Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More Ranting

Oh lordy! Over 200 comments! I read a few of them. Skimmed others. Gosh.

BUT FIRST TO ANNOY ALL OF YOU HERE'S THE AD -- The location for my talk in London on Sept. 12th has been confirmed. It will be at Lecture Theatre 2C, King's College London, Strand, London WC2. On Sept. 14th I'll be at the Odd Fellow's Hall in Bristol. Highly appropriate if you ask me!

OK, what can I really say about the ILP? It's a scam not because it costs $200 but because its advertising implies you will be more "in the now" if you spend $200 on it. I have nothing against people making money on stuff. I spent over $200 a few years ago on a copy of the book KISSTORY, the autobiography of KISS created by the band themselves, signed by all four original members of the group (this is not my copy for sale here, I'd never sell it!). I knew the book didn't cost them anywhere near that much to produce. In fact, when I met Gene Simmons sometime later he told me they cost about $60 each to make and bragged about the huge profit margin. And I still didn't feel bad about buying it.

But KISS didn't promise me Enlightenment. They promised me a very cool book of photos and stories from the band's personal collection. That's exactly what I got and I love it.

I have no problem with people making money, even if they're Buddhist teachers and even if they're earning their money by being Buddhist teachers. What I have a problem with is the way Buddhism is being turned into a commodity. Enlightenment is being sold like mouth wash. The girls aren't running after you? Try Enlightenment and you'll never be without a date on Saturday night!

Enlightenment Experiences are crap.

It's not that hard to induce a whizz-bang experience through hypnotism or other means. If you mesmerize someone and feed their ego with the notion that they are Enlightened and that they can speak with the voice of God Himself, that person will have a pretty amazing time. If a genuine Zen Master certifies that experience as Kensho that seals the deal. Also having paid lots of money for the experience makes the person far less likely to want to admit it might not have been all it was supposed to be. This is so fucking obvious I don't even know why anyone has to point it out.

It's been known for thousands of years, long before Buddha's time even, that meditation practice can lead a person to have some pretty nifty experiences. The hallmark of true Zen practice is that it is the only form of meditation I know of that says you need to go beyond even these experiences and that going beyond them means coming right back here.

Real practice is difficult and doesn't always manifest itself in Big Cool Experiences™. In fact, any good teacher will smack those Big Cool Experiences™ right out of you if you bring them to her. Lousy teachers will charge you money to have those experiences and then try to hang on to you for as long as they can milk your wallet. That sucks. I want nothing to do with it.

Real practice saved my life and showed me stuff I could never have seen without it. Crap practice just gets you excited about the next big experience. It leads you away from real life, teaches you to throw away this moment for the moment in the future when you will be "in the now." Cuz you're not "in the now" now! Only when you buy their product can you be "in the now." And it takes 6-8 weeks to arrive. You will not be "in the now" for at least a month and a half!

This doesn't strike anyone as absurd?

Feh, I say! Feh!!

ADDENDUM:

Here's a snip from my upcoming book that addresses this problem. It's from the chapter about Zazen for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.


In spite of all the foregoing cautionary material, I still believe zazen can be a very good thing for survivors of traumatic experiences. Maybe even the best thing. It can put you directly in contact with the source of the trauma itself. By slowly and carefully removing the psychological barriers you’ve erected to protect yourself from these memories you can finally become aware that the memories themselves are just thoughts in your head. No matter what the content of your thoughts are, they are all just thoughts. This is easy to say but very difficult to truly understand because we’ve been taught since birth to believe in our own thoughts.

This is why we practice. Anyone can tell you this stuff and anyone can understand it intellectually. But applying it takes practice. It takes repetition. Sitting there on your cushion you allow stuff to come up over and over and over again and just sit there with it, not running away, not reacting, just sitting. This is how you learn your own way to deal with it. Not someone else’s way, even if that someone else is the Greatest Master Ever Known, because no one else’s way will work for you as well as your own way. By taking it slowly, you first learn to deal with the little things and eventually, when the big stuff hits, you’ve already had loads of experience.

Merely reading about zazen will not help you put its lessons into effect any more than merely reading about baseball will turn you into Major League material.

Misguided practices that encourage you to go for the big experiences as quickly as possible rob you of the ability to learn this process. They excite you and stimulate you, but that excitement and stimulation is ultimately more harmful than helpful.

192 comments:

Anonymous said...

-------1--------
ta da!

Anonymous said...

Lately, I find there are a lot more rants and vents being posted to the internet.

Anonymous said...

... "more in the now" = deepening practice ... I really don't see where you're coming from. You sound like an agitator with hardly enough experience to argue your stance. I'm actually surprised you got away with publishing books on the subject.

Anonymous said...

How do you insert that little TM?

Anonymous said...

Hi anon at 9.00pm -

Try reading again. It really isn't that difficult to grasp. Thanks.

Oh! You know what irony is, right?

Some Brit said...

Well said, mate!

But some geezers are only doin this Buddhist lark coz they're hopin to get enlightened, one day. Proper enlightened. When everyfing'll be different. It'll look different, feel different...and they'll understand everyfink. Those geezers aint lissnin to ya, son.

But - one day they might notice that there'll only ever be now. Lots and lots of now. The same now they got right now. Never anythin other than now. Same old over'n'over - and the penny might drop. And they can start livin.

See ya in London, chum.

Bring a brolly.

Victoria Georgia said...

Odd Fellows

Origins and Nature of the Order of Odd Fellows (a benevolent and social society). A friendly benefit society having initiatory rites and ceremonies, degrees in membership, and mystic signs of recognition and communication.

**************************

The origins of the Freemasons are disputed, but the first organized lodges date from 1717 in England. Freemasons are sometimes accused of being secretive societies because they have "signs of recognition such as handshakes, passwords, and references that only initiated members would understand.

*********************************
Buddhists

18. Unfortunately, I have not been able to elicit any signs of recognition from people who work primarily with Tibetan materials.

*******************************

Go for it.

Anonymous said...

I'm just pleased that you used the expression "feh". So lovely, and sometimes so necessary!

aspirin said...

Doesn't Buddhism help you overcome the PAIN of suffering?

No. Heroine may help with pain.

Buddhism helps you overcome the cycles of birth(s)-death(s).

In between each birth and death you suffer the pains of growing, learning, decaying, aging, and dying. In between each death and birth you may experience nirbana. Nirbana you want to keep. It's being reborn that you want to relegate to the ashcan (pun intended).

Justin said...

It's a scam not because it costs $200 but because its advertising implies you will be more "in the now" if you spend $200 on it.

So you're saying that we should never act in such a way NOW that deepens our practice in the future? So that sesshin I was planning to attend in a few weeks - it probably costs about the equivalent of $200 - I shouldn't bother, because it's not happening NOW... and therefore planning to go creates/is hopes and desires for the future which takes me away from 'the NOW'? And that zazen I was going to do in 10 mins I'll forget that too shall I?

Sorry, the logic here is very dubious. Zen doesn't teach that we should avoid cultivating a deeper practice for the future. It's just that - if we can - we should remain 'in the NOW' as we do it.

I have nothing against people making money on stuff. I spent over $200 a few years ago on a copy of the book KISSTORY signed by all four original members of the band (this is not my copy for sale here, I'd never sell it!). I knew the book didn't cost them anywhere near that much to produce. In fact, when I met Gene Simmons sometime later he told me they cost about $60 each to make and bragged about the huge profit margin. And I still didn't feel bad about buying it.

You were had. You bought it because it promised a little bit of happiness for you to possess forever if only you owned it - but it didn't last. Plus KISS are shit.

But KISS didn't promise me Enlightenment. They promised me a very cool book of photos and stories from the band's personal collection. That's exactly what I got and I love it.

Unless I missed something, the package in question didn't promise enlightenment. It promised a set of training materials to allow someone working on their own to practice being 'in the NOW' more. It said " that this 'pure now' moment is the doorway to liberation". It is.

Real practice saved my life and showed me stuff I could never have seen without it. Crap practice just gets you excited about the next big experience. It leads you away from real life, teaches you to throw away this moment for the moment in the future when you will be "in the now."

Other than style and price, your marketing of you 'Real practice' product isn't fundamentally different: Don't buy an inferior product! It will ruin your carpet. Get Real PracticeTM! It's the Real DealTM! "It saved my life" - Brad Warner, Zen Master

Cuz you're not "in the now" now! Only when you buy their product can you be "in the now." And it takes 6-8 weeks to arrive. You will not be "in the now" for at least a month and a half!

No, most people are not 'in the now' now. Just existing in the present tense isn't the same as being 'in the now'. I'm surprised that you seem confused by this Brad.

Justin said...

The bottom line is - you just dislike it Brad.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

Would anyone know what time the event in Bristol UK is?

Is it an all day event?

Morning?

Evening?

I'll go if it's evening, but I'll be working during the day.#

I never thought I'd get to meet Brad in person and it'd be so cool to go see him.

Been reading his books since his first but I'm involved with a different Buddhist tradition.

See you there!

RDeWald said...

Enlightenment, delusion, and seeing through charlatan bullshit is all the same thing. Personally, I think exotic dancing is a more straightforward way to make a living than offering people "enlightenment experiences." 24 years of sitting hasn't changed the fact that I like naked boobies.

Anonymous said...

Justin, Why do you bother commenting here?
All you do is reveal what an ego-driven tool you are, showing off for the other pseudo-intellectuals on this blog.I particularly loathe how you dissect every phrase, over the smallest and pettiest rubbish, most of which even a moron can see is your own perceived notions of what Brads is trying to say. Honestly why dont you stick to the treeleaf blog, or hang out with your mates at integral life, your impressing no one around here.
Oz Matt

Ad hominem said...

Justin wrote:

"So you're saying that we should never act in such a way NOW that deepens our practice in the future? ..."

AND

"No, most people are not 'in the now' now. Just existing in the present tense isn't the same as being 'in the now'. I'm surprised that you seem confused by this Brad."

No. That's not what he's saying. It's not what he wrote. It's what you think he's saying, inferred from what you think he means. Or worse, what you'd like to think he's saying... You do it all the time - snarkily caricaturing someone's view so that you can demonstrate your enlightenment in countering it. Many of us do it - I know I do - I think you do it too often.

You're so sure that Brad and some of the rest of us don't get it. But I think you really don't get it. And you so think you do. Which of us is right? Which of us has the authority to point it out? Why would we bother?

Ok, Brad is writing as a teacher of the no bs type, so must expect everything he gets. All I ask is that you - and some others - try not to make convenient, inaccurate assumptions about what he's saying.

Anonymous said...

Anon from 3:11am here...

Also, I should ask, will there be any meditation? Or is it just a lecture?

I ask because I'm going to need to get a lift with my dad and he's not really into Buddhism. Don't think he'd like to do meditation but he'd be open to listen to a lecture.

Cool dudes.

Ad hominem said...

oz matt -

A moment of "had-it-up-to-here" with Justin synchronicity?

If you really want to read Justin going at it, daily, in all his opinionated glory, check him out on Zen Forum International where he posts as shonin (I believe). Some of what he says I find very insightful and interesting. Always well-writen, of course. But it's also often arrogant, dismissive, hasty and, imho, disengenuous. More importantly, there just far too much of it. I mean, WHY??

Anonymous said...

Hi anon @ 3.11am,

I'll step in to answer your question because I'm pretty sure Brad won't step into the bear pit.

My guess is that the London and Bristol talks will be just that, with no zazen. If there is zazen and you don't fancy it, leave. No one will mind.

If you, or others want more details, you could try contacting Dogen Sangha UK:

http://www.dogensangha.org.uk

or e-mail:

info@dogensangha.org.uk
(there's also a telephone number on the site).

Mike Leutchford, who's put together the trip for Brad, will, I'm sure, be only too pleased to help.

Anonymous said...

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

He's one of these characters who loves to waffle ad-nauseum about how the way cannot be attained through discursive thought, and that to be enlightened one must leave behind all pre-conceptions, and then he goes on and on and on and on analysing every minor detail, flapping his gums for the adulation of the other clowns who think that sitting typing long discourses on pointless blog comment sections is somehow proof of just how spiritually aware they are! Who cares!!! He needs to get laid, and chill out.
Oz Matt

Justin said...

Ad hom,

No. That's not what he's saying. It's not what he wrote. It's what you think he's saying, inferred from what you think he means. Or worse, what you'd like to think he's saying...

I can't promise I've understood him correctly, but he's said it twice now and that's how it reads to me. If that's not what he means, then what does he mean? I've responded directly to what he said. I quoted him directly, I didn't misrepresent him.

You do it all the time - snarkily caricaturing someone's view so that you can demonstrate your enlightenment in countering it. Many of us do it - I know I do - I think you do it too often.

You want me to be more polite and respectful to the polite and respectful Brad Warner? Brad's whole commentary on this offering is "snarkily caricaturing someone's view so that you can demonstrate your enlightenment in countering it". And he does that a lot more than I do. I suspect the real issue is that you like what Brad has to say and you don't like to hear what I have to say.

You're so sure that Brad and some of the rest of us don't get it.

No I don't think that. Loads of people have good insights into Zen. Including Brad. But that doesn't mean that when he snarkily misrepresents others, we should all just sit in awed silence.

Ok, Brad is writing as a teacher of the no bs type, so must expect everything he gets. All I ask is that you - and some others - try not to make convenient, inaccurate assumptions about what he's saying.

Please explain where I have misunderstood him. Brad's commentary on this deal seems to me to be based on "convenient, inaccurate assumptions" and that is the point I made.

I think when someone does that or appears to, then challenging it can be helpful to clarify things.

Justin said...

More importantly, there just far too much of it. I mean, WHY??

Why not?

Anonymous said...

Just On time another point by point analysis! 10 points for predictability!!!
Oz Matt

Justin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin said...

Just On time another point by point analysis!

A bit snarky

10 points for predictability!!!

Want to include some actual ideas or arguments in there or is just going to be an attempt to assassinate my character because you don't like what I have to say?

Anonymous said...

Just On time another point by point analysis!

A bit snarky

Straight from the king of snarkiness


10 points for predictability!!!

Want to include some actual ideas or arguments in there or is just going to be an attempt to assassinate my character because you don't like what I have to say?

