Knowing How to Close

Two days to go…

Had about four days of detour into various kinds of distraction, anxiety and fragmentation, which is too bad, because before that was a solid week of pretty much constant concentration in and around the 2-4th jhana, peeking into the 5th.

Right now I’m in a bit of a harsh vibrational period of insight practice which makes it hard to do anything but investigate the pain with a certain amount of detatchment. I’ve learned the hard way that the only way to deal with this is to either wash it out with hard jhana, or sit with it and let it show me what it needs to show me. Avoidance or trying to distract yourself only makes it worse, because the root of the pain is fundamental avoidance.

The hardest part of this is vacilation between wanting to do concentration and insight and not really getting down to either one.

In retrospect, losing one’s mental footing in this is down to letting boredom, anxiety and need for distraction chip away at your practice. The morality training for this would seem to be refusing to become distracted and finishing what you start.

So that’s what it’s about now: do I take the time to finish this, or do I continue to let events overtake me?

I’m sure you know the saying, that any idiot can start something, but not everyone can finish it.

UPDATE:

well I suppose I ought to say something additional, as that was probably the most half-assed post, in my long tradition of half-assed postings.

The latter part of yesterday was a good review of the three characteristics of insight practice for me, and I thought I might say a little bit about them and how to practice them.

Suffering: is pretty easy, as one is almost always in various states of discomfort, anxiety, boredom or existential despair…you just try really hard not to see it.

the trick is to just sit with these sensation and not interpret them. do not spin some story about why you’re in despair. just look at the sensations that TELL you that this is what’s happening, and try to understand their true nature.

you will probably find out that these sensations are not especially different than any others, you’ve just adopted a certain kind of revulsion to them, or perhaps more accurately, you’re weaving them into a pattern of perceptual activity that is meant to deflect your attention from something that you’re doing all the time.

Impermanence: the sticking point for most people on this, one would think, is to look at things with your eyes open and think that they are seemingly solid and not see any impermanence in them.

however, there are a few ways this can break down. the easiest to is to look as steadily as you can at some physical object.

after a while, you will probably notice that your eyes are twitiching ever so slightly, even if you’re dilligent about not changing what you’re looking at. this is because your eyes need to alter their angle to expose more rods and cones on the retina, so that you can keep seeing what you’re seeing and not overexpose the rods and cones and cause the image to fuzz out. so in that sense, even external visual perceptual objects are impermanent.

you could take this even farther, and look at a poster or a piece of writing in a book for a few minutes. then close your eyes and see the after image on your retinas persist for a while, then fade.

Now you would think that if you then opened your eyes again, that whatever it was lookexactly the same, right? but if you open your eyes, you’ll find your eyeballs furiously scanning the surface to reconstruct the image you had before you closed them. which is pretty much waht it’s doing all the time anyway. so even the most apparently solid thing are really mosiacs that are being rapidly assembled out of small impressions by your eyes, with most of what seems to be ‘out there’ actually being blanks that are filled in by the brain from memory or supposition. there’s a reason why things on the periphery of your vision have so little detail. that ought to be a hint. try reading with your peripheral vision sometime.

Not-self: this is probably my favorite. it’s really simple too. just keep asking yourself ‘what is experiencing sensations’. which is a more precise way of saying ‘who am I?’ .

when I do this, my perception bounces back and forth between a number of weird constructions. some of which are supposed to pass themselves off as a self or an observer of sensations.

at first, if I’m tired or lazy it presents as almost like the rim of a porthole behind my eyes, with a bunch of other sensations around and behind that that imply absence, presence, darkeness, awareness, etc.

it’s like using your imagination to pretend that there’s some little person watching your life through a little porthole in your mind, and that’s who ‘you’ are. it’s almost comical in it’s cartoonishness.

other variations include a sense of presence and central location in the middle of my head ( sensations that seem to imply a center point are very good for insight into not-self), a non-localised everpresent ‘watcher’ ( sensations that imply the presence of an observing other are likewise good ), or a mirrorlike sheen of awareness that coats everything (awareness is not a sensation, and sensations that pretend to be awareness are delusion).

Using these three, I can usually complete a cycle of insight fairly quickly with consistant effort.

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Balancing the Equation

With about ten days to go, it remains to be seen whether or not I will fullfill the goal of becoming an arahat. And while it may seem on the face of it a wildly unattainable goal, especially given the level of effort I’m able to actually give this practice, I must say the results have been fairly impressive.

It seems I can usually give three days a week to intense jhanna practice, and on those days, do between 6-8 solid hours of practice, with maybe three more middling hours. I feel I now know more about this practice than ever before, in many ways. It’s much easier to hold stronger concentration states for long periods of time, and I can make distinctions in the various jhanna factors that I was never able to do previously.

I also now understand the difference between what are called ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ jhanna states, where the latter is more of mental taste, the former is like swimming in it, or being embedded in a solid block of a certain kind of vibrational quality. This obviously makes practice much more rewarding and powerfull. I had a very compelling glimpse into a strong version of the 5th jhanna, or the 1st formless jhanna, sometime known as the base of infinite space. So that aspect of the plan is on track.

The insight side remains my strong hand, however. Last week I had two experiences that together or seperately could be considered powerfull fruitions. The lasting increased sense of peace and dramatically improved level of concentration ability leads me to think at least one of them was. Certain aspects of reality seem much more obvious and non-conceptual in a way that is very hard and sort of annoying to explain.

” Isn’t that what you said before?”

” yeah, but I GET it this time!”

