The Mind Illuminated - best meditation book

Topics without replies are pruned every 365 days. Not moderated.

Moderator: Dux

User avatar
odin
Sgt. Major
Posts: 2870
Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2006 10:20 am

Re: The Mind Illuminated - best meditation book

Post by odin » Thu Feb 28, 2019 6:40 pm

Going onto insights; the hardest but most effective approach I can vouch for personally as a non monastic amateur is to note sensations - including thoughts - as they come and go. For about 2 years I did this for an hour each day then reminded myself in informal practice times during the day. What it shows on an experiential level; sensations are complex, multi-faceted and transient. They are separate from the label you tend to put on them, they are dependent on lots of other factors and they are not things you can hang your identity on. The usefulness of this was limited. If I got sad I sometimes noted that 'sadness' was just a label I attached to a variety of temporary sensations and some accompanying confabulating thoughts. It didn't often alleviate the thing though. Same with anger, same with joy. Actually, it was quite a de-personalising practice that made me act a bit irrational at times and feel a bit disassociated from my actions.

With hindsight, I needed to round that fucker out with some compassion based practices, a decent ethical and social support framework and a bit of lighten-the-fuck-up. But at least I gave it a good run.
Don't try too hard, don't not try too hard

User avatar
odin
Sgt. Major
Posts: 2870
Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2006 10:20 am

Re: The Mind Illuminated - best meditation book

Post by odin » Thu Feb 28, 2019 7:42 pm

As you ‘progress’ you also notice the sensations on an increasingly granular level, until you are aware almost constantly of an at times irritating buzzing quality to all physical sensations. I would speculate that thought is similar but I’d be lying if I said I experienced this regularly. So from this you experience that life/reality is made up of lots of little things and changes all the time. This is one of the three characteristics to use Buddhist speak.
Don't try too hard, don't not try too hard

User avatar
odin
Sgt. Major
Posts: 2870
Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2006 10:20 am

Re: The Mind Illuminated - best meditation book

Post by odin » Thu Feb 28, 2019 8:09 pm

So that is insight; you break shit down into its component parts until you realise they’re not permanent, not satisfactory and not you.

Concentration; you focus on an object to the exclusion of other things - artificially solidifying whatever the thing is and bringing a temporary peace of mind. A crisp beer or good whisky brings me temporary peace of mind too but I won’t get enlightened from it. Playing the guitar or painting a pic has similar effects. If the object of concentration has a certain association in your mind you may get a difficult to define sense of transcendence that you may interpret as god or something else. I get this most consistently walk in nature funnily enough. Problem is, it fades and you feel empty and frustrated afterward. A bit like having a crafty wank while the wife watches tv downstairs.


I’m being flippant, as I see merit in these practices but also see the limitations in a modern, householder environment
Don't try too hard, don't not try too hard

User avatar
Bram
Sergeant Commanding
Posts: 5443
Joined: Sat Apr 01, 2006 11:38 am

Re: The Mind Illuminated - best meditation book

Post by Bram » Fri Mar 01, 2019 3:35 am

odin wrote:
Thu Feb 28, 2019 6:40 pm
Going onto insights; the hardest but most effective approach I can vouch for personally as a non monastic amateur is to note sensations - including thoughts - as they come and go. For about 2 years I did this for an hour each day then reminded myself in informal practice times during the day. What it shows on an experiential level; sensations are complex, multi-faceted and transient.

With hindsight, I needed to round that fucker out with some compassion based practices, a decent ethical and social support framework and a bit of lighten-the-fuck-up. But at least I gave it a good run.
I did a good chunk of sensation noting....and found it super helpful. I'd catch myself, for example, with my chest tightening and say "oh, I'm getting angry!" Then relax my chest and the anger would dissipate. But I also found doing it day after day boring, so now I just use it as an approach.

The best meditation book would make you want to meditate, because fuck there are a lot of things I would rather do - watch Netflix, eat ice cream bars, etc.

I basically just use it as a "I have nothing to do" activity. Stuck at an airport - meditate. Have 20 minutes between appointments and no book - meditate. Walking home and it's a nice day out and I've got nothing going on for a few hours - meditate.
"If you live through defeat, you are not defeated. If you are beaten but acquire wisdom, you have won." - RZA

User avatar
Sangoma
Sergeant Commanding
Posts: 6489
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2007 11:16 pm
Contact:

Re: The Mind Illuminated - best meditation book

Post by Sangoma » Sat Mar 02, 2019 2:43 am

You see, many Buddhist folk would tell you to experience your anger, rather than doing something about it. Let it be there, experience it and eventually understand that it is simply some process in the body. Some of my patients tell me about being able to separate themselves from pain. The pain is still there, and they allow it to be there without getting caught in actually suffering. Weird.
Image

User avatar
Sangoma
Sergeant Commanding
Posts: 6489
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2007 11:16 pm
Contact:

