Monday, March 20, 2017

Thought World - Real World - Somatic Practices

      We live in a thought world - a fabrication, an abstraction - far more than we realize. See: 

      “Since we have lost access to our nonconceptual experience, we tend to live in our facsimile versions.”                  Reginald A. Ray

     Meanwhile, our bodies and the rest of nature remains "real", in "real time." 
     Mindfulness practices, by emphasizing "direct perception", "felt sense" and "letting go of words, thoughts, concepts, stories" - ie are body-based (somatic) meditations, train us to gradually "see clearly", reconnecting with the way things actually are.

      “The body itself, the cells of our body, are always and forever in a meditative state, meaning the awareness of the cells is unconditionally open and receiving information from the ends of the universe. Everything that can ever be known by us is already known by our cells - these pools of awareness, these trillions of worlds that are like receptors. Meditation can only be practiced by our cells – by the totality of our Soma. Our job as meditators is simply to tune in to the meditative state – the infinite open meditative state – that is the basic truth and reality of our Soma. For the first time with Whole Body Breathing we see truly what it means to meditate in an embodied way.”

"Practice Five: Whole Body Breathing & Rooting" Guided Meditation:
accompanies the book: Reginald A. Ray. "The Awakening Body. Somatic Meditation for Discovering Our Deepest Life." Shambhala, 2016.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hindrances to Clear Perception

     The Buddha explained that it is the five hindrances that distort perception and corrupt our thinking. He called the five hindrances the nutriment that feeds delusion. 
     The first hindrance, sensual desire, selects what we want to see, hear, sense, and cognize. It often embellishes the truth. It presents to our consciousness the product of wishful thinking. 
     The second hindrance, ill will, is the negative impulse that blocks us from seeing, hearing, sensing, or cognizing what we don’t want to know. It blinds us to what is unpleasant, and to what is contrary to our view. Psychology knows the second hindrance as the process of denial
     The third hindrance is sloth and torpor. This does not distort what we see, hear, sense, or cognize; rather, it buries it in a fog so that we are unable to discern clearly. 
     The fourth hindrance, restlessness and remorse, keeps our senses on the run, so fast that we do not have sufficient time to see, hear, sense, or cognize fully. Sights do not have time to fully form on our retina before the back of the eye has another sight to deal with. Sounds are hardly registered when we are asked to listen to something else. The fourth hindrance of restlessness, and its special case of remorse (inner restlessness due to bad conduct), is like the overdemanding boss in your office who never gives you enough time to finish a project properly. 
     The fifth hindrance is doubt, which interrupts the gathering of data with premature questions. Before we have fully experienced the seen, heard, sensed, or cognized, doubt interferes with the process, like a cocky student interrupting the teacher with a question in the midst of the lecture. 
     It is these five hindrances that distort perception, corrupt thinking, and maintain a deluded view.

     It is well known among serious students of Buddhism that the only way to suppress these five hindrances is through the practice of jhana. ... for those who do not attain a jhana, the five hindrances (plus discontent and weariness) invade the mind and remain. Anything less than jhana is not powerful and lasting enough to suppress the five hindrances sufficiently. So, ... if the five hindrances are still active at a subconscious level, you are not seeing things as they truly are; you are only seeing things as they seem, distorted by these five hindrances. 

     Thus, ... in order that “in the seen will be merely what is seen, in the heard will be merely what is heard, in the sensed will be merely what is sensed, and in the cognized will merely be what is cognized,” the five hindrances have to be suppressed and that means jhana!

       Ajahn Brahmavamsol. "Degrees of Seeing." Lion's Roar magazine.

Emily Carr

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Somatic Meditation - Tension & Relaxation

      “The more we practice, the more sensitized we become and the more we notice. The process goes on without end and we always have more to discover, even if we are talking about a tiny area of our body.
     As we become more and more aware of the parts of our body, at a certain point we will notice something else: the tension in each part. The more we explore this, the more we begin to sense that our entire body is actually riddled with tension. We are talking here not about the natural, healthy tension that is part of our being human, but instead we are talking about neurotic tension, elective tension, superimposed tension – superimposed by our conscious orientation, our ego. Neurobiology tells us that this kind of pathological tension extends all the way down to the cellular level and is a contributing factor to ill health and disease.
     So why are we so tense? As we shall see later for ourselves, any naked, unfiltered experience is initially felt to be painful and problematic; without thinking, we try to withdraw from it, evade and get away from it. We do so by literally tensing up, and this tension is everywhere. Why is unfiltered experience painful? Because any new experience is perceived by the conscious ego as a threat. As William Blake observed, human experience in its primal, unprocessed form is infinite. This infinity runs against one of the ego’s primary functions, which is to meet the unexpected and, through subverting it into a convenient and safe interpretive framework, to limit and control it and finally, when carried to an extreme, to deny not only its significance but its very existence. When new meditators confess, ‘I feel like I am missing out on the experience of being alive,’ they speak the truth. 
     Tensing up is a way of avoiding the unadorned experience and the discomfort it brings ego, whether that discomfort is physical or psychological; tension is our way of closing down experience and shutting off awareness. It is the somatic expression of us holding on to our small ego concept, our restricted, left-brain identity. On the one hand, physically freezing and contracting in tension, and, on the other, psychologically shutting down and hanging on doggedly to our small sense of self are actually the same thing, just manifesting in these two different modes.” 

       Reginald A. Ray. "The Awakening Body. Somatic Meditation for Discovering Our Deepest Life." Shambhala, 2016.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Trauma - a Fact of Life

     “Potentially traumatic situations are ones that induce states of high physiologic arousal but without the freedom for the affected person to express and get past these states: danger without the possibility of fight or flight and, afterward, without the opportunity to ‘shake it off,’ as a wild animal would following a frightful encounter with a predator. What ethologists call tonic immobility – the paralysis and physical/emotional shutdown that characterize the universal experience of helplessness in the face of mortal danger – comes to dominate the person’s life and functioning. We are ‘scared stiff.’ In human beings, unlike in animals, the state of temporary freezing becomes a long-term trait. The survivor … may remain ‘stuck in a kind of limbo, not fully reengaging in life.’ In circumstances where others sense no more than a mild threat or even a challenge to be faced, the traumatized person experiences threat, dread and mental/physical listlessness, a kind of paralysis of body and will. Shame, depression and self-loathing follow in the wake of such imposed helplessness. 
     Trauma is not a disease, but rather a human experience rooted in survival instincts. Inviting the full, if carefully graded, expression of our instinctive responses will allow the traumatic state to loosen its hold on the sufferer. Goodness, the restoration of vitality, follows. It springs from within. ‘Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence.’ 
     In our suffering lies also our salvation. … the same psychophysiologic systems that govern the traumatic state also mediate core feelings of goodness and belonging.”

       Levine PA. "In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness." North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, 2010. 

"Like water off a duck's back"?