I am merely a mirror. I am assassinating your character in the same way you try to assassinate Brads because you don't like what he has to say!
Can't take critisicm? You love giving it
Oz Matt

Ad hominem said...

Hi Justin,

Forgive me if I don't take up your offer to explain where you've misunderstood Brad. I don't enjoy the online ping-pong in quite the way that you do.

To clarify -

I'm not criticising what you believe, or practise - that would be arrogant and pointless (wouldn't it?) - or suggesting that you shouldn't write about it, frequently if you wish - I'm criticising your attitude to what other people write about their beliefs and practices. And questioning your motives for the incessant correctives. Perhaps all I'm saying is...a little more humility?

peace,
gassho,
all the best,
and take it easy.

Justin said...

I am merely a mirror. I am assassinating your character in the same way you try to assassinate Brads because you don't like what he has to say!
Can't take critisicm? You love giving it


I didn't comment on Brad's character. I commented on the content of what he said. If I misunderstood him then show me where.

I stand by what I said, but I can see I'm not popular here, so I'll go.

Anonymous said...

See ya

Justin said...

Ad hom,

And questioning your motives for the incessant correctives. Perhaps all I'm saying is...a little more humility?

I'm a bit shocked that I come across to you as arrogant. I'm going to go off and consider that.

Take it easy,
_/\_

Stephanie said...

Brad,

You are dead on! I agree with you completely about why the ILP is a "scam" and the unimportance of the peak experiences induced by various methods of spiritual hucksterism.

But...

Real practice saved my life

This, Brad, THIS!! How did it save your life? What did you do before you started practicing, and what do you do now? This is what I want to read more of. Show us the alternative to Wilberish spiritual masturbation!

What I especially want to know is how to keep practicing when you've hit into despair that all the spiritual realizations you hoped to have may well never happen. That you will probably never know with any certainty the things you wanted to know, or be free of the restrictive tedium of your own puny existence.

I sat zazen daily for years and as an avalanche of spiritual disappointments buried me in 2008, my practice dwindled. I've recovered somewhat from the dark place I was in, but I still can't get myself to practice; I haven't sat a single time for almost two months now.

Why? Because I really get that it's not going to get me anywhere any different from this, any time different from now. So why sit? Why worry that I'm a little more scattered and flaky than when I don't sit? What's the point of hitting that cushion on a daily basis if there really is no point to any of this at all? If big enlightenment experiences are just mental fireworks, if we are trapped like Sisyphus in our absurd activities whether we sit or not? Why sit? Why practice?

Please write more about this, Brad.

Stephanie

Anonymous said...

To anonymous who wants to know when the Bristol even is: it's at 7pm, doors open 6.30, on the 14th

Apuleius Platonicus said...

"I am merely a mirror."

Mirrors are for looking at yourself.

Unless you are someone's valet your job is not to hold up a mirror for anyone else.

earDRUM said...

I would like to hear more about the issue that Stephanie spoke of too. I haven't really sat in years. I just can't seem to get off my ass and get ON my ass. I have a desire to sit, but I don't get around to doing it.
The thing is, unlike Stephanie, I know from past experience that I will generally feel better about life if I sit regularly. I know why I should sit.
This seems to be the hardest thing about zen... getting oneself to actually sit.
Reading books and learning about the philosopical side of zen is the easy part. But finding discipline... that's another story.

tc

p.s.
At the very least Justin discusses Brad's articles in this commentary area. Even if his comments seem somewhat nit-picking and somewhat negative, they make me question things. I like his writing.

Stephanie said...

Justin also infects me with that peculiar blend of annoyance and affection :) I definitely see him as a valuable contributor here.

See, earDRUM, I don't particularly feel the need for an improved perspective on life. (WTF is that anyway? Are not all perspectives equally valid?) Or enhanced performance. I'm not looking to become "fitter, happier, more productive." If life just is as it is, why worry over whether my performance in it is more of one thing or less of another? I'm past the point of giving a fuck over whether people are particularly impressed with how I function.

So that's the thing. I am aware too that I function somewhat better if I sit. But do I really care if I'm a little more attentive, a little more focused? If I'm not being attentive or focused FOR something, why not just be as broody and distracted as I usually am?

Why put in all that effort, sit through all the boredom and pain and despair, when the net result is that my mind doesn't wander off into thought as much? I still learn, I still work, I still serve others with single-minded spiritual devotion. This is my life. Whether I sit or not, it is the same. So why sit?

Mr. Reee said...

Getting to "now" only requires abandoning the road marked "somewhere else" -- even (and especially) the road marked "Enlightenment."

Poof! You're already here!

Very efficient form of transportation, and no toll charges, either.

Ad hominem said...

Steph -

While we await Brad's reply - -

Of course there IS a point. It's just not (necessarily) the point of working towards a one-off explosive revelation. Shinryu Suzuki says we're all perfect, but could do with a little improvement. You've read the book.

So 1)there is nothing but now, but 2)there certainly was a yesterday and there will be very likely be a tomorrow. Both perspectives are true - and just views (cripes, do I sound like jundo?). Acts, including zazen, do have consequences. No one (worth listening to) is saying that we only live in an eternal now, and that, therefore, time/cause and effect are illusions. The whole, ineffable reality of it all is beyond such constructed positions, and, in a sense, includes both.

So you have to do something with your 'now'. And what you do with it will affect your next 'now'.

Zazen is: a way to balance the physical body/ ANS etc (whether or not Gudo's theory holds water, others think there is something to sitting still and quietly for as while that is *good* for us); it's also very pleasant, often, once you've got in the groove of it; it's also good practice at "dropping off" stuff. And you might get the occassional insight, which is fun. Zazen may be all sorts of other things... hell, I don't know what it is. If you've tried it - I know you have, many times - and it doesn't work for you, then, I suggest, don't fret about it. Maybe later....

But you know all this - it's been said many times before - and you're asking for Brad's reply, not mine.

Meanwhile, whether you sit or not...what do I care?

Anonymous said...

Sitting for 30 minutes every morning and again before bed gets you exactly that. Reading and talking about Buddhism no matter how lovely is not sitting. Sitting is Zen concisely.

Stephanie said...

Yes, I am looking for a reply from Brad.

But I also appreciate any words that anyone else has to offer me on this matter.

I am particularly looking for responses from people who can relate to my disaffection with life. Well-meaning advice to just ride the wave, man, or enjoy smelling the flowers doesn't penetrate. It never did, which is why I set out upon a spiritual path in the first place.

If you do not have the energy or affection to do battle with my formidable and stubborn demon of distaste with the world, I warn that you will quickly become frustrated with interacting with me about this matter. But if you have the will, and interest, by all means...

And yes, you do sound like Jundo ;)

Hye said...

What the fuck is "real" practice?

You say real practice is hard, but why is it so? The difficulty arises when an ego is trying to get somewhere.

Whats the frickin point of meditation other than self absorption and worship?


Zazen is for dipshits.

pseudo intellectual said...

Don't stop commenting here Justin. Many of us enjoy your views.

Ad hominem said...

Steph -

Trust me - I've no intention to engage your formidable and stubborn demon of distaste with the world, and certainly no intention to match your debating prowess. You'd always win.

I hope you get some responses from those people who can relate to your disaffection with life...I believe some of them have tried before, but to no avail. Try this: don't sit. Oh, you're doing that already...I fall at the first hurdle ;-)

Stephanie said...

Debating prowess? I chuckle.

You do realize that I do not try to "win" debates (what would I win?), but that I am long frustrated by a search for answers and have already tried many of the approaches suggested to me? Many people better than me have given me excellent advice that has silenced the demons for a while, but they always come back stronger. Every time I think I've licked the bastards, I find that I haven't.

I know I cause people trouble and frustration who sincerely offer their help and advice, but it is not my intent to do so.

Some people have suggested I go on meds, but of the few things of which I am certain in this world, it is that mine is a spiritual affliction. My quest isn't for happiness, but for peace, understanding, wisdom. Things no medication or drug can bring.

alan said...

Stephanie,

Your question is a damn good one and judging my own experience sitting is a common one.

And I would hazard a guess that there is really no answer to the question than the one you come up with.

When you think about it, this is the same question Dogen had when he wanted to know why should we sit zazen if we are all Buddhas already?

And Dogen went to a LOT of trouble trying to answer that question.

Each time I read Brads books trying to figure out what Dogens answer was to that question, I zone out. For me, that zoning out seems to whisper "figure it out for yourself".

I'm pretty damn sure that if you asked Brad the question of why you should practice, he would not give any kind of answer.

Most of the time when zen teacher are asked the question of why they sit zazen the answer seems to be some version of "I sit because I sit".

And the stock answer for the question of "what am I going to get from zen" is "Nothing".

And as a snide observation that I can't resist making is that I have to laugh when I read all the comments from people looking forward to meeting Brad.

I've met him quite a few times.

Anonymous said...

Regret about the past
Indecision in the present
Fear about the future

This is the human condition (as is the belief that other peoples' lives are better than ours)

Zazen highlights this

But don't shoot the messenger

If you don't like things the way they are then change them or find a distraction and don't look

But do something with this precious life before you die. Or don't...

I'm having real trouble deciding which knee to wash first. Any suggestions?

scammer said...

Scams. Everywhere scams.

Here a scam, there a scam, everywhere a scam scam.

Mysterion said...

"I'm having real trouble deciding which knee to wash first. Any suggestions?"

see, for example here

Always consult your rabbinical literature when you have questions of knee washing, cup washing, hand washing or pissing into the wind.

In the name of our sweet lard,
butter rum.

Mr. Reee said...

"I'm having real trouble deciding which knee to wash first. Any suggestions?"

The cypress tree in the garden. :)

Mumon said...

Brad:

Spot on.

Mumon said...

Except for the part about Kiss.

Anonymous said...

Stephanie. Many people believe that it's OK to use a plaster or pacemaker to treat the body but that it's somehow cheating to use anti-depressants or therapy to treat the mind. Of course, medication has side effects but so does psychiatric illness. Modern medicine has made great advances by creating an artificial separation between body and mind so don't ignore it. On the other hand, Zazen makes great advances possible by unifying body and mind. So don't ignore that either. One thing you can do is take some medication until your Zazen settles down. This worked for me and it's not cheating. Of course there are many ways to achieve a goal. But what is your goal? Is it SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound)?. Or is it a more general dissatisfaction? You seem to be intelligent and academic so another option could be to cut down on the abstract (which I know to be a useful diversion from reality). How about being kind to yourself, studying Fukanzazengi for a year, sitting regularly for a shorter amount of time, and enaging in a simple physical activity such as yoga or dance? The alternative is to fry your brain trying to figure out why everyone else appears to find this so easy. On that thought, I fear that you are gaining something from the status of being 'difficult' and 'incurable' so perhaps you could start there? Best wishes
Anon

mtto said...

Hi Stephanie,

I'm going to relay a quote from one of Brad's dharma brothers. The guy pretty much doesn't have an internet presence, so I won't mention him by name.

"When you are angry and don't think you can sit, it is actually the best thing to do. When you sit with anger, you also sit with courage and integrity, whether you realize it at the time or not."

I put this in quotes because I didn't say it, but I didn't write it down when he said it and the talk wasn't recorded. Anyhow, it blew my mind and I thought it might be helpful to your inquiry. What he said about anger also applies to depression and disappointment.

Also, my own take: life is not a problem to be solved. It is the normal perspective to approach life as a problem to be solved, but this is just the result of evolution selecting for the people that got out of the way of the sabertoothed tiger. The things we frequently think of as problems and obstacles to our life aren't those at all, these things are actually our life itself.

Lastly, when I've heard people ask Brad "why sit" he sometimes starts with one of those traditional responses, but he also expands and talks about his personal experience. If you ask Brad about Buddhism, he will talk about Buddhism. If you ask him about Spinal Tap he may just bust out with the Scorpions album cover (vinyl) that inspired "Smell the Glove", which apparently is "Animal Magnetism".

gniz said...

Stephanie,

I dont sit much anymore either. Sometimes I look at it the way you do, sometimes I think it has more worth than we think.
My teacher said that if I practice, at the very least, even if I get nothing else out of it--I will get discipline.
Out of all things that I've found to be useful in my life, discipline is probably right up there at the top. Because, with discipline, we can usually achieve most of what we want--whether its to run a marathon, save money, make it through school, get promoted at a job...etc.

So, at the very least, sitting (or practice of some sort) brings discipline. Everything after that is gravy. There are studies (as i'm sure you're aware) of the beneficial effects of meditation.

You say you are disaffected with the world. When you break that disaffected feeling down into its separate parts, a lot of it comes down to things like anxiety, anger, depression, dullness, etc.

Positive things like exercise, meditation, eating right, they all help. But at the end of the day, nothing i've ever found is a magic bullet. Nothing. Except consistent effort, and really trying to objectively see where I am contributing to my own bad frame of mind.

Only you can put together your best plan of action. It seems to me that you've been trying for a long time already. Well, it takes years and years and years of chipping away to see tiny results and even longer for the results to add up to something meaningful.

Eventually, you may find that that "dissatisfaction" was nothing more than a combination of all those different little issues you chipped away at, and eventually you simply dont feel that way anymore.

Thats mostly how its been for me.

Jinzang said...

How do you insert that little TM?

Like this True Zen™

True Zen™

Jinzang said...

This seems to be the hardest thing about zen... getting oneself to actually sit.

1. Have a daily schedule
2. Make time for zazen in the schedule
3. Stick to the schedule

Jinzang said...

Stephanie,

I assume you want to be a happier person. Regular meditation will make you one. Scientists have proved it! Either you don't believe this or you lack the will to act on this belief. In the latter case, see my previous post.

Jinzang said...

Brad sez:

Zen practice is that it is the only form of meditation I know of that says you need to go beyond even these experiences and that going beyond them means coming right back here.

Then you need to increase your knowledge of other meditation traditions. Even Christian mysticism advises against seeking spiritual experiences.

Jules said...

Hi Stephanie,
I sat zazen daily for years and as an avalanche of spiritual disappointments buried me in 2008, my practice dwindled. I've recovered somewhat from the dark place I was in, but I still can't get myself to practice; I haven't sat a single time for almost two months now.

