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How to pick your personal way and get rid of your doubts?

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  • How to pick your personal way and get rid of your doubts?

    Dear Ajahn Brahmali (and of course who may participate is very welcome)

    I'm a newbie, with only 4 months of experience. I have tinnitus (ear ringing) problem that started one year ago after a big accident. To learn to cope with the pain and frustration, I started meditating. When I found it is much more than meets the eye, I went to Thailand for a 10 day anapanasati retreat at Wat Suan Mokkh (Ajahn Buddhadasa's monastery). Then as a personal habit, I wanted to learn different aspects and go deeper. I did two more anapanasati retreats and one Goenka retreat in the following 3 months.

    The more I researched, the more I went into despair and discourage.

    People say that going into jhanas in big city life (without staying in a monastery) is highly unlikely... Considering that I couldn't even reach access concentration in my past 4 retreats makes me wonder why am I practicing anapana, if its full potential lays in monastic life and if I am going to stuck in just breathing forever (I am a bit dramatizing to make my point)... I know that being goal oriented is the worst thing to do, but now it feels like every session starts with a long effort to calm down the mind and ends with a fairly concentrated but tired me.

    On the other hand, Goenka's body sweeping technique was quite beneficial even in 10 days and easy to get into, since a moderate samadhi is enough to start. Also during the session you build more samadhi (not comparable to access concentration), but this time I listen to discourses saying you can't go much further without concentration to purify and sharpen your mind. Also this technique was not the buddha's way to enlightenment...

    Then if you search for methods to boost/finetune your practice or choose the right personal technique for a piece of mind? Oh my! You find hundreds of them each claiming how unique and wonderful they are.

    I wish I just “want and need” to meditate, but now it is more like “I have to meditate every day” kind of feeling. Because there’s doubt with my method (I’m currently sticking to anapana) and my capabilities.

    Please help...

    With metta.

  • #2
    Dear Utku,

    Being goal-centric and being in a hurry to get results is not a good way to do the Buddha's meditation, that is because that very kind of will tends to disturb the mind and prevents it from becoming peaceful. You are right that there are hundreds of techniques, each claiming to be wonderful, and presumably there must be some benefit for some people of each technique. This is why I prefer to always look to the Buddha's teachings, or at least cross-reference what contemporary teachers teach, with what the Buddha taught, I personally think that suggesting that there is a shortcut to getting enlightened, or a better way to get enlightened, is totally disrespecting the Buddha, I'm sure that what he taught, is the shortcut!

    The thing about anapanasati is it occurs in a context, that context being what is called 'The gradual training' or alternatively 'the noble eightfold path', in other words, you can't just do anapanasati and expect to get jhanas and enlightenment, the eightfold path is the only way to get enlightened (and it might be said that the gradual training is how to put the eightfold path into practise).

    The gist of the gradual training is that you develop the mind in various kinds of wholesome qualities (and abandoning unwholesome qualities) then go into seclusion and do meditation. Expecting that meditation to work without having done the preliminary work is quite unreasonable! In fact what you are experiencing is probably exactly what you should be experiencing.

    I also think it's a mistake to exalt monastic life and disparage lay-life when it comes to dhamma practise. What really matters is how you live. Probably the most important thing is how simply you live and what you expose your mind to. If you live simply and wholesomely, even in a city, then you should expect to get good results. What you can't do is shoehorn meditation into a hectic and complicated life and expect it to fix anything, if you want to go deep in dhamma practise, it's essential to downsize your life, less busyness, less stuff.
    This is totally fundamental dhamma, 'right intention' in the eightfold path, can be rendered in english as 'renunciation, kindness and gentleness', in the third noble truth it's even more blatantly obvious, the 'cause of the cessation of suffering' is:
    “it is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, nonreliance on it.“ (Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation)
    The last four words in Pali are cāgo paṭinissaggo mutti anālayo, of these cāgo and paṭinissaggo both basically mean 'to get rid of, to let go of, to give away, to throw away', mutti means 'to release, to loosen' with the original meaning of 'to get rid of', and anālayo basically means 'non-stick' (i.e. like teflon, a related word is 'Himalaya - the snow (hima) roosting-place (alayo) - ana is a negative prefix meaning 'non' so anālayo means non-roosting-place). So the basic meaning of three of those words is 'to get rid of', and the fourth means 'to not accumulate'. Hopefully this makes it very clear what the cause of the cessation of suffering is all about.

    Ajahn Chah taught (and Ajahn Brahm likes to quote)
    'Remember you don't meditate to "get" anything, but to get "rid" of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you "want" anything, you won't find it.

    So what I suggest, is make letting go the foundation of your meditation practise, and indeed, practise it as much as you can in daily life as well. Furthermore, I highly recommend that you ease into it. Your mind can only change/develop so fast, so don't put too many expectations on it. Let go of controlling the mind, and it'll settle down all by itself and the meditation will be refreshing because the mind has had a break from having to do stuff. It matters not so much how long you meditate for each day, but how you develop your mind all day long, develop it in right intention and you can't possibly go wrong.

