A Letter to Andy

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OH, Andy; where to begin? Do you even like me calling you Andy? Is there even a you or a me to call or to be concerned with this? Oh, these questions of ours.

I started this blog almost a decade ago while exploring Christianity and more specifically, Christian mysticism.

Whatever one might call it, theosis or Nirvana or what have you, is what I’ve been seeking for any number of years in my life, literaly since I was a teenager.

And I’ve not been very good at it at all.

What’s apparent to me now is that the vast majority of my interest in Christianity and Christian mysticism was ultimately the investment of social capital- I could become Christian, explore mysticism in Christian language, and have an easier time socially by belonging to the dominant religion.

Otherwise put, by being Christian, I could do my thing safely. People wouldn’t question me or my religion (outside of the atheist/skeptic community).

However, and there is the however, I’ve experienced, essentially, hurdle after hurdle with Christianity. First the encounter with Gnosticism, which is great except that there are literally fewer Gnostics than even people of other minority religions, so I spent years with some weird hope of “one day” living near a Gnostic Church without understanding the full implications of all the other complications that would arise in my life in order for that to happen.

I eventually settled on the Episcopal Church after worrying for no reason for literally years. That lasted the greater part of a year and faded away into its own thing- I too easily became entangled in the mire of “But are they doing this correctly?”

Maybe this is my version of the guru telling me to build the same house over and over and then telling me to tear it down and move it a few feet or whatever and then eventually, presto, Enlightenment.

For what it’s worth, I despise that story/parable/whatever the hell it is. Not all parables are created equal, and some of them may be illustrating a point which also still quite wrong.

Also for what it’s worth, in saying all this and leading up to the point I’m going to make, I don’t regret my involvement with Christianity or the Episcopal Church. Andy helped to make that all make sense to me. There were heartfelt and meaningful experiences of Christ and Mary and Sophia.

But that doesn’t excuse or erase the true underlying issue, which is that I had a low self-esteem, a deep need for community and self-acceptance, and that my life generally involved trying to survive in the on-going war with my anxiety and unresolved emotional issues.

And another difficult truth I’ve faced lately is that understanding Ultimate Reality or attaining Nirvana can help one to sort out the psychological shit, but it isn’t, in and of itself, a panacea or psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, working on one’s self, is categorized in a different “training” in Buddhism.

Which is where I’m going with this.

My entire pursuit of Christian mysticism was due to the particularly bad advice of a particular person who’s no longer in my life and never will be again. The bad advice was to pursue mysticism within the framework of my own cultural background.

And this sounds like good advice until you realize that most Christians aren’t interested in mysticism and don’t actually have any knowledge of how the mind works.

Avoiding Buddhism as “too foreign” sounds like a good idea until you realize that enough competent teachers speak English and are able to communicate the Dharma and that there’s a such thing as “skillful means” and that Buddhism has adapted to various cultures for thousands of years and that there’s a whole movement knowledge as the “Pragmatic Dharma” that gets to the nitty-gritty of understanding how to attain Nirvana and that what we’re getting with Buddhism are the “high” teachings and not folk Buddhism (but folk Buddhism has a place and is useful, and I myself would embrace such).

How’s that for a really long sentence?

Moreover, how’s that for the fucking point?

I’m not here to fuck around anymore. I’m not here to listen to someone’s bizarre, highly-theoretical-yet-completely-unproven opinions du jour. No, give me practice. Let me meditate. I’m going to train.

Maybe one could call me a Buddhist; I’m not sure. But I’m going to break out the impermanence or the transience here- it’s time to start a new, different blog. It’s time to get serious. The experiences in this current blog serve to remind me of beautiful, transitory experiences that faded from mind with time.

Things have to change this time on the fundmental level of reality.

So, I’m closing this blog. Or better yet, I’m leaving it up, but I’m no longer updating it; I’m going to start a new one, start fresh, have the break, the “gap” in reality, and maybe that will help me to focus on things.

