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archive for the ‘spiritual diary’ category

spiritual diary 2o1o.o1.27


been meditating every day for 40 minutes for basically the last 50 days. it’s been pretty great. some ups and downs. haven’t written but many subtle shifts have been happening, and i see it resulting in changes in the rest of my life. what i see when i look in the mirror. what it feels like to take a walk.

tonight i did an evening short meditation, and couldn’t stop from laughing when this thought reached me: you cannot meditate so that something will happen! you have to meditate -just to enjoy the meditation-. by definition if you are training your mind to put all of its awareness on the present moment, you can’t contextualize the entire act by thinking about a future moment! all true progress happens only through relinquishing the need for it to happen.

i see that cropping up in many contexts as well. a great line from nisargadatta maharaj:

“When I realize I am nothing, that is wisdom. When I realize I am everything, that is love. Between the two, my life flows.”

spiritual diary 2009.12.09


hour a day, weekdays; 30 minutes, weekends for last week

I had one of the most challenging sessions yesterday, after not being able to get into proper position before the ‘oommmmm’s started – I have some knee and back problems and if things aren’t just right, an hour wreaks havoc on my body, and I am unable to concentrate. I noticed myself unable to reach a comfortable position quickly, and did not want to bother others’ concentration, so kept the uncomfortable posture. After a few minutes it became clear that I would not be able to focus at all, off balance and uncomfortable. The funny part was my reaction of resentment towards the situation for ‘putting me in this mess’, not letting me get ready in time.

I have noticed mindfulness creeping into these situations slowly, and so the focus of the hour swerved, from breathing attentiveness to an awareness of this resentment which had grown inside of me. I think a few years ago it would have just stagnated as resentment; i didn’t deserve this, how could they do this, etc. But now my reaction was completely different – noticing my body react to something that was not done with any sense of malice, just an unconsciousness of my current state. Nothing to blame! I put myself through a hell with these uncontrolled thought patterns, and only after focusing all my attention on them and on my body’s reaction to them, was I later able to laugh at myself for taking the whole process that seriously. It’s amazing how fast these events turn into what feel like uncontrollable emotions. And, it’s equally amazing, if not moreso, what the attentive lens does to those patterns. Laughing at ones’ self seems to be a great medicine. We’re all going to die anyway! Lately that has been my internal rallying cry – what might seem nihilistic or pessimistic becomes a freeing device.

Today, maybe in reaction to that, maybe unrelatedly, I had one of the clearest, most joyful meditation sessions I’ve ever had. No real coarse excitations over the hour. Intense focus, more details coming out of the rims of my nostrils. Just. This. Just. This.

spiritual diary 2oo9.12.4


one hour a day, for two weeks

The last few weeks have seen a major shift in my discipline and habit. I’ve been meeting with Jay every morning to do roughly an hour of meditation, and this has been from 6-7am. All through high school everyone tried to convince me to get up early and I resisted – it took being unemployed with no enforced structure to get myself up early in the day.

Waking up at 5:45am before the sun is up, meditating, playing music, eating breakfast, and going to the gym, all before turning on the computer (3 hours awake with no computer! when it’s usually ~30 seconds, literally), has been somewhat transformative, even disregarding the meditative experiences itself. My energy feels brighter, cleaner, happier. But the meditations have shifted as well – my focus has been getting noticeably tighter. The walls of my eyelids recede further, upon closing my eyes – if I meditate at night, I notice that they feel a few feet away.

Alan Wallace talks about ‘coarse excitation’ – the type of thought that enters your mind and grabs enough of your attentional focus to divert you completely from your breath. I’ve been doing breath counting until I feel largely rid of coarse excitation, and am slowly seeing it recede. It will be a tougher challenge to face coarse excitations without the aid of breathing to give the mind that simple focusing task. Typically I’ll have one of these coarse excitations like 20 times in an hour session. However, one session last week, I experienced my first 45 minute meditation with a complete lack of coarse excitations. Thoughts floated freely and often, but never to the point of removing me from my object of focus.

Things feel really good right now. Crisp.

spiritual diary 2oo9.11.17


various, using awareness watch

Been trying a variety of technologies, and for a while stepping back to really work on concentration – back to counting breaths. Sometimes a lot of meditation time is lost in thoughts that seem to go on for minutes – so in order to try to curb that I’ve been doing two things – first, using the awareness watch that I made with Jay, which gives a gentle buzz every 2-3 minutes, to bring you back if your focus has been lost. Secondly, more locally, counting all breaths, in sequences of 10, as laid out in ‘Mindfulness in Plain English,’ still one of the best guides to meditation that I know. I figure once I can do a couple sessions without ever losing count, my attention will be sufficient to take off the training wheels. It’s funny how often in different contexts our desire to move forward, our lack of patience, becomes the biggest impediment to our moving forward in the first place.