Me too. Except it's been longer for me.

Justin also infects me with that peculiar blend of annoyance and affection :) I definitely see him as a valuable contributor here.

Me too (you may start to notice a pattern).

Some people have suggested I go on meds, but of the few things of which I am certain in this world, it is that mine is a spiritual affliction. My quest isn't for happiness, but for peace, understanding, wisdom. Things no medication or drug can bring.

Me too. Sometimes they seem to help for a while. Slightly more than what I would expect from a placebo, or even just the idea that I'm actually, finally, getting a little better. Eventually I decide the perceived slight benefit isn't worth even the mild side effects. Meds? Meh. Could be helpful for some people, I guess.

I've been told I should stop drinking too. I did, for a while. Doesn't seem to make much difference either way.

I am particularly looking for responses from people who can relate to my disaffection with life.

What anon said about "getting something from being 'difficult' and 'incurable'" seemed like advice from someone who talks more than they should about things they don't know a lot about. But what some people (including anon) said about engaging in simple physical activity did seem like good advice. Physical activity has often been a very welcome escape for me in the past two years or so - walking, running, swimming, biking, soccer. Sometimes simple, interesting tasks which don't require a lot of physical effort have also been helpful -- crafts, etc. Next on my reading list is "Shop Class as Soulcraft" by Matthew B. Crawford. 'Course I haven't read it yet, and I'm skeptical about learning much from it, but I thought it might be worth a look.

Intellectually I know that (more often than not) my view of the world is darker than the world really is. There have also been times when I saw everything as being much brighter than it really is, but that passed too. Maybe I just need to make more of an effort to go out and look at all the good things in the world on a regular basis. I think I saw those things better when I was practicing regularly. But I get tired, and there's only so much time in the day, and I'm not sure it really made much difference anyway.

I don't really have any answers, except to say "me too," and that I got some comfort from reading your posts. At least I'm not the only one who feels like this. So thanks for sharing.

Mysterion said...

Blogger Jinzang said...
"... be a happier person. Regular meditation will make you one. Scientists have proved it!"

Science proves nothing. Science gathers information in support of one theory or to the detriment of another theory. For example, I just finished teaching a Biology class for one of the local school districts. (A lot of 'court kids' and continuation HS youth were among my 53 students - 2 sections of '28.')

Darwin's theory proves nothing. Darwin's theory supports, by a preponderance of observable evidence, that selective adaptation is almost universally used by mother nature here on planet Earth.

One could speculate that the same selective adaptation applies to humans (sans the creation myth). That does not imply that scientists speculate in that vein, owing merely to an absence of observable evidence in support of creationism, that creationism is just another shadow of the discarded rope. Scientists tend to be in the 'I don't know' category.

I, for one, have no problem allowing for a multitude of creation myths. Any of the myths, or all, could be acceptable in my opinion.

It's only a question of culture, upbringing, and gullibility as I see it.

Remember the difference between agnosticism and apathy: "I don't know and I don't care."

I care, I just neither know nor do I stay awake at night worrying about something so utterly devoid of the slightest value to mankind.

Religions are best known by the trail of innocents left dead on their paths.

pkb said...

Not only that but every sect of zen I'm aware of makes it very clear that various altered states, trippy or nifty experiences are makyo, obstructing devils and are to be ignored. Brad insists on confusing makyo with kensho and confusing the accompanying emotional release with the insight itself. I'm sympathetic with his view to a point because some rinzai masters seem to confuse the bliss that sometimes accompanies kensho with the content / understanding themselves.

Mysterion said...

"various altered states" were responsible for Zen being successful in San Francisco.

None of the Zen Sects that I am aware of condemn anything - altered states or otherwise... nor is the rather dualistic makyo and kensho a topic of anything beyond 'academic discussion' over tea.

It is clear: "You are on your own," responsible for your own well-being and responsible for the consequences for the actions of your own agency.

There may be one (or more) who will be helpful for your practice. There may be one (or more) who will be a hindrance for your practice. By your own growth and by your own experiences, you decide.

Your practice is your practice.

Justin said...

Stephanie,

I'm going to come out of hiding for a minute to give an answer to your question on the off-chance that it might be helpful.

In the meantime, I'm working on the whole 'arrogant, pedantic dick' thing. Just let me know if I do it.

It sounds like you're at a cross-roads - trying to decide whether to jack it in or not.

Some of these 'Zen' answers to your question, coming from an 'ultimate' perspective of 'emptiness' are worse than useless. They simply don't answer the question and they seem to reinforce the idea that practice is useless and pointless.

The 'cosmic perspective' doesn't care about our suffering.

Jinzang is right. Meditation can help reduce suffering (not so much while you're depressed but to protect yourself from getting depressed).

In some zen circles, it's not very politically correct to say this but meditation/zazen is training. Normally we are completely caught up in our subconscious reactivity - thinking, emotional reactions and a goal-seeking mind-set. By deliberately being still and aware, along thoughts and feelings to come and go without any need to react to them and without trying to achieve anything, paradoxically the brain is being trained. We're weakening the conditioned neural pathways of reactivity and reinforcing the habit of being aware so that we don't have to react with stress or depressive thinking, we have more choice as to how to respond.

This is well supported by work in recent years into the effectiveness of MBCT and MBSR by John D. Teasdale, Zindel V. Segal, J. Mark G. Williams and Jon Kabat-Zinn and others.

Stay well,
Justin

Justin said...

So just sit. And when you don't feel like doing it - do it anyway.

Mysterion said...

This was the book for the "Book of the Month" club I participated in way back in December 1999.

It is a slow - but thorough - take on Zen.

Zazen mitigates many emotional issues. Versions of it are sometimes used by clinical psychologists in group settings. Meditation is beneficial to most participants.

Hope that helps.

Aslo, PDF Article link HERE

icebucket said...

Science proves nothing but silence does, at least according to my buddy Vimalakirti. Still, enough silence from my side.

The cool thing with the dreaded E-word is that it means so many different things to start with. The term is Christian as far as I know, but conspiracy specialist Mysterion sure knows better. :-)

It is a BAD word as enlightenment sounds like a state you are in - permanently! And what was the big thing Shakyamuni telling us: Life is IMpermanence.

Awakening sounds more like a process to me. Especially from a Mahayana perspective we all agree we will sleep every now and then... Yes, we are sinners, we won't be awake 24/7.
But how could we ever tell people our bad dreams without sleep?

It's still not for free as Ven. Warner points out again and again. So you can't get it for money. Doesn't make sense?

So what was the other thing the Buddha told us before he died?

Get your act together. Strive. Always. Now. Yes, you! No, you can't watch the 24 re-run first.

Obviously, it does not mean a Michael Phelps style motivation to reach something "special" or surpass other people.

So what DOES it mean?

Find out for yourself.

Or ask Vimalakirti.

Take care.

Mysterion said...

icebucket said...

nice to see you posting here (again).

best regards,

nobody

Jay said...

It wasn't good enough that we even have to use the word 'Zen'. Now we have 'Hardcore' Zen. How bout 'Really' Hardcore Zen. Or, how about 'Rant' Zen. I like it. Glad to see Buddhism is not becoming a commodity, or even a tool to garner attention - 'I'm a Buddhist monk!...Follow me on Twitter...YaY..' Gee, when is Scrubs on...

Anonymous said...

Am i the only one here who does not want to be a valuable contributor?

also, thank Dog for Brad Warner! Before, i was all, like, you know. And now i am so totally down $15 US for that book...

Rich said...

Mysterion, once in awhile you say something that rings my bell.
"It is clear: "You are on your own," responsible for your own well-being and responsible for the consequences for the actions of your own agency."

Like a rolling stone --)

Stephanie,
When I was your age and reached what I thought was the end of the road (a little exageration maybe) I went on vacation to the Caribean and ended up staying there for quite a few weeks. When I came back everything was slower and I was able to start over. I recommend the Mayan Riviera with an all inclusive deal.

Also, I remember a zen master saying they stopped sitting for a few years when the kids were teenagers. I think the older you get the more you appreciate just sitting. I have to say tho, even the years I didn't sit regular or not at all, I never gave up my koan. But that's just me.

As far as Demons, they are a part of yu and are not going away. As you get stronger, they get weaker.

Leaf Dharma said...

Brad please send me a copy of your HardCore Zen: Limited Edition - Gold Embossed - autographed - Sprayed with real Zen Stink

Hendrik said...

Why? Because I really get that it's not going to get me anywhere any different from this, any time different from now. So why sit? Why worry that I'm a little more scattered and flaky than when I don't sit? What's the point of hitting that cushion on a daily basis if there really is no point to any of this at all? If big enlightenment experiences are just mental fireworks, if we are trapped like Sisyphus in our absurd activities whether we sit or not? Why sit? Why practice?

Well, I would say you should sit because it'll make you a happier person.

While it is good to question things, I would also caution against taking all this philosophizing too seriously. It is unreliable; your happiness is a much sounder criterion.

I would recommend sitting for 30 minutes twice a day, after getting up and before going to bed. Sit regardless of how you feel or what you think.

Sit like you're trying to touch the ceiling with the top of your head, stretching your spine, with your chin down, and neck in line with your spine. This way you're really acting to sit. Even when thoughts are persistent your sitting action remains strong, whether you realise this or not.

In a sense a human being is just a bag of habits, without the bag. To adopt Zazen as a habit you have to keep doing it. You may have to quit habits that interfere with your practice (for example I gave up alcohol), or to acquire habits that support it (e.g. strenuous exercise, eating properly, regular sleeping). In fact I find - increasingly so - that Zazen practice helps with this process.

Hope this helps!

cheers,
hendrik

Anonymous said...

What anon said about "getting something from being 'difficult' and 'incurable'" seemed like advice from someone who talks more than they should about things they don't know a lot about.

"Seemed" is the key word I guess.

Suffering is linked to "getting" (not always in a material sense) so perhaps it's not such an unreasonable question? In Europe we have a tradition of being more direct about things so apologies if offense was caused. Perhaps we should wait and see what Stephanie thinks about it all as I'm sure that it's her opinion that really matters here.
:)

Stephanie said...

How wonderful come home from work to find so many kind and thought-provoking words. Thanks Jules, and everyone.

I was not offended by Hendrik's question. In social work we talk about "secondary gains" that clients get from dysfunctional behavior. It's a real phenomenon and a good question, and one I think I should study more deeply.

I don't really think of myself as "incurable" but I do enjoy thinking of myself as something of a Byronic or Kierkegaardian figure. Though you probably wouldn't guess that to meet me in person, as I generally come across as warm, personable, and upbeat. I laugh a lot and have a pretty thick skin. I don't come across as a classicaly "depressed" person--flat affect, gloomy, etc.

And that's the thing that most people get stuck on. I certainly am a depressive type but my problem isn't unhappiness. Sometimes I'm unhappy, sometimes I'm happy. I'm pretty happy right now, actually. I just landed my first job out of grad school and am loving it. I feel extremely fortunate and grateful right now, confident and like a person of worth and integrity.

So the confusing thing for people is... I'm not an unhappy person searching for happiness. I'm a person for whom happiness doesn't matter all that much. I enjoy being joyful but I also enjoy depressive periods (to a point). Sometimes being in a bit of a depressed mode can be a very intense, creative, rewarding aesthetic experience. 2008 was an amazing year and I'm glad I lived it, though it was fucking hard as hell.

So my issue is not how to become happier and more well-balanced. Someone commented that maybe I'm trying to look at my state of mind as a whole phenomenon when it may actually be the sum of a lot of little factors. I think this is a good insight and may be true to some extent. I tend to look for unitive answers where sometimes there are none.

One of the things I'm grateful to practice for doing is giving me the freedom not to care so much whether I'm happy or not. I can't tell you how much freedom I've gained on this path--praise and blame, wealth and poverty, good and bad fortune, I can take all of these things without getting rocked too hard by them. It's so freeing to be able to walk into a room and be yourself without worrying over whether people will accept or love you or not. It's amazing. I feel such inner strength.

No, my issue is that sometimes I feel like a force greater than me is trying to get me to see something. What I mean by that is that I've seen and been through a lot of things that have pushed me to the borderlands of human experience. And I feel like there's something I'm meant to understand. Maybe that's just a dumb misperception, but it haunts me. I yearn for a relationship with a "Higher Power" but I am such a faithless individual I can't even believe in what my senses tell me. How the hell can we ever know anything for certain? I want to feel close to some sort of cosmic principle but I don't feel close to anything, even myself or my own experience. I have this distinct feeling of floating a few inches above my own experience. Physical sensations seem to happen through a veil, or plexiglass wall. The fancy term for this is derealization. I've had that for about as long as I can remember.

Maybe you're right that I hang out in the abstract too much and that is my problem, but that's a character defect that's not likely going away any time soon. I've even tried in my life to focus on simple activities, to do a lot of samu sort of practice, but the effects are always temporary. I might feel immersed in my experience briefly but the "floaty" feeling always comes back.

So the thing is, nothing feels real to me. Maybe that's what my quest is for--reality. I suppose that's a very postmodern thing, to long for reality. Baudrillard talked about that, how reality doesn't even exist any more. That captures how I feel. I want to know what's really real. I want to feel real. But everything is like a dream. I keep waiting to wake up, but I never do.

Alan_A said...

A practical example, for what it's worth...

My practice has been a shambles recently. I'm a caregiver for my father, who has advanced Alzheimer's and lives in another city. I've been working on placing him in a nursing home near me, complete with interstate Medicaid transfer. Also dealing with trying to generate work in the current economy. Main feature of my life has been exhaustion.

For the past several weeks I haven't sat. Couldn't fight through the fatigue. Very slowly I pushed myself back into it. At a certain point I realized that the fatigue was part of where I was at the moment, so I let myself sit there nodding off and coming back, nodding off and coming back...

The other day I was able to sit for a full hour. It was on a seiza bench, so it wasn't real zazen, but it was something.

Today I traveled up to see my father. He speculated briefly about living closer to me. Then that got too threatening, and he snapped into an elaborate three-hour obsessive riff about how I could just move in with him, and my sister (actually my wife) could find work where he is, and my children (I don't have children) would have a much better time...