Sigh…

Which leaves the conduct or morality side of the equation. It can be slippery to see where your thoughts and speech and actions aren’t carrying the weight of your realisations, but there is a certain kind of unpleasant schizophrenia that points you in the right direction. After the latest apparent fruitions, I became acutely aware of poorly chosen words to other people, my seeming inability to say the right things, or at least, keep my yap shut.

So I think I’ll just focus on not swearing or talking behind peoples backs for now, which feels like a pretty good idea, and I probably ought to have been doing all along anyway.

The most rewarding thing in my life, and the thing I think this website speaks to the most, is the pleasure and fulfillment of endless self-discovery. There are few things in this world that are endless, but to always be able to learn and explore your own creative potential is one of them.

So, if it transpires that I have to continue this project beyond the deadline, I shant be too disappointed about it.

Permanent Revolution!

Exactly

With a certain amount of reluctance, I must concede that my new favorite website is steve pavlina dot-com.

I will grant that there is a certain saccharine edge to his stuff that is slightly unpalatable to me, but I will chalk that up to a slightly different demographic, and a higher quotient of punk rock in my dna. In any event, I find him extremely useful and I am essentially in agreement with most everything he says.

When it comes down to something like resolving to become an arahat in 30 days, it helps to be able to hunker down with a powerfully goal oriented motivational-type guy. The article of his I’ve been reading lately and the one relevant to our current discussion, concerns his technique of time management and spelling out exactly what you want in exquisite detail.

Hence, I will spell out exactly what I mean by becoming an arahat and make it clear how that’s going to happen.

In my 3 part augoeides finale, I made it clear my understanding of enlightenment, and the buddhist path in general, was composed of three synergistic parts:

-Morality training; which is more or less what we occultist, reality hacker, counter culture types would call metaprogramming, in the RAW, john lilly tradition. It consists of changing how you talk, think and act.

-Concentration training; which is reducing the fragmentary tendencies of the mind and developing the ability to manipulate mental energy.

and

-Insight training; which is developing understanding of basic sensate reality and rooting out pockets of delusional interpretation.

Now, enlightenment, in the most rudimentary sense, can be thought of as cultivating fundamental insight to the utmost and using the other two as supporting structures. This seems to be a popular view, at least among those who will even talk about being able to actually ‘be’ enlightened at all, which are not very numerous. I can say with a certain amount of conviction that I’ve done that. But I have come to be convinced that implicit in the teachings of the buddha, is the assumption that a fully realized arahat has mastered all of these in a synergistic way.

Thus, my precise goals for the rest of this month ( now 20 days ) are three fold…

1. My gold standard for morality training is eliminating all fear and anxiety. This would be the peak of metaprogramming skill for me. I imagine others would differ, based on their personality, but for me, fearlessness is the cornerstone. Everything else would be an afterthought.

2. Concentration wise, the gold standard is easy. This is the 8th samatha jhanna. Also known as the base of neither perception nor non-perception. I will settle for being to sustain this, seated, for a hour. I could make it even harder and go for something called nirhodha sammadhi , which is quite possibly the hardest meditative achievement going, but no one I know of says you can do that predictably in a month.

3. Lastly, the gold standard for insight is pretty straight up: eradication of fundamental ignorance and perfect knowledge, moment to moment, of the three characteristics of suffering, not-self, and impermanence.

There is a certain power in recognizing something as being nearly impossible, accepting the magnitude of all it’s difficulties, and choosing to do it anyway. In many ways, anything else is not really a choice at all. Only exploring the world in the bucket.

Throw aside your buckets!

under the tree

wanted to write something today, even if it’s not too scintiliating.

First I was kind of sick, then I was just busy, now I feel like I have too many ideas in my head to act on succinctly.

When I got to the end of the by-now-notorious debacle that was the augoeides project, I felt like one of the conclusions I had drawn was the need to take stock of my body of work here, and try to integrate the understandings that came out of it.

It may seem odd, but a lot of the things that come out here pass my lips or my keyboard without really registering in conscious mind. I spend a fair bit of time going over this stuff and wondering where the fuck it came from ( as I’m sure many of you do as well ) I sometimes feel as if this site is put together by my alter ego.

I eventually realised that this site was my ‘download’ in the phillip k dick or holy guardian angel sense, but not untill there was so goddamn much of it, that it breaks your head on the way in.

I’ve also noticed that the best received stuff on this site is the stuff that I’ve taken the time to fully think through and make sense to myself, rather than the disjointed babbling that sometimes comes out.

But anyway, the point is I’m doing a lot of that heavy lifting behind the scenes right now, and hashing out the shape of things to come. I’ve got a great backlog of ideas to implement, but I need to improve my hardware situation to get back into the 21st century, and get clear about what the hell I’m trying to say and who I’m saying it to. I realise a lot of the time I’ve been talking to myself, and while there’s a time a place for that, it may be time to set it aside for awhile.

Besides all that, I’ve formed a resolution to quick fucking around and finally get this arahat thing done. I’ve got about ten years of formal buddist practice in, and like much else here, it goes in fits and starts and I’ve gotten to the point where I know exactly what to do and how to do it, so everything else has to take a back seat for a bit. I’ve resolved to finish the path within 30 days. I’m on day 3 of that now, and I’m just digging deep into samatha jhanna practice for 10 or 12 hours a day to tighten up my concentration and make the subsequent insight manuevers easier.

At a certain point, gotama knew he had enough raw materials from studying with various teachers to finish the task he had set forth for himself, so he resolved to sit under the tree, and not get up until it was done. Like many things, it was about will.

Does anyone think you become enlightened without deciding to become enlightened? Not deciding to TRY. Fuck that. But deciding to DO IT.

“The training is nothing! The will is everything! The will to act.”

and so it is…