Have also been getting into some new reading. Two authors specifically – first, Alan Wallace, who wrote ‘The Attention Revolution’ – a guide to the different stages of conscious attention, and secondly, a 700-page tome that I have just begun, called ‘Zen and the Brain’ by James Austin. Both of these guys are neuroscientist Buddhists of one sort or another, really beginning to solidify that previously existing gap between mysticism and scientific theory. I am really appreciating the depth with which James Austin is explaining how  meditative practices can enable functional changes in the human brain, and where we have evolved our sense of self. If anyone else is up for reading 700 pages about this stuff, I’d love some book partners!

spiritual diary 2oo9.1o.o5 monkey mind


assorted in europe
2 30-minute sessions today

i am slowly realizing that my self is defined by thinking. i am not attached to objects for my identity, but to thinking itself. on top of the ego’s normal need to think, to itemize, to categorize, my identity in relationships with others has still been defined by thinking– this is true since I was probably about 7 years old, when I was asked to play ‘beat the calculator’ in class during free time. So, I feel now I have double duty to face — I am not attached to normal things in the outside world, but thinking pervades my every existence, my every process. My typical meditation, for example today:

the upcoming bikeride path for the meeting
… breathe
what will the book title be
… breathe
alternate possible bike route
thinking about thinking as a child
… breathe
i am totally identified with thinking
… breathe
… breathe
my childhood provided positive feedback on thought – once my social identity was defined at 6 by thinking, it has been unrestrained – and because it was my identity, is still my identity, it has been subject to positive feedback for 25 years, basically unrestrained. and so my happiness in situations is now dependent on my current state of thinking – flow is the common experience of happiness only because it is my easiest path, because i am so dominated by thinking; but flow itself is such a limited path to the general path of happiness
… breathe
no i cannot take the time to focus on breathing i need to figure this out and write it all down
… breathe, you can write this later
no i have to get to the bottom of this
… breathe, just breathe and you can figure this out later
… breathe

and then the alarm goes off. talk about monkey mind.

spiritual diary 2oo9.o9.o3


assorted times around austria

more than any individual instance of meditation, the thing i am noticing most is that i can see myself more. i am conscious of my-self in more situations. working on an art project [with unsolvable problems]. calling verizon to pay a phone bill and needing to talk to a computer for 35 minutes to get to a human being [which three years ago would’ve driven me insane]. being in group situations [and seeing everyone seeing themselves, and me see myself]. being in one on one situations. i’ll say things and i’ll immediately say to myself, ‘why did i say that thing, what is it about my underlying ego or sense of self that wants to put that thought out there’ and then the conversation will take a turn for the better, because i will consciously shift my internal attitude. or i’ll think things and then jump out of the thought pattern immediately, wondering why my brain would travel down that road. questioning.

i find myself holding on less. in some weird way you could almost say i care less, but that’s not accurate. it’s just, i see more that in some sense, it’s all the same. things come and go. it’s more important to appreciate that ebb and flow than to be tied to any specific point on the path. to be tied to motion instead of level. we are all changing all the time, situations, our context, all in constant change. if everything is better or worse, doesn’t that mean sometimes there must be pain? but if instead, the value is on change, is on motion, there is no necessary downward renormalization. everything can be positive.

the phrase ‘absolute value’ has a real depth to it on many levels.

spiritual diary 2oo9.o8.18


1o minutes

i could swear that when my eyes are closed and i am sufficiently still, i can see my visual field [the red and purple swirls of blood flowing through my eyelids, beautifully backlit by the sun entering my room] vibrate back and forth, ever so gently. is this corroborated in literature? is it a scanning pattern?

spiritual diary 2oo9.o8.16


45 minutes
2o minutes

Still splitting time between focusing on the physical body (back comfort) and mental awareness. Had some good discussions with people recently about meditation – it always feels to me like it’s taken as this completely esoteric fruity thing, whereas with the recent developments in neuroscience it seems so much more easy to explain how it can be a technique for us to find higher states of happiness while improving the lives of everyone in our society.