I found myself getting really anxious and irritated - wanting to shut him down and push away the obsession and stop him from trying to blow up my life.

Then - and this is thanks to the meditation - I was able to see that I was having an emotional reaction, and my emotional reaction was based on memories of my father when he was whole (and also intrusive and obsessive - he was always that). In fact I was reacting to someone who was no longer there. What was in front of me was a set of his habitual neural loops that were still running in spite of profound brain damage. And I was responding with my own habitual set of conditioned responses that had very little do to with the person in front of me. In fact it could be argued that in my moments of anxiety there weren't really people there - there were two habitual neural loops in collision with each other.

Having realized that, I was able to let my reaction go and just sit back and let him talk himself out. It didn't matter how I reacted because in a few weeks I'm going to do what I have to do for him. That will involve disrupting his life hugely and probably making it worse in many respects by placing him in a facility. But acting for his safety means I have to choose the least bad of the bad options.

Meditation allowed me to realize that the circumstances are what they are, and prevented me from launching a drama - either an external one, in which I got annoyed with him and vocalized about it, or an internal one, in which I let my anger and anxiety ramp up and maybe come out later in some other kind of harmful way.

In brief, I was able to prevent myself from making a bad situation slightly worse, which to me is a victory these days.

I'll consider my benefit the very modest source of a very modest improvement - or at least the prevention of harm.

Your mileage may very.

I hope the perspetive is of some use.

Alan_A said...

Stephanie -

My long post crossed yours. Yours makes me think my comments are somewhat off target.

Yours make me think that a Tibetan perspective might be worthwhile. They seem to do well with the mapping the inner life/what is reality thing.

Again, hope this helps.

Mysterion said...

Anonymous Alan_A said...
"Stephanie -
My long post crossed yours...

Yours make me think that a Tibetan perspective might be worthwhile."

Buddhist Studies

A lot has never been translated. See, especially, page 44.

Take the blue pill...

Once Theravada opens your eyes, you can never go back.

Resources for the Study of Buddhism
Compiled by Prof. Ron Epstein

The stupa in Sri Lanka is a circular drum on a square base...

""The Law of Dependent Origination and the Buddhist View of Life and Death" on October 16th as part of the Columbia University Buddhist Studies Seminar series. Unfortunately only the first part of his talk was successfully recorded, but it includes a very interesting discussion of an attempt to discern the original teachings of the Buddha through an examination of early Buddhist texts." podcast here

"In recent years Theravada Buddhists, mainly in Sri Lanka, have reestablished orders of nuns (in Pali: bhikkhuni). This is a very welcome occurrence because for about 1,000 years female practitioners of Theravada Buddhism have been prevented from becoming bhikkhunis by systematic restrictions in spite of the fact that the Buddha himself guaranteed women the right to attain formal membership in the order (sangha) as bhikkhuni." source

Last, and far from least:
Buddhist Women

Seem disconnected? It isn't.

~C4Chaos said...

Brad,

thanks for addressing my question. i do agree with your sentiments. i now see better where you're coming from.

imho, people buy enlightenment-related crap because of their screwed up "Models of the Stages of Enlightenment". the more screwed up one's model of enlightenment is, the more likely they would buy crap from other people (enlightened, or otherwise).

then again, people develop in stages. so maybe they would buy into New Age crap at certain stages in their lives before realizing they're crap, and then move on to the next crappy developmental stage.

~C

NellaLou said...

re: Addendum to the post

What qualifies Brad Warner to counsel survivors of trauma of any kind? He has a degree in history and has not undertaken study in chaplaincy as far as his public details go. He is not a psychologist and is not a trauma survivor or trauma counselor, or any sort of counselor as far as his own admissions demonstrate.

I know some people in his family died and he had some difficult times, as most people do, but this is a far cry from experience with treating possible PTSD and the like.

People with PTSD and the like are all too much in touch with the sources of their trauma-day and night-volitionally or not. And these things do "come up over and over and over again and [you]just sit there with it, not running away, not reacting, just sitting" Zazen isn't at all necessary to bring up these experiences. It is unavoidable and debilitating for many people-not reacting is impossible for some people.

His tone is dismissive and completely lacks understanding of what the survivors of trauma actually experience.

This type of pseudo-psychological "expertise" is a cause for concern.

I do think Brad has some good intentions and a certain amount of compassion but that is no substitute for experience and knowledge of a particular subject.

Sean said...

Regarding the obvious matter, I would like to respond: I imagine that it was pretty obvious, to Isaac Newton, that something he'd call gravity exited. He still saw fit to explain it, as he did, in the PhilosophiƦ Naturalis Principia Mathematica -- 'cos we all know that pretty names are whizz-bang special ^_^ ....even for fundamental science books establishing the foundation of modern physics and all that derives from the same.

As far as responsibility, I comment: He took a true scientific approach to the matter, as he was endowed to. That was his bling, weren't it then?

Sean said...

Furthermore, I wanted to be sure I was subscribed to the comments-notification, here.

I like the qualities of your juxtaposition of real practice and crap practice - no joking, there. I think it does lend a very up-to-date quality to the rhetoric about the Dharma.

Michael said...

Suffering causes suffering. Ranting causes ranting.

Anonymous said...

have come across book(s) by Toni Packer
she came to a point where buddhism and zen dropped away and only question(s) remained
at retreats people were welcome to sit or not sit as they chose, to sit in any manner, they chose; to walk kinhin in any way comfortable

seeing
hearing
awareness

not different than, not separate from

it has been very interesting to read her stuff

she put down all 'authority', she refused to be a 'teacher'

she held firmly to Buddha's words 'be a lamp unto yourself.'

I think you'd like her perspective Stephanie.

It takes courage to live this life straight up no chaser.
giving up preferences--when your 'distaste' becomes 'no tasting,' or 'just tasting as it is,' distaste will have disappeared

if you are looking for peace examine the question closely: what is it outside/inside disturbing 'peace,' disrupting it?

people would ask Buddha questions and he answered some by saying
the question does not fit the case

got to ask the question(s) that do 'fit the case'

good luck to us all

I have been appreciating and enjoying the discussion and all the contributors.
Bountiful
Thank You!

Anonymous said...

I will tell a secret to my being a happier person:
I gave up reading/listening/watching the NEWS
I will look briefly at headlines, but I am on a minimalist news diet.

I have been much happier

Before, when I listened to the news, there was so much stuff 'wrong' in the world needing attending to and regulating that I would feel overwhelmed and defeated before I even got out of bed.
"what was the point of living" I'd think "when it is obvious I will never be able to do anything to change all the fuckedupedness in the world."
When I gave up the news, and just had my day without defeating it before I ever even really started it, things went much better.
I had 'just a day.'
Listening to news was too much like putting lemon on the paper cut.

Justin said...

Stephanie,

It sounds like you maybe feel that zazen is about quieting your mind, and that this is at cross-purposes with your yearning for reality or 'ultimate reality'.

Perhaps you could instead devote yourself wholeheartedly for a few months or years to this search - through philosophy, science, meditation, and other life experiences?

Early Worm said...

Stephanie,

I want to feel close to some sort of cosmic principle but I don't feel close to anything, even myself or my own experience. I have this distinct feeling of floating a few inches above my own experience. Physical sensations seem to happen through a veil, or plexiglass wall. The fancy term for this is derealization. I've had that for about as long as I can remember.

That is EXACTLY how I've felt for over 10 years now. Unlike you, I can still remember the moment it started. I think I was 18. One evening it just happened - my experience just sort of switched into this new mode. It felt quite terrible at first. I told my father about it, and to my surprise he said he'd had that too since about my age.

This disconnectedness from reality actually felt a bit like I had felt when smoking pot (I did that a couple of times as a teenager) - only without all that 'trippiness'. Sorry about my english. But I mean my brain was functioning just fine, only this disconnected feeling was similar to what pot gave me.

It never went away. I've practiced zazen for a couple of years now and it has proved that at least I am physically capable of samadhi during sitting (not a frequent occasion though). But it would be nice to feel more in touch with reality in the everyday life. I miss it.

I don't know if my 'state' has anything to do with yours, but it was fascinating to read your description of it, since it so perfectly matches how I feel.

I still sit daily. I think it's the best I can do, and it actually feels good too. I don't know if it'll ever bring back my original connection with reality.

Mumon said...

Alan_A,

There's no need to judge your practice as "good" or "bad" but...

The other day I was able to sit for a full hour. It was on a seiza bench, so it wasn't real zazen, but it was something.

OK, well, Mr. Warner's mileage might vary here, but practice amidst activity is, according to Hakuin, more worthwhile than zazen.

It's also what we inevitably do most of the time, and is in fact hard practice because you have to remember your practice amidst the activity.

And one other thing: "seiza" means literally "perfect seat/sitting."

If you can't do zazen when you're perfectly seated then what the heck kind of zen are you practicing there.

Like I said, I get where Warner comes from when he advocates for nothing less than 1/2 lotus sitting. I find it infinitely more difficult to practice zazen in an upright chair than in any seated position.

I totally sympathize with your family situation; my mother is dying of cancer and practice is crucial - though quite difficult - at this time.

And that brings me to the next thing: getting those "real cool" states of "being in the now," as Warner says, is crap compared to the fact that with practice, you can not only prevent the launch dramas sometimes, but quench them when launched by others sometimes.

And when you get that experience of bringing the practice on the cushion to the real-life situation of keeping peace and harmony amidst the family delusion and death, aside from the thought "Gee, I wish I'd been able to do this 20 years ago!" is the feeling of gratitude so deep it can't be expressed here.

Anonymous said...

Stephanie,

Thinking that you are 'numb' suggests the possibility of 'not being numb'. But you only have this moment so right now you ARE numb (or not as the case may be).

Feeling numb is a physical condition that comes and goes. This is the truth of cause and effect (although neither may be obvious to you in this case).

What we notice in Zazen is that these are JUST thoughts and feelings.

But don't listen to me. As Dogen says, 'Devote effort to the truth which is directly accessible and straightforward' and sit (or don't).

The following might interest you...

We go to our deaths never having been fully there or never having fully grasped our being there because we cannot close the gap between what we are and what we know, between our ideas and our experiences, our experiences and the life and world of which they are a part.


Mmm...

Mumon said...

One other thing about that ad that I notice:

They have a funny way to use the word "work."

In the way they use it, it does not appear to mean exactly the same thing as might be connoted by "digging a dry well in 90+ heat," or even "make sure the documents ready for filing by Friday."

Training under a teacher is often a good thing, and in zen the teacher who teaches nothing is often quite skilled.

But it is a funny thing to substitute "working" for "training" and really sounds narcissistic I'm sure to any people who are in the lower income quantiles of the working class.



My favorite use of the word "work":

The Integral Life Practice Kit has everything you need for you create a practice that works for you.

I like that last bit the best. You have everything you need to practice without this Kit, without Brad Warner, without this blog, without the internet, etc. etc.

But you need everything in the ILP to create a practice "that works for you?"

True practice takes effort; it takes the willingness to endure that which we don't want to endure, and that effort and willingness won't come from Ken Wilber.

gniz said...

Seems like Brad has been thinking about (and is now actually undertaking?) writing extensively about buddhism and sexual abuse/trauma.

I cant imagine he wont have some interesting points, but he also strikes me as the kind of guy that doesnt get his own limitations or where his expertise might really be lacking. I can imagine him feeling quite confident about his ideas after bouncing them off Gudo Nishijima for an hour or two.

Anonymous said...

looking forward to the new book, Brad

Mysterion said...

Stephanie:

Ramachandran, the neurologist: (and the 'god spot') youtube

Cheers,
Chas

Anonymous said...

"he also strikes me as the kind of guy that doesnt get his own limitations or where his expertise might really be lacking. I can imagine him feeling quite confident about his ideas.. blah, blah, blah."

Aaron, You might be writing about your own issues here.

gniz said...

Yes, because anytime someone criticizes Brad, they're actually just "projecting"
I've seen that card played before pal. Its an oldie but a goodie.

It goes along with some other familiar favorites:

1. if you react to (insert wise man's name here), its because you havent meditated enough to understand the level he's coming from.

2. if you criticize (insert wise man's name here), you are projecting. When he criticizes people, he is merely "defending the dharma."

Any other cards you want to play?

Mysterion said...

Blogger gniz speculates...
"Seems like Brad has been thinking about (and is now actually undertaking?) writing extensively about buddhism and sexual abuse/trauma.

...but he also strikes me as the kind of guy that doesn't get his own limitations or where his expertise might really be lacking."

Let's control ourselves. Gniz can exercise control over Gniz and Chas can exercise control over Chas and so on...

Words like 'limitations' or 'expertise' are on the cusp of judgmental and are thus detrimental to progress. If Brad wants to grow, I say: "Lets consider letting him grow."

If a word has power, then let us only consider> the benefits/loss ratio of applying that power.

p.s. your expertise being invested in ???

gniz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gniz said...

Whatever, i wrote a long involved response to you, Chas, but it was pretty silly. So i deleted it.

NellaLou said...

Mysterion said:

"If Brad wants to grow, I say: "Lets consider letting him grow."

Aside from the very patronizing tone of the statement (he's not a 5 year old) am all for that for anyone in most circumstances, though it's not up to "us".

The concern is zazen is not "The Cure" for all or perhaps even any trauma survivors. And Brad is not in a position to offer it as such. This is irresponsible and not unlike "faith healing".

gniz said...

Here's the funny part about the excerpt about trauma survivors and meditation that Brad wrote in this recent post. I found it very helpful. It was a really great explanation of how sitting can help us deal with difficult life circumstances. But he got it completely backwards for trauma victims!

Brad writes:
"By taking it slowly, you first learn to deal with the little things and eventually, when the big stuff hits, you’ve already had loads of experience."

He says take it slowly, and EVENTUALLY, when the big stuff hits...the problem is people who have experienced trauma dont have the ability to sit and learn to deal with the little stuff first. They've already had the trauma and it is impacting them all of the time.

Brad takes it backwards, probably describing his own experience of meditation. After years and years of meditating, when really major problems (like death and divorce) hit him, he was able to deal with them more effectively because of all his practice. But if his big problems had happened when he was nine or ten years old, maybe that method would have been impossible for him....