Thanks, Andy. I want to make the joke, “Andy was Buddhist first! This is all his fault!” Of course, that’s not true; I heavily flirted with Buddhism in high school, but still.

Maybe we’re both being swept along by Reality.

I’m tired of all the gunk.

Time to change.

Steve

Crone Encounter

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Lately, my practice has been helter-skelter thanks to a barrage of reasons, including distraction on my part by other things that I think are going to give me pleasure and do not.

My meditation last night led me into a visualization of a Goddess, but she was in a Crone form; dark skin and white hair, leading me around a forest. I can’t remember if she imparted any kind of particular knowledge to me, but image-wise, she wore a cloak, and she stood between our ideas of a witch or sorceress and a goddess, and I’m glad I ran into her.

Steve

Phases

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Spirituality, mysticism, the spiral path, whatever you might call it, well…certainly at this point I’m aware I was misled in childhood to think that religion was somehow static.

No, indeed, it is dynamic and fluid, ever changing and morphing and bringing me to greater and greater insight, plunging me deeper as I move through phases again and again.

Which is to say, I’m moving out of the “Pagan” phase and into a Christian phase again.

What am I trying to learn? What am I being taught? I wish I had more insight. I wish I could sit and meditate, but I can’t. My mind is focused and tied up to so much else.

But life is sweet currently, lovely in a way that perhaps only Spring can bring. Maybe it’s the season, or maybe it’s something else.

I want to know.

Steve

And Now, Fullness

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In December, I had the most powerful experiences of Emptiness, and yet…yesterday, I had the totally opposite experience, the experience of an unending FULLNESS of Reality, pushing through and bursting forth with meaningfulness.

The FULLNESS of Reality appeared to me in a more feminine form, and I’m inclined to refer to It as a Goddess, and specifically, the Goddess Aphrodite. This is surprising to me as I’ve had an affinity for Aphrodite previously, but she didn’t seem to necessarily appear directly in my life.

My husband and I went out for a Valentine’s Day date one day late, and we stood by the ocean as the sun set prior to attending a local play. This is where I most strongly felt the power, the absolute FULLNESS and knowing that things will be well, that all is good, that even in the most terrifying moments, Reality isn’t totally horrifying.

I have no idea what’s going on. My Buddhist phase got knocked out- as I predicted it would. It’s not that I’ve rejected Buddhism; far from it, as it seems to guide me and underlie a great deal of my experiences and thoughts. But…just wow.

Worthy to note is that I’ve returned to doing the Tarot Meditations from Stephan Hoeller’s book- this time, however, I’m doing the meditations for two weeks at a time, so that’ll take up most of the year. The goal isn’t to rush through but to sincerely absorb and psychically “build” the paths in the Tree of Life.

Let’s see what happens, shall we?

Steve

Finally, Freakin’ Vibrations

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Without having the particular experience of something, the explanations in Buddhism can seem kind of obtuse.

Even though the Noting Meditation seems bizarre to me, I’ve still been doing it because, well, it’s a good idea to give it a go.

So tonight, I was doing Concentration Meditation instead, and I got into what was probably the 3rd Jhana. I’m reluctant to claim 4th Jhana at this point because my visualizations don’t really come to a vivid, stable image, and that’s supposed to be a 4th Jhana characteristic, but it may also have to be built up.

Anyway, I didn’t exactly switch to Insight Meditation, but suddenly, I stopped trying so hard, and I started experiencing vibrations.

The vibrations aren’t terribly strong, and in some ways, they aren’t what I expected- it was more a sense of what it’s like to be in the ocean, with the waves rising and falling and be moved around by the current of the water. That’s what the experience was like, and it continued, though the currents weren’t from any one particular direction, and they were CONSTANTLY changing. So, impermanence was definitely something I experienced, but impermanence seems to be something I live through in daily life anyway.

So, yeah, I’m sticking with this Buddhist meditation thing because it’s for real.

Steve

Crash, perhaps?