Now that neuroscience has validated spiritually transcendent states, how can spiritual transcendence and our studies of it not function as an entire field of science, in fact possibly the most important field in our current lives? What is the potency of all the sciences that aim to increase the span of a life, if they do not also increase its depth?

spiritual diary 2oo9.o8.13 mantra


3o minutes

life is indeed a miracle. how do we keep this in our minds, how do we, who are most amazing in our ability to appreciate something one moment and take it for granted the next, how do we keep this ever present in our minds, and in fact travel oppositely on that path, to realizing deeper and deeper truth in that sentiment?

after yesterday’s back pain issues, I focused most of the afternoon on comfortable sitting using techniques from Esther Gokhale’s ‘8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back,’ – highly recommended reading. I do believe that using her techniques and no other physical therapy or drugs, my back problems will go away – indeed after one day of merely being more conscious about my back, I can sense changes in the overall level of pain.

so today, i could get back to focus. 10 minutes of breathing, letting thoughts go, and then continued relaxed breathing with mantra repetition – i haven’t tried much of that in the past, and it’s an odd feeling, a little embarrassing, to be repeating something out loud in my apartment by myself. hard to feel like i’m putting the proper emotion into it. but something happened in the last 2 or 3 minutes; each breath, each mantra repetition, slowly sank into a deeper place. it took 10 minutes of doing it before i noticed anything like that, but it felt promising.

as often is the case, the world was just a little brighter and crisper when i reopened my eyes.

spiritual diary 2oo9.o8.o6 the demon and the hair


3o minutes
no technologies

There is a story that Satchidananda tells, it relates deeply to thoughts i was having today. This is excerpted from Satchidananda’s book ‘Beyond Words,’ really amazing inspirational reading about this progress. The best teacher I’ve found so far.

Once a man wanted to perform extraordinary feats, so he went into the forest and approached a sorcerer. The sorcerer told him, “I can give you a big demon who will do everything for you, but be careful. You must always be able to give him work. If you don’t, he will devour you.” The man said, “There is a lot to do in this world. Don’t worry, I can easily find work for ten demons.”

So the sorcerer gave him the spell with which he could summon the demon. At the proper time, the demon appeared and asked, “My master, why did you call me? I have come, give me some work.” The man immediately said, “I want a huge palace with many rooms. Build one and fill it with beautiful furnishings from around the world.”

He thought that building such a  big palace and furnishing it would take a while so he decided to go to sleep until the demon was finished. He was about to lie down when the demon appeared and said, “Master, your palace is ready.” And there it was, a huge palace, fully furnished.

The man thought for a second and said, “I must have a hundred servants to keep everything in order.” “Yes, Master,” said the demon, snapping his fingers, “the servants are already there, taking care of everything.” “I need some cars,” said the man. “Beautiful cars, Master, Rolls-Royces and Cadillacs, with drivers and a private filling station. All is ready.” “I am hungry,” said the man. “A gourmet meal, with servants to serve it, is waiting in the dining room,” replied the demon.

The man was a little puzzled. “What’s going on here?” he asked. “The minute I ask for something, you make it appear. It doesn’t even take a second.” “Dopn’t hesitate,” said the demon. “Give me some work. I can’t be without work. Give me something to do!”

The man didn’t quite know what to say because the demon didn’t ever give him time to think about what he wanted done next. He tried his best to give work to the demon, but everything got done immediately. Then the demon said, “Either give me work or I’ll devour you.”

The man ran back to the sorcerer but the sorcerer wasn’t there. Sitting nearby was a holy man. He fell at the holy man’s feet saying, “A demon is after me. If I don’t give him something to do, he will devour me and I’ve run out of things for him to do! Can you help me, please?”

“Yes, my son,” said the saint. He plucked one of his very curly hairs and gave it to the man, saying, “Bring this to the demon and ask him to keep it straight.” The man returned and ordered the demon to perform this new task. The demon held the bottom of the hair with one hand, slowly pulled it up straight with the other and let it go. It sprang right back and curled up. Again he tried and again it sprang back.

“Have you finished straightening it?” asked the man. “No, I’m still trying,” replied the demon. “Well,” said the man, “finish quickly because I have some other work for you to do!”

The demon’s work was now to straighten the hair. Whenever the man needed other work done, he called the demon, who would leave the hair temporarily, do the new work in a second and return to his task. From then on, the demon always had something to do and was under control.

He goes on to discuss each of our demons. Our restless minds. I’ve recently been talking with Lauren and Jay about a lot of these issues, especially about starting meditation and how we all have expectations that actually halt our progress. As Satchidananda says “You can never make the mind vacant. The mind can become vacant but you can never make it so.” He goes into much greater detail than I can copy here, but sufficed to say I’ve started to try to separate the idea of meditation into different aspects more than I had earlier. Sense impressions are always coming into the body through our sensory organs, and if we can just stop, sit, close our eyes, and watch that process, we will recognize the inner impressions we have, which can push our development forward.