Hopefully, this analysis will give more clarity to my criticism.

Aaron

NellaLou said...

That's it exactly Aaron.

pkb said...

" I have this distinct feeling of floating a few inches above my own experience. Physical sensations seem to happen through a veil, or plexiglass wall. The fancy term for this is derealization. I've had that for about as long as I can remember."

Stephanie and Early Worm;

I too experienced something similar begining at age 13. I felt disconnected from my own experience along with chronic existential anxiety, extreme fear of death. When I first took lsd at 16 it became much worse.

When I began regular zazen (around age 19) I kinda expected that it would become even worse. Instead after a few years of zazen the wall of glass between myself and the world began to evaporate on it's own. Though it didn't completely stop until several years after I started working on the inquiry 'Who am I' Since that question was pierced somewhat the wall has never returned. I urge you to continue with zazen.

In my own case it took sitting several hours per day on my own for several years to bring real relief. As long as I was just sitting 30 or 40 minutes I got reduction in anxiety and greater clarity but the old nagging existential questions still remained. It varies with each individual, but you might consider sitting longer or even some form of zazen other than shikantaza. (sorry, I realize this is heresy in these parts) It just may take longer than we might like. Someone above mentioned Toni Packer. I also highly recommend her approach. G.L.

Anonymous said...

Hi, it's Kyla
Nothing really worthwhile comes quick I have found. But we live in a society that wants everything NOW and we want to be in the now NOW it seems. And we want to stay there dammit!!!
The most challenging things take time. I've spent almost 20 years or so (I'm 40 in Sept)dealing with childhood sexual abuse and Zazen has been a big help as have many other things. But all of the things that helped TOOK TIME and EFFORT. And I'm still not done, no one ever gets done. I think people want to get to some state of permanence and it just doesn't exist. And they want that permanent state to be called Enlightenment. When someone tries to sell you that your never going to feel bad again and it is going to happen this instant, yes it does so much more damage because then when of course when you have to deal with those thoughts again you feel like a failure and no longer "enlightened."
It is hard to recognize that those thoughts, those memories are just that: thoughts. We are taught that they ARE US. But as I said, the hardest way often turns out to be the way to real growth, and I don't mean linear growth though.

Anonymous said...

"The hallmark of true Zen practice is that it is the only form of meditation I know of that says you need to go beyond even these experiences and that going beyond them means coming right back here."

I think the general thrust of all of the Buddhism sects is exactly that. I do not think it is a particular feature of Zen practice.

earDRUM said...

Brad may not have a psychology degree, but I agree with his idea that zazen can help with dealing with trauma. I would add that learning zen philosophy is just as necessary as doing the sitting. One needs to know how to sit properly, and to be able to recognize how the mind works.
When I was young I had an unwanted sexual experience. It wrecked my life. I suffered from PTSD, and developed Pure Obsessional OCD. My twenties were a write-off. I saw a few psychologists. (Some were complete idiots. So having the training doesn't guarantee that a person is able to help.) Some psychologists were very helpful. The first one I talked with explained Rational Emotive Behaviour theory, and pointed out the fact that I was able to choose my emotional reactions. For examplem, if my radio broke, I could throw it across the room or I could decide to get it fixed. It was up to me. This was a breakthrough. I started observing and examining my emotional reactions to everything, all day long. I started a form of meditation. And eventually I found peace.
I did a lot of searching into spiritual, psychological, and philosophical things for many years. Soto zen (and some forms of Taoism) was the one that withstood all challenges. And I know that it had a massive positive effect on my life. It helped me deal with PTSD and the OCD. And it recently helped me deal with my Dad's death. I was with my dad in his last moments. If it weren't for all of my experiences with zen, I don't know how I would have made it through that experience... and many others. I feel like I am dealing with life pretty well now. And I know that zen has been instrumental.
I went through dark times and times when I felt disconnected, like Stephanie seems to be describing. Seven years ago I decided to start following my dreams, and began pursuing things I was really interested in (rather than what I thought was expected of me). This led me to discover a whole new world, and made my life a lot more rewarding. I still have lots of times when I feel lost and empty, but generally, my life is very good.

telecasterroy said...

I do find it odd that anyone could look at that ad, with or without Mr. Warner's comments, and see it as anything other than a scam. Snake oil. And by saying "snake oil," I'm not just trying to be insulting. I think the ad and the product it represents is doing exactly the same thing that the snake oil salesmen did. Get gullible people to believe that some innocuous substance would do wonderful things and then take their money. It is SALES, pure and simple.
Also, I agree with Warner that "experiences" are realatively easy to create in group settings. Powerful experiences. And people love powerful experiencs. That is what a lot of Christian Churces offer and create: conversion experiences, talking in tongues, etc. I'm sure it all seems very real but it is just a bunch of mass hypnosis. Remember Bagwan Rajneesh? -- he was a master at that sort of thing.
However, I do agree with the poster who thinks that Warner is confusing kensho with makyo, at least it seems that way. I think there are times when practicioners actually have openings that are powerful and significant that are ACCOMPANIED by a powerful experience. The experience is temporary but the insight from the kensho remains (I think).
And, I'm not sure if Big Mind creates a hypnotic effect or a kensho, maybe it depends on the person, time, place, etc. While the marketing, cost, and obvious profit movitivation of Big Mind is creepy, I don't see why the process can't bring some insight to some of the participants sometime. Insights into one's true nature are not limited to zazen.

Anonymous said...

Gniz, I'm sorry but I don't understand your objection to what Brad wrote. You said, "the problem is people who have experienced trauma dont have the ability to sit and learn to deal with the little stuff first. They've already had the trauma and it is impacting them all of the time."

I don't think you can make a blanket statement like that. All people who have experienced trauma are not the same. There are different degrees of trauma. We have all been traumatized somewhat during our lives. Admittedly some people will not be able to benefit from zazen. But other trauma survivors definitely will. It is not impossible for zazen to benefit even severe trauma survivors. But zazen is not a cure for anything. I think seeing it that way is a mistake. It is a slow lifelong process.

Early Worm said...

pkb, thanks for your inspiring words! I will try to find time for more zazen.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, I would say I've had insights that have stayed with me, both from significant events, zen and supposed mundane events. I agree with what you say earDrum. The event ultimately doesn't have to matter but the insight has led me to new growth. I think Brad is also trying to point out that it can be dangerous to try to force these events or insights. The most spontaneous have been the most powerful for me. When I'm least expecting it.

Kyla

gniz said...

I did not say that zazen "couldn't benefit" severe trauma survivors. Nothing of the sort. I said that I thought Brad Warner might be out of his depth on this topic. That he tends to overestimate his expertise in areas that fall outside of soto zen, punk rock, and writing books.

Whenever he writes about other religions, or science, or medicine, history, etc. I find that Brad brings his same aura of expertise, as if merely practicing zen gives him all the answers to many of lifer's questions. Sorry, i dont buy it.

Brad, an expert on sexual abuse, because some students ask him questions? Because he has opinions? because he sits zen for twenty years?

I think not.

Anonymous said...

Nothing is a cure for anything. For me it's been about finding the right combination of things at certain times in my life. And cure implies disease. Being an abuse survivor is not something one can be cured from, it's not a disease although it creates dis ease. And I also agree it can be incorrect to imply those who have suffered extreme trauma can't handle zazen. After all, we've survived horrible things such as rape as children.

Kyla

gniz said...

Nobody implied that "people who have suffered extreme trauma can't handle zazen." How does this generalization keep being repeated?

The point was that its not for everybody, and that someone who is going to make recommendations about what works in such cases, should really be fully educated on the matter.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Brad did real research, spoke with psychologists, therapists, read books and papers before creating his chapter on zen for people who have undergone trauma and sexual abuse.

I thought the section he posted got it backwards. he implied that you could "take it slowly" and deal with "little things" before hitting the big issues when they came up down the road. I dont see how that can be an accurate map for someone who comes to zen AFTER having gone through a trauma.

It seems simplistic, which is typical of much of Brad's writing and advice in general.

Mysterion said...

gniz:

perhaps Brad will grow into it...

"Zen Monk" is a nice vocation but the income (alms) is limited.

gniz said...

Upon re-reading the section, it could also be taken to mean that you slowly work up to the big traumatic feelings and memories, during sitting practice. He speaks about removing and dealing with little things first, before getting to the big stuff.

Either way, it still seems innacurate. From the little I know of the subject, the intrusive and painful thoughts and memories cannot be controlled in such a way. And so even a short sitting can bring up very deep, painful and overpowering memories of abuse.

Again, this is not to say that meditation cannot be done by victims of childhood abuse. merely that Brad's methodology is frightfully simplistic and not well thought out.

gniz said...

Mysterion, I'm all for Brad making a living. But if he's going to step into such a complex area, he should have the respect to really educate himself and stop pretending to know everything when he clearly flies by the seat of his pants in most cases.

NellaLou said...

Brad may "grow into it" but at whose expense? If he sets himself up as some kind of authority on such a subject real care has to be taken that others are not misled by his attempts at growth. The end does not justify the means. And what is the end? To help survivors of trauma or Brad's growth?

m said...

tl;dnr

Mysterion said...

gniz

Unfortunately, I know some clinical psychologists (from my days in cognitive psychology) who, instead of hanging out a shingle, would better serve the community with an alms bowl at the edge of town. Having a license in CA is definitely an asset to the practice (and requirement) but there is a BIG difference between testing and evaluation. Peer group evaluation on a three or five year cycle would go a long way in cleaning out the trash. On the down side, you would constantly have your competitors trying to off your license. Having clinical psychologists police their own ranks would be somewhat like having the inmates run the asylum.

There never are any easy answers.

Anonymous said...

On trauma:

Aaron is right, many PTSD suffers arent able to "build up" to dealing with the big stuff. often your mind brings up the trauma first, because its the stuff that needs dealing with. Unfortunately you often her to deal with the abuse before you can deal with the day to day stuff.

But im not sure Nellalou is right that there is no benfit to sitting with this because "People with PTSD and the like are all too much in touch with the sources of their trauma-day and night-volitionally or not". My understanding is that PTSD is an inability to process these memories, because the mind over-reacts, becomes too anxious. While these feeling may come up all the time, for me anyway, they are not met with calmness, equanimity, they tend to be met with a freakout. Using zazen to be able to just sit with them is beneficial and changes things.

I also agree with several comments along the line that many people who are "qualified" in this area are total idiots. Brad may not be a survivor, but he has alot of experience in dealing with his own emotions and helping others deal with theirs. Im not sure sexual abuse, or even PTSD is so seperate that this doesnt qualify him to speak.

gniz said...

Mysterion,
Your point is a bit of a red herring. I never said Brad should get a degree. I said he should get informed. We can argue all day what constitutes informed, but I would say it means meeting with thought-leaders in the field, reading a great deal from a wide variety of sources, speaking extensively with many, many people from all walks of life who suffer from the affliction.

That's just for starters. Maybe then he can devote a chapter of his book to the problem. Otherwise he's just another blowhard with an opinion, and I would say a fairly irresponsible blowhard at that.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is that as an actual survivor of actual and horrific abuse as a child, zen has benefited me. It may not benefit others. Many hospitals' Trauma Centres treating sexual abuse survivors now incorporate meditation, particularly simply watching the breath. I know because I've done it at the hospital. Good therapists I've worked with incorporate and recommend it. I also work in the field and know many clients who have benefited. Our clients are abuse survivors as well as those with severe mental health issues and most consumer/survivor driven agencies offer sitting or lying or walking meditation. Brad is not the only person on the planet to suggest that it has benefit. Many of what you might call "experts" both therapists, medical doctors, and consumer/survivors THEMSELVES recommend it.

Kyla

gniz said...

I think we can all agree that meditation CAN benefit survivors of trauma and abuse, and I certainly would never say otherwise. And I dont actually think that was what the discussion was about.

Exercise can also benefit people with heart disease or who have had a stroke. But I certainly wouldnt just advocate that such a patient go to a trainer at Gold's gym who had no specific knowledge about the disease state.

That is why there are rehabs that specialize in dealing with difficult and specific cases.

I really am stunned because the point is obvious and yet somehow it keeps being changed to something about whether zen can help people who have experienced abuse...thats NOT the point or the question being raised.

gniz said...

BTW Kyla, if you'd been reading Brad for awhile you would know that he does NOT recommend watching the breath. He ONLY recommends sitting zen, specifically soto zen.

NellaLou said...

I am not against meditation for trauma survivors. Let me make that very clear first. I think it can be quite beneficial in a particular context such as that Kyla suggests. Where there are other supporting modalities available and other resources to assist in processing the experience.

The only caveat I am suggesting is that there are those who do not have access to other support or for whatever reason choose not to avail themselves to that access just sitting zazen may not be the best idea.

Brad said:

"I still believe zazen can be a very good thing for survivors of traumatic experiences. Maybe even the best thing. It can put you directly in contact with the source of the trauma itself."

The issue is with him issuing a prescription "the best thing" without providing an appropriate context or any verification of that statement. And some people are very much in touch with the source of trauma. It's not easy to hide from that kind of damage. One survives trauma and tries to carry on in spite of the possible things that might trigger an overwhelming reaction.

Personally I find cognitive-behavioral therapy the best thing to deal with personal trauma.

Zazen or even mindfulness meditation can be a useful adjunct to that but not necessarily "the best thing."

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn is someone I might take such advice from as he has spent a lifetime researching such things as mind-body connection and setting up the UMass Stress Reduction Clinic and verifying his results in a controlled environment. But he has never given such a blanket prescription as far as I know.

gniz said...

NellaLou said: "Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn is someone I might take such advice from as he has spent a lifetime researching such things as mind-body connection and setting up the UMass Stress Reduction Clinic and verifying his results in a controlled environment."

Exactly. The man spent his LIFE working on these issues. Brad has probably spent a few months talking with a few random students, fielding some questions, reading a few blogs. Who would you rather listen to?

