…and so we round up this first phase of systematic for the people, in a nice tidy box of grandiose visionary experiences and textbook mysticism.

I’d like to leave these eight as a clear backbone for everything else. You can play around all you like, but these foundational techniques have stood the test of time.  ignore at one’s own peril.

While the series will continue, I might play around a bit with some other stuff first. It would probably be worthwhile to re read some of the alchemy for the braindamaged stuff, for a nice psychological spin dry cycle, if you hadn’t already. You may find the difference interesting once you’re moving a bit more energy around with that brain of yours, to play some of the language and imagery games I present there with more fuel in the furnace.

So be careful, y’all.

Direct download: gather_it_up_then_let_it_go_forever.mp3

16 thoughts on “Systematic for the People 8: Gather it up, then let it go forever

  1. I really enjoyed listening to this. It was comforting in ways I can’t quite pinpoint. Maybe a part it was how you just came out and shared your personal experience in these matters … and just how human all that made it seem. And related to that, it might be how these personal stories show that (as you pointed out) it’s more than just words in a text. For me, it’s often easy to lose sight of that and lose motivation in my meditative practice when I’m overwhelmed and consumed in everyday affairs and life circumstances.

    Of course, I’ve never experienced these advanced sort of spiritual events as you have, so perhaps it’s too easy for me to slack sometimes — or maybe I’m fooling myself. But I tend to think that if I had gone through some of these advanced stages of awakening or whatever you want to call it, then just those experience will be more than enough to keep me strong in the path and motivation would be no problem.

    But up to this point, most of what has been motivating me is just general fustration/boredom of day to day routine life and the suffering. (Damn, for some reason putting that into words just makes it sound less than it is; and that my eyes should be tearing with joy that I haven’t been born in some war torn third world country.) But yeah, I really think that what fuels anyone to seriously start meditation or some spiritual practice is this overwhelming sense of suffering — the whole process of deconditioning through meditation seems like a such a hurdle though. Well, I’m rambling now and probably said to much anyways.

  2. ahhh.. that’s a lesson as old as the hills, my friend. very very few every approach the path out of a love for truth. usually it’s cause the game aint so much fun anymore.

    and it’s okay. even the buddha said that without suffering, there is no impetus for enlightenment. all karma is good karma in the end.

    and it’s not really that advanced. i was pretty lazy in my practice all told. a concerted effort of maybe a month would probably get you that far and then some. a retreat is helpfull if you can mange it sometime. failing that pure horror of suffering can have a similar boost effect.

  3. This might be a little late, but after the last few days, I’m really wondering about the gains in a month above. It seems like my mind is still going all over the place after a week or so. I’d say in general I catch myself not paying attention to the breath more often, but when I go back to focus on it it’s like simultaneously a thought comes up to distract me. The minimum number of words used to describe how to meditate must be completely inversely proportional to the effort it takes to be good at it. (if you can even qualify it)

  4. one thing i’ve found helpfull at times is using a timer. just set it for a minute or two.
    treat it like doing reps on a machine. if you know you only have to hold it for a minute or two or whatever at a time, then it’s easier than doing it open ended. then when it feels good, you can settle in for longer.

    and the other thing is to try to relax into it. remember that part of concentration is letting go of what isn’t your focus. so there is a kind of slack, sliding kind of feel when you do it right, as other stuff falls away. it can be hard to feel at first, if you’re forcing your mind to hold still.

  5. Ah…I’ve been using a timer but I’ve been doing it for 10 minutes or so at a time thinking that if I sat longer eventually most of the thoughts would go away. Erhm…basically, I thought that the longer I sat the more of a chance I had to go into the alpha state whereas if I went back and forth then the alpha would be broken up a lot. I think I am trying to force my mind to hold still, or at least to me it seems like the more I push to focus on the breath the more other things come back, sort of like a push and pull. I’ll try the short sessions though, thanks for the tips!

  6. But I tend to think that if I had gone through some of these advanced stages of awakening or whatever you want to call it, then just those experience will be more than enough to keep me strong in the path and motivation would be no problem.

    I got some bad news for you. Motivation is still a problem. A big one. Not that I’m spiritually awakened, yadda yadda, but even after having some of these types of experiences, well – you still gotta do the hard work. Things don’t just suddenly get easier.

  7. I think (even though I’m talking about how bad I am at this above) I’ve had a couple of interesting experiences last year when I tried to meditate consistently. One time I completely lost track of time and it was like snapping back into reality all of a sudden after 30 or 40 minutes. It was really weird but I also felt really really refreshed. I’d say by the end of the week when the same thing had not happened again it was more frustrating that motivational because it’s sort of like I don’t want to keep grasping for something since that experience isn’t the goal of my meditation, and it wasn’t happening regularly so I didn’t think it was worth the effort to get obsessed over it. I think somewhere in the Bhagavad Gita it talks aobut it but I can’t remember where or what it says exactly.

  8. it’s a fairly standard side effect to lose track of time. and it’s okay to shoot for recognisable markers.

    sure, they’re not the point, but it’s easier to aim for something you’ve already done. just don’t treat them as end points, and you’re fine, just like the siddhi.

