Suddenly…

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Another one of “those” experiences is happening as I write this. What does it mean? I’m not entirely sure.

This time, I had a sudden insight into the “now” in a way that I’ve never had before. Suddenly all the talk about senses and sensory input and all that by-passing emotional circuitry makes sense.

This isn’t about forcing myself to my senses- it’s about accepting WHAT IS.

While reading questions about the origin of the universe according to Buddhism, it just suddenly happened- there was a weird sense of, “Why do I concern myself about what happens after death?”

Maybe my fear of death will never go away, but if “die before I die,” perhaps it will.

I do kind of have a song playing in my head (an ear worm, as they call it), but that’s okay. No worries here. It can play all it wants; no reason to get caught up in it.

There are so many more things to unlock, so much greater of an adventure to go on. Going with Buddhism has been the best decision I’ve made in so long.

This gives me the confidence that yes, one day I will attain Nirvana. This is no longer some kind of abstraction but a real, lived experience I’m going through.

God help the people who might one day become my students because on the other hand, I have no idea what I’m doing. HA!

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

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

Buddha Nature

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Since sometime last week, I’ve had the burgeoning sense of what I’ve called the “True Self” or the “Buddha-Nature” appearing.

The sensations are located in the stomach area, around where I might have referred to the “Black Fire” being, but this seems like it’s more than that.

The essential fact that I see about the Buddha Nature (the term I’m using currently) is that it underlies everything in reality; in all my moments of my lifetime, I can see that somewhere, I was aware of it, and it connects everything I’ve ever done.

The most fascinating thing is that it’s untouchable- no horrible thing in this world, no amount of suffering, can touch the purity of the Buddha Nature.

This random discovery and appearance of consistenly experiencing the Buddha Nature led me to start reading Daniel Ingram’s books Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha. I’d started it a while back but didn’t get far and decided to give it another go. I’ve started meditating again, though the “Insight” aspect is new to me (but probably not nearly as new I think as it; I have a hunch that I know what is meant by the Insight meditation but haven’t properly identified it in my own experience), and well…things seem to be going forward.

All the things that I’ve found meaningful in life, for instance, the experience around Christmas and such, go back to these things become vehicles, reflections, and manifestations of the Buddha Nature. To wit, so much suddenly makes sense.

This is not something I could’ve claimed before.

Whether or not this will continue, I don’t know; it is interesting to see how Buddhist cosmology and Gnostic cosmology do indeed overlap, down to a mentioning of the Demiurge in one of the books I was reading (though by a different name).

I’m excited and inspired and ready to clear some meditations hurdles.

Steve

Calling Bullshit

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Sometimes, I have to wonder about people in the “mystical” community.

Some criticize the New Agers for thinking happy thoughts and wanting to create a fluffy world of light.

But what we don’t hear criticized on the opposite end are the extremely pessimistic, negative people who claim that there is no end to suffering, that there is no truth, and so on and so forth.

To these people, I have two things to make note of.

First, if there is no end to suffering for the individual, then why pursue mysticism at all? Buddhists especially who spew this ilk seem to have missed the basis of the Four Noble Truths. If meditation and prayer, if a dedication to God and so on and forth doesn’t eventually lead to the end of suffering, then why are we pursuing it? Just to have something to do, to distract ourselves as the time goes by until we die? Then why not take up knitting or play air hockey instead?

Second, in all likelihood, if you’re still experiencing all kinds of negative emotions, enough to suggest that suffering never ends, the likelihood of your having made the full journey and existing in the final state of Nirvana is not high at all. In other words, you need to keep going and shut up and stop with the acting superior to the people who want an actual end to their suffering. Christ suffered a great deal in his passion and crucifixion, but in the end, he resurrected to a glorious existence.

Just some observations.

Beaux


PCE? Nirvana? Enlightenment? Moksha? Liberation? Freedom?

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How the experience began, I won’t bring myself to say just now, but we’re going to be discussing a few different things that happened, starting last night.

 

First, I phoned my friend Rheana; we had discussed hanging out and doing spiritual work, but she was rather tired and couldn’t. She mentioned a certain meditation involving the Heart Chakra called the Twin Hearts meditation, which involves visualizing the Earth in your hands and sending love from the Heart Chakra into the Earth, covering everything with love and giving love to every being in the world.

 

I took it upon myself to do this meditation later in the evening, and then, I tried to go to sleep.

 

That’s when the vibrations began.

 

If you’ve read Daughter of Fire by Irina Tweedie, she talks of these vibrations coming at night quite frequently.

 

Necessarily, the energy was coming from the Root Chakra and the Sex Chakra- largely where the kundalini is stored.

 

The energy created all kinds of wonderful feelings of bliss and happiness, of pure infinitude and purity and love and goodness. The intensity was such that it was exhausting the ego, and I must say that I do like this method of destroying the ego with too much happiness more than destroying he ego with too much suffering.

 

My dreams were not as pleasant, which was a surprise. A few different issues came up, most of which I was able to confront when I awoke, but not totally.