Anonymous said...

with your smarmy BTW gniz it would seem that like so many others who make comments on these kind of forums, you just have to be RIGHT rather than speak about your own experience. Okay, you're right and i'm wrong. Happy now. People come on these kind of things mainly to attack the person posting the articles or writing the blogs. This is why I tend to avoid them.
When it starts getting to personal attacks, as it seems to be all that people end up being capable of doing, it is just a waste of time. Worry about yourself, no one is perfect, before you pick apart someone else.
I've practiced many types of meditation and zen. I don't necessarily follow every word Brad Warner or any one else says. You just made that assumption, nothing is the BEST thing for anyone who has been through trauma. Different things work for different people. So I had better take my leave of this message board before I get personally attacked. Brad probably has a thicker skin than I as he likely has to wade through personal attacks daily. People should perhaps do volunteer work if they have too much time on their hands.

gniz said...

"I don't necessarily follow every word Brad Warner or any one else says. You just made that assumption"

My point was that in stepping in to defend Brad against something that had nothing to do with my argument, you were also making points that have little to do with what Brad Warner actually believes or states in his many writings on the subject.

You have made this personal. I have never attacked you in a personal way (although you just made some personal attacks on me), I merely continued to state my point in more and more obvious ways.

Brad Warner doesn't believe in advocating different types of meditation such as insight meditation, breath watching, mindfulness. in point of fact, he frequently makes fun of these alternatives. Some of which might be good for a person who is suffering from PTSD and the like.

That is precisely why he should not make claims of expertise in areas outside of soto zen.

gniz said...

To further belabor the point, Brad also doesn't believe that sitting on a seiza bench or even a chair can be effective. So, his prescription for abuse victims is incredibly specific, to say the least.

I guess i'll shut up for awhile!

Mysterion said...

Blogger gniz said...
"To further belabor the point, Brad also doesn't believe that sitting on a seiza bench or even a chair can be effective."

That's a valid point. There is nothing MAGIC about full lotus.

As long as you are sitting upright on your ass, U 2 can meditate.

But most less rigid Buddhists are well aware of that.

p.s. I also happen to subscribe to the "yes, but at what cost..." comment. It's Brad's karma, let him f*ck with it.

He may be Vishnu out of water...

Anonymous said...

at least 4 years ago or so, I had emailed Brad after reading his first book about the very subject of zen practice and being an abuse/rape survivor and I never felt told what to do or ridiculed for trying other things or forms of meditation other than Zen or discouraged by him in seeking therapy at all. Quite the contrary in fact. So, again I am speaking from personal experience.
So gniz, when you imply i'm dumb etc. with how "obvious" you have to make your point, what does that say about you and what kind of person you might be? Fun kicking somebody who has been through a lot isn't it. That seems to be what the internet is for for some people.

Anonymous said...

There is a simple Third Way Buddhist solution to all of this:

Brad is right about ILP, but KISS sucks.

Empty The Movie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

It is most usual for beginning sitters to have to deal with little things first--
just maintaining the posture
just facing the wall
The discomfort of legs, back, shoulders, arms
the tips of the thumbs losing their light, barely contacting position, and forcing each other up in a pyramid or falling away from each other completely.
Nodding off (sleep, always a great escape), and hosts of other thoughts, a mind drenching, mind drowning Niagra falls of thoughts.
But thankfully the discomforts of the physical demands of the stable, still posture and the damnable blankness of the wall which the eyes keep sliding off of keep one going back and forth between the mental thoughts 'escapes' for the body discomforts and the body discomforts keep hauling one back from the mental fire hydrant.

It was only over time as I could sit physically comfortably in a stable position for longer periods of time that the thoughts coursing my awareness were deeper ones.
Interestingly enough there were times during this period (several years of sitting) I thought I would jump right out of my skin, I couldn't hold wait until someone would ring the fucking gong already I thought I would fly apart if I sat one more second.
It was everything I could do to not jump off the zafu. But it wasn't because of physical discomfort...
it was my mind not wanting to enter the mine field of memory. Wordless formless memory.

It is wonderful, this practice, to really just remain with one's self, to be a staunch and reliable friend to your self's self to be patient, patient, patient. To be consistent. To not run away, to not hide, to not gloss over, to not distract from.
Just to be with.
I do believe we each have our own pace.
I believe that just making ourselves available to our self and watching the coming and going of thoughts
observing them without embellishing them or suppressing them--our own thoughts arise at their own pace.
All that is required of us is that we set aside time to be with ourself, and that we are consistent in doing this, that we come to trust ourself: willingly or reluctantly we do what we set aside time to do: sit.

gniz said...

Kyla, I assume you wrote this:
"So gniz, when you imply i'm dumb etc. with how "obvious" you have to make your point, what does that say about you and what kind of person you might be? Fun kicking somebody who has been through a lot isn't it."

I never tried to imply you are dumb, nor kick you in any way. We disagreed about something and perhaps i wrote in a snarky tone. But i think you've made this more personal than i meant it. In any case, I apologize for the attacking tone of my posts.

I really don't disagree with YOUR opinions, but I do disagree with what you appear to think my problem is with Brad. As I stated, my problem is that Brad holds himself up as an expert in areas outside of what his comfort zone is. I dont know how he was with you on a personal level (though i believe your recounting of it)--but i do know how he is when writing in a public forum about other kinds of meditation techniques.

I'm sorry if I've hurt you or contributed to a negative experience here. I do tend to argue like an ass from time to time if something gets me riled up.

Sincere apologies.

Aaron

Mysterion said...

I'm talking a little "out of school" here but last semester, I supervised the detention room afternoons for a local HS for 2 weeks. Kids get sent there for lacking self-control in the classroom (persistent disturbances).

Typically, there were only 6 or 8 students in the room so I could chat with them if they had an issue to discuss.

One girl, with an anger management issue, opened up. She grew up with no father. Every ill, need, and want was ascribed to her dead father by her mother from the time she was 5.

She was profoundly angry at her father (who obviously had no voice in this situation). I took the time to explain to her that her father died of a heroine overdose because he had a medical condition (compulsive addictive personality disorder) that was not treated. He was not 'getting back' at her or her mother for being a burden that he wished to cast off (as her mother had framed it).

I explained to her that she had the misfortune of being born into a land with the 37th best health care in the world. Her father had no access to the treatment he needed for his medical condition.

It put her on the path of recovery.

no follow up comments necessary, this is just 1 of 1500 or so anecdotal episodes I could share...

And I refuse to participate in clinical.

Anonymous said...

blah blah blah
read read read
blah blaa baaa
reee
baaaa
baaaa
reeeeeeee
baaaaaaaaaaa
baaaaaaaaaaaaa
aaaaaaaa
aaaa
aa
a

reeeeeeeeeeeeeee

baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

reeeeeeeeeeeeee

baaaaaaaa
baaaa
baaaa

Anonymous said...

english

Anonymous said...

I have worked with victims of abuse for many years (including myself) and can only note the following.

1. Some approaches ask 'How do your experiences affect your thinking?'

2. Some approaches ask 'How do your experiences affect your feelings?'

3. Some approaches ask 'How do these thoughts and feelings affect what you do?'

4. Some approaches ask 'How can we stop such events happening (again)?'

These approaches are of course extremely useful (especially if used in a holistic way) but the most important thing is to listen and not judge too much. Compassion is also important - by this I mean being 'with' (com), rather than trying to stop, suffering (pati). What you think can cloud the water, what you feel is pretty irrelevant (it's not your suffering) and what you do can disempower. So be careful out there!

I'm glad that Mysterion put the girl on the path of recovery and I'm sure that it was well-intentioned. I just wonder what path he put her on, whether she wanted to be on it, and whether he will be there next week if she stumbles...

Mysterion said...

anony:

since 1971, when I was first credentialed, my mantra has not changed:

Self control

Individual responsibility


There is no compelling reason to change this and a few other things.

Do not expect others to be your controlling agency (e.g. a mythical Jesus, Mithras, Dionysus, Horus, etc.

Do not expect others to take responsibility for the consequences of the actions your agency set into motion.

Both are called "an external locus of control." Each is a nearly universal cornerstone of criminality.

Sorry to be blunt, but if you were injured then ultimately it is you (and not me) that must deal with it. I know a few people who have dealt with it and not become professional blamers.

That girl is on rather firm footing now and will not easily fall (and I see her around the community from time-to-time).




odd link

Anonymous said...

Thanks Aaron, and i'm sorry that i did over-react. i tend to stay away from these internet comment type things because people can be more mean than they may be if they actually met the person.
But i don't think you are that type of person, and i get too emotional.

take care
Kyla

Anonymous said...

Mysterion (Anagram: So I Try Men)

If it's about self-control then learn to curb your defensiveness

If it's about personal responsibility then speak for yourself and don't use external links to validate your opinions

Remember, I'm OK, you're OK...

:)

Anonymous said...

...since 1971, when I was first credentialed, my mantra has not changed...

Been working hard on yourself then?

Anony

Anonymous said...

Internal locus of control? I want one of them babies...

Mumon said...

Exactly. The man spent his LIFE working on these issues. Brad has probably spent a few months talking with a few random students, fielding some questions, reading a few blogs. Who would you rather listen to?

I would think a good listener would be good to listen to.

Mumon said...

Exactly. The man spent his LIFE working on these issues. Brad has probably spent a few months talking with a few random students, fielding some questions, reading a few blogs. Who would you rather listen to?

I would think a good listener would be good to listen to.

Stephanie said...

pkb, earDRUM, and others,

Thank you so much for the honest sharing and feedback. The message I'm taking away is a wonderful and encouraging one: to simply not give up, and to keep practicing.

And I appreciate all of you that shared your experiences of derealization. It is interesting that so many of us experience or have experienced this.

And thanks for the link to the interesting video, Mysterion. It got me thinking, that the ways each of us experience the world, are just ways of experiencing the world, and maybe it's not a matter of good or bad.

I keep looking for the "right" way to think and feel, and maybe that is my problem. I think I've been convinced that I cannot experience reality until I change something in myself, but another way to look at it is that however I am will be one mode of perceiving reality, and one must always be wary of the distortions of one's particular view.

Just like the temporal lobe epileptic might experience a greater sense of divinity, so I experience a lesser sense of one. My way of being has brought certain freedoms and certain wisdom. Maybe I shouldn't be so quick to say it should be another way. I'm grateful not to be as much of a slave to the typical human drives.

And I've started to get an inkling that while I may never get a definitive answer or experience of an ultimate principle, I can allow that which in my experience feels ultimate. If that makes sense.

Zenleo said...

Stephanie said:

See, earDRUM, I don't particularly feel the need for an improved perspective on life. (WTF is that anyway? Are not all perspectives equally valid?) Or enhanced performance. I'm not looking to become "fitter, happier, more productive." If life just is as it is, why worry over whether my performance in it is more of one thing or less of another? I'm past the point of giving a fuck over whether people are particularly impressed with how I function.

I need to get to this point, I worry about every bit of lifes situations and people. However the feel good, positive thinking stuff has always made me want to vomit. So there you have it.

Justin said...

Can I share something with you all?

My wife suffers with anxiety. We've been trying for a child for about a year. She is afraid that she'll never be able to have one. She miscarried in January and again in April. Many people have no idea what miscarriage can be like, thinking of it as nothing more than a 'heavy period'. In fact, it can really be a bereavement. Now she's pregnant again, which is great in a sense, but in another means a great deal of stress and worry for her - especially during this early period.

My role, of course, is to give her whatever support I can. And mostly this means listening and being there for her. My own practice has helped me tremendously. As a Zen Buddhist and someone learning to teach MBCT of course I've suggested meditation, but she can't - the silence and doing nothing makes her feel anxious - perhaps she feels too strongly that she has to 'try to relax', I'm not sure. But anyway she's not inclined to keep trying and it's not beneficial for me to pressure her.

She is sympathetic to the 'Buddhist approach' and gets some benefit from listening to the wisdom of Edward Brown (SFZC), Pema Chodron and Ekhart Tolle. Yoga, pilates, the gym and having a dog also help.

After losing her pregnancy symptoms the second time, she had a scan but had to wait for another 12 days for a second scan to confirm it. That period was possibly the most difficult period of her life. Even though she has a great career, and a loving family and plans for the future, she found it so intensely distressing that she was contemplating suicide.

After we confirmed the second miscarriage, she had a breakthough. She realised that she couldn't go on like that and at some level she decided that things had to change. She simplified her life as much as possible and decided just to stop ruminating about the past and future so much and live more in the present. It was borne of sheer necessity but influenced by Buddhist thought, and Ekhart Tolle too.

So, that's one reason why I'm inclined to stick up for Tolle's work. My brother-in-law also found it helpful while he was splitting up with his wife (he now does Soto Zen practice). And he gave her some valuable 'spiritual' support at that time too. One of my Soto Zen teachers cited 'The Power of Now' as one of his favourite Zen books even though it's not technically Zen. I also quite like it myself, although there are parts about the evolution of consciousness that I'm happy to leave.

Justin said...

I don't know about Genpo Roshi's Big Mind stuff. Or Ken Wilbur's stuff. But Brad tends to trash everything that doesn't conform to his quite narrow interpretation of 'real practice'.

I don't criticise Brad for the sake of it. I criticise him because of this tendency to rubbish almost everything else that isn't his own form of practice. He's not describing his own experiences with those practices (mostly he doesn't have any) - he's reacting to them.

I think it's arrogant, it misrepresents these other practices and discourages people who might - like my wife - get some benefit from them.

I suppose I'm a bit disappointed. He's a good writer - I like anyone who tries to be realistic, honest and gritty. And I agree that much New Age thinking seems to be fluffy nonsense. I've been following his writing for many years. Like Stephanie, I'd like to hear more about what benefit he has found in his own life rather than acting out this compulsion to put down everyone else.

For me the fundamental principles of Buddhism are universal and different approaches suit different people. Something that occured to me was that perhaps 80%+ of the population would benefits from applying these principles to the way they live and yet 95% of the population are put-off by the trappings of traditional Buddhism. This is why I started to study Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. And hearing face-to-face how MBCT is helping people with chronic depression and other problems - people who would never practice Zen - just reinforces this view.

I'm all for ways to make these principles accessible. Even a distance learning course that costs $200 to learn to be more 'in the now' may be beneficial for some people. People who wouldn't go near a traditional Zen dojo.

Meanwhile, I'll carry on working on my annoying writing style. Thanks for listening.