    Hopeful this makes some measure of sense!
    Metta,
    Ven. Nandiya.

    Comment


    • #3
      Dear Ven. Nandiya,

      First of all, thank you for your long and detailed answer.

      I tend to rush even I'm aware of it and trying to get rif of that habit for sure (the main reason is the annoyance from ear ringing), but I think it may be a misunderstanding that I am looking for a "shortcut to enlightenment" in my practice.

      I'm seriously not in peace with myself, especially after that accident that I've mentioned before and I was struggling to calm down my mind, so I was not looking for a shortcut but merely searching the most suitable practice to start with (metta, Goenka, anapanasati etc). For example I was thinking about doing metta meditation for sometime to make peace with myself and the world, then moving on to anapanasati...

      With your answer, I guess that you advise patiently progressing with anapanasati (and forgetting about Goenka). Am I right?

      As for the motto of "letting go"; I have heard many times during my retreats and tried honestly to understand the concept. But on one hand there are the "motivatations" like being at ease and in peace with myself, being a better person and eliminating my mental reaction the physical pain of ear ringing (I assume these are not goals, please correct me if I'm wrong). These are the things that make me sit on the cushion everyday.

      On the other hand there's the concept of letting go, not demanding or trying to get anything from meditation. I really have hard time realising the fine line between motivations and desire.

      I'd be glad if you can give me some insight about these.

      With metta
      Utku

      Comment


      • #4
        Letting go is simple really. In it's most basic form, it means letting the mind and what's going on be completely out of your control. It takes a lot of courage to do this. There are various similes, including entering the eye of the storm (or even more directly, letting the storm pass over you until you're right in it's center, where you discover it's peaceful). The definitive moment of letting go in a person's practise involves the recognition that you've been doing it wrong this whole time (i.e. for your entire existence), what you thought was keeping you sane, was actually driving you crazy - it's probably a bit different for each person, but that's the drift of it. I can state quite definitely that you don't do something, you stop doing something. Even when I had my first real experience of strong compassion, how I describe it is that I let go of 'callousness', I let go of the ability to not care, which was actually a kind of active energy (the kind of force in the mind, which makes it permissible to say, kill and eat other beings), but because that energy had always been there, I didn't even know it was there.

        You have my sympathies for the ringing in the ear, I used to experience a lot of suffering from that. At some point it went away I can't really remember when, IIRC it slowly faded away as I kind of stopped caring about it (which is a form of letting go: "I don't have the energy to fight anymore; carry on without me"). But I mention it because some people have used Ajahn Sumedho's 'sound of silence' meditation (which is precisely the noise which you hear when there's no actual noise) to overcome tinnitus or turn it into a blessing. I can't vouch for that technique myself because I've never tried it and am only vaguely familiar with it, but if you're interested it might be possible to find something on the internet (search "ajhan sound of silence" or something).

        With metta,
        Ven. Nandiya.

        Comment


        • #5
          Thank you for your suggestions. I am going towards that stage of "being tired of fighting", as I have been trying dozens of alternative treatments and now I'm at an ayurveda center in India as my final effort.

          For the letting go, I guess I will truly understand letting go only by meditating more and more...

          With your answer, I guess that you advise patiently progressing with anapanasati (and forgetting about Goenka). Am I right?
          ...so I was not looking for a shortcut but merely searching the most suitable practice to start with (metta, Goenka, anapanasati etc). For example I was thinking about doing metta meditation for sometime to make peace with myself and the world, then moving on to anapanasati...
          These are two quotes from my previous message. I know that choosing a way to start is highly personal, but can you make a statement from your point of view?

          One meditation teacher told me exactly like this: "I'm sorry, but it doesn't matter... Choose the way that suits your heart." Do you also think like that?

          With metta
          Utku

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Utku Cercan View Post
            I know that choosing a way to start is highly personal, but can you make a statement from your point of view?

            One meditation teacher told me exactly like this: "I'm sorry, but it doesn't matter... Choose the way that suits your heart." Do you also think like that?
            That's pretty much exactly what I think. As I said in my previous post it might be worth checking out the 'sound of silence' technique because people have said specifically it has cured their tinnitus, and I can't recall that specific claim for other meditation techniques (where I read this, was in a small booklet by either Ajahn Amaro or Passano, IIRC, containing many peoples experiences with the 'sound of silence' technique, and tinnitus or ringing in the ear was mentioned pretty often, along with how this technique transformed their relationship with that).
            Nevertheless I can't really add much to what Ajahn Chah said on the right practise: "Whatever works!"; not quite the same thing as following your preferences, but just recognizing what is beneficial to you. Only you can really know yourself, so you're the only person truly qualified to say what's right for you.

            With metta,
            Ven. Nandiya.

            Comment


            • #7
              thank you for your replies and patience ven. nandiya.

              with metta.
              utku

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