Re: The Mind Illuminated - best meditation book

Post by Sangoma » Sat Mar 02, 2019 2:45 am

Zen is boring - Brad Warner

Some years ago some psychologists did a study in which they sat some Buddhists monks and some regular folks in a room and wired them up to EEG machines to record their brain activity. They told everyone to relax, then introduced a repetitive stimulus, a loudly ticking clock, into the room. The normal folks' EEG showed that their brains stopped reacting to the stimulus after a few seconds. But the Buddhists just kept on mentally registering the tick every time it happened. Psychologists and journalists never quite know how to interpret that finding, though it's often cited. It's a simple matter. Buddhists pay attention to their lives. Ordinary folks figure they have better things to think about.
Image

User avatar
odin
Sgt. Major
Posts: 2870
Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2006 10:20 am

Re: The Mind Illuminated - best meditation book

Post by odin » Sat Mar 02, 2019 10:30 am

Sangoma wrote:
Sat Mar 02, 2019 2:43 am
You see, many Buddhist folk would tell you to experience your anger, rather than doing something about it. Let it be there, experience it and eventually understand that it is simply some process in the body. Some of my patients tell me about being able to separate themselves from pain. The pain is still there, and they allow it to be there without getting caught in actually suffering. Weird.
In a health setting, I guess the value of noting based insight practice is to see through the labels and judgements you attach to experiences. So, something like 'pain' is generally comprised of microscopic sensations like tingling, burning, fearing, thinking, aversion etc. You'd note those without any attempt to change them but it would be a very different experience to just thinking 'oh fuck I'm in pain and I want it to stop'. It's not an easy practice though and wont give you the happy buzz of a yoga class!
Don't try too hard, don't not try too hard

User avatar
Sangoma
Sergeant Commanding
Posts: 6489
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2007 11:16 pm
Contact:

Re: The Mind Illuminated - best meditation book

Post by Sangoma » Sun Mar 03, 2019 11:00 pm

Some time ago an Ayurveda practitioner surprised me somewhat. In the allopathic setting patients are recommended to distract their attention from unpleasant things: think of a rain forest when they stick a large cannula in your arm, or imagine yourself on the beach to reduce pain after surgery. According to him Ayurveda advises the opposite: bring all your attention to pain and experience it at its fullest. The reasoning was that pain is the signal to the body that something is wrong and needs to be addressed. The more attention you put on the sensation, the stronger the signal and consequently the healing.

Something like this is mentioned in Fight Club, when Tyler Durden puts caustic stuff on the protagonist's hand: " This is your pain!", "Don't deal with it like dead people do!".
Image

User avatar
nafod
Lifetime IGer
Posts: 11340
Joined: Sat Apr 22, 2006 5:01 pm
Location: Looking in your window

Re: The Mind Illuminated - best meditation book

Post by nafod » Mon Mar 04, 2019 1:35 am

Sangoma wrote:
Sat Mar 02, 2019 2:45 am
Zen is boring - Brad Warner

Some years ago some psychologists did a study in which they sat some Buddhists monks and some regular folks in a room and wired them up to EEG machines to record their brain activity. They told everyone to relax, then introduced a repetitive stimulus, a loudly ticking clock, into the room. The normal folks' EEG showed that their brains stopped reacting to the stimulus after a few seconds. But the Buddhists just kept on mentally registering the tick every time it happened. Psychologists and journalists never quite know how to interpret that finding, though it's often cited. It's a simple matter. Buddhists pay attention to their lives. Ordinary folks figure they have better things to think about.
That's a cool anecdote.

One of the points the author makes in the book is that you want to simultaneously maintain what he calls stable attention on the meditation object while maintaining peripheral awareness on the thoughts, feelings, etc. going on in and around you, just watching them go by.

One of things I do regularly is meditate on the chairlift while skiing. It's only a 5 minute ride, but its a 1-2 minute ski down, so over the course of the day you can add up some time. Attention on breath is easier because you are breathing in cold air and can really feel it, so you can easily "drop in" to focusing on the breath, but there's also all kinds of peripheral stuff going on around you. People on the next chair talking, skiers going past below, the guide wheels on the chairlift towers. I also need to be aware enough to not go through the unload station without getting off. A fun drill and good way to spend the chairlift time.
Don’t believe everything you think.

User avatar
Hebrew Hammer
Chief Rabbi
Posts: 3346
Joined: Wed May 02, 2007 11:14 pm

Re: The Mind Illuminated - best meditation book

Post by Hebrew Hammer » Wed Apr 17, 2019 4:00 pm

Great book. I've read about and tried meditation many times over the last 40 years. This is the first time I've gotten it. He takes you carefully step by step in clear prose with insightful analogies to where you actually start meditating and then get better at it with the notion that it is a constant, growing practice.

Plus, he gives terrific insight into how the mind works and how mediation works for mindfulness and spirituality. Thanks for the recommendation.
Image

User avatar
nafod
Lifetime IGer
Posts: 11340
Joined: Sat Apr 22, 2006 5:01 pm
Location: Looking in your window

Re: The Mind Illuminated - best meditation book

Post by nafod » Sun May 05, 2019 1:37 pm

Glad you like it, HH.

All the stuff with forgetting, subtle dullness, stable attention and peripheral awareness, etc. has made meditation much more of an adventure for me. Seems odd to say that...meditation an adventure. But I can see each of the concepts occurring, and instead of getting frustrated, it’s now “yup, as described”.
Don’t believe everything you think.

Post Reply