Ad Hominem said...

Hi Justin -

"I don't know about Genpo Roshi's Big Mind stuff. Or Ken Wilbur's stuff. But Brad tends to trash everything that doesn't conform to his quite narrow interpretation of 'real practice'."

I've really not noticed that. No doubt that Brad's got a big bea in his bonnet concerning Genpo, but does he "trash everything that doesn't conform to his quite narrow interpretation of 'real practice'"? That's not what lingers with me from his posts and books. Yes, he thinks his own way (shikantaza, hardly new) has much to recommend it -why else would he do it? That's not the same as "trashing" everything else. I recall him writing, more than once, than he knows very little about other traditions, so has very little to say about them. That's not "trashing".

I'm sure you've got better things to do than to look for examples...

Justin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin said...

You're right - not everything - that brushstroke was a bit broad - but a lot of other approaches which he knows very little about.

Ad hominem said...

He "trashes" a lot of other approaches?

I'm casting my mind back...I recall (do I?) Brad visiting other centres of practice and remarking on ritual that seemed to him strange and perhaps unnecessary - but that's not "trashing", imo.

But my memory may be selective. It's certainly not relaible.

Stephanie said...

Justin, I appreciate your personal story illustrating the value of some of the writers or techniques regularly criticized here.

But, speaking from my personal experience... if your wife has tasted despair deep enough to contemplate suicide because of her unhappiness about being unable to keep a child, I guarantee you whatever bricabrac solution she's come up with by patching together wisdom from New Age authors will fall apart completely if she loses this child.

Hopefully, this will not come to pass. But the point is... all of these Band-Aids we find to put on the holes on our leaky boats don't hold up very well. They just give us the illusion that we're holding off the inevitable. And they tend to fall apart when the real shit starts to go down, as we realize the Band-Aids serve no function at all beyond a decorative one.

I would say to your wife that even if sitting immediately increases her anxiety, it will ultimately help. Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. Her fear of fear, her anxiety about feeling anxiety--it's an endless loop that will continue unless she confronts the beast directly. What I would say of her particular case is that if and when she ever does wish to face the real dragon, she may need extra help in dealing with the attendant difficulties. That's what you are for ;)

Again, I respect your concern about her seeming fragility. But in her case, it seems it is an existential situation that will not be resolved with easy or comfortable solutions. There's something real in herself or her experience she's not facing, hence the anxiety.

I like to call this "the Beast." Jung called it "the Shadow"--whatever we build up by refusing to look at or face. She's got a mighty huge Beast lurking in the dark shadows of her consciousness and it's why she's anxious all the time. And it's why when severe disappointment finally forces her to face it, the reaction is huge--suicide being considered better than facing whatever Beast she's been running from.

But that's its trick. It can't kill you, it can only trick you into killing yourself if you're not willing to face it on its own terms.

You may continue to offer your wife Band-Aids in the hope she will not suffer too much along the way, but if you really want to see her move past this stalemate with her Beast, you're both going to have to be willing to let her face it.

If she can look at what her current worst case scenario is--not ever being able to have a child, for example--and realize she can accept it if it indeed comes to pass, that is where the real cure, and real relief comes. But it's not easy or comfortable to face the real deal, which is why so many people struggle with quiet desperation their entire lives without finding any peace.

I suspect your wife is stronger than you or she give her credit for being. You have to be, when you carry around a demon like that.

Justin said...

Thanks for your comments Stephanie. As usual they are thoughtful, and I'm sure well-intentioned, but I can't say I agree with most of them.

I'm not offering her any 'band aids'. All I offer her is my support. You've certainly mischaracterised her personality and state of mind. She is very much her own person. She's intelligent, wise and skeptical. She's simply not going to fall for any nice-sounding hippy-dippy New Age BS that comes along. She knows it when she sees it. So please don't patronise her.

She's more circumspect about such things even than I am. She was skeptical for a long time about the Zen I was practicing. It was only when she saw it's influence on me and her brother and listened to some authors she could relate to that she started to get it. She's doing what is working for her right now.

It's simply that after a period of terrible anxiety she found that she had the ability to switch off her obsessive rumination about the past and the future. It was the first time she had been able to do it. She doesn't know if it will last or not, but she is grateful of the peace it is bringing her now.

She didn't find value in Tolle until after she had had this breakthrough. Previously she had dismissed it. She now found that his writing has resonance with her own experiences. So it was certainly not a case of her (or me) "patching together wisdom from New Age authors".

There are certainly no guarantees about how things will unfold. But to dismiss her initial breakthrough as a 'band aid' is unfair and it begs the question: is learning to get your thoughts and feelings in perspective, seeing them as thoughts and feelings and realising that we can choose how to respond to them - is that really a 'band aid'?

I agree that confronting your fears is important. The same happened to me many years ago and it was a turning point. She may not have done that completely. I don't know. But she suffers with anxiety as I say. One step at a time.

I have already had the conversation you describe with her about sitting. So far, she's not found benefit from sitting meditation. I won't try to browbeat her into it. And I agree with her that no one solution necessarily works for all.

gniz said...

Justin,

Really touching post. I'm quite disappointed in Stephanie's cynical, dismissive post in response where she showed little compassion and lots of assumptions about your wife. Jesus Steph, get a fucking grip.
It sounds, Justin, like your wife is handling things well and that you are supporting her in a great way.

Also, as to those who say Brad doesnt put down other traditions? Look at his old posts about "mindfulness" where he basically makes fun of the concept. More than once.

He's clearly made fun of Eckhart Tolle and Genpo Roshi, and Ken Wilber (the last two I sort of agree with him).

He's also consistently stated that too many Americans wimp out and sit in chairs and seiza benches rather than full lotus.

gniz said...

Perhaps the strangest part about your last post, Steph, was where you said "I would say to your wife that even if sitting immediately increases her anxiety, it will ultimately help."

This coming from someone who a few hours ago said she never sits anymore and was asking people for their thoughts on whether sitting really made any difference.

If i compare what you just did to Jundo's treatment of you at Treeleaf, I mean--i would say he treated you with a hell of a lot more compassion than that.

Anonymous said...

Justin, I wish you and your wife well. No one can judge someone else's ordeal. It sounds like you are a great support and I am glad to read that she is able to find relief from that anxiety. Miscarriage is a terrible loss that one experiences real grief over.

Kyla

Justin said...

Gniz, Kyla,

Thank you for your thoughts.

_/\_

Stephanie said...

Why I am not sitting is not because I have concerns about the discomfort it might cause, or because there is something I am afraid to face (well, at least as far as I am aware), but because I truly began to find it useless, as so many Zennies sagely intone it is. Except I did not find this romantic--if it's truly pointless, why bother?

I fear people have misread my intent in my comments regarding Justin's wife. I was in no way trying to insult or demean her. Quite the opposite. I respect people with a healthy despair in them--I respect them enough to hold them to a higher standard than the average person when it comes to spiritual matters. Thanks to the healthy size of her Beast, were she to fully confront it, she might come to a deeper realization than Justin or any of us here.

The truth is, most of us, including those of us posting here, ward off our despair and anxiety with the mythologies we patch together from whatever sources we come across that say things that make us feel good. Most of us pepper our conversations with cliches and unoriginal thinking, which points to our inauthenticity. Most of us don't quite face up to being ourselves. Most of us don't even dream of looking our Beasts in the eyes.

Which is just as well. It's hard and it's not for everyone. I put no price on freedom, and I've paid the price. But I don't regret it.

I've been focusing in my posts on what hasn't happened in my practice. But I can tell you what has happened, too--which is that due to my willingness to face my own despair as completely as possible, I've experienced a tremendous inward freedom. Worldly bullshit just does not rope me in like it used to do. I feel like finally, having faced my own Beast repeatedly, I'm at a point where I can finally, actually look at things as they are. I am finally open to the truth, whatever it may be, because I've let go of so many things I wanted the truth to be. I'm not all the way there, and still struggle, but I am relieved to know how much I've blasted through my capacity to fool myself. Oh, that's still there, I am quite sure. But I'm not running after all the stupid thinking I used to run after.

They say one of the gifts of the Dharma is fearlessness, and I understand this--there is only as much fear as one has not let go. If you can let go of everything, there is nothing to fear, because you are no longer holding onto your pride, your reputation, your wealth, your life. But man, that is a fucking hard place to get to, and it's my personal belief, based on my own experience, that it takes acute suffering to get there. But whether or not that is true--I have no doubt that fear is always a pointer to something we have not faced, work we have not done. At least if we are speaking in a spiritual sense.

In my view, the worldly and the spiritual stand opposed. Not because one is good and the other bad but because they are not compatible. A worldly solution is sometimes appropriate. But a worldly solution is always to improve, to make things more comfortable, pleasant. The spiritual solution is always to let go of all that. To stop trying to keep fixing things and make them better.

So what I am saying, Justin, is that your wife can pursue worldly solutions to her symptoms, and meet with varying degrees of success, or pursue a spiritual solution, which is to let those painful symptoms completely annihilate her attachment to her perceived self. She cannot do a little of one and a little of the other. That is the point. You can't half-ass it when it comes to Dharma. And as long as we're trying on some level to make things more comfortable for ourselves, we're half-assing it when it comes to the Dharma.

Zenleo said...

Thanks Justin for sharing something very personal to you. I like reading your posts because they certainly make me think and apply it to my own life. Of course is it my own life or is it just life: You, me, Steph, Gniz and the ever present "Anonymous"
I'm one of those Anxious people who has what Jung called,
"The Shadow" but I'm certain that mine is the Beast that Steph made reference to. Did I mention I like beer?

gniz said...

Hey Steph,

Thanks for keeping things civil even though I certainly let you have it. I'm happy for you (sincerely) that you've blasted through some B.S and come to a place of peace.

My earlier sentiment still stands though, that you need to temper your insights with compassion. Remember how you USED to feel before all that wisdom accumulated. Remember that not everyone is like you or has your aspirations--and that you might not be able to tell that much about them from a few sentences. Justin shared something painful and raw and you used it as a chance to get on your "dragon" and "beast" soapbox, rather than really take in and appreciate what he was saying.

Justin's wife might not have any interest in the dharma or any of the stuff you allude to. She has a totally different mindset (as does my wife) and its not better or worse than people with a will to the ultimate truths of life.

You were, in my opinion, FAR too glib about her loss. Losing a child, whether in utero or not, is a very painful thing. It needs to be respected, and you come off like a youngster who doesnt even actually know what a deep loss of a child or spouse might feel like because it hasnt happened to you yet (maybe you have but it sure doesnt appear to be the case).

And truth be told, ive always felt that if being free or getting enlightened meant acting as above it all and unmoved by others' experience as all that, then I want no part of it.

Ernie said...

Hey Justine:

I am coming to this zen practice after losing my son 18 years ago when he was 14 months old afterward my wife had two miscarriages. I found a suicide note and I was not much help. I commend you for helping your wife through this very difficult time. My prayers go out to you.

My story did get better we had a great little girl who has become my best friend. My story has cycled back to some rough times. I find myself without a job and my second wife left three weeks after I was dismissed.

I will do a half hour of zassen meditation before I go to bed tonight so this will be my first week of meditation that i have done every day.

I have read two of brad 's books and one of Charlotte Becks's books. Who would of thunk that I would find bickering on a Buddhist monk's site.

Stephanie said...

Ernie: You've been through a lot--thanks for sharing that with us. Brad's blog is home of some of the craziest, crankiest, most obscene Buddhists on the Internet, so please do put on your helmet and enjoy the ride. And please don't take my current drama about my own practice as discouraging--I'm just in a certain stuck place right now, but I can guarantee it's helped me through some rough times in the past. It helps with the letting go and accepting of what's here now.

gniz: You are right that I do not know what it is like to lose a child, nor would I pretend to. But don't mistake my tone as "glib" or my response as indicating a lack of compassion. I am more aware than you can know of how intensely people can, and do, suffer. Seeing how intensely people can suffer, and how many people die without peace, in pain or broken-hearted, has set off some of my most powerful spiritual crises. Because I feel like we should be able to "save" everyone. Of course I'll be doing well if I can just "save" myself... but still. My response came out of great compassion toward Justin's wife, a desire for her not to suffer. Hopefully she will have the child and this will bring her happiness. That will be the easy way. But my suggestion of her possibly taking "the hard way" comes out of compassion and respect, not the lack of either. You are right, it may not be her way. But that way is there for her should she ever choose it.

Anon: I probably will always spend a lot of time in my head. It runs in my family. Even my much more extraverted sister said to me recently, "Sometimes what's going on inside my head is so much more interesting than any of the people around me."

But I can guarantee you I've lived a lot more than a lot of folk. I've chased my dreams and visions with single-minded ambition and determination, wherever they have taken me, geographically or internally. I continue to do so, and currently live a life focused on service to the suffering. I work with a client population that can be very rough around the edges and they test me a lot--it is very humbling work. And yet, despite the constant testing, I already feel like a mother bear when it comes to my clients and work every day to learn how to serve them better as both a professional and a person dedicated to Kannon's work. I have found that even if my life seems pointless to me at times, I can at least make it useful for others, which then allows me to enjoy the pointlessness at times of leisure a bit more.

I mean hell, how I ended up in the extremely urban, decaying environment of northern New Jersey, the opposite of what I knew the rest of my life, as a bit of a "nature girl"--I'll go wherever I need to go to learn whatever I need to learn. I've experienced about as much 'reality' as I can handle in the New York area, which is what I came here for. This place does not fuck around and will grind your illusions right out of you, one by one.

Anonymous said...

Hye said...


Zazen is for dipshits.


Spending all your time on comments sections of blogs, on the other hand . . .

Epinardian Guardian said...

"I criticise him because of this tendency to rubbish almost everything else that isn't his own form of practice."

he is a zen guy doing zen.

you wouldnt ask a sushi chef for hummus would you?

Justin said...

he is a zen guy doing zen.

you wouldnt ask a sushi chef for hummus would you?


I didn't order hummus. I didn't order a lecture about why hummus is terrible food. But would like some sushi.

I know a few Zen teachers. The others don't have this need to criticise other traditions. It's just sectarian dogmatism.

Justin said...