 

Then when I awoke today, I was getting ready for work, had gone to the kitchen, and the Grace of God HIT, just in a moment. One second it wasn’t there, and the next second it was, and good grief, it just got better and better and better and I felt happier and happier and happier. The bottom two chakras again seemed to “loosen up,” and the energy moved up to my head.

 

What exactly was going on there, I can’t explain. Reality seemed okay on every front. I think the Higher Self may have disappeared temporarily in addition to the Ego.  Maybe this is the PCE of which the Actual Freedomists speak. However, I noted that I didn’t come to the same conclusions as other people who claim the state of No-Self, but then again, I wasn’t in it for longer than half an hour.

 

One thing that I did notice was that there’s a sense of friendliness with the universe. To put it bluntly, the experience was like being best friends with every atom in the universe. There was no loneliness or isolation or low self-esteem; everything was as it should be, and life was great. My energy or matter was in harmony with all energy and matter.

 

Another aspect of the experience was the relaxation, the calmness. No tension in the body, no stress, no unpleasantness, no sense burden of Self. Very, very intriguing.

 

I wish that experience would happen again. I’ve waited and waited for the wonderful, clear world to return. It’s just all-around GOOD.

 

Beaux

 

How Oddly “Conservative” of Me!

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Under most circumstances, I don’t like to have all kinds of labels attached to me. For many years, I understood labels as being nasty constrictions on the True Soul which underlies all things, and that to label ourselves was to become “attached” to something in the world, to some aspect of our transient selves.

Laying aside the Buddhist dogma and focusing on things from a practical angle is also an option.

The reality is, practically speaking, that we must necessarily identify ourselves to others in some way if we are to live in the world. This same rule does not apply equally to a monk living in a monastery among other monks.

But I am not a monk. Have I considered it? Sure. But I am not a monk, and I cannot live my life as one.

Perhaps the middle road of labels should be taken as well- accept labels when they are useful, as in social situations, but do not sit around and twiddle your thumbs thinking about the label when you are not socially engaged. Labels are simply reference points of convenience; use them as such.

The preface being said, I’ll get to my point- under normal circumstances, someone might label me as being “progressive” or “liberal.” This holds especially true in south Alabama.

I found myself on the other side of the spectrum concerning a recent situation (early 2009) that happened in, of all places, the Episcopal Church. A woman Priest by the name of Ann Holmes Redding claimed to be both a Christian and a Muslim.

They defrocked her.

(Wait for it.)

AS THEY VERY WELL SHOULD HAVE!!!

There you are, the “conservative” statement that I was planning to make the whole time.

Whereas I feel that a person can identify with the Beauty, Truth, and Holiness of a given religious tradition that is not one’s own, and in many cases, one can adopt certain practices from that tradition and its culture that are congruent with one’s own, I think that it is also intellectually dishonest for someone who is a representative of a particular tradition and not merely a lay practitioner to try to represent multiple traditions.

The situation of the layman varies from this. Depending on the religious tradition, a layman may be able to practice more than one religious tradition. Layman represent the tradition, but not in the same way that the Priesthood does.

True, I think that the core of religious traditions are the same- the internal essence remains the same across most of them, the Holiness, Love, and Bliss that are God.

But think of it this way: Alabama elects Jane Doe to be our Senator, so she goes to the US Congress to represent Alabama.

Not Georgia.

Not Florida.

Not California

ALABAMA.

Now, some might argue that the political situation differs from the religious one, but the point I’m making is that this Priest came from a specific religious “territory” but was attempting to hypothetically represent two different religious “territories,” which in this case are separated by a wide gulf of theological opinions and commentary.

Another situation that is similar but offers a solution is the Kevin Thew Forrester, an Episcopal Bishop who has a decade-long history of practicing Zen Buddhist meditation. Having reading his statement on the matter, the difference is that Forrester was led full-circle to the mystics and contemplatives of the Christian Tradition; in essence, he took a method, found it in his own tradition, and went on his merry way. The so-called “lay ordination” he received merely means that the Buddhists recognize that he’s trying to alleviate suffering in the world, and what could be more Christ-like?

The difference is remarkable, as well- the Zen meditation isn’t exclusively owned by Buddhists, and that particular practice is not incompatible with Christianity, as meditation is a huge part of the Christian Tradition (unbeknownst to many Christians themselves who would argue otherwise.)

This is not about “my God is bigger than your God” or “my religion is better than your religion,” in case you’re wondering. Rather, it is a matter of integrity and consistency; it is a matter of the preservation of certain traditions that we already represent and finding fulfillment in our being representatives of that tradition without having to take on the traditions of others as well.

There. I’ve said my piece.


Memoirs of My Religion III

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During my post-Christian era, the major religions that came to the forefront for me were Wicca and Buddhism. What I liked about them specifically, I’ll try to spell out here, as they were symbolic of the larger struggle that I experience even to this day.