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I dunno if I crashed into the Dark Night or what happened, but at some point in time yesterday, I ended up exhausted. Almost two weeks of being able to access the awareness of the Buddha Nature/kundalini energy/whatever the heck it was, and here we are.

Earlier, it was more difficult to turn again to the Buddha Nature and such; and it’s possible I’ve entered a Dark Night, but it’s largely difficult to tell because again, I have no clue what’s going on with Vipassana.

I’m trying the Nothing Technique. I really am. But perhaps I don’t understand the theory or something; I can seem to just pay attention to my senses instead, and that seems to be easier. Noting seems like it causes me to think in the middle of meditation, and I’ve also learned the technique in question is a relatively new one, only developed in the last 100 years or so.

So…yeah. I’m still giving it a fair shot, though, to see if it works, to see if it can get me to a deeper level of reality where I can feel through the vibrations and such.

At moments, when I focus now, my mind can find a great deal of silence.

What’s happened?

But through it all, I’ll sit through it and try to be okay with it and just accept what happens.

Steve

 

 

Just Now

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Being somewhat at the end of this particular experience, it’s still “fresh,” as it were.

I was looking up information the instrument used in Tibetan Buddhism known as the “vajra.”

Outside, I suddenly heard wind chimes, and then…I remembered something. But what I remembered is impossible to describe, except that suddenly the mind was still- the mind stopped, no thinking, no song in the back of my head, and the front of my head felt kind of numb and then RELIEVED.

So, this seemed like the exact opportunity to investigate the Three Characteristics of Reality (impermanence, suffering, no self), and I went for it. To the shock and awe in many ways, I had this sudden realization that these things, in a way, are what give reality meaning. The lack of self is what allows for the Buddha Nature to endow things with meaning- it’s all garbled sounding at this point, but I could see directly into this, especially with situations in my past.

In the moment, staying here, it was more difficult, but I did experience phenomena “just where they are” as Daniel Ingram says, and a sense of separation between me and everything else was gone (even though I didn’t just MERGE into all things and disappear).

So…wow.

More signs that I’m on the correct path, perhaps?

Steve

Kundalini Dreams

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Last night, I vowed to seek the Buddha in my dreams, and I apparently did that.

I was WIRED for hours before falling asleep; the last time I checked the clock, it was past 3 AM. (I lay down around 1:30 AM and turned out the lights around 2 AM).

In the dreams, I had a bell that was also a statue of Avalokiteshvara. (The Shiva statue on my altar represents Avalokiteshvara, so I guess I’m meant to work with him.) I began ringing the bell and chanting to Avalokiteshvara, and the kundalini began doing its thing and rising through my body.

Then, I woke up in a manic sort of state- feeling so blissful and so deep of mind and amazing.

This is the sensible thing to say: don’t make decisions from that state of mind because it will fade and isn’t grounded. While it’s useful to have such good feelings, many things were also distorted with what I guess are subconscious perspectives on people and my surrounding life.

That’s all okay as long as I don’t take it as an absolute and unchanging reality. Within an hour or two, the experienced faded, but I still got up and meditated again for about an hour.

Insight meditation is beginning to make more sense; I don’t think I’ve been in a deep enough state of mind previously, and the “noting” practice is useful if my mind starts to wonder and I’m not just paying attention to all the various sensations that arise.

In the blissful state, I could *kind of* zero-in on the micro-phenomenon, and at one point when I was meditating later this morning, I could see that my breath was what someone described as “textured,” which is the sense of the various places in the nose where the breath is hitting and where it isn’t. In other words, what normally feels like a “smooth” in and out breath is more complex and detailed than that.

Sooo maybe that’s a step in the right direction, eh?

Steve

More Practice

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Perhaps I can safely say that I’m not entirely sure how to do insight meditation. For one thing, beyond the “noting” practice, I can’t seem to get a consistent definition of what it is, and the noting practice is something I’m either doing incredibly wrong or incredibly right or also not grasping because it irritates the shit out of me and seems pointless.

That’s fine, though.