Zenleo and Ernie,

Thank you

gniz said...

Steph, you still dont really get it, IMO. Compassion is not you telling people what your ideas are about the world and what they should do to face their demons. Nobody here asked you for that advice. First thing is that advice is best given when asked for--otherwise the words will fall on deaf ears.
Most people just want to be listened to and heard. Based on your long and frequently rambling posts, I dont see someone who listens well. And you demonstrated that lack of listening ability in your callous and self-referential response to Justin's post.

Even after the person you spoke to (Justin) said that you were wrong in your assumptions, you continued to point out how what you said was still a really compassionate thing. Well--its not. It didnt help anyone but YOU to spew your ideas and feel like you know shit.

Stephanie said...

gniz: Similarly harsh-sounding feedback has been the only thing that has helped me in very difficult times. I only wish that people had said such things to me sooner, instead of offering their gentle sympathies and "compassionate" desire not to offend.

I listen to others all day long, and well. It is hearing and understanding the stories and sufferings of others that have pressed me into the conclusions I have come to. I use my life as an example when I speak or write, as it is what I know best, but it is certainly not the only thing that fuels my concerns or conclusions.

Few listen to me, as you obviously have not done either. The joyous thing about the Internet, however, is that I can put all I think and feel out there whether others ignore me or try to cut me off or not. So neener.

gniz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gniz said...

Stephanie said: "Few listen to me..."

This tells me--and should tell you-- that maybe it is not that everyone else is to close-minded to listen to you. Maybe its not that everyone else just "can't handle" the truths you've run across.

There might be a more obvious reason.

Stephanie said...

gniz: Your attempts to belittle and dismiss me, and to imply that I am an unworthy person, say more about you than they do about me.

The truth is, I do not know how "good" I am or am not. Maybe I am useless to others, or maybe my attempts to practice generosity and kindness are of benefit to others. I've heard feedback from others indicating the former, but also the latter.

The good news for me--and for others who are open to the spiritual point of view--is that it is no matter to be troubled by, as I know I do the best I can. I would be troubled if I did not try to benefit others, but if I fail to do so, I cannot be troubled, for that falls on a weakness of ability, not a weakness of intent. I can work to improve my ability, but if I fail, my wretchedness can hardly be blamed upon any factors under my control. To God (however one defines God, or the eternal principle) worldly success does not matter.

I also know that in this world, the foolish are often praised and the wise are often blamed. That some praise me, and some blame, tells me little of which is accurate. Only eternity, and my own conscience and ability to be honest and ruthless in my self-examination, can tell me that.

gniz said...

Steph says: "Your attempts to belittle and dismiss me, and to imply that I am an unworthy person,"

Thats playing the martyr card Steph, and i've seen you do it before. With Jundo. In your old blog.

I never said nor implied you are worthless and i dont think any such thing. Stop trying to run away from my point (you said you appreciate harsh and honest criticism, right?)

I told you that your compassion is misguided when you use it as a way to hammer your own quirky opinions into someone else's head, who has not asked for such advice. I said that you were being less than clear when you recommended zen practice to someone you didnt know, expecially when you dont sit yourself. I also said that i thought you were remiss in ignoring Justin's reply about his wife, whom he knows much better than you do.

I think my points are clear and not meant to belittle you as a person. You clearly have a kind heart. But i also think you're a little full of crap. I mean, when someone like me takes you to task you cry foul, and pull the martyr card. But when you act like an ass to Justin, you dont think anyone should say a peep.

I think you're intelligent and obviously have been through a lot. But if you want to dish it out here, be prepared to get a dose back, like you say.

gniz said...

BTW Steph, i'll psycho analyze myself a bit now too. i grew up in a very argumentative family and "debate" was how we sort of proved ourselves. It was very competitive that way. So i learned to really get nasty at times in order to make myself heard...

I also had a situation where i worshipped my dad (he was divorced from my mom) and when I was about 13 I had a realization (based on a particular incident) that my dad was not the great guy i had thought he was. I think ever since then i am very attentive about being "duped" by people. I never want anyone to "get one over" on me or "fool" me.

I tend to want to pull the veil away from authority figures and show people that they arent who they say they are.

This probably figures into my sense of "justice" in trying to protect people (like Justin in this case) from situations where i feel they've somehow been wronged. Which also explains why i rant and rail against Brad a lot as well.

You and I might be more alike than different Steph--and I truly dont think you are an unworthy person. We had a disagreement and I was very harsh, but at a bottom line, i am quite sure you are a good person who is trying her very best.

gniz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan_A said...

Mumon -

Tbanks for your comments (much) earlier. Am returning to this thread late to find many other kinds of food being thrown. But the food fight has its own suchness...

I'm sorry to hear about your mother. My mother had a (typically) apocolyptic cancer death a few years ago - when my father was just starting to leave on his Alzheimer's adventure. The two events together - plus a few others - helped me transition from an intellectual involvement in religion to an experiential one, and a slow move into Buddhism... I hope your practice does you (and others) good and that you all get to where you most need to be.

I was being somewhat facetious when I referred to sitting seiza as "not real zazen." I'm aware of Brad's rigidity on this point. Actually I agree with him to a certain degree - during the short periods I've managed half-lotus, it's been a somewhat different, somewhat more intense experience. But I've never been all that flexible, and now that I'm pushing 50, the intensity has mainly to do with the sense that ligaments are about to part ways with bone. I understand the Hardcore Zen POV about pushing through pain, but that sometimes seems to me like mythologizing and the boot camp aspects of Zen don't do much for me. I'm willing to accept that this may be my own imperfection and lack of commitment... but for the moment, seiza it is. Am glad to know I can think of it as "perfect sitting."

I appreciate even more the idea of incorporating practice into everyday life. I'll have to look up Hakuin re: that. The concept has a strong connection to Judaism, which is my original (well, maybe not original but you know what I mean) home base.

I'll mention in passing that as a relative newcomer to Zen, I'm impressed by the radically open, unguided nature of the practice but disturbed by the gamesmanship, anger and harsh "truth telling" that often seems to result (yes, I understand Trungpa's distinction between real compassion and "idiot compassion" but it seems that real compassion is often lacking as well). I find myself wondering if a more overt focus on compassion - for example in Ezra Bayda after his apparent split with Joko Beck - might be an order.

Just a thought. And you know what we do with thoughts...

Stephanie said...

You clearly have a kind heart. But i also think you're a little full of crap.

I laughed, as I cannot disagree. Except perhaps change "a little" to "a lot." I am aware of this.

Any thinking person must be full of crap, to some extent.

There are worse fates.

I told you that your compassion is misguided when you use it as a way to hammer your own quirky opinions into someone else's head, who has not asked for such advice. I said that you were being less than clear when you recommended zen practice to someone you didnt know, expecially when you dont sit yourself. I also said that i thought you were remiss in ignoring Justin's reply about his wife, whom he knows much better than you do.

This is also fair.

Although, as a reminder: I have not sat for the past two months. For the year prior, my sitting was off and on. But for four or five years before that, I sat daily. So let's not assume I am not familiar with the practice, its effects, and its attendant joys, hardships, and disappointments.

But when you act like an ass to Justin, you dont think anyone should say a peep.

This, however, I disagree with, as (a) I was not acting like an ass, and (b) I never suggested anyone shouldn't say anything in response to me. Give and take, my friend.

Where I accused you of attempts to belittle was not in your comments in their entirety, but your last, in which (at least as I took it) you insinuated that "people do not listen to me for a reason." And what reason would that be, that I would not warrant being listened to? I would think the only person who deserved not to be heard would be a person with no redeeming qualities or nothing to offer whatsoever.

But perhaps I misread your intent?

True, in my moments of weakness, I can get into the martyr role. But that was not where I was coming from here. I appreciate that we are having a spirited give and take here, and I was just giving back, suggesting that your reprisals to me have a harsher intent than the comments I made that offended you.

As for Jundo, that is a different story, and a dead horse I shall not return to flogging here, apart from saying I do not feel "wronged" by him as much as I feel he proved himself rather useless in my case. Others, including people I respect, find his approach useful. So I value Jundo and what he contributes to the world, even if I do not respect him in a personal sense. His mishandling of me is not something I feel any sort of anguish over; if anything, it is a justification that I lost little in my ejection from Treeleaf, especially as one of the few others there whose posts I truly found edifying was kicked off before I was. Tee hee... But for those who still post to TL, I recommend Chet's posts. He is a rather wise individual who in his patience and understanding (and friendship) has helped me immensely. I would take a bullet for that guy, even though I've never met him in person.

What were we talking about? LOL...

gniz said...

Steph, thanks for that last post. The humor is much appreciated and your ability to "take a punch" so to speak, and keep walking forward, is to be admired. Granted, i'm sorry that i was the one delivering said punches, but oh well. My apologies.

As for what I was insinuating when i said there might be a reason few listened to you? Interesting the conclusion you jumped to. I didnt mean it was because you are a useless person without redeeming qualities.

I meant that maybe it was because you were giving advice that wasnt wanted or warranted. People need to want to hear your opinion before they can take it in. My own teacher has always been unequivocal at that point. Only tell someone advice, especially negative sounding and harsh advice, when asked. Although i certainly dont stick to it myself, i am aware of the truth of the principle.

Also, Steph, i believe my ways are what works for me. Your ways and your ideas work for you. When people SEE that things work, they will ask you themselves how you;ve done it. Otherwise, you and I must both assume they aint asking cuz they aint that impressed!

hahaha...take care Steph

gniz said...

And I am including myself in the "not impressing people" category. Few people ask me for my thoughts on life and the world. But they do exist.

I suppose the internet exists for people who cant find anyone else to listen to them spouting off. Fun aint it?

Stephanie said...

Ah. This is a good pointer, as it is a mistake I too have made often, and need to be reminded of.

Where I'm at right now is that I'm still working things out for myself, and it is true it is too soon for me to be dispensing advice, for there is still too much evidence I am a goddamned mess. Which may never stop being the case, but that is another matter, ha...

Well wishes~

gniz said...

Ah, Brad Warners blog...in the end were all one big happy dysfunctional family. It kinda gives me a warm feeling. I still buy Brad's books too--in the end, i'm sure hes happy enough with that.

Justin said...

Well that seems like a good outcome. And I won't add any more.

My wife has become convinced that her current pregancy has ended too. So this is a rather emotional time for us.

Thank you both for your good wishes/intentions for my wife.

Aaron, can I email you?

All the best,
Justin

Stephanie said...

I am sorry for your and your wife's hardship and suffering, Justin, and I wish you peace and healing in this difficult time.

It was never my intent to offend, but as gniz has well pointed out, my "advice" was perhaps inappropriate, harsh, and not helpful.

Though I stand by my increasing belief that when it comes to worldly and spiritual solutions to suffering, never the twain shall meet. I truly did say what I said out of compassion, though I may have been ignorant and lacking in wisdom to do so.

gniz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin said...

Though I stand by my increasing belief that when it comes to worldly and spiritual solutions to suffering, never the twain shall meet.

One small point. I'm not sure her solutions really were 'worldly' exactly. It was an important insightful breakthrough at a psychological and existential level based primarily on her own experience but probably also influenced by Pema Chodron (Tibetan teacher), Edward Brown (Zen teacher), my teacher (Zen) plus my own input and her brother's (Zen). Worldly and not spiritual?

It was never my intent to offend, but as gniz has well pointed out, my "advice" was perhaps inappropriate, harsh, and not helpful...

I truly did say what I said out of compassion, though I may have been ignorant and lacking in wisdom to do so.


Thank you very much for saying this. I never doubted that you meant well. Sometimes we get it a bit wrong even though we mean well.

Epinardian Guardian said...

"I didn't order hummus. I didn't order a lecture about why hummus is terrible food. But would like some sushi."

ok. you wouldnt go to a football player for hockey tips. my point is that if he is the zen guy through nishijima's lineage he's made up his mind what he likes and isnt interested and what the other guys have. Some people cross train, some specialize.

Stephanie said...

Sometimes we get it a bit wrong even though we mean well.

Yes.

Worldly and not spiritual?

Worldly: Tending to the symptoms.
Spiritual: Uprooting the disease.
Worldly: Trying to feel better.
Spiritual: Letting go of the need to feel better.
Worldly: I am suffering, I must do something to feel better!
Spiritual: I am suffering--wonderful! This shows me where I can let go even further.

Etc.

Sometimes it is too much to apply the spiritual approach to our greatest sufferings--I certainly have balked at the same advice I just dispensed a few posts ago. I agree with you and gniz that it was ill-timed and perhaps inappropriate. But in my own life, when I've taken such advice, it's been the only thing that's really helped. Everything else has only been a temporary distraction that ultimately fell apart.

Anything we build, will fall apart. Should we wish to protect ourselves against the sufferings of loss for a while, it is best we stop building, and start dismantling. Let ourselves and all we ever wanted die.

But again, the time must be right, and we must be ready.

gniz said...

Justin, I gave my email a few posts back and deleted it cuz i assumed you saw it by now.

Let me know if i need to repost.

Take care

Aaron

Justin said...

Sorry Aaron - I didn't get a note of it. Can you put it up again?

Justin said...

Steph,

Thanks for sharing your experiences. I understand what you mean. But I don't think we can generalise from one person's experiences to all people and all circumstances. And I don't agree that 'cutting the branches' and 'cutting the root' are diametrically opposite or incompatible as you suggest. Nobody can 'cut down the root' straight away. Personally I try to address both.

Anyway, no longer strongly identifying with her obsessive thoughts is not so superficial. Who knows how things will evolve. She has a great deal on her plate at the moment. I won't be recommending that she stares unmoving at the wall of an ice-cave for 9 years until she annihilates all self-attachment. ;) Something a little gentler perhaps...

gniz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mysterion said...

"Those looking for composed wisdom should read Basho..."

suggesting Basho to someone who knows nothing of zen is like suggesting a 911s to someone who knows nothing about driving.

who knows, it might work out o.k.

Same said...

Doesn't anybody see that zen tradition makes just the same promise? And they can even seal the Kensho with certified teachers?

To me it seems that zen tradition itself is very much about power hierarchies and enlightenment business...

It's funny how you can't see it! :D