some moss that also seemed to have a glow on:

Fresh moss

A pair of donkeys:

Donkeys

I think this was called Clivedon. Totally old school bungalow:

Bunglaow at Goscombs Lane

A place called The Coffee Tavern. No sign of it being a cafe:

The Coffee Tavern

Greening signposts:

Bighton Dean Lane

A thatched cottage at Bighton Dean:

Thatched Cottage

The Three Horseshoes Public House. Proper old school again Also known as The Three Osees:

The Three Horseshoes, Bighton

The Old House at Bighton. Digging the windows:

The Old House, Bighton

Pines at Bighton Dean Lane:

Pines, Bighton

Looking west from Bighton Lane:

From Bighton Lane

I’m not sure which house this is. Perhaps Bighton Manor:

Bighton Manor?

Windybanks Cottage in Bighton:

Windbanks Cottage Bighton

There’s no ‘r’ in Bighton:

Bighton. No 'r'