  9. My question for Zac:
    A lot of bhuddists, including your man Ingram, say that you wont get to samadhi or permanent change through the concentration meditation. Trungpa for example would say that that the disappointment that comes after phenomenal concentration-derived experiences is not the same as reobservation, it is just “the realm of jealous gods,” one more step in an ongoing cycle of happysad.
    Im not truly a master of either type of meditation, so I cant say with certainty, but my sense is that the two types of meditation are not necessarily so different, or at least they can converge. A couple of years back I went from meditating on my death, to bringing this perspective / non-perspective to bear on the many situations of my daily life, to remaining aware of the continual dying of the world each moment. At this point I was basically high for hours at a time each day, but Im not sure what the long term effects have been. My life changed and I fell out of the pattern.
    Whats your take on all this?

    My tip for people having trouble with their concentration: bring your whole being into the breath (or other object), not just a limited part of yourself called attention. Mostly this means bringing your emotions into it. Give yourself a reason to want to have nothing but your object. Convince yourself that your object is not just a dull task you have set yourself but a source of many good things and the answer to any concerns that might cross your mind. Zac said basically the same thing in one of the earlier podcasts, when he talked about using love in your meditation.

  10. I only know from what I’ve read, but Re-observation is one of the stages of insight following the Dark Night.

    I’m also having problems with my concentration practice. Mine seems to be that I somehow got into the habit of falling asleep during practice.

    I think I’ve gone through a low level Jhanic state once in the past couple of months, but since then I haven’t been able to duplicate it. I’ve always practiced on my bed with my back resting on the wall, but recently I’ve been falling asleep during practice. So I started practicing while sitting on a pillow and without resting my back on anything, but the pressure on my thigh gets to me after a while. I still tough it out but it does ruin whatever concentration I can build.

    I want to get started with the insight practice but I really don’t know if my concentration is adequate yet.

  11. you’re right solxyz, that concentration by itself doesn’t lead to samadhi. it’s kind of a subtle point, like many, but the implication in many of the texts is that from vantage point afforded one by the pinnacle of concentration it is possible to make insight based manuevers that aren’t normally feasable. it wasn’t till the buddha that the distinction of insight in itself was made clearly. probably cause it’s not terribly pleasant or safe.

    … cause not getting a good grounding in concentration type bliss states is a good way to drive yourself to the brink of insanity. guess how i know that one?

    you don’t need to be cruising in the 8th jhana or anything ,but certainly a solid grasp of the first two or three will do you well.

  12. Re: “reobservation”. I hate to be the resident Drug Tsar, but one contribution the latter day “psychedelic community” has made, since its maturation from the sixties, has been to stress the importance of the “reintegration” period–when you chase lightning you often catch it. It’s great to have taken ecstasy and beam love onto everything for the next week, but it quickly becomes apparent that a lot of things are broken and need fixing beyond love beams… In many ways it’s the starting point. What happens afterwards is what matters more than the actual revelation–well, sometimes. I for one find it difficult to dismiss giant fifth dimensional metal insects showing you the inner machinery of the universe, but that revelation’s gotta apply in Malkuth, as well.

    Re: concentration v. insight… If i look up the “Classic 40” objects of concentration or whatever, ten of them are corpses. And while I can imagine entering a bliss state while staring at a corpse, concentrating on dead people is a great way to rub the ego’s nose in its own shit so there does seem to be some overlap I imagine. And as far as cruising around the 8th Jhana, well, damn, I want a refund on this ticket if I can’t get there.

    Regarding Mr. Zac’s experience, it is funny to hear how you had the slightest moment of something “really real.” In this world of illusion I can appreciate that idea quite a bit.

  13. I once heard englightenment is the ability to perceive 1/1000th of a second. Did I misunderstand that perhaps such precise awareness comes out of – not leads to?

    Anyway, taking small steps with all this and revisiting many lessons of the past.

    Does anyone have insight or awareness into :
    the teachings of the Tibeten Book of Living and Dying,
    or the books of WE Butler and his magician series,
    or Livergood and his Perennial Tradition ( http://www.new-enlightenment.com/index.html )
    and how it all relates to “Systematic for the People”???

    It’s not enough just to be eclectic, but to discern how like-things can integrate. Like someone said “In discussions of Theory vs Practice, in theory there’s no difference between the two. In practice there is …”

    I wouldn’t mind more discussion … and think zac should set up a forum for this purpose … wouldn’t that be great? (my donation’s in the mail)

  14. Thank you very much for the account of your experience. It was pointed to me yesterday, after I told about a similar – but different – experience. It helps me making sense of mine, which happened pretty much out of the blue, and without me having any knowledge of these things, no spiritual practice, so not knowing how to explain it.

    You say “… cause not getting a good grounding in concentration type bliss states is a good way to drive yourself to the brink of insanity. guess how i know that one?” Can you elaborate? It sounds familiar too :-). (You may have already: I’ve only listened to this podcast.)

    Another thing: Since having this experience – the state lasting several days in my case – I’ve been playing with the idea of following some kind of practice in order to reattain the state for hopefully longer and without the nasty aftermath, but then I often come to the conclusion that it would be an egoistical path. After all, the insights that I had during that experience are not lost, they are just sometimes difficult to “activate”, and their knowledge doesn’t equate bliss. Is there a place where I could read about your motivations?

    Thank you again for this podcast. I’ll be definitely listening to the others.

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