Today was a day for getting over migraines, cos I’ve had a migraine the past two days, and even though a migraine seems like a GREAT thing to investigate the vibrations of, it was just too overwhelming in and of itself.

Later on, I read about the various Buddhist families in Vajrayana Buddhism, and I was like, “Yep, I’m definitely in the Vajra Family” because of how central anger is to my experience. I did sit with some negative feelings in meditation, just letting them rise up, REALLY FEELING THEM for what they were, seeing where there was tension and what the psychological reality of them was (is this insight meditation? Buddha, some help here!)

I think I was in the First Jhana when that happened, and later on, when something negative came up, I stayed with the feelings, and then…suddenly, the sensations were like tickling on the inside, and I started laughing. Then it dawned on me that this might be a demonstration of impermanence because the sensations and feelings changed so quickly. But who knows?

In ordinary waking mode, I can still intuit the underlying Buddha Nature in all things. It can take some focus, and if I get too tired, I can start to lose a sense of it, but I allow that to be.

Earlier today I went into a much deeper than usual meditation, and I have no idea what jhana I was at or whether or not it’s even useful to refer to jhanas or use the maps I’ve been given.

Oh, I also set up a small Buddhist altar because let’s complicate things, amirite? So that means I effectively have a Christian altar, a Buddhist altar, and a Pagan altar set up in my home. How very Gnostic of me, indeed. *biggest eye-roll ever*

I wonder if the migraines have anything to do with my spirituality? Then again, it may be better to not know that at this point because there’s no telling how I would react to such knowledge.

Steve

Second, Third Jhana?

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In bed this morning, I was able to attain the first Jhana, just lying down and meditating. That’s encouraging. I made sure to focus on the pleasurable sensation and the allowed it to “grow” for lack of a better term and fill my body, and basically, I could feel the the “current” running through my body, in this case a “current” of pleasure.

I came out of the first jhana, got up for a while and had breakfast, and then spent some time with my husband and online.

My husband left to go to the gym, so I decided to take the opportunity to begin cleaning the house and sat down to meditate.

Again, I accessed the first jhana and stayed with the pleasure, allowing it to suffuse my body. Even then, it doesn’t ever feel “complete,” as there are gaps everywhere in the pleasure, but it’s still substantial and something I can see a person wanting to maintain all the time.

So I decided to try to shift to the second jhana, which is done by moving from the physical sensation of pleasure to the emotional component. That’s easier said than done because we often experience our emotions on the more physical level.

But lo and behold, the “shift” moved me into what I might call the “warm fuzzies.” While the first jhana and the pleasure has a sense of being almost sexual and in the lower chakras (though it can felt everywhere; this is my experience), the second jhana (or what I think might be the second jhana) radiates more from the heart is…”fluffier.” That’s a good word for it. The emotional content is like being on a cloud or a bunch of pillows or something; very lofty.

That felt great, and I could see myself staying at the second jhana for the rest of my life.

However, today I felt ballsy, so I decided to jump to the next jhana, the third jhana, and…I’m not sure entirely sure what happened, it’s just kind of more of like stillness. The “warm fuzzies” go away even though there’s some echo of them and the pleasure sensations, and of course thoughts still arise here and there and such; that’s fine, because there’s not really an attachment to them, and it’s easy at that point to maintain focus.

Again, I’m not entirely sure that was the third jhana or maybe even the second jhana, but I’m fairly confident that I’ve attained the first jhana.

I tried insight meditation as well in these states, trying to see the Three Doors and so on, and the impermanence aspect seems blatantly apparent because none of this is perfectly still or stable, and I can kind of see the anatta aspect as if I’m experiencing it, it can’t be the experiencer, per se, and the suffering aspect is that these states, while lovely, aren’t complete; they haven’t finished or aren’t perfect, no matter how wonderful they feel.

I could be doing the insight meditation entirely wrong, which is fine as I’ll eventually figure it out.

But yeah, this is all pretty much fun and something worthwhile and a map that finely seems worth following.

Steve

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