Wicca appealed to me for the sake of power and by virtue that all was related to nature. Allow me to first back up, though, and bring out something else:

When I was in 5th grade, the movie The Craft came out. Magic had always interested me, specifically the kind you see wizards and witches using (I was obsessed with the Wicked Witch of the West as a child), and The Craft, when I finally saw it, brought out a theological point that I didn’t quite understand.

Namely, that theological point occurs when Sarah asks about Manon.

Nancy explains that Manon is like God and the Devil- that it’s everything. It’s the moon, it’s the rocks, it’s the trees. If God and the Devil were playing football, Manon would be the stadium they played on, it would be the Sun that shown down on them.

And provided, this concept of God resonates heavily with the concept of Brahman from the Hindu traditions, and the reality is that it magnifies God to be much larger and more inclusive than the evangelical Christian idea of God. There’s not a lot of room for argument on that.

Thus, Wicca was in. In the more orthodox sense of Wicca (if such a statement can be made), there is actually the worship of a God and a Goddess. They are, however, synonymous with Nature in most cases, and the question of whether they’re actual anthropomorphic spirits, personified energetic currents, archetypes, or symbols is often a moot point in the actual practice of Wicca.

The structure of Wiccan ritual was neatly defined. The theology was laid out, and as far magic and casting spells went, this was largely left up to the practitioner.

There’s an entire blog I’ll have to write about the politics within Wicca and the larger Pagan and Neo-Pagan community, along with the realm of arguing who is and isn’t Wiccan and who is and isn’t a witch.

Naturally, as a teenager outside the mainstream, using the edgier term “witch” was totally in with me. Also, I had a tendency to be drawn more towards spells and spell-books, and naturally I missed the deeper spiritual current that existed in Wicca.

The other majorly influential religion at this time was Buddhism. Buddhism was and is part and parcel of Japanese culture as well as the culture of East Asia in general. Buddhism also afforded me something that seemed more realistic- the concept of Nirvana, a state of being in which one experiences bliss, compassion, and wisdom. The ethical arguments of the Buddhists, the principles of meditation and the rational explanations that were given appealed to my highly skeptical mind.

But Wicca and Buddhism had serious theological conflicts. Now that I look back, I see they are in reality not as conflicted as I thought, and I have managed to gather what the crux of the problem is, glossing over it in other entries.

In the end, it went something like this: I was Buddhist as my religion, but not Wiccan as my religion. I practiced magic, yes, but not in terms of a religious structure.

Around this same time, a former friend, the same one who introduced me to comparative religion and the Astrotheology I had been so avid about a few years before, began to pursue Sufism because of his philosophy teacher.

Sufism, in a nutshell and by most people, would be classified simply as Islamic mysticism. The current of Sufism my friend brought was not quite like that.

Sufism was all about love. Love, Longing, and God. God was everything, and everything was God. The concepts were highly analogous to Buddhism but made use of Western religious words and imagery. The Sufis largely were everything that the fundamentalist Muslims were not- loving, embracing, tolerant, filled with a love for God and all mankind and wanting peace in the world.

The current of Sufism affected me, somehow. I’m still not sure when it took, when it began to happen, but I firmly believe even now that God cried out to me then in a way that I had never heard Him.

Then came the dark era. The same friend introduced me to a website called the Actual Freedom Trust. The AFT claimed to be a new, non-spiritual way to find liberation. Their leader, Richard, claimed to have found a state no one else had ever been in and developed a method to find that state.

Somehow, they really brought me to a point of fear, a point of, “What if when we die, we really do just stop existing?” that caused me to become one of their blind followers. The only solution, if we just die when we die, is to seek out this state Richard’s talking about!

This was my next real experience with cults.

My critical thinking skills were not sharp enough at the time, and inability to question authority except in extreme cases of abuse led me to swallow huge amounts of Actual Freedom “dogma.” Intuitively, I knew something was wrong, though I was unable to articulate exactly what it was about the AFT that bothered me so much.

I fought against their concepts but felt the pressure of the authority prevented me from thinking for myself.

At this time, I declared myself an avowed atheist, I became more arrogant and self-righteous than I had ever been (after all, I suddenly found the “right” religion again), and I was literally more miserable than I had ever been before.

Off and on again there was an internal battle with Actual Freedom, and finally at the beginning of 2006, I managed to completely shirk the 3 year long battle and move on with my life.

One of my first assessments of the AFT prior to my swallowing their dogma was that they were simply parroting mysticism of old, and even though it was repackaged and resold teachings of all the world’s traditions, they acted like they had something new- but it wasn’t. It was simply mysticism put in extremely materialistic terms. Numerous people would say things to get approval, and numerous other people said stupid things to try to explain to the poor idiotic fools who didn’t agree with them just why they were wrong.

Making an open comparison between Actualism and Mysticism was tantamount to heresy and created all kinds of ridicule of just how wrong people were.

Eventually the abuses, the lies, the contradictions, the blatant superiority complex of Richard and his followers, and failure of the method to deliver what it promised it would deliver to me caught up with me, and I rightly left that path.

That brings us almost into the modern era of my spirituality- almost, but not quite, which is to say we probably have two or three more blogs on this subject.

Beaux